Released today in 1981: Backfired

Chrysalis CHS2526

Chrysalis CHS2526

The sleeve of Debbie Harry’s first solo single Backfired featured a detail from a photograph of her taken by Brian Aris. The rest of the image was seen on the cover of her debut album, Kookoo, with alterations made by Swiss artist H.R. Giger who had recently enjoyed some notoriety for his design work on the science fiction horror film ‘Alien’. Harry’s Blondie band mate and partner Chris Stein recalled that “Debbie and I met him right after he won the Academy Award for ‘Alien’. The original prints of the ‘Alien’ artwork were on display around the country, so we went to the gallery in New York and by coincidence he was there and we met him. We brought him over to the house, and we’ve been friends ever since, pretty much.”

Giger was invited to contribute to the artwork for the as-yet untitled album. “When I was back in Switzerland, I picked up some excellent shots in which Debbie wore her hair combed sharply back,” he said in 1991. (Harry had decided that as the album was not a Blondie one, she would visually distance herself from the group by symbolically dying her hair brown for the Aris photo session.) “Since I had just had acupuncture treatment from my friend and doctor, Paul Tobler, the idea of the four needles came to me, in which I saw symbols of the four elements, to be combined with her face.” The result was both stunning and unsettling: Giger painted over one of Aris’s original pictures to show four spikes piercing Harry’s face and neck. This treatment of one of pop’s most beautiful faces was too shocking for some: Chrysalis mounted a poster campaign featuring the image to promote the album, but Stein remembers organizations such as London Underground refusing to allow them to be displayed for fear of disturbing people.

Nevertheless, as Giger recalled, “Debbie and Chris… liked the idea and, in addition, they commissioned me to make two video clips of the best songs.” The first of these was Backfired, which incorporated elements of the imagery from the album cover along with Giger’s trademark ‘biomechanical’ designs. The other clip was for the track Now I Know You Know which was presumably in line to be a single at one time; in fact, the follow-up single in most countries was The Jam Was Moving.

NEW SINGLES on sale from Jul. 24
Debbie HARRY Backfired (Chrysalis CHS2526)
SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES (Siouxsie Sioux) Arabian Knights (Polydor POSP309)
BIG FUN Blame It On The Boogie (Jive JIVE217)
Neneh CHERRY Kisses On The Wind (Circa YR33)
Kylie MINOGUE Wouldn’t Change A Thing (PWL PWL42)
TRANSVISION VAMP (Wendy James) Landslide Of Love (MCA TVV8)
Sydney YOUNGBLOOD If Only I Could (Circa YR34)


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