Alternative Version, demo, Hard-to-find

Christmas Rapping

This was timed to go out a couple of days ago, then hastily postponed to make way for the Terry Hall stuff. By comparison it seems trivial now, but I can’t save it for the new year, so on with the show, as they say.

Yule dig this…

Remember Flexipop!? Back at the start of the ’80s, when the freshest of music was borne from a creative and punkish, DIY attitude, a couple of disillusioned Record Mirror writers started Flexipop! magazine. Adopting a maverick approach to publishing that was similar to the bands of the music it would feature, Flexipop! flouted the rules of their game and, in a blaze of cut ‘n paste ‘n Letraset ‘n day-glo fonts gave Smash Hits, Number 1 and even the hallowed trio of inkies a run for their money. Their star would burn briefly – 37 issues (one issue a month for three years) – but brightly.

Their USP? Every issue of Flexipop had a free 7″ flexidisc stuck to the cover. Sometimes single-sided, sometimes double, and sometimes even a 4-track EP, each flexi contained a unique, can’t-be-found anywhere else recording of that issue’s cover star; The Jam‘s Pop Art Poem on see-through yellow plastic, for example, or a luminous, Fanta-orange pressing of The Pretenders Stop Your Sobbin‘ (demo, of course), even a 23 second recording of Altered Images wishing you a happy new year, and this… Blondie and Fab 5 Freddy riffing and rapping, some of it loosely Christmas-related, across the top of the demo to Rapture.

Blondie & Fab 5 FreddyYuletide Throwdown

Ice-cool Debbie: Hey – you don’ look like Santa t’me. I never saw a Santa  Claus wearin’ sunglasses!

Freddy: Cool out, without a doubt!

Ice-cool Debbie: Merry Christmas, ho ho ho!

And off they go, Freddy telling the listener where he grew up, Debbie pre-empting Run DMC and the Beastie Boys by double tracking him on the line ends, referencing guns, disco and ‘the nicest snow’ – which is possibly not a reference to the inclement weather. 

Debbie Harry, Fab 5 Freddy, Grandmaster Flash, Tracy Wormworth (bass, The Waitresses), Chris Stein

Christmas duets come in all shapes and sizes; Bowie ‘n Bing, Shane ‘n Kirsty and now Debbie ‘n Freddy. Lost to the archives, Blondie re-discovered Yuletide Throwdown a year ago while pulling together the material that would make up their catch-all box set.

It’s an interesting peek into their creative process, the version here replete with those descending chimes and rinky-dink funk guitar, the horn motif and Debbie’s ‘Ra-ah-pt-yoor!‘ refrain, yet sluggish and sludgy…and pretty good as a result. I don’t know why they chose to speed it up before release.

“When we first recorded Rapture, it was slower. This was the first version,” Stein said. “We decided to make it faster. The slower tape was just bass, drums and guitar doubling the bass, I don’t think much else. I took the tape to my home studio and added stuff, then Debbie and Fred did their vocals.”

I’m a sucker for a demo or an alt. version, and this version of Rapture certainly falls into that category. Play once, and once only at this time of year, file it in the section of your brain that’ll serve you well come the toughest of music quizzes and then forget all about it until next December.

*Interestingly, the b-side of the Blondie/Fab 5 Freddy single sounds like it might be totally magic. Credited to mystery band The Brattles, it turns out they were a band of pre-pubescent punk rockers aged between 8 and 12: Werner, 12 (Guitar), Dagin, 8 (Drums), Jason, 9 (Vocals), Emerson, 9 (Bass) and Branch, 10 (keyboard). Makes Musical Youth look like the Grateful Dead.

The record shows that The Brattles opened for the Clash twice, shared a rehearsal room with the New York Dolls and we were produced by Chris Stein of Blondie. Ah, so there’s the connection. I suspect Bartholomew Carruthers, if he’s reading, will be able to give me the full rundown. Until then, must investigate…

 

 

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