Skip to content

Oldies But Goldies: Blondie 77


The difference between London Punk 1977 and New York City Punk 1977 is the difference between a snarl and a sneer. LP was all attack, NYCP all irony, LP hyper-reality, NYCP saturday morning cartoon, LP the Clash, NYCP the Ramones. And somewhere in NYCP along with the bops and the rockets, the marquee moons and horses, lay a different type of cartoon cut out altogether.

Blondie was a group, guitarist Chris Stein and love of his life Debbie Harry’s sci-fi, mid-50s, rock and roll, day-glo dream of rock on-the -go-go. Both Stein and Harry were denizens of the bankrupt NYC’s Lower East Side met when Stein joined Harry’s band the Stilettos before falling in love and forming Blondie. In 1978 they released “Heart Is Glass” and Blondie became Debbie Harry: the hottest woman on earth. But before then, between “Denis” and “Picture This,” they took every rock chick cliche and shook it up and shot it down.

The album they did this on was “Plastic Letters”. A hit in England, the States weren’t quite ready for it. And nobody quite grasped what was going on here. The critics weren’t impressed and despite two international hit singles the album is always considered the ugly middle sister with even the should’ve known better Lester Bangs ripping it to shreds.

Here was the problem: the songs could take awhile to sink in which for a pop group is a bit of a no-no but for card carrying members of “the” generation sounds about right. For all its strum and drum it moved more like pop than rock but it was the block of chords not the melodies that reeled you in here. It was difficult to penetrate and so didn’t get the reaction from NYCP it deserved… that of a major album.

Here is why it was so major: Blondie had fashioned a semi-fictional, strange, threatening, bright and dark vision of New York City in the midst of a (manic) panic repression lead by a woman attractive enough to mentioned in the same breath as Monroe. It rocked vicariously and popped sideways with all shading not in Harry’s deeply detached vocals but in James Destri’s keybs.

The first song, “Fanmail” found Harry falling head first into her epitaph. Several years later Bangs would claim that if the teenage boys who fantisized about Harry could get her lone they wouldn’t want to make love to her, they’d want to beat her up. In pop stardom there is always a disconnect between who the person is and who the audience believe she is and with Debbie Harry it was even bigger then that. She was thirty-two and in the midst of a serious relationship with her guitarist, she was (reportedly) heavily into heroine and Blondie was her third band. Two years earlier she had been making ends meet as a waitress.

But her audience thought she was a Barbie Dolls’ Barbie Doll (I didn’t: the few times I ran into her I thought she was a snobby bitch… in retrospect I was just a drunk twenty-two year old nobody and I’m lucky she spoke to me at all), they mistook her sneer for leer and on “Fan Mail”, written by Destri, she stood in for all of us: “Beat on my Fender through my Gemini two, play to the posters on the wall of my room, thought I was crazy when I’d think about you.” Very soon a world of people would be doing this and Harry, edgy, psychotic, ringing like a mobile phone, personified it before it happened.

They follow it with a straight up no chaser cover of the rock and roll 50s oldie “Denis” and that was the end of that. It hit England hard and made her in the smaller, more easily tipped to tipping point, country an immediate icon. One thing punk did in the UK was chuck female sexual stereotypes right back in our faces: with ripped clothes and bondage fashion, safety pins through noses and green hair, members of both sexes were going out of the way to scare their cats and parents. Harry stopped all of it dead. With sunglasses and distant trancelike performances (I never thought Blondie were a good live band even after they reformed -the curse of the cool) the world couldn’t take their eyes off her. It began here.

And because of that the rest of the album gets kinda shuffled away, a good number like “Love At The Pier” with its really funny punchline, “We may have stood a chance if we met in the frost”, smirking all over the drowning that ends it, isn’t really heard. Neither is “Kidnapper” a harmonica fueled number which is about exactly what you think it’s about. And better than both the second greatest subway song (after “Take The ‘A’ Train” of course), “I’m On E”, “I gave my car to a guy named Vinnie” she sings. It’s like a snap shot of a world long gone and still a world today; it’s actually completely post-modern and completely over.

I don’t see how people aren’t in awe of this album, “fear causes some to live others die real cool…” she advises at one point, “Maybe baby I can ride with you?” she asks at another, “You can be bit, I’ll make you it,” “You’re a brain drain, you better beat it,” “I used to have a car of my own”. The words and worlds add up, spikes in red square, airplane crashes, teenage psycho killers and finally psychic superheroes. Yeah Chicago has Batman, but we had Spiderman and Superman and we have whoever is cheating at cards with Debbie on a song pop song so melodic Tracey Ullman covered it next to “Long Live Love” and “Move Over Darling”, “(I”m Always Touched By Your) Presence Dear” -Here Blondie is singing it on the long gone English rock show “The Old Grey Whistle Test”…. the boys are all skinny ties and black suits and Debbie is all knee high boots and a chilliness that is frosty.
Again, I am stupefied how so many people who should have known better didn’t. “Plastic Letters” stories and sounds adds up to too strange a world, there are too many mistakes, too many things are going wrong, everything is touched not by a presence but by catastrophe. How many takes can you laugh at plane crashes and murders before you wonder whether there is something you’re missing? “Plastic Letters” is social manifesto from a City in a hopeless mess as mass culture clinique and Buddy Holly and “Parallel Lines” was waiting in the wings. Just picture that.


  1. Dick Destiny on April 5, 2016 at 7:35 pm

    I liked it, too, but I was out in Pennsy Paphlagonia, what did I know? Nice write-up.

Leave a Comment


Support Let Me Help Inc by shopping at

The Daisy Jopling Band To Perform “Who’s Who” At The Transfiguration Church In Tarrytown, NY Sunday May 12th, 2024 7 PM ET

By admin | May 9, 2024 |

The Transfiguration Church in Tarrytown, New York Presents “Who’s Who”, original violin arrangements of iconic songs by The Who performed by the Daisy Jopling Band featuring the Sleepy Hollow High School Chamber Orchestra on Sunday, May 12th, 2024. Location: Transfiguration Church 268 South Broadway Tarrytown, NY 10591 United States Tickets are $25 and can be…

Cyborg Drummer/DJ DRMAGDN Headlining Montauk Music Fest

By admin | April 9, 2024 |

Major Label BMG Records Artist & Producer DRMAGDN Cyborg Drummer / DJ will be making his Montauk Music Fest debut this year in May. DRMAGDN will be the Official Host & MC of The Montauk Music Fest plus play headlining sets on Friday 5/17 and Saturday 5/18 from 10pm-12am at Gurney’s Montauk Resort (290 Old…

RED CARPET EVENT @ Chelsea Table & Stage 4/12/24 Featuring THE AMERICAN RELICS & DRMAGDN

By admin | March 25, 2024 |

On Friday April 12th, 2024 beginning at 6:30 pm ET  there will be a Red Carpet event pre-show sponsored by Tribeca Records at the trendy nightspot Chelsea Table and Stage located in the heart of Chelsea at 152 west 26th street (inside the Hilton Fashion Hotel) in NYC. The Red Carpet will be followed by…

Live Review: Composer Randy Edelman Live at Chelsea T&S “2nd Annual St. Patrick’s Day Massacre” 03/16/24 and Record Release in NYC

By admin | March 17, 2024 |

There was an infinite vitality of velvet green flowing deliciously through the air as Composer Randy Edelman presented his 2nd Annual St. Patrick’s Day Massacre at the trendy new nightspot Chelsea Table & Stage in the heart of NYC on March 16, 2024….. a vivacious close to the spirited Irish Parade. His music is the…

DRMAGDN: Cyborg Drummer/DJ Debuts @ Chelsea T&S With Retro 80’s Party & Red Carpet Event 4/12/24

By admin | February 29, 2024 |

BMG recording artist, producer and World renowned, Global Touring Electrifying Powerhouse, DRMAGDN: Cyborg Drummer and DJ will make his debut at the popular, trendy night spot Chelsea Table & Stage (located at 152 west 26th street inside the Hilton Hotel) on  Friday April 12, 2024 @ 9:00PM. DRMAGDN will be celebrating his high energy brand of Electronic Dance Music (EDM)…

Going Steady: New Singles 2-23-24- 2-29-24 Reviewed

By Iman Lababedi | February 26, 2024 |

dance pop, gooey confection

US Top Ten Albums Tracking 2-16-24 – 2-22-24

By Iman Lababedi | February 26, 2024 |

75K EAUs is abysmal

Our Friend Tony Orlando’s Farewell Tour

By admin | February 25, 2024 |

“I still hit the ball, I just can’t run the bases!!!”

Sneak Peaks: New Album releases 3-1-24 – 3-7-24

By Iman Lababedi | February 25, 2024 |

contenders for the best punk rock around

Child Bite, Lamb Of God, Pantera At Madison Square Garden, Thursday, February 22nd, 2024, Reviewed

By Iman Lababedi | February 25, 2024 |

A three hours of hard rock, metal not metal, swift, loud, egoless pure metal

Scroll To Top