4th February 1978
Front Page - Debbie Harry photographed by Gus Stewart
BLONDIE, who played a surprise gig at London's Dingwalls last Tuesday before setting off on a European tour, have now finalised the British dates which start later this month.
The band play France, Austria, Germany and Sweden before returning to Britain where they open their tour at Blackburn St Georges Hall on February 23.
They then play Sheffield University February 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.
Blondie, whose second album, 'Plastic Letters', is released by Chrysalis this weekend, now have a new guitarist in their line-up, Frank Infanti. Otherwise the line-up is the same that toured Britain last autumn.
REVIEWED BY JON SAVAGE
BLONDIE: 'Denis' EP
(Chrysalis CHS 2204) Uuuuh catcht, 'fun' blah blah but c'mon! 50's cops! Seen through a nostalgic haze of better production, 'Peggy Sue' updated. And then add Spector....... Coo - off to the lave with those pix then. Blondie's first album was fine but the mixture's getting too syrupy, Debbie Harry too camply cutesy for these ears/eyes but those of you who love drooling will disagree. Image (overbearing) apart, the band seem to have sacrificed much in their race to have a hit.....
Page 27, 28, 29
at last, a genuine artistic (well, it ain't sexist) pic of debbie harry in sounds &...
an interview with blondie
by jane suck
pic by gus stewart
I'M ALLOWED to sat that a bomb dropped on my head whilst walking round the corner from Covent Garden Tube station to meet the band, but no more... well, I didn't have the nerve to say no/no no no no; not when it's BLONDIE, a last vestige of the ebulliant sixties carrying that old joie de vivre into the sick sick seventies (sod the press release saying its EIGHTIES' musick! Oi Gevalt...) Blondie appeared aprés the New York Dolls gutter-shuffle but smack in the middle of the Television/Richard Hell-is-pain twerp jive. A breath of cool air on a smog-filled morning (sigh), a rave from a grave that was never filled.
Blondie's initial claim to faim was having a highly photogenic female vocalist in peroxide romance, Deborah Harry. Any excuse for a groin shot, raised eyebrow, hint of an exposed tit, and the press was in there; and there was a headline-splash-plus in Debbie's history: singing along with the Ronettes in her bedroom; hanging around with faggotts; shooting up shit; clearing the tables at the (then) notorious Max's Kansas City. What a cartoon strip! But then came the single, 'X Offender'... lightning fell from the sky in the form of a racy Spectorish bolt of electric blue (oh, sorry, I'm not playing the little game, am I? Hand over mouth/strap over wrist; and, later, the album, 'Blondie': no face, no name, no number - just up, up, up and away in a red balloon to the sun.
If you're at a half-way decent party, you can bet your last roach that 'Blondie' will get played at SOME time during the hiatus... Happy and danceable - oh, how passé... 'I haven't ate/in days, days' ('Fan Mail'). Then... then, from the British Blondie fan's point of view, came the Television tour. Blondie, lost, abused and not amused on hollow stages built to satisfy Verlaine's mad desires - yet they won, got the shoulders to the floor, and the sycophantic student audience bopping to rock'n'roll (yes, dirty old rock'n'roll numbers) like, 'Little Girl Lies', 'Look Good In Blue', 'In The Sun' and 'Rip Her To Shreds'... which is as good a way to bring in the cinema verité - er, tape transcript, I or any other lowly hack could possibly dream up: "... I wish she's take a boat to Hong Kong..." ('Rip Her To Shreds') -
Why the flying visit? (because of the snow in New York?)
"We came from Japan, and we're going to Europe... we haven't been home since November... Australia, Japan, Bangkok - blaarrgh! Hopefully, we're coming back to England the end of February... we just want to play a club in England... We had a hit single in Australia, 'In The Flesh'; after we went to Australia we went to Thailand."
INTERJECTION: British Rail has nothing on beat group Blondie!
Yeah, but why Dingwalls? One day, and it's - Dingwalls! Those pillars (sigh)...
Blondie: "Because Clem Burke (drummer) wanted to play Dingwalls... Actually, it's like CBGBs and Maxis... and it's LATE. Like, in Japan we were playing at 6 o'clock, and Thailand it was 2 o'clock...
INTERJECTION: Hamburg circa '62 lives!
Blondie: "... it will be more like home. We're homesick for New York. The English audience doesn't know us on a club level.
(diatribe)... look all the drinks are going to be half price before 10 o'clock, so when the band gets on the audience are going to be stones out of their minds.
Blondie: "You think they're going to spit on us?"
Blondie: "We wanted to play the Marquee... but we heard that it got too hot, people collapsing... We're going to do the Roundhouse when we get back."
INTERJECTION: Too bad if you weren't born in London - amuse yourselves!
What have you been up to since we last saw you?
Blondie: "We've done our world tour - that's under our belts - We've done Bangkok..."
Deborah Harry: "Bangkok is really crazy: wild gurls in bikinis who jerk you off while you're sitting at your table."
Sounds Editor: Cut!
D. Harry: "The whole tour is more - promo. Especially places like Australia and Japan."
Blondie: "We're the first rock'n'roll band to play Thailand, and the first, so-called, New Wave band to break Australia."
Nigel Harrison (Blondie's bassist): "The first punk rock band to..."
N.H: "Don't tell anyone..."
The rhythm guitarist you had on the last tour isn't on the sleeve of 'Plastic Letters'. Why?
Blondie: "We-ll, we have two guitarists now, no rhythm guitarist... he DID do the album with us... also we've been doing a lot of work since the last tour...
INTERJECTION: Any apologies accepted, you guys!
Richard Gottehrer? Did he produce the second album?
Blondie: "Yes he did. Did you know that he wrote 'Sorrow'? and 'My Boyfriend' back'... he was one of the Strangeloves, who wrote 'I Want Candy'."
INTERJECTION: So there you go/go go...
Blondie: "He's a good producer, but I think we're looking for a new one to do the third album... We'll get Tom Verlaine or someone." (chuckle chuckle)
Are you happy with 'Plastic Letters'?
D. Harry: "Sure. It's a step in the right direction."
Blondie: "... it's got more guitar breaks, it's a transitional album - a step in the right direction. It's 'transitional' 'cos like then the band was five, now it's six... we went through the revolving doors and got thrown out at the other end."
Why is 'Denis Denis' sung in different languages? You sang it 'straight' in concert, didn't you?
D. Harry: "I dunno... I think I did. We wanted to do the whole thing, in French. It's only French in the second half of the song."
(Benign smile) I've heard the original version. What is it Ronnie and the Rainbows?
Blondie: "No-ooo, RANDY and the Rainbows."
How do you feel about the first album on reflection?
Blondie: "We like it but - we knew absolutely nothing about the studio when we made it; we just went in and did it, in half an hour. Whereas the second one took a long time to record. Richard Gottehrer spent days mixing it - we were all driven to madness!"
"We're always being categorised; we're always being put down for not being - something'."
Nigel Harrison: "We eat what we eat, he (Jimmy Destri) eats a lot of Farfisa organs..."
How much do Farfisas cost in the States?
Blondie: "They don't sell 'em anymore; you gotta look for them. It sounds like if you step on a cat - the funny thing about that f---ing organ (chuckle chuckle) is like we wanted a piano and we got this rehearsal place and all Jimmy had was a Farfisa organ so-ooo, it was just a matter of economics... so we worked with it, but it was never contrived; certain people think, "oh yeah, they have a Farfisa" but it was never intended that way - in fact, we asked Ray Manzarak (Doors) if he used one, because everyone thought that he did, and it wasn't - it was a Vox Continental."
SOUNDS demands that this article be filled with facts, details, and 'sigh' background information. Is there anything you think the readers might not know?
Blondie: "My favourite colour is 7!"
D. Harry: "I wear a size nine shoe!"
Clem Burke: "My favourite band is the Bay City Rollers!"
Nigel Harrison: "Uh, pass."
I've gotta ask it, Wind In The Willows?!
D. Harry: "Go ahead, ask it - yeah, it's true, I was in the group, I mostly sang back-ups. The single was 'Uptown Girl', now the album goes for $20 in New York. It was pretty, y'know, GUILT BY ASSOCIATION. We did a second album that never got released, that was actually pretty good."
This is a nasty one: was Debbie a junkie? How did you kick it? 'It's save the kids time!'
Debbie H: "I don't like to talk about it, it upsets my mind... er, you have to WANT to do it, that's how you do it."
Chris Stein: (guitarist, writer, boyfriend): "I'll tell you how you kick it, you lose your connection, that's how you do it."
Debbie H: "Look, I'm not the kind of person that fools around. When I do something, I go all the way..."
Why do you think 'X Offender' wasn't the chart success it deserved to be?
Blondie: "It had a lot to do with Private Stock and promotion... they just put it out and let it drop."
Do you think the 'radio audience' no longer appreciates 'pop' as in, Kasenatz-Katz and Spector?
Blondie: "Well, they never had a chance to hear it. That record is now so popular in New York, you can't buy a copy for under $5. At the time, I think, people were conditioned not to like that 'sort of thing' and it was cast off."
Clem Burke: "I think it will still be a hit some day."
Do you feel 'outsiders' on the quote/unquote scene? You get categorised as 'New Wave' and yet you're the only (traditional) punk band around with your red and black Farfisa...
Blondie: "Did you write 'that', or did you get that off Lenny Kaye?"
[Protesting] No! I wrote it in the pub at dinner time.
Blondie: "There's a lot of dope in Australia..."
SOUNDS EDITOR: Cut!!!
What exactly happened over your record deals?
Blondie: "They (Private Stock) were happy to release us, and we were happy to go... I don't think they really knew what was happening. They were a singles company: 'Disco Duck' etc. They were VERY cautious with us... wouldn't invest a whole lot of money? They rang up our management and asked if the guitarist and bassist could share the same amp! (chuckle chuckle)."
I gotta ask it. How does the band feel about the media, and the majority of the audiences' attitude towards Deborah Harry as a 'sex bomb'?
Blondie: "A lot of teenage girls identify with Debbie, particularly in Japan...
(misunderstood) Yeah, but what about the sex thing...
Blondie: "Well, you said the word 'sex'.
Debbie H: "Cheap tricks come a million in this band."
Blondie: "There's always 'sex symbols' in bands. Debbie's a sex symbol, we just have to face it. Do you think Debbie is a sex symbol?"
(Lying through the teeth) No! I never think about it. But just take SOUNDS alone - like, any excuse to print a picture in 'JAWS' of Miss Harry in the corner there and...
Debbie H: "Yes, in the early days it came as quite a surprise to us, the media thing. Like there was a period when we didn't even have a band together yet we kept getting all this publicity."
So it's just something you accept?
Debbie H: "Yeah. The only time it's bad is when the rest of the band feels ignored and gets hurt. We all work together..."
Blondie: "It wasn't a thing that was contrived. She just wanted to be a singer."
Debbie H: "I always wanted to be a singer in a BAND. I didn't want to be Donna Summer... just part of a rock band."
Do you feel that people expect too much of you? The audience going along just to look at Deborah Harry - I mean, a lot of the reviews have accused you of not doing enough on stage.
Debbie H: "Oh, really? We haven't read them (chuckle chuckle)."
Blondie: "Debbie's just a performer... often it's just bad sound, and this makes people concentrate on Debbie and say she's not doing enough. If everything was working..." (NB Blondie shot their last sound-man in Berlin).
SECOND HALF, ROUND ONE:
BLONDIE: "What do you think the difference is between English and American punks?
I haven't met any American punks...
Blondie: "Right! Very good answer... total poseurs. Like there's this band called Paul Penenolope and the Avengers (eyukkk!)".
Debbie H: "Never mind... never mind..."
Blondie: "Maybe everyone in America is a punk, but in a different respect. Certainly, not like English punk is... Hey, not one word 'punk' came into this interview until you (Jimmy Destri, keyboards player) brought it up!"
Apologies all round.
What's happening on the New York circuit at the moment?
Blondie: "The Erasers are headlining CBGBs..."
Debbie H: "we wish we knew..."
Blondie: "... Susan Springfield sings lead with them, Walter Lure's little brother plays guitar for them."
Debbie H: "It's a shame we've been away for so long. Like, the scene changes pretty fast - bands come, bands go."
Blondie: "There are a lot of teenage boys imitating Richard Hell right now..."
Is that good or bad?
Blondie: "It's like the Fifth Wave at CBGBs. The best new American band is Devo... David Bowie's producing it, in fact, I think he's already done it. They gave him a tape at CBGBs one night and he just threw it in the corner, then one day he listened to it."
How much of the States have you covered and - conquered?
Blondie: (Donning laurel wreath) "We've conquered New York and San Francisco... Boston, LA. We did a tour with Iggy Pop from the East to the West; we've never been South. We got good reviews, but we had a record company at the time that didn't know what to do with good reviews... It's been said before, but there's no New Wave band that is 'BIG' in America. Like, the Ramones are bottom of the list on the top 100."
What about the South - I can't imagine you hitting it down 'there'...
Nigel Harrison: "No, no. A lot of people think it's just a bunch of rednecks, but I've been down there and it's really cool. Slip into the penetrating Southern drawl and you're okay!"
Blondie: "Duane Allman is God!"
INTERJECTION: Ash was flicked on reporter's cassette at this juncture. Reporter screamed, 'My career is in ruins!"
DEEP THINKING SPOT. I'm trapped by the media and I guess so are you - How do you react to interviews, photo sessions?
Nigel Harrison: "It's just playing the game, y'know, you GOTTA do that - 'play the game'."
Debbie H: "The more you do it, the easier it gets."
Nigel: "Plus we've been dealing with the Orient, and their questions are so naive."
'What's your favourite colour'?
Nigel: "You Plunk lock?'" (chuckle chuckle)
Blondie: "We have to say like, 'We-go-to-concert-now'. We been talking pidgeon for months! It's very formal: you have to sit behind a desk with a big Blondie poster behind you and a microphone..."
Debbie H: "They're so sort of straight... all they get is Bio's, press releases. They pick up on all these weird rumours, like - er, me being the Doll's hairdresser! Oh, yeah they like you to - curse."
Blondie: "So we did a kind of Bill Grundy thing. Said things like 'Suck a dead donkey's dick!'"
EDITOR OF SOUNDS: Cut!!
Debbie H: "It doesn't mean anything over there. They don't even have the word 'fuck'. Hey, y'know what's really funny? The TV. They have men and women making out on TV, women making out... because they have no pornography. But they don't show crutch shots. Japanese Playboy has the lower parts blanked out..."
DUMB QUESTION SPOT.
This is definitely the last question:
What are your favourite records and major influences?
Jimmy Destri: "My major influences are - military thinking... and, ah, controlled chaos.
Favourite records: anything Motown."
Frankie (guitarist): "I like the Stones, the Who, Kinks, Sex Pistols, New York Dolls... Major influence: Jimi Hendrix."
Chris Stein: "I have many influences, one of which is Clem Burke; it's very hard to get a word in edgeways - You know the guy who write the Fellini soundtracks? I like him a lot. Now I'm very influenced by Aboriginal music... we picked up on that in Australia. Jimi Hendrix too... I used to like Rod Stewart for about 20 minutes."
Nigel Harrison: "I'm Nigel Harrison, bass and face..."
(High-pitched wail) You're not... you're not ex-Silverhead, are you!
Nigel: "Yes, I am, thank you. My major influences are B P Fallon and Michael Des Barres."
Is he still with Detective?
Nigel: "Yes, I like to think that. Great band, I'm very proud of them..."
Clem Burke: "My major influence is 'Meet The Beatles' at 10 years old. Ed Sullivan every Sunday night at 8 o'clock... My favourite records are: 'That's Rock n Roll' by Shaun Cassidy, written by Eric Carmen, any Raspberries' records... the Bay City Rollers, and Bowie changed my life."
Blondie: "We love Eddie Cochran, print that! Clem got beat up in a record shop down Shaftesbury Avenue by a Teddy girl with a chain..."
Debbie H: "(blushing) I guess it sounds real - ah, mystic, but my biggest influences are the sun and the moon, because I've heard EVERYTHING and I just like a LOT of it..."
No-one's said Spector'?
Blondie: "Yeah, yeah... Spector. We should have mentioned him... See, except for Nigel, everyone in the band is American and was brought up on top 40 radio."
Stop the game/I got too much to lose... but (breathes deeply and counts to ten) 'that' is the essence of Blondie: a top-40 radio sound, and, remember, folks, you control the on/off button. Press it and see... ain't that baby beautiful?