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Music

Blondie singer Debbie Harry reveals the art of a good cover

New York City’s new wave heroes, Blondie, reunited earlier this year for their postponed UK tour, which saw them joined by former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr as the support act. The sell-out ten date run brought fans an emphatic display as Debbie Harry and the band revisited some of their most beloved hits, including ‘Heart of Glass’, ‘Rapture’, ‘Call Me’, and ‘Maria’.

In March, prior to the UK tour, Harry was interviewed by The Guardian as she was questioned on the highs and lows of her long and illustrious career as the iconic frontwoman of Blondie. 

During the interview, she was asked what Blondie song she is most proud of. The singer responded, clearly indecisive over the difficult question: “Oh God … obviously ‘Heart of Glass’ or ‘Rapture’. Also a more recent song, ‘Mother’ [from 2010] – the lyrics fell into place beautifully and said exactly what I wanted to say, about children of the night who go to clubs and have this dark alternative universe away from their daily life.”

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Later in the interview, the dialogue visits the topic of artistic influence as she is asked if she thought Madonna would have succeeded had it not been for Blondie’s “pathfinding”. Harry seemed confident in Madonna’s artistic integrity and natural talent, saying: “I wouldn’t want to venture a guess, but I think that she’s tremendously motivated and smart, and I have no doubt that she would have had a great career without me.”

Recognising the important formative influences on Blondie and the power of a well-placed cover, the interviewer then asked: “Some of Blondie’s most celebrated recordings are cover versions, such as ‘The Tide Is High’ or ‘Hanging on the Telephone’. My favourite [cover of a Blondie song] is Ride’s interpretation of ‘Union City Blue’ with vocals by Alex Taylor from the Motorcycle Boy. Is there a Blondie cover that you are particularly fond of?”

The singer responded: “I like Green Day’s ‘Dreaming’, and another that was sent to me by an unknown group on a cassette, which was particularly haunting and really took it in a different direction. More recently, I liked what Miley Cyrus did with ‘Heart of Glass’. She’s made it a bit herself, which is the art of a great cover. When we did Johnny Cash’s ‘Ring of Fire’ in a film called Roadie, nobody had done it as a rock song before, and we played it like we were on a fast trip to hell. I’m still really excited and happy about doing that.”

Harry explained that a good cover mustn’t simply be an unconsidered rehash of the original. Instead, it should be a reimagined version that pays homage to the original creator for the inspiration but ties in with the DNA of the covering artist. 

Listen to Miley Cyrus’ cover of Blondie’s ‘Heart of Glass’ below.