Look-in - 10th March 1979
THE IMAGE & THE MUSIC
It's been quite a start to the year for ladies, hasn't it? Just recently, the top of the hit parade was dominated by girl singers - Olivia Newton-John, the Three Degrees, ABBA (it's Agnetha and Annifrid who provide that distinctive vocal sound) and, of course, Blondie, whose Heart Of Glass was yet another hit from the hugely successful Parallel Lines album.
Indeed, Blondie have been among the pioneers during the past year in making that sweet-but-sharp sound into the sound of the moment. Even the Bee Gees have it, for heaven's sake!
But it wasn't always like that for Debbie Harry & Co. They'd had a small but dedicated following in Britain since the appearance of their controversial X-Offender single and it wasn't until Denis gave them their first 'proper' hit that they began to build up a far bigger audience. Since then, of course, they've notched up hit after hit (remember I'm Always Touched By Your Presence Dear, Picture This and Hanging On The Telephone?), and have left behind their rougher, punkier material for the cleverly-conceived pop of Parallel Lines. Heart Of Glass was a marvellous example, disco-drumming, missing beats, unusual guitar playing and all.
As Debbie says, On Parallel Lines, we tried to make as many 'singles' as possible. The songs are better than ever simply because we are now a fully-fledged band. The image and the music are working together for the first time."
Ah, that image! Blondie have been heavily criticised in some rock music circles for being too gimmicky and too 'manufactured', and it's certainly true that photos of Debbie and the boys (especially Debbie!) haven't been exactly scarce in our newspapers and magazines over the past few months. But where's the harm in that? She herself says, "I don't mind posing for photographs. It's part of my art form." And surely no-one would expect a group featuring Miss Harry as lead singer to rock away quietly in limbo, hiding from the limelight. Especially when, at present, Blondie are that rarest of things in the pop world, a 'visual' group who make records which repay repeated listening.
Let's not forget too that the image Debbie was talking about extends to the boys in the band. They've been pretty snazzy dressers since the group's early rise to fame, and now in their quiet way, they've constructed a very definite look for themselves, with their pinched dark suits and thin ties, in a kind of tasteful '60s-punk style. A bit like their music, perhaps? Well, Debbie did say the image and the music were working together for the first time, didn't she?
Incidentally, you might be seeing a rather different Harry image, many metres wide on the cinema screen, if she stars in a new film being planned about now. It's a case of move over, John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, as Debbie may soon be filming in New York a movie called Alphaville, alongside Robert Fripp (guitarist with the British late '60s group, King Crimson). In fact, a film of the same title appeared originally in 1966 and the best description of it is a kind of detective story of the future involving a city ruled by an electronic brain. Alphaville would also feature another member of Blondie on the production side - Chris Stein, the band's lead guitarist and Debbie's long-time companion, although Nicholas Roeg, who was the inspiration behind David Bowie's The Man Who Fell To Earth, has also been asked to co-operate on the direction of the film.
In Alphaville, Debbie would feature as the heroine, Natasha von Braun, with Bob Fripp as private eye Lemmy Caution - a cross between James Bond and Philip Marlowe.
Debbie could become a big movie star. Says Fripp, "She reminds me of former Hollywood star Veronica Lake. In the film, she falls in love with me while I try to kill her evil professor father."
How did Debbie land the part in the movie? Apparently, she went along to the audition and, apart from looking like Veronica Lake, was invited to appear cool and smooth - something she can do very well!
Next month, the band are due to play a major series of concerts in Britain and Europe, and there's talk of a fourth album (on which they've already completed the preliminary work) being released to coincide with their visit.
In fact, it's all happening for Miss Harry at the moment. Readers of a top British record paper recently voted her the Best-Dressed Star Of 1978 - and the Best Female Singer Of The Year, too. She's certainly come a long way in the past couple of years.
By all accounts, her past - and there's a lot of it, as she's well into her '30s now - does not seem to have been a particularly enjoyable or attractive one, especially just before the formation of Blondie in New York a few years ago. And she has said of her childhood, "Some of my younger years were really hectic and horrible. Very unhappy. I came from a middle class home in New Jersey, just a regular family. I have a younger sister who is studying sociology. She works a lot with children.
"But I hated school. It was very boring and regimented. I just sat there inwardly screaming 'Let me out"'.
She must have been pretty tough, too: "I really wanted to be a movie star. The other girls used to laugh at me and I'd just say 'You'll be sorry when I'm rich and famous!"'
Well, she is (rich) and she is (famous). And she'll probably continue to be so as long as the group turn out such great records as Heart Of Glass, image and all...
THE OTHER BLONDIE
Did you know that in America there's already a Blondie character far better known than the delectable Debbie Harry? Indeed, this 'other' one's something of a household name there, the star of a comic strip that began almost half-a-century ago which must compete with Peanuts as the most widely syndicated strip in America and the rest of the world. Dizzy Blondie (the original one!) and her harassed husband Dagwood Bumstead are as much a part of American life as, say, Andy Capp or Desperate Dan are ours.
It's interesting that Blondie (the group) haven't had as much success in their native USA as they've had in Britain and Europe, isn't it? Could it be that their music doesn't tally with the image conjured up over there by the very name Blondie...?