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how 'also-rans' blondie turned into world stars

It's always the quiet ones you have to keep an eye on. When reports began filtering back from New York in the mid-Seventies about this new musical movement which was causing a stir, dubbed 'punk rock' in deference to the garage rock bands of the mid-Sixties, there was a clear hierarchy in place.

At the top of the tree were poet and aspiring rock singer Patti Smith, with arty guitarnauts Television enthralling the NME journos. The Ramones were seen as the cartoon jokers of the scene with Talking Heads and their preppy look belying the strangeness of their songs about buildings food, civil servants and psychokillers. And then there was Blondie.

Definitely regarded as the runts of the litter, both by correspondents and their peers, the band formed by Debbie Harry and Chris Stein were seen as somewhat frivolous lightweights, despite the quality of the songs on their debut album. Things began to change when they supported the icy and aloof Television on a UK tour in 1977 and were stunned to discover that the more pop-savvy British audiences completely got where the band were coming from.

It helped no end that they launched into a country where the music press wielded a huge influence, and an appearance on Top of the Pops could transform a band's fortunes overnight.

Debbie Harry's iconic good looks, coupled with a genuine street sassiness, was catnip for the media and within two years Blondie were one of the biggest bands on the planet.

BUFFERS

By the time of their third album, Parallel Lines, they'd dabbled in Sixties-influenced pop, dived into new wave with a vengeance and scored a world No 1 with Heart of Glass, which saw them embrace – shock horror – disco.

Although they hit the buffers in the Eighties, they'd expanded their palette to include electro-pop (Call Me), reggae (The Tide is High) and introduced hip-hop to a white rock audience (Rapture). Oh, and the still-popular indie band look of black suits with Converse trainers? That was them, too.

>George Byrne

Blondie play the Olympia on Tuesday


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