BLONDIE: Flashbacks to Raul’s 1978

My wife, Lois Richwine, and Debbie Harry, backstage at the Austin Opera House in 1978. Debbie was sweet & gracious, the guys were very cool.

Blondie put on a superb show at the Austin Music Hall last night. Original members Deborah Harry, Clem Burke and Chris Stein were augmented with new guys on bass, keyboards and lead guitar. Nigel Harrison hasn’t been with them for years; they parted ways with Frankie Infante more recently and keyboardist Jimmy Destri appears on their website but doesn’t tour with the band. They played all the hits and songs like Atomic which were touchstones for people of a certain generation back in the late 70s and early 80s. Deborah Harry looked like a million bucks and her voice was sublime. Clem is still the hardest working drummer in the business and Chris Stein is still the melodic spine of the group’s instrumental sound.
I watched from backstage with my wife, Lois, who actually caught the band on their first European tour, with Talking Heads, in London in ’77 (and also at CBGB’s in 1975, when they were called The Stilettos), and Kathy Valentine, who was Lois’ roommate in 1977-78 when things started getting exciting here. I had begun playing bass with a new band, the Violators, which included Kathy, Carla Olson and Marilyn Dean. By the time of the band’s debut at Raul’s in February 1978, the Sex Pistols had just played San Antonio and I had started a new band with Eddie Munoz and Bill Blackmon called the Skunks. 1978 got off to a rocking start as we started tearing it up at Raul’s and every other club who would take a chance on booking us. Sometimes things got violent, like when the Violators opened for Nitzinger, a hard rock band, at El Conquistador in New Braunfels, and we had to dodge beer bottles for our whole set. Other times were exhilarating for other reasons, like when Elvis Costello jammed with the Skunks at Raul’s, with Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds in the audience. Nick did a double take when he walked in while we were playing his “Heart of the City.”
That same year Blondie came to town to play the Armadillo. I met Deborah Harry and Chris Stein at the rock club Mother Earth where I happened to have a pet skunk with me, which they admired greatly. They were sweet and I gave them a flyer for our gig that night. The band came and jammed with us. We also hung out and drank with them as they regaled us with gossip and inside details of the NYC punk scene.
Others basking in the glow of this veteran of coolness were Dominique Davalos, who plays bass and sings in the Bluebonnets, Kathy’s current band (aside from the Go-Go’s), and Danny Harvey, the suave axe-man for Charlie Terrell & the Murdered Johns plus many other Austin ensembles.
Years have passed and things have changed but Deborah Harry and the gang are still super cool. I always enjoy talking to Clem Burke and admiring his flair for looking good and being more or less a man’s man.
Nostalgia? I don’t know. It was a good time 30 years ago and a great time last night, too.

The Violators 1977

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