Some people get crankier when they get older. They drift off and sit in front of whatever TV shows best reinforce their stereotypes and validate their disdain.
But unlike decreasing metabolism and increasing detachment from the Top 40, turning into a curmudgeonly shut-in isn’t an inevitable part of aging. A lot of folks in the AARP years are beyond the petty stuff. They exude compassion and clarity. And before they go into that good night, they’re going to spend a bit more time enjoying the nightlife.
Case in point: Debbie Harry. The Blondie frontwoman is 72 years old. Yes, 72. She was already in her 30s when Blondie broke onto the scene in the late 70s. Her bandmates were a few years younger — drummer Clem Freaking Burke is still a sprightly 61, guitarist and co-creative leader Chris Stein is 67.
And the band has been getting fresh infusions of youth since its 1999 comeback. Originally a comeback project of four original members (the three mentioned above, plus keyboardist Jimmy Destri) and a lot of session guys, the band’s spotlight now falls as much on dazzling guitarist Tommy Kessler and keyboardist/songwriter Matt Katz-Bohen — both veterans of everything on the NYC music scene from pit orchestras to neo-New Wave bands — as it does on Stein, who barely seems to move a finger on stage. (Curiously, Leigh Foxx has played bass for Blondie since 1999 and still has neither a bio on the band’s page nor a Wikipedia entry.)
That leaves Blondie in a unique position in the musical landscape. They might be the only band touring today in which you might want to check out the concessions and restrooms during the old material (though you should be sure to hear Atomic, where the anonymous Foxx doesn’t take a shot at Nigel Harrison’s iconic bass solo but Kessler rips into a pick-tossing, fretboard-tapping, behind-the-head shredding showcase). The new material suits Harry’s maturing voice better … and it’s terrific stuff.
(See Dw. Dunphy’s review of Blondie on a killer triple bill with Garbage and Deap Vally.)
They can still bring the disco. Their first single this year, Fun, hit No. 1 on Billboard’s dance club chart, propelled by a video that makes you wonder if Studio 54 ever closed.
And as of this writing, the No. 5 song on that chart is the song of this post, Long Time.
Perhaps it’s still too new, or perhaps people are busy admiring yet another hybrid New Wave/disco beat from Clem Freaking Burke, but our usual sites for lyric interpretation have not yet commented on this tune. And that’s a pity, because there’s interesting stuff to dissect here.
The lyrics could be taken cynically. We could picture Tori Amos (who, incidentally, has a new album worthy of a few listens) delivering some of these lines with sarcasm:
Take me, then lose me, then tell them I’m yours
Are you happy?
Does it take you a long time?
Does it make you upset?
Does it make you think everybody wants to be your friend?
I don’t think that’s what Blondie intends here. There’s a bittersweet element — the song ends on a slightly downcast note, and the video invokes U2’s I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For with Kessler strumming his way down the street.
But the video also reinforces the hopeful tone of the tune. Like a lot of Blondie’s output over the years, it’s very New York, with a mention of the Bowery and random shots of exits for Staten Island and Broadway along with Kessler’s strolling and Clem Freaking Burke taking his sticks to a couple of buildings.
Then Harry is at the center of it all, playing a taxi driver. It’s as if she’s guiding us, showing us that we can find more to life in this city — or wherever we are.
Extending the metaphor — Harry’s addressing someone who’s a little lost …
I’ve been running circles ’round a night that never ends
I’ve been chasing heartache, in a city and a friend
I’ve been with you so long, even seen you lose it, but who cares?
Drinking with your cell phone with a smile on your face
Happy in success, but still a thousand miles away
Is this what you wanted, is this everything you had in store?
All of us, no matter how “successful,” get stuck in a rut and frustrated. We all wonder if there’s something else for us.
Fortunately, in moments like that, we can hop in Harry’s taxi and see something new. Doesn’t matter if you’re 72 or 47 or whatever. We can take a little detour and gain new perspective, and Long Time is as pleasant a ride as you’ll find on the dance club speakers or your favorite streaming service today.
And so while some older folks are withering away in front of Fox News griping about Colin Kaepernick or Nancy Pelosi, Debbie Harry is out there being an activist (specifically on behalf of bees, whose death by environmental malice threatens our food supply) and leading us with grace and a fun disco kick. I for one welcome our new septuagenarian overlords.