Archive for the ‘Blondie’ Category
Today was Michael Jackson’s birthday, and there was a massive dance party in Prospect Park. We heard it, but didn’t get to see it: We walked Toby through the park in the late afternoon, and the music was booming from the direction of the Nethermede, but Toby wasn’t having any of it and kept tugging in the opposite direction. To his canine sensitivity, the very firmament must have been atremble.
Here’s a video of Blondie recording a cover of a Michael Jackson song during the sessions for their upcoming album, Panic of Girls.
[Note: Because this video is from EMI, I can’t embed it here and you have to click through to YouTube to watch it. Please do that—EMI will make two cents. Then you can come back and read the post.]
I used to have this wish about Blondie, one of my all-time favorite bands—that they hadn’t broken up in 1982, that they’d maybe taken a couple of years off, gotten all of the substances and bad vibes out of their systems, and then reunited to continue making fantastic new wave pop albums in the mold of Parallel Lines and Eat to the Beat all through the 1980s and ‘90s. (As it was, they reunited in 1997 and have since put out two fantastic new wave pop albums—but all that lost time!) It’s only with the benefit of hindsight that I’m able to see that if my wish had come true, it would have been disastrous. Blondie existed, the first time around, in an era before everything looked shiny and packaged. In the late 1970s, music sounded great, but almost everything else—magazines, videos, Solid Gold—looked kind of crummy. Those crummy things weren’t polished enough to cover up the fact that Blondie actually were goofballs—in other words, that they were human. They were silly like us. If you were walking down the street and someone stopped you and asked you to be in a video for what would be the lead-in song on the number one album in America, and then placed you in front of a camera and asked you to lip-sync the lyrics and, I don’t know, do something with your hands, anything, you’ll come up with something—well, you wouldn’t know what to do either. You too might act out the line “I can’t control myself” by miming seizures. You too might pretend that you were holding an invisible telephone, and shake it by your ear.
The invisible telephone thing might be my own issue. Playing air guitar, we all agree, looks dorky. Air drums, same thing; air bass, worse. Pretending that you’re singing into an invisible microphone, borderline. For most people, the embarrassment stops there. But I cringe whenever I see anyone holding an invisible anything. Swinging an invisible bat or an invisible golf club—don’t like. I even squirmed a little in my seat watching Fantastic Mr. Fox, in a scene where the title character raises a toast to a group of other forest creatures by hoisting an invisible glass (because they were underground and starving or because foxes don’t drink alcohol, I can’t remember which). I squirmed until Mr. Fox, finishing the toast, mimed dashing the invisible glass onto the floor, and then made a “tish” sound, the sound of breaking, and then I was relieved. That knowing “tish” said, “We humans do this, we pretend we hold invisible things, it looks goofy but we do it anyway, it’s okay.”
In 1978, Deborah Harry was the most beautiful woman on the planet, and here she is, dancing with an invisible telephone receiver. Therein, I think, lies Blondie’s considerable charm. Ten years later, the band’s label would have hired someone to choreograph her within an inch of her life. They would have brought in backing dancers. They would have said, “Don’t—don’t do that phone thing with your hands.” With each new record, it would have been expected that Debbie would have a new “persona,” like Madonna. The guys would have been given florescent shoes and ankle-length coats, like Mick Jagger and David Bowie. Blondie got out while the getting was good.
I read somewhere that in Blondie’s early punk days, Debbie used to be the one who had a car and drove everyone home after late nights at CBGB’s. That’s how she looks in this video. She looks sexy, but she also looks nice. She looks like the kind of person who’d give you a lift and wait to make sure you got in your doorway safely.
When I watch this clip, I imagine this conversation. “Let’s film Debbie in her dressing room, putting on make-up. That’ll look hot.” “OK. Three, two, one, rolling … wait, shouldn’t someone take that white plastic shopping bag out of the picture?” “Nah, it’s fine the way it is.” This is one of the better Blondie videos.