SCREEN SCENE MAGAZINE - NO. 12 - 1979
THE INSIDE STORY
Cover Photo & Poster: Sheila Rock
Comments: Foldout poster magazine with info on Blondie/Debbie Harry written around the time Eat To The Beat was being recorded. Printed in the UK
ON PARALLEL LINES
THE MUSIC OF BLONDIE
Although Blondie the band started working together back in 1974, it wasn't until '76 that a recording contract was secured, and their first single "X Offender" released on the Private Stock label. An album, "Blondie" followed. The records were produced by sixties hitmaker Richard Gottehrer, who helped to form their distinctive sixties sound which has led to comparisons with Phil Spector. (Gottehrer wrote such classics as "Sorrow" and "My Boyfriend's Back"). The records attracted good reviews, but little public interest. But by the time their second album "Plastic Letters" was released on Chrysalis, Blondie had established a large UK following, and had performed a tour of Britain supporting the band Television to highly enthusiastic crowds.
"Plastic Letters" was released in February '78, and stayed in the charts for most of the summer, eventually going gold. Two singles from the album "Denis" and "I'm Always Touched By Your Presence Dear" were both top ten hits, "Denis" being one of the most played songs of '78.
The Autumn '78 British tour was a smash sell-out, and the rave reviews began. Back in New York they completed their third album, "Parallel Lines", produced by Mike Chapman of Chinn/Chapman fame. Four more top ten singles followed - "Picture This", "Hanging On The Telephone", "Heart Of Glass" and "Sunday Girl". "Heart Of Glass" went platinum in Britain, and provided the breakthrough to the number one spot in America. It's taken Blondie all this time to get some appreciation from their mother country, because, as Chris Stein reckons, America is too conservative for their kind of music.
"There was initially a lot of reluctance to play our records on the radio," he explains, "because we were considered 'new wave'. In England we're considered just straight pop, but over there they think we're crazy and far out."
The band have been recently holed up in the studio making their fourth album, which they describe as being a mixture of disco and rock, and is once more being produced by Mike Chapman.
One of the tracks is to be called "Eat The Beat", and this may also be the album title. Release date should be September, and there will be a new single to follow up "Sunday Girl".
A British tour is currently being set-up for the autumn to co-incide with the release of the album, and the band can't wait to get back to Britain again.
"The more we come to Britain, the more we enjoy it", says Chris, "everybody in the band loves England. But touring quickly becomes monotonous, and the more successful our records are, the less we have to tour, so we can spend more time on creative projects".
Rumours about the band splitting up and Debbie launching off on a solo career are completely groundless. Blondie are in for a long innings, and are walking away with all the top places in the popularity polls. Blondie embodies the sound and the image of the seventies, and have to be the most exciting new band to emerge from the 'new wave' movement.
BLONDES HAVE MORE FUN
THE EXTRAORDINARY STORY OF A NICE YOUNG GIRL FROM NEW JERSEY
Out of the rush of new bands to emerge in the 'new wave' seventies, none have come close to the universal appeal of BLONDIE. The sound is a mixture of sixties rock and seventies disco, and the band have no pretentions to be other than a first-rate group providing first rate pop. Not for them the intellectual posturings and anti-establishment stances of other bands in the genre. Along with the fun, Blondie are also streets ahead in the glamour stakes, with their devastating front lady, the "Marilyn Monroe of Pop", Debbie Harry. More than any other female star on the music scene today, Debbie has influenced the looks and attitudes of girls the world over, while the boys are content to just drool over her pin-ups. A new Blondie single is a major event on the musical calender, and Debbie's new outfits a major event in the world of fashion. So here we present something for everyone - Debbie the Sex Symbol, Blondie the band, and all you ever wanted to know about their pasts and futures. Happy reading!
While it may be true that blondes have more fun because gentlemen prefer 'em - it certainly takes more than just dazzling platinum-gold peroxide tresses to make the sex symbol of a generation. It also takes more than full pouting lips with lots of glistening red lipstick, perfectly chiselled cheekbones and sultry, dusky-lidded cat's eyes. Even a petite, slim and curvaceous figure does not, on it's own, provide the adequate credentials. But combine all these outstanding qualities with an on-stage charisma which radiates sexual energy, and a unique ability to deliver a song like a cross between Marilyn Monroe singing "I Wanna Be Loved By You, Boop Boop Be Doo" and a mechanical punk pogo doll offering lines like "Once had love and it was a gas - soon turned out it was a pain in the ass" - and there you have it. She's the one that all the boys lose sleep over, and all the girls are dying to look like. It's Debbie Harry, the most beautiful rock'n'roll queen of our generation. She even puts the stunning Kate Bush in the shade - in fact one has to go back to the great Hollywood movie stars like Monroe and Jean Harlow to make an adequate comparison. Eat ya heart out Farrah Fawcett-Majors!
Debbie Harry the most Wanted Woman of the seventies - and easily the most photogenic. It was obvious when Blondie the band was formed that Debbie would be the focal point, and the group's image would hang on her physical impact. The fact that they make very good records too, ensures their continued commercial success.
It's surprising that it's taken Debbie as long as this to hit the big-time, althought she knew right from the start that she had plenty to recommend her.
"When I was at school, I always wanted to be a movie star," she says, "and the other kids used to laugh at me. I told them - 'You'll be sorry when I'm rich and famous'!"
Debbie's come along way from New Jersey, and from the days of being a school cheerleeder. But even as a baby she was gorgeous - her mother was offered a contract by the Gerber baby food company to advertise their wares - which she turned down.
Debbie went to college along with all the other nice middle-class kids (her father was a fabrics salesman), but soon fell by the wayside along with the other hippie kids of her generation.
"It was always my dream to live the bohemian life in New York and have my own apartment and do things", says Debbie. "I didn't like surburbia, and I always had my own secret ideas. I always knew I would be involved with entertainment, somehow".
Debbie was living in the East Village in New York, the centre of the avant garde. While she worked as a secretary for the BBC in their New York Office, her friends were among the Andy Warhol pop-art crowd and bands such as the Velvet Underground.
Debbie also worked as a sales-girl, a waitress, a bunny girl and as a beautician on a health farm, a training which can be seen in the expert way she applies her own make-up today. She also got involved in the music business early on, but it didn't work out too well because, as she admits now, she was too idealistic. She also kept busy painting and writing - but music was always her first love.
She was drawn to Haight Ashbury along with the other "turn on - tune in - drop out" kids of the sixties, and became involved with a band called "Wind in the Willows" - a psychedelic, hippie outfit for whom Debbie sang backing vocals. One album was released simply called "Wind in the Willows", and Debbie was pictured on the cover along with the rest of the group - with long, brown hair! But the famous pout is definitely there. Capitol Records are re-releasing this album, originally made in 1968, for all Debbie Harry freaks who want to possess every not she's ever sung. It's doubtful that Debbie will be particularly pleased about this, as it's very different from Blondie's sound today.
At this time Debbie was involved with various drugs and freely admits this now - though this facet of her past life has been greatly exaggerated. She moved to Bel Air with a rich boyfriend and got hooked on heroin:
"When I joined the group I became very disillusioned with both the business and some of the friends I made. I turned to drugs as a cure for mental pain. But you mustn't believe everything you read about me. There was even a story printed which said I was a hooker so that I could get money for drugs. It isn't true, I was much more choosy than that. No matter what they say, I kept my self-respect and survived. I know those years hurt my mother, if I'd been a mother I'd have been worried too."
Perhaps Debbie's fallen angel image ("I believe you have to go down to come up again") and her total honesty about her past do as much as her looks to endear her to the public - a public sick of the wholesome, holier-than-thou phoney image with which publicity departments surround such stars as the Osmonds and Bee Gees. Debbie is a complete person, not a two-dimensional cardboard cut-out.
Debbie is now thirty-four, but could pass for eighteen (she has been heard to say that heroin preserved her looks - "smack freezes everything"). She got off her habit by taking a cure at a commune in Woodstock. Then it was back to New York, where she formed a girls' singing trio in 1973, called the Stilletoes. She was also on close terms with members of the "New York Dolls", one of the first, and most influential punk bands. With her music she was always changing and experimenting - but meeting Chris Stein was the biggest break. One of the other girls in the band knew him, and invited him along to a gig. Debbie remembers their first meeting like this:
"One night I was looking out over the footlights and I saw this boy watching me. He had long black hair, and he was wearing about four tons of jewellery. I think I knew even then that he would be important in my life."
The other girls asked him to join their backing group - Debbie and Chris fell in love. The other girls left, Frank Infante join the second guitar, Nigel Harrison on bass, Clement Burke on drums and James Destri on keyboards. Blondie was born.
Right from the start, although Debbie professed that she just wanted to be part of the band, her stunning looks meant that she'd inevitably be pushed to the forefront. At every gig it would be Debbie that the crowd had come to see, Debbie that they stomped and whistled for. She says about her sex appeal:
"I wish I had invented sex. Sex is everything - it's number one. I didn't deliberately create the situation, but my face seems to sell. I can't help that. I happen to have a very sensual nature, and I suppose it comes out in pictures. I've always had that kind of response as a female. I know, because I get followed around a lot! I think about the whole thing differently every day. Sometimes I think it's so silly. Inevitably, if I meet someone, they find me not what they expected. When I was a fan and I fantasised about a singer, it was a really great feeling to adore him. Really nice. It must be the same for people who like me and Blondie. I can only be what I am. I might not like it when the crowd shouts at me, but I certainly thrive on it. I accept that it's something that's going to be there".
She did get very upset, however, when a record company used what she thought to be a highly sexually exploitive advertising monoeuvre to sell one of their first singles "Rip Her To Shreds". Under a picture of Debbie the catch-phrase read - "Wouldn't you like to rip her to shreds?"
"They thought it was the hippest way to advertise" says Debbie, "to capitalise on our identity that way. It was a mistake. But apart from that, Blondie and I are not sold as sex objects".
Debbie makes it very clear that she is not available - her five year relationship with Chris is as strong as a rock, and they have just bought a new flat together in New York, which they are in the process of decorating.
"We've been checking out carpets and curtains and all things domestic," says Debbie, it's the first time we've been in New York long enough to get round to it". She likes nothing better than to stay at home with her man, and she wrote the song "Picture This" for him.
And now Debbie is about to fulfill her childhood ambition, to become a movie star. At first it was reported that Debbie was all set to star in "Alphaville", a remake of the classic Sci-Fi detective story first made by Jean-Luc Godard in 1965. Chris Stein was to direct, having always been deeply interested in photography and cinema. Debbie was to play the mysterious heroine, Natasha Von Braun, while the part of the detective, Lemmy Caution was alloted to Robert Fripp, the leader of the now defunct King Crimson. Chris and Robert have been close friends for a couple of years, Chris designing and photographing the sleeve of Fripp's new album, "Exposure".
This project has now been shelved until the autumn, but Debbie has been making her celluloid debut in another film, "Union City" directed by Mark Reichart. It's from a short story by Cornel Woolridge, and Debbie plays Lillian Harlan, a bored sensual housewife who's married to Edward, with whom she shares no love. Lillian amuses herself with the superintendant of the block of flats they live in. The ensuing events lead to some profound changes for Lillian.
"It's really an art film", explains director Reichart, "and very much in the style of the fifties period, titillating perhaps, but nothing graphic. Certainly not X certificate stuff". So fans of all ages will be able to see Debbie on screen when the film is debuted here in Britain later this year.