The world's coolest band, through the ages
With a career spanning over 40 years, number one hits in three consecutive decades and an NME Godlike Genius award under their belts, Blondie have built an unparalleled legacy, all without breaking a sweat. And with new album ‘Pollinator’ due in May – a star-studded eleventh LP that’s testament to their pulling power – we’re taking a look at how the new wave heroes went from CBGB residents to one of the most iconic groups in the world.
Co-founders Chris Stein and Debbie Harry met in 1973. Stein joined the Stilettos as their guitarist and formed a relationship with bandmate Harry. They split to form a separate band in August 1974, playing two shows under the name ‘Angel and the Snake’ before re-naming themselves Blondie in October.
By 1975 they’d recruited Clem Burke (drums), Gary Valentine (bass) and Jimmy Destri (keyboards), setting up residency at famous New York haunts Max’s Kansas City – where Harry used to work as a waitress – and the legendary CBGB.
Their eponymous debut album was released in 1976 under Private Stock Records, and re-released in 1977 under Chrysalis Records. Blondie’s big break came when their B-side ‘In The Flesh’ was played by accident instead of ‘X-Offender’ on Australian music television programme Countdown. The resulting success got so intense, fans almost rioted in Brisbane when Harry cancelled a show due to illness.
After touring with Iggy Pop in 1977, second album ‘Plastic Letters’ reached number 10 in the UK charts. Gary Valentine was replaced by Frank Infante and Nigel Harrison joined on bass.
Third album ‘Parallel Lines’ (1978) changed everything, launching Blondie into the mainstream. The chart-conquering LP, which featured runaway success ‘Heart of Glass’, was produced by Mike Chapman and sold 20 million copies worldwide.
Fourth album ‘Eat To The Beat’, released in 1979, became Blondie’s second number one record, containing iconic hits such as ‘Atomic’ and ‘The Hardest Part’.
In 1980 Harry wrote ‘Call Me’ with Donna Summer collaborator Giorgio Moroder. The track, which was written for the Richard Gere movie ‘American Gigolo’, stayed at number one for six weeks in the US and Canadian charts, earned Harry a Grammy nomination and remains one the band’s biggest tracks to date.
In 1980 Blondie released their fifth studio album, ‘Autoamerican’. The record featured a reggae-style cover of The Paragons’ ‘The Tide Is High’. The album achieved platinum success in the UK and US.
Blondie took a break in 1981 as both Harry and Destri worked on solo projects ‘KooKoo’ and ‘Heart On A Wall’ respectively. They reunited with Stein later that year to write music for John Waters’ movie Polyester.
The break coincided with Harry’s burgeoning acting career. In 1980, she starred alongside Meat Loaf in Roadie.
Sixth album ‘The Hunter’ was released in 1982, by which point Stein was suffering with the rare genetic condition pemphigus. Blondie disbanded, and Harry launched a solo career while caring for Stein, who eventually recovered from the disease.
Following moderate success as a solo artist, Harry teamed up with Stein and Burke again in 1990 for a summer tour. In 1997 the original band re-formed for three shows at outdoor festivals.
In 1999 Blondie made history as the second American band to have a number one single in the US in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s with ‘Maria’, exactly 20 years after ‘Heart Of Glass’ reached the top of the charts. The only other artist to achieve this was Michael Jackson. 1999 album ‘No Exit’ was a resurgence, recruiting a whole new army of Blondie fans.
2003 reunion album ‘The Curse of Blondie’ did not achieve great commercial success, and Destri was forced to leave the band to battle his drug addiction. Despite a successful stint in rehab, he was not invited back into Blondie.
Blondie were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006. The ceremony turned into a public feud when former member Frank Infante got on-stage begging to perform with the band, together with Nigel Harrison.
In 2008 they embarked on a 30th anniversary ‘Parallel Lines’ world tour, revealing in interviews that they were working on new music. However, a number of setbacks meant that the record – ‘Panic of Girls’ – was not released until 2011, via a special collectors’ magazine pack featuring photographs, badges and postcards.
Blondie released a second greatest hits album in 2014 as part of their 40th anniversary celebrations. The album was part of a two-disc package, ‘Blondie 4(0) Ever’, and also included the new record ‘Ghosts of Download’. Also in 2014: They picked up the NME Godlike Genius Award!
Harry has always been a strong supporter of human rights and the LGBT community. In 2007, she joined Cyndi Lauper for her True Colors Tour in support of the Human Rights Campaign. The band were invited to perform at the Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia, but declined due to human rights concerns. Harry also served as a guest judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race in 2016.
In February 2017 Blondie revealed that their new album, ‘Pollinator’, would be released on May 5. ‘Pollinator’ is the band’s eleventh record, with guests including Charli XCX, Sia, Dev Hynes, Johnny Marr and David Sitek.