Forty years ago, Blondie emerged on the New York music scene, introducing the world to one of its now most influential and admired fashion icons: Debbie Harry. Her bleached-blonde locks and punk-style clothes plucked from thrift stores on the Bowery have become more than significant — they've become iconic.
Blondie materialized at a time when New York's burgeoning underground rock crowd was unrivaled by any other; the band's success also began at a time when the city was, well, not the city we know today.
"New York was way more New York then," Glenn O'Brien writes in the introduction of a new book dedicated to the band's early days, Chris Stein/Negative: Me, Blondie, and the Advent of Punk . "People came to New York because you could be yourself here. You could be an artist or musician or a ballerina or a drag queen. You could be a freak, a sexual outlaw, an artist, or a bum. It was OK. People were too busy being themselves that they didn’t bother you about being you. A lot of people found this to be a very fertile and productive time."
The new tome, published by the band's cofounder, Chris Stein, is dedicated to the early days of the punk pioneers, with many rare, never-before-seen images from nights at CBGB to behind-the-scenes moments at their apartment on West 17th Street to tours across the world. The result is a portrait of old New York that makes us wish we'd been around to experience that time firsthand.
An exhibition of Chris Stein's photographs is also currently on display at the Chelsea Hotel Storefront Gallery (222 West 23rd Street) through Monday, September 29.