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Debbie Harry - Face It (HarperCollins)

18 October 2019

“I was saying things in the songs that female singers really didn’t say back then” -Debbie Harry 

Debbie Harry is the very definition of iconic. Rising from the steam and decay of New York’s Bowery, straddling CBGB’S with Max’s Kansas City before going global forty-years ago with Blondie. She has remained a constant in music and the public eye since Blondie’s epic Parallel Lines went stratospheric along with the floor filling “Heart Of Glass”. The adopted girl from Miami who moved to the New Jersey climate as an infant,  became a figure adorned on magazine covers and bedroom walls. She was the superstar that the eighties needed, and remains as important as ever in the 21st century. 

As Debbie Harry has the attitude, the looks, and the talent to project greatness, the fact remains her honesty is threatening. In the male dominated landscape of late seventies’ music her voice rose above them all, and when word of a memoir filtered this year, interest perked immediately- rightly so. Face It is everything it should be, though not bearing too much of her soul, or at times her views of herself and the music business. Written with the help of writer Sylvie Simmons, Face It is more a series of interviews and stories from the mind of Harry, which they are in plentiful supply, surrounding the late sixties’ scene in New York, to her break into the mainstream and superstar status. 

That said, it can be tough going at times, and she holds nothing back when tackling subjects such as drug use:
““They weren’t doing scientific studies and methadone clinics; if you wanted to do drugs you did drugs and if you got hung up or got sick, you were on your own.” 
With honesty as real as this, her recounting of a rape at her apartment she shared with Chris Stein:
“I can’t say that I felt a lot of fear. In the end, the stolen guitars hurt me more than the rape.”
Since the book release, Harry has stated in the press how she never sought counselling, or saw herself as a victim, although showing her emotional understanding given the ramifications of her words and the impact rape can have on a person’s life. In some ways damage control for her honesty, but readers of the memoir must remember whilst this is not a soul bearing execution, she is Debbie Harry, and the aura of superstar is always there, glowing. So, she will always keep it things on a knife edge, even on a sensitive subject such as this. 

The harsh aspects of the memoir out of the way, the remainder of the book is enjoyable, and it is rock and roll. She takes readers by the hand, and tells them about her time as a playboy bunny, a secretary, a painter, and the infamous run-in with Ted Bundy. With her decision to dye her hair blonde, and put creativity ahead of ‘making it’, the door becomes opened slowly into her world, which has been one of speculation over fact for many years. From the dim lit smokey, Hilly Kristal club where she recalls stories of the Ramones and New York Dolls to touring with David Bowie and Iggy Pop as support and “cock checker”. Though the recounting of a meeting with a gun toting Phil Spector is strangely unsettling. 

“it’s the overwhelming need to have my entire life be an imaginative out-of-body experience.” 

Debbie Harry remains wry and witty throughout and has created a certain dimension of depth in what she has put into this book. This is an essential read, not just for fans of Harry or Blondie but those curious and seeking a fly-on-the-wall view of the heyday of punk, and rise into global stardom via the long route Harry took. Whilst not perfect, it is engrossing enough not to be dominated by the aforementioned tales of drugs and sexual assault.