Always Touched by Your Presence, Dear
O lonely rock creep, you used to have the escort girls come over to dance at your government-assisted apartment, and over their shoulder on the wall was that printed-out Internet picture of Debbie Harry where her eyes are waxy off some kind of pill they quit making in the '80s and you can see right up to where she's not wearing underwear, and that's what you'd really be looking at the whole time. You even had it framed. You disgust me. And you don't even know anything about Blondie. I hate you. Top seven to steal for real:
7. "Susie and Jeffrey" (1980)
Cloggy on campy melodrama and about as lyrical as a phone book, but it's a true story: Susie and Jeffrey really did crash their car into the studio wall while Blondie were recording Autoamerican, and funny thing was they both turned out to be HUGE fans who just happened to have copies of their OWN record in the front seat. They got famous, but only as Debbie Harry making fun of them a few times in interviews. Still, that's more than most of us get, so apparently the plan worked. Think '60s gal group done in finger paint instead of watercolors—like she says, "I'm in love—L-U-V!"
Available: B-side of "Tide Is High" 45 (Chrysalis)
6. "Sound Asleep" (1979)
Starts so quiet you can hear the chrk-chrk squibs on the guitar chord changes, and then Debbie taps the ash into the empties: "Open your eyes/and you will see/it still looks like the same thing." As sluggy as the Velvet Underground when they put Moe on the microphone, probably for the same reasons, and then even stranger for the prismatic gloss Blondie was so stuck on by this point. Always thought it was creepy when Brian Wilson had that thing about "Diz-a-nee" girls; here we got that same sugar goo cooked up till it turns to burnt plastic. "I want to go down," she says. To sleep? Yeah, sure.
Available: B-side of "Dreamin'" 45 (Chrysalis).
5. "Hanging on the Telephone" (1976)
Not one Blondie member on this recording; instead, the song that soundtracked every getting-ready-for-the-big-dance scene till Reagan left office in unadulterated form. The Nerves were three top-flight LA songwriters in one band; they toured in a station wagon and made it about a year or so before they hated one another. Played it for a girl once and she went, "Wow, this is what the Strokes are supposed to be." Or maybe that was the Real Kids. Either way, though! Also, this is better than the remake, as God intends things to always be.
Available: Penniman reissue of Nerves 45 with bonus tracks; Offence Nerves LP.
4. "Little GTO" (1978)
Oh, yeah, pop pastiche: the Beach Boys "Automatic" with T-top Camaro subtlety and Rodney Bingenheimer singing for an uncredited Blondie as backing band (well, okay: "The Brunettes"). And they got the Shadow Morton sound effects ("VROOM VROOM!") and even the vocal hook from "Ça Plane Pour Moi" (but they came out the same year, so who knows who plundered it first?), and that came from the Beach Boys, anyway, too.
Available: "Little GTO" 45 (Bomp!).
3. "Platinum Blonde" (1975)
The Dolls were still freshly decomposing around then, and this Blondie demo sounds it: "Platinum" here is pretty rough-and-tumble, and Debbie's little "unh!" coochie-coo is sticky like phone sex called in from a phone booth. But it'd fuck you up good when you're a drum majorette whose reigning majesties of sexy are Marilyn Monroe and David Johansen; musta took Debbie years to be able to feel really comfortable in high heels.
Available: Alan Betrock demos 45.
2. "Dreamin'" (1979)
Live, they took all but four of those unrelenting drum rolls—that New York subway sound that made the song sound about as pretty as an actual subway?—and tossed 'em in the showoff bin; this is Blondie playing it straight, and "Dreamin'" just opens right up. Catchier, sadder, cuter, everything—it's the girl you want without the tarty makeup job. Of course, you're probably into all that—you like them lips to shine like a car fender, huh?
Available: Little Doll LP (Barbie).
1. "Sunday Girl" (1978)
Heavy harder version trumps the studio cut for slit-eyed 4/4 intensity, but also—ha ha!—buries some of the fidelity under a fuzzy excuse for fun (i.e., if you've never heard a fan-club recording before, your virgin ears are gonna sniff and slide their stockings back on). Debbie's in full Quaalude angel mode, and when the band just grinds right in on the "hurry up and wait!" hook, lonely rock creep seems like he was in the right all along. As beautiful music as ugly people should hope to listen to.
Available: Headlines picture disc LP (Lunar Toones).
Blondie at the Taste Of Newport Festival, Fashion Island, 401 Newport Center Dr., Newport Beach, (949) 729-4400. Sat., 9:30 p.m. Free with festival admission ($17-$20). All ages.
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