Blondie: The Next Generation or The New Wave Of Blondie Influenced Pop [NWOBIP]

Blondie first hit the heights of fame in the UK around the time of “Plastic Letters,” their second album. They were superstars in Britain at least 18 months prior to their hitting the top with “Heart Of Glass” in the US, so with that fact in mind, it’s not surprising how influential Blondie were in influencing the UK bands of the New Wave. By 1978 you couldn’t swing a dead cat without hitting a New Wave act with a female singer fronting the group. What is fascinating is that while Blondie were active, sure, there were lots of bands inspired by them, but there also arose what I’ll call the New Wave of Blondie Influenced Pop in the UK roughly a decade later.

Columbia | US | CD | 1988 | CK 45208

The Darling Buds emerged from the C-86 scene in Wales and within three years, they managed to have a hit debut album on CBS with “Pop Said.” That album offered clean, pop rock with all the fresh-scrubbed verve of Blondie, minus the heavy dose of irony. Andrea Lewis sings with clarity and vivacity and all of the songs keep the hooks coming as if on a conveyor belt. All of the cuts come down on the shy side of four minutes and follow my first edict of this dirty business called show: always leave them wanting more.

Their second album, “Crawdaddy” veers away from the Blondie pop of the debut to embrace indie dance influences rather magnificently. Cuts like “Crystal Clear” and “Tiny Machine” managed to reflect the culture of the time without disgusting me – a neat trick! They managed a third album, “Erotica,” that came out just weeks before the other record of 1992 with that name, and the sound is fully “grown up” from their youthful beginning. Alas, the half life of the New Wave Of Blondie Influenced Pop [or NWOBIP – tell me you didn’t see that coming] seems to be three albums exactly, as we shall see.

RCA | US | CD | 1988 | 8443-2-R

The Primitives, from Coventry, also come from the same roots as The Darling Buds; C-86 influenced pop rockers. Like that band, they gestated and burst forth in 1988 with a respectable selling debut album and are fronted by the platinum blonde Tracy Cattell. Besides the obvious peroxide usage, she favored some of Debbie Harry’s blasé detachment in her delivery. The hit single “Crash” got a lot of airplay, in a case of cream rising to the top for a change. Apart from the other bands discussed here, occasionally Paul Court would step up to the mic [on their third album] for the occasional lead vocal. Intriguingly enough, his vocals were not dissimilar from Tracy’s in character, making the transition between singers relatively seamless.

Like The Darling Buds, their second album was even better than their great debut and evidenced some further artistic growth. “Way Behind Me” was a killer single and in keeping with the band that was their namesake, they perform the Velvet Underground’s “I’ll Be Your Mirror.” That makes sense given that the VU probably also influenced Blondie’s use of irony and dark humor.

Their third album, “Galore,” issued in 1992, didn’t even get a US release. It was their last hurrah; an album so obscure, I could only find a Japanese copy for sale! Nevertheless, it’s fantastic 60s-slash-nineties pop rock that mines the vein deep. It’s telling that they cover The Nightcrawlers’ “Little Black Egg” in the song selection. In looking into the band, I made the discovery that the band reformed in 2009 to commemorate deceased bassist Steve Dullaghan and have since reunited with producer Paul Sampson to record a fourth album. The band are now officially back! They have even played a US concert date once so far, so here’s hoping they make their way to my neck of the woods this time.

UNI Records | US | CD | 1988 | UNID-5

Transvision Vamp also sported a blonde, female vocalist whose debut album appeared in 1988 and who also maintained a three album career before fizzling out in ’91-’92. But hey, whose counting? Admittedly, TVV differ from the previous two groups in that they alone absorbed Blondie’s ironic stance and multiplied it until it was almost too much to bear. Their debut album, “Pop Art,” [that title’s a dead giveaway, isn’t it?] is delightfully overproduced by either Zeus B. Held or Duncan Bridgeman. Unlike The Primitives or The Darling Buds, the sound is steeped in high tech, synthesized touches; veering far afield from the basic rock combo sounds favored by the other two. The opener, “Trash City” lays it all on the line for an over the top, jet trash manifesto that owes at least as much to Sigue Sigue Sputnik as to Blondie. “Sister Moon” is a winner that manages to show a dreamy side to offset the brash, if not crass, attitudes on display here.

Unlike the others, TVV’s debut album is my favorite of their releases. No gentle bell curve of achievement for them. Like the others, it sold respectably well, but it was their second album, “Velveteen,” that saw them reach their commercial acme. “Baby I Don’t Care” is a crass re-write of “Wild Thing” that has no shame whatsoever. That’s about as good as it gets on album number two. Still, it sold well enough to top the UK album chart. That made their sudden fall from grace all the more shocking.

Their third album, “Little Magnets Versus The Bubble Of Babble,” was issued in, you guessed it, 1991… but only in America! The two pre-release singles [“I Just Wanna Be With U,” “If Looks Could Kill”] stiffed so badly, that the long-winded album never get a UK release. MCA dumped it in America [and Australia, where they had a following] and the band split before a UK release was mooted. It’s a little better than the preceding “Velveteen.” “Twangy Wigout,” besides being a hell of a great song title, has the distinction of being co-written by no less than Serge Gainsbourg! But like their peroxided peers, three albums amid a swirl of success was all they were capable of providing. If anything, the advent of the Madchester/baggy scene bulldozed these bands off of the airwaves with their [tedious] ecstasy-fueled grooves.

– 30 –

About postpunkmonk

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8 Responses to Blondie: The Next Generation or The New Wave Of Blondie Influenced Pop [NWOBIP]

  1. ronkanefiles says:

    The ‘3 album rule’ extends far beyond this genre….


    • postpunkmonk says:

      ronkanefiles – Actually, I would typify this as a subgenre. In the old days, if you didn’t sell by three albums you were cut, but each of these bands had success. In most cases it was up front and the career arc had diminishing returns. But Transvision Vamp were probably the most successful of these bands, and it came with their sophomore effort. I’m happy to see The Primitives are back. I liked them a lot. I missed their East Coast tour promoting “Pure,” my favorite of their albums. Long, bitter story there!


  2. Taffy says:

    Love this post, but that goes without saying, as Blondie is my favorite band of all time! I’m a fellow fan of all three bands, altho I was probably most partial to the groovy charms of the Primitives. I think these bands formed the core of the silly (but obvious) named “blonde movement,” but if you wanted to reach just a bit more, you could of course include the fab combo Voice of the Beehive. I’m pretty sure the (American) girl singers found their backing band and initial success in the UK, and they did produce three albums between ’88 and ’95.
    I might slightly disagree with your conclusion that the Madchester sound wiped out the blonde bands, as I distinctly hear druggy dance sounds permeating songs by both the Buds and the Prims by the time their second albums were released.


    • postpunkmonk says:

      Tafffy – I did consider VOB. Tracy was blonde, and they covered “In The Flesh” [magnificently], but ultimately, they were too West Coast to fit in with this lot. They had many of the same influences as The Bangles [but with a country seasoning]. Plus, being American, they fit into the “American women cross the pond to front a band” thread. See The Pretenders, but more specifically The Adult Net. Oh, yes. The Adult Net!

      Re: Madchester on The Buds & The Primitives. I mentioned it primarily on the Buds copy. I loved their work along those lines, but did it help them sell any records? I think they were perceived as trend hoppers and Madchester had no time for women did it?


  3. Taffy says:

    Oops, my bad…indeed you did aknowledge the dancier elements filtering into the mix. And i guess you’re right about baggy being an all-boys club. At least the shoegazers (with Lush, My Bloody Valentine and others) and Britpop (Elastica, Sleeper, Echobelly, etc etc) allowed the girls to play with the guys!


    • postpunkmonk says:

      Taffy – I never realized the gender doors were shut for females on baggy until I wrote this. I guess that’s because it’s still seen as uncool for a woman to be stoned out of her mind all of the time. Can you imagine a female Bez [Happy Mondays]? Sure, it happens, just not in public. Shoegaze was much preferable to me, and not surprisingly, it was almost a femme-centric genre.


  4. Echorich says:

    Excellent post!! I love all three of these bands for so many different reasons. I always thought, though, that TVV could have/should have been immensely popular. Maybe it was a lack of the Svengali to give them more direction or find them the right tunes, but there were great bones there (literally and figuratively) to work with. Wendy had the bravado, the Monroe meets Cell Block B looks and the band could take on even over the top producers like Zeus B. Held.


    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – Well, at least in England TVV were very popular but that backlash was a killer. I first heard them when their [inferior] cover of “Tell That Girl To Shut Up” surfaced. I was happy to see Holly & The Italians getting some love, but it didn’t make me forget the original. So I paid no further attention to TVV… until I picked up a Record Mirror issue with a 7″ EP freebie. It had “Child Of The Age” by the band and I thought it might be a nice way to check them out further. It was great! I thought “if this is a track they give away I need to buy their album!” Needless to say “Pop Art” was a major bomb for me. It wasn’t until after I was a dyed-in-the-wool fan that I picked up on the Wendy James vibe. It was useful that I heard and enjoyed them before that, because had I been exposed to the brilliant mind of Wendy James a priori, I would have never given them the chance. But Nick Sayer sure had the tunes, didn’t he?

      At least until the smack hit.
      That's Nick Sayer on the right.


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