WHEN BLONDIE CAME onto the scene in the late '70s, it was impossible not to associate the band's name with their eye-grabbing frontwoman, Debbie Harry—much to the chagrin of the band. They even went as far as to make buttons that read: "BLONDIE IS A GROUP."
Fast forward to 2015, and Blondie is still a group. And guitarist Chris Stein is talking to me from a hotel in Delaware, where the band has just wrapped up one of several summer dates with Melissa Etheridge. Of course, Blondie's importance to the '70s New York music and arts scene is well documented, where they were fixtures at noteworthy punk clubs like CBGB and Max's Kansas City. "We were very much in the moment," explains Stein. "It wasn't until probably the '90s that we realized the influence."
Blondie's early songs had heavy nods to the British Invasion bands and '60s girl groups the members were reared on, with some extra sneer and Harry's sweet, sassy vocals. But it wasn't until the third single from Blondie's third LP, Parallel Lines, that listeners outside of New York took notice. "Heart of Glass" hit number one on the charts in 1979—a song Harry and Stein had written almost five years prior—and simultaneously endeared the band to millions and alienated their hardcore new wave fans.
"I've always loved dance music," Stein explains, adding that he never understood why the band got lumped in with disco, when the rest of Parallel Lines is clearly rock music. "I think if Hendrix hadn't died, he would've gone that direction."
Stein says he still loves modern pop and dance music, and that the band (which still includes Harry and original drummer Clem Burke) is working on new material that could potentially include some of those influences. Of course, history has been kind to "Heart of Glass," and even disco—although the punks in Blondie never made apologies for having a number one single back in 1979, or when they repeated the trick with the Giorgio Moroder-produced "Call Me," the reggae-tinged "The Tide Is High," and the pioneering rap experiment "Rapture."
"I may have been a little conflicted at the time," says Stein. "But I secretly enjoyed it."