Blondie – Parallel Lines

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist

One of my first music purchases was a cassette of The Best of Blondie (1981); I was in fourth grade. I only paid attention to the hits – “Heart of Glass,” “Dreaming,” “The Tide is High,” “Call Me,” and “One Way or Another” – I have no recollection of listening to the deeper cuts, though looking at the track listing now, it was a very strong selection, and nine-year-old me should have paid more attention to it.

What I Think of This Album

Almost certainly Blondie’s best album (the debut is a contender, though I don’t own it), this is the one you should buy if you’re going beyond a best of comp. Produced by Mike Chapman, the album was Blondie’s breakthrough, making them stars.

The reissue I have includes fascinating liner notes from perfectionist Chapman, in which he briefly recounts his difficulties working with the group and dishes on intra-band tensions. And while Chapman certainly gets credit for the glossy, radio-ready sound, the fact is that the band – even if as undisciplined as musicians as Chapman claims – wrote some great songs for him to work with, responsible for nine of the twelve songs here.

That said, let’s not overlook Jack Lee of the Nerves, who serves as a source of two songs:  that band’s “Hanging On the Telephone” (later also covered by L7, Def Leppard, and Cat Power) opens this album, and “Will Anything Happen?” is an excellent album track. Harry growls her way through the determined, if not stalkerish, “One Way or Another,” which has a great opening guitar riff and fun keyboard bridge. Harry turns sweet on the wistful love song “Picture This,” masterfully injecting increasing urgency as the song progresses, then pulling back again. Robert Fripp, for some reason, guests on the aimlessly meandering “Fade Away and Radiate.” Seductively is how Harry plays it on “Pretty Baby,” another fine showcase for her. “11:59” is excellent, though much less so than the cooing “Sunday Girl,” which features an outstanding vocal performance and great drumming from Clem Burke (as well as a cool clave, briefly, in the background towards the end).

The disco/new wave fusion of “Heart of Glass” is A-MA-ZING:  the synthesizers, the drums, the guitar riff, and that ascending bass part, all in the service of a song glistening with massive hooks. Did you know this song is almost six minutes long? It sure as shit doesn’t feel that way (though the original album version was under four minutes, it’s been replaced on this reissue with the 12” version). The cover of “I’m Gonna Love You Too” is fun but inessential. “Just Go Away” is a cheeky way to end an album.

The reissue includes an early version of “Heart of Glass,” and it gives an interesting peek into the evolution of the song. Also thrown in is a cover of T. Rex’s “Bang A Gong (Get It On).”

By the way, Chapman co-wrote the Tony Basil hit “Mickey” (though in its original incarnation it was about a girl, and titled “Kitty”). “Mickey” was the basis of Run DMC’s “It’s Tricky,” which was itself a model for the Archers of Loaf’s “Harnessed in Slums” (and possibly also “Underdogs of Nipomo”). He also co-wrote Pat Benatar’s hit “Love Is a Battlefield.”

The Best Thing About This Album

The arrangement of “Heart of Glass.”

Release Date

September 1978 (original); 2001 (reissue)

The Cover Art

Iconic. The band apparently hated it, but the use of black and white, and the play on the album title, is *chef’s kiss.* The boys look a little goofy, but the matching suits are both a throwback to the Beatles and consistent with the prevailing new wave aesthetic. The red script for the band name is great, too.

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