A new boxset shines fresh light on BLONDIE’s remarkable journey from downtown scenesters to uptown habitués. In the latest issue of Uncut magazine – in UK shops from Thursday, July 21 and available to buy from our online store – Peter Watts explores the roads not travelled during their formative years in the company of DEBBIE HARRY, CHRIS STEIN and CLEM BURKE. “It was always kind of an experiment…”
When Chris Stein moved out of Manhattan around 20 years ago, he took several boxes of Blondie ephemera with him and stored them in his garage. These included a backstage mirror from Hammersmith Odeon that was hauled back to America like Viking plunder, as well as approximately 100 water-damaged reels of unreleased music, acetates, vinyl and home-recorded cassettes. Some came from the very start of the band’s career in 1974, when Stein and Debbie Harry lived together in a succession of crummy New York apartments. Others were experimental remixes, created in 1982 as the band fell apart. In between were the origins of most of Blondie’s biggest hits.
Did Harry have any idea of what her bandmate was sitting on? “I know he is a very good collector and he always kept very interesting things,” she says. “It’s been a while since we lived together, but I knew that anything he recorded at home or in his own studio would be there. There’s all the stuff we recorded together, home demos. Chris had his own label, Animal, so it’s all that stuff too.”
“All that stuff” has been reclaimed from Stein’s garage, restored, transferred and listened to anew for the Blondie boxset Against The Odds: 1974–1982. This is the first time Stein, Harry and drummer Clem Burke have authorised such a deep dive through Blondie’s archives. As well as the six original studio albums, there are four albums of rare material including 36 previously unreleased tracks. Collectively this represents a chance to take a proper overview of Blondie’s career as well as a glimpse some of the roads not taken – weird experiments with sequencer and drum machine, a discarded album with Giorgio Moroder, unexpected covers and song ideas that never left Stein and Harry’s home.
“My garage had become a repository for all the Blondie stuff that was floating about,” says Stein. “We wanted to put some of this stuff out in the world. There’s a lot of interest in the process of how this stuff got made. People like to hear demos. They are the beginning of the creative journey – they show that initial idea before we get to the reality of the finished thing. I didn’t see The Beatles thing [Get Back], but everybody was very enthusiastic about it, watching them just fuck about in the studio for hours on end. People told me that was the charm of the thing, seeing it normalised. This set is another version of that.”
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