Blondie and Debbie Harry are dab hands when it comes to covering other people’s songs. The group may have warmed to more covers in their live sets in the latter stage of their career, but they’ve been taking songs and crowds on for a very long time.
One particularly clear cut example of this flourish for a cover comes at one of Blondie’s earlier shows in 1979 as they grace the stage of the Convention Hall at Astbury Park, New Jersey, for an unforgettable night which included a cover of T. Rex’s ‘Bang A Gong’.
The evening was charged with the electricity of a band on the march. The group had begun to finally be recognised for their game-changing sound and had officially broken through the ranks of young upstarts to chart-topping threats with a blunt instrument. It saw Blondie perform a host of hits from Parallel Lines, the aforementioned sledgehammer of an album, and beyond.
There are spots on the setlist for ‘Youth Nabbed as Sniper,’ ‘One Way Or Another,’ ‘Hanging on the Telephone’ and ‘Heart of Glass’ but perhaps the most purposeful performance lay elsewhere. It’s hard to imagine but on a night which included such big hits it was one track that night which saw the group rise to new heights and confirm their status as top of the pile new wave punks; T. Rex’s ‘Bang A Gong (Get It On)’.
Bedazzled rockers T-Rex had grown a large reputation before their singer, Marc Bolan, died tragically in a car accident in 1977. The singer had begun to turn his life around after being confused by punk and was receiving recognition for the glam rock genre he and David Bowie had propelled into the mainstream.
With songs like ‘Bang A Gong’ and ‘Children of the Revolution,’ ‘Ride A White Swan,’ and ’20th Century Boy’ T- Rex and Bolan kicked the hard purist rock in the balls and ran off giggling. It was this sentiment and swift kicking technique that Blondie had begun to perfect by 1979.
The group were beyond their too cool for school beginnings and had transcended the elitist New York underground scene to become something much bigger and to a lot more people. Blondie became the antidote to punk’s inherent machismo and as they approached the eighties, a decade which would see them climb the charts, they looked to have realised their vital position in music.
When they perform T-Rex’s ‘Bang A Gong (Get It On)’ for the Convention Hall in Astbury Park it’s clear as day the path that lay ahead for them. As well as delivering a set that saw Harry in the vocal form of her life and with Clem Burke’s drumming as equally maniacal as she was effervescent, they also performed this cover with aplomb.
It may not be the cleanest cover, they may in fact lose time every so often, but the attitude and swagger they possess with every note show that the group knew something some of the audience didn’t: Blondie were about to take over.
Watch Blondie perform ‘Bang A Gong’ below and find the full show from 1979 below that.