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Tony Greenway On Blondie and Debbie Harry

PUBLISHED: 23:49 14 January 2010 | UPDATED: 14:45 20 February 2013

Tony Greenway

Tony Greenway

BACK in 1978, an American new wave band called Blondie appeared on Top of the Pops performing their UK breakthrough hit, Denis. Next day at school, it was all we talked about. Or rather, lead singer Debbie Harry was all we talked about.

BACK in 1978, an American new wave band called Blondie appeared on Top of the Pops performing their UK breakthrough hit, Denis. Next day at school, it was all we talked about. Or rather, lead singer

Debbie Harry was all we talked about. It's hard to describe the effect that Harry had on a bunch of hormonally charged 12-year-old boys, but I think I speak for all my former schoolmates when I say: 'Phwoarrrrr.' By then, Harry was already 33, but this didn't matter to us because she was, we all agreed, the most sizzling female this side of our beleaguered French teacher and the blonde one out of Abba (12-year-old boys think about little else - well, that and football.)


Our attraction to Harry was partly fuelled by the way she looked: blonde, just-got-out-of-bed hair, vermillion pout, blinding teeth and cheekbones so sharp you could cut yourself on them. Her image was alarmingly, rapaciously sexual and her clothes were on the brief side.

But we also liked her coolly detached attitude. She had a surly, challenging stare which invited everyone to drop dead. Even at that young age, we recognised trouble when we saw it, and trouble looked like fun.

I knew if I ever brought Harry home to meet my parents (I could dream, couldn't I?) she would be exactly the sort of woman my mother would violently disapprove of, but my dad, strangely, would be okay with.

She even had a powerful effect on females. At the girls' school down the road, pupils started sporting shaggy peroxide 'dos, even if some of the results were more Dirty Harry than Debbie Harry.

Meanwhile, my friends and I got on with the tough chore of collecting every bit of Harry memorabilia we could lay our hands on - posters, records, magazines and even a video called Debbie Does Dallas, which we presumed was a recording of a Blondie concert in Texas but which turned out to be something else entirely.

Nearly three decades have passed, which makes Harry - eek! - 62 years of age and me old enough to know better. Amazingly Blondie are still touring and this month play Harrogate which is not, admittedly, the first place you'd expect to find a band associated with the wild excesses of the seventies New York punk scene.

Debbie is old enough to be a granny now, so the only= ones buzzing about her will be the balding sexagenarians in the stalls. And when she sings 'Oh, your hair is beautiful' - a line from Blondie's 1979 hit Atomic - expect to see most of them burst into tears.

She's still a rebel at heart, refusing to grow old gracefully (if she was, she probably wouldn't be touring the world with a raucous New Wave pop group).

Some commentators have tut-tutted about this, saying she's too old to be a rock chick and should retire with dignity. Funny that. No one ever says the same about Mick Jagger or Keith Richards. And anyway, she's still got 'it' - that same indefinable thing she had back in 1978.


She still looks like trouble. Plus, her voice has stayed exactly the same.

Just listen to the way she purrs 'she looks like she don't care', the intro line from Blondie's 1999 comeback hit, Maria. It's as strong and true as it was 30 years ago. So what if Debbie Harry isn't a poster girl anymore?

She's now something far more potent. She's become an icon.

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