This article originally appeared in the January 1986 issue of SPIN.
Between April 1979 and March 1981, Blondie, America’s premiere new wave band, had four number one singles in the U.S.A. The first, “Heart of Glass,” was the first hit song to cross over from rock ‘n’ roll to disco and back. The last, “Rapture,” was the first rap song most people ever heard.
Blondie was a group, but Blondie was also Debbie Harry. Debbie was the voice and face of the group. She wrote most of the lyrics. She wrote some of the music, too. Her boyfriend, Chris Stein, wrote most of the music. Chris is known as a media mind as well as an incredibly influential musician, and many of Blondie’s firsts were the result of his vision.
Blondie was one of the great bands to emerge from the amazing downtown New York scene centered around CBGB’s and Max’s Kansas City 10 years ago. Their first album, Blondie, was released on Private Stock Records in December 1976. That was followed by Plastic Letters (on Chrysalis) in February 1978, Parallel Lines in September 1978, Eat to the Beat in 1979, Autoamerican in 1980, and The Hunter in 1982.
In 1981, Debbie recorded a solo album, KooKoo, produced by Nile Rogers and Bernard Edwards. Meanwhile, Chris Stein was given his own pet label by Chrysalis, called Animal Records, for which he produced records by Iggy Pop, Walter Standing, the Gun Club, and Panther Burns.
Debbie pursued an acting career, appearing in two New York films by director Amos Poe, The Foreigner and Unmade Beds, then in Union City and David Cronenberg’s brilliant 1981 media sci-fi film, Videodrome, for which she received rave reviews. Next, Debbie decided to do the Broadway stage, appearing as a lady wrestler in Teaneck Tanzi, costarring with Andy Kauffman. The play closed after a few performances, although Debbie and Andy were well received.
In 1982, Blondie was not the most fraternal group around, but with a new album out they decided to do one more world tour. They hadn’t gotten far when Chris collapses. It was the beginning of a serious illness, which resulted in his hospitalization for six months. Blondie broke up formally, and by mid-’83 Debbie had dropped everything to take care of Chris. It was a long recovery, but by early ’85 Chris was well again.
Chris and Debbie got rid of their old house and their old record company and got a new apartment and a new label, Geffen, in October 1985. Debbie put out her first new tune in a long time, “Feel the Spin,” cowritten and produced by Jellybean Benitez for the soundtrack album of the rap film Krush Groove. Debbie will follow up with a new solo album, coming soon to a record player near you.
You have a new record deal?
DEBBIE: Yes. I’m on Geffen in North America and Chrysalis worldwide.
Did you still owe Chrysalis records?
DEBBIE: Well, I had a contract with them. It would have gone on for a while, but it was time to renegotiate it anyway.
CHRIS: And Chrysalis just underwent major changes.
DEBBIE: Yeah, Chrysalis just went public!
DEBBIE: Don’t say anything…
CHRIS: What am I not supposed to say?
DEBBIE: I don’t know.
CHRIS: I know you don’t know.
DEBBIE: Don’t say anything detrimental about Chrysalis.
CHRIS: What? I’m not going to. They are what they are. They went through a lot of changes.
DEBBIE: I got a better deal.
CHRIS: Geffen is very artistically oriented. I’m not naming names, but a lot of these companies get so hung up on the business side of things that they totally lose sight of what’s going on…
DEBBIE: There’s a press release that Chrysalis put out about me that’s very nicely worded. It explains the whole thing.
CHRIS: Yeah, it says, “We had such a great relationship, that’s why she left.”
DEBBIE: I got a better deal, that’s all. I made a better deal. Thanks to my wonderful lawyer/manager Stanley Arkin. He’s super-bright and tough.
CHRIS: The whole business has changed since we did an interview last. Everything has become so business-oriented. They’ve learned how to sell anything. Three years ago Mick Jagger told me that they had learned how to sell shit, and that’s what’s changed. Any crap that comes along can now be sold.
But shit has a shorter shelf life. Except the freeze-dried shit.
CHRIS: I’m convinced that a girl could come out in a black leather jacket with studs and do “You Light Up My Life,” and it would be on MTV. As long as she was in a black leather jacket and fishnet stockings, they’d be playing it in heavy rotation.
That’s a really good idea. Billy Idol should do “I Believe.”
CHRIS: Whatever. It doesn’t matter. As long as the costume is right. Everybody’s so hung up on the video shit that everybody forgets that it’s stifling everyone’s imagination. One hundred percent. It’s pathetic.
Rock music is supposed to have a certain intangibility, then videos give it this precise imagery. It makes it so limited… Every time I hear that Dire Straits song all I think about is those stupid cartoons. Whereas when you hear an old Supremes song, you have all these images of what you were doing at the time. Your youth, your first car, and so on. It’s personal.
Yeah, it’s true. The first time I heard “You Really Got Me,” I was driving past a 15 cent hamburger place. Now, whenever I hear that song I think of 15 cent hamburgers.
CHRIS: Yeah. But isn’t that a broader way of looking at things? I mean, everybody in the world doesn’t think of the golden arches when they hear “You Really Got Me.” Associations go much further than just what you were doing at the time. But once you get video images locked in, it reduces the power of the song. What if they had done videos of all the Beatles’ songs? They would have been pathetic.
Blondie did some of the first videos. You did the first album-length video. Didn’t it occur to you what a monster you were helping create?
CHRIS: No. I always thought it was secondary to the music.
DEBBIE: Now it’s 50-50. Or worse.
CHRIS: A lot of these groups are founded on what they look like and not on music at all.
DEBBIE: People used to say that Blondie was too much image and not enough music. I guess it is all our fault. Heh, heh.
CHRIS: The other night I saw a video that was just this great looking chick in her underwear lip-syncing a male-vocal rock song. That’s completely full cycle as far as I’m concerned.
So what are you going to do for videos now?
CHRIS: We’re thinking about never doing any videos ever again.
DEBBIE: I always wanted to just take all this old footage, newsreels and stuff, and just put it together. But now it’s been done.
CHRIS: I tried to sell nine hours of home movies of us on tour, like in Las Vegas, to MTV.
Maybe it was too long.
So what happened to Blondie? Did you break up yet? Is it official?
CHRIS: I don’t know. I think we broke up in 1975.
CHRIS: Actually, it was 1978, but we made three albums after that.
DEBBIE: It stopped in 1983.
Who made the first move?
DEBBIE: I decided.
CHRIS: Does anybody care about that shit?
DEBBIE: I certainly don’t care.
CHRIS: Maybe lawyers care.
DEBBIE: Nobody cares. I certainly don’t care. Why should anyone else care?
Well, I don’t care. But what if somebody cares?
CHRIS: Clem [Burke, Blondie drummer] plays with Eurythmics.
DEBBIE: Jimmy [Destri, Blondie keyboard player] is a new father. He just had a baby daughter, Eileen, and he’s very happy.
CHRIS: But I don’t know what happened to all the people in all the other groups in the world either, so who cares? What happened to the Police?
DEBBIE: What happened to Van Halen?
Well, they still exist, don’t they? David Lee Roth was replaced—if such a thing is possible—by, uh…
DEBBIE: I was being theoretical.
But what happened to Canned Heat?
CHRIS: Well, one of them died.
Yeah, but what happened to Henry Vestine?
DEBBIE: Who knows? Maybe he replaced David Lee Roth.
Would you ever have another band?
CHRIS: Maybe robot zombies that are under complete control. See, with Blondie everybody started off together as little kids, and all that sibling rivalry just never went away.
DEBBIE: There was never a professional relationship.
CHRIS: It was always founded on this bubble, fantasy trip.
But isn’t it always that way in a band?
DEBBIE: The majority of the time it is, but you can only go so far that way. If you want to continue after a certain number of years, you have to be professional.
CHRIS: Tensions occur in bands. Everybody goes crazy.
DEBBIE: Especially when money comes into it. Forget it! People really go crazy when money comes into the picture. It happens every time.
Do you think you shouldn’t form a band with people you want to be friends with?
CHRIS: No, you should just try to be professional about what you’re doing.
You can’t be too professional if you want to be artistic, can you?
DEBBIE: No, the two things have nothing to do with each other. You can be professional and still be artistic.
But you don’t want to be professional to the exclusion of having a relationship with other people you’re working with.
DEBBIE: Professionalism don’t have anything to do with that. It doesn’t obstruct anything. All professionalism means is laying down a framework within which to work so that you don’t end up hurting the people you work with.
CHRIS: And you can’t be so precious about your own work. Everybody gets so insane in a band. Everybody decides they’re Baudelaire all of a sudden as soon as they join a rock band.
DEBBIE: Being too serious is another quagmire.
CHRIS: A friend of ours is involved in the production of a really big, major group and they’re undergoing the same thing. They’re all fighting. Nobody speaks to each other.
DEBBIE: We never got that bad. We were always able to talk to one another. I would hate to have to work with people I couldn’t talk to. That’s absurd.
Do you think there are big bands that aren’t speaking that just stay together for the money?
DEBBIE: Absolutely. Everybody knows that.
I don’t know. I always like to think of them all living in the same house, like the Beatles in Help.
DEBBIE: Like the Who. They didn’t speak to each other for a long time.
I was reading Timothy White’s book, Rock Stars, last night because I couldn’t sleep and I thought it might make me tired, and I was reading about how Pete Townshend was this big druggie. I always thought he was Mr. Clean.
DEBBIE: I only met him once or twice.
CHRIS: I just thought he was a beer head.
Well, now he’s really normal. He’s a 9-to-5 book editor.
CHRIS: Townshend or Tim White?
DEBBIE: Oh, yeah. He’s in publishing.
It’s a lot like Jackie Onassis being a book editor. That’s a funny fantasy career, isn’t it? I guess if you’re a guitar player or a first lady you have funny fantasy careers. Is there any kind of job you’ve fantasized about having?
DEBBIE: I’m so inspired now by legal entanglements that I want to become a lawyer.
Well, you really could become a lawyer.
DEBBIE: No, I really couldn’t.
Well, it would take a few years.
DEBBIE: Yeah, that’s right, Glenn, a few years. Eight.
I still think about being a lawyer.
DEBBIE: I don’t think I should practice. I don’t think I have a legal mind.
CHRIS: If you had a legal mind, we’d have more money.
Well, you have a verbal mind. It’s all words.
DEBBIE: That’s only part of it. It’s a way of thinking. Words are only one kind of law. What you really need to be a lawyer is to know…
CHRIS: … how to take advantage of the next person. That’s what capitalism is.
DEBBIE: Chris, shut up! Go move to Russia. You think you’re a communist, go move to Russia!
CHRIS: That’s not communism over there. You know that. That’s not better. That’s bullshit. I’m not saying it’s bad to take advantage of the next guy. Capitalism is condoned ripping off. That’s what’s good about it.
DEBBIE: Business is crummy business.
CHRIS: That’s what we’ve discovered.
DEBBIE: So what?
CHRIS: So what? We’re giving advice to all the little SPINners.
DEBBIE: My advice to them is to continue to spin.
CHRIS: My advice is to shoot everyone you come in contact with. I’d do it one at a time, see how long I could keep going.
DEBBIE: Yeah. Chris gets off on hacking and hewing and shooting and pretending he’s murdering everybody he wants to murder.
CHRIS: If I was starting off in business, I would get the pinkie finger of the left hand of everyone I came in contact with. You get a whole collection of pinkies and you have everyone’s loyalty. And fear.
The Last Couple of Years
Why don’t you tell all the fans out there who have been in the dark for so long what you’ve been doing for the last couple of years.
DEBBIE: I haven’t been in the dark.
CHRIS: I’ve been in the dark. Watching TV.
Chris had a weird disease. What’s it called?
CHRIS: Pemphigus. I don’t know how to spell it.
I thought you told me it was pemphigus vulgaris.
CHRIS: Well, they just tag that “vulgaris” on.
DEBBIE: It sounds vulgaris.
CHRIS: It’s this great disease. It’s really a rock disease. Because your skin all falls off and turns into rocks. At times I looked like the surface of Mars.
DEBBIE: You did look rocky.
When did you get this?
CHRIS: When I was doing Animal Records, my own label. I was burning out. It was definitely from overwork.
DEBBIE: He got it in ’81.
You didn’t know you had it at first, right? You’d just collapse once in a while?
CHRIS: Yeah, it sits in your body a while before it all of a sudden bursts into action.
DEBBIE: It got activated in ’81. We thought it was asthma.
CHRIS: I collapsed on tour in ’82. Then after a while I just started turning into a leper. It was like major disease.
DEBBIE: He couldn’t eat for six months. Then his skin went.
CHRIS: I liked not weighing anything, though. I couldn’t eat because I had sores in my mouth.
DEBBIE: I had to make soup out of everything so he could eat it.
What did you think was wrong?
CHRIS: We didn’t know until I finally got into the hospital and was diagnosed. It’s a really rare disease.
But you were sick for a long time before you went into hospital.
CHRIS: Yeah, I didn’t want to go into the hospital.
DEBBIE: After 10 days of tests they knew what he had.
CHRIS: It’s a genetic disorder, even though nobody in your family necessarily has to have had it. It’s pretty rare. I got one letter from a guy who had it. But I also got tons of weird letters. Everything you could think of. It was great.
DEBBIE: We got tons of nice letters. Really great letters.
CHRIS: I didn’t get anything like “I’m glad you’re dying. I hope you die fast.”
DEBBIE: There were no rotten letters. Everybody was really nice. I saved them all.
CHRIS: Ten or 15 years ago I would have died.
DEBBIE: This disease was incurable before steroids. Before that you would die from associated infection because your skin would be all open and your immune system goes completely ferkakte, right? So then you catch everything.
CHRIS: Steroids change your whole metabolism. They’re weird. Now they’re reducing the steroids, and hopefully I’ll be off them in a few months. The disease is in remission.
DEBBIE: They monitor his blood all the time. It was stress-related. Chris wasn’t handling stress well.
CHRIS: If I hadn’t been doing what I was doing it wouldn’t have happened. When they first put me on the steroids, I had some really great hallucinations. I had no conception of where I was. I felt like I was everywhere in the world. It was like an astral tour. I’d wake up and think I was in Cuba or Hong Kong.
DEBBIE: He was still on the road. He didn’t know who people were.
CHRIS: I never knew who people were anyway before I got sick.
DEBBIE: But he didn’t know where he lived.
CHRIS: Steroids make you hallucinate all over the place, much more than any psychedelic drugs. Then, after I started coming back to my senses, I started going stir crazy, because I was in the hospital for so long. Anyway, it’s boring to talk about.
A lot of people don’t know what happened to you.
CHRIS: Well, now they know. It’s a great disease. I recommend it. Everybody should get it. It’s better than AIDS, because you don’t die.
DEBBIE: You just take steroids so your hair stands straight up.
Your hair looks normal now.
CHRIS: That’s because I’m on a low dose now. My hair was really thick. I would recommend steroids for baldness except that they make you heavy. I’m still pretty overweight from it.
I think you look good heavy.
CHRIS: I have a sort of biker image now. I’m going to get a big tattoo on my stomach of an eagle holding a beer can in his claws.
Yeah, you’re in another weight division now.
CHRIS: I must be close to the heavyweight division.
Rating, Wrestling, Records
Have you been following the hearings in the paper on wrestling? Some New York legislators want to ban wrestling.
CHRIS: Is that what those hearings are for? I thought they were just going to ban the pile driver. Ban wrestling?!
DEBBIE: I thought those hearings were about banning records. Are they going to rate wrestlers, too?
CHRIS: Here’s the Iron Sheik, rated PG. Hulk Hogan is rated G for general audiences, but George “the Animal” Steele would definitely get an R rating.
DEBBIE: What about the guy with the big bum? Brutus Beefcake. He’d definitely get an X rating.
Is wrestling fake?
DEBBIE: No, it’s real!
CHRIS: It’s just as real as rock’n’roll.
DEBBIE: Do you want to try it?
No thanks, Deb. I know you’re a trained wrestler.
CHRIS: Wrestling is the same exact degree of reality as rock’n’roll. Everybody’s in these rock bands making believe they’re revolutionaries and this and that. All they could give a shit about is coke and yachts.
What about record rating?
CHRIS: I think they should rate everything.
DEBBIE: Paperback books, TV shows, magazines.
CHRIS: They should rate food, too.
If they’re going to rate records, I think they should rate footwear.
DEBBIE: Definitely. I’m a fetishist about it. That’s admittedly true. Shoes can be erotic.
DEBBIE: Yes, especially the left one.
CHRIS: Once that comes in, rating feet will be the next step.
In the People cover story one of the Congressional wives said she discovered the shocking truth about record lyrics in aerobics class, hearing the songs over and over again. So it seems to me that since it takes so long to figure out the hidden meanings of songs, they should use aerobic classes to rate the records.
DEBBIE: Listen, I know for a fact that a lot of ladies go to these aerobic classes and use the machines in health clubs to jack themselves off. I’ve seen it. They can have X-rated health clubs for all I care.
CHRIS: Well, that morning workout show is pretty wild. But as far as the record-rating business goes, let’s face it, all they’re complaining about is Motley Crue. If it wasn’t for them, nobody would bitch. Really. All they ever quote is one Motley Crue album.
Didn’t “Heart of Glass” get banned from some radio stations because of the line “pain in the ass”?
DEBBIE: Yeah, and with “X Offender” they made me change the name. That song was supposed to be called “Sex Offender.” But renaming the song turned out all right. It was the first of a big trend of things beginning with the letter X. They took “pain in the ass” out of some version of “Heart of Glass” for radio. But there was always a version available that said “pain in the ass.” There was just a single version that didn’t. That was good because we could put stickers on the album that said “contains the uncensored lyric.”
CHRIS: That was stupid as shit.
It’s funny that this is happening now, because for years they could say anything on a black station, especially in rap records, because there was nobody in the FCC remotely qualified to understand a word they were saying.
CHRIS: Fab Five Freddy said “shit” on that flexidisc we put out in England.
Did you ever put any hidden messages, like backwards masking or whatever they call it, in any of your records?
DEBBIE: No, we’re waiting for the next one.
CHRIS: I have some secret ideas for subliminal mind control. It’s only going to affect these dames in Washington when they play the record. Although I’ve always wanted to make a record out of plastic explosive. It would be triggered by a note, like the last note of the record would trigger the explosion and destroy stereos all around the country.
Are you going to act in any more movies?
DEBBIE: I certainly hope so.
Did you ever turn down any films that became hits?
DEBBIE: No. I got turned down for lots of films that became hits.
What’s the weirdest script you ever got?
DEBBIE: I’ve gotten some really weird ones. In one I got my head cut off at the end.
CHRIS: That was good.
DEBBIE: Shut up, Chris! I read for Birdy. That was good.
CHRIS: That was so slow.
I saw Videodrome again not too long ago, and you were really good. I’m surprised you didn’t get lots of great parts after that came out. The reviews were good, too.
DEBBIE: I got excellent reviews, much better than I thought I would ever get. It just happened at the wrong time. I did get an offer from Samuel Z. Arkoff, you know, the guy who does the exploitation films. It was when Chris was in hospital. They sent me this script about a girl who gets imprisoned in a nuthouse and given all kinds of drugs—then it turns into a sex flick.
What was it like being a lady wrestler on Broadway in Teaneck Tanzi?
DEBBIE: We were in previews for three weeks, and the audiences loved it. But the producers made some big mistakes. They should have started off-Broadway, number one. And they should have done some pre-publicity. They should have gotten more wrestlers involved.
CHRIS: It was clever to hire Debbie and Andy Kauffman. Those were the only right moves. The director was wearing kilts…
DEBBIE: But it was wonderful doing the show, and I really enjoyed getting my ass thumped all over the stage.
How did you prepare for the wrestling?
DEBBIE: I went into training for eight weeks. We had the welterweight champion of Britain as our trainer.
So it’s fake, right?
DEBBIE: No, it’s real. You get hurt. I got beat to shit.
CHRIS: We met all those guys. They’re covered with scars.
DEBBIE: Their backs go out. Their knees go out. It’s the same as any sport. You learn how to fall and everything like that, but all kinds of misjudgments can happen. If you take the wrong step while you’re throwing somebody, you could break his leg.
CHRIS: Lou Albano looks like somebody played tic-tac-toe on his forehead with a knife.
Well, it is impressive that those guys do what they do to each other without getting maimed.
DEBBIE: Exactly. Those guys are in terrific shape and they’re extremely strong. If they weren’t in wrestling because of their flamboyant personalities, most of them would probably be in team sports or stunt men. Gorilla Monsoon is a college professor. He’s really interesting.
You were into wrestling long before Cyndi Lauper. Do you think you’re the toughest female vocalist?
DEBBIE: No! I’m a pussycat. I’d hate to face the Weather Girls.
CHRIS: Debbie could take Kate Bush.
DEBBIE: I could beat Cyndi Lauper. Anytime, anyplace!
CHRIS: That videotape with Mick Jagger and David Bowie would be better if they were fighting instead of dancing. Like mud wrestling. They could have worn bikini briefs. The girls would have loved it.
CHRIS: All the glitter looking bands now—it’s amazing. All the biggest heavy metal bands look like the New York Dolls looked in 1972. The people that make shit up never get anywhere.
It’s amazing that look is still around.
DEBBIE: Ratt looks just like Dolls imitators.
CHRIS: You see heavy metal magazines with pictures of the Dolls in them. That blows my mind.
DEBBIE: It was great meeting Jellybean Benitez. He’s a nice guy, a really talented guy. I liked writing with Jellybean. It was a turn-on for me, after not writing for a while. I always enjoyed writing with all of the guys in the band.
You wrote with a lot of different people? Did they always give you some music for you to write lyrics for, or did you work together?
DEBBIE: It varied. I’ve done every single possibility. We’ve worked out songs live. I wrote “X Offender” live. I wrote “One Way or Another” that way with Nigel Harrison. I wrote “Call Me” instantly after seeing a rough edit of American Gigolo.
I love those interviews, like with the Beatles, where they mention a title and then they talk about the song. Let me just mention some titles. Oh, by the way, what ever happened to your original bass player, Gary Valentine?
DEBBIE: We don’t know. He was writing a novel the last we heard.
DEBBIE: We wrote that about Brooke Shields.
CHRIS: That was a fake Motown song.
DEBBIE: We met Brooke when she was a kid. The next time we saw her, she was towering over us. She really sprouted. She was so cute.
CHRIS: I got her autograph. She was 12.
“Fade Away and Radiate.”
CHRIS: I wrote that because Debbie always used to fall asleep with the TV on.
DEBBIE: Yeah, he wrote that about me. I like the line “Wrapped like candy, in the blue blue neon glow.” I love that line.
I love that song.
CHRIS: It was a psychedelic love song. Fripp was great on it.
DEBBIE: Mike Chapman, our producer, was so freaked out by Fripp. He played so loud, louder than Chapman could listen.
“Heart of Glass.”
CHRIS: That was a song we had from the old days. It used to be a funky song, and we changed it around. But that song was on our original demo.
It’s funny to think that it was controversial, because that came at the height of the “disco sucks” movement, and you were this rock band doing a hit disco song.
CHRIS: Yeah, now everybody has sold out.
DEBBIE: But we were the first.
CHRIS: Nobody has any qualms about selling out now. It’s just people striving to sell out faster and better and bigger.
DEBBIE: That was an old Randy and the Rainbows song. I liked it. I thought it was pretty.
Did you think it would be a big hit?
What did you think would be a big hit?
CHRIS: I knew “The Tide Is High” would be a big hit.
I thought “Island of Lost Souls” from The Hunter album was going to be a big hit. I think it was, but just on jukeboxes.
DEBBIE: That one suffered from lack of promotion.
CHRIS: And from the British invasion of the Falkland Islands. In Europe they thought it was about the Falklands. It was pathetic!
“The Hardest Part.”
CHRIS: That was the first white funk song ever recorded. It was heavy metal funk, genre-breaking stuff.
“Union City Blue.”
DEBBIE: That was one of Nigel’s English drinking songs. I was doing Union City at the time. We also shot the video in Union City.
CHRIS: It was the first video with helicopter aerial shots. Quite possibly.
DEBBIE: Oh, Chris!
CHRIS: Okay, name two others before that.
DEBBIE: I don’t know.
CHRIS: See, you can’t!
DEBBIE: Oh, go burn your underwear.
CHRIS: “Shaylah” was the psychedelic country song in outer space.
I thought that was a communist song about workers.
CHRIS: No, it was like that Jessica Lange movie Country, except in outer space.
Shaylah was a nice girl. It’s funny, I do have visual images for these characters.
CHRIS: Actually, we and the Kinks did the first album-length videos, and they were both held up for long periods of time because they didn’t have royalty bullshit worked out. And by the time they were released there was a video glut. Ours was probably even done six months before the Kinks’, but I think they were both held up about nine months.
DEBBIE: The first year they gave awards for rock videos, we got the first award. Warner Brothers sponsored the whole shebang, and Milton Berle gave out the awards and French-kissed Chris.
CHRIS: Milton Berle attacked me in front of all these people.
DEBBIE: Left me standing there.
CHRIS: Well, I always had a crush on Miltie, with all those dresses. He had good taste in women’s clothes.
DEBBIE: But it was the kiss that got him.
“Eat to the Beat.”
DEBBIE: I told Clem [Burke, Blondie drummer] that I wanted to do a song like “Mickey’s Monkey,” and that’s what we ended up with.
The lyrics on the whole Hunter album are really weird.
DEBBIE: Aren’t they?
Yeah, they’re so abstract.
DEBBIE: I know. I didn’t want to do that record. I didn’t want to have the band then. They made me do that record against my will. It’s very intense.
It’s very weird.
DEBBIE: I know. You always said that, Glenn.
I like it. I love that the words are so weird. Like: “Ah, ooh, ah, the boy’s herb vanilla vanilla.” They are weird.
CHRIS: Yeah, those are the weirdest words.
DEBBIE: I was in a weird frame of mind. I had been reading a lot of science fiction—Robert Heinlein, Doris Lessing.
CHRIS: Robert Heineken.
“For Your Eyes Only.”
DEBBIE: That was supposed to be the theme from the James Bond movie. We thought they wanted us to write one. Actually, it turned out that they already had a song they wanted me to sing. Kate Bush did it. Oh, no. It was Sheena Easton.
How about “The Beast”? Was that autobiographical?
DEBBIE: I don’t even remember that song.
You know. “Billions of people have heard of me… photographers would follow me, begging for a smile.”
DEBBIE: Oh. That was part of the continuing epic of “The Attack of the Giant Ants” that changed into “The Bermuda Triangle Blues.” That’s the continuing saga. It’s like the next statement after “Rapture.”
Remember, all those Bible people used to always go on about rapture and the apocalypse in the Bible? Were you thinking about when you wrote that?
I didn’t know about the rapture business. I skipped that book of the Bible.
DEBBIE: Well, now you’ve heard the song, anyway.
This is about the 10th anniversary of punk rock, right?
CHRIS: Yes, and it’s never been accepted.
Do you remember when they first started saying “punk rock?”
CHRIS: Sure. Right before Punk Magazine came out there were posters all over downtown New York saying “Punk Is Coming.” What’s punk?
I’ve always thought that Punk Magazine really established the term.
DEBBIE: That was it.
CHRIS: I’m sure you could find references before that.
DEBBIE: But Punk Magazine really started it as an actual thing. It was never really called punk rock before that.
Did you feel punk rock then?
DEBBIE: We always said we were pop.
I think “new wave” was started by a Sire Records press release because they didn’t want people to think the Talking Heads were a punk rock band.
DEBBIE: No, it came from England.
But it was deliberately thought of as a nice alternative to saying punk rock. It was a contrived phrase. It wasn’t a street thing.
DEBBIE: Bands didn’t want to be called punk because they wanted to get on the radio. I remember journalists in Chicago being afraid to talk to me because they thought I was punk. They were afraid that I was going to beat them.
CHRIS: But heavy metal is more punk rock now than punk rock is, anyway. Like Wendy Williams.
DEBBIE: I like hardcore.
Hardcore and heavy metal are pretty similar musically. It’s just that one is socialist and one is capitalist. Hardcore is asexual, and heavy metal is sexist.
CHRIS: Heavy metal has always been the same as punk rock. The MC5 were like a heavy metal group, really.
DEBBIE: I think I’m going to do a hardcore song on my new album.
CHRIS: Psychedelic country hardcore.
Debbie: People say we’re making a comeback, but this isn’t a comeback. We just took an extended vacation. We never took a vacation before.
Any message for your fans?
DEBBIE: We love you.