Deborah Harry's 'Necessary Evil' Harry, the Blondie singer and punk legend, is back with her first solo album in 14 years.

Deborah Harry's 'Necessary Evil'

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Deborah Harry was one of the voices of the 1970s. Her new wave group Blondie had one hit after another.


BLONDIE: Unidentified Group: (Singing) Call me.

BLONDIE: (Singing) Call me, call me any, anytime.


BLONDIE: (Singing) ...hanging on the telephone.


BLONDIE: (Singing) One way or another, I'm gonna find ya' I'm gonna get ya', get ya', get ya', get ya. One way or another...

YDSTIE: Deborah Harry went on to produce several solo albums and also appeared in a number of Hollywood films. Then Blondie regrouped in the late '90s, and in 1999, produced another hit "Maria."


BLONDIE: (Singing) Maria, you've got to see her. Go insane and out of your mind.

YDSTIE: Deborah Harry was 53 at the time and became the oldest woman vocalist to have a number one single on the British pop charts. Deborah Harry has a new album, "Necessary Evil," and she joins us in our studios. Welcome.


YDSTIE: This is your first solo album in 14 years. What made you decide to go back into the studio?

HARRY: Blondie does not have a recording contract, so I coincidentally met some very wonderful people - they call themselves Super Buddha. So in my off hours when I would, you know, coming off the tours or whatever, I would call them up and say I've got some ideas, and go in and start recording. And I played it for my manager at one point and he said, well, why don't we do a solo project, and I said, great.

YDSTIE: Well, let's get an idea of what's on the album. Here's the opening track, "Two Times Blue."


HARRY: (Singing) When you tell me that I'm a double timer, well, to me, this doesn't add up. You can call me Miss Calculation, but I can't give up. I love you through and through.

YDSTIE: That sounds like it could be a Blondie classic.

HARRY: It's on the order of a Blondie song, but the entire project is a mixture of different things, and it generally tends to be a bit more minimalist than Blondie.


HARRY: (Singing) But I know, oh, yes, I know you'll be two times blue if I go.

YDSTIE: Actually, this album samples a lot of stuff - you've got dance rock; you've got hip-hop; you got some ballads with strings and some punk. Does that suggest that you loved all these styles, or does it suggest you don't love any of them enough to sort of immerse yourself in one of them and put out an album with, you know?

HARRY: I wouldn't - I think that people would get bored with an album with just one thing. I like to sort of have a sort of a journey in a way, you know, put on a collection and sort of just go through a sort of emotional kind of rhythmic tour; that always interests me a little bit more. And I really grew up with radio starting in the '50s, and as you know, it was such a great breadth and style of material that was available all the way through to the present, so I feel very lucky about that, having come from New York City metropolitan area; there was always great radio.

YDSTIE: Another song in the album - quite different - called, "Whiteout," has more of a punk feel, and let's take a quick listen to that.


HARRY: (Singing) He's in the speakers, front of the cold(ph). Shivers the timber. Wow. Now he's headed for the hill and the snow's in the yard. Who wants to be a cream king? He wants to be a star.

YDSTIE: That's a great song. I like that a lot.

HARRY: Thank you.

YDSTIE: That's - is it fun? I mean, is that like more fun than the dance rock thing?

HARRY: Yeah, I think, you know, just a girl...

YDSTIE: It's a little heavy.

HARRY: ...rock song is always fun.


HARRY: (Singing) I want to see you, I want to see you again and again and again and again. I want to see you, I want to see you again and again and again and again.

HARRY: It, you know, sort of has the angst business going on, you know, a little angst that we felt.

YDSTIE: I wonder, you've been in the business a long time, I wonder what you bring to the stage or the studio today that you didn't when you began back in the '70s.

HARRY: Experience I guess. I mean, I think I'm a better songwriter now; I think I'm a better lyricist now.

YDSTIE: How about on stage? Are you different on stage than you were?

HARRY: After working as an actor, the way that I can sort of develop an emotional arc within a song, you know, I'm much more focused and have much more control over that.

YDSTIE: Mm-hmm. You mentioned Super Buddha, the producers Barb Morrison and Charles Nieland, and that they've been your collaborators on this. Tell us a little bit more about them and what the role of the producer is these days.

HARRY: For me, the relationship with Barb and Charlie was a very sort of close and intimate one, you know, since they play all the instruments and do all the production, you know, what I brought in would be, you know, like, my personality, my ideas, my lyrics, my melody ideas or song ideas, and then we would sort of develop them together. The beauty of collaboration is that, you know, you have to sort of throw it up into the air and then let it go and then, you know, be willing to sort of be flexible about other people's ideas.

YDSTIE: And can you pull back if you see that they've got a great idea that's coming...

HARRY: Absolutely.


HARRY: Yeah.

YDSTIE: No problem?

HARRY: I've been collaborating for - since the beginning. I mean I came into the world of music not as a writer, not as any kind of contributor in that area that - strictly as a singer. And, you know, I have, little-by-little, learned how to do it, you know, just sort of from experience and working with different people, so collaboration's been an important, really important part for me.

YDSTIE: A couple of the cuts on this album, "Necessary Evil," were collaborations with your long-time partner Chris Stein who is Blondie's guitarist and co-founder of the band with you; that's sort of a musical partnership for the record books.


HARRY: It's one of the most enjoyable friendships that I've ever had. He's a terrific person and has a great sense of humor.

YDSTIE: Well, let's first listen to "Naked Eye" - something that you wrote with Chris Stein.

HARRY: Yeah.


HARRY: (Singing) When I crossed my fingers, you crossed your heart where there's a tattoo of Jesus and Cupid who's shooting his dart. All covered in colorful stories and stars. In bed I go crazy, an odyssey blazing with daggers and fire.

YDSTIE: That's really lovely.

HARRY: Thank you.

YDSTIE: Is that your tune?

HARRY: I made the melody for the chorus part (humming). He made the (humming). He's into that, you know, all these - what do you call them - ascending and descending lines. I'm more of a sort of linear, linear thinker.

YDSTIE: You began in the business in the late '60s with a folk group called Wind in the Willows, and I think Blondie was formed in the early '70s. Certainly, the music business has changed a lot since then, have you been affected significantly by the Internet, by iTunes, by iPods? Is that having an affect on you artistically or on your bottom line in any way?

HARRY: Oh, absolutely. I think it's completely, you know, tossed the whole industry on it's...


YDSTIE: Choose your body part.

HARRY: Yeah. On other body part, right, that they weren't prepared to land on. I don't know I don't think the decision is in yet about the Internet and about the value of it. I think at this stage of the game, it's a big mishmash, and so I guess we're all waiting to see where that ends up. And I think the other thing that's really curious about the Internet is that it makes everybody very connected in sort of in a mind link, but there's no sort of real physical interaction which is the - sort of the real sort of sweet part of human nature. I mean, I guess, in a way, it's a lot like what radio did, I mean, people must have been so shocked about radio when it happened.

YDSTIE: So what keeps you going? What keeps you interested in this - keeps you coming back?

HARRY: I love music and music is a terrific charge for me. It always has been. I don't know why people are so astounded that, you know, you keep on doing what you do. I mean, what else would I do - sell real estate? I mean, give me a break. I practiced all these years, I - why would I want to stop? I feel like I'm better now than I have ever been.

YDSTIE: Well, thanks very much.

HARRY: You're welcome.

YDSTIE: Deborah Harry has a new CD; it's called "Necessary Evil." And why don't we go out with one of the ballads from the album - "Needless to Say."


HARRY: (Singing) Because it's all just words, a specter of conjecture, I'll take the silent treatment when words get in the way. Oh, politician, magician, you made your point. Another night, another day. Needless to say.

YDSTIE: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm John Ydstie.


HARRY: (Singing) ...before I saw first light. Insinuation of the daytime long before it got bright. My unnamable self lives inside the dark.

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