Herald - May 9th 2004
Written by: Jane Wright
this. February '78 and a whirling dervish of an American
blonde bombshell hits Britain's pop charts with a bunch
of almost identical Frankenstein-y looking guys. Who can
forget Blondie in those early days?
Perfectly post-punk, the glamorous singer Debbie Harry
was something else. With her skunky-striped blonde hair,
her dirty, laughing, sneer that out-Elvised Elvis and
those paint-on-perfect cupid-bow lips, she soon secured
her place in pop history as the ultimate rock chick, and
no one has come near since. Certainly not Madonna, and
compared with the Britneys, Christinas and even Pinks of
today, Harry was always effortlessly sexy and cool. She
never had to try hard, to fake it, to live up to some
plastic princess ideal of a record company's marketing
department. Which made her all the more real and
You could never imagine Harry lip-synching so she
could concentrate on her carefully choreographed moves.
Harry was anything but choreographed. Funny, spontaneous
and unselfconscious, she threw herself and her mic stand
around with wild abandon. She was the business.
This month, more than quarter of a century later, Mick
Rock's photographs of Harry and Blondie are published in
a book called Picture This, and we've asked Texan
Sharleen Spiteri to take us through her favourite pics of
her Blondie pal, still looking good, sounding good,
making records and touring. Illuminating and perceptive,
Spiteri manages not to be blinded by the fact that Harry
is a friend and it makes fascinating reading, so tune in
on page 12.
Written by: Sharleen Spiteri
Photography by: Mick Rock
Sharleen Spiteri has been a fan from a young age, but
since she met Debbie Harry in the late Nineties, her
respect for the original rock chick has grown and grown.
To coincide with the publication of a new book of
photographs by Mick Rock, the Texas singer explains what
made Blondie so great and why she finds her famous friend
"I'll be 37 this year, so when I was growing up
Blondie were one of the biggest bands. They really stood
out and didn't sound like anyone else, especially with
Debbie Harry singing. She's such a great singer, which is
rarely talked about. To this day, if she stands up and
sings in front of you, she's amazing.
"She's one of the most stunning women I have ever
seen, but she was never awkward about it, which sometimes
beautiful women are. When I was a teenager, I felt closer
to Patti Smith because of the way she looked - dark hair
and androgynous. But although Debbie was really beautiful
and womanly, she was really androgynous at the same time
as well. Look at the photograph (left) of her against the
blue background where she's holding the scarf in front of
her. It's very Kim Wilde, but sometimes it makes me think
of David Sylvian. You can look at it and think it is
either a boy or a girl.
Debbie was just some blonde, nobody would think she was
the epitome of sex. It's because she is androgynous that
they do think that. She's tough and sexy and beautiful.
When you're a woman in a band of men, working with men
every day of the week, there's a certain persona you take
on. I don't know if I'd call it a toughness, you just
have to be a member of the band; you've got to be a
person before you're a woman. I think Debbie had that,
and I think that's probably why men find her very sexy.
She's not playing on being a woman. She never showed a
lot of flesh. There's no tits and ass with Debbie Harry.
"She says that a good photo-shoot is sometimes as
good as sex, and I think that's true. If there's no
sexual tension between you and the photographer, whether
it's a man or a woman, then you're not going to get a
good session. That's because when you've got something
sexual going on, you're at your least guarded, you're at
your most natural. It's the part of you that people don't
often get to see, so to make a great photograph that's
got to be there. I see that in a lot of these
"I always feel very comfortable around Debbie. I
met her through one of my best friends, who said 'You
should meet Debbie, she'd love you, let's go for dinner.'
That was in the late Nineties. When I first met her I was
amazed by how much that smile and those eyes sparkled. It
was exactly the way I remembered her from being a kid and
watching her on TV. Those really sparkly eyes and that
really gummy smile. You can see it in the other blue
photograph, where she's holding the scarf out. I've got
that scarf now, by the way. She also gave me the
black-and-white striped outfit from the Heart Of Glass
video, a little thigh-length black dress and one of her
"To me, Debbie Harry's smile was as iconic as
Elvis's sneer. I remember as a kid trying to do that
smile, trying to get my lip up, so it was amazing to meet
her and see her smiling that smile. You know that sense
where you meet someone who has grown a bit older, and all
that youth and innocence is mixed in with knowledge? It's
quite an amazing thing to see. Her whole personality just
"Debbie knows how much I love what she does now
and has done in the past. She knows how much of an
influence she has been on me, but in no way am I
sycophantic around her. She knows I have so much respect
for her, but she also knows that it goes past her being a
blonde woman with a nice dress on. She can tell from the
kind of woman I am how she has influenced me.
"Her whole presence on stage is very important to
me. I loved her
arrogance. She was 100 per cent sure of what she was
doing. For me, Debbie Harry used a mic stand like no one
else. She seemed to be saying 'I really love my mic
stand; annoy me and I'll hit you with it.' If you look at
any footage of Debbie playing live, she worked that stage
like you could not believe - throwing herself around,
dancing, singing, putting her whole everything into it.
She really sang those songs. There was real passion and
belief there. She would play off of everything her band
was doing. She would screw up her face and sing. She was
a real musician and a real performer.
"The contact sheet of Debbie and the rest of
Blondie makes me smile. I've done a million shoots like
this, and I know the closeness and the friendship that's
there. They are very much a band, very much a complete
unit there, yet the focus was so often on Debbie. They
were massive and really influential, but if you were to
ask the public what the rest of Blondie looked like, 90
per cent of them would find it very difficult.
"In Texas, it's an unwritten rule that that's the
way it is, and if you don't like it, tough f**king luck.
My band accepts that the focus is going to be on me. They
are secure in themselves as human beings, and nobody in
the band is trying to be anything else but a guitar
player, a drummer or whatever.
"This picture of Debbie in the blue leather
jacket (above) shows how amazing she is. A lot of women
are scared of growing old, scared of looking bad, scared
of suddenly being three sizes bigger than they were.
We're obsessed by those things nowadays, but Debbie isn't
scared of any of that. She isn't trying to hide who she
is or be what's expected of her, which is anorexic and
looking 35 when she's not 35. I find Debbie Harry an
absolute inspiration, 100 per cent. To me, she's a true
Sharleen Spiteri was talking to Peter Ross
Picture This: Debbie Harry And Blondie is published by
Sanctuary, £29.99. For more information on Mick Rock,
visit www.mickrock.com. Blondie play the Clyde
Auditorium, Glasgow, June 22 and the Playhouse,
Edinburgh, June 23. The Texas album Careful What You Wish
For is out now.