Pop Rock Special - Summer 1980
Blondie: Their Time Has Come!
By Randolph Jay
... Blondie always gives a great show, thanks mainly to Debbie.
Blondie and Debbie Harry were part of the New York underground rock scene for several years. But now their music has been accepted by the whole world, making them international superstars! Blondie's time is now!
Blondie. All you have to do is say the name and shivers of excitement run down your spine! Yes, Blondie has finally made it in the larger-than-life world of rock and roll. Naturally, most of the thanks for this achievement goes to Deborah Harry, the blonde-haired lass who fronts Blondie. Success was a long time coming, but Blondie and Debbie have now made it. Things seemed bleak for a while, but a little luck and a lot of perseverance paid off big.
Blondie was one of several New York groups struggling to make it big in the mid-'70s. Other bands which fell into this New York category included the Dolls, the Patti Smith Group, the Ramones and the Talking Heads. These groups wallowed in obscurity, waiting for musical tastes to change.
Debbie Harry recalls those days saying, "I think it started in about '73. It wasn't given any kind of credibility until about '74, '75. So there was time before, and I think the Ramones were the first ones to be signed and they were signed in what, '75, '76. I think there was a pretty long time for everybody to get a nice development, and everybody to have an independent style. And feed off each other, which was really intimate and nice. The press wasn't there interpreting everything, and making everybody a little bit selfconscious which is unfortunately what happens, I think that it was just like an event that happened in New York at that particular time. It's still happening now, but now everybody is observing it. Then it was truly like an underground thing. There were a few clubs where you could play original music and that was it."
When the "new wave" came of age, so did Blondie, although they're really not "new wave" artists. Pop/rock would be more like it. Even though they didn't really break big in the U.S. in the mid '70s, the group slowly picked up momentum. Debbie recalls, "We formed Blondie somewhere
between '74 and '75. With different members. Then we got Clem Burke in the spring of '75. We performed our first really recognizable gig as Blondie on Valentine's Day of 1976 at CBGB's, where else?
"We basically did the stuff that was on the first album. We had worked really, really hard from like the beginning of December all the way through Valentine's Day. Like we closeted, went underground from that time until our gig. We had organized ourselves. We had also taken a turn, I think we were probably more punk before we got the keyboards, meaning Jimmy, and then we decided that we'd be straight pop."
As fate would have it, it took a European tour to establish the group as sellable and listenable to. Blondie really went over big with European fans. Their first big hit was Denis, which became a top single in England. Was Debbie surprised at the group's popularity? Not really, even though her feelings of imminent success were not due to conventional means. Debbie explains, "Chris (Stein) and I had gone to a spiritualist and she had predicted it, that we would have a huge success in February. We just said, 'Oh yeah, oh great,' you know. But then when it really happened we just went 'wait!' It was really good. I think we went back to her once and she also predicted the Heart of Glass business. It's like the kind of thing where I don't really want to get too crazy in believing everything because like it's so... like a guess. I don't feature myself sitting in front of a crystal ball with a candle."
After Denis, Blondie gained in both stature and confidence. They became really big stars in Europe. And although Denis wasn't really what you'd call a hit in the U.S., it did get enough airplay to make the group's name become known in this country. American rock fans were slowly becoming cognizant of Debbie Harry's soft, sexy voice.
But Blondie's really big breakthrough came when they recorded Parallel Lines. The album shot out of sight in popularity. Blondie had finally made it in America, rock's final and almost important frontier! The single off the album, Heart Of Glass, became one of the most talked about songs of the year. Blondie and Deborah Harry were soon names on the lips of all rock fans. Heart Of Glass proved so popular that it even became a big disco hit.
In addition to Blondie's recording achievements, their live show draws many fans. Debbie Harry is a frenetic performer in action. She moves around the stage in a whirl. You never know what she's liable to do next. In fact, Debbie isn't always aware of what she's going to do next.
On her stage derring-do Debbie explains, "Mostly my stage moves are whatever feels comfortable to me. I'm always changing what I do. Sometimes I'll find something like the X thing in X Offender (where Debbie creates the X's with her arms) like that's really there. I'll leave that there because it's definitely hooked to that song. But other stuff I'll definitely fool around with. I like to stay loose about it because I feel that if it's totally choreographed and thoughtless then it's going to look that way. It's going to look like I'm not really into it, but I'm just like miming to myself. I don't want to get into that."
Perhaps one of the main reasons for Blondie's success as a group is Debbie's sex appeal. She is a real knockout, music-wise and appearance-wise. Does Debbie consider herself a sex symbol. She states, "Yeah, it's kind of strange. I did a radio show the other day and they asked me that question. They said what is it that most annoys you about being a sex symbol? I said, 'well, the most annoying thing about it is interviewers asking me that question.' I think it is like very important. I've always thought about that. I've always thought the main ingredients in rock are sex, really good stage show, really sassy music. Sex and sass, I really think that's where it's at."
Now that Blondie and Debbie Harry are a famous rock group they have no problems, right? Wrong! Many people still think that Blondie is Debbie Harry. They forget that there are five very talented male musicians who back Debbie up. What does Debbie have to say about the group's identification problem? She points out, "We've been through it for so long now that we're pretty well identified. In the beginning, a couple of years ago, we really had the problem where nobody paid any attention to the guys. But now they're really on their own, and they really have their own identity. They all get fan mail, like everybody's got their own little thing, so it's working out. But it did take a while. It would have been easier if we just had a group name that wasn't visually associated."
Yes, Blondie has made it. Now Debbie and the guys can rest comfortably, knowing their time is now. Their beginnings may have been humble, but their present is indeed lavish. From out of the underground they came, Blondie is their name and fame is now their game!