10 Albums That Changed My Life: Clem Burke

Founding member of Blondie, drummer Clem Burke gives Goldmine the 10 albums that changed his life.
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 Clem Burke. Photo by Colin McMahon (courtesy of Clem Burke).

Clem Burke. Photo by Colin McMahon (courtesy of Clem Burke).

A founding member of Blondie, Clem Burke’s massive skills are on display in such Blondie tracks as “Dreaming,” “One Way Or Another,” “Call Me” and “Heart Of Glass.” In addition to playing with Blondie, Burke has also drummed for Eurythmics, The Romantics, Ramones, Pete Townshend, Chequered Past, The Split Squad and The Empty Hearts among others.

In 2006, Burke was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Blondie. He received an honorary doctorate in 2011 from England’s University of Gloucestershire after participating in an eight-year study on drumming.

A documentary film about Burke, which is titled My View: Clem Burke and was directed by Philip Sansom, aired in the UK in September 2018 and has been selected for this year’s NYC Independent Film Festival, which takes place in May. The trailer for the film can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WgpL1loMCq4.

A new album by The Empty Hearts, who feature Burke and Elliot Easton of The Cars, will be released on Wicked Cool Records in September of this year.

--John Curley

The Four Seasons, Golden Hits
Before and after The Beatles, you had New Jersey’s own The Four Seasons. This may be the first album I ever owned. The production, vocals and musicianship were all fantastic, and what great songs! Once The Beatles showed up, I remember there being endless arguments at school over who were the superior group! I’ve been trying to Google the drummer on all those early hits to no avail. Who is that amazing mystery man? With Blondie, we would sometimes cover their song “Big Man In Town.” That was always fun, with Debbie boasting about one day being the big “man” in town!

The Beatles, Meet The Beatles
Like most musicians of my generation, seeing The Beatles’ first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964 was the impetus for starting your own group. And I do personally feel I owe a tremendous debt to The Fab Four for a lifetime of musical inspiration. The record is actually their second album named With The Beatles in the UK. But at the time, who knew? The Beatles were four individual rock-and-roll stars with Ringo being one of the greatest drummers of all time!

The Rolling Stones, England’s Newest Hitmakers
This album really made an impression. Like The Beatles’ Vee Jay LP, it introduced a wide range of American R&B and rock and roll to a new generation of listeners. Mostly cover songs, although the classic Jagger / Richards song “Tell Me” is included, it opened up my young mind to artists such as Muddy Waters, Buddy Holly and Rufus Thomas. To this day, this might actually be my favorite Rolling Stones LP.

The Beatles, Introducing The Beatles
What a fantastic surprise to realize The Beatles already had another album available in the States. Once again, who knew that this LP on Vee Jay Records was actually their first album in the UK entitled Please Please Me? What a great discovery this was to have two Beatle albums available so soon after their first TV appearance! From the opening track “I Saw Her Standing There” to the closer “Twist and Shout,” a truly amazing life-changing experience for this boy.

The Who, The Who Sing My Generation
Now this was something altogether different. As far as I'm concerned, The Who are the original punk rockers. “Hope I die before I get old,” indeed. This heavily R&B-based debut really made a big impact on this young drummer. I remember bringing this record to my weekly drum lesson and trying to play along to the explosive ending of “My Generation” while my drum teacher’s jaw was on the floor. To this day, I’m still trying to get that ending right. Thanks to Mr. Moon for showing me what to do on the drums and what not to do on the rock-and-roll roller coaster of life.

The Velvet Underground & Nico, The Velvet Underground & Nico
When I first met up with my partners in Blondie, one of the first things we bonded on was our love of The Velvets. Of course, the influence of the amazing Nico was not lost on us. In fact, one of the first songs we covered was “Femme Fatale” from this LP. Truly great songwriting from Lou Reed with his great sense for a pop song mixed with some very dark subjects. To this day, whenever I'm in a writing session, someone will inevitably say “Let’s make it sound more like The Velvet Underground.”

The Stooges, The Stooges and The Stooges, Fun House (tie)
The first and second Stooges albums were both tremendously influential and experimental in their own way. I really didn’t know too many kids that were into The Stooges in 1969, only to find out later that four of them were the teenage Ramones who bonded over their mutual admiration for the band. Ron and Scott Asheton on guitar and drums, respectively, laid down the blueprint for the musical punk-rock explosion of the mid 70's. As with the Velvets, their minimalist approach to their instruments, especially Scott “Rock Action” Asheton’s Detroit deep rock-and-roll groove, was a touchstone for future punk rockers. I don’t how many times and with how many bands I’ve jammed with on “I Wanna Be Your Dog”!

The addition of saxophone on the 1970 Fun House album took those crazy punk-rock jams to a whole other place especially on the extended lunacy on the song “Fun House.” By the way, did I mention their lead singer? The irrepressible Iggy Pop, still going strong well into the 21st century. I think we can add Iggy to the cockroaches and Keith Richards’ survival list!

David Bowie, The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars
I quite possibly might have to say that of all the records I’ve mentioned so far, this David Bowie album was for me the most life changing of all. David, for me, connected the dots and influences to all the things I was listening to at the time. The most important concert I ever attended was the Ziggy performance at Carnegie Hall on September 28, 1972. I was 17 years old and had just graduated high school. Talk about life changing! It turns out that a few of my future CBGB's cohorts were also in attendance, including Debbie Harry, Chris Stein, Joey Ramone, and, oh yeah, Andy Warhol, too.

If the Beatles on Ed Sullivan in '64 seemed to have come from another planet, then David appeared to be from an entirely different solar system. The Ziggy album, to my mind, totally informed what was on the musical horizon with great songwriting, great musicianship and amazing otherworldly presentation. I would say you had to be there but in reality, who doesn’t know how special David’s time on this earth was for all of us?

Ramones, Ramones
From the very first time I saw the Ramones, I got it and I knew they were special. They are probably only second to The Beatles as the most influential rock-and-roll group of all time! Having seen and shared bills with the band at numerous times prior to the release of their eponymous debut album, I knew what to expect and I wasn’t disappointed. Producer Craig Leon’s tight production is right on and what about those songs? The Ramones were a high breed of The Stooges crossed with The Beach Boys mixed with The 1910 Fruitgum Company.

Life changing? Johnny, Joey, Dee Dee and Tommy changed the whole damn world!

Blondie, Parallel Lines
On a personal note, this record really did change my life. Although we had some success in Europe with our two previous albums, this is the one that got us to number one in the USA with “Heart Of Glass.” The record was a worldwide success for a number of reasons. We had a new producer, two new band members and had just come off a six-month international tour. Our producer Mike Chapman had written and produced loads of hits in the UK/Euro market. Frank Infante and Nigel Harrison were seasoned pros and great players. All this came together to make an album full of international hit singles and an album that’s in the Rolling Stone top 100 albums of all time!

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