NME - 9th April 1977
British bash by Blondie
NEW YORK band Blondie, who have been attracting rave reviews on the U.S. circuit, are coming to Britain for their debut tour. The exact date is still being negotiated, but it is expected to be very soon - with the tour probably opening in four weeks' time.
Private Stock Records, who recently issued the band's "Blondie" album, told NME: "We have sent them a provisional date sheet, opening May 5, and are now awaiting their acceptance."
It is understood that there are plans for Blondie to join The Ramones in their two London Roundhouse concerts on June 5 and 6.
Pages 25 & 26
Male chauvinist pigs' corner Episodes 2 & 3.
Pictures by Joe Stevens (and Kate Simon)
Listen, honey. I can make you a star...
ROY CARR holds hands with DEBBIE HARRY, insists it's not merely physical, blah blah.
I'VE YET TO MEET someone who wouldn't like to do the young lady a Big Favour! I'm sure you appreciate the reason why. No doubt about it, Debbie Harry exudes the same degree of lethal street corner sensuality that made Brigitte Bardot and Ronnie Spector legends at 21.
Baby, if you've got it, flaunt it. Debbie Harry's a Star, so she does it with style.
Bowie copped one look at her picture, an earful of her album, got on the blower from Berlin and promptly fixed her to support Iggy throughout the Americas. Phil Spector would gladly give his right nut to produce her next record. Maybe if he throws in his left, she'll wear them as earrings!
She's the proverbial All-American-Girl-Next-Door turned freak. Both her words and mine.
A provocative blonde fox who drives frantic young boys with rapidly failing eyesight to lock themselves in the bathroom for hours - and their equally distracted fathers to shave twice daily, wear loud clothes and act real weird. A rock 'n' roll ingenue, destined to become the locker-room pin-up of her generation.
She could make it on her looks alone, but the fact that Debbie Harry also has a great voice is definitely an added bonus.
I don't want to cover old territory, but I'd better just tell you that Debbie Harry is both singer and namesake with a New York band called Blondie.
Yeah! Sure you've heard of 'em before. Right. And the face does look real familiar, 'cause it was Debbie's stunning good-looks that prompted the tabloids to start running her pictures long before most people had actually seen her perform or heard her records.
No doubt about it. Some people do have the right face at the right place at the right time.
A certain look.
A charismatic appeal that is suddenly strewn across the pages of the glossies and just as quickly duplicated on the streets. Brigitte Bardot, Sandra Dee, Ronnie Spector, Twiggy, Marianne Faithful, Joni Mitchell, all possessed the right face in the crowd.
Add Debbie Harry's name to the list.
WITH A PREFERENCE for Early Tart couture, Debbie Harry's looks are almost brutally striking. The slight rough edge of her sullen features makes her far more alluring than the self-perpetrating homogenized lip-gloss-silicone-and-airbrush-spray-jobs afforded the sex-symbols of the Gatefold Generation.
Everybody has roots.
Debbie's are bleached and starting to grow out. She's also, sound-wise, a synthesis of just about every record that spilled out of a car radio in the mid-Sixties.
Out there in front of an audience - this evening, one that has come to pay homage to Iggy - she displays absolutely no inhibitions whatsoever.
Five foot something of nervous energy bouncing around in a black mini-dress, matching tights, dime-store shades and dinky ankle boots, performing cutsey little Shindig go-go steps and acting out each and every song with an arrogant flick of her hair, a pout and a contemptuous stare.
She seldom smiles. She may look frail but when she snarls "Rip Her To Shreds", she means business. Watch out for her nails!
With the Blondie band thrashing away like four non-swimmers thrown in at the deep-end, she sings "Goldfinger" as a finale and knocks the audience on its ass.
Backstage, the New York Palladium is the veritable pits.
It's an old neighbourhood Opera House that used to be called the Academy of Music and after a much-needed face lift, was re-named the Palladium. While they were at it, I wish they'd done something about the security guards and plumbing and in that order.
From the minute you get backstage (a story in itself) and flash you pass, you're immediately confronted with unnecessary hassles and obnoxious people doing everything but what they're employed to do.
Heavies stalk the corridors looking for blood to spill, shouting at the artists: "Get back in your dressing rooms where you belong!"
Not only is this not the summer of love, it ain't the winter either. Really, I'd feel much safer back on the street - and that's like a nightmare.
Even Glenn Coulson is getting stick from a security-badged psychopath who's not interested that he's doing press for the band, but wants to throw him out into the alley. Somehow we manage to locate Blondie's dressing room without loss of limb or too much abuse.
WE KNOCK. We enter. At first I thought it was the toilet. The room was evidently refurbished by the same firm that decorated Death Row, San Quentin.
Stone walls sweat more than the group, who are flopped around the room. The floor is flooded by an undetermined liquid, the radiator clanks incessantly and it's hell-below-zero outside the cracked window.
It may not be much, but it sure ain't home.
Debbie is knackered. She's only just staggered off stage and she's desperately trying to cool down and keep warm at the same time. I'm somewhat ozoned having just flown in from 70 degrees of L.A. sunshine, looking for the man with the soldering iron.
So should Debbie and I hug each other to keep warm? (Could I be struck-off the staff box for unethical practices?)
A bottle of Jack Daniel's is thrust into my right hand. It does the trick, but somehow it just ain't the same. See you in the parking lot later, Debbie?
After four years in obscurity and six months of eating regularly, Blondie aren't over-enamoured with being branded a Noo Yawk Punk Band. They are far more concerned that they might end up being tagged a Nostalgia Band. Now that worries 'em.
"Punk," insists guitarist Chris Stein as he sprawls next to Debbie on a couch, "is meaningless and anyone with any brains knows that it doesn't mean anything."
Agreed. But an awful lotta brainless schmucks buy an awful lotta records. However...
"Even if we did get stuck with that stoopid punk rock thing," he continues, "I know we can easily outgrow it. But if we're labelled a Nostalgia Band, it could turn a lot of people away."
"Some people," adds keyboard player James Destri, "might say that Blondie's music is a direct rip-off of the Sixties, but like most of the people in this band, I stopped listening to the radio in '68, maybe '69."
"That's when TV took over," Debbie Harry states rather flatly, as she struggles to pull a black leather jacket around her exposed shoulders and fight off the fatigue which weights heavily on her dropping eyelids.
Smile transistor sister, you're in the Sony Generation. Debbie Harry has casually put her delicate finger on Blondie's sub-cultural influences.
When prompted, the band make absolutely no secret of the fact that though musically they're radio-orientated, they're essentially a product of video-consciousness. This immediately explains their visual kineticism. (Their WHAT??? - Ed.)
We'll get to that a little later on.
It's no accident that Blondie sound like they've just spilled out of a car radio with the dial jammed on 1966. (Debbie doesn't say too much, but she thinks that's an appropriate analogue.)
"When I was younger, I used to listen to the car radio all the time. Truthfully, that was my only solace when I was still in High School. You see, I always liked to be alone and the only place for that was in a car with the radio on."
In many ways, it's this inbred solitary attitude - just the right side of aloofness - that gives the lady her enigmatic stance.
IT WAS PRIMARILY through the radio that Debbie Harry first really learned how to sing and then, through The Ronettes' Ronnie Spector, The Shangri-Las' Mary Weiss, The Shirelles' Shirley Alston and The Miracles' Smokey Robinson, she osmosed the time-honoured techniques of a lead singer. (The last person to have successfully perfected this delicate art to her advantage was Diana Ross - before she quit The Supremes to become a singing clothes-horse.)
As a society, America has never been as oldies-orientated as Europe. Collecting is an underground cult while oldies compilations are restricted to mail-order TV offers. New recordings of old songs often chart, but seldom do old records have a second lease of life.
Therefore, to a whole new generation the idea of bands playing songs in less that it takes to sprint a mile is quite novel and neat, eh!
And so songs come barrelling out of bands like Blondie, one every three minutes or so.
"I guess", says Debbie wistfully, "it's time for another Renaissance."
Chris Stein is the first in the room to agree, arguing that over the last ten years, America has become so technically obsessed that simplicity has all but been lost to what he terms "matchbook computerised competition".
Except for those sour-mash-swilling Southern boogie bands, rock has, to all intents and purposes become a spectator-sport to the average American.
"It's a pitcher's more than a batter's game," he continues. "We're not trying to get back to the roots of rock, just pick up where they left off."
"The pop spirit of the Sixties", quips bassist Gary Valentine - who has just wandered back into the dressing room complaining about the paranoia of the backstage security.
Debbie has regained part of her second-breath and continues this line of conversation with detached enthusiasm:
"We all remember when you'd switch on the radio and hear at least 20 great singles all in a row, but that's all finished. All the real cool disc jockeys in New York got kicked off the radio. There's no real selectivity any longer.
"On most rock stations, you only hear eight or maybe nine songs each hour....."
"Yeah, just like the other night," Stein interjects, "someone played the Stones 'Sympathy For The Devil' and followed it with some real dumb disco song. What's that all about?"
Debbie carries on, almost oblivious to Stein's interruption.
"This is a real good analogy to what we're trying to do. A lot of people who were really doing hot catchy songs in the Fifties and Sixties, are now busy writing and recording radio and TV jingles.
"So if you can really get it together in just three minutes that's a really good concentration. That's what pop records are all about."
CHRIS, DEBBIE and James all agree that American radio's last vintage year was '69. As to whether '77 will be a year to remember, they prefer to reserve judgement.
Time will tell, but punk is just the hard-end of bubble gum rock which, if it is to repeat the cycle, will (like its predecessors) quickly dissolve into psychedelia. Some people have already assumed Blondie to be both surreal and psychedelic. Could be!
But Blondie aren't at all concerned with all that kind of self-analysis.
Unlike so many Seventies band, who go to great pains to inform you that the answers to everything from the mysteries of the universe right on through to regular bowel movements are to be found within the covers of their new triple album, Blondie can only offer a good time (which is a good deal more than most band can guarantee).
With so many of the possibilities of rock having either been short-circuited or exhausted, it's becoming increasingly difficult to find a new angle. It's not always necessary to go where no bozo has ever trod before. Chris Stein explains Blondie's brief.
"We are primarily attempting to synthesize everything around us into one style. Dylan did it with blues, folk, rock and country music and, similarly, The Rolling Stones sounded like everything worthwhile that had gone before."
A synthesis as opposed to a pastime, which Debbie insists goes far beyond the actual confines of the music they perform, but has a great deal to do with
video-consciousness in the Seventies.
"If they just want to get into the band because of the way we look, the way we dress and the way we act cool, well that's fine.
"We all agree," continues the Thrift-shop Mannequin, "that the greatest rock 'n' roll bands have always been a combination of good looks, good music and a good stage show - but not necessarily the best of either. Just a right balance of the chemistry."
Stein adds his opinions. "The basic shortcomings of bands like The Eagles is that they just sorta stand around, sorta play their instruments competently and then expect people to worship their music. But The Eagles as performers - it's not there, it just doesn't exist."
Know whatcha mean, Squire.
Stein then insists that The Eagles (but more so Peter Frampton) represent the end of the second rock generation and that bands like Blondie form the vanguard of the third.
I disagree. If you subscribe to the proven seven-year cyclic change, then Frampton constitutes the finale of the third and the Nouvelle Vague the birth-pangs of the fourth rock generation. When evaluating her position, Debbie tends to agree with my calculations. (What does it matter - we're all going to die. - Oswald Spengler.)
LIKE THEIR contemporaries, Blondie are products of the instant pulp society.
Inheritors of the mixed-media generation, Debbie feels that image-wise she's just skipped out of the pages of an animated comic book and that, as far as she is concerned, she could be caricatured as easily as Joey Ramone, Patti Smith and Richard Hell.
The Archie, Betty, Jughead 3rd Veronica of the Blank Generation!
Today, comic books are about the most immediate and widely-read form of communicative literature amongst youngsters. They are drawn fast, hit the stands within days and vanish almost as quickly. Like comic books, only the best rock bands stay in circulation.
"There's no doubt about it," coos Debbie, Blondie reflects the video-conscious society because we're so attuned to it - so we're a product of instant media.
"We can relate to its images and reflect them so much better than anything else you can think of."
As their records reveal, everything from Bond to Bondage, Goldfinger to Godzilla, Kung Fu to Surf's Up.
Debbie turns to listen to Chris Stein add his thoughts.
"Communications and the way the media is manipulated has become so speeded up that if we're successful we just might sells as many records and make as much money in five years as the Stones did in ten and Elvis did in twenty."
Or Boston did in two months!
It's not beyond comprehension. However, competition is stiffer now than it has ever been. As always, it's the survival of the fittest.
Apart from Johnny Ramone's recent brush with Malcolm McLaren, it never gets beyond bands not speaking to one another.
"If kids in New York were as poor as I'm led to believe they are in London," muses Debbie, "then I guess blood would be spilt.
"Survival... survival", she sighs.
"Do you think we'll go over well in London?" she asks with a glimmer of interest "cause some people have said we wouldn't because we're not that tough or that mean."
No problems, darlin'.
She smiles sweetly, makes her excuses and leaves.
See you in the parking lot.