Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys once said, “There is always that one band that comes along when you are 14 or 15 years old that manages to hit you in just the right way and changes your whole perception of things.” For many people of a certain generation, that band was Blondie. They were a band that straddled the border of accessible and incendiary with seamless style.
However, Debbie Harry, in turn, had her own great musical epiphany at an impressionable again, and just as Turner stated, it changed her perception of things forevermore. The first rung on her ladder to punk stardom was ‘Blueberry Hill’ by Fats Domino.
The song was released in 1956 when Debbie Harry was just eleven years old. Although the song dates back to 1940, it worked its way through various permutations before arriving at Fats Domino’s eponymous version. Its sleazy boogie-woogie melody catapulted the track into the radio crackled realm of rock ‘n’ roll heaven, capturing a fevered young crowd.
Although Harry doesn’t remember the crystalising moment with pure clarity, she can still recall its impact. “I’m so terrible on songs and dates, I warn you – you may as well be talking to me about fish oil!” She jokingly declared in an interview with The Guardian.
Before going on to say, “But I do remember one of the first things that had an effect on me as a child: hearing Fats Domino do Blueberry Hill.” As ever with discovering music, it was its rebellious individualism that first turned her ear. “It was music my parents weren’t into, so this was stuff just for me. I love it when musicians and their instruments sort of become an entity in themselves – you see it with Nina Simone and Ray Charles as well as Fats Domino.”
“All their music is so emotional for me. If I’d grown up differently, maybe I’d have had the diligence to learn an instrument. Oh well – I don’t think I’m going to get there at this point!”
From that first moment on Harry was a complete music buff. As she once stated herself, “I’m completely vulnerable to music – I’m seduced by it.”
Whilst her sound may well be wildly disparate from this first inspiration, it is fascinating to hear her relatable introduction all the same. And Debbie Harry might not have an instrument to become an entity with, but she has yielded a devil-may-care attitude in much the same way – her propagation of rebellion in fun is as synonymous with her output as Fats Domino and his rhythmic piano riffs.