After Blondie finally broke up in 1983, Debbie Harry seemed to be at the bum end of her career. After the flop of her 1981 debut album and her 1982 collaboration with Giorgio Morroder, Rush Rush, it could have been all over for Debbie’s pop career.
However, 1986 would prove to be a great year. The single French Kissin’ In The USA was a major hit in the UK, peaking at #8 – back when that was quite good! The album, Rockbird, really cashed in on the pop appeal of French Kissin’.... It kicks of with I Want You, a shouty, electronic, bubblegum pop ditty with off the wall horns and some seriously silly lyrics. It has quite a 50’s rockabilly feel to it too. It’s totally throwaway, but somehow makes quite an impression and while it’s nothing like the material Blondie recorded, it is a bit punky and wouldn’t sound too odd with the synthesisers removed and the guitars turned up! Buckle Up is pretty similar in style and every bit as good, and You Got Me In Trouble also follows this trend, although is more on the pure pop side. This one has some nice horns and is a bit smoother.
Next up is the second single In Love With Love, while the vocals are just lovely, I like Debbie’s high vocals on this one especially, I think the production on the album version lacks the energy of the remixes, in particular the SAW remix, which was the single version in the UK. This whole album was Debbie at her absolute poppiest and it was a shame she didn’t stick with this kind of thing, as sales were pretty good for the album, over 100,000 copies in the UK alone. This single tanked though, although the Justin Strauss freestyle mix was a US club hit.
Free To Fall is the first ballad, and its absolutely lovely. It’s very emotive and extremely classy. Debbie’s voice is really strong on this album, and nowhere is this more evident than on the ballads. This was the third and final single, and it was big old flop in the UK. It had a great B-side, Feel The Spin, a euro flavoured slice of 80’s disco taken from the soundtrack to the movie Krush Groove.
The title track, Rockbird, is quite intense and makes use of that saxophone again. I’ve never been particularly keen on this one, but it is good, and picks up the frenetic pace of some of the earlier tracks on the album. Secret Life takes things down to a mid-tempo before kicking into a rocky chorus. Some really nice lyrics and pretty vocals on the verses make this one an absolute pleasure to listen to. Beyond The Limit is more of the same.
The horn section of Debbie’s band are really prominent throughout and it gives the whole album a bit of a retro feel. Producer Seth Justman did a really great job on the album and produced a set of glossy pop songs with just enough of an edge of craziness to befit a legend like Debbie. Stephen Sprouse and Andy Warhol did the artwork and soul legend Jocelyn Brown provided some of the background vocals. It’s a fine collection of trashy pop that would be perfect in any collection!
Video - In Love With Love [Remix]
Video - Interview