The Curse of Blondie, the band’s second studio album after a sixteen-year hiatus, is a roller coaster of styles, from “Hello Joe,” a jangly tribute to Joey Ramone, to “Magic,” based on a Japanese folk song, to “Good Boys,” in which frontwoman Debbie Harry oscillates between a rap reminiscent of Blondie’s 1981 hit “Rapture” and the pouty high notes she delivered on the band’s classic “Heart of Glass.” It was only after “Good Boys” became a hot club track in Europe and Australia this winter that the decision was made to release The Curse in America. Thinking about the past, Harry says, makes her “suddenly realize that I’m really old,” but judging from her March 24th appearance on Late Show With David Letterman, Harry, 58, is still a commanding presence, with more sex appeal than most rock chicks half her age.
What’s the first album you fell in love with?
It was a compilation album called I Like Jazz: Fats Waller, Paul Desmond and all this really, really heavy jazz stuff from the Fifties. I didn’t have a lot of money to buy records, and at that point you couldn’t really download, so I’d listen to a lot of radio.
Growing up, did you have a radio in your bedroom?
Yeah, a little radio where I could have my ear right next to the speaker. In those days DJs could be freaky — the late-late-night DJs were the ones. Funky, soulful stuff, maybe a little bit of rock. What could be better? I was always a radiohead.
So it must have been nice to hear Blondie on the radio.
Chris [Stein, Blondie guitarist] and I were walking, and someone drove past and I heard some music. “Oh, gee, that sounds good! That’s us!” Quite a moment. I think it was “Rip Her to Shreds.” I went to the dry cleaners two days ago, and “Rapture” came on. It sounded OK.
How much of a part do you think “Rapture” played in the evolution of hip-hop and rap?
Creatively it did one thing in particular: It was the first rap song to have its own original music. Commercially it made rap viable for the mainstream charts. I don’t think it was a tremendous influence. I am nowhere close to being a rapper. I’m completely in awe of great rappers.
Missy Elliott and Lil’ Kim, Ludacris and 50 Cent. All of the subtle, rhythmic things they do with their phrasing is really outrageous.
When you worked as a waitress at Max’s Kansas City, which musicians were you most excited to serve?
Janis [Joplin] having her filet mignon that she probably ate two bites of. Jefferson Airplane were chatty; I brought them lamb chops. What’s his name from Traffic? Stevie Winwood. He was cute. Mmm. Put him on the sex list of the time.
Sure…. How did you come up with the name Blondie?
Chris lived on First and First in Manhattan, and I was walking to his house to write songs. The street noise was, “Hey, blondie! Hey, blondie!” I’m like, “Jesus …” Because we were trying to think of a band name and there it was, right in front of me.
Is there one word that you’ve been proud to use in a song?
Yes. I was so excited that in “Picture This” I rhymed solid and wallet. I said, “Wow. Things are happening now!” [Laughs]
Who’s the best-dressed performer out there?
Pink! She’s a little boyish, but her costumes are really exciting. I’m a little confused by Christina Aguilera — there’s no continuity as far as her identity through her clothing.
You were at Courtney Love’s recent outrageous show in New York. What’d you think?
I thought she was fascinating and dynamic — she’s an incredible performer, and her madness is such a great part of that. But the band, musically, was really very … nothing.
What was the craziest afterparty, back in the day?
We had great loft parties that were pretty far out. I remember one — I don’t know if it was an after, a before or an ongoing, but it really lasted a long time. It was down on the Bowery, right when Blondie was picking up steam. Our landlord was this crazy maniac queen. He really loved the Hells Angels, and he was always in biker drag. The loft was above a liquor store, so we had bums drinking Night Train. And it was a block away from CBGB, so take it from there. When the party was over, all our records were missing.