Record Mirror - September 9th 1978
Pages 2, 6, 12, 40
From Cover Photo - ALLAN BALLARD
Clement Burke of Blondie
(although the pic is
of Nigel Harrison)
1 WOTCHA GONNA DO ABOUT IT - Small Faces
2 WHAT'S GOING ON - Marvin Gaye
3 TIME IS ON MY SIDE - Rolling Stones
4 RIDE A WHITE SWAN - T Rex
5 BE MY BABY - Ronettes
6 SHAKE - Otis Redding
7 5 4 3 2 1 - Manfred Mann
8 SEE EMILY PLAY - Pink Floyd
9 I WANT YOU - Bob Dylan
10 COPACABANA - Barry Manilow
VENUS IN BLUE JEANS
That's Debbie Harry. She knows it, but she also knows it's helped to sell the band Blondie.
Interview by BARRY CAIN
PICTURE THIS: Debbie Harry in black in transit incognito in shades in London.
Incandescent coffee cup laughter in the hotel garden. Cheesecake smile, creamy frown, peachy patter. The fifties starlet without a Tab Hunter shoulder to cry on. Forget the odd bark line of maturity, it's just another dream gone wrong.
She's younger looking than I expected. The Bitch Brothers had instilled in my innocent mind visions of a hoary, gum slithering club hostess with honeycomb features and a granite constitution.
Instead I encountered a face of eyes. Huge Chinese take away eyes that overshadow those other facial characteristics like a nose and mouth. Two Roaring Twenties crystal balls reflecting the miasma below.
Yes. Below. For Debbie more than any other female singer of the seventies has been elevated to those untouchable heights reserved for movie stars. Y'know, every guy's gossamer sexual fantasy - blissfully unattainable, a kind of masturbatory elegance. Visions of her swathed in and out of focus wonderland on 'Top Of The Pops' wearing silk shorts and looking for all the world like a blonde Ava Gardner pickled for 30 years to preserve that pristine promiscuity look, only serve to perpetuate the myth.
If ever there was a Venus in blue jeans it's Debbie Harry.
But a moment before she wore schoolgirl regalia for a national newspaper. All black stockings and suspenders peeping out from beneath a short pleated skirt like war wounds.
"I don't mind posing for photographs. It's part of my art form." A disposable voice. It's there, you listen, it disappears, you forget. "Being a photograph, being an actress, being a sculptor. It's all creating image simultaneously.
"Okay, so maybe that whole image thing can backfire. Now people review Blondie less in terms of music and more in terms of how I look. All I know is I've always tried to stimulate interest in this group through whatever channels possible. Sure I have some regrets about that, but I've learned to accept them. I used whatever advantages I might have to sell records."
Hence the wet lipped Marilyn Monroe big sell. "I used that kinda image a lot in the early days because it was, like, convenient and made for easy reference. But I'm not at all like Monroe. She got sort of lost inside, I have more creative outlets. She never really read anything.
"She was a legend, but not in a Da Vinci way. All she really did was turn people on and that's not what I want. Anyway, I don't cultivate that image anymore. I'm more sure of myself now... and the music.
"I don't ever want to end up a legend."
But she's already half way there with a history as any good quality 'B' movie. Left her comfortable home, her mother ran a candy store, for the bright lights of New York.
The bulbs went out leaving a twilight zone of Times Square druggos and groupies. Debbie became an addict and predictably got a pillowcase view of the rock world.
"Then I decided it was about time women took the initiative in rock and roll, so I formed a band - The Stilletoes - with Chris Stein and kicked my habit. I have no regrets about those days. I had to get away from home. I had to experience life to the full. I had to.
"I suppose I was lucky to come through unscathed but I've been left with an inner feeling of contentment. I made up my mind to do those things and it's all turned out worthwhile.
"Surely that's better than sitting in front of the TV all your life wishing you had done the things you're watching other people doing."
That indeed may be so - but the corpulent bozos amongst us would rather watch in their claustrophobic cells of splendid voyeurism than venture one step beyond.
Anyway, all that may have left Debbie feeling content but it's also landed her with one hell of an age hangup. When asked that delicate question she pauses, lowers her shades and replies "My published age is 32.
"I think most people lie about their age when they pass 25. And being in this business only makes things worse because the accent is on youth, so I guess it's crucial that I should be marketed in the right way.
"What these marketing men tend to forget is that rock'n'roll is a part of everyone's life now, no matter how you react to it and what your age might be."
She is wary, forever on guard against giving any kind of reply which could be misinterpreted thanks to previous interviewers, she says, who managed to carve her up nicely. Sometimes she looks older than those 30 odd years, sometimes younger, it depends where the sun happens to be in the sky...
So, what of persistent marriage rumours with guitarist Chris Stein? "Totally unfounded. Sure, Chris has proposed, but I'm just nowhere near ready.
"I have a great relationship with him now and I'm sure marriage would ruin all that, leaving at least one of us unhappy. I sort of feel sorry for the man in a married situation. For a woman it's a business proposition and since I already have a career I don't need it.
"A wife has to help her husband's career which limits both her and his chances of doing something stimulating with their lives. If I had a kid I'd like to make it legal to give the child some kind of identity. But I think Chris would rather I gave birth to a guitar anyway."
She says it's only the "true love" she's found with him that has caused her fears of rock's regular disease - sexual come on's. "I don't worry about them anymore thanks to Chris. Now I can even let girls approach me after a show and I just think it's flattering.
"It's just the drunks in bars who spit in your face while they try to chat you up that I can't stand."
And it ain't only the drunks... The era of the Blondie slag off is upon us. It was only a matter of time. You're heralded as the next big thing and before you know it you're given away free in a packet of cornflakes. Blondie's music - a delectable mixture of mereticious American junk culture and adolescent adversities - has, according to some sources, lost its initial Alka Seltzer.
"On the new album 'Parallel Lines' we've tried to make as many 'singles' as possible. The songs are better than ever simply because we're now a fully fledged band. The image and the music are working together for the first time.
"We're touring again in the States which is a great challenge and which gives our music a bigger bite. And the lyrics, which were always third person transexual anyway, are improving all the time. I was always a Walter Mitty character and that whole romantic detachment is beginning to show in the songs."
Waler Mitty huh. There ain't a lot left she can imagine.
So that's it. A quick chat with a production line dream. Oh, and there was something she asked me as I motioned to leave. "Listen, er, do you think you could mention the rest of the band. See, er everyone seems to just talk about me and it makes me feel kinda guilty, y'know."
Blondie are Chris Stein guitar, Clement Burke drums, James Destri keyboards. And Debbie Harry vocals. Ooops...
BLONDIE: 'Parallel Lines' (Chrysalis CDL 1192)
IN THE beginning, Blondie were a New York pop group with a fabulous, sexy sixties sound, a girl with potential - amongst her other attributes - and an album full of cute 'n' catchy songs with a sting in their tail.
Today, Blondie are a fully qualified rock group, with all that that entails - onstage ego problems, guitar solos and heavier production jobs. Debbie Harry, as anyone who follows Mailman will know, is an Official Sex Symbol. But Blondie's songs still have the same superstick formula - maybe not quite as instant as before, but give them three or four listens and I guarantee they'll be glued to your brain.
This combination of bubblegum songs chewing their way across a heavy backing sound gives the band room to create new depths: textures of sound which are a far cry from the one-dimensional mood of their first album. Listen for example, to the breathless 'Pretty Baby' "petite ingenue, teenage starlet. I fell in love with you" or the elusive, distant charms of 'Fade Away And Radiate'.
They cans still churn out the more obvious tunes though... as shown by their version of 'I'm Gonna Love You Too' (first recorded by Buddy Holly) or 'Just Go Away' a solo Harry composition which might not be the strongest number musically, but lyrically is easily the sharpest. 'Ya got a big mouth and I'm happy to see/Your foot is firmly entrenched where a molar should be/If you talk much louder you could get an award/From the federal communications board.'
The tracks aren't all as good as those - 'Heart Of Glass' for example is just too winsome, and guitarist Frank Infante's contribution, 'I Know But I Don't Know' is fairly nondescript. But on balance, the goodies easily outweigh the duffers.
So there you have it... the third third album of the new wave - only the Ramones and the Stranglers got there first - and it's another success story. For Blondie, it's the inevitable progression, a further move away from their tack 'n' trash beginnings towards the world of showbiz and professionalism. And if, in the process, their innocence has been lost, well, maybe that's a small price to pay.