English musician Nigel Harrison is famous as the bass player for the band Blondie, a position he held from 1977 until the band disbanded in late 1982. He recorded three commercially successful studio albums with Blondie: “Parallel Lines” (1978), “Eat to the Beat” (1979) and “Autoamerican” (1980). Their last record, “The Hunter” (1982), however, was a commercial disappointment. The band's hit singles during this period included “Heart of Glass,” “Sunday Girl,” “Call Me,” “Atomic,” “The Tide Is High” and “Rapture.” Harrison also co-wrote the popular Blondie songs “One Way or Another” and “Union City Blue.” In 1997, Blondie regrouped without Harrison and Frank Infante. Harrison is now the bassist of The Grabs.
Childhood and Family:
Nigel Harrison was born on April 24, 1951 in Stockport, Cheshire, England. In the early 1970s, he moved to Princes Risborough near Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire.
One Way to Another
While living in Princes Risborough, Nigel Harrison played bass for the local band Farm and went on tour and recorded with Silverhead (fronted by Michael Des Barres) from 1972 to 1974. He was playing with the short lived band “Nite City” (founded by ex-Doors' keyboardist Ray Manzarek) when he attracted the attention of Blondie and officially joined the new wave band in November 1977 as a bass player after Frank Infante switched to guitar. With the addition of Harrison, Blondie consisted of singer Deborah Harry, guitarist Chris Stein, drummer Clem Burke, keyboardist James Destri, Frank Infante and Harrison.
With Blondie, Harrison enjoyed mainstream success in 1978. Their second album, “Plastic Letters” (February 1978), made the Top 10 in the U.K. and went platinum. It produced the band's first two U.K. Top 10 hit singles with “Denis” (#2), a cover of Randy and the Rainbows' 1963 hit “Denise,” and “(I'm Always Touched by Your) Presence, Dear” (#10).
The follow up, “Parallel Lines,” was released in September 1978 and became Blondie's most popular and best selling effort. Produced by Mike Chapman, the album rose to No. 1 on the U.K. Albums chart in February 1979 and No. 6 on the Billboard 200. ”Parallel Lines” went platinum in the U.S. and U.K.
The lead single, “Picture This” (1978), peaked at No. 12 on the U.K. Singles chart and also charted in Australia at No. 88 and Sweden at No. 15. However, it was never released as a single in the U.S. The single “Hanging on the Telephone” rose to No. 5 in the U.K., but the band did not score a No. 1 hit until they released the single “Heart of Glass” in January 1979. The disco influenced song topped both the U.K. Singles chart and the Billboard Hot 100 and climbed the charts in Australia, Austria, Canada, Germany, New Zealand and Switzerland. It was certified platinum by BPI and gold by RIAA. Released in May 1979, “Sunday Girl” became Blondie's next No. 1 hit in the U.K. The song also topped the charts in Australia and Ireland and made the Top 5 in Austria, Germany, Norway and Switzerland, but was never released as a single in the U.S. Co-written by Harrison and Debby Harry, “One Way to Another” peaked at No. 24 on the Billboard Hot 100, the group's second U.S. hit after “Heart of Glass.”
The fourth studio album and the second the band recorded with Harrison, “Eat to the Beat,” topped the U.K. Albums chart in October 1979 and rose to No. 17 on the U.S. Billboard 200. The first single, “Dreaming,” peaked at No. 2 on the British singles chart and No. 27 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was certified silver in the U.K. The second U.K. single, “Union City Blue,” which was written by Harry and Harrison, went to No.13 on the U.K. Singles Chart. The second U.S. single, “The Hardest Part,” peaked at No. 84 on the Billboard Hot 100. The third and last single from the album, “Atomic,” peaked at No. 1 on the U.K. Singles chart in February 1980 and No. 39 on the Billboard Hot 100. “Eat to the Beat” achieved platinum status in the U.K. and US.
In 1980, Harrison and Blondie had their next transatlantic chart-topper with “Call Me,” the theme for the motion picture “American Gigolo.” Co-written and produced by German disco producer Giorgio Moroder, the song topped the singles charts in the U.S., and the U.K. It led to a nomination for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal at the Grammy Awards in 1981. Also in 1980, Blondie was awarded a Juno for Best Selling International Single for their single “Heart of Glass.”
The studio album “Autoamerican” was launched in November 1980. It peaked at No. 3 on the British Albums chart and No. 7 on the Billboard 200. The song “The Tide Is High” rose to No. 1 on the U.K. Singles chart in November 1980 and topped the Billboard Hot 100 in January 1981, making it the band's third transatlantic No. 1 hit. The song was also popular in New Zealand (#1), Ireland (#2) and the Netherlands (#4). The second and last single from the album, “Rapture,” went to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart, and No. 5 on the U.K. singles chart. “Autoamerican” eventually achieved platinum status in the United States and United Kingdom.
In May 1982, Blondie released the studio album “The Hunter,” which peaked at No. 9 in the U.K. and No. 33 in the U.S. It yielded the singles “Island of Lost Souls,” a No. 11 U.K. hit and a No. 37 hit in the U.S., and “War Child,” which peaked at No. 39 in the U.K. Harrison co-wrote the latter single with Harry. “The Hunter” was a commercial flop and became the band's last album of new material for the next 17 years. Blondie broke up in October 1982.
After Blondie, Harrison joined forces with former band members Clem Burke, from Blondie, and Des Barres, from Silverhead, for the band Chequered Past. The group released a self titled album in 1984. Shortly after, he left the group.
The rest of the 1980s found Harrison working on feature films and television. He produced the song “The Secret Is Safe” for the 1985 film “Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment” and performed and wrote “I Still Remember” for “Nightforce,” a 1987 action film starring Linda Blair and James Van Patten. He also produced “Mr. MX-7” for the 1988 movie “Tapeheads,” which starred John Cusack and Tim Robbins. His song “One Way or Another” was used in the TV series “The A-Team” and the film “My Best Friend Is a Vampire” (both 1987) and later appeared in movies like “Carpool” (1996), “Beverly Hills Ninja” (1997), “Donnie Brasco” (1997), “Overnight Delivery” (1998) and “The Rugrats Movie” (1998), to name a few.
In 1995, Harrison made his television acting debut in an episode of the U.K. sketch comedy show “Glam Metal Detectives” called “Splat.” He went on to portray the supporting role of Horace on his debut feature film, “Breeders” (1997), a British horror movie directed and written by Paul Matthews. He made his television film debut in “Captain V” (2002), opposite Justin Edwards, Kevin Eldon and Simon Farnaby.
Meanwhile, in 1997, when Blondie began to discuss getting the band back together again, Harrison was initially asked to rejoin the group. He recorded demo tracks with the band for the 1999 album “No Exit,” but was removed from the band before the record was completed. Along with another expelled member, Frank Infante, they filed a lawsuit to prevent the reunion under the name Blondie from taking place but were unsuccessful.
Currently, Harrison is the bass player for The Grabs. The band released an album called “Sex, Fashion And Money” in November 2005.