Facebook R&B crooner Mario has been relatively quiet on the music front for…
- Posted on Oct 7th 2011 11:00AM by Kenneth Partridge
Elizabeth Bruneau, AOL
Well, we assume all six are there. Our eyes shoot straight to frontwoman Deborah Harry, whose platinum locks are so bright they make us squint. She's rocking gray slacks, a matching tank top, a pink over-shirt and enormous black sunglasses, and even at 66 years old, she looks like a character out of an old movie, or maybe Andy Warhol's Factory. Blondie have agreed to let Spinner tag along for the afternoon and evening, and we're trying to keep cool. This is Fashion Week -- can't let 'em see you sweat.
Obviously used to such attention, Harry poses for a few photos and heads inside, where she joins guitarist Chris Stein and drummer Clem Burke -- Blondie's other two original members -- on a couch visible through the shop's front window. Behind them sit newcomers Leigh Foxx (bass), Matt Katz-Bohen (keyboard) and Tommy Kessler (guitar). The atmosphere quickly becomes hot and noisy, as 'Panic of Girls' blasts on the sound system and fans queue up for signatures.
As befits Blondie -- a band that started out playing punk at CBGBs but has since dabbled in everything from hip-hop and disco to reggae and French cabaret -- the line holds a motley assortment of individuals. There are gushing 20-something girls, punk dudes in CBGBs T-shirts and one guy with blue eyeliner, red Chuck Taylors and a pitchfork tattooed on his neck. When two women -- seemingly friends of Katz-Bohen -- show up with a Chihuahua, Harry doesn't miss a beat.
"Am I going to sign your dog?" she asks.
Why not? Some other guy brought a red stiletto shoe, and plenty of folks come clutching old LPs and other Blondie memorabilia. A 30-year-old fan from Australia has brought along one of Harry's post-Blondie solo singles, and when his turn comes, he chats up Burke, who he's met before. It turns out the Aussie doesn't have a ticket for tonight's show -- the second of the Highline gigs -- and Burke tells him to come by the club around showtime. He'll take care of it. Later, when a French friend of Harry's comes through the line, the singer listens to make sure 'Le Blue,' from the new album, isn't playing.
"I'm so glad you weren't here for the French song," Harry says, dissing her own French pronunciation.
Fortunately, Harry is pleased with the album on the whole, and later on, during a quiet 10-minute chat in the back of the shop, she dishes about keeps her legendary band going.
"We love our fans, and we want to respect them," she says. "We want to have a continuity with our past albums and our past identity. But mostly, when we start out, I think the germ of inspiration has to really be that: You have to be satisfied with what you're doing. We're really fortunate. We've created a sound that's identifiable. We've kind of stuck to our guns. We haven't had a complete meltdown. Only partial meltdowns."
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"Blondie has always been sort of an ensemble situation, and that's how we consider it," she says. "If something good comes along, something we like, that seems appropriate, it feels like a lucky break."
Other interesting tidbits that come out of our conversation: Harry has been "hopping around" to LMFAO's 'Party Rockers Anthem,' one of her favorite songs of the year, and she thinks the only hope for humanity might be a kind of forced unity brought about by the total depletion of Earth's natural resources.
The conversation is less heady 20 minutes later, as we ride with Burke and Stein back to their hotel, the Millennium Broadway Hotel. The drive takes us uptown, through once-seedy, now-Disney Times Square -- a prime example of how New York City has changed since the mid-'70s, when Blondie were making their name on the Bowery.
"The energy is still here," Stein assures us. "Even the darkness is still here, a little bit -- a lot of the stuff I loved about it."
As talk turns to Blondie's eclectic sound -- their greatest hits include the disco tune 'Heart of Glass,' early hip-hop crossover 'Rapture' and bouncy reggae cut 'The Tide Is High' -- Burke says the band is a product of its surroundings.
"As so-called artists, we're really lucky to be placed in this city," he says. "The genesis of this band was in this city, and we emerged from this city, and all the stimulus this city allows really makes us sound the way we sound."
In recent years, Blondie have covered songs by former CBGBs pals the Ramones, and on this latest tour, they've been doing 'You Can't Put Your Arms Around a Memory,' by the late New York Dolls guitarist Johnny Thunders. They're also blending 'Rapture' with the Beastie Boys' '(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (to Party!).'
"We're able to do a disco song; we're able to do a hip-hop song," Burke says. "It's all in this big stew -- that's really what we are."
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"What's wrong with that?" Burke asks.
A little more than two hours later, Burke and Stein pull up in front of the Highline. Harry is either already inside or en route, and the band is due on stage in just over an hour. Burke looks around, spies the Australian fellow he spoke to earlier, and pulls him into the group of people that shuffles past the bouncer guarding the club's side entrance. That's one way to save money on concert tickets.
When Blondie hit the stage at 10 PM, Harry is wearing different clothes than she was in the West Village. Gone are the pants and loose shirt, replaced with a tight black Oriental-style dress. The group opens with a trio of old favorites -- 'Union City Blues, 'Dreaming' and 'Atomic' -- and as Harry readies for a new one, 'D-Day,' a bright, buzzy synth-pop they could have recorded in 1981, she looks out at a crowd that comprises young and old, gay and straight, chic and schlubby, punk and square. Maybe there's even a Chihuahua running around somewhere.
"It's good to be home," she says.