Blondie's Clem Burke talks playing Glasgow venues from the Apollo to Barrowlands

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Blondie's Clem Burke talks playing Glasgow venues from the Apollo to Barrowlands
Blondie's Clem Burke talks playing Glasgow venues from the Apollo to Barrowlands

THEY played Glasgow's legendary Apollo venue at the start of their career in the 70s.

Rocked the city's Barrowland Ballroom when they got back together in the 90s.

And now after a five-year break from touring the UK, they are set to return to perform in Glasgow's Hydro.

It's safe to say there is a little bit of Blondie history in some of Glasgow's biggest music venues past and present, and one man had the best seat in the house to witness it all.

"It is like a second home to us," revealed the band's drummer Clem Burke when asked about Blondie's return to the UK.

"It’s hard to believe that we haven’t been to Glasgow in several years.

“Basically we used to come to the UK several times a year, myself personally.

“We love Glasgow and I love the Hydro, even though it is a big venue.

“It is stupid we aren’t playing like King Tuts Wah Wah Hut - that would be fun.

“I mean I always try to get a small gig but we are all very excited about it finally getting underway.

“It’s like the floodgates are opened. It’s like everything happening all at once. I guess that is a good thing,” the 67-year-old added.

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Kicking off the tour at the Finnieston venue on Friday, April 22, the show will also celebrate the release of Blondie’s first archival project Against the Odds.

Known for their biggest hits Heart of Glass, Call Me, One Way or Another, Sunday Girl and Atomic, Blondie - including singer Debbie Harry and guitarist Chris Stein - were pioneers of mixing genres when they first launched onto the scene in the mid-70s.

And although they split in 1982, they have remained as strong as ever since reforming in 1997 after achieving worldwide success with their hit Maria. So did Clem think the band would still be going after all these years?

"That really couldn’t have been predicted back when we first started," he candidly admits.

"We were innovative in a lot of ways, we were fashion-forward, I mean I probably had the same hairdo my entire career," the New Jersey-born star cheekily added.

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He continued: "When you look back at the old pictures and of course, Debbie was so beautiful and glamorous.

"We did it ourselves. We didn’t have stylists and things like that.

"Between the fashion, forward-thinking and music - taking from different genres before that was kind of commonplace for instance, when we did Heart of Glass it was very controversial. We mixed electronic music with dance music and we were coming out of the so-called punk rock new wave scene and that was not really done at the time and now it is very commonplace.

"The music is still seen relevant."

He added: "The goalposts always change when you start you just want to get a gig in a cool club like a King Tuts or a CBGB then you move onto wanting to get a record deal or maybe getting played on the radio. The dream keeps changing.

"It is kind of like the other side of the dream now for Blondie. We have achieved a lot.

"We are able to live out this dream now we have been doing it for so long it feels very authentic, very genuine for us to be able to do this, it is really what we do.

"Debbie and I love being on stage, we love performing live. We are really excited that we can do it at this level again."

Performing in Glasgow will no doubt feel like a homecoming in some ways for Clem who has a special connection to Scotland.

“My wife is from border town Hawick originally. We have some Hawick balls at home...those candies.

“We will probably see a few of her aunties when we go there (Glasgow) which will be great," he revealed.

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Recently the musician also found another Scottish connection... this time in his wardrobe when he discovered a gold suit he originally wore at Glasgow's Apollo.

Posting an image of fetching attire on Twitter, he reminisced about a memorable concert which was a part of telly show the old Grey Whistle test in 1979 and the performance is one he still remembers well.

“I had a gold drum kit made for me so I had a matching gold suit to match the drums,” he recalled.

He laughed: “I didn’t tell anyone and I just showed up with this gold suit that was made for me by Marc Bolan’s tailor, a guy called Colin Wylde made it for me.

“So I had the gold drums and the gold suit, it was Hogmanay.

“We had the pipers come out and play Sunday Girl with us, it was an amazing time.”

He added: “The Glasgow Apollo was probably one of the first places we played when travelled to the UK in 77.

“We were on a tour with another band from the New York CBGB era, a band called the Television.

“We played the Glasgow Apollo, I remember the stage being very high.

“Our bass player Gary Valentine fell off the stage and fell down into the pit but he was okay.”

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Later visits to the city also struck a chord with Clem especially during the 90s when the band reformed and played a number of shows at the Barrowland Ballroom.

“When we first got back together in the late 90s, one of the first gigs we did was a couple of dates at the Barrowlands - and that was amazing.

“When the floor starts to shake you really can feel the enthusiasm of the audience inside the building.

“That was actually one of our favourite places to play as well now that I think of it,” he said.

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Although Clem has been with Blondie since the beginning, his resume in the world of music is impressive.

He has worked with many musicians throughout the years including Scotland’s very own Annie Lennox and it is these types of collaborations he still enjoys to this day.

“As a drummer, I need to work with other musicians," he admitted.

He added: “ I met Annie back in 1980 in London and went round her flat for Sunday lunch with she and Dave Stewart.

“They invited me to go to Germany with them and work with them on their first album called In The Garden. I did the Sweet Dreams tour with Annie and Davie.

“We actually played in Aberdeen where Annie is from. I got to meet her mum and dad at the time, it was just fantastic. We have remained friends.”

He continued: “It is important for me to interact with other musicians

“With Blondie, we have been together for so long and it is really our kind of home base.

“Through our success we are known as musicians and songwriters and people do want to collaborate a lot obviously Debbie does other things, Chris has photography, I have several other bands that I work or do sessions with.

“I just did some sessions for Echo and the Bunnyman in 2019 before the pandemic happened and that is yet to come out.”

While collaborations may take place elsewhere, arguably the greatest work happens when Blondie comes together. And the band have already started the process of making their next album, which will be a follow up to the 2017 release Pollinator.

“There is lots and lots of demos,” he promised.

He added: “We have got together a few times. The previous album that we did Pollinator, we were all in the studio together, it is very important for us to record together.

“The connection between all of us as musicians came across so we are hoping to continue recording that way. That is why we waited for the pandemic when its almost over to be safe to get all back in one place at the same time to record the next album.

“I think it is going to be really great because there is a lot of material that was written and organised during the pandemic and now we are going to be able to record and release it.

“It should be out in 2023.”

Clem also revealed he has been working on a memoir The Other Side of the Dream which is more anecdotal than a life story.

So having reflected, does he see himself retiring?

“Originally I thought I would retire by the time I was 30 so that didn’t really happen,” he said.

He added: “I was still in my late 20s when we stopped for the first time before we regrouped back in the 90s

“I enjoy the commarade and interaction with other musicians, it’s kind of like you communicate without speaking.

“I think I will always be doing something. I’m up for doing tours with Blondie for the next couple of years.

"We are planning into next year because of the new album so it's safe to say we will be touring again next year.

“This was a long time coming. We will do this tour, regroup, do some gigs in the States, record the new album and hopefully we will be back out touring next year again.”

Catch Blondie at the Hydro on Friday, April 22 with special guest Johnny Marr.

For tickets and more information on the band, visit HERE

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