Of all the obscure albums I have ever come across, this is definitely high on the list….it’s also one of the most under serving.
Jimmy Destri is/was best known as being the keyboardist and one of the principal songwriter/arrangers for Blondie, not to mention one of the founding members. He was responsible for writing a number of their hits, including “Atomic” and “Maria”, along with such fan favorites as “Accidents Never Happen”, “Angels on the Balcony”, and “Living in the Real World”. He’s been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Blondie, wrote or co-wrote 3 #1 hits over a two decade span while still in Blondie (“Picture This”, “Maria”, and “Atomic”).
As a musician, he has played with various artists as a guest, including David Bowie, Johnny Cash, and even on the soundtrack for Pink Floyd’s The Wall. As we can see, the man has the talent and pedigree.
So what happened?!
In 1981, Blondie decided to take a break after touring for Autoamerican. They were already starting to fracture during the album, so a break was expected. Debbie Harry and Chris Stein went off and work on her first solo album, while Destri went and worked on his. Like any other obscure album, it seems that there were a number of things playing against it:
The biggest thing was probably the fact that Debbie Harry was a face as well as a name. There was no getting around that, and obviously more attention would be placed on her album, which is bore out by the fact that in the US it peaked at #25; Destri’s album reached #201. Ouch. Lack of promotion also seemed to be a big issue. Whereas there were singles and videos for Harry’s album, Destri’s had one single released….in France.
Lack of promotion and not being known by name outside of a famous band can definitely spell death for any album. For the faithful though, it can be a blessing or a curse, and in this case, it’s both.
The album has, in my opinion, some of the best early 80’s pop/new wave you will ever come across. It’s easy, it’s catchy, and it doesn’t drag on or outstay it’s welcome (the album is a little under 40 minute total). The musicians are definitely top class talent; Carlos Alomar, best known as David Bowie’s rhythm guitarist through the 70’s and sporadically to this day; Earl Slick, another Bowie mainstay; Clem Burke, the drummer for Blondie; even Debbie Harry and Chris Stein show up on one track, at least for a show of support to their bandmate. Destri himself played not only keyboards but also did a lot of guitar work and all lead vocals. And behind it all, producing, was the legendary Michael Kamen.
Now, admittedly, the album does have some weak spots. Destri’s vocals can be a bit thin at times, though he does have a rather affecting scream when he lets rip. The 60’s style doo-wop sound of the title track is an extreme highlight, and personally I wish the fadeout of it was longer. “My Little World” is probably my favorite track on the entire album; definitely new wave in every sense of the word….mellow, nice build up, a very floating quality to it while being intense at the same time, and unexpectedly charming child vocals near the end.
Meanwhile, album opener “Bad Dreams” is effective to start the album and in a way sums up the sound perfectly, while “Numbers Don’t Count (On Me)” finds him slyly referencing titles of other Blondie songs he’s written, showing that he is well aware how he got here.
All this make for an above average new wave/pop album, one that deserves to be heard by more than just Blondie fans. And therein lies the catch…..
It has never been released on CD.
You read that right. This album has never once had a CD release, not even in the 80’s, and to this day it still seems unlikely. The only way to hear it is either find a copy of the vinyl in a used store or online (I found mine in a no name record shop somewhere in Philly years ago), or, if resourceful enough, you can probably find a vinyl rip of it online somewhere; if you’re serious about hearing it, that may be the best bet.
It’s a cruel trick played on a great album by a respected artist, and we can only hope it gets rectified in this lifetime.
by Joe Jamnitzky