Blondie’s name has caused the band a constant headache. At the beginning of their inception, people wrongly assumed that they were never really a band and, instead, Blondie was simply a pseudonym for their enigmatic lead singer Debbie Harry—which, of course, has never been the case.
As a group, they were originally called Angel and The Snake, a label which, admittedly, doesn’t quite have the same catchy ring to it. However, by October 1974 when they reemerged under the alias that we all have such fond feelings towards today, the future of the band was set. The origin of Blondie began when Brooklyn native Chris Stein joined The Stilletos in 1973, a time in which he met singer Debbie Harry. The two famously became romantically involved and, unhappy with The Stilletos’ musical direction, decided to form their own group a year later with Clem Burke on drums, keyboardist Jimmy Destri and bassist Fred Smith.
The five-piece only played two shows under their moniker of Angel and The Snake before they changed it up to Blondie, a decision which would prove to be one of their most inspired ideas. Ever since the band found fame, speculation around the inspiration behind the name has rumbled on. In fact, some fans bizarrely claimed that the band acquired their name as a reference to Hitler’s dog, a theory which Chris Stein even had to come out to deny in 2017 when talking about the early days of the group.
“The Hitler’s dog thing? I don’t know if I knew about that [then],” Stein said to Boston radio station WBUR. “There’s no ‘e’ on Hitler’s dog’s name; it was B-l-o-n-d-i.” The band weren’t even aware, however, that they shared a name with the pet animal of the German leader of the Nazi Party and, after discovering that this rumour was circulating, even contemplated changing their name in a bid to distance themselves from the conversation. Comically, the band joked about a protest name change to ‘Adolf Hitler’s Dog’ but, thankfully, that never materialised.
In fact, the source inspiration for their name is actually very straightforward. “It was just from what people yelled at Debbie,” Stein said in 2017. “Debbie came home one day with her hair dyed blonde and then told me within a week or so truck drivers were yelling, ‘Hey, Blondie!’ at her all the time.”
This matches up with Harry’s claims in a 2014 interview with New York Post, a conversation which dispels the Hitler’s dog myth: “Chris and I tried out a few [band] names. One was Angel and the Snake, but I wasn’t sure it was easy to remember,” she recollected. “One day, I was walking across Houston Street and someone yelled ‘Blondie’ at me. I thought, ‘Jeez, that’s quite easy to remember,’” Harry added.
In their early days, however, the name may have been attention-grabbing and a stroke of genius but it made all their fans, as well as the press, incorrectly assume that they were a solo act. In a bid to combat the confusion, their record label, Private Stock, launched a huge ‘Blondie is a Group’ campaign after they began gaining major attention amid a continued misunderstanding of their artistic output.
When Blondie became international sensations in 1978, all of their merchandise on their tour including posters, shirts and buttons were black in design with hot pink writing that proclaimed: ‘BLONDIE IS A GROUP!‘. The campaign worked like a charm and, over forty years later, changing their name to Blondie would turn out to be a stroke of genius.