Magazines + Newspapers


March 1989

Pages 84 & 85

Debbie Harry proved that there was life beyond Blondie with a career in film. Now the woman who put the pout in punk is ready to rock again. Carl Hindmarch is enraptured


Debbie Harry is unmistakable. ‘I look like a drowned rat – I came from the gym,’ she apologises in that particular New York Village drawl. Although flushed, she has an aura that is more than just a post-workout glow. Wrapped up against the coldest New York day, desperately incognito and Ray-Banned, wearing something that dangerously resembles a snood, Debbie Harry is still a star.
Ten years after she conquered Top Of The Pops with Denis, Harry is about to release a new solo album with ex-Blondie co-writer Chris Stein and New Wave hit maker Mike Chapman. It’s a return to form after the rocky, middle-of-the-road 1986 turkey, Rockbird. It’s a return to Blondie. ‘But I’m not really as blonde as I was.’ The roots may be showing, but Debbie Harry will always be Blondie.

Main photo: Brian Aris. Small photos: The Kobal Collection/LFI

For three years she fronted the most successful of all the New York New Wave bands. Blondie was the pop group with a punk wardrobe. While its peers, the Ramones, Television, Patti Smith and Talking Heads, developed cult status or became punk forefathers, Blondie because international chart success. ‘We were the opposite end of the Patti Smith spectrum. They were artsy underground and we were really poppy,’ says Harry, whose pouty Monroesque sexiness so transfixed audiences that few noticed (and fewer cared) that her first hit had a man’s name and enough doo-be-doo-be-doos for the Andrews Sisters. Blondie’s incredible success and the pressure of maintaining that impetus – to produce new material and tour the world with it – grew increasingly oppressive. ‘We had a fairly long run, we’d been together since 1975, but after a while we ended up at each other’s throats and it was too monstrous an ordeal to keep going.’
Blondie (the band) finally split up in 1982, while Blondie – as she was known by then – attempted to reclaim her own identity with a solo career as Debbie Harry, and forsook peroxide for her natural brown in David Cronenberg’s cult movie Videodrome. ‘I had been offered so many cheap exploitation movie roles with 30 minutes of sex, 30 minutes of violence and 30 minutes of music, so when Cronenberg came along it was like Wow!’ Some would argue that it was only the music that was missing from her role in the film, but it did prove her ability to live beyond Blondie.
After diving back into the bleach for John Waters’ teenage romp Hairspray, as a ridiculously beehived WASPy mother, Harry is only too aware of her dependence on the peroxide bottle and she wants to title her new album Deaf, Dumb And Blonde (released by Chrysalis in April). But isn’t it tough staying golden all these years? Don’t the grey hairs start to show through? ‘It can bother you if you start feeling tired,’ says the survivor whose career started back in 1967 in a long forgotten folk rock group.
Like Natalie Wood in Rebel Without A Cause, by the time she was Blondie, Harry had outgrown the teenage angst she sang about. ‘I don’t know,’ she sighs, when I ask what the new songs on Deaf, Dumb And Blonde are about. ‘There’s a reggae number, a couple of dance songs, a slow number and some frantic high-energy things.’ As ever, it’s not so much a question of content as style.
For the woman who put a marketable pout on a punk pop sound, her album’s not a return but a new project. ‘I’m ready for anything,’ she says with that Monroesque Blondieness. ‘I mean,’ she laughs, ‘I’d like to play supermarkets.’ She throws one of those sugary sexy smiles. All twinkling eyes and cutesy. Even on the coldest day in New York. Even though she wears a snood. She’s a star.

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