Chris Stein Of Blondie Rocks On With His Memoir, Under A Rock

The recent appearance by Chris Stein and Debbie Harry curated/presented by friend and multidisciplinary artist Rob Roth to promote Chris’s autobiography was a unique experience! Questions from celebrities and downtown scenesters were fielded ahead of time and then the audience got to ask their questions (some were very nosy, LOL)! Chris Stein is a 1970 graduate of the School Of Visual Arts and so this was a very appropriate venue (plus Debbie Harry only had to walk about 500 steps from her apartment to get there). I must say that Under A Rock is much more revealing than Debbie Harry’s late 2019 memoir Face It (not that I did not enjoy that book but sometimes there was very little explanation about major things that happened)!

After the intriguing Q&A that got a standing ovation, Chris Stein walked off the stage into the audience and talked to people around him; he was even willing to pose for some photos. Stein is just like that–I even noticed at other events related to Blondie or his photo exhibits, he was outside talking to fans rather than schmoozing inside with the hoi polloi. I also noticed that he has a photographic memory which certainly helped with creating Under A Rock and his photography book captions. The guitarist is a true lover of the New York of yesterday which is apparent in his photography books. I love that Stein has a Hopperesque view towards capturing everyday objects with his camera. One of his most well-known photos include the one of Debbie Harry wearing a dress from Marilyn Monroe’s Niagara wardrobe while holding a burning pan–this was taken in the couple’s loft across the street from CBGB’s that sort of became a hangout for punks circa 1976 and 1977.

Under A Rock was released a couple of weeks ago by St. Martin’s Press. Above is a photo of Debbie Harry being “styled” by Andy Warhol for a Polaroid photo shoot (the photos were eventually used for a portrait of Harry). I am posting this because it is arguably the most famous photo of Harry taken by Stein and it is used in the memoir. The book addresses not only Stein’s love and skill for photography but his particular affinity for b/w film. I am truly happy that Stein finally did a true autobiography although years ago he and Harry worked on a biography of Blondie with friend and author Victor Bockris called Making Tracks. Most monumentally, Under The Rock whether intentionally or unintentionally, serves as a document of the changing times of the late 60s when Stein first got interested in music and culture when he attended SVA. He is modest when describing his ups and downs both professionally and personally. There is frank commentary on negative situations that were overcome such as he and Debbie’s heroin addictions and how they their finances were mishandled by a business manager causing them to lose a gorgeous townhouse on East 72nd Street in the late 80s after Stein recovered from a rare autoimmune disease known as pemphigus vulgaris.

My favorite photo of Stein and Harry EVER is shown above and it is a simple Polaroid portrait. It was shown on the big screen behind the Q&A session at SVA Theater along with three dozen other stunning shots ranging from sexy shots of Debbie Harry to photos taken of objects inside Stein’s apartments over the years. There are some great “road pics” from that Blondie fans will love in the book. Stein’s descriptions of their first meeting in 1974 and breakup the same day Andy Warhol died in 1987 are highlights of the book for me.

The fans were lining up after the event was over, many of which could not get seats to the sold out event and stood outside for four hours! Stein and Harry posed for pics and signed a few autographs. It was nice to see Stein’s daughter Vali and wife Barbara speaking to fans and friends as well.

Stein did not do a signing at the end of the appearance at SVA Theater but signed copies were sold for only $35. He has been taking it easy for the past few years and even stopped touring thanks to a bout with prostate cancer and a heart condition. Still, Stein looks great and seems very high energy. Any fan of Blondie will love Under A Rock. It is the document that gives the most accurate despiction of the forces that drove Stein to start the band and how the “yin and yang” between he and Harry was a dynamic force that helped create a rare sound. I do not have to tell you that Blondie’s sound was cutting edge yet made the Top 40 many times (that is something Blondie will always be known for, as well the notion that they were arguably the first popular band to bring reggae and pop as well as rap and pop together). Stein’s insights on New York’s 1970s downtown scene alone make his book worth buying. Check out all the favorable reviews of Stein’s revealing tome and even order one here: Under A Rock.

Article by anne241

Hardcore NYer who loves to enjoy the good life here in the Big Apple and beyond!

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