I’ve Just Heard A Song Named ‘Maria’…17 Years Later

blondie-mariaukcda This morning, I was the the gym, as usual for a Monday. My wife and I had completed our workout and were in the process of having our stretch on the mats afterward. The gym’s sound system was set to a curiously timeless blend of hits, the oldest of which I recognized was Van Halen’s “Dance The Night Away;” the deceptively agreeable single from their almost completely worthless sophomore album. There were many songs which I did not recognize, and I supposed that they were radio hits from the last 25 or so years where I would not have had a clue.

Then another song that I did not know began playing. It had a good melody and was beginning to hook me in. The volume level of the sound system at the gym was loud enough to hear above the sound from the workout floor, but not so loud that one could easily hear the details of the lyrics; particularly in the echoey acoustics of the large room. As I listened I thought to myself “that sounds like Deborah Harry” when all of a sudden my wife said to me, out of the blue, “…now that song doesn’t sound so bad.”

“Do you know who that is?” I said to her. “That’s Deborah Harry!”

“Are you sure?” she questioned.

I countered with “I’m positive… I’ve just been listening to a lot of Blondie lately and that’s her phrasing.” While straining to hear the choral hook, it seemed like Ms. Harry might have been singing “Maria,” which I knew to be the single off of the 1999 Blondie reformation album “No Exit.” It was a record that I’ve never heard a note from until now.

I then mentioned that I thought the song was the single “Maria” from the reformation album I’d not heard. I mentioned to her that since reforming in the late 90s, the band had released several new albums; none of which reside in the Record Cell. I then said “after that traumatic experience” I was ill-inclined to pick any of them up!

The “traumatic experience” of which I speak of was a 1994 Deborah Harry show at an Orlando club called The Edge, where she did a track date concert that we both attended at least a good half year before we met and became a couple. It was an all-time worst musical experience from one of my favorites and a black mark on my wife’s concert going list as well. It was a track date show, where Ms. Harry sung to backing tapes like any up and coming disco dolly rather than the star she was. She seemed out of it and it was an embarrassment. As soon as I resolved to get out of that club right now, about a half hour into the horror, the lights suddenly came up and it was over! Insult to injury! I was not even able to leave with a shred of my dignity intact!

So with that sort of experience, I have been extremely Blondie-shy, and this has been the reason why. Years later, the reformed Blondie actually played a show in my city in August of 2004, and I had only seen a killer Debbie Harry solo gig from back in 1990 [thank goodness] and had never seen Blondie. Yet I still passed on this. But hearing this song, which was clearly beguiling, has opened me to the possibility of buying and finally hearing some of the modern Blondie records. Is this folly? Discuss below.

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8 Responses to I’ve Just Heard A Song Named ‘Maria’…17 Years Later

  1. Thomas Williams says:

    Sad to learn that you’re just now hearing her (their? — no, her.) after-market stuff. I TOO remember that dreadful, sad night at The Edge. And call a spade a spade – the lady was STRUNG OUT on HORSE to ALL APPEARANCES. This being particularly damning because the last time we had seen her previously had been a luminously glowing, brightly-limned-in-memory, godlike experience — well, other than Chris Stein’s nose dangler as I recall — but dam’me if the man didn’t play right through it like the consummate pro he is! I honestly don’t recall if that earlier show was billed as “Blondie” or “Debby Harry” – Chris Stein etc. were there, so to ME it was Blondie by definition.

    That said, reconsidering latter-day Blondie is not folly at all. I have No Exit and can state that it’s entirely acceptable in the Blondie canon, as is The Curse of Blondie (whence the categorically phenomenal https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m69_NwWQCYo — Good Boys). This latter album I mistook for a best-of for several years, based solely on it’s name, before eventually wising up.

    I will admit I’d still be hard-pressed to see her live again – the awful taste in my mouth hasn’t cleared after 20-odd years. But that doesn’t change the fact that she (they? — SHEY!) are still hitting the right buttons in the studio for this listener.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Thomas Williams – Gott Im Himmel!!! You were there too??!! I think this is the first time I may have heard this! I had no idea that you were also in attendance during my second Deborah Harry gig. Yeah, decorum stayed my hand when writing this post earlier, but since the cat’s out of the bag, it was not merely a track date that appalled me but in fact her appearance at said gig. I remember her wobbling around on some ludicrous platform pumps in a Sprouse mirrorball dress looking like a mess. There…I said it.

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      • John says:

        Not defending this particular performance you saw, but this was not a good period for Debbie. Her album at the time ‘Debravation’ did not sell upon release. The record company held it up for two years with demands for changes after they rejected Debbie’s vision of the album. Chrysalis records dropped her in 1994 after 17 years, and Chris Stein was deep in the drugs at this time also. We all have bad periods, I’m glad she was able to come out of it.

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  2. Taffy says:

    Well, I wasn’t at this Orlando track date you mention, but I did get my Debbie Harry fix through a decent part of the 1990’s by seeing her perform at either track dates or with the Jazz Passengers, usually to great satisfaction. I certainly can’t nor wouldn’t challenge your memory or opinion, but I will say that a girl’s gotta eat and I’d rather Debbie did track dates than work as a greeter at your local Walmart! And in all honesty, what with the twin remix albums coming out in the UK and US in the mid-90’s, track dates at dance clubs were a logical promotion tool. Is this what I wanted for my goddess during those “lean” years? Not necessarily, but again, I was happy she was out and somewhat available again.
    As for the post-reunion albums, of course fanboy-for-life me has them all, but I recognize that all four of them (No Exit, Curse of Blondie, Panic of Girls, and Ghosts of Download) have their high and low points. There’s the usual eclecticism run rampant, as the band genre-hops from rap to dance-pop to world music to reggae to patented classic-style-Blondie-power-pop. No Exit alone has a few gems (Under the Gun, Nothing Is Real But The Girl, Maria) which stand up to the late 70’s heyday. Your satisfaction may vary.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Taffy – Not to change the subject, but my wife reports that she played “Maria” online and when I sampled it, I don’t think it was was song I heard this morning. It wasn’t bad, but it was different. I swear that I was hearing Ms.Harry’s dulcet tones given that I spent many hours listening to ETTB recently, I think I have a pretty good handle on that. The question arises; is there a modern Blondie/or Harry solo song that has a lyric that I might mistake for “Maria?” This is getting difficult and I turn to your expertise. By the way, I did purchase “Once More Into The Bleach,” the first of the remix albums of which you speak. I maintained a copy due to the presence of a few loose movie tracks like “Rush Rush” and “Feel The Spin” that were not remixed and otherwise unavailable on the shiny silver disc at the time of issue.

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      • Taffy says:

        Once More Into the Bleach came out in the late 80s…I was referring to Beautiful (in the UK) and Remixed Remade Remodeled (a US release) from ’94-95, which really brought Blondie remixes into dance clubs once again. Neither is essential, I’m gonna guess you’d loathe most (if not all) the current mixes commissioned.
        I honestly can’t think of what you may have (mis)heard as Maria. Maria actually recycles a line from Walk Like Me (the “like a millionaire, walking on imported air” bit), but I guess Jimmy Destri is allowed to plagiarize himself! The lead single from Debbie’s last solo album (Necessary Evil) was called Two Times Blue, and I suppose could be vaguely similar-sounding to Maria, but the lyrics certainly don’t match at all. So – drawing a blank as to what the mix-up is here, sorry!

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        • postpunkmonk says:

          Taffy – Well, I can only hope that the tune gets into satellite rotation and no one changes the channel at the gym. I’ve got a mystery to crack now. If I catch some lyrics that will do it. And finally, I did catch the Destri lyric quote. That line was good enough to use twice, in my opinion.

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  3. Jon Chaisson says:

    I was at HMV at the time of that reformation…I was never the biggest Blondie fan (they’re a band where I like a handful of their songs but their full albums don’t do much for me), but I thought No Exit was quite good. It sold pretty well for a short time at our store, and I’d gotten a promo copy for my sister, but I never really followed up on the band since then.

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