Sunday, 18 December 2011

Blondie Edinburgh 1978

Blondie Edinburgh 1978
13th September 1978

Edinburgh Odeon

Back in late 1977, the UK music press at the time (particularly Sounds) would be filled with all manner of Blondie-related nonsense each week: of how the lyrics and title of song X-Offender (shock, probe, horror!) had had to be toned down to allow air-play, how drop-dead gorgeous vocalist Debbie Harry occasionally became so worked up during live renditions of Rip Her To Shreds that she sometimes tore her own clothes off and, most ludicrously, that Debbie was actually Marilyn Monroe’s lovechild.  All grist to a particularly effective publicity mill.

All of the above would have been just so much fatuous waffle were it not for the fact the band very clearly had the talent to back it all up.  For although they had tagged themselves onto the New York/New Wave/CBGB’s scene, very clearly here were a bunch who looked backwards for their prime inspiration: specifically to fifties and sixties pop.  Particularly so once veteran producer Richard Gottehrer had been drafted in the produce their first two albums

Thus it was, perhaps not surprisingly, a 1960s cover which provided Blondie’s UK breakthrough in February 1978: Randy & The Rainbows’ Denis – the doo-wop sound of the original beefed up with the addition of riffing guitars and a Dave Clark 5 influenced drum sound; with the snatch of French lyrics somehow succeeding in racking up the sensuality quotient a few more notches.  Over the next twelve-month the band would produce five more of these perfectly perfect pop songs, plus their masterpiece: the album Parallel Lines.

This concert in Edinburgh in September 1978 found the band out and about promoting Parallel Lines, with the first single from the collection Picture This, nudging the Top Ten.  The single, I recall, featured perhaps the most wonderfully suggestive picture sleeve ever, and I should not be surprised if more than a few hormonally unbalance teenaged boys (and girls perhaps) bought the single for the cover alone.

If memory serves, three of us from work went through to the gig, with our respective girlfriends in tow, having procured seats just a few rows from the front.

The support group were a band called The Boyfriends, who were peddling (like a hundred other outfits around this time) an Elvis Costello/This Years Model influenced sound, although keyboard player Chris Skornia was clearly no Steve Nieve: one of my work-mates heckled, demanding to know why "all your keyboard solos sound like ice-cream van tunes”.  Which I considered just a tad harsh.

Blondie entered the proceedings with Debbie, dressed in white, doing a silly can-can hopping sort of dance as she bounced on stage which, I thought at the time just a little undignified (priggish little prick I was, in those days) -  and the group opened with a pleasantly bouncy In The Sun.

Picture This was aired early on, and the band were confident enough to play the other two hits Denis and Presence in mid-set rather than save them to the end.  The other song which sticks in my mind is Fade Away and Radiate – still my fave Blondie tune - even if Chris Stein did toil to replicate Robert Fripp’s howling guitar sound. 

Debbie, for this one had donned a dress covered in small mirrors and, slightly preposterously, held in each hand what looked for all the world like a pair of wing mirrors that she may have just thwocked from some transit van parked outside.  That being said, slowly raising the mirrors and reflecting back the spotlight into the audience during the chorus was remarkably effective.

As the show reached its climax, things began to get a touch hectic at the front as the mosh pit began to envelope our seats, so we took the ladies back a few rows, from where we witnessed the band give a superb version of T.Rex’s Get It On.

And, for a magic moment it appeared as if Bolan’s lyric:

“You’re dirty and sweet, clad in black, don’t look back, and I love you.
You’re dirty, sweet and you’re my girl.”

had been written precisely with Debbie in mind.  

Set List

In The Sun
X Offender
Hanging On The Telephone
Detroit 442
Fan Mail
Picture This
Pretty Baby
(I'm Always Touched By Your) Presence, Dear
Sunday Girl
I'm Gonna Love You Too
Will Anything Happen?
I'm On E
Fade Away And Radiate
A Shark In Jets Clothing
I Know But I Don't Know
Youth Nabbed As Sniper
One Way Or Another
Kung Fu Girls
Rip Her To Shreds
The Attack Of The Giant Ants
Get It On
Jet Boy.

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