- CP photo by Lisa Cunningham
- The Blondie album cover that started it all
As you begin flipping through the next few pages, you’re bound to run into City Paper’s 2017 Love and Sex features.
As we were putting the finishing touches on it, I realized that, much like the brain of a 16-year-old boy, it’s mostly filled with stuff about sex. Now don’t get me wrong — it’s filled with some pretty interesting stories about sex — but make no mistake, this issue is lacking on the love.
Is it because the whole world is lacking in love right now? Maybe, but sometimes I think it’s because we misuse the word so often, it’s lost some meaning. Think about how many times in a day you use some variation of the phrase “I love [fill in the blank]!”
For example: Do you really love that awesome parking spot you got this morning? Are you willing to park there exclusively? Will you be there when it needs to have its lines repainted? Will you be there to scrape unwanted snow and dog shit off it?
The point is, the phrase has become a part of our daily lexicon. We throw it around like other misused words like “irregardless” and “literally.” When we say “love,” we should mean it. That got me thinking about all the times I had said it. I told a girl in kindergarten that I loved her because she said if I did, she would give me the three M&Ms that were melting in her book bag. I was a huge Dodger fan as a kid, and when I was 7 or 8, I once wrote a letter to third baseman Ron Cey to tell him how much I loved his mustache to sweet talk him into sending me an autographed picture. Not sure what he thought about it, but he did send the picture.
I first said those words to someone I truly liked in January 1981 at the tender age of 9-and-a-half. This wasn’t a rushed decision like the M&Ms. I “met” this woman in 1979 when I stole a record album called Parallel Lines from my brother’s room. Initially, I thought the woman on the cover was called Blondie, because that’s what it said in big red letters. My brother had been playing this awesome song called “Sunday Girl,” and I wanted to hear it again and see what’s doing with the woman on the cover. I put the vinyl on — I shit you not — my Mickey Mouse record player. I was enchanted, not just by the song, but by the woman.
“Blondie” turned out to be lead singer Debbie Harry, the most beautiful person I’d ever seen: white dress, blonde hair and a “don’t fuck with me look” that I couldn’t stop staring at. Nobody in Wellsville, Ohio, looked like her. She was gorgeous, smart and a little intimidating. She wore dresses, she wore suits, her hair was wild and, man, was she talented. The next song on the record was “Heart of Glass.” Her voice breathlessly sighed out of Mickey’s ears. I wasn’t sure what was going on but I was definitely in … something.
I was hooked.
A few months later, Blondie made me another record, Eat to the Beat. I imagine it was a great album, but I never got past the first cut, “Dreaming.” I was 8 years old and daydreamed a lot. This was the first time, though, I wasn’t dreaming about professional wrestling or Star Wars. After that, I was more than smitten. I was buying music magazines, cutting out pictures and making collages.
Fall 1980 saw the release of Autoamerican. I didn’t know what the fuck that meant, but Debbie wore a black dress on a rooftop, while the other band members stood a distance away. (I assumed this was out of respect for our love.) Then in January 1981, I was watching one of my favorite new shows, Solid Gold. Debbie Harry appeared without the band and sang a song that I knew she had written for me, “The Tide Is High.” (It turns out the song was actually written by a Jamaican band in 1966.) I was so infatuated that I went upstairs and stared at that record before leaning in and kissing her and whispering, “I love you.”
Retelling this story makes me sure of two things: First, there’s a good chance Debbie Harry will file a restraining order against me. And second, and most importantly, it was love. Granted, having a meaningful relationship with an album is the kind of love that only a 9-year-old can get away with. Later in life, I always dismissed it as childhood nonsense (and granted, it was), but thinking back, I’m pretty sure my love was genuine and I’m pretty happy about that.