Thursday, May 26, 2022

Song of the Day: 'The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game' by Blondie

It's mind-boggling to me that "The Hunter" -- the first Blondie album I waited for -- came out 40 years ago this week. (Of course I'm old, but I'm not that old!) Seems like yesterday that I was calling Wherehouse Records at Fiesta Mall every day in May to ask if they "had the new Blondie yet?" and ditching class to walk up there (in 100 degree heat) to buy it when they finally did. I'm only aware of this anniversary because Ultimate Classic Rock wrote an autopsy on the first incarnation of the band's last album, which you can read HERE. I'm not sure how old the writer Dave Swanson is, but he pretty much got everything wrong. Yes, Blondie was coming off three No. 1 hits in a row, but the album hardly bombed because they were "overexposed" at the time. The aforementioned hits were all from records that came out in 1980, so by the time the explosion of MTV happened in the summer of 1982, Blondie had quietly become yesterday's news. (Ironic, of course, given that they were video pioneers in the late 1970s.) But if the writer was off base, guitarist Chris Stein was borderline delusional, having been quoted as saying: "I think 'The Hunter' is our best record to date. ... I know we've got some real hit records on this record."

That singer Debbie Harry had a major flop solo album in 1981 didn't exactly help matters, the way Stevie Nicks's "Bella Donna" did for Fleetwood Mac's "Mirage." And although I'm not sure there was an obvious better choice, "Island of Lost Souls" -- a poor man's "The Tide Is High" with an incredibly awkward video -- definitely sealed the album's fate. ("Island of Lost Souls" whimpered its way to No. 37 on the Billboard Hot 100 -- on good will, I'm assuming, as I never heard it on the radio once -- and remains Blondie's last U.S. Top 40 single to date.) 

"War Child" is the album's best song, but probably wouldn't have fared any better. And "Dragonfly" was its most clever, although I'm not sure a radio edit would have been possible. (It uses all six minutes to build to its chilling crescendo.) Perhaps if the Bond people had used "For Your Eyes Only," Top 40 and adult rock stations might have taken the bait, although I doubt it, despite its being a fine theme song. Unfortunately for diehard fans, "The Hunter" still remains shoulders above anything the reformed Blondie has put out over the past 25 years or so. (Occasional songs have been better, but none of the albums compare at all.) Listening to it again all these years later, I must say with the exception of the aforementioned single (which is cute enough, especially in retrospect) and "Little Caesar," every song holds up rather nicely. (The lyrics to "The Beast" sound like they were written 40 years ahead of their time.) Interestingly, the sort-of title track is the one that's grown on me the most. What seemed like a misstep to me in 1982 now sounds like a well-played cool-blonde twist on Motown, which speaks to the band's legendary genre-busting instincts. (Incidentally, Smokey Robinson was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame just five years after "The Hunter" was released.)  

Noise11 also marked the occasion, noting that the last time songs from "The Hunter" were played live were as such: 
"Orchard Club" (2019) 
"War Child" (2014) 
"Island of Lost Souls" (1998) 
"Danceway" (1982) 
"Little Caesar" (1982)
This, of course, means that "For Your Eyes Only," "(Can I) Find the Right Words (to Say)", "The Beast," "Dragonfly" "English Boys" (another masterpiece) and "The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game" have never been performed by Blondie live, even on the band's Tracks Across America tour, with opener Duran Duran in 1982. 

Note: Debbie did do “The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game” on her 1989 solo tour. My friend Greg and I were at After the Goldrush in Tempe when she inexplicably opened with it, leaving the crowd underwhelmed at best! 


Jinxy said...

Surprised you didn't call out the fact this song was original performed by The Marvelettes with Wanda Young on lead. Young died just a few months ago.

Steve said...

I did not realize the song from Blondie was considered for the Bond movie. Hearing it again I think it may have been a better choice. It has more of the feel and sound I would expect from a Bond title song.

BriGuy said...

When I saw Debbie Harry live on the Def Dumb & Blonde tour in 1989, she opened the show with "Hunter Gets Captured By The Game". At the time I thought it was an odd, understated choice - you'd expect her to come out with guns blazing. After all, she closed the show with a Ramones cover. But I appreciate her take on this song more now than I did then.

Kenneth M. Walsh said...

@Jinxy: Good callback! I did mention the song when she passed. xo

Blobby said...

I always thought "English Boys" got a bad rap. It's not her strongest vocal by far, and yet it holds a place in my heart. But I do love "War Child" and "For Your Eyes Only".