Beat Magazine - 6th August 2003 - Page 56
murray engleheart's blonde ambition is fanned by deborah harry
On June 23, Debbie Harry was scheduled to take part in a tribute concert for the late Peggy Lee at New York's Carnegie Hall. She was surprised I knew of it and asked how I found out. The internet, I replied innocently: Blondie's official website to be exact. Immediately I felt a stamp being pressed into my forehead.
"Oh yes! You're one of those!" Harry laughs in what was hopefully mock revulsion.
"You're a webster!"
I protest in vain. But a career pinnacle surely, I continue, being on an equal footing with the likes of Eartha Kitt and Nancy Sinatra?
"It's a damn fucking great show I'm telling you," she swoons a week or so prior to the show. "It's going to be really good. I'm getting a little excited about it you know? I'm going to actually do a duet with Nancy Sinatra. Oddly enough (Blondie drummer) Clem (Burke) played with Nancy and that's how I met her and when Blondie got back together she introduced us at the El Ray Theatre in LA. She's the best. I love Nancy."
For the best part of thirty years, Harry, who is now 58 has held a commanding, no, iconic status of her own as the striking focal point and as some would have it namesake of Blondie, who reunited in 1997 after a 15 year absence.
Their mix of everything sparkling in rock n'roll's history including in no small measure the joy of the classic sixties' girl groups and the essence of the original garage punk has alerted the eyes and ears of everyone from Brian Wilson to the late Bobby Kennedy Jnr.
In New York in the late seventies that sound placed Blondie happily at odds with other unique entites such as Television, The Talking Heads and The Ramones although all were broadly tagged as punk.
"A lot of the bands were really, really different and a lot of them actually didn't become huge but I think were hugely influential. Did you ever hear a band Suicide? Suicide I think were just way, way ahead of their time and a terrific influence. You can see (the New York influence) with The White Stripes. I think that they really picked up on The Cramps. Television's influence, I don't know if I really hear any band that's really sort of picked up on Television but I think early Television with Richard Hell was quite wonderful."
For Harry, Blondie's influence is somewhat less clear cut.
"Sometimes I see it. Yeah, I do. I mean I think that Blondie's influence is a little bit in a way more eclectic than those bands. They were more focused. I think that we sort of take a lot from a lot of different areas. But I think we're one of the early bands to use synthesizers and that gave us a unique sound you know?"
The latest edition of that sound will be on display in September or October via the new album, The Curse of Blondie.
"I think it's a Blondie tradition that all of our albums sort of have a wide spread of styles. We try to represent all of the influences that we've felt over the years and being from such an urban environment there's a lot of different ethnic influences and we really try to represent that."
Harry has written or at least contributed to many of the band's songs, a talent for which she's rarely credited. For most she is simply the presentation rather than a creator.
"Yeah, I know. It's sort of funny. I don't know whether it's because they don't think the songs are personal or what. I don't know. But I enjoy writing very much. I really, really like writing songs."
The seriousness of that craft was the last thing on Harry's mind the day she donned a Devo suit.
"That was on 17th Street. We were doing a photo session with Devo and (Blondie's) Chris (Stein) was actually the photographer. And we got all of them over to our little apartment and then we went up on the roof. Our apartment was on the top floor. They had on their yellow suits!" she laughs. "And they let me put one on."
Another indelible image of Harry is the shot of her and the late Joey Ramone in bed in a manner of speaking for Punk magazine.
"One of the first times I saw him was in a very small room and (The Ramones) were doing a presentation for managers and record companies. Joey had very poor eyesight and the stage was sort of this platform that had about seven or eight steps that went down to the floor where the audience was and he just sort of went headlong. He did the first stage dive! Ha!"
I sense my time is up and I thank her for her time.
"I hope you get to come and see us when we're down there OK?"
I'll be in the black t shirt I tell her. I'll wave.
"OK!" she hoots with laughter. "I don't know if I should believe you but um, I'll wave back, OK?"
Blondie play August 13 at The Palais with Even, and August 14 at The Palais with The