I got into one of those ultimately meaningless conversations/debates with a similarly inclined friend, recently, about who was the ultimate New York City band. Lots of names were bandied about, mostly predictable ones like the Velvet Underground, the Ramones and Television through KISS, the Strokes and the Beastie Boys.
Now, while one could make a credible case for each of those above (and countless others), none of them really come close to being as quintessentially New York, to my mind, as Blondie. I suppose it’s all about how one perceives and/or defines New York, but from my vantage point, when you look at the breadth of their career and the sum of their music, style, attitude and influences, Blondie could only have come from New York City. Musically, their style ran the gamut from pure punk to polished pop to disco to hip-hop to rock to reggae and several points in between. Much like the veritable melting pot of NYC, their sound was an amalgam that was rarely defined by a single element. Visually, they managed to be simultaneously edgy and beautiful, tough and tender, glamorous and gritty --- much like the city itself. Many have tried to sculpt Blondie’s history to adhere to a convenient narrative, but theirs is actually a much more complicated story.
Anyway, I’ve written about Blondie and their relationship to NYC far too many times here, so there’s no real need to get back into all that. Below find an indelibly cool clip of Blondie playing “Rifle Range” and “In the Flesh” off their first album, and delivering a full-bodied, raucous performance that belies their characterization as simply a slick, prefabricated “New Wave” ensemble. Check out how bonkers Debbie gets at around 01:51 into it. It’s a way more feral reading of the song than the one found on their debut LP. Incidentally, the newspaper Debbie’s seen brandishing at the beginning of the performance is the August 17, 1977 issue of the New York Post.
It’s also a very cool clip in that it features shots – however grainy -- of the band cavorting around New York. I was going to try to pinpoint a few of the locations, but the film quality is so shoddy that it seemed like a ludicrous exercise. Where, for example, is that record store Debbie’s seen strolling through at 00:23? At 00:30, you can also see Debbie brandishing the same duck-call she’s blowing into (the same one used later in “Rapture”?) in the Chris Stein photo up top of Clem Burke and Debbie on 14th Street. Maybe shot the same day? The outfits match up.
In any case, blah blah blah. There are certainly bands I like more than Blondie, but if you can’t appreciate them -– especially as captured here in their rawest form –- then you’re pretty much an idiot, as far as I’m concerned.
Turn this up.