Nothing on the album says New York more than Harry’s favorite song, Mother. While it has been interpreted as a kind of letter to her birth mother, who put her up for adoption when she was only a few months old, she maintains it was inspired by an underground Manhattan club that was one of her regular haunts in the 1990s. “I think it’s one of my best lyrics ever. It was about a club called Mother that I used to go to. It sums up my feelings about the place. It has underlying feelings about searching for motherhood, but I don’t necessarily apply it to me.” Though it certainly sounds like more than just a tribute to NYC nightlife (“Mother in the night, where are you? I’m calling you/Mother’s left the building, we’re the abandoned children”), she insists: “It’s not about my own mom. I’m certainly not searching for my mother at this stage. If there is that [meaning], it’s subliminal for me.”
Harry was brought up by shop owners Richard and Catherine Harry, but did track down her birth mother in the late 1980s. She did not want a relationship with her daughter. “But by then, I didn’t need that information anyway. I was already successful with Blondie,” she told Kirsty Young, though you wonder if she’s really as indifferent as all that.
Does she regret not having had children of her own? “Sometimes. I’ve thought of adoption, which I think I’d be really good at. Now that this terrible [earthquake] has happened in Japan, there will be a lot of children needing homes. I spread myself around a lot of causes,” she goes on. “I’m concerned about the environment and clean water, and being carbon-free. I also support diabetes [research].” Maybe she should set up a charitable Debbie Harry foundation, I say. The suggestion intrigues her: “If I were to do a foundation, it would be to promote solar energy. And I’m worried about drilling for oil. I think it is harming the Earth, ’cos it drains the layer of oil under the surface, and that could be causing earthquakes. It’s like we’re giving the Earth arthritis.” She smiles sheepishly. “I don’t know if that sounds crazy.”
A bit daffy, perhaps, but who knows, she could be right. One day she’ll write a song about it.