Beat Magazine - Wednesday 7th March 1990
HOT TALK HOT
Our cover star hits town March 19 at The Metro. One not to be missed out on folks. Wise up and book early, the girl is fired up.
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How can a woman voted Best Looking Senior, class of '63, end up playing a human ashtray on film? Well, life can be a bleach, sorry, bitch. However, you won't find the woman in question, DEBORAH HARRY, complaining. With 'Def, Dumb & Blonde', her most successful album since Blondie, and a concert lined up at the Metro on March 19, CAMERON ADAMS shares the pleasure of her company.
Cast your mind back to Blondie heyday. The scene: early '80s. The records: Plastic Letters, Call Me, Rapture, all records you'd go without lunch for a week to buy. The videos: Debbie Harry, star, looking the goddess we know she is, parading in "beyond catwalk" mode. Girls went green, boys went all hot and red, the records went gold. And then, in 1982, Blondie went...
The rest of the '80s were trying, but busy times for Deborah Harry, pop legend. She spent 1983-'86 looking after long-time boyfriend Chris Stein who was seriously ill with a genetic disease. When he got better, they broke up. On the vinyl front came the patchy Koo Koo and Rockbird, not to mention the Blondie remix album, Once More Into The Bleach. The singles, Rush Rush and French Kissing In The U.S.A., kept Deb on the small screen, while Deb hit the silver screen with Videodrome (as said ashtray), Union City and the brilliant Hairspray.
Then last year came Def, Dumb & Blonde, in which Debbie became Deborah, and in which she went back to her roots. She also took back her role as queen of blonde pop. The album, due to its success and confidence, was referred to as a comeback, although she hadn't really been away. Does it bother Deborah that that makes her sound like a hermit?
(Laughs.) "No, I guess nothing really bothers me about that, I'm just happy that people are enjoying it, and that the record is successful."
It sure is. I ask Deborah if making the album was something of a challenge, a sort of "here I am, listen to me" statement.
"Yeah, that's what I wanted to do, make an album that was saying 'this is what I've done, and this is what I'd like to do - here it is!'." (Laughs.)
With Blondie, Deborah tasted success on a regular basis, and did the rounds as a "pop star". I ask if it is still as exciting now to get a good review or a hit record, if that initial buzz is still there.
"Oh yeah, it's just tremendous, it's really exciting. I think the first thing you have to do is to sort of satisfy yourself, make the record you wanna make and that you intend to make, and make it as good as possible. Then after that, if you have any kind of acceptance with it, that's when it really gets incredible."
Another incredible situation is that of Blondie, ten years on. The records still sell, still feature on radio, and their memory is kept fondly by the public. Deborah admits that the band "has survived quite nicely". One factor that may help this is the new breed of bands like the Primitives, the Darling Buds and Transvision Vamp. But does Deborah think they attract new fans to her, being the originator of their breed of "blonde pop"?
She thinks for a minute. "Well, yeah, I suppose it does. Yeah, it's obviously some kind of reference, and people will be made... they'll have to pay attention to the reference..."
Well, Tracy, Andrea and Wendy certainly are doing that, and I am sure that the girls would give both arms to have their name associated with triumphant classics such as Union City Blue, Atomic or Heart Of Glass. As far as Deborah is concerned, that music still features in the live shows, but I wonder if she ever slaps Eat To The Beat onto the turntable at home while she cleans the house or whatever she does while listening to music...
"I don't usually, just for relaxation, listen to my own music because I find I get too involved in different things about it, technically involved in it... it's not very relaxing! Sometimes I hear them when I'm out at a club or something and then it's funny, sometimes I'm able to distance myself from it."
I ask Deborah if she enjoys being a pop star. Deborah adopts the voice of a little girl given her first doll, and says "Yeah" and laughs. The reason I ask her is that technically Collette and New Kids On The Block are pop stars but she is a pioneering pop star. Through Blondie, she took commanding roles in videos, had a hand in the writing of songs, all the while fighting off a "dumb blonde" tag.
"Well, yeah. Blondie was very influential."
No need for modesty here, Deb. You don't have to distance yourself from the band, I mean it was you people refer to as the figurehead of new wave rock, without wanting to take anything away from the band.
"Well, obviously it's both, an amalgamation of the two. I was Blondie, it was like, my name, yet it was the whole band at the same time."
I ask Deborah about living in the past, and specifically about the line from the album, "I don't like talking about the old days, unless it tells where the future may lead."
"It's a general philosophy I have," she tells me. "Living in the past is not really a healthy thing to do, yet it's so important to us, everyone holds onto their past, but it's sort of like a delicate balance between moving on and being productive, or living and having your past be healthy for you."
Well, I Want That Man speaks of the 21st century. How does she see the next century? "Oh god! I don't know! (laughs) It's pretty exciting."
Is Deborah Harry an optimist? "Well, yeah I think I try to be, I mean we all have our moments of doubt, but I think for the most part I'll keep trying."
Sitting atop a musical pedestal during the '80s, Deborah must have attracted her fair share of obsessive fans. "Oh yeah, sure... why?" Oh, I'm just interested, I plead. "Oh, I just think that's really personal... it's not that I want to encourage anyone to be obsessive, but... I don't want to talk about anybody else's obsessions... I have enough trouble with my own! (laughs)" These laughs break enough ice, as they say, to break free several whales.
Is there anyone Deborah could be obsessed with? "No, not quite. I've adored a lot of people over the years, but I've never really been a super-fan of any particular person because I've always wanted to be productive with my own life.
I ask if Deborah's film career is going to be more productive, or if she can purge her celluloid ambitions through video clips. "(Laughs) If purging is necessary, yeah, I like acting."
Blondie toured Australia very early on in their career, when In The Flesh gave them their first hit record anywhere in the world. Deborah admits that "It's been quite a while..." Their tour for 1982 fell through, but does she still feel an affinity with our country?
"I think so, it seemed to happen quite painlessly. We were very surprised when In The Flesh took off, I guess it was because of Countdown and Molly Meldrum. Then we came over there at an early time, and we just played to small clubs and smaller audiences, no-one really knew who we were... so we sort of built up a base, a cult following, and then the records sort of took off by themselves."
Naturally, she is genuinely anxious to return ("I've been looking forward to it for a long time, hoping that this day would happen...").
Finally, there's a line on the album that goes "I'm self-contained, I use my brain, and keep the people entertained". Does that sum her up? "Um, no, not entirely. It's good for the rap, you know!" Ah, Deborah Harry may claim not to be, but I am happy to say that she is a confirmed pop legend.
Quarter page ad for DEBORAH HARRY - DEF DUMB & BLONDE IN CONCERT. MON. 19/TUE. 20/WED 21. MARCH