Inspiration can strike anywhere. Ask any musician, director, actor or creator at large, and they will confirm that when influence and inspiration strike, the only thing one can do is to succumb to the experience and let the words, music, scenes or art flow through them. It means that some of our favourite songs of all time have a unique origination story, including Blondie’s song ‘Pretty Baby’.
Of course, the legend of Blondie is a long-running one. When punk began to stagnate before it even got off the New York city streets, one band, fronted by one unstoppable woman, took the thrash of guitars, chugging rhythm and no-nonsense attitude to the mainstream, and that band was Blondie. With Debbie Harry and Chris Stein leading the charge up front and Clem Burke behind the kit, Blondie were a bona fide force to be reckoned with.
Throughout the 1970s, the band would effortlessly intertwine the energy of punk rock with the shimmying glamour of pop to make music that would last decades. Test this theory out by playing ‘One Way Or Another‘ at your next family gathering and see the generational toe tap that will undoubtedly get underway. There are few bands as capable of straddling the line between critical and commercial success as Blondie did during their lightning career.
Their ultimate success came from their 1978 album Parallel Lines, the record that would finally confirm the band as global superstars. They had always found fame in Britain, but this was the album that saw them finally crack America. While many punk bands fought their hardest to remain ‘real’, Blondie saw the crest of a new wave and grabbed their surfboards.
A mix of punk and pop would see the fledgeling genre become a haven for a bunch of acts that had previously enjoyed the punk moniker but now wanted a few extra pounds in their pocket. However, for Blondie, the genre was simply a much better fit for their style. With Harry and her vocals upfront, Stein’s undeniable ear for a tune and Burke behind the kit, the group were always destined to make crossover hits. On Parallel Lines, they showcased them with aplomb.
One song that showed this swagger was ‘Pretty Baby’, a track written as an ode to Brooke Shields’ character in the titular movie that had arrived that same year. Shields stars as 12-year-old Violet, the daughter of a sex worker in a red light district in 1917. As Violet is inadvertently wooed by a visiting photographer, she soon flees the brothel she calls home and offers herself to the photographer, compounding a strange story that ends with Violet leaving sex work behind for schooling.
The story clearly sparked inspiration within Debbie Harry and Blondie. Never afraid to call out the misogyny of the world around them, the band use ‘Pretty Baby’ as a rallying cry for equality. The original film title was itself inspired by a song called ‘Pretty Baby’, a Tin Pan Alley standard. However, Blondie take the track, in true fashion, to a sparkling new wave height.
From the catchy chorus to Harry’s drawling and effortlessly chic vocals, the song reeks of Blondie’s signature style and sees the band pay homage to Brooke Shields fiercely and stylishly.