Debbie Harry looks forward to Kenwood performance
Debbie Harry has been a legend of the music industry for so long that many of her contemporaries who set off on the same journey are no longer around. Harry admits it is a thought that often troubles the iconic lead singer of the band Blondie but one she
Debbie Harry has been a legend of the music industry for so long that many of her contemporaries who set off on the same journey are no longer around.
Harry admits it is a thought that often troubles the iconic lead singer of the band Blondie but one she tries her best to ignore.
"There are days when I think, Jesus, I would love to hear the Ramones sing," she says. "I would really like to go and see them live, but I can't do it. It's sort of like your extended family in a way. I don't think about it constantly, but it is a factor."
Blondie are back in Britain for the first time in two years for a short tour which includes a date at Kenwood House on June 26 as part of the summer series of concerts.
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When the Ham&High catches up with her, she is holed up in a hotel room somewhere in London, waiting to be interviewed over the telephone by a string of journalists. For a singer who has been in demand ever since Blondie sprung to fame 35 years ago, on the crest of the new wave and punk scene, I figure the chore of promoting yet another tour must be getting a bit tedious for 64-year-old Harry.
So I expect a tetchy reception when her agent puts me through. But Harry's soothing voice and soft American accent give me the impression she is a serene mood.
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"You just get used to it," she says. "This hotel happens to be really nice. I guess it appeals to the gypsy in my nature. Touring is never really a problem for me, it must be the gypsy blood."
Just for the record, Harry does not actually herald from travellers but she has, she says, been steeped in their spirit.
Blondie's return to the UK coincides with the release of their new album Panic Of Girls, their first record in six years. No doubt most fans turning up to see the band at Kenwood will be hoping to hear the classics Atomic, One Way Or Another or Call Me. But Blondie, formed by Harry and guitarist Chris Stein, will be spicing it up a bit this year.
"It's going to be a great show," she says. "We will be doing four to five songs from the new album, which we are really excited about. We have also done some rejigging of old songs which we often do. We have had some time to prepare and really put our minds to it, so it should be fantastic."
Blondie have come along way since the mid-70s when Harry and her bleached blonde hair launched her as one of the most recognisable icons of punk. Remarkably 20 years on, in1999, Harry, at the age of 53, entered the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest female singer to reach number one in the UK Chart after Blondie hit the top spot with Maria.
The interim period included a 15-year spell when the group went their separate ways in 1982.
But their anthems and memory were kept alive on numerous film soundtracks and in discos across the country and, in 1997, seemingly against all the odds, the band began working together again.
And to Blondie's delight they found that their fans, especially those in the UK, were still around and willing to back them once again.
"It is nice to be back in the UK. We have not been on the road here for some time. We really do have such a great connection with fans in the UK. I think the British people have a real strong relation to music. It's amazing, it's always been this way. I really can't put my finger on why, but everyone here sings and has a great musical awareness.
"It is the same touring here now as it was 30 years ago. We know we have had so much success here. It has been a love fest. It is great to play music for people who really like it."
But Harry, as with many questions I put to her, cannot "put her finger" on why the band has managed to span nearly four decades and can still pull in a crowd.
"I guess it is a bit of us being dedicated or stubborn or just idiotic, whichever way you want to look at it," she says.
Having to endure 35 years of adoration from fans is a sensation most of us will never experience but, for Harry, her fame and recognition has meant the predictable ups and downs.
She says: "During a show or a performance, there's a unique feeling of giving and receiving and, even though there is this mass of people, it is very intimate. But when it is face to face with people that can be a bit overpowering and it's something you cannot possibly fulfil."
You might have thought the sight of screaming fans running on stage to grab Debbie Harry would be a thing of the past, but not so, it seems.
"Only a few weeks ago, a woman ran on stage from the blind side and tried to snaffle my neck," she says. "She just jumped on me and hugged me, but she was grabbing my neck."
Harry was obviously annoyed by the incident, which took place during a gig at a US casino recently, but regales it with her usual calm, unruffled style.
You could forgive veteran singers like Harry for ignoring today's world of music downloads and MySpace pages and the like and sticking to listening, like most of us, to the bands she grew up with.
But not so.
"There was a time when I was just stuck with my favourite bands," she says. "But now I listen to a lot of new music and am very energised by it. I know Muse are not particularly new but they are relatively new and I like the band MGMT. There is a lot of great music around. I love listening to it and going out to see bands."
Let's face it, most adults her age would be getting ready to put their feet up and call it a day. But Harry is still going strong and on song and, while she still has music flowing through her bones, she has no intention of pulling the plug on her career.
She says: "I don't know how I lasted so long. It just happens. You just think, wow, we are here, we are alive and we can play music, so why not."
Their legion of fans and those who turn up at Kenwood will be grateful for that positive attitude.
And at that point Harry apologises politely and says that is time up for the Ham&High. But with Blondie going strong and Harry still in fine fettle then who would bet against her doing yet another tour promoting interview in the years to come?