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Blondie at CBGB

Blondie - Parallel Lines album coverBlondie: Heart Of Glass (from Parallel Lines, 1978)
As one of the groups that really cut their teeth at the club, in both of their early days, Blondie might well deserve to flood this play list.  But we keep to the old willfully different attitude, so maybe it’s right to choose a cut slightly out of character.  Heart Of Glass was produced by the very successful and often innovative Mike Chapman (he also did the first Nervus Rex album, see later), and it’s slightly at odds with the group’s original pop-rock sound, being recorded to a sequencer, and certainly floating somewhere among the punk/disco pseudo conflict that journalists would get all excited about in the late 70s.  Let’s hope they’re still confused.  Characteristic or not, it’s a nice piece of work.

The group didn’t go all thankful to Chapman in subsequently published interviews, describing him as being an old-style dominator.  But the timing of the song’s hook, not giving away the game until Deborah Harry’s seductive lyric delivery has got you, is immaculate.  Wherever it came from, this is a classic song and recording.  Dentists say, ‘a little blood is good,’ when it comes to brushing your teeth.  Maybe studio tension works the same way.

Blondie - Plastic Letters album coverBlondie: Denis (from Plastic Letters, 1977)
This was Blondie’s first serious hit in the UK (#2, just kept back from first position by Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heightswhich coincidentally I had A&Red for EMI Records).  It was their second single release there, which the punks sensed was right in line with their evolving do-it-yourself ethos.  The clumsiness of the playing is quaint now, and contrasts with the band’s increasing instrumental competence as they developed later.

If the band had stuck to standard arrangements, doubtless they would have sounded more efficient, but they were clearly after something more ambitious.

Producer Richard Gottehrer, one of the most aware connected with the downtown scene, captured the band at its emerging point, rather than striving for the clinical perfection that was, at the time, for the punks to react against instinctively.

It remains a charming and definitive issue, curiously unfashionably soft compared with the grizzly new sounds growing in popularity in the UK, but very effective.