By Steven M. Housman
Wild About Harry Debbie, That Is
Im just wild about Debbie Harry. I was thrilled that her band Blondie reunited in 1999, for their critically acclaimed album, No Exit and their Top 10 Rock Single, Maria. Im even more ecstatic that it wasnt a one time reunion and tour. Five years have passed, and come April 6, Blondie returns with a new CD, The Curse of Blondie, on Sanctuary Records.
The Curse of Blondie is the bands eighth studio album and the most musically adventurous of their long and phenomenal career. The 14 tracks are a virtual potpourri, ranging from pop, hard rock, new wave, jazz and reggae. At 58, Harrys vocals have never been better, and the band sounds as healthy, if not better, than most of the up-and-coming new bands of today. Good Boys, the first single released to radio and clubs, carries that unmistakable Blondie sound and the upcoming remixes will undoubtedly be a club favorite.
Other highlights on Curse include Shakedown, a perfect blend of R&B and hip-hop that carries the weight of Blondies older material while easily keeping up with the new millennium. Undone and Golden Rod, are the hardest rock tracks on the disc, and a flashback to their roots when they were considered the new new wave band. The reggae influenced Rules For Living and Background Melody (The Only One) are two welcomed back-to-back tracks midway through the album. Hello Joe is an infectious pop song tribute to friend Joey Ramone, who died of cancer in 2001 at the age of 49. Joeys group, The Ramones, often played the same bill at New Yorks famed CBGBs, among several other New York underground clubs back in the mid-seventies. The two closing tracks, Desire Brings Me Back and Songs of Love are jazz-tinged ballads that are among the best songs ever written and performed by Blondie. They showcase their amazing versatility and depth at this jazz sound, which has only been hinted at in the past. They are gorgeous, lush, rich numbers that makes one yearn for an entire album of this material. Debbie can you hear me?
How did they come up with the album title The Curse of Blondie? Its been a standing joke for years, says Debbie Harry, Every time something weird would happen we would say, Its the Curse of Blondie. A lot of people take it seriously, but its silly. Its sort of a Vincent Price, horror movie type title. I think its lucky.
In 1982, just four years after Blondie first hit the charts with the album Plastic Letters and finished four studio albums later with The Hunter, Blondie called it quits. Harry had several offers for film roles, and she took advantage of a few gems, including a role in the John Waters 1988 hit Hairspray. She also appeared several episodes of the TV series Wiseguy. Overall, Harry has appeared in close to 40 films over the past 28 years. Madonna wasnt the first bleached blonde superstar. Many remember Debbie Harry leading the pack, and she still has a loyal fan base to that dares you to tell them differently.
Heres how it all began. Deborah Harry was born on July 1, 1945 in Miami, Florida. She was adopted at three months and raised by the Harry family in Hawthorne, New Jersey. In the '60s she worked as a Playboy Bunny and hung out at Max's Kansas City, a famous Warhol-inhabited nightclub. Her professional singing career started in 1968 with a folk band called Wind In The Willows. She sang backup on their first (and only) album. In 1973, she met Chris Stein who became her long-time boyfriend. They created Blondie in 1974 after they both were in the Stilettos, a theatrical "girl group" band. Blondie struggled for a few years, and then went on to be one of the most successful bands of the late '70s and early '80s. Their hits began with the release of their first single, Heart of Glass. Not only did Heart of Glass shoot straight to #1, it also became one of the all-time disco anthems of the era. The song is still highly recognized and used in several dance reissues, countless films, and television commercials. Other hits include One Way Or Another, Dreaming, The Tide Is High, Rapture and the blockbuster song Call Me (which spent close to two months at the pole position) from the blockbuster Richard Gere film American Gigolo. After Blondie broke up in 1982, Deborah released five solo albums, including her first, Koo Koo, and my favorite, Def, Dumb & Blonde. Always considered a stunning woman, she also was asked to be in a few commercials that included Gloria Vanderbilt Jeans and Revlon. She's been a tireless supporter of many Gay Rights Organizations and has done many benefit shows in support of AIDS charities, a Broadway show (Teaneck Tanzai), poetry readings, and been one of the most notorious characters in the New York downtown scene.
At the very beginning of her singing career, the name of her band was originally called "Angel and the Snakes, but she changed the name to "Blondie" after the countless whistles and screams from truck drivers who would yell out the window at her when she was walking down the street, "Hey! Blondie!" She dug it and the name stuck.
At the height of their fame in 1981, Blondie's video for their hit song "Rapture" featured a cameo appearance of New York artist/Andy Warhol disciple Jean-Michel Basquiat, whose life was portrayed in the 1996 film Basquiat. In 1981 "Harper's Bazaar" named her to their 10 Most Beautiful Women in America list.
In a nutshell, this brings us up-to-date on Harrys career. If youre a fan of Harry, youll love this CD. If youre not familiar with Harry (dont even tell me who you are!) I urge you to give a listen to this pioneer. I cant believe its exactly 25 years ago this week that Heart of Glass hit #1. Do yourself a favor and celebrate Blondies silver anniversary of their first chart-topper with this magnificent new album. You wont be disappointed. Trust me.
By the way, Debbie Harry has been Ranked #12 on VH1's 100 Greatest Women of Rock N Roll. Just thought youd like to know. See you at the record store!
© 2004 Steven M. Housman. All Rights Reserved.