Debbie Harry's Sixties Psych-Folk Group the Wind in the Willows
The future Blondie frontwoman doesn't exactly think highly of her earliest recording efforts with the spaced-out, folky collective named for Kenneth Grahame's 1908 children's classic. Reexamining kid-lit through an acid-tinged lens may have been a crucial pillar of English psychedelia, but such preciousness was doomed to fail in 1967 New York City. "It was pretty awful. That was baroque folk-rock," Harry later said. "I didn't have anything to do with the music then. I was just a back-up singer."
The Wind in the Willows was largely the vision of singer Paul Klein, who was married to one of Harry's school friends. Klein happened to live on the same 7th Street block as music journalist (and future "Dean of Rock Critics") Robert Christgau, who helped introduce them to a manager, which led to a recording contract with Capitol Records. Their self-titled debut was released to little fanfare in 1968. "A sweet, saccharine kind of thing," Harry described in the book Blondie: Parallel Lives. "I wasn't really a writer on that. That record is very childlike to me. I didn't have a great deal of input. I was a backup singer doing high harmonies with the lead singer. It was his trip. He envisioned himself as this folk guy with a teddy bear aspect." When asked a decade later if the record could be classified as "easy listening," she offered a different term: "depressing listening."
The public agreed, and the album failed to manager more than a feeble Number 195 on the Billboard charts. While their producer, Artie Kornfeld, met with greater success the following year when he co-organized a festival in upstate New York that would become known as Woodstock, the Wind in the Willows were dead on arrival. A second album was recorded, which reportedly featured more of Harry's vocals, but the tapes went missing and it has yet to surface. Harry made her exit from the band soon after. "I wasn't turned by the music anymore. I thought we should make certain changes, but Paul didn't agree, so I told them I was leaving," she recalled.
In the early Seventies she joined a group called the Stilettoes with guitarist Chris Stein. Within a few years she and Stein departed to form a new band, Angel and the Snake, which later became known as Blondie.