Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Review: ‘Parallel Lives: Blondie’


For obvious reasons, Blondie was disgusted with their record companies’ decision to market the band by exploiting Debbie Harry’s sexuality. They were equally put off by the “Blondie is a Band” campaign intended to give extraordinary songwriter Chris Stein, brilliant drummer Clem Burke, iconic keyboardist Jimmy Destri, and the rest of the guys their due. They felt the catch phrase drew too much attention to the band’s imbalance of power, which still hasn’t really been resolved some 36 years after their debut album. Take Dick Porter and Kris Needs’s new bio Parallel Lives. The writers clearly sympathize with all the fine musicians who’ve passed through Blondie over the decades, but they just can’t keep their narrative from zooming back to Debbie as a magnet finds steel. With the exception of Stein, the other members of the band largely remain background players to Rock’s most recognizable front woman, because her story remains so unique. From small town Jersey girl to Greenwich village hippie to the voice of the biggest American rock band of the New Wave era to reluctant thirty-something sex symbol to recovering heroin addict and grand dame club kid loath to play the nostalgia game, Debbie Harry has a tale quite unlike most women in Rock. In the ample interviews the writers conducted with her, she displays a refreshingly ego-free perspective on her gargantuan fame, viewing her younger self as a carefully cultivated character named Blondie, while maintaining as down-to-earth a lifestyle offstage as anyone with her history could hope to achieve.

Because Parallel Lives is so Debbie-centric, we sometimes crave more information about non-Debbie matters. Porter and Needs never fully explain Frank Infante’s fall out with the band, which is frustrating because it got so severe that his lawyer once instructed him not to “talk to” or “hit” anyone while filming a music video. In any event, such acrimony is fairly par for the course for a band as successful as Blondie. What isn’t par for the course is the Debbie Harry story, and Dick Porter and Kris Needs fashion a fascinating look at a great Rock band by homing in on the main ingredient that made them great.

Get Parallel Lives: Blondie at Amazon.co.uk here:
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