Blondie is back with the music video for their single "Long Time," with an album Polllinator to follow on May 5. The track is a collab between Debbie Harry and Dev Hynes (aka Blood Orange), and the video is set in New York and features Debbie Harry driving a yellow cab Fast and Furious style.
In celebration, we're going back into our archives to bring you this interview with Debbie Harry from way back in 2007, shortly after the release of her solo album Necessary Evil.
Blondie’s 1981 single, “Rapture,” was the first record our Pop Tart columnist Wendy McClure ever bought. (She was nine!) Here, she lives the dream by having a transatlantic tête-à-tête with the band’s iconic front-woman and solo artist, the indomitable Deborah Harry.
By Wendy McClure
You have to love that Deborah Harry turned a catcall into punk-rock history. Naming her band Blondie after something truckers would shout at her, Harry’s group became a fixture in the New York underground in the mid-’70s. Just a couple of years later, Blondie hit the mainstream, and soon they were redefining it; 1981’s “Rapture” was the first pop song to incorporate rap, and subsequent releases adroitly co-opted punk, disco, and reggae. Blondie’s videogenic new-wave image—including Harry’s deadpan, shell-shocked performance style—did much to define the sharp-edged ’80s Zeitgeist. Towards the end of that decade, Harry embarked on a career as a solo artist and actor, and today she continues to work both on her own and with Blondie (who reunited in the ’90s after a long break, during which Harry helped bandmate and then-boyfriend Chris Stein recover from a serious illness). Coinciding with the release of Necessary Evil, her first solo album in more than 10 years, Harry spent this summer on the road with Cyndi Lauper, Erasure, the Gossip, and others for the True Colors tour, supporting the gay-rights organization Human Rights Campaign. Just a few weeks later, she was on a European tour with Blondie, and in the midst of that, on the phone from the U.K., she opened up about everything from fashion to feminism.
What was it like performing on the True Colors tour this summer?
It was a really great musical experience as well as a really decent cause. I think that civil rights and human rights are deeply, closely associated with creative rights and freedom of speech. And I found it really fun to play with bands like the Dresden Dolls, the Cliks, the MisShapes, and the Gossip. Margaret Cho [who hosted] is hysterical; she’s such a genius, really, and that’s to say nothing of Cyndi Lauper. I mean, she puts on a dynamite show. I understand you only performed material from your new album. It seems you’ve been careful to keep your solo work distinct from Blondie. I just didn’t think it was right to go out there by myself and perform Blondie material when Blondie is still a functional, working band. I really like the way the Blondie band is sounding these days. But it gets very tedious and tiring to play the same songs year after year. It’s almost like committing suicide.
I read recently that you’ve contributed classic Blondie songs and also a new solo song to the musical production of Desperately Seeking Susan, which debuts this fall in London.
That’s right! Even though I’m not really a musical-theater buff or aficionado, it’s so fast-paced, and it’s not, like, “happy, happy, happy”—it has a bit of a dark edge to it. And so, to me, it’s a little bit more palatable.
This seems to be a trend—turning cult movies into musicals. It just happened with Hairspray, and you acted in the original John Waters version. Do you worry that these musical productions are going to leave the original work behind?
No. Actually, I think that [the originals are] gonna be looked at even more. The thing that John did with the first movie, which was so genius, was that he got the rights to a lot of really great old material [for the soundtrack].
I love that soundtrack! All that unknown R&B stuff that you can’t find anywhere else now.
Yeah, it’s really good!
You were one of the few prominent women in the early punk/new-wave scene. Do you consider yourself a feminist?
I think so. I’ve always felt that women should be able to express themselves and not have to subjugate themselves to a man’s idea of who or what they are, or what they’re good for. So in that respect, I am truly a feminist.
There are so many DJs and artists who’ve covered, sampled, and remixed Blondie songs. What is it like to hear those versions?
Oh, sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s bad [laughs]. I did hear a really interesting version of “Dreaming” that I thought was quite beautiful. And Nouvelle Vague did a really nice version of “Heart of Glass.”
Your presence on the rock scene has always been closely associated with your status as a fashion icon.
I think that reputation grew out of the very early days. There weren’t that many girls fronting bands, and I had this friendship with Stephen Sprouse, who was an incredible designer. I don’t know if [this reputation] fits me so much these days. I certainly am not completely cutting edge. I don’t really know if there is a cutting edge anymore.
Do you think the connection between rock and fashion is different now that music has become so commercialized?
In a sense, yeah. So many bands allow themselves to be styled now. Sometimes stylists are tremendously helpful when you have to do a photo shoot. But [using stylists] eliminates the possibility of people really finding their soul in clothing. Think of Sly Stone, or some of the old psychedelic bands, or even the Doors. There’s something to be said for discovering your own comfort zone.
If the Blondie of 1980 were somehow transported to the present day, what under-the-radar scenes do you think the band would be looking to today?
You know, I don’t think there is such a thing as “under the radar” anymore; everything’s so immediate now because of the Internet.
Maybe music’s not about scenes anymore.
I used to think that there was a pendulum that swung back and forth, and that every decade, the pendulum would swing back to another style. I think now, because of the Internet, it’s circular—it bounces around and swings in lots of different directions. It really is like a universal consciousness. And if we were ever to really expect to have world peace and prosperity, this is definitely a step in right direction. But I mean, this is really big, big thinking [laughs]. Big-time!
Illustration by Wendy Plovmand; top photo via Wikimedia Commons
This story was originally published in BUST Magazine, October/November 2007.
To purchase this back issue, click here.
Want more of this kind of awesome pop culture coverage delivered right to your door? Subscribe to BUST!
More from BUST