If there’s one face and one voice that typifies the beating heart of the electric rush of new wave music, it has to be Blondie’s, Debbie Harry.
In 1980 Blondie, the new wave act intent on redefining the idea of New York cool, were at the height of their swaggering quasi-punk-power-pop ascent. The single that was pushing that particular rocket ship into the stratosphere was ‘Call Me’.
The track, released in the February of 1980 was a main feature of the soundtrack for the film American Gigolo. The bouncing track would cement the band’s position as one of punk’s only lasting contributors to the pop charts.
The song spent six consecutive weeks at the top of the US charts to quickly become the band’s biggest success story. It naturally hit the top of the charts in the U.K. (their fourth chart success in Blighty) and in Canada to push both Blondie and Debbie Harry into the mainstream spotlight.
‘Call Me’ more than any other track had pushed Harry into the middle of the Blondie circus as the ringleader of this particularly raucous troop. The singer had long been the stunning mouthpiece of the band but now many were even confusing her as being the entire act known as Blondie, as her stock continued to rise after a Rolling Stone cover feature in 1979.
The band, with their tongues firmly in their cheeks, would issue badges on their tour in reaction to this audience mindset saying “Blondie is a group” even leading to Harry issuing a statement in 1981 to clarify that her name wasn’t, in fact, Debbie Blondie.
Further down the touring road, Harry would admit that “Blondie” was a character she played, the excerpt from her No Exit tour diary entry offering a candid insight: “Hi, it’s Deb. You know, when I woke up this morning I had a realization about myself. I was always Blondie. People always called me Blondie, ever since I was a little kid. What I realized is that at some point I became Dirty Harry. I couldn’t be Blondie anymore, so I became Dirty Harry.”
Director Giorgio Moroder was trying to find the perfect track for his film American Gigolo, when he originally asked Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac to write him a theme song. But having recently signed a binding record contract, Nicks couldn’t commit to the project. Moroder soon found another home for his Italian inspired disco track with the startling talent of Blondie’s Debbie Harry.
With the basic track titled ‘Man Machine’, Harry was tasked with writing the now-iconic lyrics, a process which Harry said only took a couple of hours. The lyrics are written from the perspective of the main character in the film, a male prostitute. Harry highlighted that much of the lyrical content came from her visual impression of the film, she said: “When I was writing it, I pictured the opening scene, driving on the coast of California.” It was a mark of her already blossoming songwriting skill.
Moroder would work with the band on the final recording, stepping behind the mixing desk and producing the track. One hidden treasure left for adoring audiences was the clever use of language in the bridge of the English version of the song. Under Moroder’s guidance, they added in Harry singing “Call me, my darling” in Italian (“Amore, chiamami”) (Love, call me) and in French (“Appelle-moi, mon chéri”) (Call me, my darling) to add a little European sheen to the affair.
The heady cocktail of Harry’s increasing fame and notoriety, her command of the simple but stylish lyrics, all added to the power-pop prowess of the smoothly polished track. That blinding pop sparkle is even more clearly heard when you isolate Harry’s vocals.
The isolated vocals mark Harry out as the bonafide pop star she had become. While she, of course, couldn’t have done it without her brilliant band, but on ‘Call Me’ Harry announced herself as the face of the moment. The song feels sexy and sensual but distinctly unattainable in that Studio 54 way that Harry could produce with the drop of a hat, and because of it, she creates one of the best pop songs ever written.
Don’t take our word for it listen to Debbie Harry’s isolated vocal from Blondie’s iconic pop hit ‘Call Me’ below.
Source: The Handsome Collective