18   Rock Around The World 1 April 1978

New York Means Business! ! !


Sitting Pretty!

by Marc Shapiro

“Our music is kind of a cross between power pop and hard rock. We do a lot of different kinds of music so it’s hard to put a label on exactly what it is we do. What would you call it?”—Debbie Harry of


New wave! New wave! All hail the new wave! Its very name is a rallying cry for rock fans everywhere to tear off the shackles of bloated heavyweight cantatas and lighter than air Framptonisms. It’s a return to the basics—it’s the harbringer of things to come. And what say you, Friend Shapiro, of this rising up of the rock masses?

Friend Shapiro says “New wave? A resounding cow puckey on it all.”

But not a blanket cow puckey mind you. Some of the media blitz does hold water. There are a handful of musicians who have used their abilities at recycling Chuck Berry licks to entertaining advantage. But, on a whole, new wave has been nothing more than a sounding board for poor musicianship, insincere political stands and the marketing of Gucci safety pins.

And to top it off, New Wave’ is a misnomer to boot. The term new wave indicates something lyrically and instrumentally new rising phoenix-like

out of the ashes of the old. A rock and roll mystery tour with a bit of the avant-garde thrown in for good measure. Now if you

follow that line of thinking, you would be safe, on an historical level if nothing else, in stating that new wave began and died with Patti Smith’s Horses LP.

Horses, like no other LP since, took rock and roll kicking and screaming into a lyrical malstrom where artistic and creative thought were a hit and run constant. It was scary the way pure intellect and the primitive rock and roll beat could spawn what was literally a new music.

So complete was the album that Patti herself has had trouble duplicating its excellence. A cry rang out amidst the sludge that followed. “Was legitimate new wave to be a one hit wonder, destined to languish forever in the realm of what might have been?” It sure seemed that way until one day:

September 1976: It came on the radio late in the afternoon and from the opening blast of Farfisa organ it was like magic. Those searing guitar lines! The surreal word pictures falling from the mouth of this sultry queen bitch! It was a magic carpet ride on the back of a song called “Sex Offender” and it was a rock and roll shot in the arm from a group called Blondie.

“One of the first groups I was with was called Stiletto,” she said. “We were probably the first punk rock group. We’d get on stage in real trashy clothes and act real sleazy. It was great fun.

“Blondie came together after a whole lot of experimentation with other groups. After Stiletto, Chris (Stein) and I formed a couple of groups but it was real hard to keep anything together for any length of time. Those early groups were pretty much into a cabaret trip. After a while I got a bit tired of that and dropped the band idea in favor of a solo thing.

“But after a couple of years of that I realized that I’ve always been more comfortable and more able to do my own thing in a band situation. That’s when I got back together with Chris and some other musicians and formed Blondie.

“I’ve always wanted to be myself, to dance around and get really crazy. And with Blondie I can do that.”

Further investigation showed that Blondie was not out of the same illiterate mold that most punk acts were hanging their performing persona on. The members of Blondie could obviously read. They could play their instruments with better than average proficiency. And they were the first New York band in many a moon to flat out admit that they subsisted on something besides Big Macs and Drano.

But beyond all that, Blondie had a wildly creative imagination and they were putting it to good use. The worn-out odes to sex, dope and rock and roll became, in Blondie’s hands, lyrical pop-art

experiments that alternated tongue in cheek and mystical shots to a wall-ofsound sixties beat that had some dude named Spector yelling foul.

Critical praises for the group’s non-label single soon escalated Blondie to the subject of a rather competitive record company bidding war. The brass ring went to Private Stock who whiriwinded the band through recording sessions for their debut LP, titled for lack of something better Blondie.

As might be expected Blondie came out ‘to a flurry of positive reviews and a fair share of progressive radio airplay. But, in terms of that all important commercial acceptance, Blondie was hoisted by its own imaginative petard. For this was the summer of lifeless ‘n’ roll and not even the mainstream vocals of Debbie Harry was going to breach a Frampton/Bay City Rollers soaked playlist with the likes of “Rip Her To Shreds” and “Kung Fu Girls.” This AM drought resulted in fair to middlin’ sales but no cigar.

“Producing something commercial is probably one of the easiest things to do. Producing something that’s exciting to you and that turns out to be exciting to other people is the hard part. Being a commercial is a snap.

“The important thing about our music is that, unlike most other groups, we set

Aat.:0   v1 .anr./2 wee,’   A   3itreY.