...but if all your Mondays are soundtracked by Blondie, who's complaining?
On Sunday 8th August 1999 around 6.00pm, my friend Stuart and I were sitting on Jones Beach, prior to going into the snappily-titled Coca Cola At Jones Beach Theater to see Blondie live in concert. According to the ever-reliable Wikipedia, Jones Beach is found at 1 Ocean Parkway in the hamlet of Wantagh, in the town of Hempstead, in Nassau County, on Long Island, New York, in the United States Of America. Fortunately, we didn't have to give that mouthful of directions to a cab driver as we hopped on the Long Island Rail Road from NYC, then a short bus ride to reach our destination.
Stuart and I were supposed to have gone to Iceland. Earlier in 1999, we both found ourselves single, approaching the last year of our twenties and at the end of the millennium so we decided that we were going to go on an adventure together. Although we didn't know what the future held, it still felt like it was a 'now or never' opportunity before marriage, kids and other seismic life changes made a 'boys' own adventure' logistically or financially out of reach.
Iceland had long held an appeal, not least because we shared a love for The Sugarcubes and Björk. As it turned out, return flights and a few days in Reykjavík was going to set us back around £1,000, so it was already financially out of reach to us in 1999. New York, however, wasn't so a flight was duly booked and off we went.
I would say that neither of us had really planned the trip, to the extent that I'd only booked accommodation for the first night, figuring that we could decide where we wanted to spend the rest of our stay once we were there. I didn't have access to online booking back then and I remember phoning to book the Chelsea Hotel, that legendary haunt of writers, artists and actors. Imagine my surprise when, after a long flight, transfer to New York City and walk to the hotel, the reception staff were not expecting us. After much back and forth, it transpired that I'd actually booked the nearby Chelsea Star Hotel, which was an entirely different proposition and a story all by itself. Suffice to say, we found ourselves sharing a bed in the "Absolutely Fabulous" themed suite (for "suite" read "box room") for one night only.
Apart from a vague idea that we'd like to go to a gig during our stay, we'd not made any plans prior to our trip (see a pattern emerging here?) and it just so happened that Blondie were in town near the end of our stay as part of their mammoth No Exit world tour. Tickets were $29.00 (about £18.00 back then), so it was a done deal.
You may have spotted the phrase "rain or shine" on the ticket beneath the date and time. The Coca Cola At Jones Beach Theater (these days the even more snappily titled Norwell Health At Jones Beach Theater; sponsors, eh?) is an open air ampitheatre with a policy that the show must go on, whatever the weather. Fine for the band performing on stage, no so great for the audience. Looking at my photos of Stuart and I on Jones Beach, I can confirm that Sunday 8th August 1999 had neither rain nor shine, with nondescript white sky and moderate temperature. According to Wiki, the ampitheatre has a capacity of 15,000 but I don't recall the venue feeling particularly packed so I'm guessing it wasn't a sell out.
Unsurprisingly, the gig was very heavily weighted towards their hugely successful comeback, No Exit, with 7 songs (half the album) in a 17-song set. The rest was made up of classics and big hits, with inevitably several omissions. Sunday Girl, (I'm Always Touched By Your) Presence Dear, Union City Blue and Denis were all left out, although the latter is understandable as whilst it reached #2 in the UK, it wasn't a single in the USA.
Not that we cared at the time as Blondie were of course "absolutely fabulous", despite it being an early evening outdoors gig in broad daylight. Debbie Harry looked and sounded fantastic, as did the rest of the band, and though we were largely unfamiliar with the No Exit songs, they seemed to slot in well with the classics. I particularly remember thinking that - Debbie Harry's singing notwithstanding - the performance of One Way Or Another almost sounded like Pixies. Opening with Dreaming and Hanging On The Telephone was topped only by closing with Call Me and Heart Of Glass around an hour and a half later. A brilliant, unique night and a fantastic memory of a wonderful trip to the Big Apple.
I didn't immediately rush out and buy No Exit on my return to the UK and, twenty-three years later, I still haven't bought the album. Today's selection is a recreation of the 8th August 1999 setlist, with radio edits and alternative versions of several of the No Exit tracks. It's not a representative Blondie 'best of' - JC and Walter nailed it with their Imaginary Compilation Albums over at The Vinyl Villain back in 2018 - but as today's all Monday, I can't think of a better soundtrack.
1) Dreaming (Album Version) (1979)
2) Hanging On The Telephone (Album Version) (Cover of The Nerves) (1978)
3) Screaming Skin (Radio Edit) (1999)
4) Atomic (Single Remix By Mike Chapman) (1980)
5) Rapture (Single Version) (1980)
6) Nothing Is Real But The Girl (Boilerhouse Mix) (1999)
7) Under The Gun (For Jeffery Lee Pierce) (Album Version) (1999)
8) Night Wind Sent (Album Version) (1999)
9) Boom Boom In The Zoom Zoom Room (Live In The Studio) (1999)
10) Rip Her To Shreds (Album Version) (1976)
11) Forgive And Forget (Pull Down The Night) (Album Version) (1999)
12) The Tide Is High (Single Version) (Cover of The Paragons) (1980)
13) Maria (Radio Version) (1999)
14) One Way Or Another (Album Version) (1978)
15) No Exit (The Loud Rock Remix - Radio Edit ft. Coolio & The Loud Allstars) (1999)
16) Call Me (Theme From American Gigolo) (Single Version) (1980)
17) Heart Of Glass (Long Version) (1978)