Blondie's Jimmy Destri

Today is the 44th birthday of Jimmy Destri, keyboard player for the

biggest-selling group of the initial new wave, Blondie. Destri joined

Blondie in 1975, shortly after original bassist Fred Smith left to form

Television. While Destri was working as a hospital orderly in Brooklyn,

N.Y., his sister Donna introduced him to Blondie vocalist Deborah Harry and

guitarist Chris Stein. Destri had been an art student and had a band of

his own, Milk and Cookies, before this meeting. With drummer Clem Burke

and bassist Gary Valentine, Blondie gigged in various new-wave clubs

before being discovered in New York City's famed CBGB's by record

producer Richard Gottehrer. The band's initial single, "(Se)X

Offender," was impressive enough for Private Stock Records to commission

a full LP. Blondie's self-titled debut album in 1976 featured power-pop,

girl-group harmonies, manic drumming and Destri's farfisa organ. Destri also

proved himself as an interesting songwriter, penning the

catchy "Look Good In Blue" and "A Shark In Jet's Clothing." After

touring the U.S. and the U.K., Blondie released Plastic Letters

in 1977 on Chrysalis Records, from which "Denis" became a #2 British

smash. A lengthy world tour followed, with Frank Infante as second

guitarist and Nigel Harrison on bass. The next

album, Parallel Lines, was Blondie's breakthrough in terms of quality

and sales. The discofied single

HREF="">"Heart of

Glass" (RealAudio excerpt), prominently featuring

Destri on electronic keyboards, was a worldwide chartbuster and brought

the band massive attention in America. Other hits from the album were

"Hanging On The Telephone," "One Way Or Another" and "Sunday Girl."

Blondie made the first full-length video album for its follow-up, Eat

To The Beat, which featured standout Destri-penned tunes such as

"Atomic" (which was a British #1), "Living In The Real World" and

"Accidents Never Happen."

After releasing the biggest-selling single of

1980, the Giorgio Moroder-produced

HREF="">"Call Me"

(the theme from "American

Gigolo") (RealAudio excerpt), Blondie's musical interests began to splinter.

They enjoyed

#1s with their reggae-tinged "The Tide Is High" and the seminal-rap

"Rapture," both from 1980's Autoamerican, but the album was

evidence of Harry and Stein's growing preoccupation with Brian

Eno-influenced ambient music. With Destri and the others still

interested in power pop, the band broke up in 1982 after an unsuccessful

tour and album. Harry, after nursing Stein back to health from a rare

disease in the mid-'80s, is the most visible member as a solo performer,

but Destri released a cult-classic solo album, Heart on a Wall, in

1982. He also has done a lot of session work, most notably on the

recent Otis Blackwell tribute album, Brace Yourself, on which Destri

backed Harry, and on Graham Parker's 1996 album Acid Bubblegum.

Destri, Stein, Harry and Burke reportedly re-formed in 1997 to record new

songs, but the record hasn't been issued yet. The foursome, under the

name Adolph's Dog, did, however, contribute a track to last year's

tribute album to Iggy Pop, We Will Fall. Also in '97, Chrysalis

released an album of Blondie live shows from 1978 and 1980 entitled

Picture This. Blondie's influence lives on in the music of

Madonna, Letters To Cleo, Elastica and others. Their 1979 hit "Atomic"

is currently featured in a Coca-Cola ad in Japan.

Other birthdays: Lester Chambers (Chambers Brothers), 58; Jack Cassady

(Jefferson Airplane/Starship), 54; Al Green, 52; Peabo Bryson, 47; Max

Weinberg (ex-E Street Band), 47; Louis Johnson (Brothers Johnson), 43;

Wayne Lewis (Atlantic Starr), 41; Hiro Yamamoto (ex-Soundgarden), 37; Kenny

Withrow (Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians), 33; Marc Ford (the Black

Crowes), 32 ... Lowell George (Little Feat), 1945-1979; Hillel Slovak (ex-Red

Hot Chili Peppers), 1962-1988.