Platinum Blondie

Page 5 of 5

Dynamically, Blondie seems to be divided into two groups: Debbie and Chris on the one hand and the guys, as they are usually referred to, on the other. These two aren't necessarily adversaries, but their interests aren't always mutual.

One point that was impressed on me by various insiders was, "The money doesn't all go to Debbie, you know," which is a backward way of saying that a lot of it does. Debbie and Chris have formed a production company with Robert Fripp to do a remake of Jean-Luc Godard's Alphaville, a classic film from another New Wave. And she has just completed a film tentatively titled Union City, in which she plays the wife of a psychotic killer.

Stein would rather talk about his brand of radical politics than show business or, specifically, music. One senses that this is irksome to the members of the group, who regard themselves totally as musicians and are always itching to play. Burke, Infante and Harrison are for touring; Destri, Stein and Harry are against touring. But these things have a way of working themselves out: this summer, Blondie will tour America, beginning with New York's Central Park in July and concluding with the Greek Theater in L.A. in August.

According to Debbie, "We always agree on the music. If somebody doesn't want to do a song, we just don't do it, that's all."

At any rate, they work well together in the studio, and most of the credit for the proper chemistry goes to Mike Chapman, their benevolent dictator and father figure. Talking about the new LP, he says,"There's loads of hits, it's a great album, but who gives a fuck." His smile can hardly get any bigger when he says, "It's easy, you see. When we go into the studio, we go in and make hit records, and it just happens. We don't think about it. If you're going to be in the music business, you gotta make hit records. If you can't make hit records, you should fuck off and go chop meat somewhere."

Blondie is back in the studio again. In today's case, it's a bright, quasi-rustic place on the West Side that resembles a very posh toolshed. The band is laying down basic tracks for a Chris Stein ballad called "Shayla." As always, there are a million problems, but everything is going well enough. Debbie flounces into the control room with a bag of pistachios. Chapman sees her, motions through the window for her to give him some. Giggling, she takes a handful of nuts and showers them against the window. Infante, a slightly scaled-down version of Keith Richards, comes by looking a little hungover. Destri, who is sitting this one out, announces to the room, "Will somebody give me a drink, please? I'm desperate." Chapman tells Burke what he wants on the drums: "Make it so straight, so simple, that it's moronic."

During a break, their road manager, Bruce Patron, brings in a stack of publicity stills to be autographed. Debbie asks him who they're for. "They're for my souvenir stand on Fourteenth Street," he says with a straight face. Then he unveils their latest trophy, the framed Billboard Hot 100 chart from the week "Heart of Glass" was Number One. They all crowd around to peer at it but don't seem terribly impressed.

Debbie sashays away from the rest of the band, looking like Tuesday Weld in one of her moodier roles. She gazes off vacantly into the empty studio. The next album will be out soon; it will probably outsell Parallel Lines. Every date on the summer tour will likely be a sellout. The boys in the front rows will idolize Debbie, lust after her, and everyone will go out the next day to buy Blondie records. There will be more money, more magazine covers . . . But Debbie Harry seems to greet the future with a sigh.

I am reminded of something her mother told me about her now-famous daughter. "She is shy," Cag Harry confided. "When she's not performing – and you must know this – she's quiet, with a very pixie sense of humor. She's not real outgoing or loud. She's sort of retiring."

As for the strong hankering for security that I perceive in Debbie, Mrs. Harry says, ''She's very family-oriented. As a matter of fact, she's more family-oriented than any of the kids. She's the one that got homesick at camp.''

That was a long time ago, but as Mike Chapman plays back the band's last session take, I consider Blondie, Debbie's extended family, and I wonder what kind of refuge it offers her now. A line from ''Heart of Glass'' springs to mind: ''Once I had a love/And it was a gas/Soon turned out to be a pain in the ass.''

Maybe Debbie Harry feels the same way about success.

This story is from the June 28th, 1979 issue of Rolling Stone. 

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