Dance floors around the world crackle with a fascinating and seductive aura when the first throbbing strains of Blondie’s 1979 classic “Heart of Glass” hit the speakers, but the greatness of the Debbie Harry led, New York bred band was that there was no single way to categorize them. They were perhaps the best pop band of the New Wave punk era, but they didn’t quite belong to either genre exclusively. The band pretty much did everything that interested them, from rock/reggae to rock/disco, and their fashion sense—cool haircuts, Harry’s day glo Steven Sprouse outfits--was impeccable.
The group was formed 1974 by singer and former Playboy bunny Deborah Harry, formerly of Wind in the Willows, and guitarist Chris Stein out of the remnants of Harry's previous group, the Stilettos. The lineup fluctuated over the next year. Drummer Clement Burke and keyboardist James Destri joined in 1975, and after playing the downtown Manhattan circuit, they released their first album, Blondie, on Private Stock Records in December 1976. After a successful stint in L.A., the band went on tour with Iggy Pop and David Bowie.
Their second album, 1977’s Plastic Letters, led to a tour of Europe and Asia, and the following March, the single "Denis" hit #1 in the U.K. That summer the band worked with producer Mike Chapman to hone their radio sound for their 1978 breakthrough classic Parallel Lines, which went on to sell some 20 million units. The album's third single, "Heart of Glass" took Blondie to number one in both the U.K. and the U.S. "One Way or Another" hit the U.S. Top 40 in August. That year, Harry also made her first film, Union City.
Late in 1979, Blondie followed with their fourth album, Eat to the Beat, which was accompanied by the first ever album length video. Before the year's end, Blondie had its fourth U.K. #1 hit with "Dreaming." The following March, the third single “Atomic” became the group’s third British #1. Two months later they hit #1 in the U.S. a second time with the Giorgio Moroder "Call Me," from the film American Gigolo. Before the end of the year, Eat To The Beat was certified platinum and Harry was on "The Muppet Show."
The first single from Blondie's fifth album, 1980’s Autoamerican, was the reggaeish tune "The Tide Is High," which went to #1 in the U.S. and U.K. The second single was the rap-oriented "Rapture," which also topped the U.S. pop charts. By 1981, however, the members of Blondie—aware of the intense media focus on Harry--were working on individual projects, most notably Harry’s gold-selling KooKoo.
The Hunter, Blondie's sixth album was preceded by the single "Island of Lost Souls," a Top 40 hit in the U.S. and U.K., but the recording met with disappointing sales. Blondie broke up in 1982 when Stein’s ill health brought their current tour to an end. The guitarist was suffering from the genetic disease pemphigus vulgaris and between 1983 and 1985, both he and Harry took a sabbatical from full-time performing. She eventually resumed her solo career, while former colleague Burke briefly joined the Eurythmics for their Revenge album, before teaming up with Harrison, Steve Jones (ex-Sex Pistols), Tony Fox Sales and Michael Des Barres in Chequered Past, who released an eponymous album in 1985.
During the 90s, Harry recorded and toured with the Jazz Passengers. In 1997, Harry, Stein, Burke and Destri re-formed the group to record new material and tour. A high media profile helped push "Maria", a classic slice of late-70s power pop, to the top of the U.K. charts in February 1999. The album No Exit featured the rapping of Coolio, but was far from universally acclaimed as a reunion effort. The lineup returned again in 2004 with The Curse of Blondie, which better focused on the band’s strengths and included a Moroder mix of the single version of “Good Boys.”