This review was originally published a few years ago in The Classical Mess, a newsletter I was doing on Substack until I discovered they were giving money to very bad people.
Debbie Harry has always seemed remarkably well-adjusted considering her global renown. This image is not shattered by her 2019 memoir Face It. Harry unfolds the road map of her life and nothing, it seems, has driven her off sanity’s edge. Not sour business or lost love or discovering that world famous drummer Buddy Rich was one of the two 40-something creeps who followed her home at the age of 12 after making their intentions clear at a nearby lobster shack.
Harry writes about that mortifying episode and several other very traumatic incidents like they’re just wacky family stories to be told after a few drinks around the holidays. Is she too well-adjusted? Millions of people cope this way — downplaying visceral horror with a laugh or wry comment. Maybe she is truly unaffected. Either way, it doesn’t prevent Harry from coming across as a relatable, endearing human in Face It. Often it feels like the only thing separating us from her is we don’t own paintings of ourselves by Andy Warhol.
What are Face It’s revelations for the casual Deb head? Harry “made it” once with David Johansen back in the day. She admits she “was never a Muppet fan” and only went on “The Muppet Show” because Dizzy Gillespie had been a guest (Harry offers praise for Jim Henson, though, whom she labels “a big pervert, in the best possible way”). Also, Debbie Harry once enjoyed an Edgar Winter concert.
Then you have this fascinating aside about Lydia Lunch, that high priestess of the underground, and her devotion to Bret “The Hitman” Hart. Lunch, Harry, and Harry’s longtime beau Chris Stein were all wrestling fans and used to attend matches together. “Lydia Lunch was hot for Bret big time,” Harry writes, noting that “heads turned [and] eyes stared” when Lunch began screaming in her “earth-shatteringly loud” voice for Bret when he was on the card. I wonder if Bret Hart ever heard Teenage Jesus.
The back half of Face It starts to feel like a sprint to cram in every notable event from Harry’s life during the 21st Century. Now maybe you understand why Richard Hell halted his life story I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp around 1984. Harry’s work is more humane, though, and more human, so we bounce along, happily adjusting.
If you’ve ever caught an interview with Marky Ramone you know he tends to sound a little rehearsed, like he has stock answers he’d prefer to substitute for in-the-moment emotion. Punk Rock Blitzkrieg: My Life As A Ramone reads a lot like that. It’s less heated than Johnny’s Commando or any of Dee Dee’s volumes, working hard to cram in the most superfluous exposition (OMG, we know what the fucking Berlin Wall was). That said, our self-proclaimed Chicken Beak Boy manages to add a tiny bit of fresh perspective to the Ramones legend while additionally owning up to his own bonkers alcoholism.
Granted, it’s frustrating the drummer can be so candid about substance abuse while ignoring more interesting bits of his mythology, but I suppose only a fool would have expected a chapter devoted to Mark’s alleged wig wearing. There are also several points where it’s not difficult to read between the lines. Die-hards are familiar with the drama between Marky and C.J. and in this tome the former damns the latter with faint praise, mostly saluting his attitude while offering no adjective above “good” to describe the bassist’s playing. Even more telling: there’s no reference to the half decade Mark spent drumming for the Misfits.
Punk Rock Blitzkrieg covers well-worn ground in regard to the founding “bruddahs”: Johnny was fervently right wing, Joey was severely OCD, Dee Dee never met a pill he didn’t like, Tommy was sensitive. Even the author’s struggles with the bottle have been tackled to varying degrees elsewhere. If there’s any revelation in PR Blitzkrieg it’s Marky’s admission that he believes Phil Spector to be innocent of Lana Clarkson’s 2003 murder. Give him credit for sticking by his pal.
The most fascinating stuff in the book comes before Mark’s time in the Ramones, when he bounced from power trio Dust to country rockers Estus (major label ding dongs who owned a swank mansion in upstate New York) before landing in Richard Hell’s Voidoids. The Voidoids were mastering their debut album the night of the 1977 New York City blackout. On his way home, Mark decided it was time to get his; he picked up a trash can and attempted to hurl it through a bank window. The can bounced off the plexiglass like a Nerf football. Inside, a security guard smiled and waved.
Other interesting snippets: Steven Tyler was nice to the Ramones back in the day, Sting wasn’t, Dee Dee’s rap career was just as much about annoying the other Ramones as it was about a love for hip hop, Marky has a twin brother named Fred, Marky likes the Circle Jerks.
Punk Rock Blitzkrieg summed up in one line: probably the one on the last page where Marky expresses satisfaction with his career because both the Pope and Obama are Ramones fans. I’ve never seen Barack in a Mondo Bizarro t-shirt but I’m happy to take the Chicken Beak’s word.