THE MONDAY MORNING HI-QUALITY VINYL RIP : Part Eighteen : HEART OF GLASS

Yup.  The 12″ single which rotates at thirty-three and one-third revolutions per minute.  And which, as a sad teenager, I stared at with a magnifying glass trying to work out if Debbie Harry was braless beneath that slip of a white dress.

mp3: Blondie – Heart Of Glass

Debbie and Chris Stein, in 2013, provided The Guardian with an explanation of how the song came to be:-

DH: In 1974, we were living in a loft in New York’s then notorious Bowery area, rehearsing at night in rooms so cold we had to wear gloves. Heart of Glass was one of the first songs Blondie wrote, but it was years before we recorded it properly. We’d tried it as a ballad, as reggae, but it never quite worked. At that point, it had no title. We just called it “the disco song”.

Then, in 1978, we got this producer, Mike Chapman, who asked us to play all the songs we had. At the end, he said: “Have you got anything else?” We sheepishly said: “Well, there is this old one.” He liked it – he thought it was very pretty and started to pull it into focus. The boys in the band had got their hands on a new toy: this little Roland drum machine. One day, we were fiddling around with it and Chapman said: “That’s a great sound.” So we used it.

Back then, it was very unusual for a guitar band to be using computerised sound. People got nervous and angry about us bringing different influences into rock. Although we’d covered Lady Marmalade and I Feel Love at gigs, lots of people were mad at us for “going disco” with Heart of Glass. There was the Disco Sucks! movement, and there had even been a riot in Chicago, with people burning disco records. Clem Burke, our drummer, refused to play the song live at first. When it became a hit, he said: “I guess I’ll have to.”

The lyrics weren’t about anyone. They were just a plaintive moan about lost love. At first, the song kept saying: “Once I had a love, it was a gas. Soon turned out, it was a pain in the ass.” We couldn’t keep saying that, so we came up with: “Soon turned out, had a heart of glass.” We kept one “pain in the ass” in – and the BBC bleeped it out for radio.

For the video, I wanted to dance around but they told us to remain static, while the cameras moved around. God only knows why. Maybe we were too clumsy. I wore an asymmetrical dress designed by Steve Sprouse, made the boys’ T-shirts myself, and probably did my own hair. Everyone says I look iconic and in control, but I prefer our other videos. It was No 1 around the world. We’d had a lot of hits, but this was our first at home. Chapman was in Milan with us and said: “Join me in the bar.” I thought: “Oh God, I just wanna go to bed.” But we dragged our asses down and he told us it was No 1 in America. We drank a lot.

CS: Recording with Mike was fun, if a little painstaking – we had to do things over and over. But Jimmy [Destri, keyboards] had a lot to do with how the record sounds, too. Although the song eventually became its own thing, at first he wanted it to sound like a Kraftwerk number.

It was Jimmy who brought in the drum machine and a synthesiser. Synchronising them was a big deal at the time. It all had to be done manually, with every note and beat played in real time rather than looped over. And on old disco tracks, the bass drum was always recorded separately, so Clem had to pound away on a foot-pedal for three hours until they got a take they were happy with.

As far as I was concerned, disco was part of R&B, which I’d always liked. The Ramones went on about us “going disco”, but it was tongue-in-cheek. They were our friends. In the video, there’s a shot of the legendary Studio 54, so everyone thought we shot the video there, but it was actually in a short-lived club called the Copa or something.

I came up with the phrase “heart of glass” without knowing anything about Werner Herzog or his movie of the same name, which is a great, weird film. It’s nice people now use the song to identify the period in films and documentaries. I’ve heard a million versions. There are lots of great mash-ups. My favourite features the song being played at super-low speed, like odd industrial music.

I never had an inkling it would be such a big hit, or become the song we’d be most remembered for. It’s very gratifying.

And here’s your instrumental b-side

mp3: Blondie – Heart Of Glass (instrumental)

While I’m on, I can’t resist posting another couple of versions, but not ripped at 320kpbs:-

mp3: Associates – Heart of Glass (Auchterhouse Mix)
mp3: Blondie & Philip Glass – Heart of Glass (Crabtree Mix)

The former is one of the 12″ versions of a flop single released in 1988. The latter is a mashup by producer Jonas Crabtree;  it fuses parts of the Blondie song with parts of the Violin Concerto by Philip Glass and was used to great effect in one of the key scenes in the first series of the TV adaption of The Handmaid’s Tale.

JC

ALL OUR YESTERDAYS : (1/15) : PARALLEL LINES

It’s the same concept as last year.  Hating the idea of the blog completely closing down, but at the same time recognising that the number of visitors drops off substantially at the end of December and through into early January, it really is best to hold back fully on any original stuff.

So, it’s about digging out past reviews of some of my favourite albums, with a follow-up few sentences from myself. There’s a few things to mention from the outset:-

(a) very few of the historical UK reviews are readily available on-line and so many of the postings will rely on American publications, and in particular, Rolling Stone

(b) where I’ve been unable to track down an original review from the 70s or 80s, I’ve relied on something written up when the album was re-issued for some reason or another….as in this case which seems as good a place as any to start.

Album: Parallel Lines – Blondie
Review: Pitchfork – 1 August 2008
Author: Scott Plagenhoef

“Blondie is a band,” read the group’s initial press releases. The intent of this tagline was clear, as was the need for it: “This is an accomplished bunch of musicians, a tight, compact group versed in everything from surf to punk to girl group music to erstwhile new wave,” it seemed to say, “but, oh – I’m sure you couldn’t help but focus on blonde frontwoman Debbie Harry.” In America, however, people didn’t notice the group quite so quickly. Their first two records – a switchblade of a self-titled debut and its relatively weak follow-up Plastic Letters – birthed a pair of top 10 hits in the UK but had been, at best, minor successes in the U.S.; the debut didn’t chart, while Plastic scraped the top 75. Despite savvy marketing– the group filmed videos for each of its singles, that now-iconic duochromatic cover photo– the group’s third and easily best album, Parallel Lines, didn’t take off until the group released “Heart of Glass”, a single that abandoned their CBGB roots for a turn in the Studio 54 spotlight. Though its subtle charms included a bubbling rhythm, lush motorik synths, and Harry’s remarkably controlled and assured vocal, “Heart of Glass” started as a goof, a take-off on the upscale nightlife favored outside of Blondie’s LES home turf.

The swift move from the fringes to the top of the charts tagged Blondie as a singles group– no shame, and they did have one of the best runs of singles in pop history – but it’s helped Parallel Lines weirdly qualify as an undiscovered gem, a sparkling record half-full of recognized classics that, nevertheless, is hiding in plain sight. Landing a few years before MTV and the second British Invasion codified and popularized the look and sound of 1980s new wave, Parallel Lines’ ringing guitar pop has entered our collective consciousness through compilations (built around “Heart” plus later #1s “Call Me”, “Rapture”, and “The Tide Is High”), ads, film trailers, and TV shows rather than the album’s ubiquity. Time has been kind, however, to the record’s top tier – along with “Heart of Glass”, Parallel boasts “Sunday Girl” and the incredible opening four-track run of “Picture This”, “Hanging on the Telephone”, “One Way or Another”, and “Fade Away and Radiate”. The songs that fill out the record (“11:59”, “Will Anything Happen?”, “I’m Gonna Love You Too”, “Just Go Away”, “Pretty Baby”) are weak only by comparison and could have been singles for many of Blondie’s contemporaries, making this one of the most accomplished pop albums of its time.

In a sense, that time has long passed: Blondie – like contemporaries such as the Cars and the UK’s earliest New Pop artists – specialized in whipsmart chart music created by and for adults, a trick that has all but vanished from the pop landscape. Parallel Lines, however, is practically a blueprint for the stuff: “Picture This” and “One Way or Another” are exuberant new wave, far looser than the stiff, herky-jerky tracks that would go on to characterize that sound in the 80s; “Will Anything Happen?” and the band’s cover of the Nerves’ “Hanging on the Telephone” are headstrong rock; “11:59” does run-for-the-horizon drama, while “Sunday Girl” conveys a sense of elegance. The record’s closest thing to a ballad, the noirish “Fade Away and Radiate”, owes a heavy debt to the art-pop of Roxy Music.

Harry herself was a mannered and complex frontwoman, possessed of a range of vocal tricks and affectations. She was as at home roaming around in the open spaces of “Radiate” or “Heart of Glass” as she was pouting and winking through “Picture This” and “Sunday Girl” or working out front of the group’s more hard-charging tracks. That versatility and charm extended to her sexuality as well – she had the sort of gamine, sophisticated look of a French new wave actress but always seemed supremely grounded and approachable, almost tomboyish. (That approachability was wisely played up in the band’s choice of key covers throughout its career– “Hanging on the Telephone”, “Denis”, and “The Tide Is High” each position Harry as a romantic pursuer with a depth and range of emotions rather than simply as an unattainable fantasy.)

Already into her thirties– ancient by pop music standards– when Blondie released its debut album, Harry (and many of her bandmates) had years of industry experience and music fandom; at the turn of the next decade, they would combine pop and art impulses like few bands before or since. The lush, shiny sound of Blondie still greatly informs European pop – which pulls less from hip-hop and R&B than its American counterpart– as evidenced by the Continent’s best recent pop architects and artists (producers Richard X and Xenomania, plus Robyn, Girls Aloud, and Annie); in America, however, the group is oddly seems tied to the past, a product of its era. Even the release of this record is built on the tentative need to celebrate its 30th anniversary. (An opportunity not fully explored: This latest reissue of the record includes a new album cover, as well as a DVD with four videos of television performances and a quartet of mostly unneeded extras – the 7″ edit of “Heart of Glass”, a French version of “Sunday Girl”, and a pair of remixes.) In that sense, this isn’t a record that needs to be re-purchased – if you own it already, skip this. Sadly, I get the feeling not many people under a certain age do own the record, however, which justifies the reason for trying to re-introduce it to a new audience – it’s still as sparkling and three-dimensional as ever.

JC adds…….

1978.  I’ve long had it in my mind it was 1979, but that’s really down to it being the year I saw them play live – and that was, of course, the Eat To The Beat tour.

42 years on and Parallel Lines still sounds ridiculously fresh in so many ways.  It’s the moment in history where those of us who liked disco almost as much as new wave could dance away till our wee hearts were fit to burst.  It remains a fantastic, ground-breaking album, wonderfully summarised (at length) in the above review, with the advantage of looking back at it many years after it first hit the shops.

mp3: Blondie – Hanging On The Telephone
mp3: Blondie – One Way or Another
mp3: Blondie – Sunday Girl
mp3: Blondie – Fade Away and Radiate

JC

 

 

YOUR HAIR IS BEAUTIFUL

Giorgio Morodor meets surf instrumental in this epic hit. For once in Blondie’s career the song is almost non-existent – it’s all about Clem Burke’s hissing hi-hat, Nigel Harrison’s burbling bass breakdown, the thrill of the signature guitar lick, and Blondie’s transformation from post-modern classicists to video-led fusion futurists.

(The 500 Greatest Singles since Punk and Disco – Gary Mulholland (2002)

Atomic is an absolute blinder of a single, but it’s worth remembering that it was the third and final 45 to be lifted from Eat To The Beat, the album released in September 1979 to a general reception of ‘it’s OK, but it’s not in the class of Plastic Letters’.

Rather unusually, the third single outperformed the previous two – Dreaming had reached #2 while Union City Blue had stalled at #13.  Atomic entered the charts at #3 at the end of February 1980, before spending two weeks at the top, giving Blondie their third, in what eventually would prove to be six, #1 hits.

In an era when the fashion was to seek sales by extending the music on the 12″ from what was already available on the album, producer Mike Chapman chose to cut the best part of a minute by removing what has been described as the ‘three blind mice’ intro along with a later bass solo:-

mp3: Blondie – Atomic (album version)
mp3: Blondie – Atomic (12″ version)

This version was also the one put onto the 7″, with the b-sides being another track lifted from Eat To The Beat

mp3: Blondie – Die Young Stay Pretty

A reggae-influenced number, the positive reaction from fans to the songs was a big influence on the band deciding to cover The Tide Is High in a similar style when they next went back into the studio and to have it as the lead-off single for the next album, Autoamerican.

The bonus on the 12″ was a live track that had been recorded at the band’s gig at the Hammersmith Odeon in London on 12 January 1980, the second-last night of what had been a triumphant 16-night tour of the UK that had begun on 26 December 1979 and included a show on New Year’s Eve at the Glasgow Apollo that was broadcast live simultaneously on the telly via BBC 2 and on the transistor via BBC Radio 1. Your humble scribe was in the audience….

I reckon the recording of the track included on Atomic was played as a one-off in London:-

mp3: Blondie – ‘Heroes’ (live)

Yup, a cover of the Bowie classic, made a bit more special for all concerned by the fact that Robert Fripp, who had contributed to the original recording, came on stage to play lead guitar.

JC

CLEARING UP SOME CONFUSION – FIVE YEARS AFTER THE FACT

It was June 2015 when Don’t Talk To Me About Love featured as part of the short series looking back at the singles released by Altered Images. There was initially a fair bit of confusion on that I had been really lazy in posting up what I described as the ‘Extended Version’ as being from the 12″ single when it had in fact been taken from the version made available on the reissued edition of the album, Bite.

The fact that the CD version came in at 7 mins in length, as opposed to the 3:49 version on the 7″ (not forgetting the just under 5 mins version on the album) was the reason I made the initial mistake, which was pointed out quite quickly in one of the first comments offered up that day. I did try and rectify things quickly but amid all the panic and confusion, I’m not really sure if I did.

So…. five years on, and while I still don’t have the world at my feet, I do have the opportunity to pull out the 12″ from the cupboard and do a fresh digital recording via the new turntable. The fact that the 12″ came in a completely differently designed sleeve from the 7″, albeit both were the work of the late and deservedly acclaimed David Band, should have clicked with my brain all those years ago.

mp3: Altered Images – Don’t Talk To Me About Love (12″ version)

That’s all 8 and a half minutes of it, complete with the little bits of wizardry deployed in the studio,

I air the 7″ version, without fail, at every Simply Thrilled night and it inevitably fills the floor, no matter how early it is. There was a tremendously succinct but memorable description of the song offered up by For Malcontents Only back in June 2015:-

“The Scottish Heart of Glass!”

Which provides the perfect excuse, and again re-recorded using the new turntable:-

mp3: Blondie – Heart of Glass (12″ version)

Now, if listening to these two songs doesn’t put a smile on your face and simultaneously gets your hips swaying, then you are an unwell person. My advice to you is…. seek professional help!!

JC

WHAT PRESENCE

This is a very lazy posting in that I’m lifting the words used to describe a song in and ICA. But in my defence, the words that were used are more than capable of offering up a stand-alone post. Plus, I get to add some stats and facts and post the b-side:-

Gary Valentine is one of the unsung heroes of the Blondie story. He wasn’t the original bass player – that honour went to Fred Smith but he had jumped ship (understandably) when he was asked to join Television after Richard Hell had departed following one too many arguments with Tom Verlaine. Gary Valentine soon immersed himself fully with Blondie, adopting a look the band wanted and contributing a number of full-fledged tunes, including X-Offender which, with a Debbie Harry composed lyric, became the first ever 45. Another of his compositions, (I’m Always Touched by Your) Presence, Dear was chosen as the follow-up to Denis, and provide the band with its second successive Top Ten hit in the UK. The irony of this was that he had already left Blondie, frustrated in part by an unwillingness to record more of his songs, to be replaced by Nigel Harrison who was there all the way as the stellar ride to stardom gained momentum. He would later, in the 1990s after a move to London, pursue a fairly successful writing career, under his real name of Gary Lachman.

Presence is a fantastic love song, written for his girlfriend of the time on the back of them, despite often being thousands of miles apart while he was touring, having similar types of dreams of an evening, a situation that led him to pen what I’ve long thought as being one of the band’s finest ever moments.

mp3 : Blondie – (I’m Always Touched by Your) Presence, Dear

Now the stats and facts.

It was released on 7” and 12” vinyl, selling enough copies to reach #10 in the UK singles charts. I’ve long had a copy of the 12” version, but in this instance it wouldn’t have mattered if I’d gone with the 7” as there was no extended version of the A-side and both bits of plastic offered up two songs on the B-side:-

mp3 : Blondie – Detroit 442
mp3 : Blondie – Poets Problem

The former, a Jimmy Destri/Chris Stein co-effort, had already been made available on the album Plastic Letters. The latter, which was written solely by Jimmy Destri, was otherwise unavailable, albeit it would be included as part of the bonus material on later re-releases of the album.

My own bonus offering comes in the form of a solo version of the single, released by its composer, back in 2003:-

mp3 : Gary Valentine – (I’m Always Touched by Your) Presence, Dear

JC

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #197 & 198 : BLONDIE

The second successive JC ICA of an act from the teenage years.

Linked in with a guest posting by Walter of A Few Good Times.

It was inevitable that two ICAs would overlap.  I’d no sooner made my mind up on mine that Walter’s dropped into my inbox.  So here goes with two-for-one.  Only 3 songs made both lists…I wonder, before you scroll down, you hazard a guess to what they are and then see if you were right.

JC writes…..

Blondie.

A band with its roots firmly in the NYC punk scene who would, over a six-year period achieve world domination in terms of chart positions and record sales, thanks in part to having a stunning and striking look in an era when video was beginning to become increasingly important to the music industry, but also for the fact that this was a band who never stood still, always surprising fans and critics alike with moves into some different genre than their previous outing.

New wave, pure pop, disco, rap and reggae were all, one point in time or other, utilised to bring success. It wasn’t always the best use of the genres, and indeed in the grand scheme of things the rap and reggae efforts can be seen as a bit to-curling in places, but credit has to be given for trying and for using their position of influence to try to widen the tastes and listening habits of their fans. They are more than worthy of an appearance in this long-running series. Again, what follows is not necessarily my favourite ten Blondie songs, nor their best, but it comes together rather well as a stand-alone album.

SIDE A

1. Hanging on the Telephone (1978)

 Parallel Lines, the band’s third LP, has sold more than 20 million copies. Being the archetypal muso-snob, it’s not all that often I find myself raving about a record which has proven to be so popular with the general public, but there are many fantastic moments across its 35 minute duration, not least its opening track. It’s a song which is a nod the band’s roots in terms of its sound, energy and tempo, but it is also an acknowledgment of the fact that many of their peers and contemporaries, whom Chris Stein and Debbie Harry thought were more than worthy, hadn’t been able to keep things going for one reason or another. Not many people outside of LA had likely heard of song composer Jack Lee or his power-pop trio The Nerves until Blondie gave it the cover treatment. It still sounds ridiculously good 40(!!!!) years on.

2. Dreaming (1979)

The band’s drummer, Clem Burke, has always been important to the sound. He’s had to constantly adjust his style to suit whatever genre the band were concentrating on, but there can no arguing that, at heart, he’s just a guy who is at his happiest when he’s allowed to pound away loud and fast, dragging the band along breathlessly in his wake. He’s probably never given as fine a performance as on this hit single from the band’s fourth album, which is fitting given that it seems he came up with the phrase ‘Dreaming Is Free’ around which Debbie constructed the lyric – and I still admire the fact she was able to achieve a rhyming couplet of restaurant and debutante. Genius.

3. In The Flesh (1976)

It’s quite incredible to look back and realise that human error in Australia was responsible for setting Blondie on their way to fame and fortune. The debut album, like many of its type in the mid-70s, was more cult than commercial. It was that transitional period when punk/new wave was finding its feet on both sides of the Atlantic, still a long way from the mainstream and wider acceptance. The biggest pop show on Australian TV at the time was called Countdown and it was one that was ahead of many in airing new sounds by new bands. The plan has been to highlight X-Offender, a new 45 by Blondie but an error was made and the promo for its b-side was played instead and generated a positive response.

It didn’t, however, lead to any huge upsurge in sales, but the following year saw the band’s contract shift to a new label, Chrysalis, where somebody remembered that In The Flesh, a slow number almost reminiscent of many girl groups of the 60s, had gone down well and so it was re-released, this time as an A-side. In November 1977, the song reached #2 in Australia, providing the band with its first ever hit, a full six months before they troubled the UK singles charts.

4. Sunday Girl (French Version)(1979)

One in which the band really sounded as if they were just a backing group for the gorgeous lead singer. This was released in the summer of 1979 when the band had just really taken the UK by storm. It was the fourth single to be lifted from Parallel Lines, some nine months after the album hit the shops, a situation that would normally see a 45 sink without trace with fans refusing to part with hard-earned cash for something they already owned. It was especially so with Blondie as even most of their b-sides tended to be album tracks. Chrysalis came up with a fantastic ploy, namely being to have the 12” of the single come with a new vocal from Debbie, sung entirely in French, recalling the refrain from Denis, their breakthrough UK hit. Not a single adolescent fan could resist, and this rather flimsy sounding yet brilliant piece of pop, written entirely by Chris Stein, raced up the charts to #1.

5. (I’m Always Touched by Your) Presence, Dear (1978)

Gary Valentine is one of the unsung heroes of the Blondie story. He wasn’t the original bass player – that honour went to Fred Smith but he had jumped ship (understandably) when he was asked to join Television after Richard Hell had departed following one too many arguments with Tom Verlaine. Gary Valentine soon immersed himself fully with Blondie, adopting a look the band wanted and contributing a number of full-fledged tunes, including X-Offender which, with a Debbie Harry composed lyric, became was the first ever 45. Another of his compositions, (I’m Always Touched by Your) Presence, Dear was chosen as the follow-up to Denis, and provide the band with its second successive Top Ten hit in the UK. The irony of this was that Gary Valentine had already left Blondie, frustrated in part by an unwillingness to record more of his songs, to be replaced by Nigel Harrison who was there all the way as the stellar ride to stardom gained momentum. He would later, in the 1990s after a move to London, pursue a fairly successful writing career, under his real name of Gary Lachman.

Presence is a fantastic love song, written for his girlfriend of the time on the back of them, despite often being thousands of miles apart while he was touring, having similar types of dreams of an evening, a situation that led him to pen what I’ve long thought as being one of the band’s finest ever moments.

SIDE B

1. Heart Of Glass (1979)

The 12” version of this song is one of the finest pieces of music in my lifetime. It goes on and on and on and on…..and there are days, especially when I’m lying on the beach under a blazing sun, when I feel it comes to a halt all too prematurely. Indeed, on such a day and when I’m in such a mood, I’d be happy to have a 25-minute version of Heart of Glass take up an entire side of an ICA. But such a thing, to the best of my knowledge, doesn’t exist, and so the usual rules will now be applied…..which leads nicely to….

2. Union City Blue (1979)

I wrote about this at length on the blog not too long ago in which I admitted that back in 1979, I wasn’t totally convinced of the merits of this song as its mid-paced tempo and rock rhythm was not exactly what I had come to expect from Blondie. But, now that my tastes have developed and matured, this is up there as one of my all-time favourites. Not only that, but it just sound so good on the back of Heart of Glass and immediately in front of…..

3. 11:59 (1979)

At this point in the ICA, I was torn between including Picture This, which is yet another of my favourite 45s and this, the track that opens side 2 of Parallel Lines. Either song fits in quite perfectly at this juncture, but I swung in favour of 11:59 thanks to the superb organ instrumental bit in the middle of the song, courtesy of Jimmy Destri, the composer of this particular ditty. The keyboards were always there with Blondie, but all to often hidden away beneath the new wave guitars which were so in vogue when the band began to emerge. Can’t explain why, but this track has always seemed to me to be the most NYC of Blondie songs…even though it mentions oceans and the like which is clearly so L.A.

4. Rip Her To Shreds (1976)

An early song. It’s title would have you believe it is an angry punk classic when in fact it is a wonderfully funny, knowing, catchy and catty pop song. It is full of comic-book violence rather than anything real, quite camp in many ways as la Harry sneers at someone who, presumably, is encroaching on her territory. There’s only room for one killer queen on this sidewalk dontcha’ know? It’s another song in which Destri’s keyboard skills are to the fore while the surf-style guitar offerings bring to mind the also emerging at this time, B-52s.

5. Atomic (1980)

BOOM!!!!! The one where new wave met rock met disco in one generous helping. If Blondie had done nothing other than record Atomic, we would be raving about it as a work of distinction and quality all these decades later. It begins with a twanging guitar and it gallops along at a fair face thereafter, every single member of the six-piece band giving their all. It’s the perfect song to close the ICA as all you’ll want to do with the imaginary vinyl record is flip it over and start all over again.

JC

Walter writes:-

Looking back to all the ICA’s that was made by many guest writers I think it is time to feature a band that had their greatest moments in the late 70’s/early 80’s. It is a band I grew up with and accompanied me during the years were many great music was released. Blondie was formed by Debbie Harry and Chris Stein in 1976 as one of the first American punk and new wave band. Following the road The New York Dolls prepared they started with the finest songs that this new genre made in USA. After their first successful steps they added an organ to their sound and in the following years they added disco, pop and reggae to their eclectic sound. So here we go:

Side One

X-Offender (from Blondie)

First released as a single called Sex Offender and later shortened because too many radio stations banned this song mostly in America. Based on the sound of 60’s girl groups harmonies the band crated their very own sound that fit to the upcoming punk and new wave scene. A steady drum and an organ in the background made their trademark in the early days.

Rip Her To Shreds (from Blondie)

Also a song ruled by an organ in the background but with a bit more guitar. This one showed the way Blondie will walk next. The road of power-pop influenced new wave. This songs showed Debbie Harry’s abilities about phrasing and making a simple song great.

Denis (from Plastic Letters)

This was the first song ever I heard from them. As a teenager I was on the move some time with older friends from the biker’s scene and one day in a pub one of these guys dropped a coin in the jukebox and selected Denis. I was fascinated by this sound and couldn’t believe that they knew more than Steppenwolf and Deep Purple. Probably Blondie’s perfectest pop-rock song

(I’m Always Touched by Your) Presence, Dear (from Plastic Letters)

Another song from this album that climbed the charts but it is okay because these songs were the soundtrack on many parties in these days. The song is is because of using more guitars and the more reluctant singing of Debbie Harry more different to the songs before.

Fade Away And Radiate (from Parallel Lines)

With a new producer the left the punk-roots and the three chord songs to create a symbiosis of their roots and popular music. There were more guitars on it and the songs were arranged around Debbie’s voice.

Side Two

11:59 (from Parallel Lines)

Another example why this album reached high positions in the charts. With this song they came very close to the perfect pop song. These are just two songs from an almost perfect album. You can put songs like Hanging on the Telephone, Heart of glass or Sunday Girl at this place and it would be good as well.

Rapture (from Autoamerican)

This is the next step in Blondie’s musical evolution. Leaving punk/new wave/pop behind they now turned into something new. It seem like they have been in many discotheques in New York these days because they integrated influences of funk, jazz, rock and rap into their superb arranged songs. Rapture might be the perfect example for.

The Tide Is High (from Autoamerican)

Blondie were always a band that covered song and made a great job. I didn’t expected that they would make a song by The Paragons a song of their own. Reggae was in 1980 not that popular in mainstream and it is due to Blondie the mass could get in touch with the sound coming from Jamaica.

Call Me (from American Gigolo Soundtrack)

It was the lead song by the movie with Richard Gere. The soundtrack was written and produced by Giorgio Moroder and this song originally planed to be sung by Stevie Nicks. After she declined Debbie Harry took the chance to give this great song the vocals it deserves.

Ring Of Fire (from Roadie Soundtrack)

Blondie made another cover version in Alan Rudolph‘s movie Roadie with the first starring role by Meat Loaf. Never thought that even a song by Johnny Cash could fit to their sound.

Walter

JC : I don’t think anyone would have guessed the three in common were Rip Her To Shreds, (I’m Always Touched by Your) Presence, Dear and 11:59………….

 

LOVE SONG

Happy Valentine’s Day.

It is damn near impossible to get across the effect that the above sleeve had on me as a 15-year old. Let’s just say that it went a long way to confirming that I was a heterosexual with longings for peroxide blondes.

Picture This is that very rare thing – a post-punk/new wave love song. And oh how I wished I could be part of Debbie’s finest hour….in fact I’d willingly have settled for 30 seconds.

mp3 : Blondie – Picture This

This is the 45 that was used as the precursor for the album Parallel Lines. Its b-side was a rather mournful sounding number that would also find its way on to the album

mp3 : Blondie – Fade Away and Radiate

As I’ve said in other posts, slow songs and ballads were not my forte back in the late 70s and I wasn’t all that keen on the b-side as it was nothing like new wave, more dull plod-rock. I’ve, however, grown to like it over the years and now appreciate it as an example of Blondie working hard not to be pigeon-holed into one particular genre. But it wouldn’t make an ICA…..

Oh and one more thing….. who said it is near impossible to look stunning in yellow?

JC

OH, OH, WHAT ARE WE GONNA DO?

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:-

mp3 : Blondie – Union City Blue

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:-

mp3 : Blondie – Living In The Real World

JC

DISPOSABLE FLUFF THAT GOT TO #1

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This was the second successive UK #1 for Blondie, in May 1979, just a few months after Heart Of Glass.

mp3 : Blondie – Sunday Girl
mp3 : Blondie – Sunday Girl (French Version)
mp3 : Blondie – I Know But I Don’t Know

They didn’t get the hat-trick however, as the next release, Dreaming stalled at #2 some 17 months later.

But Blondie would go on to enjoy another three #1 hits in 1980, making them, without question, the most commercially successful band of the era.

And with the unexpected success of Maria, they would also go on to have a sixth song reach #1 come 1999. Not sure if nineteen years between #1 singles is some sort of record or not….particularly when it involves a new and not re-released song. Can’t be bothered looking it up though.

Oh and it was pure chance that a band from NYC was scheduled to feature the day after I found the space for the lastest treat from JTFL and Echorich.

READ IT IN BOOKS : HARRY PAPADOPOULOS

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I rarely get any satisfaction from books that are simply filled with illustrations or photographs. It usually needs a decent narrative to keep me happy or satisfied. But not What Presence! : The Rock Photography of Harry Papadopoulos.

The re-kindling of the interest in Harry’s work was initially sparked off by an exhibition that was held in a Glasgow gallery between December 2011 and February 2012.  It was an exhibition that I was drawn to time and time again….and every time I paid a visit I found myself changing my mind about what was my favourite photo.  Here’s what was written to publicise that particular exhibition:-

Harry began his photographic career in his Glasgow home town, standing outside the Apollo, flogging gig-goers newly-developed shots from bands’ Edinburgh shows the night before. Harry’s impulse to guerilla lensmanship swiftly drew him to London: from 1979 to 1984 he was a staff photographer for the music weekly Sounds, providing countless front covers. During those five years, Harry’s photographs covered the post-punk waterfront, from Blondie to David Bowie; the Associates to Devo by way of Joy Division, Bryan Ferry, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Birthday Party, The Cramps, The Clash, Altered Images, Penetration, The Specials and Suicide (not to mention Wham!, ABC and Spandau Ballet).

At that time, Harry’s London flat also became home to fellow Scots migrants like Orange Juice, Aztec Camera, Josef K and the Bluebells. Harry thus became one of the first few photographers to capture the fey arrogance of Edwyn Collins and his Postcard cohorts and subsequently appeared in the Derek Jarman video for ‘What Presence’. Several of these photos comprise Harry’s first career retrospective at Street Level Photoworks.

In addition to the expected band portraits and live-action front-row shots, there are a host of unique photos: salute the militant gay triumvirate of Jimmy Somerville, Tom Robinson and Andy Bell as they march for homosexual equality. Savour Peter Capaldi – years before he learnt to swear and mutated into Malcolm Tucker – looking cute and wholesome as bow-tied front man of Glasgow band The Dreamboys (with favourite US late-night chat show host, Craig Ferguson on drums). Taste the flying mud, baying skinheads and noxious aroma at T In The Park’s ill-fated grandsire, the 1980 Loch Lomond Festival. The exhibition will be accompanied by guest writers and events documenting the Post Punk explosion in Glasgow in an era when the city’s musicians were a focus of the global music industry.

The exhibition is co-curated by Ken McCluskey.

That’s the basics. The full story behind the exhibition hid a sad story that Harry had suffered a brain aneurysm in 2002 and had come home to Glasgow in 2006. One of the city’s pop stars – Ken McCluskey of The Bluebells learned this a couple of years later from a chance encounter with Harry’s brother who just happened to be doing some electrical work in Ken’s house.

Ken paid a visit to Harry and found that his house had thousands of negatives and images just lying about in cardboard boxes and bags, some of which were the worse for wear.  Harry’s poor health was such that  he was about to move into a care home and so Ken took on a mission to salvage and digitize the negatives, a process that took the best part of a year. He then took the results to a curator whose expert eye very quickly concluded that the work was very worthy of an exhibition.

As I said earlier, I went along a few times to the exhibition.  It wasn’t just great photos that made it such a joy but the reproductions of magazine and fanzine covers that stirred so many memories.  I bought a few momentos from that particular exhibition, including packs of postcard sized photos containing some of my favourite shots. There was an opportunity to purchase larger sized limited edition prints but I wanted them all and couldn’t justify the expense. If only someone would curate a book.

In April 2013 my prayers were answered and my wee brother arranged to give me a copy for my 50th birthday.

The book is a real joy. It has a cover whose colours pay homage to the Sex Pistols debut LP and it has contents that take me back to that time when music was the most important thing in my life and when I couldn’t imagine it being any different. It is also a reminder that I fell in love with so many musicians not simply as a result of the sounds they made but for the way they looked, how they dressed and the attitude they had on stage and in real life.

It’s 120 pages long and regrettably it only captures a fraction of the images that were on display at the 2011/12 exhibition but I’m guessing the cost of a larger book would have been prohibitive – there’s a certain quality production level essential for books of this nature to make them worthwhile in the first instance.  The foreword from Peter Capaldi captures perfectly what makes the book so worthwhile:-

“Nowadays celebrity photography is ubiquitous and strangely anonymous, but here we have a collection of photographs that succeed time and time again in getting to the heart of the subjects and giving us a glimpse of the youthful dreamers behind all the noise.”

The book also enables Ken McCluskey to flesh out Harry’s life story a little bit more with the reminder that his home in London, shared with fellow photographer Robert Sharp along with Edwyn Collins and Grace Maxwell, was nicknamed The House of Camp and was where so many musicians from Scotland bedded down for the night when they ventured down to the capital for a gig.  I’m sure a separate book could be written about the nonsense that happened within its four walls and back garden such as the time when it became the location for a fantastic pop video directed by Derek Jarman:-

 

Harry has a cameo in the video – he’s the fully clothed hipster in the bath!!

My decision to review the book today was partly inspired by a comment from Charity Chic in the Billy Mackenzie posting last week as he mentioned Harry’s work was on display eight miles down the road from Glasgow in Paisley. (It was also partly inspired by a wee tale I’ve told in the footnote…)

The Paisley exhibition closed yesterday. I didn’t manage to get myself along and I’m annoyed with myself for that. But I’ve a feeling it won’t be too long before it pops up again, whether here in Glasgow or nearby.

Here’s three of excellent examples of Harry’s work with songs to accompany them:-

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mp3 : The Birthday Party – Release The Bats

HarryPapadopoulous_482

mp3 : The Clash – Janie Jones

JS27361606

mp3 : Blondie – Rip Her To Shreds

A wee footnote to all this.

Last week, Mrs V asked me if, during my blogging activities, I’d come across the name of Harry Papadopoulos. When I asked back what prompted the question she told me his name had come up in conversation with two sisters (Rena and Maria) who she bumps into and chats to every Sunday when she goes for a post-walk/jog beverage in a posh tea room in a nearby park. Turns out the sisters are second cousins of Harry and they are proud of his legacy of work….sometimes Glasgow feels like a village.

A second wee footnote…..

Great minds think alike!!

AS SEEN OVER AT THE OLD PLACE : MARCH 2007

I was thinking of posting this song up anyway without recourse to the archives, but using the words typed on 22 March 2007 tells the tale from my youthful days:-

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What were you all doing in 1979? I know that some, indeed, many of you probably weren’t born. I imagine that others would be running around dressed in nappies and looking for a feed from a nipple (but what you did, and do, in the privacy of your own home is no business of mine).

1979 was a momentous year in my life. I was 16 years of age and I had passed a whole bundle of exams that would let me go back to school to take more exams that would let me get to university. Over the summer months, I got a full-time job for six weeks which gave me, for the first time, a degree of financial independency. I was able to buy loads of singles and albums, but more importantly, tickets for gigs at the Glasgow Apollo to see loads of new wave/post-punk bands.

1979 was also the year that I fell in love for the first time. But the problem was that me, and hundreds of thousands, possibly even millions of others, were in love with the same person. And she didn’t really love us back. Not when she was shagging the guitarist in her band.

Debbie Harry. The voice and look of Blondie. Sigh.

So when the news came through that Blondie were to play a UK tour at the tail-end of 1979, including a gig on 31st December at the Glasgow Apollo, it was all systems go to obtain a ticket. And that meant getting out of bed at 5am and getting my dad to run me into town where I joined the queue of those who were sleeping out overnight outside the front door of the box office at the venue. It was a long drawn-out five hours with only a small radio, and a mate from school to keep me company. But we got our tickets. And from memory they were £5 which was way way more than I had ever paid for a concert ticket in my life up to that point (bear in mind, my wages in the summer job had seen me take home £26 a week…)

A couple of weeks later, the BBC announced that the Glasgow gig was to be broadcast live on television and radio as part of the special programmes for Hogmanay. I took a fair bit of stick at school, and at home, for seemingly wasting my money on something I could now be watching on the telly….but nobody seemed to understand just how important it was to actually be in the audience gawping at the love/lust of my life.

The gig was all that I looked forward to for months on end, and I played and wore out all of my Blondie singles and albums, learning every note and every word so that I could fully sing-a-long.

The night itself started off brilliantly, as I ended up speaking on Radio 1, for about 5 seconds. Millions of listeners would have heard a squeaky-voiced adolescent say he was ‘Jim from Sandyhills who wanted to wish his mum, dad, his brothers and all his mates a Happy New Year’. I’ve no idea what record was played as I was shaking with excitement at the fact I had just been live on the biggest radio station in Europe. I thought I was a star….

That turned out to be the highlight of the night, for the gig itself was a huge disappointment. The sound was poor – it was incredibly loud which I think was to try and disguise the fact that Blondie were an appalling live act. Debbie’s vocals were lost amidst all this, and the gig wasn’t helped by the fact that part of the way through the set, there was a lengthy pause to allow the TV network to come in on cue.

But until now, I never admitted any of that to anyone. To the world and its auntie, the Blondie gig was the ‘best I’d ever been to’. Thinking back on all this, it’s hardly a surprise that I have spent a large part of my working life in the dark and unsavoury world of political spin….

So here, all the way from 1979, and courtesy of a winning bid on e-bay last week, are two tracks from a 12” single, the cover of which was sellotaped to my bedroom wall.

Was it really almost 28 years ago????

mp3 : Blondie – Heart Of Glass (12″ version)
mp3 : Blondie – Rifle Range

2013 Update…………..it’s now coming up for almost 34 years since said gig!