Monday, January 28, 2019

Mucho Mistrust

Blondie : Heart of Glass

On January 28, Blondie hit #1 on the U.K. charts with "Heart of Glass", a million selling single that had yet to be released in the United States. The disco-friendly single wasn't without controversy. What was a new wave cult band doing playing disco music ? What's interesting is that the musicians didn't put up the same walls as listeners. Both Blondie and Talking Heads were fans of dance music and Blondie had even played a cover version of Donna Summer's "I Feel Love" with Robert Fripp sitting in on guitar.

There was also an issue with the lyrics, as Deborah Harry explained to The Guardian:

"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."

Harry says "Heart of Glass" was one of the first songs Blondie wrote.

"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". 

Below is the 1975 version, which has a laid back feel not unlike "Rock the Boat" by the Hues Corporation.

A few laters, the band rocked it up. Parallel Lines producer Mike Chapman liked what he heard.

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. 

Chris Stein fills in more of the details:

It was (keyboard player) Jimmy (Destri) who brought in the drum machine and a synthesizer. Synchronizing 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 (drummer) Clem (Burke) had to pound away on a foot-pedal for three hours until they got a take they were happy with....Jimmy 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.

The songs would be a #1 around the world, topping the charts in the United States, Australia, Canada, Germany, Austria, New Zealand and Switzerland.“

 Chris  Stein just shrugged the whole thing off. "We didn't expect the song to be that big," he told Circus magazine for an article entitled "Why Are Rockers Going Disco?" 

"We did it as a novelty item to put more diversity into the album. We thought 'Picture This' and 'Pretty Baby' would be big hits in the States. Naturally, we were proven wrong ... I suppose we should be concerned with the disappointment of our fans. But if they're that strict that they'll get concerned because we do a song like 'Heart of Glass,' I can't have much sympathy for them. It's not selling out. It's only one song.”  

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