Smash Hits - 19th November - 2nd December 1986
Pages 16, 17 & 18
She's back! She's a lot older!
She's still beautiful! She loves wrestling!
And she's shouting at Tom Hibbert...
Debbie Harry is giggling a lot, Occasionally breaking into open cackles.
Haahaahaahaa. She keeps clearing her throat - ahimahim - but she's not actually saying very much. Perhaps this is because most of my questions are "very sill" - like "How do you keep looking so young?"...
"You vant to know my secret, eh? Haahaahaa. AHA! Waaaaaaaaah (werewolf type noise) I won't TALK!
Ahimahim. It's the, er, I guess it's the radar... I don't know what it is. I mean, what a silly question. That's a very silly question."
Or maybe it's because she's been out of the public eye for so long now (going on five years) that she's lacking practice in the "art" of the celebrity interview:
Are you very rich?... "WHAT a question! Nope, I don't have to answer THAT!"
Debbie Harry, of course, used to be the most famous female pop singer in the whole world. She was helped to her fame by being:
a) exceedingly, irrefutably beautiful and
b) the frontperson of a most perfect pop group, Blondie. Plush, bouncy, spry and American, Blondie bestrode the pop music competition like a colossus in the late 1970s and early 1980s, spanking out a succession of rather superb pop hits like "Denis", "Picture This", "Sunday Girl", "Hanging On The Telephone", "Heart Of Glass" and more.
In 1982, however, things began to go horribly wrong. Debbie Harry's solo album
"Koo Koo" was an unmitigated disaster, there was an outbreak of inter-group squabbling, a tour of Britain (where they'd hitherto been enormously popular) was cancelled due to poor ticket sales and, worst of all, the group's founder and guiding light, Chris Stein (Debbie's boyfriend) fell prey to a mysterious and crippling disease of the nervous system. Blondie broke up and Debbie Harry all but retired, intent on nursing Stein back to health.
Debbie, not unnaturally, is loath to discuss the illness ("ask Chris") but, happily, he is now recovered - "He's doing great. He's back to his old self and looking around for things to do" - and so she is now able to get back to the pursuance of a pop career. Yes, she's back! Back! Hurrah!!
"Well, I wasn't totally away from work, you know. I wasn't totally taking care of Chris. I did do a few things in between. I did a song for the Krush Groove movie, I did a song for that Scarface movie... a number of things happened. I had a few projects. I did that wrestling play (Trafford Tanzi - which did such poor business it closed in one night) and,
er, you know, I rearranged business things to do with Blondie terminating. And,
er, ahim, we moved. We were living in uptown New York and we moved downtown to a funny little area that's part of a historic landmark preservation thing. It's a very, very beautiful area and it was modelled after a part of Chelsea in London so all the houses look kinda English and there's trees and it's really pretty. And, um,
Debbie's voice trails off into nothing as she attempts to remember something else of note that has happened since last we heard of her (without mentioning the traumas of Chris' state of health). Not a very active few years, really, was it?
"Well, I didn't think I was finished, that's for sure. But, yeah, I guess I did pull out for a while and I didn't pay any attention to the music scene. I was doing some of that stuff,
er, just hanging out and watching TV. I never left the country and I read the paper every day - the New York Times first and then the Post. And,
ahim, I like... I like to watch movies on HBO (a cable TV station) and wrestling, of course."
Wrestling? What is it about these American pop goddesses - Cyndi
Lauper, Debbie Harry - that draws them to the sight of fat men sweating and grunting and grappling in the ring, I wonder?
"I love wrestling. It's very funny. It's sort of like the
next combination of soap operas and sports, right?"
If you say so, Deborah.
"There's always dramas going on and little feuds and there's like continual dialogue between these,
ahim, massive creatures that are shouting at each other and ready to supposedly kill one another and then they get in the ring and they toss themselves about and it's really funny.
Haahaahaa. And everybody's dressed up in different costumes. I love it. It's not very erotic? Well, that depends on what you think is erotic...
Do any other "sports" take her fancy?
"Well, I watched the World Series (i.e. the American Baseball cup final in which the New York Mets beat the Boston Red Sox). That was exciting."
In jest, and knowing nothing about baseball, I somewhat rashly suggest that the wrong team won.
"Bullshit!" cries Debbie Harry.
I have, um, family connections with Boston, you see.
"WHAT? How COULD you? This is... unbelievable! Huh! That's it. We're finished. I can't believe I'm even talking to you.
Damn! And I had so many more silly questions to pose. Will she not give me one more chance?
"Haahaahaa. Well, alright, I'm so easy. I'm too nice..."
And with that little jocular storm in a teacup behind us, I ask whether there's anything Debbie Harry has missed being off the musical scene for so long. She can't think of a thing. Wouldn't she like to have been part of Live Aid?
"Oh... YES. As a matter of fact, uh, it was... I really felt something from not being involved, actually. I felt disappointed. I knew, however, that the political situation over there would be vastly complex as far as getting aid through went. I was aware of that so I did have some niggling doubts about it though I was hoping for the best.
...You know, another thing I'm really involved in, or very concerned about, is AIDS. It's a true problem for everyone. It's frightening and it's so serious. I think that we must dedicate millions and billions of dollars to finding a cure."
They say that a full cure for AIDS is 10 years off.
"Oh, my God! That's going right down to the wire, isn't it? We shall all be dead by then. Unless we all give up sex..."
Well, we'll all have to give up sex then, won't we?
"...No!... Haahaa... But it is awful, isn't it? It seems to be crunching in, doesn't it? But I try to keep a positive outlook. The sad thing is I think that things have to get really serious before people respond radically and start taking care of business."
And this talk of, ahim, sex brings us "neatly" to the topic of Debbie Harry's new single, a saucy little thing called "French
Kissin' In The USA"...
"Saucy? I don't quite understand you. Oh. Yes, it is a sexy little song, isn't it?"
She's got a new LP coming out very soon, too, with the rather ghastly title
"It's about paradox and unplanned things and stuff like that. I guess it's a paradox - you know, a bird can't really be made out of rock..."
And quite soon Ms Harry is to be seen in a film, Forever Lulu, which, if reports from America are to be believed, bears certain similarities to Madonna's Desperately Seeking Susan.
"Yes, it is very similar in some respects but it's a different cake on it. (?) It's a much different approach but it does have a similar searching-for-this-missing-character (i.e. Debbie in the title role) plot. The title is misleading because Lulu is really a minor character. I don't have any lines - it's a silent part."
What a swizzle!
"Yes, it is haahaahaa. I just glide around and appear in still photos in an apartment where a terrible crime is committed - hence the search for Lulu."
And no doubt, she glides around looking magnificent. Tell us, Debbie, do you ever look in the mirror and say "Gosh! I'm absolutely gorgeous?"
"Oh, haw, every day! Haahaahaahaa. Several times a day.
Haahaahaahaahaahaa. Ahim, I don't know. Sometimes I look and go 'ugh
bleurghh!', you know... Everybody goes through that, don't they? That,
ahim, that's a very silly question."
Not as silly, I suggest, as would you like to go skiing down the Eiffel Tower?
"Would I what? No, I don't think so. Uh-uh. I think I'd maybe like to go on those hang-gliders - soar off a cliff and flutter down to earth. I think I'd enjoy that."
Or the stupidest question of all... Do you look back on Blondie with fond memories?
"Oh, absolutely - the whole thing. It was the experience of a lifetime and I'd do it all again, absolutely. I'd have to be an idiot or a fool not to. My God! The business has changed radically in the last five years; bands don't tour so much these days and you just can't have the same excitement as that band. There's just no way."
And what if the world resists the charms of Debbie Harry this time around? What if nobody goes out and buys
"Rockbird"? What then, Deborah?
"Haahaahaa. What kind of question is that? Haahaa.
Ahim, I guess I'll just put a whole bunch of them in the station wagon and go abd try and bootleg them myself. I'll go round the shopping malls and sell them and undercut the stores until I get chased away. And if I sign them all, I'll be able to sell them quicker!"
Bravo ma'am. We shall see...
French Kissin' In The USA - Lyrics
Written by: Chris Heath
Over the last five years it's become increasingly hard to believe that Debbie Harry would ever make a decent record again - Blondie's last album, "The Hunter", was quite dreadful and Debbie Harry's previous solo album, "Koo Koo", was little better. By those standards, then, "Rockbird" is a miracle. Nothing else is quite as brilliant as the current single "French Kissing In The USA" but there's plenty of the aggressive sprightly pop songs that Blondie used to do so well, the odd slightly swoonsome ballad and a couple of throwaway disco songs. How very nice it is to have her back.
(7 out of 10)