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VH1.com - Tuesday 2nd October 2007
Deborah Harry: Track by Track
The Goddess of Cool's new Necessary Evil has songs for strippers, Lil' Kim and Hendrix himself. She explains the whole thing.
There are few rock women who have made a dent as deep as as Deborah Harry. From her roots as the front woman of Blondie to the sleek 'n' smart groove music she occasionally makes with the Jazz Passengers, the singer has always been willing to flaunt her sense of adventure. Blondie is enjoying yet another active period of late, and Harry has a new solo disc, Necessary Evil, that shines a light on her creative side. It's all about breadth: on "You're Too Hott" she makes like a Dirty South rapper, writing a song for the ladies who work the stipper pole, and on "If I Had You" she sounds like Kelly Clarkson's cool aunt. Where did the ideas come from? Harry walked us through all the tracks.
1. Two Times Blue
- This song was a funny thing that just happened really quickly. We were near the end [of recording], and I woke up really early one morning and I turned on morning TV which I don't usually do and there was this really incredible documentary on about the blues. It was so great and it was such a great documentary. I was trying to write more songs and I started playing around with the words and I thought of the phrase "Two Times Blue." Then I heard the music and started writing the lyrics and it was one of those things -- it was very spontaneous and it happened really fast.
2. School for Scandal
- A lot of songs [on this album] came together really easily, but this one was really like we were all on the same wavelength. It happened without us even being in the same room. It was really exciting and it came out sort of commercial-radio, which we felt we were actually sort of missing.
3. If I Had You
- This is a power ballad, and its one of the reasons that we actually went ahead and made a whole album. I had been writing songs for quite a while, and I asked [co-writer] Barb [Morrison] what she was writing. She played me this track and I loved it, I just thought it was great. My manager liked it too, so that was sort of the final clincher that made me want to complete the project and make it into an album. Up until then it had just been a bunch of demos.
4. Deep End
- I thought it was sort of a good analogy -- a swimming pool, the deep end and the deep end of a person, the darker side of a personality. That is the hardest part about relationships is to really get into those areas that are deeply personal, but are often the best parts. In general I tend to really have a very serious side. It just struck me that I think people have a problem dealing with the real important issues in a person's personality.
5. Love With A Vengeance
- This song was an interesting procedure. I was actually writing it backwards, and I don't know how to explain it but it like a songwriting breakthrough for me. It really was an interesting process and it worked beautifully. It turned out to be such an interesting song
6. Necessary Evil
- This song just seemed to encapsulate the inevitability of love in our lives and everyone sort of needing to have love and yet sometimes how very difficult it is. The song itself was an homage to Jimi Hendrix. I met him in an elevator once a long time ago, and I did get to see him play live many times. The song had a sort of bluesy feel to it, a little bit of a dark side; I could hear Hendrix singing it.
7. Charm Redux
- Instead of a separation of songs -- just going from song to song -- I wanted to have some places on the album where there was just musical links or bridges that would float between the songs and give it a little bit more flow, not just one song after another. So these were supposed to be instrumental floaters that went in between. Originally it was supposed to just be an instrumental piece but [co-writer] Charlie [Neiland] really wanted to put that little chant in there: "Charm alarm a charm alarm."
8. You're Too Hot
- It was just a moment of madness. I was in the studio and I said, "I have an idea for the beginning," and I started howling, and the look on [everyone's] faces was just perfect. They were trying not to laugh and they were so shocked and it was so funny because I just started howling. We had a lot of fun doing this song because it was so off the wall. I wanted something really wild and funny: "Don't touch me your too hot." Everybody has felt that way at one time or another. I also wanted to do something for the strippers -- a song that was a really great song for strippers to dance to.
9. Dirty And Deep
- Originally there was a version that we sent out to the clubs -- it was a tribute to Lil' Kim, and [in] the lyrics I equated Lil' Kim with the oracle of Delphi, that she was the voice coming from behind the wall in a prophetic way. When it came to making my album I didn't want to throw the track away because I really liked how it felt and I really liked the chorus. I just rewrote the verses myself, so its actually "Dirty and Deep" version two that's on the album. So it really doesn't have anything to do with Lil' Kim on the album version.
10. What Is Love
- I went into the studio one night and all I had was "What is love, what is love" -- I didn't even feel that there was a song there. We started talking about it and it really became apparent that the album really was about love, and the importance of it, and how difficult it can be, that it's the best thing but also the most difficult thing. I had remembered that there were some Buddhist chants that are about putting you in that other state of mind, so we just incorporated that mantra feel in it.
- The chorus says it all, but it's about losing the chance of a relationship because the other person is involved with drugs. It's a fairly obvious parallel in a lot of people lives. It was fun to write a really straight-out rock song that had a great sort of punk feel to it.
12. Needless To Say
- This was actually one of the earlier songs that was written. I think "Deep End" was the first or second song, and this came very early on. It's very personal, about personal decisions. It's a song about reassurance, just reassuring someone that you really do love them even though you are going through some changes.
13. Heat of the Moment
- I took some rough street sounds from a loop, one of those public loop things and developed it into live footage. It's actual sound from a street festival in Brazil, one of those big parties. It has a real tribal feel to it and its really street sounding. I always felt like "Heat of the Moment" was a thought of its own, but it sort of made a nice conclusion to "Needless to Say." It also hinted at something else, so it was like this ending where you could go left or right. It's a moment of decision.
14. Charm Alarm
- This song came about because I did a remake of "In the Flesh" that was produced by Guy Furrow from the Toilet Boys -- that was the first time that I ever worked with Guy and Guy introduced me to Barb and Charlie, my producers. So later on Guy does some night as a DJ called Charm School, so I said to him "I want to do a song, 'Charm Alarm,' and then you and I could do it as a duet and we'll perform it at the club." Just for fun really, so we went in and we came up with this song.
15. Jen Jen
- It's an African work chant. I don't know what dialect or which African language it is, but [Blondie member] Chris [Stein] got this on a loop that he developed into a song. I'm in there buried somewhere. It's not so prevalent, but we really liked the track and I really liked the feel of it. It's about this guitar thing that he did, it's very hypnotic. I wanted to do something that was a real club, moving kind of piece.
16. Naked Eye
- This is another one of Chris's songs. He gave it to me, and I had another idea for it entirely. I thought it was a really good lyric idea and I tried really hard to make it work, and it wasn't really working. I worked on it for a couple of weeks, focusing on it and really sitting there trying to make it work. I was just about to throw the whole thing away but I turned on the TV and there was a show about tattooing and I though "Ah OK, so I'll make this about the illustrated man," and about the ink of another person. It won't rub off but yet he is leaving his mark on you. So that's what that was about.
- It's very timely because it's about suicide, and suicide bombers. I felt that it's such a serious issue and it's also just the weirdest idea about what love is, how a person could actually consider blowing up other human beings because they think they love their God. I realize that the whole album has all these different questions and answers about love, and situations that deal with love. It's not really such a hot topic today in an analytical sense, but every pop song, every rock song, it's about love. I felt like let's make this a banner headline, that this is what we're dealing with.
VH1.com - Tuesday 2nd October 2007