The crucial life lessons that Iggy Pop and David Bowie taught Blondie singer Debbie Harry
Debbie Harry was wide-eyed when Blondie made their emphatic arrival into public consciousness, and suddenly she had become one of the most famous women on the planet. Luckily, she gained admirers who had been through the parapet of fame already, iconic figures of the music industry that she could call upon for advice — which wasn’t just beneficial on stage but would bolster her personal life, too.
Nobody was better placed in the world to give Harry a more significant learning curve than the devastating duo of Iggy Pop and David Bowie. In 1977, when they were fresh out of CBGBs and the hype around the group became tangible, something special was occurring. Even though they had already released their debut album, it didn’t immediately grab the attention from the public it deserved, but word had spread to those in the know. Bowie and Iggy were one of those early adopters of Blondie, with fans like that on board, it’s almost certain that the destiny in line is greatness.
The tour was arguably the most beneficial experience in the career of Blondie as they got the pleasure of learning from the crème de la crème of artistry. This wild run of dates was like an apprenticeship in learning from the best, and it wasn’t just on-stage that ended up being beneficial to Debbie Harry and the band. Spending time in the company of these two artists, who had been there and done it, would give them knowledge about the peaks and troughs that would be coming her way soon enough.
“There was a certain amount of improvisation in their performances,” Harry said of watching Bowie and Pop during the tour to Rolling Stone. “It wasn’t robotic, and the passion was there. Mr. Pop is passionate. It’s pretty obvious he’s kind of a wild guy, but he has standards; he has a controlled madness, and this is what it’s really all about.” Asked if the road trip changed her, Harry replied: “Probably. Experience is everything and I was sort of in an odd position as being a woman in a man’s band, and I tried not to be too coy or too cute — other than the fact that I was cute — but I tried to bring other elements into it. Whether I always achieved that is another story.”
Another piece of simple advice that Iggy gave her immediately engrained on her mind and turned out to be invaluable in the long term. She recalled, “His favourite answer to a lot of things was, ‘Well, there’s no such thing as a free lunch.’ I was very disappointed about that because we were being taken out to lunch a lot, but I understand the underpinnings for that. And then the serious best advice that I got was to get good legal advice.”
“I’m not a trained businesswoman, and there are some real complexities with authorship, and publishing and recording, and the different ways that your recordings can be used or sold. So, it’s not as simple as I imagined it would be at one time,” she added.
Being the highly sexual beings they are, Iggy Pop and Bowie often tried to work their charm on Harry during that tour, but, alas, she was having absolutely none of it. “Debbie was an American ponytail girl as seen through the lens of Roger Vadim; Barbarella on speed, or something like that,” Pop once said when remembering the tour. “Bowie and I both tried to hit on her backstage. We didn’t get anywhere, but she was always very smooth about that. It was always, ‘Hey, well, maybe another time when Chris isn’t around’. Always very cool about it.”
Harry later dotingly recalled how she secretly loved the attention sent her way relentlessly from Bowie and Iggy, “It was a lot of fun. They’re two really great stars, musicians and writers that I’ve always admired. The whole thing was mindblowing to be on tour with them in the first place. And to have flirtations with guys like that was just the icing on the cake.”
Even though they failed when it came to luring Harry away from her boyfriend and Blondie bandmate Chris Stein, the tour was one that started a life-long friendship between all the acts involved. Those memories that the tour created are some of Harry’s most precious and opened up a window at what was just around the corner over the next couple of years when Blondie became the talk of the town.