Watch Blondie Perform a Classic Concert During The Breakout Year: “Dreamin,” “One Way Or Another,” “Heart of Glass” & More (1979)

When Blondie took the stage at Con­ven­tion Hall in Asbury Park, NJ in 1979, the audi­ence knew the band as a vehi­cle for for­mer Play­boy bun­ny-turned-punk-singer Deb­bie Har­ry. “Deb­bie put on that sexy per­sona with kind of a wink, say­ing ‘This is what you want from me, I’ll kind of give it to you, but I’m also going to give you what I want to give you,’’” says biog­ra­ph­er Cathay Che. “The Blondie char­ac­ter,” as Har­ry called her onstage per­sona, “embod­ied female sex­u­al­i­ty as part threat, part unat­tain­able goal, part par­o­dy,” as Ann Pow­ers writes at The New York Times.

Cast in the role of sex­u­al­ized object since her ear­ly teen years, she had also per­formed in bands since the late 60s, and had sur­vived sex­u­al assault and a near abduc­tion in New York City in the 70s. She was a world-weary per­former in con­trol of her image, but the char­ac­ter drew so much focus from Blondie the band that oth­er mem­bers got a bit defen­sive. “I remem­ber the tour Blondie was doing in April 1978,” punk pho­tog­ra­ph­er There­sa Kereakes writes:

All the posters, t‑shirts, and but­tons you saw were black with hot pink writ­ing that pro­claimed: BLONDIE IS A GROUP! Excla­ma­tion point. No one knew dur­ing that tour in April 1978 — not the band, not their fans, and prob­a­bly not their hope­ful record com­pa­ny — that the record Blondie would release in just six months would be the one to break them into the stratos­phere. They went from Plas­tic Let­ters to Par­al­lel Lines and from the DIY scene to the big time.

Blondie was most def­i­nite­ly a group. By 1979, they had grown into a for­mi­da­ble six-piece, adding gui­tarist Frank Infante and bassist Nigel Har­ri­son to the orig­i­nal line­up of Har­ry, Chris Stein, Jim­my Destri, and Clem Burke. On the cusp of major main­stream suc­cess, they had also hit a peak in terms of musi­cian­ship and song­writ­ing — pow­er­house drum­mer Burke hold­ing the machin­ery togeth­er while each mem­ber played a vital part.

The focus on Har­ry didn’t only detract from her male band mem­bers. “Ms. Har­ry must have felt a bit like… the object of some­one else’s prof­itable fan­ta­sy” at times,” writes Pow­ers, trapped in the role of punk-rock Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe. As key­board play­er Destri put it, “no one real­ly paid atten­tion to Debbie’s singing style and how great a writer she was, because they couldn’t get past the image,”

They would pay atten­tion after Par­al­lel Lines and fol­low-ups Eat to the Beat and Autoamer­i­can. Songs like “Dream­ing,” revamped dis­co hit “Heart of Glass,” and dance­floor clas­sics “Call Me” and “Rap­ture” made Har­ry an inter­na­tion­al super­star and left the rest of the band dis­en­chant­ed. Before law­suits and long­stand­ing resent­ments broke them up, Blondie was an incred­i­ble live band. See them prove it in the full show at the top, the first set of the night. They played a sec­ond, dupli­cate set lat­er, adding Marc Bolan’s “Bang a Gong” at the end of the night. See them tear through it just above and see a full setlist with time­stamps on YouTube.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

How Blondie’s Deb­bie Har­ry Learned to Deal With Super­fi­cial, Demean­ing Inter­view­ers

Watch Blondie’s Deb­bie Har­ry Per­form “Rain­bow Con­nec­tion” with Ker­mit the Frog on The Mup­pet Show (1981)

Blondie Plays CBGB in the Mid-70s in Two Vin­tage Clips

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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