Sunday, July 31, 2011

New York Rocker - My Life in the Blank Generation with Blondie, Iggy Pop and Others - Gary Valentine

Gary Valentine is best known for his time in the original Blondie (after Television stole their first bassist, Fred Smith) and for writing/co-writing songs such as "X-Offender" & "(I'm Always Touched by Your) Presence, Dear". His biography naturally concentrates on this exciting time in New York as the first bands who were part of what became known as the punk rock movement started making the scene. Obviously, the sounds varied wildly, from art-rock such as Television and Patti Smith to proto-punk like the Ramones, to the retro sounds of bands like Blondie. Gary talks of his remembrances of the many well-known tales of the times and of the many famous and not so famous bands that he encountered.

After recording the iconic Blondie album and touring with the group, Valentine left the band and moved to LA for a number of years and formed his own band, the Know. Most of the time he spent in LA was before I moved to town, but many of the clubs and people he talks about were still on the scene, so it is interesting to hear him talk about these from his perspective. He hated what punk became and especially the hard-core movement and he continued in his more new-wave/pop direction. I didn't realize that after he left town, the group continued for at least a couple of years and were reasonably successful, though he could never get another "real" record deal.

He toured with Iggy - which gives him plenty of material to write about - and then retired from music for 15 years before - very briefly - being involved in the Blondie reunion, which he was then bitterly booted from. Apparently, now he mainly writes.

Another good read of the early days of the punk & new wave movements and especially interesting as he contrasts the NY & LA scenes (though he is definitely East Coast centric). I liked this as a follow up to the Television book (which actually referenced a couple of Valentine's reminisces) and it is generally filled with youthful, r'n'r enthusiasm, tempered as it is with some unkind words to those he doesn't care for.