One of my really young work colleagues, understandably, only knows of Blondie as being a relic of the past. The conversation had initially been sparked by a number of us talking about whether or not to have an office night out at a Blondie tribute act at a nearby location (in the end we decided against the idea), but the young ‘un was bemused that such a little-known band (in her eyes) was the subject of a tribute act not only performing but generating such interest among so many of us.
A few videos were fired up on You Tube to illustrate just how many hits there had been when Blondie were at their peak but they all meant next to nothing to a 19 year-old. The 50-somethings in the team on the other hand got very nostalgic.
I looked up the discography on wiki and found that between January 1979 and October 1980, Blondie released six singles in the UK, four of which went to #1 (Heart of Glass, Sunday Girl, Call Me and Atomic) while another was a #2 hit (Dreaming).
The odd one out was the second single lifted from the Eat to The Beat album:-
This comparative flop stalled at #13 in November 1979. The fact that subsequent 45s hit the top spot would indicate that this was merely a small blip in an otherwise stellar performance chart wise as the decades of the 70s and 80s intertwined.
It’s no real surprise that Union City Blue didn’t quite gel with the record buying public as much as the others. It was more rock than pop and the mid-paced tempo was something that, up until now, had really only been found on album tracks or b-sides. My abiding memory of the song back in the day really centres round the video, and in particular the opening shot where an aerial shot (I’m guessing from a helicopter) zooms along a largely derelict and decaying waterfront before zooming in on the band performing on a dry dock. Debbie Harry looks more gorgeous and alluring than ever, wearing an orange jumpsuit with much of her face hidden behind aviator shades. Oh and she has a guitar around her neck which somehow only adds to the appeal.
Later shots from behind the band reveal that the dry dock is on the New Jersey shoreline as not far in the distance is the very distinctive New York skyline, a city at that time, as I’ve said before, was the one place more than any other that the 16-year old me wanted to visit.
Strange thing is, I’d forgotten how awful the second half of the video is after it switches it to the nightime footage…
Back in 1979, I wasn’t totally convinced of the merits of Union City Blue as I’d been so smitten by either the fast-paced new wave material or the more danceable stuff. In later years, as my tastes widened and matured I now find myself liking it much more than many other tracks from the post-Parallel Lines period. I’d even be willing to nowadays to classify it in the danceable category but I maybe alone with that.
It’s worth noting that the tune was penned by Nigel Harrison with Debbie adding the lyric in a rare(ish) departure from her working alongside Chris Stein. The b-side was written entirely by yet another member of the band, Jimmy Destri and was also the closing track on Eat to The Beat:-