Skip to main content
The Independent Critic

 Book Review: Under a Rock by Chris Stein 
Add to favorites

Founded in 1974 by Chris Stein and Debbie Harry, Blondie was in many ways one of the bands that defined my growing up years as a disabled weirdo with a unique body, larger than life emotions, and a desire to express myself.

"Under a Rock" is Blondie co-founder Stein's memoir, a nothing-spared autobiography that takes us through Stein's early life, through his early creative years, the founding of the band, the band's ascension to the heights of punk/pop/new wave success, and the hazards of having experienced that success.

Stein, who in many ways, probably most ways, was the architect of Blondie's sound, is a natural storyteller with an almost jarring yet always sincere matter-of-factness and naturalness that leaves you occasionally thinking back about a story and being struck by its depth and poignancy and emotional resonance.

Until "Parallel Lines," the band's third album, Blondie was mostly an underground success. While Stein infuses "Under a Rock" with familiar names long before this point, it's about the time that Blondie catapulted to #1 and sold 20 million copies of "Parallel Lives" that we begin to realize the dizzying yet chaotic world in which Blondie lived. Song's like "Heart of Glass," "Rapture," and "One Way or Another" filled households and dance clubs like Studio 54. Throughout all of this time, Stein and Harry with both lovers and best friends whose lives intersected in just about every way. While they would eventually part ways romantically, they remain closest of friends and collaborators to this day even as Stein continues to record with the band yet stopped touring in recent years due to health issues.

For those who grew up during this period, the names will be enchanting from Bowie to Basquiat, Warhol to Ramone. Stein tosses these names out during his storytelling, not in a way that feels like name-dropping but in a way that feels like genuine storytelling with a tone of awe and appreciation and bewilderment. It's the storytelling that truly makes "Under a Rock" such a joy to read, though there are also moments in this book that truly took my breath away as the costs of fame are often high and Stein's own current life, including recent family experiences, can't help but tug at the heartstrings.

A uniquely written tour-de-force, "Under a Rock" is no doubt a memoir that will leave its mark in 2024 and will prove to be mighty popular for anyone whose life found its rhythms in the punk/new wave/pop stylings of Blondie and bands just like them. Stein gives us the inside glimpse, all its glories and all its downfalls.

Refreshing in every way, "Under a Rock" features a foreword by Debbie Harry and commands our attention from beginning to end.

Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic