Monday, July 10, 2017

An Appreciation: Debbie Harry

Photograph by Chris Gabrin

I like to think this was photo was taken at a diner near the Chelsea Hotel, back in the day, maybe right before William Burroughs meandered in, ordered a black coffee and winked in Debbie's direction. Maybe he was meeting Patti Smith, who sat by the window, engrossed in Rimbaud. Maybe David Johansen had just kissed Debbie goodbye and strolled out the door. Maybe I was sitting at a table nearby, watching it all unfold. Maybe I even snapped this picture. Too young, you say? Eh. Don't do the math; it won't add up, but in some alternate reality it might've happened. My film-and-music-nerd buddies Jason Blanco and Dean Garman were there and scarfing down pancakes while Debbie sipped tea and I slurped coffee and we both raved about the Ramones. Anything's possible.

Two bands hooked me on the power of rock as a kid: the Pretenders and Blondie. Then came U2, then came Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden etc. But it really started with the videos for songs like "Brass in Pocket" and "Rapture." Blondie was and is a great band and Debbie is a huge reason for their lasting impact. She was my ideal for what a lead singer should be back then, and remains so today. She can be anything and everything all at once—suave and silly, cool and geeky, playful and detached, punk and disco—you name it, she can do it. In "Rapture" Debbie sang/rapped about having your head eaten by a space alien so you're now inside the alien and consumed by an insatiable hunger for eating cars and bars (where the people meet) and guitars, devouring 'em all. It was the most amazing, coolest, funniest, silliest thing I'd ever heard. It introduced me to B-movie plots before I was even aware of what B-movies were. The sound was unlike anything I'd heard before, it was disco funk rap and hip hop all in one. It still blows my mind today.

Debbie Harry turned 72 years young back on July 1. She's still singing about eating cars and bars and guitars. She's still my ideal lead singer. She's still the best.

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