Books by Glenda Young

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Debbie Harry and me

The very first gig I went ever went to was on January 5th 1980 and I was 15 years old.

My friend from school and I were both huge Blondie fans and our parents allowed us to travel the 10 miles on the train to Newcastle City Hall all by ourselves - although my dad insisted on meeting us on the way home.

I'm going to share a bit more about Blondie, Debbie Harry in particular, the spell she holds over women like me and the reason she made me want to be a writer.

Something exciting and right hit the music scene, the pop charts, call it what you will, when I was 15. It was punk, ska, women musicians in bands without men. I probably first saw and heard Blondie on Top of the Pops, it must have been that show as it was the only one I'd heard of on TV at the time. I wasn't old enough or sassy enough to have heard of The Old Grey Whistle Test, or The Oxford Road Show but it didn't take me long to discover their appeal.

Loving Blondie's music and the way that Debbie and the band looked, it became a mission to find out as much about the band as I could. This meant looking further than the teen magazines of Jackie and My Guy I'd been reading until then. I had to venture into town and loiter by the hippies and the bikers in WH Smith to buy the latest Sounds, Melody Maker, NME and the occasional Smash Hits.

I even stumbled across the exotic (for a young Sunderland girl from a council estate) Rolling Stone magazine and I'd read everything and anything on the band to feed my Blondie habit.

I needed to know how their music was inspired, how they got their lyrics, where Debbie got her clothes. Reading the music press was an eye opener for me. Not only did I love what I was reading, I loved the way it read. I wanted to read more, I loved the irreverent comments the journos would make about a record they hated or loved.

But for now, it was reading, as often and as much as I possibly could about Blondie and the whole host of New Wave and Indie bands that shaped my musical tastes from age 15 onwards, and continue to do so today.

Because of Blondie, I discovered writer Lester Bangs. I devoured his every word and discovered photographer Mick Rock. American pop culture became my thing, I could have gone onto teenage Mastermind (had there been such a thing) and answered questions on it as my specialist subject. Boys at school were impressed with my knowledge of bands, lyrics, backstage gossip and the fact I could recommend articles for them to read. I loved reading the music press and books on the bands and it became frustratingly clear to me that I wanted nothing more than to write that way too.

I never have written about music. I don't even know that I could although it's not something I've tried (yet). But it did inspire me to get writing, something and anything, everything I could and still continue to do so. And for that, Debbie Harry, I thank you very much.


Tvor said...

Of course you could write about music!

seapenguin said...

I didn't like Debbie in the 70s probably due to being jealous of her fabulous looks - but now I can see how brilliant she was.

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