Record Mirror - February 4th 1978
Pages 3, 4, 6, 12, 31
THE BLONDIE gig at Dingwalls t'other night was almost incomplete... Everyone who is usually there
to be seen was there - except for man about town Bob Geldof.
I was quite worried about him, but the Boomtown Rats kept their honour by sending along Pete Bricquette and Johnny Fingers. Other regulars in attendance included Lemmy, Wayne County (who has confessed he just wants to be an ordinary housewife, though I've never met one that looks like him), a Jam, a few of Generation X, the singer from the Only Ones in his ratty fur coat, Johnny Thunders, a well-oiled Frankie Miller, Phil Lynott, Palmolive of the Slits and others too numerous to mention. In fact, I'd be surprised if anyone actually PAID to get in. Why didn't they just make it a party? By the way, Blondie sounded dreadful.
So affable was the atmosphere, however, that the majority of the non-punters missed a most extraordinary series of events on stage, many having retired to the bar with bleeding ears.
At the end of the encore Blondie bassist Gary Valentine stepped backwards and accidentally kicked over the hi-hat. So far, so good. But suddenly guitarist Chris Stein threw a lunging punch at the unfortunate drummer, Clement Burke, missing spectacularly and knocking most of the drum kit over.
Regaining his balance, Stein, by then wearing a furious expression, kicked the drums again before exiting stage left in pursuit of Burke, who by this time had fled to the dressing room. As the rest of the band rushed off to restrain him, young blonde Deborah Harry looked - how can I put this, darlings? - shocked. So hot-headed these Americans, aren't they?
NEWSDESK...NEWSDESK...News Editor...Jim Evans
BLONDIE FIX BRITISH GIGS
BLONDIE COMPLETE with new guitarist Frank Infante, have confirmed dates for their upcoming UK tour which opens in late February after they've completed a short European tour.
Dates: Blackburn St George's Hall February 23, Sheffield University 24, Glasgow Strathclyde University 25, Lancaster University 27, Birmingham Barbarellas 28, Dunstable California Ballroom March 2, Salford University 3, London Roundhouse 5, Canterbury Kent University 6.
The band played a surprise gig at London's Dingwalls last week. For review see page 30.
I'm just wildabout Harry
TIM LOTT meets the blonde bombshell, DEBBIE HARRY
"THIS BLONDE has come to give you a ton" wrote Ronnie Toast and I don't know who the hell he is either on the backside of the first Blondie album.
But a ton of what? Doggy's dos? Ersatz product created for the sake of a two-tone glamour girl? New York pose with garish sixties pretensions?
Question mark, question mark, question mark and question mark. Respectively.
I guessed there was a hundredweight or so of arrogance when Debbie, cheekbones aloft, breezed into the RECORD MIRROR office one day not so long ago and got... sweetly obstreperous. She had a little girl tantrum. We didn't like her.
I say, we. I wasn't there, so I don't know about her, but even on a tranny radio, especially on a tranny radio, she makes some kind of fabulous noise. Not a beautiful sound, but smacking of a kind of kitsch teen brittleness, that while peculiarly American, is perfect in the UK right now as the cabbages in our ears go green again, re-energised by Mr Kleen and his cast of hundreds.
In other words I like Blondie's records. I like the way they look. I think they're appalling onstage. I want to find out more.
Debbie Harry is sitting very close to her boyfriend, guitarist Chris Stein. Stein has the demeanour of a barbiturate mole, all half-close eyes, peeking through too - large - to - look - sensible spectacles. Every now and then he pants slightly and looks around distractedly as if interminably bored by breathing.
Debbie on his right has contrastingly large, inviting and surprisingly non-blank eyes, set in a face straight out of... straight out of... Mayfair meets
Shirley Temple Comics - a sort of very dirty gamin.
I'm not Marje Proops, thank god, but they seem fairly well matched - both quiet, both with an aura of calm that makes you think they must have some obscure but impeccably effective religion hidden inside their shells.
Stein - he will be referred to as "Chris" later in the interview by which point he'd amended his surliness to sociability - and Debbie are worried by all this sex symbol stuff that gets chucked at the dark-rooted one. They feel it can get in the way of being taken seriously.
"It's not just Debbie, it's very rare for any female artist to get away with being accepted as just that (ie an artist and no more). But it's just a matter of time," says Chris, peering through his all encompassing lens.
Debbie, though one would hardly believe it any more than one would believe it in Miss World, is something of a feminist.
"Women have minds and should be able to use them - they should have their roles redefined in society.
"To be a sex symbol is not enough. It's cliched. It's nothing. It's destroyed a lot of people's life in the past, men as well as women.
"But it doesn't bother me. I have a happy, private life, I manage to express myself as a person and an artist."
"And," punctuates Stein, "she's not sexually repressed. It only really damages you if you have a lot of sexual hang-ups..."
Cough, cough, excuse me while I straighten my tie, what time is it, good heavens, next question, are people particularly bitchy about your looks, your success?
Debbie: "Well, there's lots of terrible bitchiness and gossiping in New York, but then the men are worse than the women. It's not particularly directed against me though.
"Most people are polite - it depends how you handle the situation. Some girls act afraid of me.
"A lot of people say 'aren't you uptight about all the bullshit' - but it's just a trick of the trade. I think if you can use everything you've got then you should do it."
Patti Smith manages without all that...
"She would if she could," claws Debbie.
No, to be fair, Debbie doesn't claw at her at all. She impresses me as completely unbitchy, really very nice, none of this 'Rip Her To Shreds' nonsense. Incidentally, was that song about anyone in particular?
"Everyone in New York thinks it's about them. It is about a particular person..." and they even tell me who it is, but I can't tell you because you wouldn't have heard of her anyway.
However, as for Patti Smith: "She's very sexually attractive anyway," says Chris "I think you're going to see a new accent on sales pitch with her new album anyhow. She'll be wearing more make up."
Debbie used to be an "unsuccessful model" before she joined Blondie, a notoriously vain profession. Now she's one of the music industry's most photographed women. Hasn't it made her at all insufferable?
Chris isn't even slightly indignant.
"I don't think she even notices. I think it goes right over her head. It quite annoys me, in fact, how unaware of it she is."
But these protestations of humility look a trifle thin balanced against Debbie's subsequently innocent but revealing comment that she would like "complete aesthetic control" of all photographs that are put in circulation of her. But for vanity, would she care?
"Well... I just want stuff to appear that is tasteful and satisfying."
So why not stop arranging such a vast number of photo sessions, why not stop Chris taking endless snaps (Stein is a photographer) and marketing them?
"I am in a position right now where I have complications, commitments. I am not in a position where I can dictate it. But time will tell.
"Besides, there is the commercial aspect - I like the idea of a cheap trick. It's like playing at chess, manipulation."
Enough of this ragbag of sexual intrigue... well maybe not quite enough...
Chris - "Debbie reminds me very much of Bowie, both visually and in terms of her role onstage."
"A lot of my songs are written from a male point of view, not just a wounded little girl thing. We get dykes at our concerts, teeny girls, all sorts."
From sexual role to social conscience... Chris, at least, purports to have a highly active item of the latter.
"I'm interested in more than being just a pop musician. A lot of people in the world are in a mess, in dreadful conditions. This is very sad. Everywhere there are people subjugated and stomped into the ground.
"But I can't do anything with a song..."
Someone who should know said later that Chris is a hippie with short hair. He is also into ethnic minorities, from a musical angle.
"I'd like to record kinds of ethnic music. Aboriginal music, we heard some when we were in Australia. It's percussive music, Polynesian rhythms. Very haunting."
"Like an electric wind," ventures Debbie, quite poetically really.
Some would say that Debbie's voice sounds more like an electric fart, and onstage it does, but that's the rap for the soundcrew. On record, where you can actually hear her - limited - voice, is squeaky but it doesn't matter any more than Joplin's voice being croaky or Armatrading's voice being warbly.
She conveys something, a sound, an era, an atmosphere, crafts the sixties - seventies - eighties synthesis with perfect grace.
I feel there should be a question about the new album for those who are interested in such things, so here it is.
"What about the new album?"
Chris: "It's a radical departure. It's freakier, more musical."
I've heard it, and feel justified in saying this blonde is going to give you a ton... of... question mark, question mark, question mark, question mark.
Something good, anyhow, pin it down yourself, I only work here.
Blondes ARE more fun
BLONDIE: 'Plastic Letters' (Chrysalis Chr 1166)
FOR THE first time I can take Blondie seriously (but with a hidden smile).
That debut album had spirit, and sass, and a nice picture on the front. But the music was scraps, bits of this era, bits of that.
'Plastic Letters' is plastic music, shiny and Dayglo, no ugly fault lines. No more Debbie
Harry's voice squeaking apologetically, now the vocal is actually sensuous, beefed up and filed down to needle point, jab jab, hurts good.
'Plastic Letters' is more musical, more freaky. It's what ever second album must have, every groove has to announce progression.
Blondie are still a pop band, but a very unusual one, plastic out of no mould. Blondie's songs aren't hummable, just commercial, and instant.
Debbie Harry is neither of the things her accusers suggest ie a glamour girl who eclipses Blondie as a band or a talentless visual gimmick sold like cornflakes. The band on this album are vital fun, no musical mekanoids, smart as suits and with a direction they never suggested on the first album.
And Debbie has other talents outside big eyes and angel's cheekbones. Her voice, though never classically brilliant, now finds corners it never found before, coils round the sound wall like a real pop queen, no false idol.
The first album claimed it, 'Plastic Letters' proves it. Blondes really are more fun.
STOOD UP on a rickety chair for one night stand of one woman show. The lonely, only way to get an occasional glimpse of Blondie at Dingwalls last Tuesday night.
Blondie, alias Deborah Harry, her of the two tone (peroxide / mouse) locks looked good. Sounded dreadful. No, rephrase that. Sounded awful, abysmal, terrible (insert your
favourite derogatory term here). Why so bad? Well the sound system is currently helping police with inquiries. But it wasn't just that.
The lovely D is excused. Did her best. Nuclear blonde bombshell shocking all masculine libidos. Radiating erotic energy. Looks can kill.
Fingers pointed at the band. The auditory effect of Blondie brand jukebox pop is (on vinyl anyway) wurlitzer, sanitised rock'n'roll fun. Live it was fuggy, muddy fourth rate punk noise - only an amateurish, lumbering bass line loudly evident.
'Little Girl Lies', 'X Offender' and 'Rip Her To Shreds' the only three numeros recognisable. The rest of the set was throwaway aural confusion.
Musically, on this showing, Blondie the band are forgettable parasites living off their symbol, ie: their focal vocal point Ms Deborah Harry aka Blondie. Don't let nobody convince you otherwise.
MARY ANN ELLIS