Posts Tagged ‘joan jett’

I recently discovered that Debbie Harry wrote a memoir. Well truth be told, I came across this little ditty about a year ago when I was perusing the booklists for purchasing for the library. Then other books came along, and a minor thing called a pandemic happened. So as I was going through my library e-book collection, my eyes alighted on this and it was AVAILABLE (yes !!!). Needless to say … but enough with the pleasantries and such bollocks, and on with the bleedy review.

Growing up in the TV-less land of Guyana during the 70s, by default, had many of us attached to our radios. I may have heard Rapture and Call Me numerous times on our radio, but I definitely remember the reggae-styled The Tide Is High. Actually, it was very popular in the country because of that very reggae-style beat. I always imagined it was a sultry, brown-skinned woman (that probably looked like Pam Grier) with dread-locked hair crooning The Tide Is High over the radio. Yes, I have a thing for Pam Grier (still do) and … bloody hell, I was in for a surprise. Flash forward to the early 80s where television sets (despite no transmission of telly signals in the country still) rigged to Betamax players were popping up in various venues to entertain people. One such location was the local sports club, in our town, that on Saturdays would host free videos for the kids/teens to watch. One such Saturday as I was waiting for the main movie to begin, they were playing a bunch of music videos to fill the time. And then Blondie’s Heart of Glass appeared on the screen … and for the first time in my teeny life the concept of infatuation became a vicious reality. Everything around me seem to disappear (yapping kids, rowdy teenagers, preening girls) and it was just me … and sultry Debbie Harry. My love affair with Blondie had begun. And I know this was a bit of detour here … but there.

A love child (her words) as a result of a liaison between an American woman and a married Englishman, Deborah Harry (not her original name) was placed up for adoption. She was adopted by a childless couple (the Harrys) in New Jersey. Ms Harry’s revisiting of her childhood is quite refreshing and delightfully simple where she, I suspect being quite the tomboy, bravely explored the nearby woods that hosted transient and hobo types, read books (she’s a bookworm) and later on wrestled with her floor rug as she watched wrestling on the telly. In other words, a really decent childhood, despite her tough introduction to the world. Well, there was that odd encounter, at eight years old, that involved indecent exposure and a masturbating pervert. Yes, there were absolute tossers back then. An eight year old kid. Seriously?

Moving through her teens like most typical teens and beyond her college years, with a new sense of independence, she eventually moved across the river into New York City and conception of Blondie begins. We are returned to a New York City where Times Square isn’t exactly the family friendly glitterfest that it is today and lofts on Canal Street and Soho cost $75 – $100 a month for rent (yes, this was a very long time ago). As she sets out to start her musical career we find ourselves revisiting a downtown staple that was once the hub of emerging underground music scene (punk et al): CBGB/OMFUG (which actually stands for Country, Bluegrass, Blues and Other Music For Uplifting Gormandizers … aye, quite a mouthful). Along the way she and her band mates struggle to earn a living as they salvage tossed out clothing to remake into their own stage gear (yes, folks back then real punk clothing was mostly DIY since we didn’t have Hot Topic around with their ridiculous prices). There were a few perilous turns in Debbie’s NYC life: a sexual assault in the presence of an incapacitated boyfriend and a near Ted Bundy moment when she reluctantly accepted a ride from seemingly, “decent” stranger. Needless to say on both occasions, visions comprised of Dexter and Hostel emerged in my mind as I thought of these two wankers. At CBGB, she formed friendships with Joey Ramone (of the Ramones), Fab 5 Freddy, Lou Reed, Joan Jett, Patti Smith, and Siouxie Sioux (of Siouxie and the Banshees) … to name a few. One of the highlights of the earlier parts of her career was being invited on tour with Iggy Pop and David Bowie, where she learned the glaring differences between American and British punk. Let’s just say that the Brits are bit more tribal, physical and spit on groups as a sign of appreciation (a tradition that Iggy Pop claims to have pioneered). Thankfully, these folks never encountered Donita Sparks of L7 that would have rewarded such a (misread) gesture by tossing a “freshly” retrieved used tampon in the crowd (ah, such good times). Then there is that unnerving time that she worked with Phil Spector, who had an unhealthy fascination with guns and was quite the nutter. Not much changed over the years and we all know how that turned out. Though quite brilliant, the writing was on the wall for that one.
The NYC underground music scene was often intertwined with elements of the NYC art scene where both sides sometimes use each other as muses. This was seen in Harry’s relationship with the likes of Andy Warhol, Basquiat, and the controversial Mapplethorpe. Ms. Harry also talked about her fascinating film career and some of those movies that became cult classics: John Waters’ Hairspray and Videodrome. She was actually offered a script for Blade Runner but her record label (bloody tossers) “forbade” it. So now, with this disclosure, my mind is left generating scenarios of her playing Priss (Darryl Hannah) or Rachel (Sean Young). Bloody hell, I guess we’ll never know.
In writing about the paramours in her life, for the most, there are never a dull moment. There was some housepainter chap in New Jersey that liked guns and was a wee bit possessive to point where dear Debbie almost went into a form of witness protection living. Then there were a few interesting ones like Harry Dean Stanton (aye, the bloke from the original Repo Man) and Penn Jillette (yes, Penn from the Penn and Teller duo). There is a bit of an eyebrow raiser story about her collaborating with Penn to modify a Jacuzzi into an aquatic orgasm-delivery system. It is quite the venture and read. For some reason, I like Chris Stein. He is the constant in her life (lover, the other pillar of Blondie, and really good friend), and in my humble opinion, that one that should have rode off into the sunset with the girl. Only in this case, Duckie married Kristy Swanson and left Molly Ringwald by herself (yes, a Pretty in Pink reference). Alas, but good news, they still remain great friends through it all.
Filled with very intimate photographs and fan-generated art (much to my delight) Face It is quite the literary feast for Blondie and punk fans. Though written as a memoir/autobiography, it unwittingly turns Lady Deborah into a guide of the past NYC underground music and art scene and it is quite an education. We also get to see the really petty world of the record industry from the Blade Runner incident to a certain scumbag manager to their treatment at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction. Surviving being burnt out of several apartments, near-electrocution, carbon monoxide poisoning, and many times on the extreme generosity of great friends (since there were many occasions of having no dosh), Debbie Harry and Blondie etched themselves into the psyche of the world of rock and punk. She is delightfully blunt, and is not afraid to put aside the tough exterior and talk about her vulnerabilities. Face It, she’s badass (I couldn’t help it).

And yes, I still have the hots for her.

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Ever since reading My Best Friend’s Exorcism, Mr. Hendrix has struck a chord in my mind. So as I was going through the list of books to select to purchase for my branch, I came across We Sold Our Souls. Needless to say, I gave it the green light because I am curious to see what delightful ditties this bloke is offering up in this new yarn. Spoiler alert: he did not disappoint. But enough with pleasantries and usual bollocks, and let’s get on with it. Yeah?

All Kris Pulaski ever wanted to do was to play good rock music. Fame and riches were all extras. So back in the 90s (ah yes … flannel, grunge rock, Tamagochi pets, dial-up AOL internet), she was part of ragtag metal band called Dürt Würk and she was living her dream. Then along the way, she and lead singer, Terry Hunt, combined talent and wrote a masterpiece called Troglodyte. And then the shit (slightly) hit the fan. Terry Hunt along with their manager, Rob Anthony, pulled the rug from under the enter party by buying out the rights to Dürt Würk’s music and contracting out all the other members of the band. It was the night (known as Contract Night) that Dürt Würk died and Koffin was born. The funny thing about that is that there is a lot of missing pieces and hours about what happened that night Kris and most of the members of the group can’t seem to recall. So now Kris spends her days at a reception desk at the local Westin Inn as she constantly tangles with the one guest that likes to stroll around, during the early morning hours, naked with a paper bag over his head and urinating in the lobby. How the far the mighty has fallen, since Kris can no longer play rock music since the “contract” forbids her from playing Dürt Würk-type music (translation: she is forbidden to make a living playing rock music). And then Koffin announces its major tour, which not only irritates the hell out of Kris but forces her to reunite with the remaining (exiled) members of Dürt Würk. And then the shit really hits the fan … and things get darker. And for some of us, switching on the lights might be in order. There are murderous assassins driving around in UPS trucks, brainwashing spas, traitorous fans, some otherworldly hellish creatures (which might include the manager) haunting the night, and a conspiracy that is spawned from the depths of Hell itself (literally). On second thought some of these creatures might be from Hell (feel free to imagine Bruce Dickinson from Iron Maiden screaming this word for a better visual). And all are clamouring to get between Kris and her vengeful mission against Terry Hunt and his new band, Koffin.

Hendrix’s Souls is possibly one of his darkest to boot with enough hibby-jibbies to go around possibly till the next major election. Of course, there is a bit of (deserving) commentary on the late 90s “nu-metal” scene. Yes, we all remember that pile of buggering bollocks (though try as we may to forget it). Aye, as grunge faded into the horizon along came that hybrid abomination of rap and rock merged into (and I vomit into my mouth as I write this) nu-metal. Of course, back then the wanks that touted this rap-rock/nu-metal crap as “new” and “happening” forgot that folks like Faith No More, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Fishbone (to name a few) had already pioneered that “hybrid” minus the constant whining about not getting laid and other such bollocks. Oh there, there. I think I’ve detoured a wee bit. Souls waste very little effort in sinking its claws into you and drawing you in, and then you find yourself in for quite a ride. And what a ride it is as you get towards the end. The ending reminds of scene from an obscure 80s, heavy-metal themed, adult, animated movie (from Canada,of all places) named Rock and Rule (check it out on Youtube and it features voices of Deborah Harry and Iggy Pop). It may not be your cup of tea, but back in Guyana, there was only one channel on the telly and this was on. So there. Funny thing about Souls is that I kept picturing Joan Jett in the role of Kris Pulaski. Don’t know why … though I might have to do with the fact that Joan Jett played a receptionist at a motel (or was it a bartender???) in the movie adaptation of Stephen King’s Big Driver. Who knows, my brain is weird like that … but I love it. And I know it sounds strange to say but Souls feels like another heavy metal love letter to those of us who miss those days of flannel, spandex, leather and denim. And you can tell by the fact that Hendrix does this quirky thing of naming the chapters in his book with titles of various metal tracks (though there is no chapter with the title “Ride The Lightning”). Good show, Mr. Hendrix. Jolly good show, mate.

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