NME - 17th January 1981
Pages 6 & 7
THE GREY MATTER UNDER THE BLONDE MATTER
By VIVIEN GOLDMAN
IT MAY SEEM an unlikely venue, but the current edition of FORUM's sex mag has about the best interview that Debbie Harry's given to date.
In that anything-goes context she talked to writer Jane Goldman (no relation that I know of) and proved that, yes, she is a person with grey matter as well as blonde matter. The views on sexual politics that don't exactly shriek through Blondie's music (although
the attitude is generally good and positive) are here made explicit:
ON 'OPEN' RELATIONSHIPS:
"If you have enough freedom, or compassion, or understanding for the other person and they want to fool around, fine. Of course that's all idealistic. Personally, I don't think I could stand it. I'm very emotional and jealous... but it depends on the person. If you have a boyfriend who needs to have a lot of different sexual interests, you should be honest and say 'Okay I need this and you need it, so go have your fling and I'll go have mine. See you next week'...
"Basically, I've always felt that I was a woman with a man's brain, a man trapped inside a woman's body. I always had the initiative of a man, but was always treated like some idiotic creature, some little buzzy beauty. And in most of my relationships with guys, they would always be the leader. And I really wasn't interested in that. I don't think I've ever gone out with anybody that was as smart as me, except Chris (Stein)...
"I'm an independent person and I've survived quite well being independent. I don't need a man for support in that way, I need a partner, I need someone who wants to share the kind of things that I enjoy doing and who is willing to have a woman who's strong. A lot of men don't want to have a strong woman - but a lot do...
"When I was 18, I thought I wanted a handsome man, some kind of male hero type... that's all pre-programmed pretty much, through television..."
ON WOMEN IN SCHLOCK:
"I don't think a lot of the standards are right about women and their sexuality. I think girls should be a lot stronger, more aggressive and express themselves better. That's what a lot of my stuff is about, my point of view. Where can rock and roll go but in another direction, sexually?
"Men have fought this for a long time, really fought it. Male rock and roll musicians for many years fought off letting girls be in their bands as instrumentalists. Or else they were nothing but a piece of fluff. Didn't do anything but stand there and look desirable...
"(In my own music) I don't draw conclusions, I try to create positive thoughts. (Women are) the only place for rock and roll left to go. There's nothing left for men to do. The only people that can express anything that hasn't been expressed in rock and roll are fags and girls. There's bound to be more male stars, but they can't express anything new...
"Girls are saying 'Don't treat me like that, treat me like this' - which Nancy Sinatra initially did with 'These Boots Were Made For Walking'..."
ON BLONDIE'S WORKS ON THE PLANET:
"I've created an image, a schick, that has been bought by the public. And from that, people are categorising me, without really understanding what I've done. Being Blondie is like creating a role and having a run on Broadway for five years. I feel that Blondie is part of me, but not all of me. I think that I can do a lot more..."
Reviewed by IAN PENMAN
SURPRISES GALORE AS BLONDIE GET A RAVE REVIEW!
James Brown and Blondie graphics by Serge Clerc.
This is an introduction to the singles page. What words and phrases have been chosen to do so? Big noise - shift critical perspectives - free drinks - scheming - new signs - hell of it - the real beat - figurative speak - sexy dancing - fibs - ask me - pissed - angles - choice - next! It is also crowded with the all too familiar - so "beware of the pat on the back". Are you really in the mood today? Answer honestly. This is an introduction to rapture...
Why will so many people buy this record?
Blondie merchandise is bought for the thrill of its "foreign" perfection, and alien and imagined sexual splendour. Pop music!
Debbie & Blondie: a specifically American picture. The cover for 'Rapture' presents an unconvincing picture of "rapture" on Debbie's face. A reclining Debbie, eyes softly shut, dark eyebrows arching classically under fright white hair, glossed lips parted, a black jumper with "Blondie" handwritten in red across her chest. Mmm: The "ie" of "Blond" is obscured - the Ghost of Roland Barthes is suitably perplexed. The shot is undeniably pornographic in address. Pardon me for saying so, but the whole way it is posed convincingly suggests that the captured erotic subject is receiving out-of-frame oral sex.
Debbie: no! not a Nolan sister, nor was meant to be. A sexuality slightly ajar. "Mum - I haven't told you the whole truth. I'm married to two Nolan sisters". "Oh, that's alright." But Debbie - there's too much knowledge under those dark eyebrows. She exudes a superior - and therefore unfamiliar - posh, fully realized enjoyment of sex: an awesome consummation only money, the high life and a hint of hard drugs can bring out in a girl. She is other. She is difference in predictable surroundings. In grubby reality you can only hope to be a Nolan, sister.
Blondie: what sells them so? The ability to combine what is essentially "perfection" (the perfectly "bland", immediately Blond sound) with a spicy taste of the "menacing" and the "mysterious". It is this ability to combine - pleasure and pain, pop and pretension: get it just right - that seduces us so. Blondie records have more cheek - a thorough cynicism, a natural smugness. 'The Tide Is High' - execrable record - is the hit The Clash surely dream of.
'Rapture': combines melancholy undercurrent with dreamy declaration of perfect pleasure - halfway between need and satisfaction. The component parts - bar Debbie's voice - are individually weak, but this is not the point. The point is an absolute zero. Debbie's sister Christein exploits the "disco" idiom well again and imbues the simple song with an irresistibly mocking sense of the Epic. The main 'Rapture' refrain - a blissed hiccough - is inescapable. It is lovely.
Rap: 12" features a surprisingly accomplished Debbie tribute to the New York "Rappin'" craze - compleat with ultra hip Grandmaster Flash namedrop. Debbie raps a silly story - about real space invaders - but for once sounds genuinely entertained by what she's doing. The absent "g" is the all important bit: in my mind's rappin' eye I live in the 'hetto.
Buy this record... dreaming of that moment when two different realities merge. Is it at all possible - the reciprocity of sensations between mythical Debbie and your sedentary wallpaper self? Answer sensibly.
The Blondie 'Greatest Hits' album, which has been in the pipeline for some time, is now scheduled for April release by Chrysalis - and there are plans for a specially recorded videotape version to be made available at about the same time.