- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The connection on the phone in Ohio wasn’t the clearest it could be, but Blondie guitarist Chris Stein muddled through as best he could. Standing in Ohio trying to talk to a reporter almost 400 miles away on a land line with a worse connection than those “can you hear me now?” commercials was a bit trying, but Stein, who will perform with Blondie and Cheap Trick Sept. 30 at Calvert Marine Museum, was a trooper.
“I’ve been doing music with Debbie for 40 years,” he stated.
Inspired by the burgeoning new music scene at the Mercer Arts Center, Stein sought to join a similar band. He joined The Stilettos in 1973 as their guitarist and formed a romantic relationship with one of the band’s vocalists, Deborah Harry, a former waitress and Playboy bunny. Harry had been a member of a folk-rock band, The Wind in the Willows, in the late 1960s. In 1974, Stein parted ways with The Stilettos and Elda Gentile, the band’s originator. Stein and Harry formed a new band with drummer Billy O’Connor and bassist Fred Smith. By 1975, after some personnel turnover (including sisters Tish and Snooky Bellomo on backing vocals), Stein and Harry were joined by drummer Clem Burke, keyboard player Jimmy Destri and bass player Gary Valentine. Originally billed as Angel and the Snakes, they renamed themselves Blondie in late 1975. The name came from comments made by truck drivers who catcalled “Hey, Blondie” to Harry as they drove by.
Blondie was regarded as an underground band in the United States until the release of Parallel Lines in 1978. Over the next three years, the band achieved several hit singles, including “Call Me,” “Atomic” and “Heart of Glass” and became noted for its eclectic mix of musical styles incorporating elements of disco, pop, rap and reggae, while retaining a basic style as a New Wave band. They are credited with having a huge role in the emergence of rap music in America. Blondie was also one of the first bands to have rock videos aired on MTV.
“Yeah, we’ve had longevity,” Stein quipped. “It’s [the music industry] a lot different now. It was kind of a novelty back then. It was a very fast ride up. When you’re a kid, it’s a lot of fun.”
Blondie broke up after the release of their sixth studio album “The Hunter” in 1982. Harry continued to pursue a solo career with varied results after taking a few years off to care for Stein, who was diagnosed with pemphigus, a rare autoimmune disease of the skin. The band reformed in 1997, achieving renewed success and a number one single in the United Kingdom with “Maria” in 1999. The group toured and performed throughout the world during the ensuing years and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006. The group has sold 40 million records worldwide. Their ninth studio album, “Panic of Girls,” was released in 2011.
One of my favorite rock videos during the VH-1 and MTV years was Blondie’s “Rapture” one of the earliest songs containing elements of rap vocals to reach number one in the United States. In the song Harry mentions downtown graffiti and hip hop icon Fab Five Freddy who also appears in the video for the song. “Rapture” would be the band’s only single to achieve a higher chart position on the U.S. charts than in the UK, where it peaked at No. 5. “Autoamerican” was a departure from previous Blondie records, featuring less New Wave and rock in favor of stylistic experiments, including acoustic jazz.
A co-worker wanted me to ask Stein if Fab Five Freddie and Blondie were still “cool,” and Stein answered, “absolutely.”
“It’s considered the first rap song to get any significant airplay on the radio,” Stein noted. “It was kind of crazy. We just paid homage to hip hop on the radio.”
The song was Blondie’s first hit to rise higher on the charts in the United States than the majority of their hits which did better in the UK.
Cheap Trick may be one of the most covered bands of all time. Since the 1970s they’ve been blending elements of pop, punk and even metal in a way that is instantly catchy and recognizable. With classics such as “I Want You to Want Me,” “Surrender,” and “The Flame,” Cheap Trick are a musical institution. Anyone familiar with Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report will note that Cheap Trick wrote and performed the theme song.
With more than 5,000 performances, 20 million records sold, 29 movie soundtracks and 40 gold and platinum recording awards, the band was honored in October 2007 by the Chicago Chapter of NARAS (National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences) for their contributions to the music industry.
Cheap Trick is from Rockford, Ill., and formed in 1973. The band consists of Robin Zander (vocals, rhythm guitar), Rick Nielsen (lead guitar), Tom Petersson (bass guitar), and Bun E. Carlos (drums). Cheap Trick has often been referred to in the Japanese press as the “American Beatles.” In October 2007, the Illinois Senate passed a resolution designating April 1 as Cheap Trick Day in the state. The band was also ranked No. 25 in VH1’s list of the 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock.
The band has most recently performed their Dream Police album in its entirety along with an orchestra in select cities across the U.S. This innovative show also includes many other songs from the band’s extensive catalog, garnering them critical acclaim after performances in venues such as the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles.
Their most current release, The Latest, (released on CD, vinyl and 8-track) has garnered glowing reviews worldwide and continues Cheap Trick’s reign as power-pop progenitors as they continue their legacy of over 35 years in the music industry.
Tickets for the concert are $52 for premium seats and $42 for reserved; additional service fees apply. Tickets may be purchased by phone at 1-800-787-9454, in person at Prince Frederick Ford/Dodge, or online at www.calvertmarinemuseum.com. Become a Calvert Marine Museum member for special perks and the opportunity to purchase the best seats at www.calvertmarinemuseum.com/membership.
Cheap Trick and Blondie
Where: Calvert Marine Museum, 14200 Solomons Island Road, Solomons
When: 6 p.m. Sept. 30
Admission: Tickets are $52 for premium seats and $42 for reserved; additional service fees apply.
Contact: 1-800-787-9454, in person at Prince Frederick Ford/Dodge, or online at www.calvertmarinemuseum.com.