Monday, June 8, 2009

Come Back to the Five and Dime, Deborah Harry, Deborah Harry

It's important to occasionally pay homage to the icons of our past, and not forget who inspired us in our younger days. What with Blondie on tour in 2009, what better time to pay tribute to that paragon of effortless cool and deadpan soignee, Deborah Harry? I ask you, where would modern day warblers like Robyn or the Yeah Yeah Yeahs be without her? (Forget that crystal addict tranny Fergie, whose trash burlesque was woefully upstaged by Harry at the MTV awards).

Ms. Harry was something of a shapeshifter and changed her style regularly, but, roots or no, always retained the essence of her Deborah-ness, which is why she has remained an icon. Indeed the musical stylings of her band Blondie were all over the map, but they managed to carve out a distinctive sound which is still instantly recognizable.

I shan't forget sitting in my parents' beat-up Toyota throbbing along to the rock/disco pulse of Atomic, thinking I'd died and gone to musical heaven (later Britpop band Sleeper would score their lone hit with their tinny Xerox version on the Trainspotting soundtrack). Of course, at the tender age of 7 I had scant concept of nuclear annihilation, or that the ditty would prefigure the Pyongyang nuclear standoff by a good three decades! Then there was the time I stood on a sand dune on a beach at our summer place on Lake Michigan, with the reggae lilt of The Tide is High on high, tautologically watching the actual tide roll in. Bliss.

A couple years back a friend of mine (Hi Jamie!) mentioned what big Blondie fan he was, then proceeded to declare that I reminded him in attitude of Debbie Harry! He couldn't explain it, any more than one could explain the ineffable cool of Miss Harry herself. I certainly have no idea what he meant, especially since I am a man, quite macho and dark-featured! Perhaps it is her special blend of humility and rock aggression, a simultaneous streetwise earthiness and vulnerability, with a bit of cheeky humor thrown in for good measure. Like Ms. Harry, I really didn't hit my stride career-wise until my thirties, and, like her, I am often told I look years younger than my actual age. It's really not for me to say. But it was an incredibly flattering thing for my friend to say.

In this rather antediluvian interview we find Ms. Harry in bubbly blond yet purposeful, almost business-like mode, maintaining her sangfroid while a clueless and homely interviewer dogs her with questions about her age!

For some reason they've been removing classic videos formerly available on Youtube (perhaps due to copyright issues), so the original Atomic video is unavailable, but they've kept the Xenomania remix, which isn't half bad (though it omits the incredible bass guitar solo at the bridge). They're the crack team of producers behind the Pet Shop Boys' new comeback album, as well as pop tarts Saint Etienne and Girls Aloud.

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