No place oozed as much cool as CBGB’s in 1976, and no band on planet earth could compete with Blondie — they were a match made in heaven.
Unfortunately, most of us never got the opportunity to smell the punk odours of the legendary New York venue. Still, this footage of Blondie performing ‘X Offender’ is about as close as we’ll ever get to stepping foot inside those four walls that witnessed more debauched rock ‘n’ roll antics than it bears thinking about. It was the epicentre of the punk and new-wave scene and proved to be a breeding ground for artists like Blondie, Talking Heads, and The Ramones, who cut their teeth at CBGBs.
Blondie formed in 1974 and immediately thrust themselves into the burgeoning New York scene. Their popularity soon started to grow, ‘X Offender’ was an early favourite with their fans and helped secure the band their first record deal.
“That’s the song that got the record deal,” said former bassist Gary Valentine. “That was sort of our signature then. We closed the shows with it.”
Valentine originally wrote the song about an 18-year-old boy being arrested for having sex with his younger girlfriend. Debbie Harry then changed the lyrics so that the song was about a prostitute being attracted to the police officer that had arrested her.
“It just came to me one night at Max’s,” Valentine told Billboard. “I was just sitting there and the melody got into my head so I rushed back to our Blondie loft and picked up a guitar and got it down that night.”
“I love to sing about sex,” Harry explained in the book Blondie: Parallel Lives. “It’s the most popular thing, but I think that some of my twists in the theme are good. Like on ‘X Offender,’ the first thing that came out on the record that’s about a legal thing actually is about how you define what a sex crime is. It’s from the woman’s point of view.”
It’s easy to understand why ‘X Offender’ was the showpiece moment in their sets, and the reaction that it got from the crowd at CBGB’s in 1976 will send shivers down your spine.
Drummer Clem Burke holds the track in the highest regard, “I really like ‘X Offender,’” he told Blondie.net in 2003. “It really means a lot to me because it was a song that opened up the door for the band in general and also showed the community we were involved in at the time, which was the whole CBGB New York underground, that we were able to make a record because when we went in and did ‘X Offender,’ it wasn’t a facsimile of our live performance, it was set out to be done as a production.”
Although the track didn’t end up charting, ‘X Offender’ has only grown in significance and become one of their most cherished songs as the years have gone on. It epitomises those heady early days of Blondie, and this performance captures the essence of counter-culture. If anyone doubts whether Blondie were a punk band, then this will change your mind.