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Blondie

harry album recorded stein

the most commercially successful group to emerge from the late-1970s N.Y. punk scene. M EMBERSHIP: Deborah Harry, voc. (b. Miami, Fla., July 1, 1945); Chris Stein, gtr. (b. Brooklyn, N.Y., Jan. 5, 1950); Jimmy Destri, kybd. (b. Brooklyn, N.Y., April 13, 1954); Gary Valentine, bs.; Clem Burke, drms. (b. N.Y., Nov. 24, 1955). Later members include Frank Infante, bs., gtr.; Nigel Harrison, bs. (b. Stockport, England, April 24, 1951).

Blondie crafted a series of excellent pop singles between 1979 and 1982 under producer Mike Chapman. Remarkably eclectic musically, Blondie scored the first crossover hit between New Wave and disco with “Heart of Glass” promoted reggae with “The Tide Is High,” and helped introduce rap with “Rapture” The group’s success opened the door for tough, aggressive female vocalists such as Pat Benatar, Joan Jett, and Chrissie Hynde, and the up-front sexuality of lead vocalist Deborah Harry set the stage for the rise of Madonna.

Deborah Harry was adopted by the Harry family of Hawthorne, N.J., at age three months. She grew up in Hawthorne and attended Centenary Coll. for two years before moving to Manhattan. In 1968 she recorded an album with the folk- rock group Wind in the Willows. Later Harry worked as a Playboy “bunny” and waited tables at Max’s Kansas City, one of the N.Y. clubs that served as the base for the emerging punk movement. In the early 1970s she helped form the glitter-rock group the Stilettos, recruiting guitarist Chris Stein in late 1973. Harry and Stein subsequently formed Angel and the Snakes, then changed the group’s name to Blondie.

Adding Farfisa organist Jimmy Destri, Blondie won a local cult following through appearances at CBGB’s, another important punk club on N.Y.‘s Lower East Side, and Max’s Kansas City. Debuting on the West Coast as the opening act for the Ramones at Los Angeles’s Whisky a-Go-Go in early 1977, Blondie recorded their first album for the small Private Stock label. Achieving hits in Great Britain, Europe, and Australia with “In the Flesh” and “Rip Her to Shreds,” Blondie was picked up by Chrysalis Records, for whom they recorded Plastic Letters with producer Richard Gottehrer.

Original bassist Gary Valentine was replaced first by Frank Infante, and then by Englishman Nigel Harrison; Infante switched to guitar after Harrison joined the band. Under producer Mike Chapman they cut their next album, Parallel Lines, which established Blondie in the United States. The album included “Hanging on the Telephone” and yielded the major hits “One Way or Another” and the disco-style “Heart of Glass.” Established as headliners, Blondie toured America in 1979, and next recorded the hard- rocking Eat to the Beat, which produced the three hits “Dreaming,” “The Hardest Part,” and “Atomic.” In early 1980 the group scored big with “Call Me,” the theme to the film American Gigolo, recorded under disco producer Giorgio Moroder. That year Harry demonstrated her acting ability in two movies, Union City with Pat Benatar and Roadie with Meat Loaf and others. The diverse album Autoamerican produced two top hits for Blondie: a remake of the Paragons’ reggae song “The Tide Is High,” and the early rap song “Rapture.” Following Debbie Harry’s debut solo album KooKoo and the group effort The Hunter, Blondie disbanded in 1983.

Debbie Harry was largely out of the public view between 1983 and 1985, save for her costarring role in the disturbing David Cronenberg film Videodrome, while she cared for Chris Stein, who was afflicted with a debilitating illness. Harry reemerged in 1986 with the album Rockbird, recorded with Stein, guitarist Nile Rodgers (Chic), and producer-keyboardist Seth Justman (J. Geils Band). The album produced minor hits with “French Kissing” and the Harry-Stein composition “In Love with Love.” Debbie Harry subsequently appeared in the films Hairspray and Tales from the Darkside, and in the Showtime cable-TV thriller Intimate Stranger; she recorded Def, Dumb and Blonde for Sire under producer Mike Chapman, and Once More into the Bleach for Chrysalis. In 1994 Harry contributed one song to the Jazz Passengers’ In Love album and toured as the group’s lead vocalist.

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