ZIGZAG - September 1978
Back in the UK
Written by: Kris Needs
DEBBIE HARRY, teeth bared and eyes blazing, smashes her booted foot into my aching side. Ribs give way like skittles. Through glazed eyes I can just make out the six shadowy figures still kicking and pummelling my sack-like body with grim relish. My pleas go unheard, blow follows blow. The assailants just keep repeating names of people I recognise as journalists. Reality is slipping painfully away down the drain next to my pulped head.
The last thing I see is Debbie Harry raising her clenched fist for the Final Blow and the glint of sunlight on metal...
Blondie's revenge on the Press? Nah. Actually it was just lens-man Rob Taussig's bright idea for this month's Zigzag cover-shot. After a week of interviews and static session-posing this should get 'em going! I didn't have the nerve to say no. Despite pleas to "be gentle with me", the blood-curdling war cry "Stomp on Needs!" soon rent the air and, as traffic wardens and tourists passed by puzzled, yours truly was subjected to all manner of degradation (that intro is a trifle exaggerated actually - the most discomfort I experienced was Debbie gleefully yanking my head up by the barnet and numerous newly-acquired Kings Road creepers and winklepickers lightly kicking the old anatomy. I don't mind a mutilated "Zigzag" in the cakehole but did you have to break that fag open over me head, Jimmy? Then Frank Infante said he never got in the picture first time round and we had to do it over again!
THE MIRANDY GALLERY, LONDON: Outside, scores of kids are trying to get in, noses pressed against the glass. Inside, Blondie mingle with the media, there for the opening of the "Blondie in Camera" photo-exhibition. The privileged consume food and wine and give the pictures an odd glance too. Blondie drummer Clem Burke goes to the door and lobs a handful of press kits containing blonde-vinyl pressings of their new single to the grateful hordes. Clem, like the rest of the group, is a bit pissed off with all this. It's like a sauna in here. He tells a clumsy photographer to fuck off.
Meanwhile, Deborah Harry is shunted around from camera to camera. exec to exec: "Debbie, I'd like you to meet..." "One over here please." They should just put you on a trolley and wheel you around, Deb.
"Oh, don't give 'em that idea!"
Time to leave. As the group get outside and leap into the limo it's like a scene from "A Hard Day's Night", crowds around and kids on the car and a long, hooting traffic jam.
I think we have Blondie-mania, lads.
This is s'posed to be a review of the new Blondie album, preluding a lengthier look at the forthcoming tour next month. Better get on with it, hadn't I?
"Parallel Lines" is the title and there's twelve tracks. Maybe Blondies have more fun but there's few groups I have more fun with than Blondie.
So the first album was a classic combination of surf, teenage sex and giant ants abounding in instant melodies and zestful playing. It's follow-up, "Plastic Letters", a refinement on those themes but in Spector-fied sound and high speed pyrotechnicing. "Parallel Lines" - the spirit of Blondie is alive and well and producing human Abba/Donna killers, contagious high school hoppers and their usual brand of heady heart-napalm.
This time they score more on the songs, which nod more and more to the great NYC girl groups of the '60s and the aforementioned Euro-pop.
Being in love with Abba's classics ("Dancing Queen", "Knowing Me", "SOS" - Blondie could do an INCREDIBLE "SOS") and "I Feel Love" - style Donna, it's a treat to hear Blondie tailor-made to do killer justice to this stuff with Debbie's voice and the band's expansive electro-pop sound, tackle such gems as their own "Heart of Glass" and "Pretty Baby" so successfully. The latter is Abba with raunch, so-o-o danceable and Debbie in her element. When the pounding dugga dugga disco beat of "Heart of Glass" crashed in I fainted recovering in seconds to shiver and smile as Debbie glides in over the top with a creamy croon about the disillusionment of love. "Soon found out it's a pain in the ass." It's all here to make this song the disco hit of the year. As a single I'm sure it'd smash Oliver Travolta's eight week record.
"Sunday Girl" is delicate and delectable but the rasp and bite comes back when they launch into the D. Harry/N. Harrison composition, "One Way or Another". Debbie's still a horny high school cheerleader or in-the-flesh satin doll but her ever-increasing maturity and style sometimes brings to mind a female Jim Morrison: On "11.59", (sadly) Jimmy Destri's only song on the album, apart from a third share in the current single, "Picture This", Debbie's going to die (I think), the words are touching and romantic, it makes ya wanna cry.
That "Fade Away" is probably the most adventurous track. Funereal, ethereal and for real, crowned with Bob Fripp's spiralling guitar. Last album the band was in transition and its new recruits Nigel Harrison (bass) and Frank Infante (guitar) were settling in. They've been with this one from the start and as a result the band seem to be much more sensitive and sympathetic. Knowing what counts. Frank even gets to sing on his own studio-spontaneous track, the smokey "I know but I don't know".
There's two songs by an unknown Californian songwriter Blondie discovered called Jack Lee: - "Hanging on the Telephone" and "Will Anything Happen". Both are memorable, the former made-to-measure Blondie, the latter swooping between relentless overdrive Batman-theme riffing and a strong chorus.
"Picture This" you should know as it's the 45. It's USA counterpart'll be "I'm gonna love you too", the only non-original on the LP (apparently Ray Manzarek was well-pissed-off that the band once again ain't gonna include their great version of the Doors' "Moonlight Drive"). This one is a bouncy treatment of a Buddy Holly song. The album ends with Debbie in "Rip Her to Shreds" mood on "Just Go Away". She co-wrote four tracks on the album but this one's all hers. "If you talk much louder you can get an award from the Federal Communications Board", she cajoles. Poor bloke!
"Parallel Lines" tells me again how great Blondie are and will be EVEN MORE!
REHEARSAL STUDIO, VICTORIA: This week Blondie have got to work up the "Parallel Lines" songs which'll be included in the live set. About eight of 'em. Then do the whole set at a dress rehearsal over the weekend. It's a hard job choosing what goes into the set this time. There'll be about half a dozen from "Parallel Lines", old faves, the hits and non-originals "Funtime" (Iggy) and... and... T. Rex's glitter classic "Get it on"!
Wednesday and it's "11.59" and "Hanging on the Telephone" tonight. By the time Debbie arrives from her interview binge both are ready for her.
Watching the band rehearse Debbie-less brings home how vital they are to The Blondie Sound. Clem Burke's massive, high-velocity skin-whacking, the three guitars of Chris, Nigel and Frank and Jimmy Destri's soaring Farfisa... they're all vital ingredients.
Debbie Harry walks in behind wraparound shades, says nothing and walks out again. Shattered shattered. Another day of "Do you think you'll get married?" has reduced her to a Debbie Harry shell. It takes time for her to half wake up. An animated recount of how a room-shaking Chris Stein fart woke her up the night before helps a lot!
Debbie sits down to sing and once they've got "11.59" and "Telephone" down they run through the others: "Pretty baby", "Picture This", a magnificent rendering of "Fade Away", "I know but I don't know". Then, in my supposed capacity as a "typical English fan" I have to judge whether "I'm gonna love you too" should make the set. Should it? Made for the stage, that one! Shortly after I walk into a beam and go home in a stupor.
I hope success doesn't weigh too heavy on Debbie and crack the band. I'm a bit worried. She's only human - "I know, but sometimes I forget that myself".