My Mum was Debbie Harry. She was to me anyway. Lessons of Blondie at our house were compulsory. From seeing what she looked like, to how she sang. I had a beautiful education from a woman who claimed to be her biggest fan.
‘What’s your favourite band, Mum?’
I knew the answer before she even opened her mouth. It was a few years into my teens that I made the connection that Debbie Harry’s real name wasn’t Blondie.
My favourite song was always Heart of Glass because I liked the disco tune. A 9 year old girl singing this whilst applying blue eyeshadow is a decade or so too late, but no one had the courage to break my heart and tell me I wasn’t born on time. Even so, my Mum always let me press rewind on the Blondie tape in the car to play the song so I could sing to it. Even before the introduction to song 2, Denis, could kick in I had already hit it back to the beginning for round 2.
I can only vouch for the first time I well and truly heard Blondie. The power and lyrics. It gives me goosebumps when I think of it, of my Mum singing to Hanging on the Telephone. We were driving back from some place and the car was speeding. The windows were down and it was summer. When the car is like that, there is this rush of adraneline and because I was with my favourite person, I felt invincible. I can see the road in front of us and the sunlight beaming off it. The sound of the phone introduction began and before the confused ‘huh’ could leave my mouth, my Mum was already singing. I had never heard a telephone in a song before and I had never heard her sing like that. It was fast, my Mum knew all the words and was smiling to herself. It was an in joke, or she was riding on a memory that this song created. I didn’t know the song and couldn’t join in; and she knew it. It was like she was teasing me because she knew this one and I didn’t. I had to learn. She sang exactly like Debbie Harry, hitting all the notes. It was perfect and I couldn’t stop looking at her. I can see her right now, in front of me. She’s watching the road, knowing I’m watching her and the wind is blowing her blonde hair everywhere. All her life she had wanted to be Debbie Harry and in this moment she was. I was her biggest fan.
I learnt the words to Hanging on the Telephone as soon as I was home. I wanted to be ready for the next time we went out. When the opportunity arrived, I made sure we didn’t rewind the tape after Heart of Glass finished. When my Mum went into the shop, I was even sneaky enough to press fast-forward so we would get to the song before we reached home.
We sang together, hitting all the notes. Even now, I can remember the feeling of ache in my jaw because I was smiling so hard. I didn’t look at her through the whole song, just stared at the road like I knew this song my whole life. She knew I had been practicing because she had heard me, my bedroom wasn’t soundproof! As the crash of symbols faded at the end, she simply said,
‘It’s good that song isn’t it.’
to which I casually replied,
‘Yeah, it’s alright.’
Nothing more was said, nothing more needed to be.