It's an almost surreal experience to hear an icon of yours - for style, music, and attitude - being so frank about their insecurities and perceived flaws. This is what occurred for me when reading the transcribed interview with Debbie Harry on Radio 4's Desert Island Discs today. Along with frankly discussing about her drug habit - from which she has long recovered from - and admitting her regrets about not having children, the rock star revealed her insecurities regarding growing older. Harry said, "As far as aging goes, it's rough. It's hard. I rely on looks a lot. Women's calling cards, unfortunately, are based on their looks." And as much as a die-hard Blondie fan (like I) doesn't want to admit it, Harry's success wasn't completely based on her immense talent - it did, in part, have to do with her looks. I remember reading a book on Patti Smith a few months back by Victor Bockris, and in it friends and fellow 70s scenesters discussed Smith's contempt for Debbie Harry as a performer back in the day. Debbie was the physical embodiment of all the women Patti worshipped - she was blonde, wide-eyed, and beautiful. Patti loved the likes of Anita, Marianne, Nico, and Edie for their ethereal beauty, but hated it in Debbie. Perhaps because Patti loved these beauties as they were seen as muses, the inspirations for poetry and music - not the writers of the music itself. Debbie integrated herself in the same scene as Patti, and had talent to match the reigning Princess of Punk. Bockris writes, “Debbie had all the physical attributes of the women that Patti celebrated in her poetry: blondeness, beauty, and charisma. However, those attributes encountered in the flesh, combined with talent, a voice, and a healthy dose of ambition, constituted a threat” to Patti, who fancied herself the female Keith Richards and physically mirrored the Stone to androgynous success. There was a moment when Patti admitted both her dislike and love for Debbie, telling the Blondie singer to get out of rock'n'roll and they could run off together, as detailed in an interview with the High Times Reader. Debbie in turn interpreted it as Patti's declaration that there was only room enough for one of them in music and Debbie wasn't good enough to withstand Patti's talents.
Thank goodness Debbie didn't let any intimidations from Miss Smith or any of the other numerous critics get to her, because if she lacked a steely resilience and undying passion for music, we might not have Blondie in our iPods blasting on our way to work. Harry seems to have the same view in coming to terms with how her outward appearance altered her music and life, concluding to Radio 4 that, despite everything, "I'm glad I've had all the radical experiences in my life. I have a better perspective."
Title: from "Don't Forget Me" (Marianne Faithfull)