Debbie Does Disneyland
Debbie Harry is burned-out, but in a good way. During Blondie's 1999 tour for their comeback CD, No Exit, I was one of hundreds of over-30-somethings showered by my own spittle as I wildly shrieked whoooo-yeahs like a total ass while watching this almost 60-year-old punk/new wave icon stumble around the stage in a too-tight mini and shades. Maybe it's because I'm originally from the 909, but there's nothing like a burned-out, bleached-blond, chain-smoking, over-50 booze-hound to get my endorphins flowing.
I'm not alone in finding Harry a smokin' hottie—at least I didn't used to be. Everyone lusted after Harry in her heyday. Harper's Bazaar named her one of the 10 most beautiful women in America in 1981. But that was 1981. Those who prefer skanky jailbait may not moon over Harry anymore. But I do. In fact, I declare that Harry's looks actually peaked in 1987—at age 42—long after her band fizzled. I own the movie Hairspray mostly because Harry's beehived Velma von Tussle makes me want to do the limbo rock with ol' Deb—without the music and pole, of course. Even in 1995's sleeper Heavy—starring the angelic Liv Tyler—it was Harry's 50-year-old slutto waitress Delores who poached my nubile eggs. That said, it's probably best that Ms. Harry was unavailable for an interview for this piece—I can only imagine what a drooling douche bag I would have been.
But the music: truth is Blondie used to be cool. "Rapture" is the oft-referred-to Blondie experimental moment that introduced white kids to rap—bad rap—but rap nonetheless, and perfections such as "Heart of Glass" and "Call Me" have made linear radio moves from stupid flashback weekends for the kids to the daily rotation on adult-contemporary for the carpool class. But the real Blondie genius lies in such vintage songs as the dreamy "Union City Blue," the post-nuclear sounds of "Accidents Never Happen" and "Atomic," and the reggae "Die Young, Stay Pretty." Hell, anything off their first four pre-'80s albums is a gem.
Harry's influence on rock has been noted by every reputable music mag on the planet. (They pluck Harry from Blondie for the honors due also to her successful solo career, and we personally love the homo fave "I Want That Man" off her Def, Dumb & Blonde release.) But Blondie's comeback album, 1999's No Exit, was the kind only a freakily obsessed fan like me would ever listen to a hundred times. The surprisingly good pop single "Maria" kicked around the bottom of Billboard's Hot 100, but other cuts were worthy, especially the ska-influenced "Screaming Skin" and "The Dream's Lost on Me," a waltzy, drunken, cow-punk number with take-home lines such as "I wake up laughin' thrown from a nightmare. . . Happy or just crazy/Relaxed or lazy/Gonna keep my vision hazy." That rules, and you know it. Too bad it tanked.
Blondie's latest album, The Curse of Blondie, was sent to Australia and Japan first last year because no one in the U.S. wanted it. Thank god some smart-ass over at Sanctuary Records realized this was the best Blondie album since 1979's Eat to the Beat. The first single, "Good Boys," is hooky, classic Blondie with a contemporary dance-synthesizer pulse and sweet guitar riffs. The rest of the album holds up—but doesn't surpass—that cut, dipping again into reggae beats and Blondie's standard surreal unrequited-love tunes. The only crap on the CD is the opening rap number, "Shakedown." Note to Debbie and crew: STOP RAPPING. Leave it to the pros, babe, and stick to what you do best: sexily purr, angelically sing and always shoot us that "cat that ate the canary" smirk. Yum.
Included on the CD is the video for "Good Boys"—a clear nod to the Baz Luhrmann revolution of silent-movie burlesque/carnival love stories—in which Harry goes both sultry brunette minstrel-band conductor and sparky modern bottle-blond punker. Either way, she makes my 60-year-old mother look like a shrunken granny-apple doll. With this new album and tour—which was not put together to capitalize on the retro movement nor to pay the rent, as Harry acknowledged was the case with No Exit—Harry and the band trod virgin ground: unlike their contemporaries, they aren't treating you to stale radio hits in a nostalgia show; they're showing you that real talent never retires—it ripens.
Blondie performs at the House Of Blues, 1530 Disneyland Dr., Anaheim, (714) 778-2583. Tues., 7 p.m. $42.50. All ages (16 and under with guardian).
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