Pat Blythe: The Women of Rock – Part Four

pblythe

Hello everyone. Let’s give a warm welcome to Debbie and Cyndi. Two unique women who dance to their own drummers and whose talents encompass a variety of musical fields in two decidedly different decades. These ladies can pop and rock, disco down or jazz it up, sing the blues, or pour their soul into a ballad. Their many talents run the full gamut and they have led the way for a new kind of woman in music, adding their own twist and turns to rock and roll. Quirky, outrageous, individualistic, sexy, ballsy, entertaining, exuberant, clever, brilliant, artistic and really, really smart.

Here’s what I’ve found out listening, reading and listening some more. First, here come the 70’s.

Debbie

Huty1655123

 

What can you say about music’s Marilyn Monroe? Famous for her pouty red lips and two-tone blonde locks, there is much, much more to Deborah Harry than meets the eye.

The Early Years

Debbie Max's Kansas

Born in Florida, adopted at three months and raised by the Harry family in New Jersey, Debbie worked at a series of jobs in New York after graduating from college — secretary at BBC Radio, waitress at Max’s Kansas City, go-go dancer in New Jersey and Playboy Bunny – before beginning her professional musical career.

Debbie Playboy bunny

Debbie in her Playboy Bunny outfit

First stop; back-up vocalist for folk-rock band, The Wind in the Willows. The band recorded and released one self-titled album in 1968 for Capital Records but it failed to achieve commercial success. Harry left and the band broke up shortly after, but not before recording a second album which was never issued. Unfortunately, these tapes have never been located and so are lost to history.

The Wind in the Willows

Debbie The Wind in the Willows

Debbie Harry – Djini Judy (1968)

The Wind in the Willows – Moments Spent (Wayne Kirby & Debbie Harry)

After the breakup of The Wind in the Willows, her next foray into the music business was joining the all female group the Stillettoes with Elda Gentile and Amanda Jones. Her future partner – in love and in Blondie – Chris Stein joined a short time later.

Debbie Silettos newspaper clipping 1973

The Stillettoes – Death Disco

From Stillettoes to Blondie

Debbie Camp Funtime

Within a year of joining the Stillettoes, Harry and Stein left and formed a band called Angel and the Snakes. They played two gigs before changing their moniker to Blondie, so named after the term of address men often called Harry after she bleached her hair blonde. The band quickly became regulars at the various clubs in New York including CBGB and Max’s, playing a type of rock music inspired by punk with a mix of reggae, ska and funk.

Blondie – Live at CBGB’s (1975)

Debbie Blondie classic shot

Blondie’s debut album, aptly named Blondie, was released in 1976. The first single, written by Harry and Gary Valentine, was originally entitled “Sex Offender”. Radio stations considered the title controversial and the song was renamed “X Offender”. Rodney Bingenheimer was the first radio disc jockey to play a Blondie record and was publicly thanked by Clement Burke at Blondie’s induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Debbie and Rodney

Debbie and Rodney Bingenheimer

The band’s commercial and international success came with the issue of their third album, Parallel Lines. The catchy single Heart of Glass, written by Harry and Stein, sold two million copies and was one of the most popular tunes played in discothèques around the world. One Way or Another, written by Harry and Nigel Harrison, was the follow-up single and reached #24 on Billboard’s Hot 100. Parallel Lines was Blondie’s biggest success, selling over four million copies in the U.S. alone, 20 million copies worldwide. However, it has never been certified platinum.

Blondie_-_Parallel_Lines

Blondie – Heart of Glass

Albums Eat to the Beat and Autoamerican quickly followed and the single Call Me, from the 1980 album Autoamerican, became the soundtrack for American Gigolo and Billboard’s #1 song of 1980.

Blondie – Call Me

Harry and the band embraced all genres of music – they like to play mix and match — and Blondie took a sharp right with Autoamerican. Unlike their preceding albums, this one is a mix of jazz, blues and reggae with a little bit of ska, some orchestral arrangements, and an unusual choice for a closing song, Follow Me, a cover of the torch song from the Broadway musical Camelot.

Debbie Camelot

Camelot – Richard Burton & Julie Andrews

Blondie – Follow Me

The hit single Rapture had everyone sit up and take notice — it was the first time rap had been fused with rock – and Debbie was not your typical rap artist. Blondie took a risk and Rapture charted number one on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. It was the first #1 song in the U.S. to feature rap.

Blondie — Rapture

Solo

Debbie_Harry_-_Koo_Koo

While Blondie was riding high, Harry also released her first solo album KooKoo, in 1981. The look and design of the album was inspired by the designer H.R Giger who also designed the movie Alien. Her voice in the song Now I Know You Know is reminiscent of Kate Bush. Two singles were released from the album – Backfired and The Jam Was Moving. The production wasn’t as polished as her work with Blondie but the fusion of funk, rock and dance was enough to get the album certified silver by the BPI. It reached #25 in the U.S. and certified gold.

Debbie Harry – Now I Know You Know

Debbie Harry – The Jam Was Moving

Shortly after this, Stein fell seriously ill and Harry disappeared from sight to nurse him. It would be another five years before she would sing again. In 1986 Debbie still looking the partshe released her next solo album, Rockbird, follow by Def, Dumb and Blonde in 1989. Harry continued her solo career, keeping the band’s name in the public eye, recording and releasing a total of five studio albums.

She started focusing on jazz and joined The Jazz Passengers, a New York avant-garde jazz ensemble, as a permanent member from 1994 to 1998, touring Europe and North America with them. Harry has also collaborated with a number of other artists including Talking Heads, German heavy metal band Die Haut, Argentine band Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, Andy Summers and Elvis Costello, to name just a few.

Debbie jazz

Debbie Harry singing with The Jazz Passengers

Deb and Elvis

Debbie Harry and Elvis Costello

Elvis Costello, Debbie Harry & The Jazz Passengers – Don’t You Go Away Mad (1997)

Harry has always managed to keep her fingers in two pies — music and acting.  On the acting side she has over thirty film credits under her belt including Videodrome and Hairspray, and numerous TV appearances — The Muppet Show, Wiseguy and Sabrina, the Teenage Witch among others.

The Muppet Show – S5 E9 P3/3 – Debbie Harry

Debbie Sonny Hairspray

Debbie Harry and Sonny Bono in Hairspray

Together Again

The original five-piece band regrouped in 1997, the first time Blondie had worked together in 15 years. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Deborah Harry of Blondie performs at the Palladium theater in New York City in March, 1977.of Fame in 2006.

In May 2014 Blondie finally released their long awaited double album, Blondie 4(0) Ever, Greatest Hits Deluxe Redux/Ghosts of Download. Ghosts of Download is the band’s 10th studio album. The two-disc set experienced a number of delays through the end of 2013 and early 2014. Regarding the recording and writing process Harry commented, “It’s always the music; the music is the primary inspiration. Every piece has its own mood, its own arc and a lot of times, the lyrics sort of suggest themselves.”

Blondie – A Rose by Any Name

….and Debbie, about to turn 70 later this year….well…. she just keeps on rockin’….

DeborahHarry Voge 2013

Debbie Harry 2013 – Vogue

Cyndi

Cyndi Lauper

In The Beginning

Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Cynthia Ann Stephanie Lauper and her two siblings were raised by her mother after their parents divorced. Lauper was not a success as a student and was apparently kicked out of several parochial schools. However, she had already discovered her love of singing and was writing her own songs by the age of 12.

Cyndi very early 80s

Cyndi at 12 Years Old

Over the years, Lauper’s genres have included pop, rock, new wave, blues and soul. She is a singer, songwriter, actress, composer and activist. She’s been a wrestling manager, a geisha girl and Ms Magazine’s Woman of the Year.

Cyndi L Blue AngelLauper played in a number of bands in the early 80’s and one, Blue Angel, formed with sax played John Turi, landed a record deal with Polydor Records. The band split up after making one record in 1980 and Lauper waded through financial as well as health problems….she temporarily lost her voice due to an inverted cyst on her vocal cord. Lauper always hated the album cover but in 2003, Rolling Stone magazine included it as one of the best new wave album covers.

 

Blue Angel (Cyndi Lauper) Maybe He’ll Know

Breakout!

cyndi-lauper3In 1983, Lauper burst on to the charts with her debut album She’s So Unusual. “With her eclectic clothes, flamboyantly styled hair, and contagious pop melodies, Lauper took the music world by surprise.” Charting four top five hits on the Billboard Hot 100 it sold almost five million copies and earned Lauper the Best New Artist Award at the 1984 Grammy’s. She became all the rage seemingly overnight.

I dare anyone not to move to this tune. Tap your toe, swing that derriere. Whoever “invented” open-concept main floors, thank you, thank you. I can dance from one end of the house to the other. Cyndi is an original. She is also talented, entertaining, and passionate. Her four-octave range makes her one hell of a singer….and I love her attitude.

Cyndi Lauper — She Bop

Cyndi young Time After Time

Seven singles were released from this album. Time After Time, written by Lauper and Rob Hyman, became her first number one hit on the Billboard Hot 100. Slant Magazine praised the track, calling it “the album’s finest moment, if not Lauper’s greatest moment period.” Steve Peake of About.com says Time After Time “stands tall among the music of the entire rock era as one of its all-time great timeless ballads.”  Over 100 artists have covered this song since its introduction.

Cyndi – Time After Time

….and finally, the one that had all the girls heading out en masse. We really do wanna have fun. This catchy tune reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and gained international recognition, becoming Lauper’s signature song and every woman’s party anthem. It was originally written by Robert Hazard, from a male point of view. With Hazard’s permission, Lauper changed the lyrics slightly so a female could sing it. Gillian G. Gaar, author of She’s a Rebel: The History of Women in Rock & Roll (2002) described the song and video as a “strong feminist statement.”

Cyndi Lauper – Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

She’s So Unusual has sold over 22 million copies worldwide and Lauper became the first female to have four consecutive Billboard Hot 100 top five hits from a single album.

Cyndi Girls Just Wanna montage

Cyndi Montage

1986 saw the release of True Colors, and with this album, Lauper had become more involved in both the production and songwriting. True Colors, the single, was Lauper’s second song to hit #1, Change of Heart went to #3 and her cover of Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On charted at #12.

Cyndi Lauper – True Colors

The music video for My First Night Without You, from her third album A Night To Remember, was one of the first to be close captioned for the hearing impaired. The album had one hit single, I Drove All Night.

Cyndi Lauper – I Drove All Night

Stage Right

Lauper decided to branch out from music and in 1988 made her film debut in the movie comedy Vibes, playing a psychic in search of a city of gold in South America. The movie was not a box office success but it gave Lauper a taste for acting.

Cyndi Vibes

She had a recurring role in the sitcom Mad About You and won an Emmy for her work on the series. She’s also appeared on Bones and Raven, played Michael J. Fox’s ditzy secretary in Life with Mikey and won her second Emmy in 1993 for her role as Marianne in Mad About You. Lauper’s songs have been used as soundtracks for over 130 film and television shows.

cyndy mad about you

Cyndi with Paul Reiser in Made About You

She made her Broadway debut in 2013 as the composer for the musical Kinky Boots. According to the New York Times, “this storied singer has created a love- and heat-seeking score that performs like a pop star on Ecstasy.” “It’s a shameless emotional button pusher….you might as well just give it up to the audience-hugging charisma of her songs.”

Kinky Boots was nominated for 13 Tony Awards and had six wins including Best Musical and Best Actor. Lauper won for Best Original Score and is the first woman to win solo in this category.

Cyndi Kinky Boots prem

Cyndi at the premier of Kinky Boots

 Cyndi Tonyr

Cyndi and her Tony

Activism

Lauper is a champion of gay rights and has been an LGBT rights supporter for her entire career. She has been involved in gay pride events around the world and is extremely passionate about equality. True Colors has been strongly associated with the gay community, becoming an anthem of acceptance and inspiration.

cyndilaupertorontogayprideparade

Cyndi headlines Pride Toronto’s 30th Anniversary Festival

Legacy

Lauper was described by All Music’s Lindsay Planer as “an iconoclastic vocalist who revolutionized the role of women in rock and roll.”  Her influence has cast a wide net and includes Alanis Morissette, Britney Spears, Jewel, No Doubt, Pink, Tegan and Sara, Lady Gaga…and the list goes on. According to Katy Perry, Lauper was her “idol” growing up.

She became a feminist idol due to her rearrangement of Girls Just Wanna Have Fun. Rolling Stone Magazine stated her debut was “arguably the first time explicitly punk-influenced elements were front-and-center on the pop landscape….dressing up the droll Reagan decade in feminist chutzpah.”

….and yes, she really talks like that. She’s from Brooklyn….

Sources

Wikipedia; my mind ; AllMusic;  IMDb; NY Times; bio.; TV 14; Interview Magazine; the ubiquitous YouTube

=PB=

Pat’s column appears every Wednesday.

Contact us at: dbawis@rogers.com

dbawis-buttonIn “real” life Pat Blythe has spent the past 32 years as a consultant and design specialist in the telecommunications industry. After an extended absence Pat is now heading back to the GTA clubs, immersing herself in the local music scene, tasting what’s on offer, talking to people and writing once again — sharing her passions and her deep love of music. Together for 34 years, Pat also worked alongside her late husband Christopher Blythe, The PictureTaker©, who shot much  of the local talent (think Goddo, Frank Soda Little Red-headed dancing girland the Imps, Plateau, Buzzsaw, Hellfield….) as well as national and international acts,  Currently making her way through 40 years of Chris’s archives, Pat is currently compiling a photographic history of the local GTA music scene from 1975 to 1985. It continues to be a work in progress. Oh…..and she LOVES to dance….

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: