Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Once More Into the Bleach: Harry Birthday

I can't believe I am typing this. Not sure what's more unbelievable, the fact that I am posting two days in a row for the first time in months, or that the amazing Deborah Harry is -- what?!?!?! -- 70 years old today.
You would not guess by looking at her -- Christ, she looks 40, tops! -- but this woman has been doing this for well, 40 years. Once the Queen of Punk, she and the band for which she is most renown have had more hits than the Mayor of Toronto. No, not those kind of hits! OK, maybe a few of those too.
That outfit was named for the misogynist catcallers who'd bellow, "Hey, Blondie!" at her on the streets of New York City, where she moved to start a singing career at the tail end of the 1960s, and she was a waitress at the legendary NYC artists' hotspot Max's Kansas City in its early-'70s heyday.
She formed a succession of bands, beginning with a group called The Stilettoes and then another one, where she met future beau and co-conspirator Chris Stein. They formed Blondie in 1975 and she quickly graduated to performing at Max's and other places in the Northeast US.
At first, they were only regionally popular in their native country, finding massive popularity instead in the Punk-smitten UK via their eponymous debut platter in 1976. Their amalgam of Punk energy and Sixties-girl-group pop sensibility -- somewhere between X-Ray Spex and Ronnie Spector -- propelled them to major sales success overseas and catapulted the bleached blonde Debbie onto magazine covers immediately. It was only a matter of time before they demolished America.
The way they did so -- with, of all things, a disco track that became one of the biggest singles of the late 1970s and one of the most beloved songs of the entire Rock canon -- is the stuff of legend. It began a string of massive hits that propelled them to global stardom and for a time, status as perhaps the most popular band on the planet. 
I remember the first time I heard them, on WLIR-FM on Long Island in the days before they converted to the new-wave format that made that station perhaps the most revered of the early 1980s. I think the success of Blondie may have been one reason they switched over in the first place. There was a time in late 1978 and into 1979 when you could tune across the radio dial left to right, and you'd hear Heart of Glass or One Way or Another -- from their (Oh Jesus what a record) LP Parallel Lines -- on every station.
The album went immediately to #1 in England and #6 in America and the explosion was felt globally, trust me. Featuring a most unusual guest spot from Progressive Rock Maestro Robert Fripp on arguably the LP's most incendiary cut (Fade Away and Radiate) -- everyone wondered, what was he doing playing with Punk bands? -- there was simply not a more huge record at the end of the Seventies.
Their next few records, plus the lead song (Call Me) from the huge hit movie American Gigolo produced by Italian production legend Giorgio Moroder, cemented their place in the pantheon, then and now. She also was the first white pop music artist to really embrace the then-still-nascent Rap music that provided the soundtrack to so much of New York City life in those days, scoring a tremendous hit with Rapture -- the first song featuring the style to reach #1 in the US -- from 1980's Autoamerican. It may sound dated and silly now, but back then it brought that music to a whole new global audience, helping to open the doors for it to take over the world like it did.
The inevitable collapse followed, and they broke up after 1982's lackluster The Hunter, but not before they had altered the course of popular music. Scoring one last minor solo hit with Rush Rush from the infamously awesome Oliver Stone epic Scarface, she mostly receded from the public eye. During that time, Chris Stein was suffering from a life-threatening autoimmune disorder and Debbie spent the mid-'80s helping him get into a better state of health. They've reformed for several stints since that time, and Blondie were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006.
Which brings us to today's share. Surely one of the essential unissued Blondie concerts, this dates from the pinnacle of their powers and was taped at the Hammersmith Odeon in London for the Supergroups In Concert series that aired on the radio back in those days. 
So to honor Debbie's 70th, I pulled out this lovely transfer of the original pre-FM LPs of this wild concert and spent the whole last day of June getting it into spiffy, snappy shape for y'all. It was just as flat as a pancake up top and had this boomy bass kind of dominating, so off I went with Sound Forge 9. A bit of paragraphic EQ, a bit of Graphic Dynamics, and what do you know? This bad boy is now indistinguishable from an official live recording, something this band never got around to doing in their original 1970s/'80s heyday.
Hammersmith Odeon
London, UK
EN pre-FM remaster

01 intro - Pat St. John
02 Dreaming
03 Slow Motion
04 Shayla
05 Union City Blue
06 The Hardest Part
07 outro - Pat. St. John
08 interview - Deborah Harry
09 Atomic
10 Living In the Real World
11 Denis
12 Picture This
13 interview - Deborah Harry
14 outro - Pat St. John
15 Die Young Stay Pretty
16 Accidents Never Happen
17 Victor
18 outro - Pat St. John

01 interview - Deborah Harry
02 Heart Of Glass
03 Eat to the Beat
04 Hanging On the Telephone
05 Louie, Louie
06 outro - Pat St. John
07 interview - Deborah Harry
08 I Feel Love
09 Heroes
10 I Got You (I Feel Good)
11 Sunday Girl
12 outro - Pat St. John
13 interview - Deborah Harry
14 Pretty Baby
15 One Way or Another
16 credits - Pat St. John
17 specific promo announcement
18 general promo announcement #1
19 general promo announcement #2

Total time 1:39:25

Debbie Harry — vocals
Chris Stein — guitar, bass
Frank Infante — guitar, vocals
Jimmy Destri — keyboards, vocals
Nigel Harrison - bass
Clem Burke — drums, vocals
Robert Fripp - guitar (CD2, Tracks 05, 08, 09, 10)

original pre-FM LPs, transferred by propylaen in 2014 and remastered by me
Additionally, this is one of only a handful of shows -- and surely the best sounding one -- where aforementioned Crimson King Robert Fripp shows up to sit in for the last segment. The takes of Louie, Louie, plus the Donna Summer classic I Feel Love and in particular David Bowie's Heroes (on which Fripp supplied the legendary, otherworldly guitar obbligatos for the original track) just blow the actual doors clean off the Odeon, with RF soaring and swooping his socks off with the Les Paul. Anyway I titled and tagged it all as usual, so pull this down and blast your neighbors with it... it is DEFINITELY no Dagwood Sandwich, friends. And oh yeah! Happy Birthday to the amazing Debbie Harry, born this day in 1945 and looking and singing as good as she did in 1980!--J.

1 comment:

  1. I haven't heard any live Blondie of this vintage, so looking forward to hearing it - thanks!