How Blondie Changed My Life
Debbie Harry, Chris Stein and Clem Burke of the band Blondie didn’t know me from a can of spray tan. They had no idea who I was, what I looked like nor whether or not I could even sing. And yet, the very first time we met was backstage, in a green room, twenty minutes before I was to perform on stage with them.
You heard me right…These Musical Juggernauts gave me permission to rock the mic with them in front of thousands of their screaming and adoring fans, and they literally had not a clue if I could even deliver. Talk about #Cosigned. This is the story of how the band Blondie changed my life.
My life was in shambles. I was, at that time, a hairstylist who made ‘barely-surviving’ money. My back and my feet were always killing me and I hated my job. I was always daydreaming about something better but I had no idea what else I was going to do with my life. I was also deeply depressed & in mourning. The love of my life had recently passed away, and yet Every. Single. Day. I stared into these big brown doe-like eyes that remarkably resembled his. Lonely and afraid, I was raising a beautiful baby girl who would never get the opportunity to know what an amazing father she had. To put it mildly, I was phucking miserable. Then one day, literally out of the blue, my friend Kevin Patrick calls me up on the phone.
I first met Kevin when I was a backup dancer and he was a keyboard player for this ‘mafia princess’ outta New Jersey. Okay so, I don’t really know if she was in fact a ‘mafia princess’, but Kevin and I used to joke about how the guys who came to rehearsals with her looked like they just stepped off the set of The Sopranos.
They weren’t musicians in the band, nor were they a part of her management team, so we all assumed they were her personal bodyguards or…Something. Else. She also had this ‘invisible benefactor’ who paid us whatever rate we asked for and bought her whatever she wanted, no matter the cost. Kevin and I ended up becoming really close because, after the ‘mafia princess’ gig was over, we decided to write and produce an album together.
The Phone Call
Fast forward to the point when I received the phone call from Kevin. Due to life…and death…and just time really; he and I, at that point, hadn’t been in contact with each other in at least a year or two. The beauty of us was that we were musical soulmates, thick as thieves, so that time-lapse in our relationship really didn’t even matter.
Anyway, he calls me up all nonchalant and is like, “Hey Q!” (My nickname is Queenie, btw.) “Whachadoowin in two days?” I was like, “Ummmmm, nothing… WHY??!!” I’m always suspicious when Kev asks those open-ended questions cuz it usually means something unfathomable is involved. Turns out, I was right. So, then he says, “I’m currently on tour with Blondie & we’ll be in town in exactly two days…. How would you like to perform on stage with the band?”
“You’re kidding, right?” I said in pure disbelief, all the while knowing this dude was dead-ass serious. “C’mon, Q. You know how I do!” he says cockily. To make one thing very clear, I’m nowhere near menopausal, but I swear, at that moment, I instantly began having hot flashes. My body felt like it was on fire! I thought I was about to faint! “Q…. You still there,” he says inquisitively.
“Yeah.” I said, as relaxed as possible, knowing damn well I was on the verge of passing TF out! “Two days, Kevin!” I exclaimed, “But…When will we have time to rehearse? What am I gonna perform? How will I know what to do? What are you getting me into????!!!!”
“It’s cool Q…I gotchu,” he says calmly, like he’s aware of something I’m not. He then explains to me that during the second set of the show, Blondie performs an old-school segment; kind of an homage to all the hip hop classics. They’ll start the set off with their hit song Rapture, except it will be played with the old Rapper’s Delight beat by the Sugar Hill Gang. As soon as the beat drops, that’s when I’m supposed to come out and do my thing. “No worries, Q,” he says, “You got this…You were born for this!” Kevin had a way of easily convincing me the impossible was possible.
Keep in mind, where they were performing was at least two hours away from where I lived at the time. I was fortunate enough to have a reliable babysitter, but I didn’t own a car and payday was weeks away. With no car and no money, how the hell was I going to get there??!! I had no idea, but what I did have… was faith. Faith in knowing this was an opportunity of a lifetime and that The Universe would align really quickly to make it happen for me. I didn’t know how, I just knew that when it did… I would be ready.
“Gurrrrrl, was wrong witchu!!??” One of my nosy af co-workers in the salon exclaimed; naturally “noticing” how bewildered I looked after I hung up the phone with Kevin. I proceeded to fill them in on the details and…the dilemma. Unbeknownst to me, a customer who was getting his hair cut at the time was listening in as well. He was a salon regular that often came in for a weekly haircut but, beyond that, I really didn’t know him that well. Suddenly he says, “I’ll take you.” With a synchronized, whiplash-inducing twirl, we all spun around in our salon chairs and glared at him in disbelief. “What did you just say?” I asked, making sure I heard him correctly. “I said, I’ll take you. I love Blondie and I’d be honored to help make this happen for you.”
The. Universe. Delivered.
The BIG Day
When I entered the green room, I tried my best not to act like a giddy school girl. I shook hands and exchanged pleasantries with all the movers and shakers who were present. But, when Debbie approached me, once again, I thought I was going to pass TF out! A sex symbol-rock goddess in the flesh, with a gaze so penetrating, it left you powerless. Chris of course was, as always, cool as ice water; producer extraordinaire. They explained that Kevin told them many times over how amazing I was, and said if he thought I was good, then that was good enough for them. No audition needed.
Clem, with his throwback vibe & charismatic af demeanor, gave me a pound and said, “I look forward to seeing what you can do.” All the while Kevin stood across the room, blended into the background, grinning like damn a Cheshire Cat.
The performance was evvverrrythiiing! And everything to be expected. Thousands of elated Blondie fans were singing along to every word. I stood backstage nervously waiting for my turn to rock the mic. Suddenly, a guy comes over, hooks a contraption on my belt, hands me a mic and asks if I’m ready. I confidently respond, “I was born ready.” I then say a quick prayer in my head asking for performing grace and beg not to embarrass myself or the band by tossing my cookies while I was on stage. Debbie, who was at this point owning the crowd the like the diva she is, suddenly turns, gives me a wink and mouths the words “Are you ready?” I give a thumbs up & nod my head assuredly. “I’d like to introduce you all to a friend of mine,” she proclaims to the crowd. Then, that Rapper’s Delight Intro drops…and It. Was. On!!!
I sauntered to the front of the stage and took my place next to The Queen. “Just throw ya hands in the air, and wave ‘em like ya just don’t care!” Thousands upon thousands of willing hands bolted towards sky, swaying to and fro, obeying my every command. It was pure magic!
After the show, Leigh, the bassist of Blondie, myself, Kevin & the client from the salon who volunteered to take me to the performance; all went for drinks in the hotel bar. Leigh is an all around great guy who offered lots of encouragement & great advice. We had a ‘Music Is Life’ conversation until the wee hours of the morning. The day was perfection!
The King & I
This is my ode to the “first white boy in hip-hop.” Unapologetic for doing what came naturally, his love of the music and the culture made him unequivocally unafraid to venture into the darkest melanin-infused boroughs of New York City, during the peak of its roughest time, to successfully co-produce songs on the 1983 Wild Style Soundtrack. According to Rolling Stone, “No film made before or since has captured the beautiful innocence of early hip-hop like Wild Style.” They also said it was, “Arguably the first great hip-hop album.” Not only was Chris Stein there for the emergence of the hip-hop nation, he was a part of it.
Of course, this ‘Ode’ applies to the band Blondie as well, for being pioneers of the first commercially successful hip hop song. When “commercially mainstream music,” and all of its listeners, had not a clue about WTF was going on in the culture; Blondie made it their mission to bring the streets of the South Bronx to…let’s keep it 100… White America.
The difference? They didn’t exploit or appropriate sh*t. Hip hop is not a costume they wear and then discard when it’s no longer lucratively convenient. Blondie been in this game since the beginning…in the trenches with some of the realest street credible, record breaking & foundation making emcees in the game. The fact that they’ve created songs with artists like Fab 5 Freddie & Grandmaster Caz to Wu-Tang Clan (Inspectah Deck & U-God), Mob Deep (#RIP to Prodigy) & Colio only proves Blondie been hip hop since its inception. Visionaries long before a lot of you was swimming around in yo daddy’s sack. Put Some ‘Respeck’ on Their Name.
To Debbie, Chris, Clem, Kevin, Barbara Sicuranza & Nicole Campon: Thank you for believing in me and giving me my first opportunity to perform on a major stage, my first major photo shoot & my first major recording collaboration. These were moments in time that I will never forget & I will always love you for everything you’ve done for me.
Blondie is currently on their 2017 North American “Rage and Rapture” Tour with Garbage RIGHT NOW! Check for a date near you HERE. Cop their new album ‘Pollinator’ HERE.