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Las Vegas City Life - 6th December 2007
Heart of sass
At 62, Debbie Harry still embodies that sneery, sexy persona
by DAVE SURRATT
WHEN THAT OH-SO-VITAL New York City punk/new wave scene coalesced in the mid-1970s, Debbie Harry was there. Originally a waitress at the famous Max's Kansas City nightclub, the future frontwoman of Blondie would soon launch a career of high critical praise, commercial success and a handful of chart-topping dance singles including her band's "Heart of Glass," "Call Me," "Rapture" and "The Tide Is High."
Blondie officially disbanded in 1982 -- it has since regrouped for albums and tours -- but at 62, Harry's not done expanding a catalog of all-by-herself efforts she began while the band was still on top. This year's Necessary Evil, her first solo release in 14 years, is an eclectic set of songs informed by pop, rock, hip-hop and electronica -- in other words, a little of everything Blondie ever did.
We caught up with her this week on a tour bus in Texas and, even over a lousy phone connection, that super-sultry voice came through.
CityLife: You've always played around with multiple styles but, even for you, Necessary Evil is all over the place. Were you listening to any particular music this year that helped shape the album?
Debbie Harry: I didn't really listen to much, because I don't really think it's a good idea to be listening to other people's music when I'm writing and recording. It's dangerous. Things can just slip in, you know?
CL: On the opening track, "Two Times Blue," you refer to yourself as a "double-timer," "Miss Calculation," etc. Are you really these things?
DH: I think some of that is just composition. The developing of an idea. Sometimes you just throw out a lyric to make things interesting. It's just about different ideas, different observations.
CL: Yet some critics are saying this is an unusually vulnerable album for you.
DH: Well, yeah, some of it probably is a little bit more personal. It's definitely more about me today, even though it's been a while since I wrote some of it. Yeah, some of it's personal and I guess some of it's extra-personal.
CL: Over the years, you've talked about Blondie's beginnings in New York City, and the mid-'70s scene at Max's. How are you remembering it these days? Is there anything you see going on now that reminds you of what that was like?
DH: I think that with any place, reputation builds the more people talk about them, and they appear bigger, wilder, bolder than they really are. To us, back then, it just seemed normal. It was just a good place to go, with a bunch of people who were very focused. We just happened to get famous for being that way. Just one of those lucky things, I guess. We were lucky it turned out to be a scene.
CL: You don't know it's a scene when you're actually in it.
DH: [laughs] Exactly.
CL: This is becoming a worn topic, but what's your take on today's troubled pop divas -- Britney, Lindsay, etc. -- what's going on?
DH: I think in a lot of cases, it's like a drug, this notoriety, this interest in the paparazzi. It's probably pretty exciting to be chased around like that.
CL: Was it for you?
DH: Oh I don't know, probably, yeah. I was perfectly happy to be an idiot chased around by people with cameras. And I was allowed to be. If there was a time in my life to do that, that was probably it. But some of these people have never really had a childhood, you know, so maybe that's what's going on.
CL: Before any of them were born, you'd already forged that sneery, sexy persona that would inspire pop femme fatales for decades to come. It's still there on Necessary Evil. After all you've seen and done, is that still the way it is for you?
DH: The way it is?
CL: Do you still feel sexy?
DH: [laughs] Yeah, I guess I do. Yeah. Thank goodness. I mean, I have different moods of course. I've never in my life felt sexy every minute of the day, not even back then.
CL: Maybe, but you did a lot for many of us 12-year-old boys.
DH: [laughs harder] Well, thanks, that's ... encouraging.
Debbie Harry (with Kristoffer Ragnstam)
Sat., Dec. 8, 8 p.m.
Chrome Showroom at Sante Fe Station
Las Vegas City Life - 6th December 2007