It’s hard to stop looking at Debbie Harry.
She is gorgeous, yes, and sexy, and a natural performer. What’s the most interesting thing to me, though, is that she’s largely inscrutable. Her Blondie persona is not her, not quite. As she explains, her Blondie character was sort of androgynous, “an artistic, assertive woman in girl drag” not unlike Marilyn Monroe, one of her big influences. To her, Monroe was “a woman playing a man’s idea of a woman.” If Debbie Harry decidedly isn’t the frontwoman of Blondie, who is Debbie Harry? I was curious, so I eagerly picked this one up.
The book is a loose autobiography – it hits some big things like Harry’s adoption, partying as a New Jersey teen, and living in the non-Disney version of NYC in the 1960s-1980s. It also covers some of Blondie’s big tours, her working relationship with bandmates and (poor) management, and some stories of iconic photos. She has a lot to say about photography as the subject of many photographs. She’s most interested in photographs as mirrors, seeing the photos as perhaps saying more about the photographer and viewer than the subject. She also has a sharp memory for fashion and her pets.
My favorite parts of the book were probably Harry’s thoughts on punk, art, and creativity. When asked by an English journalist what she was most proud of in her life, she says, “Even trying to do it.” I love that. I’m fascinated by the punk world and at the same time annoyed at the exclusivity of it. I think Harry is, too. As she points out, originally it wasn’t about a particular sound but a universal thread of “pointing out the inconsistencies in a hypocritical society and the foibles of human nature and what a joke it all was.” I think that’s right, and I’d rather listen to a band experiment and try to blend genres and play with new people than the same guitar/bass/drums screaming over and over. Not that I don’t like those things, but I think there’s room for experimentation while keeping the attitude/soul of punk.Along those lines, towards the end of the book, she playfully refuses to the leave the readers’ mental stage. “I’m still here,” she writes.