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BOOK REVIEW: Allan Metz's Blondie, From Punk to the Present: A Pictorial History

Blondie, From Punk to the Present, is available at bookstores now
by Charles Tatum

Finally! A book about those beloved Bumsteads and their all American woes... oh, wait a minute. "Blondie, From Punk to the Present: A Pictorial History" is a massive 512 page book chronicling the rise, the fall, and the rise of the musical group Blondie, covering their start right through last year's tour in support of their then new album "No Exit."

Allan Metz is credited as "compiler" on the book since that is exactly what it is- a compilation of hundreds of newspaper clippings, magazine articles, interviews, and photographs of the band. With Deborah Harry on vocals, Clem Burke on drums, Jimmy Destri on keyboards, and Chris Stein on guitar, Blondie proved some bands just need a twenty year break in order to collect their thoughts and come out with a strong album.

The book is divided into four parts: Then, Between Acts, Now, and In Retrospect. Each section features tons of articles, as well as some average black and white photography of the group. There are even different indexes, categorizing names, band and performer names, and song names.

My reservations about the book are due to its repetition and some cosmetic complaints. The most interesting part of the book was the first section, chronicling the Punk music movement as an American phenomenon, before the rightfully angry Brits took it and made it a political statement. The American Punk movement had similarities to the slackers of the past decade, including such famous names as Television, Lou Reed, the Ramones, and Patti Smith. One of the writers justified Blondie's inclusion in the Punk group by labelling their music "subversive pop." Blondie was never a group to pick a genre and stick to it, branching into rock, disco, country, reggae, ska, pop, and they can be credited (I prefer the term "blamed") for bringing rap music to mainstream music listeners. The opening history of the New York Punk scene is fascinating stuff. I was enthralled, and read the entire first section in one sitting. Once Blondie got together, the infighting began. They released some great albums, broke up, and got back together again recently.

Chris Stein's near fatal skin disease. Blondie is a band, not Harry. Deborah Harry sang with the Jazz Passengers at one time. Harry was almost another victim of one Ted Bundy. Two of the original Blondie founders sued the band when they reunited, but lost in court. The album "No Exit" is not a comeback, just a continuation. All of these facts and more are literally repeated dozens and dozens of times throughout the articles. Maybe the book was not meant to be read from one end to the other like I did, but I was soon bored with reading the exact same things in every article.

Deborah Harry's film past is touched upon, but is never as thoroughly discussed as I would have liked to see. While billed as a pictorial history, the grainy black and white photos are nothing ground shaking (consisting mostly of candid and performance shots). However, having the photographers talk about their thoughts and reactions at shooting Blondie is very interesting. Also, the book measures 8 1/2 by 11 inches, but the text is on one continuous line across each page. Columns may have broken up the monotony, as my eyes would sometimes repeat a line.

The book is compiled by an obvious fan, but there are a few negative articles amongst all the praise. "Blondie, From Punk to the Present: A Pictorial History" is like a really cool textbook from a really cool popular culture class given at a really cool liberal arts college. I would give it four out of five stars, but if you are music or Blondie fan, you could crank that up another notch.

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originally posted: 04/10/03 11:40:37
last updated: 05/12/05 04:04:19
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