Blondie are, without question, one of the most successful, iconic, and influential bands in rock and roll history. Inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame 15 years ago, the Debbie Harry-fronted group has sold over 40 million albums worldwide and continues to release new music. But the “rock and roll” label doesn’t do justice to the group’s genre-bending music. What started as a punk band in the mid-1970’s in New York City after Harry and guitarist Chris Stein broke off from their earlier band, The Stillettoes, Blondie (first called Angel and the Snake) always innovated, infusing pop, disco, new wave, reggae, and rap elements into their music.
Which brings us to one of Blondie’s signature songs, the cleverly titled “Rapture.” In 1981, the Autoamerican single became the first song featuring rapped vocals to top the US charts, and its accompanying video the first “rap” clip to appear on MTV. Stein and Harry penned the song after experiencing their first rap performance hosted by Fab 5 Freddy, who is prominently mentioned in the song’s first rap line and appears in the video.
Less well known is the fact that the song’s signature beat and core hooks were originally shelved for a year because Stein felt the tempo was too slow, only to be reimagined as a Christmas song with new lyrics co-written by Fab 5 Freddy. What started as a dark homage to the underbelly of New York City ultimately became the upbeat kitschy track “Yuletide Throwdown.” That song was just recently rediscovered by stein and released by Blondie on vinyl in advance of the group’s upcoming self-titled box set.
For the fifth episode of The Story Behind the Song, host Peter Csathy spoke with Harry and Stein about “Rapture” and its progenitor “Yuletide Throwdown.” Csathy digs deep with the artists on the songs’ journeys, the impact of “Rapture” on other artists, and how “Yuletide Throwdown” just may become a new holiday classic.
Listen to the new episode above, or check out the full video of the interview with Harry and Stein below. Make sure you like and subscribe to The Story Behind the Song wherever you get your podcasts, and follow the Consequence Podcast Network for updates on all our series.
(Editor’s Note: You can also catch Blondie on their 2022 tour by getting tickets here.)
Theme music courtesy of Juan Pieczanski.