Edinburgh Evening News - the GUIDE - Friday 13th July 2007
Still the queen of cult pop
Blondie's back to rock Castle crowds
Arts and Entertainment Editor
CALL me Debbie Harry, proclaimed New York's original punk princess when Heart Of Glass smashed its way to the top of the UK and US charts back in 1979.
Today, the 62-year-old one-time Sunday Girl prefers to be known by her Sunday title, Deborah Harry (it's more sophisticated), but to many she will always be known simply by the name of her band, Blondie.
Which is appropriate, as rock legend has it that the group adopted the name after a truck driver called out 'Hey Blondie', as he motored past the singer.
The peroxide star returned to the Capital this week ahead of her gig at the Castle Esplanade this evening, the band's biggest profile Edinburgh gig to date.
Having played a five-star sell-out concert at the Edinburgh Playhouse in 2004, a feat she repeated the following year at the Usher Hall, and after headlining Edinburgh's Hogmanay in 2004/5, the Castle concert promises the singer and her band an audience of 6000 - or more, judging by the huge demand for the last remaining tickets.
For Harry, the concert is the latest highlight in a career spanning more than 35 years, and looking back on those early days, the singer reflects that the music scene has changed a lot since she first took to the stage, originally with folk-rock outfit Wind In The Willows, in the late 60s.
It was in the 70s, however, on New York's vibrant art-punk scene that Harry really came into her own, a time she remembers as having a sense of danger.
"It was private and exclusive in a weird way because nobody really knew or cared about it. And yet all these people were being as reckless as they could. People were exotic in their dress. People don't really even dress that way anymore - really having a sense of costume and personal style. I don't mean just going out and buying stuff off the rack that's glittery," she recalls, before bemoaning the passing of the era that produced one of the most iconic band's, not to mention performers, of the last quarter century.
"My thinking is there's a loss of regional soul. Everything is communicated either over the internet or through TV," she says.
"When I go to Europe, I find everything so American. It's impersonal and contrived. I'm concerned about those artists who are wondering about production deals instead of trying to find or express themselves. I think there's always going to be a desperation of being a teenager, but no-one seems to be turning that into an art form."
Perhaps more than anything, it has been Harry's personal style, whether reflected through her music or attire, that has made her the cultural icon she is today.
"When I first realised I had achieved icon-hood, I had sort of been laying low for a while and hadn't been really active in performance," she recalls.
"All of a sudden it struck me that people were looking at me in a different way. And what I figured out is, if you just last long enough and maintain some kind of decent appearance, you're okay, and you become an icon. That's what happened."
Although Blondie split in 1982, with Harry going solo and enjoying a lucrative acting career, they were never forgotten, and when the original line up reformed for a European tour in 1998, and released the chart topping hit Maria, it was as if they had never been away.
Reflecting on the split, she says, "When we were starting out I was searching for an identity. Blondie was a smaller band, and we really did approach it like a conceptual performance piece.
"At one point, sometime around 1981, I had this revelayion that I might become a victim of the image. I clearly remember having a real moment where I thought it would ruin my life. But now it's all much more personal - I don't know if it's acceptance or just divine providence."
Consequently, tonight's Castle play list will feature a host of Blondie classics as well as, no doubt, the odd avant garde moment.
"Sometimes I yell at myself, 'You fool,' and I sort of berate myself for not being more successful and famous," Harry confesses, candidly.
"But I cling to being counter-culture and cultish. It just seems to suit me better to have more anonymity and more artistic freedom."
That anonymity will be put on hold for a couple of hours at the Castle, and if you haven't got your brief yet for what promises to be one of the best gigs of the year, a final batch of tickets has just been released and will be on sale from The Hub, Castlehill, from 3pm today.
Blondie, with support from Echo and The Bunnymen, Edinburgh Castle, tonight, 7.30pm, £35.