Bob Lefsetz: Welcome To My World - "Blondie Primer"
It sounds like a modern day girl group recording...because it was produced by Richard Gottehrer, whose first number one was "My Boyfriend's Back," who had his hand in so many sixties hits with thin production that sound just like...this.
And, unless you lived in NYC, you never heard this, at least not until after "Parallel Lines."
Catchy, minor work, not a bad start.
RIP HER TO SHREDS
This got a bit more airplay elsewhere, but not much. But this is more original than "X Offender," and you fall in love with the attitude, it still puts a smile on your face today.
The first, eponymous album, was released on Private Stock, the second came out on Chrysalis, which was spreading its wings from English art rock to...Blondie and eventually Pat Benatar and so many more. Chrysalis was built on the back of Jethro Tull, but got a second wind started by...Blondie. But this remake of the Randy & the Rainbows hit got some traction, airplay as far away as Los Angeles, but it was seen mostly as a curio, no one believed Blondie had any substance, never mind being on a trajectory to worldwide superstardom, and then...
HEART OF GLASS
Two words...MIKE CHAPMAN!
It was the same band, but a completely different sound.
The Commander was already a legend in the UK, but most of his success there didn't translate to the United States, and then came...this.
Chapman cowrote and produced with Nicky Chinn, and we'd read over here that Suzi Quatro and Smokie and Mud were huge across the pond, but you never heard them here, but you heard THIS!
Chapman parlayed his success into his own label, Dreamland, put out a few stiff records and then disappeared FOREVER!
That's right, 100% done. In addition to Blondie, he did Exile's "Kiss You All Over" and Nick Gilder's "Hot Child In The City," and I must admit we did hear the Sweet's "Ballroom Blitz" before the American tsunami truly began, but no one took Sweet seriously, but in 1979, EVERYONE took Blondie seriously, starting with this disco hit that disco-haters couldn't help but love.
Come on, it's great.
HANGING ON THE TELEPHONE
You bought the album, dropped the needle, and the record took off like a shot!
It's quintessential New York, despite being written by west coast artist Jack Lee for his band the Nerves.
It's a bundle of nervous energy from the east coast where everybody's got something to say and girls are aggressive and have attitude. Listening made you want to move to the gritty streets of New York.
This is an unexpected album opening treat akin to Alice Cooper's "Under My Wheels" from "Killer." In both cases, the albums got no airplay, you didn't hear them unless you bought them, and then when the sound came out of the speakers you were stopped in your tracks!
From the lyrics to the sound to the delivery, "Hanging On The Telephone" is a triumph.
ONE WAY OR ANOTHER
A one-two punch, "One Way Or Another" followed "Hanging On The Telephone" and it's got a great riff, but it's Debbie Harry's sneer that puts it over the top.
FADE AWAY AND RADIATE
My favorite cut on "Parallel Lines," made genius by the presence of one Robert Fripp, who has just reunited a version of his King Crimson band but has faded away and is not radiating, but those who were around still know...Robert had the chops, but even more interesting was the way he tested limits.
Listen intently for his work here, it's so subtle, yet so striking, interstellar communication.
I love this.
The hit from the follow-up to "Parallel Lines" known as "Eat To The Beat." There was a ton of press, that a video was made for every track. And "Eat To The Beat" was good, but not as good as "Parallel Lines," however it is fully listenable.
Another "Eat To The Beat" single, which I actually preferred to "Atomic," even though it wasn't as successful. It's not only the sound, but the lyric, which depicts a whole vignette, the song was penetrable, as opposed to so many of today's hits.
UNION CITY BLUE
Written during Debbie Harry's ill-fated venture into acting in the flick "Union City."
THE HARDEST PART
My favorite track on "Eat To The Beat."
"In a bulletproof vest, shatterproof glass, overdrive, we're gonna pass"
This is pure magic, from the sounds to the changes to the lyrics to the delivery. It was released as a single, but did not blow up. Still, it's the one I played in my car, the one I still love to hear today.
THE TIDE IS HIGH
And just when it looked like Blondie had peaked, suddenly they were UBIQUITOUS with this white reggae cover of the old Paragons track.
It sounds kinda phony, kinda like Zeppelin's "D'yer Mak'er," but at this point most Americans had still never heard of Bob Marley, had not been to Jamaica, and this was a great entry point.
I haven't listened all the way through in decades, I'm not sure I ever did back then!
The gigantic, subtle hit that made rap safe for the suburbs.
And everybody gives Blondie credit for respecting the genre and blowing it up.
One of the most important cuts in rock and roll.
This track alone is probably why the band is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The one I didn't buy. The album that killed Blondie. Seemingly everybody got the word it was substandard, they didn't buy it, it was available for years in cut-out bins, and when it was done, so was the band.
Going back to 1980, at the band's peak, Giorgio Moroder reached out and Debbie Harry cowrote and sang on this monster hit, the theme song of "American Gigolo."
It sounds like movie music, it sounds like disco, but it sounds SO GOOD!
It's the way Debbie sings at the top of her lungs and range...CALL ME!
And this Moroder/Harry composition's performance was credited to Ms. Harry. Airplay was limited, I had to buy the 12" just to hear it.
This is so infectious. It was featured in "Scarface," but most people don't know it.
So there you have it, Blondie's peaks. And high they were. They were one of the biggest bands in the universe at the turn of the decade, from the seventies to the eighties.
Debbie Harry tried to fly solo. The band eventually reunited. But it was too late to catch fire once again, they're now an oldies act. But being hip as well as mainstream, and not kitschy, they haven't gotten their one big victory lap a la Journey.
I guess that's the problem with staying alive.
If Debbie Harry had O.D.'ed, Blondie would be legends.
Harry broke ground as a female front person. She doesn't get enough credit because she was so good-looking, as if that's a crime. Furthermore, she was over thirty when the band broke through. She was a trailblazer.
And Chris Stein was the musical mastermind, and Clem Burke pounded the skins and every member was indispensable, because Blondie was a BAND!