Mojo - March 2002 - Pages 54-55-154
Photo of Debbie and Thomas, Home House, London, December 2001: "He makes you laugh and cry, all at once." Portrait by Eva
Heroes: Thomas Wolfe and Earl Palmer
Debbie Harry: Logically speaking, being from New York I should probably choose the Fire Department or [Mayor Rudolph] Giuliani, but I think I'd rather stick with a culture hero and, to me, Thomas Wolfe was an extraordinary writer.
I've been aware of his work for a number of years but they've taken fresh meaning for me because I just started looking at them again. There are some authors you can just re-read at different times of your life and their ideas take on a greater significance. Because Wolfe died at such an early age - just 38 - his understanding of humanity and his story-telling abilities are unique. I love the economy of his words: in the opening sentence from Look Homeward Angel, every single word is like a power-punch. It makes you want to shout and cry and everything at once. The way that he writes is very shocking and there just doesn't seem to be any waste. It's a very exciting use of language.
I don't really remember when I first read him - it was probably at school - but it's like with music, everything you hear has an influence on what touches you and I think it's got to be the same with what you read, it takes shape within you. It might not be obvious immediately but I think over time all of these things do have an influence on us. I'm at an early stage, there are still a few things I have yet to read, but he's already had this effect on me. (JyB)
Clem Burke: If you were to have asked me that question 10 or maybe five years ago I would have said Keith Moon, but as you get a little bit older you get more interested in integrity and dignity. A drummer called Earl Palmer is my hero. He's one of the original architects of rock'n'roll. He's in his seventies now, he's played on The Girl Can't Help It, Long Tall Sally, all the Little Richard stuff, Eddie Cochran. He still has a gig just a couple of blocks away from my house here in LA every Thursday night.
He's still a great player and a gentleman and dresses really great, just has a great vibe, and I really respect him for what he's doing now and for the career that he's had. I've gone to his gigs and seen the most amazing things - I've seen Charlie Watts down there, great people like Jim Keltner jamming. He's the guru of this little integrated scene, there's young and old, black and white... He's probably my big hero as I grow older and wiser. (JB)
They came together in CBGB's on Valentine's Day. In the end, there was just nothing left to hold on to. This month, from non-stop to dead stop with...
60 Debbie Harry and Blondie.
FEBRUARY 14, 1976 When we started working with Gary Valentine and Clem Burke, that, I think, was when it really clicked. Clem had gone to England for Christmas and during the six weeks he was away we rehearsed and wrote new songs, hoping he would be back in time for us to do a New Year's show. Clem didn't come back in time, so our first show was at CBGB's on Valentine's Day. I was re-reading my notes from our book, Making Tracks, and I think that was clearly the starting point for us breaking out of the small, cocoon-like world of the New York club scene. The show was fun, we got a great response and I felt good about all the work we had done. It was clearly a great departure and next step up for us. We were moving into a bigger world and starting to do things we had previously not even gotten near to, as far as presentation is concerned.
We were living on the Bowery at the time, Gary had sort of got evicted, so he lived in our loft for sometime while Clem and Jimmy [Destri] lived at home. They both lived outside New York and pretty much commuted, but we did all the rehearsing in our loft, so everybody sort of hung out there a lot, but we - Chris and I - were really the only ones that lived there. It was funky but chic I guess. Were we on a shoestring budget? I think it was probably half of a shoestring. But everyone had sort of committed at this stage and we put all our time into the band. We had a verbal agreement that we were doing this and we tried very hard to take all the elements of each member of the band and represent those elements musically. It wasn't just Chris's ideas of what music should be and what we were influenced by, it was clearly a composite of all of us. Like some kind of chemical formula that just kind of came together right.
SUMMER 1982 I don't know if Blondie ever did reach a natural end. We were sort of forced out of the box really. Our management fell apart, the president of our record company split up with his business partner. It was basically a whole bunch of business things that went wrong.
That was coupled with the fact that Chris was out of action for a while [suffering from pemphigus vulgaris, a rare and potentially fatal skin condition], I think had not all of those things have happened at once there would have been something to hold onto. As it was, there was nothing.
Everything fell apart and I don't think that anyone could hold Blondie, as individuals or the band, responsible for all of that. It just was this kind of eruption or disintergration of the whole fucking machine simultaneously. It's just a very rare kind of occurrence and very sad. It was mind numbing, actually. We had worked practically non-stop for seven years, so we were probably over-worked and over-tired and the whole thing was just badly handled.
I think we were mis-managed from the get-go. If it hadn't been for the fact that Chris and I were a sort of grounding force in the band, almost parental in a sense, that we represented some kind of solidity to the other guys, we probably wouldn't have lasted as long as we did.
Interview by Jenny Bulley