Blondie's heyday was over when even the techiest of computer geeks had just begun pecking away on state-of-the-art machines like Apple IIes and those Texas Instruments keyboard/tape-recorder hybrids. Nevertheless, the band — founded in 1975 by then-couple Debbie Harry and Chris Stein — always seemed like it was custom-made for the Internet age.
Similar to the way a well-programmed iPod can bounce seamlessly between genres and eras, Blondie at its peak was a pop, rock, disco, punk, New Wave, reggae and even rockabilly band rolled into one — the cover of Buddy Holly's "Gonna Love You Too" on 1978's Parallel Lines was a little overshadowed by No. 1 disco crossover "Heart of Glass," but it's there. With 1981's "Rapture," the band took hip-hop to the top of the charts when the fledgling genre had barely started spreading out of the South Bronx and, in fact, barely even had a name.
One afternoon last week, Chatter decided to see just how wide a net Blondie had cast and dialed up the band's station on Last.fm, the Internet-radio portal that uses some high-tech hoodoo to build a playlist of artists it deems similar. Mostly, we were curious to see which Blondie Last.fm remembered — the band that got its start at downtown NYC punk joints like CBGB and Max's Kansas City, or the genre-hopping juggernaut that came later.
Both Kim Wilde ("Kids in America") and Siouxsie & the Banshees showed up more than once, along with a host of Harry's other direct descendants: Bow Wow Wow, the B-52's, the Motels, Missing Persons, the Pretenders' Chrissie Hynde. Only once did Last.fm play one of Blondie's actual CBGB peers, Patti Smith with "Dancing Barefoot." Alongside Billy Idol and the Bangles, bands we had never heard of (Toronto's Martha & the Muffins) popped up, as did ones we barely remembered (Ian Dury & the Blockheads).
We got '80s hits like the Romantics' "Talking in Your Sleep" and the Fixx's "One Thing Leads to Another." The only other real punk rock band that showed up was the Buzzcocks, but even the song Last.fm picked out, "Why Can't I Touch It?," was more reggae than anything else. Every once in a while, we'd hit a dead end like Culture Club's "Karma Chameleon" or Dead or Alive's "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)" — neither of which bears even a superficial resemblance to anything Blondie did — and hit the reset button.
New Order's "Crystal" was the only song from this decade we heard, but both the band's musical cues and Harry's forward-thinking fashion sense are still easy to spot in contemporary stars from Pink to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. So whichever face Blondie — Harry, Stein and drummer Clem Burke are the only original members still touring — decides to show to the Arena Theater audience Sunday, it's going to be fun to find out.
Immediately after Free Press Summer Fest, Houston power-pop prodigies the McKenzies announced they have broken up, for the usual reasons. "It's all on good terms," the band said via e-mail. "It's just been really hard to do anything. Everyone has personal things to do — school, jobs, schedules, you know." The group's last show is August 29 at Mango's with Tax the Wolf and Young Mammals.
Discovery Green announced the fall lineup for its free Thursday evening concert series last week. The series begins September 17 with the Kashmere Reunion Stage Band and Joe Carmouche's salute to late Houston music education legend Conrad Johnson, followed by Jesse Dayton and Miss Leslie & Her Juke Jointers September 24, Grupo Fantasma October 1, Terrence Simien and the Zydeco Experience October 8, Ian McLagan & the Bump Band and Sideshow Tramps October 15 and Blaggards and Flying Fish Sailors October 22. Concerts start at 6:30 p.m.; see www.myspace.com/discoverygreenconcerts for further information.
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1. Naomi Shelton and the Gospel Queens, What Have You Done, My Brother?
2. Benny Joy, Crash the Party: The Benny Joy Story, vol. 1
3. Various Artists, Full Up: More Hits from Studio One (LP)
4. Jah Faith, "No Bother Grumble" (7")
5. Various Artists, The Man of Somebody's Dreams: A Tribute to the Songs of Chris Gaffney
6. Harvey Scales, Love-Itis
7. Various Artists, Legends of Benin
8. Various Artists, The Bunny Lee Rock Steady Years (LP)
9. Nathaniel Mayer, Why Won't You Let Me Be Black?
10. Assjack, Assjack
KMJQ, 102.1 FM
Top songs, August 13
Data from www.yes.com
1. Anthony Hamilton feat. David Banner, "Cool"
2. Maxwell, "Pretty Wings"
3. K'Jon, "On the Ocean"
4. Charlie Wilson, "There Goes My Baby"
5. The Tony Rich Project, "The Dream Is Real"
6. Maxwell, "Bad Habits"
7. Keyshia Cole, "Heaven Sent"
8. Musiq Soulchild, "SoBeautiful"
9. Ginuwine, "Last Chance"
10. Charlie Wilson, "Can't Live Without You"
(lists compiled by Chris Gray)
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