Blondie Play “Maria”

Blondie_-_MariaListen to this track by returning pop-punk chartbusters turned pop rock elders Blondie. It’s “Maria”, their comeback single as issued on their 1999 album No Exit. That record was their first together since 1982’s The Hunter. That’s a pretty long time between releases. But this song ensured their success as their sixth number one single in the UK where they’d always been championed since their early days. This new song’s chart placement corresponded to the day with another number one song of theirs in the UK, “Heart Of Glass” in 1979.

“Maria” was penned by Blondie keyboardist Jimmy Destri, even borrowing the phrase “walking on imported air” from his own “Walk Like Me” from 1980’s Autoamerican. Also, the song shares a similar dynamic with their early song “Rip Her To Shreds” that has lead singer Debby Harry judgmentally (and with a heaping tablespoon of irony) commenting on an observed woman. “Maria” is kind of the twin sister to that song, more concerned with the woman as unobtainable object of love, or maybe lust, with a dash of the divine thrown in for good measure.

“Maria” demonstrates that classic power-pop perspective in this way, and is very connected to the band’s earlier oeuvre on these many fronts. It’s no wonder it did the business for them as a comeback single. Along with that I think it has something to say about women in general. Read more

Blondie Plays “Rapture”

Blondie RaptureListen to this track by New York new wave darlings and CBGB graduates Blondie. It’s “Rapture”, their 1981 hit single as taken from their sixth record, Autoamerican. This song and the album off of which it comes would continue to prove the band to be a supple and versatile musical unit.

Their achievements up to and including this song certainly rested on a few very important factors. First, they wrote great songs, reflected by their success in the charts during a time when great writing equaled lots of records sold. Second, in frontwoman Debbie Harry they had a presence defined by undeniable charisma and visual appeal. Of course, this made their ironic name based on a common catcall (“Hey! Blondie!”) even more ironic, given that the press and fans alike often referred overtly to Harry’s (admittedly considerable) sex appeal first, often making the music she helped to create to be a secondary consideration.

But, third; despite all of the attention Debbie Harry was getting as a new wave pin-up, Blondie was still a risk-taking band that had no problem reaching outside of their comfort zone even at the height of their powers when they had the most to lose. They were musically curious, and very aware of their surroundings when it came to the music being made by their contemporaries at other points along the pop music spectrum. And that’s where this song comes in as perhaps their greatest leap outside of their musical wheelhouse. Read more

The Nerves Play “Hanging On the Telephone”

Listen to this track, a pop gem for the ages by a band that could have been but wasn’t, leaving the glory to others.  It’s “Hanging On The Telephone”, a tale of teenaged insecurity eventually taken to the major leagues by Blondie, but written and originally recorded here by The Nerves.

The Nerves are a band of legend, made up of three superlative songwriters who moved on to other things by the 80s; bassist Peter Case, who formed the Plimsouls and later established a solid solo career, drummer Paul Collins who formed The Beat (later re-named as Paul Collins’Beat after some confusion over the similarly named band from Britain, in turn re-named the ‘English’ Beat) and the writer of this song, guitarist Jack Lee.

The legend of this group stems partly from the fact  that they put out only one release in their very brief life as a group. It was the 1976 self-titled EP which contained four songs with composition credits representing all three members.  And, after making an impact of the burgeoning underground punk scene in LA, they split.

But, this song lived on. A cassette of the song reached Blondie, who later turned it into a hit off of their 1979 Parallel lines album.  It has since been covered by L7, Def Leppard, and Cat Power, and UK pop group Girls Aloud, among others, with some doubts as to whether or not it’s known by these artists that they’re covering a song by an obscure power-pop trio from the mid-70s.

Yet, at this point it hardly matters. The song itself is undeniable, a true anthem to insecurity in a relationship that hits all pop music targets, particularly in the traditions of power pop where the underdog is always the hero of the story.

For more information, I urge you to investigate Peter Case’s website, and the official website of Paul Collins’ Beat, still a going concern and touring regularly.  Also, check out Jack Lee on Wikipedia for further songwriting credits.