Book Review: Chris Stein/Negative: Me, Blondie and the Advent of Punk

Chris Stein/Negative: Me, Blondie and the Advent of Punk
By Chris Stein
Contributions by Deborah Harry and Glenn O’Brien
Rizzoli International Publications

ChrisStein_Negative_cover-2Before Chris Stein met Debbie Harry and co-founded the band Blondie (a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame 2006 inductee), he studied photography at the School of Visual Arts in New York. This book–Chris Stein/Negative: Me, Blondie and the Advent of Punk–is a 208-page homage to the small beginnings of that band and the many relationships formed along the way to their world-wide success. As evidenced by the band’s ability to sell 40 million records during their 40-year career, the book swarms with private moments and intimate shots of a young Debbie Harry, Blondie, and forays via the path of creativity. Yet Stein is able to convey how much the band enjoyed the many chance encounters with various musicians, artists, and writers of that time. There isn’t a whiff of snobbery. It is more of a mutual enjoyment of the new wave and punk scene, New York, and absorbing what the world had to offer.

Along with the vast number of punk celebrity snaps in the book, it’s the stories that sometimes outshine the pictures.

Debbie Harry tells of buying a Jean-Michel Basquiat painting, on a piece of cardboard, from the artist in 1981 for $200; Basquiat himself bragged that he “ripped her off.” And then in 1985, she sold it, regrettably, for $10,000.

Stein recalls the early days of The Ramones, who, he states, “should be up there with The Beatles, Rolling Stones etc. For a lot of us, they exist in the same realm.”

Stein shares an impression of the San Francisco landmark punk venue, The Mabuhay Gardens.

“The Mabuhay was San Francisco’s version of CBGB’s. The first time Blondie played there, the dressing room walls were blank white. We were the first to add graffiti. When we came back there less that a year or two later, not only were the walls covered in graffiti, but parts of them were eaten through from the vast quantities of ink and paint.

“One night Debbie and I were at a show at The Mabuhay (443 Broadway), and a huge fight broke out in the club. It was as if every one of the couple of hundred people in the place were dashing about madly trying to catch each other. Some culprits finally escaped the mayhem and things calmed down. I will always remember looking to my left and seeing a huge biker dude, wearing a white-on-black Blondie T-shirt with Debbie’s face on it, bleeding dramatically from a gash in his head, the drops of blood falling on Debbie’s picture on his chest.”

All images: © Chris Stein,  Chris Stein/Negative, Rizzoli New York, 2014