“Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m sixty-four?”
Debbie Harry, front person for the 70’s/80’s band ‘Blondie’ turns sixty four today, and how appropriate that The Beatles song ‘When I’m Sixty Four’ keeps playing in my head, because for me both Blondie and The Beatles have similar significance in the grand scheme of Rock & Roll.
Now before you Beatles fans get yourselves all in a tizzy, let me assure you that I am quite aware that the fab four’s contributions far outweigh that of Debbie and Blondie, having many more hits, many more songs, and certainly a larger impact. But is Blondie’s impact any less significant? The Beatles ‘invaded’ the U.S. in 1964, and split up by 1970 leaving us with a brilliant and diverse library of songs that pulled from many music influences, while helping to usher in the psychedelic era (thus doing a bit of their own influencing) at the same time.
But what about Blondie? Certainly fewer hits, and fewer years of hits as well. According to Billboard, Blondie only charted seven top 40 songs, while only four of them went to number one… So here is the irony. Debbie Harry and Blondie were first and foremost a punk band, with Debbie’s on stage antics going as far as appearing bottomless (no pants, no panties) yet none of their four #1 hits were very ‘punk’ at all. What is notable is that this little kick-ass punk band from an almost forgotten pre-Mtv era are credited with two of these number ones to be in previously ‘uncharted’ categories (or at least #1 charted). The song ‘The Tide Is High’ which charted at #1 in November of 1980 is widely regarded as the first number one Reggae song to top the pop charts, a year later in 1981 Blondie reached #1 with what is not just regarded, but acknowledged as the first #1 rap song to top the Billboard top 40 pop chart. Yep… Skinny white punk rock girl helps to usher in the now chart dominating Hip Hop phenomenon. Again in a strange twist, the other two hit songs were considered Disco, with ‘Heart Of Glass’ in 1979, and ‘Call Me’ (From the Richard Gere film ‘American Gigolo’) in 1980.
Quite significant if you ask me.
Happy Birthday Debbie… Your poster has hung over my desk for over a decade, as I am one of your biggest fans.
Photo of Debbie Harry courtesy of © Bob Gruen
used with permission