Once More Into the Vaults: Blondie on the Music That Defined Its Legacy

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When they released their first album in 1976, Harry was 31 and Stein was almost 27, which was ancient per punk standards. But the material improved in subsequent years, especially with “Dreaming,” one of the best songs ever written about being young, broke and fabulous in the big city. The guys in the band — the keyboardist Jimmy Destri, the bassist Nigel Harrison, the drummer Clem Burke, the guitarist Frank Infante and Stein — perfected a look: dark suits, skinny ties, mod hair. The songwriting took a leap, with key contributions from Destri, Harrison and Infante, right as Blondie paired with Mike Chapman, a sharp Aussie producer who’d had glam rock hits with the Sweet and Nick Gilder. “It was like the Beatles getting together with George Martin,” Stein said.

That creative relationship, however, was not without drama. “The first time Mike saw us play live,” Harry recalled, “he said afterward that he’d never laughed so much in his life. I guess I felt it was a compliment.”

Chapman produced the band’s first No. 1, “Heart of Glass,” a thumping, synthesized, drum-machined disco track in which Harry finds herself “lost inside adorable illusion” and “riding high on love’s true bluish light,” a poetic summary of romantic ambivalence.

Not for the first time, Blondie was accused of “selling out” (that was once a thing) by embracing trendy dance music. “The whole anti-disco movement smacked of class war to me,” Stein said. “When I was a kid, my heroes were 60-year-old Black men — Bukka White, Howlin’ Wolf. Disco was just an extension of R&B.”

“For me, it was about dancing,” Harry added. “I loved going to clubs.”

Blondie earned a second No. 1, “Call Me,” working with the producer Giorgio Moroder, who observed the band working — or more precisely, bickering — in the studio and decided to record the music with players who weren’t wasting his time. “He’s a happy guy,” Harry said. “Why would he want to have that around?”

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