It’s a sort-of reggae / mariachi hybrid. The band was willing to experiment with different genres and they were huge in the UK. One of my earliest pop memories is “Heart of Glass” on the radio, and Deborah Harry singing “pain in the ass”, although a shufty on Google suggests that the BBC didn’t play that version, so (shrugs shoulders). They had that combination of stylishness and distance that went down well here, the sense that they were playing at being pop stars, putting on a show. Heart-on-the-sleeve genuineness wasn’t the British way, in the age of Adam Ant.
That’s what I like about the band. The fakeness. They were obviously acting out a part, dressing up. I never had a sense that they had a natural, non-affected state. It’s like how Peter Sellers used to say that there wasn’t a Peter Sellers underneath Peter Sellers. I can’t think of any American bands from the same period that were so tailor-made for a European sensibility. Except for Devo and the B-52s, but Devo were never really pop and the B-52’s burned out faster than Blondie and seemed too fake.
I mean, the video of “Heart of Glass” is totally disco in a way that must have seemed perfectly normal at the time, but nowadays - such was the genius of the band - both the song and the video seem like a clever parody of disco, which is what they were, rather than dated old rubbish crap like “Yes Sir, I Can Boogie”.
Here’s Debbie Harry with a muppet version of the band, on The Muppets:
I wonder if the band were teed off at not being invited. Presumably they had learned to accept having to stand behind Debbie Harry all the time. The view must have been pretty good. It has to be said that she had tonnes of sex appeal but absolutely awful fashion sense (makes cat hissing noise).
A while back I actually listened to the band’s albums in chronological order - they start off as fun but a bit anonymous, and then they got fun and awesomely slick, and then they get boring and awesomely slick, and I haven’t heard The Hunter. You could make an awesome double-album out of Parallel Lines and Eat to the Beat. And in the space of a year they seemed to deflate, because Autoamerican sounds like an empty, programmed imitation of Blondie. It has the stylistic experimentation and one good song, but it’s hollow. Which is paradoxical given that the band never stood for anything or had any message; they were always hollow, but there are different types of hollow.
You know, looking at the cover of Eat to the Beat, I’m thinking to myself “why is Frankenstein’s monster standing behind one half of The Human League”? In the UK the comeback album was a big hit, and “Maria” got to number one - the reviews were generally ecstatic. But it was like New Order’s comeback, or Madness’ comeback, it started out legitimately good and then went mediocre and pointless. Although there’s a sense that the band will be able to fill venues for as long as they want to.