Blondie's Back

by Janis Cortese

'Basically I've always felt that I was a woman with a man's brain, a man trapped inside a womans's body. I always had the initiative of a man but was always treated like some idiotic creature, some little buzzy beauty.' - Debbie Harry

If you were a 13 year old girl in 1979, you loved Blondie. It's a given. At that time in your life when it seemed that the forces of darkness were all conspiring to tell you that you have to start acting stupid, pliant, and accomodating to anything with a penis, imagine the impact that it had on our tender little psyches to see this woman -- this gorgeous woman -- being so pushy, confident, in-your-face, outrageous, rude, and powerful. And not losing one ounce of her sexuality in the bargain.

Imagine the power that an image like that would have to a 13 year old girl in catholic school who is being pushed inevitably toward the sucking bog of 'act-nice-look-pretty-say-nothing' and you can start to get an idea of the import of Blondie -- specifically Deborah Harry -- to that young mind.

Beautiful, pushy, and not likely to fold her hands gracefully over closed knees. This looked like a woman who laughed loud, who said what she felt, who might rip the face off of a man who grabbed her unwanted, and welcome another that she liked five minutes afterwards. A woman who, while she might cavort with or even marry a man, would never belong to one.

Maybe that was why she frightened so many people. According to Harry's recollections, there were reporters who were afraid to be in the same room with her. A gorgeous vampy woman who isn't a squealy little sex kitten? Heaven help us all. Some of the band members have stated that Harry was vilified in the media of the time for 'selling her sexuality,' which has since become commonplace with the advent of performers such as Madonna. However, that doesn't tell the whole story, as the origin of the name 'Blondie' will attest; Harry states that it came from truck drivers leaning out their windows and yelling at her, 'Hey Blondie! Give us a screw!' Her sexuality wasn't an issue -- the fact that she was in control of it was what offended people. Had she bounced and giggled, there would have been no negative reaction. To use a blunt term, she was not vilified for being a whore. She was vilified for not having a pimp.

'In America they put girls in two categories, either you're a sweet clean-cut girl or a real nasty bitch. And I know which one they've figured me out to be.' - Debbie Harry

When I bought their new CD, 'No Exit,' I expected to buy it, play it, and put it away after a few fond smiles and memories.

I didn't expect to play it five times running and immediately tape it so I could play it on the deck in my car. I didn't expect new stuff, modern and odd, inextricably Blondie. I didn't expect seven or eight strong tracks in a row, with the same old funky-jumpy, weird, pop-art, fun, and slightly disturbing fabulousness of the Blondie of years past.

I mean, usually when old bands get together, it's a bunch of old farts coming out of retirement to 'recapture their youth' in some sort of publicly-witnessed midlife crisis. They play some old standards to a now mortgage- and daycare-saddled audience, and then vanish back into retirement. They don't do something new, something Grammy-quality.

Apparently, Blondie does. And it's a CD filled with songs impossible to categorize, songs that will leave you staring slackjawed at your speakers, listening rapt at this new wonderful sound and snapping your fingers at the memory tickling at the back of your brain, wondering what this new music reminds you of. 'I've heard something like this before, something that sounds a little like this . . . oh, yes! Blondie!' The old punk band, the old teenaged girls' dream role model and her cast of supporting males.

Go buy it.

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Copyright © 2000 by Janis Cortese

02/08/07 at 21:40