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="http://www.addict.com/music/Blondie/Heart_Of_Glass.ram">"Heart of Glass"
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
(the theme from "American
Gigolo") (RealAudio excerpt), Blondie's musical interests began to splinter.
#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.