Blondie Celebrates 30 Years of ‘Parallel Lines’

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by David Chiu

Originally published in Spinner, June 4, 2008

Blondie’s legendary singer Deborah Harry admits that she wasn’t thinking about the 30th anniversary of the group’s most popular album ‘Parallel Lines’ until Capitol/EMI was planning to reissue it. The occasion fell in perfectly with the band’s summer tour.

“We know we’ve been working for a long time,” she says to Spinner prior to the tour, “but celebrating an anniversary for one of the albums hadn’t really entered my mind. I think it’s a nice idea.”

The Parallel Lines tour begins on June 5 in Baltimore, and the band will include original members Harry, guitarist Chris Stein and drummer Clem Burke. Harry says she thinks that Blondie will play the entire ‘Parallel Lines’ album depending on the venue and the length of the show. “It’s really been fun,” she says. “A lot of the songs have been included in our shows for ten years since the reemergence of Blondie [in the late ’90s]. So it’s not like they’re totally unfamiliar. I think there are only one or two of the songs that we did not play.”

Originally released in 1978, ‘Parallel Lines’ has been widely regarded by critics as Blondie’s best album — it yielded the popular tracks ‘Heart of Glass,’ ‘Hanging on the Telephone,’ ‘One Way or Another’ and ‘Picture This.’ Scheduled for a June 24 release as a CD/DVD package, the ‘Parallel Lines’ reissue will also contain the original album with four additional songs. It also has three music videos and a never-before-released performance of ‘Sunday Girl’ from the BBC Television program ‘Top of the Pops.’

At the time, Blondie had already recorded it first two albums, ‘Blondie’ (1976) and ‘Plastic Letters’ (1977). For ‘Parallel Lines,’ the band was referred to hit-making producer Mike Chapman by its then-label Chrysalis. “They invited him down to see what he thought [of us],” Harry remembers. “I think they also invited Phil Spector and a bunch of other people. Mike thought we were hysterical and the funniest thing. He laughed the whole night.”

Though its sound was rooted in the downtown New York punk rock scene, Blondie recorded the disco-styled ‘Heart of Glass,’ which gave the band its first No.1 hit in 1979. According to Harry, the song was added as a result of the band coming up short on material. “[Chapman] said, ‘Have you got anything else?’” she recalls. “I looked at Chris and he looked at me and said, ‘We have one that we’ve been doing for five years and we were never really satisfied with the arrangement.’ We played it for him, and he said, ‘Yes! That’s great, let’s do it.’”

The song in its earlier form was a stripped-down funk rock track. “Before [the guys] went into the studio,” Harry says, “they’d go to down to the music stores and look at all the equipment. They came back one day with this rhythm machine and that’s how it sort of evolved.”

‘Parallel Lines’ reached No. 6 on the Billboard album chart and went platinum. Harry attributes the continuing popularity of the album’s hit songs to a more receptive musical climate. “It seems to me people’s tastes are much broader,” she explains. “When Blondie was coming up there was a lot of regional kind of music, and people were limited to listening to music that was part of where they lived. Nowadays it’s a different world. People could listen to any music from any time period.”

Blondie’s future activities as a band will be open-ended after this tour’s completion — Harry had already released her solo album ‘Necessary Evil’ last year. “We’ve been writing and I’ve been recording,” she says. “I’ve been working on a couple of tracks with Chris. It would be fun to put out something new from Blondie. To make a big smash hit — that would be great. Who knows?”

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