One of my earliest musical memories is of a tape my uncle made for my mom. On it were three albums and a smattering of random songs: ABBA’s The Visitors, Billy Joel’s The Stranger, and The Best of Blondie, along with “Key Largo” by Bertie Higgins, “Sukiyaki” by A Taste of Honey, “I’ve Never Been To Me” by Charlene, and maybe a few other songs I can’t recall at the moment. I can even see the orange lines on the insert where my uncle had transcribed a track listing. This remained one of my favorite tapes throughout my childhood, and if pressed, I’d count those three albums as three of my favorites of all time. The weird thing about these albums is that The Visitors is ABBA’s last album and does not have any immediately recognizable songs to the casual ABBA listener, yet because it’s the first album of theirs I heard, it’s the one I equate with the group.
But that has nothing to do with why we’re here. I tell you that story because of Blondie and my mom and uncle. I’ve loved Debbie Harry and the rest of the band since I could sing along to the stereo. My mom would put this tape on while I got ready for school and as we cleaned the house. Then I saw Debbie Harry on Solid Gold or MTV or something, and I was enamored. I remember seeing the video for “Rapture” as a little girl, and I loved how glamorous she was, how confidently she rapped about an alien eating cars, bars, and guitars. I loved how girly yet tough she seemed. I loved her shiny lip gloss and her cool eye makeup.
Wanna know more about Debbie Harry and her involvement with hip hop? Check out these entries from one of my favorite comics, Hip Hop Family Tree by Ed Piskor:
I talk a lot about my uncle and mom and how much they influenced my tastes. My uncle introduced me to a lot of rad music, like the B-52’s, Blondie, Kate Bush, Kid Creole and the Coconuts, and tons of other cool artists/bands. My mom played the tapes my uncle made and introduced me to a ton of other artists. I attribute a lot of my coolness to these two and for their instilling in me the desire to explore my own preferences, and though I used to listen to a lot of terrible music (hello, ’90s country music!), I’ve refined my tastes to what I like. And it goes in phases.
Right now I’m in a punk phase. OK, it’s mostly a Blondie phase, but I’m throwing a bit of variety in there. We had a weekend excursion with some great friends, and I picked up a 12″ single of Blondie’s “Sunday Girl”, which has consistently been my favorite song since that worn-out TDK cassette came into my life. The version on The Best of Blondie is a mix of the English version from Parallel Lines and the French version from the single. (Basically, it has one verse in French.) And incidentally, I’ve learned that Parallel Lines is the best Blondie album.
So what Blondie songs are occupying my ears these days? The easy answer is all of them, but here are a few highlights:
“Sunday Girl”, The Best of Blondie
I know it’s not the original version, but it’s the one I grew up with. I love this song with an incredible passion. I was born on a Sunday, so it’s always been my anthem, especially with lines, “She can’t catch up with the lucky crowd”.
“11:59”, Parallel Lines
It’s no surprise that I’d choose at least one track from this album. It’s easy to pick “Sunday Girl”, but this song is Blondie New Wave/Punk at its finest.
“Kung Fu Girls”, Blondie
This track from their debut album is a new discovery for me. I had to hear it after reading the title, and it didn’t disappoint.
“Fade Away And Radiate”, Parallel Lines
Debbie Harry’s voice is a chameleon, and this song showcases that. It also showcases the musical talents of the band. It’s an ethereal track that starts out haunting and lilting and builds to a glamorous crescendo.
So I mentioned that this wasn’t strictly a Blondie phase, and it isn’t. I’m into discovering all the music I’ve missed out on, especially in the “punk bands with female vocalists” arena. While watching old clips of The Old Grey Whistle Test on YouTube (seriously, that place has everything), I discovered the Rezillos. (If you’re not familiar with TOGWT, it’s a British concert show from the ’70s/’80s that featured some incredible performances from all kinds of artists from the Who to the Bangles. A bunch of these videos are on YouTube, and they’re all amazing. I highly recommend checking them out!)
The Rezillos are a fun band. I’m not familiar with a lot of their work yet, but I have been stuck on two of their songs, “Destination Venus” and “Flying Saucer Attack”.
Here are a couple other tracks I love.
Siouxsie and the Banshees, “Halloween”
I don’t know any other Siouxsie songs other than this and “Cities In Dust”, but this track always makes it onto my Halloween playlists.
“O Bondage! Up Yours!”, X-Ray Spex
This song was on some Rolling Stone Women of Rock retrospective I bought at a used CD store when I was in college. I bought the CDs for other songs, but this one stuck with me. It’s amazing! I was sad to hear of Poly Styrene’s death. This band is on my list to learn more about for sure.
And if you’re not familiar with the reference in the title of this post, here you go:
Oh, and if you wanna see a pretty rad movie about a female punk band starring a very young Diane Lane and the best eye makeup in a movie ever, check out Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains.
And in the “not exactly punk but things I’m really digging” category, here are two bonus tracks!
A friend of mine on Facebook shared this song a few days ago, and I’ve been playing it ever since.
ADAM, “Go To Go”
You may have seen the viral teaser video for this Dutch dance group’s new single. The teaser video featured the girls singing the song while, um, while being really joyous. There, that’s SFW. Look for the teaser video so you can see for yourself–there’s nothing NSFW–it’s all above the waist, but I’d still save this for after the workday ends.
Anyway, it’s a solid track, and I dig it.
So that’s what I’m listening to at the moment! What tracks are stuck in your head? Do you know where I can find a moderately priced, yet awesome all-in-one turntable? Have you read the comic anthology about CBGB?
Stay tuned, gentle readers. I have acquired a lot of oddball comics and other goodies, and I feel the need to share.