Blondie’s Eat To The Beat was released in late 1979, when I was a freshman at Louisiana State University. Soon afterward I was a college drop-out scrubbing toilets in New York City. How did this happen?
There was a lot of talk in those days about ‘subliminal messages’ on rock records manipulating kids into worshipping Satan, blowing their heads off, and the like. If there was anything subliminal on any record I heard, it was the voice of Debbie Harry on Eat To The Beat urging me to pack up and run away to New York City. ‘Cos when I got up there the streets of downtown Manhattan were choked with hundreds of pathetic twits just like me staggering after beautiful girls. It was like Annie Hall directed by George Romero.
Once I’d heard Eat To The Beat, staying in university was impossible. There was a whole wide world out there, and a tiny, infinitesimal speck of it was calling me. Well, actually it was calling ‘Part-time warehouse worker needed’, but that’s close enough.
Blondie were to our generation what the Beach Boys were to the ‘always talking about generations’ generation. Just as Brian Wilson and his surfin’ buddies had millions of Baby Boomers declaring: “That’s the life for me!” and heading west to California, Chris Stein and his heartbreakingly adorable girlfriend had me and every other freakin’ idiot in America saying: “Hell, I’m better lookin’ than that jerk! If he can bag a babe like Debbie Harry anybody can!” and high-tailin’ it to New York City.
I suspect now that Chris Stein was in fact one heck of a good-looking guy, but the evil geniuses behind Operation Underachiever contrived to always photograph him after he’d been working in the studio all day and then struggling to satisfy the insatiable Debbie all night, just to get that ‘snivelling weasel’ look that had us all thinking that soon we too would be smooth-talking lady-killers on the Lower East Side.
Maybe they took publicity shots from The Undertones’ press kit, cut out the lead guitarist’s head and glued it on top of Stein’s face in all those Blondie pictures. I wouldn’t put anything past those people: if they could get me to walk around telling people what a ‘cool guy’ Johnny Thunders was, they could do anything.