Melody Maker

Platinum Brunette

10th July 1993 Pages 12 & 13

DEBORAH HARRY was the Seventies Madonna, the punk Bardot and the world’s most famous blonde since Monroe. Her band, Blondie, influenced a spate of power-poppers-with-a-pretty-singer (Darling Buds, Primitives, Transvision Vamp). Basically, La Harry invented Riot Grrrgeous!
And now she’s back with her first solo material since 1989. PAUL MATHUR (words) and TOM SHEEHAN (pics) celebrate the return of the coolest woman in pop.

ONE IS, OF course, supposed to be reasonable about all this. First the history, the context, then the carefully considered critical appraisal, smeared perhaps with a few words of warning. Level-headedness as an essential for public service dissemination.
F*** that. I’M IN DEBORAH HARRY’S BEDROOM! And, hey, maybe I’m at a point in my life where I can just about stop myself hyperventilating at the realisation, can play it cool to the point of dazed blackness, but let me tell you, this is the payoff, the justification for having spent the best part of my life with a riotous grin listening to ploddy no-hopers. This Is The Moment.
For more of us than would perhaps care to admit, Deborah Harry’s music has been a mark against which all other pop is judged. For the first few years of their existence, Blondie made some snaggy, sublime records that were, and bear with me on this one, like running through sugar-tipped thorns. In her ensuing solo career she only occasionally dipped beneath enchanting and if there’s anyone else with as enraptured and enticing a stage presence then the world must have been looking away that week. Deborah Harry is pop’s eternal synonym.
And her influence has been awesome. Blondie’s video’s defined the genre, their “Rapture” took hip hop mainstream, “Heart Of Glass” tugged disco towards credibility, “X Offender” on the B-side of their debut single spawned a spiritual progeny that washes up a decade and a half later as the sort of thing Riot Grrrl keeps finding on the tip of their tongues. And then, inevitably, there’s The Blonde Thing. Madonna, Sharon Stone, Courtney, even our very own flaxen Chris Roberts. They Know.

IT’S midsummer 1993 and Deborah Harry has brown hair. This is quite terrific, proving as it does the aforementioned Roberts’ theory that some people are always blonde on the inside.
Deborah Harry’s first words to me are, “I feel like a secretary”. This was a 4,500-1 shot and makes me a rich man. It also means I can pretend I’m talking to someone else which makes the words come out in the right order and approximately the right language. It’s a help.
In many ways, Harry IS a different person these days. She insists on being called Deborah, is as interested in making films as records and has, one senses, taken a step back from it all, is relishing her life rather than just doing it. Without coming over all Hello!, it’s safe to say that Deborah Harry is happier than she’s been for years.
This month she releases a new album, “Debravation”, the first taste of which, the single “I Can See Clearly”, has already demonstrated to be something of a return to form. The album itself, while never going to be able to live up to the promise of its title is, nevertheless, a significant step towards her former greatness. A bit grown-up, a bit AOR, but it has its moments.
“The album I originally wanted to make,” she says, “was quite different from the one that came out in the end. There were lots of people involved in producing and arranging it and it became perhaps a bit too polished. It was supposed to be a lot more raw. It’s come out kind of interesting, though.”

ABOUT half of it is only going to be interesting if you spend lots of time polishing your coffee table, but when it succeeds it does so with a gusto that few people who’ve been making music for so long can match. Songs like the next single, the equally magnificently-monikered “Strike Me Pink”, and the – get this – Hi-NRG reworking of an Edgar Allan Poe poem, “Lip Service”, serve notice that she’s not about to fade away. As comebacks go, it’ll do pretty nicely.
“It’s not really a comeback,” she insists. “I’ve been building up to it for a while, but there’s been lots of other things I’ve been doing, like acting.”
So, has she become an actress who sings?
“No, I’m still a singer. There’s been a few film roles I’ve had that I’ve been really pleased with, like ‘Hairspray’, and I think what I’ve done with acting has given me something that I can bring to live performances. When you’re up onstage singing, you have to act, have to make it larger than life, and I feel much better at doing that.”
One of her most underrated film roles was as a witch in “Tales From The Darkside”, linking a series of horror vignettes and finally getting stuffed in an oven by a couple of kids who fully deserve the gas mark five treatment themselves.
Was it purging to be the baddie for a bit, to be malevolent?
“Malevolent?” she wonders.
“Yeah, it was fun. Malevolent, an elephant, whatever. I’m into that.”
The elephant reference obliquely recalls the tabloid pictures of her looking slightly less than svelte, photos that were received with insidious glee by hacks insistent, apparently, on hanging their pop made by Stepford Wives.
Does she care what people think?
“Sure I care, but really I just do what I want to do and if people like it, that’s great. If they don’t then they can listen to something else. It’s just a record.”
Her desire to do what she wants has led to her entrusting remixes of her work to D:Ream and Murk, two of the most spot-on production teams around.
Is she pleased with the transformations they made?
“They sound good. I like the dance scene, but it’s not like I’m an expert or anything. When I’m out in New York I go to clubs like Jackie 60 (a splendid mixed-gay performance art knees-up) or to cabaret-type things. The club scene there is getting much more geared towards smaller venues and I much prefer that. I did a week at the Borderline over here and I’d like to do something like that again. Of course there’s things like Lollapalooza that I like the idea of, and a couple of years back I did an American tour with Tom Tom Club and The Ramones which turned into like a rollercoaster tour. That was pretty neat.”
How sussed is she about today’s movers and shake-it-all-abouters? Has she heard of Riot Grrrls? What does she think of Courtney?
“Riot Grrrls? Yeah, I’ve heard of them. I’d like to hear more by them, they seem to have the right idea. As for Courtney, I don’t really know what she’s got to complain about.”
The idea that you can’t be a successful creative woman in your own right married to a famous man without being a leech, maybe? Courtney has a genuine grievance.
“Maybe. I know it must be weird for Nirvana. They’re going to find it really difficult to deal with the sudden fame, going from nothing to such celebrity status so quickly. And audiences get bored so much quicker now they’ve got MTV. Their attention spans are so short. I’m interested in seeing how Nirvana handle it all.”
And how will the blipvert MTV audiences take to your regeneration?
“It’s up to them. I hope they like me.”
It would be their loss. Still luminescent. And unstoppable.

‘Debravation’ is out soon on Chrysalis

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