In recent decades, punk has come to represent a totalitarian attitude to music that I doubt ever really existed. Sure, groups like The Ramones and The Sex Pistols hated on prog bands and rarely diverged from their three-minute, four-chord mentality, but the bulk of the groups we associate with the punk era were far less absolute. Blondie is the perfect example. While associated with a movement that supposedly reviled pop music, their output was always pretty radio-friendly. It’s little wonder, then, that Debbie Harry and Company, were unashamed fans of The Beatles, a group who reinvented pop music with nearly every album they released.
Chris Stein once opened up about how The Beatles influenced one of Blondie’s most beloved hits: “Even ‘Heart Of Glass’ was a subversive thing for a so-called punk band,” he told The Sun. “But, at the same time, our role models were Bowie and The Beatles,” he said, before adding: “You never really knew what to expect from them. The Ramones had their sound and identity and they stuck to it. That’s not what we set out to do. We have a broader musical palette… but the punk attitude prevails!”
As a tribute to The Beatles, Blondie took on a cover of one of the group’s earliest recordings, ‘Please Please Me’. Dripping with the pearlescent guitar lines that made Blondie so famous, the rendition appeared on 2011’s Panic of Girls, the group’s first album of new material in eight years. Recorded between October and December 2009, in Hoboken, New Jersey, it was one of only two albums Blondie recorded outside of Manhattan, the first being 1980’s Autoamerican, which was recorded in Los Angeles. It was also the first Blondie LP not to feature original keyboardist Jimmy Destri, who decided not to take part in the project.
‘Please Please Me’ was originally written by Lennon and McCartney in the style of Roy Orbison on September 11th, 1962, and was recorded shortly afterwards. Initially, it was a sultry ballad, but George Martin suggested that it would sound better at a higher tempo. Speaking to The Observer Muisc Monthly in 2006, Martin said: “The songs the Beatles first gave me were crap. This was 1962 and they played a dreadful version of ‘Please Please Me’ as a Roy Orbison-style ballad. But I signed them because they made me feel good to be with them, and if they could convey that on a stage then everyone in the audience would feel good, too. So I took ‘Love Me Do’ and added some harmonica, but it wasn’t financially rewarding even though Brian Epstein bought about 2,000 copies. Then we worked for ages on their new version of ‘Please Please Me,’ and I said: ‘Gentlemen, you’re going to have your first number one.’”
Stream Blondie’s effort, below.