City Weekly - 27th January 2005 - Pages 10-11
Free Australian weekly magazine
AT EASE WITH HERSELF AFTER ALMOST 30
YEARS MAKING MUSIC HISTORY, DEBORAH HARRY IS STILL 'TURNED ON' BY THE EXPERIENCE. ALISON DEAN SPEAKS TO ONE OF THE HEADLINE PERFORMERS FOR THE MELBOURNE MUSIC FESTIVAL.
DEBORAH Harry is blunt. The doyenne of punk-pop, who for almost 30 years has held an iconic status as the focal point of Blondie, says she doesn't have to try to exude sexuality on stage. It comes naturally.
"I think that my job, my performance is something that turns me on so I am very lucky in that respect," Harry says from her home in New York.
"Performing is a very sensual experience and so in some cases it is a sexy experience that has to do with the essence of music."
But at 59, Harry admits she doesn't always feel that hot, especially on long tours.
"One doesn't always feel especially sexy," she says. "The scheduling is tiresome, but I manage to squeak by. I really enjoy doing shows so I think that helps a lot."
Next month Harry will jump aboard a jet bound for Melbourne to perform at the third Melbourne International Music Festival.
Harry is familiar with Melbourne. When Blondie first hit the charts in the late '70s, she toured the town Seinfeld once labelled the arse end of the world.
Asked if she felt like a wild woman among a pack of country hicks, Harry replies: "the audience were expecting a lot more from me in terms of me being wild. We were billed as punk rockers." But, she says with a laugh, "we got along well."
Deborah Harry and Blondie are accustomed to the labels thrown at their music. They played under the "New Wave" tag until the movement died and at different times have worn well the punk, rock, pop and disco labels.
But one thing remains constant for Harry - Blondie's "urban sensibility".
"We are all from New York and we have a lot of different ethnicities and a lot of different influences available to us. It is part of our way of thinking," Harry says.
"We have listened to those music styles growing up and we have just put them into our own words."
In the band's early years, its musical fusion worked, yielding chart-topping singles. Heart of Glass was the first rock disco tune to claim commercial success; The Tide Is High was a reggae pop hit, while Rapture fused white pop with black rap.
It was with Rapture that Blondie really made history. The song reached number one years before Run DMC and Aerosmith's Walk This Way got a look in on the commercial charts.
"I feel very privileged to be part of that music history," Harry says. "Rap is still my favourite style of music. It is clever lyrically. I have always equated it to folk music... it is social and political so that is really valuable."
During Blondie's reign through the '70s and '80s, Harry exuded the sex appeal and style that has rubbed off on many leading women in popular music today (especially those of the bleached blonde variety - Madonna, Courtney Love, Britney Spears). Harry wore cutting-edge clothing, was tough, droll and talented.
While Harry continued to write and perform, the mid-'80s spelt the end of Blondie.
Sixteen years later the band reunited and Harry says, it feels like they were never parted. Their seventh album, No Exit, included the single Maria, which became a hit in 14 countries.
Harry says she no longer fears falling behind in the world of music.
"There is so much going on in the world and we are so full of information, but one can't possibly keep up with everything," she says. "There was a time in my life that I could really feel that I couldn't keep up and that it was a problem for me. Now my particular take is that I know what I am doing and people like what I am doing and I enjoy performing and doing the music. It is all about that for me."
And as for Blondie, Harry says there is no identity crisis.
"I am Blondie as I will ever be," she says.
But now, Harry doesn't have to dance in that sultry, carefree but not so co-ordinated style she once was so proud of. Dancing, she now admits, was a diversion from the songs.
"I don't dance so much any more because I am starting to sing better."
Harry is just one of many "mature" performers set to grace the stage of the Sidney Myer Music Bowl for the Melbourne International Music Festival on February 26 and 27.
Others include the superb Highwayman Willie Nelson, The Doors of the 21st Century and Blue's legend Taj Mahal.
Last week organisers announced the festival (which has already had a name and location change) would span only two days (originally billed as three) with one of those days a benefit gig - the Melbourne Tsunami Concert.
All proceeds from the Sunday performance will now go to charities working on tsunami relief programs.
With this announcement came the news that Australian band Daddy Cool would reform for the first time in 30 years to support the benefit.
While it might seem like a festival of reformed bands and old rockers, there is more than a smattering of the new school locals having a go.
"It is great that the festival supports the youngsters who haven't officially made it yet," says award-winning blues guitarist, singer and songwriter Mia Dyson.
Definitely on her way up the ladder of success, Dyson says she is excited to play alongside some of the greats of the music industry.
"I am very interested to see what this whole Doors of the 21st Century is," Dyson says. "And it will be great to see Blondie."
Dyson, 23, is not new to playing beside the stars. She has worked the big festival scene for two years and recently strapped on a guitar made for her by her father (Jim Dyson) to tour with the old swamp fox, Tony Joe White.
Dyson says playing beside some of the world's greats is inspiring.
"It is nerve wracking if you know that any of those great musicians that you look up to are watching you but being in that environment is awe-inspiring. It is always like wow look at what I could be doing if I keep going."
The full line-up for both days will be announced tomorrow at www.melbournemusicfestival.com