THE FOLLOWING ARE EXCERPTS FROM A conversation with the three remaining original male members of Blondie, which took place in a London pub, in May 1999. Their shimmering comeback single "Maria" had hit Number One in the U.K. a few months previous, and the lads were in town to promote their No Exit album. As you join us, singer Deborah Harry is away having her hair done... .

JIMMY DESTRY (KEYBOARDS): "For me, it all started when James Brown punched me in the chest. I was a little kid fetching some tea and donuts from the corner store when James punches me. He goes, 'Huh! I thought you were the kid who stole my wallet!' Uncle James! He soon put me to work cleaning his classic car collection. That's what gave me the bug--these old jazz guys doing rock 'n' roll licks for the money at the Peppermint Lounge--that was my epiphany when I was 11, 12 years old. It happened to Clem [Burke, drums] the same time, when he was 10--Chris [Stein, guitars] and Debbie, too."

CLEM BURKE: "It feels like we've been in a cryogenic capsule, preserved, and it's happening all over again. We've just been playing some bullrings in Spain with Bryan Adams, and we've become allergic to bullshit. We almost did them on the fly--we were on the verge of lip-synching, and got thrust into it. We're number one in Spain with 'Maria' right now, so the crowds were crazy."

JIMMY: "The real reason for [this] U.S. tour is that it's a pre-tour to the main summer amphitheater tour. We're doing the Radio City tour right now, as 'Maria' has just cracked Top 40 in the States. America is frustrating to artists who are used to success in Europe, because it just takes so long. Sorry to talk like a marketing guy, but it's been drilled into me."

CLEM: "We've said this before, but we still think of ourselves as an underground band in the States, despite the fact we've had four number one singles. America is our meat and gravy."

JIMMY: "People ask us if we expected to come back with a number one in the U.K. We can't answer that--it's a loaded question. We didn't expect anything, so everything is pleasing."

CLEM: "The roots we put down here in the '70s sustain us right now. I like it when magazines over here give us Most Inspirational awards, because the English music scene has influenced us so much."

JIMMY: "There's redeeming qualities to any entertainment; it takes your mind away from fucking Bosnia. It's not supposed to be substantial, it's meant to be a diversion. That's the substance."

CHRIS STEIN: "We've been asked what the differences are between now and then, apart from the fact we're all 20 years older... but you know what? That's about it."

JIMMY: "It's basically the same shit. It takes you a little longer to get up in the morning, it takes you a little longer to fall asleep at night. You get up and pee more."

CLEM: "That whole credibility factor that exists now wouldn't have happened if we'd stuck together for 17 years and made fools of ourselves. We'd have been the Rolling Stones. There's a little curiosity about the whole thing. Our fans at concerts tell us it's like having the album covers come to life."

JIMMY: "Well-dressed raisins, that's the Stones. Debbie has taken what she used to do, focused it, and brought it up a notch. Just using her eyes alone she can now relate to the whole audience."

CLEM: "It's an evolution."

JIMMY: "And the bathroom is closer to the stage, because we have to pee all the time."

CHRIS: "We re-formed because we needed to pay our taxes. It's the Willie Nelson syndrome."

JIMMY: "We re-formed because we needed a little confusion in our lives, a little chaos, a little disorder--and a little fun."

CLEM: "That paradox of art versus commerce has always existed in Blondie. A lot of things we did back then look calculated in retrospect--"Rapture," "Heart of Glass"--but we were just trying to take chances, find our antithesis. The chances that Chris took then in his song-writing have become commonplace now. Just think of us as a bubblegum band."

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