Record Mirror - August 16th 1980
BLONDIE will head for the hills if there's a nuclear attack. ROSALIND RUSSELL will whitewash the windows and wrap her head in a towel. What will you do?
IF THERE'S anything that gets right up my nose, it's somebody telling me that the music papers are just an extention of record companies' publicity machine. When they compound the insult by going on about how much they like your paper because it's a "good comic", I feel like spitting in their eye. Patronising compliments I can live without.
So why didn't I display my usual Celtic charm and get stuck into a good row? I was an uninvited guest at a dinner party thrown for Debbie Harry and Chris Stein, that's why. We might be a bunch of hooligans round here, but I was taught good table manners.
Debbie and Chris were here to record a spot for the Muppet Show, and that's about all you'll see of them this year - unless you go to the 'Union City' film when it's released. The 'Roadie' film may not come out in the UK. They've decided against another epic tour, like the one they did at the end of last year.
They may come over to appear at a party for the fan club - Chris would like to get together with the fans and show video films - but it
doesn't look as if there will be any gigs.
"We won't do any unless all of a sudden we only sell five albums," said Chris. "We've turned down a lot of money to do gigs - including some festivals in Canada."
Apart from a fairly reasonable desire not to live out of a suitcase again for a while, Chris (in common with many Americans) feels uneasy about being within a stone's throw of the USSR. To us, a near neighbour to all the action in Europe, Russia and the Middle East, this seems like paranoia. But when you think of all those scare tactics used in the States, through the film industry (did you see 'The FBI Story' on TV?) it's not surprising that Americans should dive for cover at the mention of Communism.
"When we came over last year, we arrived on December 23rd, and the Russians moved into Afghanistan two days later. I felt vulnerable. At least when you're in America you can go and hide in the hills. There are survivalist groups there already, all stocked up with heavy machine guns."
New York has its fallout shelters - the signs on the walls were one of the first things I noticed about the city. At the time I thought they were alarmist, another manifestation of the America paranoia... now I'm not so sure.
"The Government stocked these shelters with food and medical supplies back in the sixties," said Chris, "and of course all of them have since been robbed. The food rotted or was pilfered, the rats got at it, and the junkies got at the medical supplies. I used to play in them when I was a kid in Brooklyn."
Now the Americans have built their nuclear missiles underground, and mounted them on rails, so that they can be moved along tunnels and popped up through various hatches. This way (they hope) the Russians will never know exactly where the missiles are. The age of the cowboys and Indians is not dead. Now while Ronald Reagan is still riding into his sunset.
"They haven't run any of his films on TV since he started running for nomination," said Chris. "He owns the rights to all of them, so we haven't had the chance to see him in 'Bedtime For Bonzo', or any other 'Bonzo' films."
Bonzo? God help us. But the old duffer is trying hard for the youth vote. There's a rumour going round that Reagan's aides approached Miles Copeland, who manages the Police and Squeeze, and asked him what the new wave was. Maybe they thought they could walk on the water.
We've only seen selected highlights of the Republican convention, but in the US, it's become a soap opera - on TV every day.
Debbie and Chris are behind the Democrats, rooting for Kennedy. They did a fund-raising event for him, and Debbie has done radio spots, urging people to use their votes.
"Reagan and Carter say what people want them to say. We feel that Kennedy has been the victim of character assassination. The whole thing is a farce."
The whole idea of bands backing political parties seems a bit odd in this country, where most of the bands seem to be apolitical. Well, I know Lulu does Tory party bunfights, but she's hardly got the same clout.
While Debbie's voice is being used to get people to vote, her name is being used to sell jeans. In fact, she was wearing a pair of the Gloria Vanderbilt jeans at the dinner party, but as she was sitting down, I can't give you a fashion feature on the cut.
"They sent me some jeans too," said Chris, "But they didn't fit. Debbie did two commercials. One was a non-commercial commercial, 28 seconds long, using jazz music. The company weren't too thrilled about that one. The other shows her walking by a poster of herself and walking into the Mud club. Debbie refused to stick her ass in the camera. We definitely didn't do what they wanted us to do.
"Debbie has often been offered her own line of jeans, but that would have involved a lot of hassle. And Vanderbilt gave us a lot of money. With that, we hope to open a 24 track studio, and hopefully have our own label, to come out through Chrysalis. That way we could work with younger bands. Also, we hope to buy a bigger house. We're still in our tiny apartment and we can hardly move for equipment. All our closets are bursting."
Debbie was offered a commercial here - for cream cakes. As she didn't fancy having to eat a pile of cakes until they got the final take, she turned it down. The calories wouldn't have been too welcome either. You don't get ad companies offering ads to fat people, do you?
Whatever you think about Blondie/Debbie doing ads, the money they got from it may help new talent. But with record sales slumping on both sides of the Atlantic - or so the record companies claim - do they think the talent is available?
"Oh yes, it's there, but the inspiration is buried. The kids are not being innovative. The record companies have accepted new wave and are now trying to turn out more Elvis Costellos and girls that look like Debbie. The REALLY new groups are not doing well. Everybody says the Plasmatics are going to be big but... I think now that I can look at an album cover and tell what the music's going to be like."
Chris agreed that, although there are original bands around, they can't get signed because record companies won't take a chance. Once they find something that sells, everything else has to fit into that mould. So in fact, the companies have brought a lot of the disaster (if it is that) on themselves.
"I'm looking more towards black music now, not disco, a more hard edged sound."
Blondie are currently working on their own new album. It should be ready for release around October.
"The material on this album is more substantial, a lot more solid. All my songs have the 4/4 beat, dance music. I hesitate to say disco, that's now a meaningless term.
What started out as a black phenomenon has now been watered down.
"We've decided not to go for the live band sound and instead to use horns and strings, not in a horrible way, and perhaps steel drums."
The album's being produced with Mike Chapman, Giorgio Moroder having been taken off the case.
"We admired Giorgio, though we don't agree with his musical sense. But we didn't use him, partially because of schedules. And he is used to working faster than us. I like Mike, he's a little more cooled out now than he used to be. We'll be going to LA, where he lives, to do the recording."
Apart from the new album it's a possibility that an album of live material from the last UK tour might be released too. If you need a Blondie fix sooner than that, tune in to the Muppet Show. Debbie has done a spot with Kermit's nephew Robin, and has become the pin-up of the Frog Scouts from the Pond 4 troop. Ms Piggy's snout must have been well out of joint.
But then, she hasn't got a lot to laugh about either. Not since Life magazine printed a picture of her head (minus the rest of her body) lying on the table. That's one thing they won't be able to do to the world's other famous blonde.