Some might see Blondie and Devo as an oddly matched pair on a '70s nostalgia double bill, but Deborah Harry will give you an argument on a couple of points.
For one thing, both bands have released well-received albums of new material in the past two years — Devo's “Something for Everybody” (2010) and Blondie's “Panic of Girls” (2011). And for another, it was never Harry's intention to peddle fond memories when Blondie first reunited in 1999 after a 17-year layoff.
First we tackled the issue of differing styles.
“Well, I know that musically we're quite different, but we came from the same era and we're old friends,” Harry said in a recent telephone interview from Seattle, where Blondie and Devo were about to play the first show on a tour that brings them to the Zoo Amphitheatre on Thursday night.
“We've known each other since the '70s, so it's kind of great. I think that we played with them once before, but not a tour. And I love them. I think they're fantastic. I've always thought that their inventiveness and musicality and their showbiz aspects were just really, really inventive, innovative, and I'm just very thrilled about the tour. I think it's terrific.”
As for the nostalgia thing, Harry admits she worried about that notion when Blondie first got back together.
“For me, yes, that was a reserve,” she said. “I sort of did feel there was a danger in that. Chris (Stein) and I, as writers and being very interested in the world — you know, the day-to-day world — we sort of had to feel involved. And walking down memory lane every day of your life, I just didn't feel very healthy about it. I felt looking forward, to me, is a much healthier way of living.
“And as an artist, incorporating that philosophy, you know, was a sort of a given for me. You know, that I didn't really want to be an oldies band. Even though I'm very proud of the work that we've done and the hits that we've had and the longevity that we've had. It's miraculous, for me personally. It's always surprising to me that we've lasted so long. But you know, I think feeling vital and inventive and keeping your juices flowing, as they say, and capitalizing on ideas and staying awake, you know, and being alive is just so important.”
The Miami, Fla., native has been awake and alive for 67 years now, being raised in Hawthorne, N.J., by adoptive parents, earning an associate of arts degree from Centenary College in Hackettstown, N.J., then venturing to New York City in the late 1960s to work a series of jobs including secretary at the NYC BBC Radio office, waitress at Max's Kansas City, go-go dancer and Playboy Bunny before joining the folk-rock band Wind in the Willows, then a band called The Stilettos where she met Chris Stein, who would eventually become her boyfriend and the guitarist for the band they formed together in 1974 called Blondie — a nickname her bleached tresses had earned for her.
Honing their sound at such storied punk venues as New York's CBGB's, it took a while and a few personnel changes for the band to catch on, finally releasing its self-titled album debut in 1976, which mixed elements of '60s girl-group pop and edgy punk/new-wave attitude to fashion a sound that landed them a major-label deal on Chrysalis. A well-received follow-up called “Plastic Letters” in 1977, and 1978's “Parallel Lines” LP took them to the top of the U.S. charts with the disco-fied hit single “Heart of Glass” and the habit-forming pop-rocker “One Way or Another.”
Blondie's fourth album, “Eat to the Beat,” produced U.K. and U.S. hits such as “Dreaming,” “Union City Blue” and “Atomic,” and Harry's collaboration with German disco producer Giorgio Moroder on “Call Me” for the film “American Gigolo” became one of Blondie's biggest transatlantic smashes.