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Why was Debbie Harry's 1981 solo album "KooKoo" such a disaster?

Debbie wrote the #1 song of 1980. Her producer, Nile Rodgers, was hot off Chic's big hits and Diana Ross's huge solo album and a few years away from producing Madonna and David Bowie. But "KooKoo" totally sucked: No hits, no hooks, zero energy, crappy playing, dull lyrics. What happened? Too many drugs?

by Anonymousreply 3806/27/2012

Maybe a case of everything looking right on paper but the parts just didn't come together well. Maybe they had no chemistry together. Maybe she was so worried about sounding different than Blondie she forgot to have fun. Maybe he was exhausted or uninspired and only provided second-rate material.

The bigger question I have is why her entire solo career has been so lackluster. Sure, she's recorded some decent songs on her own but no really huge hits. I doubt anyone in the general public could name one of her solo hits (I'm talking outside Datalounge, outside music geeks.)

She had the charm and was one of the most familiar faces of the late 70s and 80s. Seems like she should have racked up at least a few hits of her own.

by Anonymousreply 106/21/2012

Never liked the cover.

by Anonymousreply 206/21/2012

I think Koo Koo is an underrated gem. I didn't know what to make of it when it first came out. But there are some great songs and genius moments on it. It's a weird blend of funk and New Wave. It's a very New York record. Very tough and ballsy.

I think the reason it wasn't successful is because Debbie Harry was so strongly associated with the Blondie brand and image that people just couldn't accept anything she tried to do solo. They wanted the sexy sassy Debbie who sang Heart of Glass and tide is high. Not the weird arty Debbie who was styled by HR Geiger and sang The Jam is Moving.

Debbie has said that if her solo albums had been Blondie records they would have been big hits. But I'm not sure about that. Aside from a few nice moments she didn't have good songs and the programming seemed artificial.

Personally, I always wished Blondie would have gone back to the cool New Wave punk power pop of the Parallel Lines and Eat to the Beat era. Those were cool, sexy, and aggressive albums. I didn't care much for Autoamerican and didn't get The Hunter at all.

I think Debbie and Chris felt they needed to prove themselves as downtown artists. That they could be as weird and avant garde as Talking Heads. But they approached music from a totally different angle. They were from the street. Tough and in your face.

by Anonymousreply 306/21/2012

Debbie was pretty old for a pop star. She was lucky to have had the career that she did, given her lack of skills as a musician, songwriter and/or entertainer.

by Anonymousreply 406/21/2012

I owned that album; it was so mediocre. It was like they were trying too hard to be avant garde.

by Anonymousreply 506/21/2012

[quote]Never liked the cover.

I loved that cover & thought it was awesome. But apparently nobody else shared my appreciation for it. I worked in a record store when that record was released, and I distinctly remember people picking up the album, looking at the cover art & saying, "Ewwww!" I always said that record would've sold better if it had a sexier picture of Debbie on the cover.

[quote]I think Koo Koo is an underrated gem.

Me too. I thought "Jump Jump" could've been a great single. Same with the album closer, "Oasis".

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by Anonymousreply 606/21/2012

Well, I just re-listened to this for the first time in years because of this thread and I have to say r3 is pretty on the money. I was very disappointed in it back in the 80s but it actually sounds pretty good now. I'm sure back then I, like a lot of other people, expected a more pop-ish, hook-filled Blondie-like album and it's very different.

And the final track "Oasis" is great! I don't want to say Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus stole the opening riff for CHESS's "One Night In Bangkok" but an argument could be made... Listen to the first 30 seconds of each.

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by Anonymousreply 706/21/2012

"One Night In Bangkok"

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by Anonymousreply 806/21/2012

[quote]given her lack of skills as a musician, songwriter and/or entertainer

On the other hand, she was a genuinely good singer.

by Anonymousreply 906/21/2012

I don't hear the similarities so much. But here's another vote for KooKoo being an under-rated gem.

I think Debbie's a gifted lyricist.

"Jump little doggie, do what she say—jump jump!"

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by Anonymousreply 1006/21/2012

I love all of her work. Even her near-misses are more interesting then a lot of music.

by Anonymousreply 1106/21/2012

I thought she was the coolest thing I had ever seen. Sexy and new and edgy at the same time.

I still think Atomic is one of the sexiest songs ever

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by Anonymousreply 1206/21/2012

But the producers and Debbie had been churning out #1 hits for two years running up to the recording — "Good Times," "Le Freak," "Upside Down," "Call Me," "Rapture" — and nothing on the album came remotely close. It's curious; gotta be a story there.

by Anonymousreply 1306/21/2012

I like the album. I play it now and again, which I definitely would not if it were bad. (I love Debbie but her "Debravation" album was not good - the others are better.)

I love "Now I know you know". The chic songs on the album are fun but some of Chris Stein's songs are a bit heavy and dark ("Chrome", "Oasis", "Inner city spillover"). I'm not crazy about the eastern/oriental sound he was going for.

People were expecting Blondie hits. Debbie was the best popstar ever but it was sad that her solo career never really took off.

by Anonymousreply 1406/21/2012

Wasn't French Kissing In USA a huge hit?

by Anonymousreply 1506/21/2012

The song she did with Moby -- New York New York -- is really good.

Cheesy video though.

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by Anonymousreply 1606/21/2012

Actually, her solo singles collection (might be out of print by now) is probably a better representative of her solo career than the individual albums which were generally patchy affairs. Her solo stuff covers a variety of genres and collaborators as it ranges from straight-up dance pop to more avantgarde things. If there was ever any doubt, it confirmed to me how versatile as a performer she really is.

by Anonymousreply 1706/21/2012

Her song called "Backfired."

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by Anonymousreply 1806/22/2012

If I recall correctly, the poster featuring the cover for "KooKoo" was banned from the London subway system for being too "unsettling" got the general public. But I also saw it being displayed in a suburban Tampa mall record store in 1981 without any public uproar.

by Anonymousreply 1906/22/2012

I didn't know that, r19.

by Anonymousreply 2006/23/2012

My favorite was "I Want Your Love"

by Anonymousreply 2106/23/2012

I adore Koo Koo. And Def, Dumb & Blonde is a great pop album that should have got more attention in the United States than it did.

by Anonymousreply 2206/23/2012

After "Koo Koo" she tried to bounce back with the more dance oriented singles "Rush Rush" and "Feel the Spin". Both were not promoted enough by the record company.

by Anonymousreply 2306/24/2012

R15 It was a hit in the UK, where it made the Top Ten, but in the US it only reached #57.

by Anonymousreply 2406/24/2012

And sometimes Debbie was cinnamon...

by Anonymousreply 2506/24/2012

is is true the b-52s song Debbie was about Debbie Harry, and she was Kate's girlfriend for a time?

The song lyrics sure make it seem so.

by Anonymousreply 2606/24/2012

Nile Rodgers doesn't mention Debbie or the making of this album in his memoir "Le Freak." He does include recoilections about "Let's Dance" and "Like a Virgin" and other hits.

by Anonymousreply 2706/24/2012

Her boyfriend- and co-founder of Blondie- Chris Stein developed a rare disorder around 1983. She took time off to care for him and lost momentum. In the meantime Madonna ushered in the singer-who-dances, and though Debbie had glammed-up for a couple hit disco songs, she was most known for being a scruffy punk princess.

By the time the late-80's hip-hop swallowed New Wave, she had pretty much faded away.

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by Anonymousreply 2806/25/2012

She looks gorgeous in photos but in front of the film camera she seemed a little stiff. This goes for her solo videos and for her movie appearances. She did let loose in the original "Hairspray".

I'm no fan of Madonna but she was better at dancing and making fun videos to promote her songs. Career management was never Debbie's thing, relying more on her cool charm.

I wish she had recorded more and worked more with other songwriters/performers. There must have been plenty of people willing to write her songs.

by Anonymousreply 2906/26/2012

Maybe she was sick of the pop treadmill? She'd had huge success for a number of years so money couldn't have been a problem. I like to think that she just put her career on hold for a while and had some Debbie Time.

Madonna, on the other hand, is equal parts pop star and The Terminator - rapacious and driven beyond all reason. She won't ever stop.

by Anonymousreply 3006/26/2012

Debbie Harry didn't write The Tide Is High. It's a cover.

by Anonymousreply 3106/26/2012

Because nobody bought it?

Just a guess.

by Anonymousreply 3206/26/2012

Now that you mention it r26, that would make perfect sense. I never paid attention to the lyrics of 'Debbie' but I know it was supposed to be about her, and since both her and Kate have acknowledged same-sex relationships in their past (or their present in Kate's case)...

by Anonymousreply 3306/26/2012

I'm sure that the B52s themselves are on record as saying that 'Debbie' was written as a tribute to Debbie Harry.

I do remember the Koo Koo posteers being banned by London Underground - they went up, there were complaints and they were removed.

I love Koo Koo, but as someone's already said it's a toughie - quite an unrelenting sound - and 'Backfired' was the wrong single. But 'Jump Jump', 'The Jam Was Moviing' and 'Surrender' stand up well.

Without Blondie there would never have been Madonna (not such a bad idea now I come to think of it).

by Anonymousreply 3406/26/2012

I still love 'Backfired' and Koo Koo and the cover art.

by Anonymousreply 3506/26/2012

[R3] Agreed.

Her solo career WAS consistently big in the UK as well as parts of Europe. American radio programmers suck and I am not sure if payola still exists, but I believe it did back then. Still, she was hot, Chic was hot and radio should have picked up on the singles? Does anyone remember the NYC radio station, WNEW-FM with DJ, Scott Muni? At the time, he tried to push some of her first solo tracks...WFUV also suported the LP. I think this was all around the time when Chris Stein was very ill, and maybe D. Harry couldn't tour or did limited press with the LP? I don't pay attention to radio now - 80's retro are a wecome giggle, but overall it is run by undeserving 25 year old programming directors. America mainly likes only what radio "feeds" it.

by Anonymousreply 3606/27/2012

R36 - I don't remember Scott Muni (or Carol Miller, Dan Neer or Jim Monahan) pushing that record. The problem was Nile Rogers production. He killed Southside Johnny's career with the production of Trash It Up. Top 40 might have embraced Nile Rogers. Classic Rock/AOR certainly didn't.

by Anonymousreply 3706/27/2012

Here's a great interview with Nile Rodgers all about "KooKoo" and working with Debbie and Chris.

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by Anonymousreply 3806/27/2012
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