Blondie have released 11 studio albums over a 45 year career, but it’s Parallel Lines that remains their most heralded. Tom’s given it a spin for the first time, and here’s what he thought…
Release Date: September 1978
Achievements: Platinum in the UK, USA & Australia and a whopping 4x Platinum in Canada, number 1 in the UK album charts and top 10 in 7 other countries, it’s fair to say this was well received.
Rating: Reviews for the album at the time of release were almost unanimously positive. Q Magazine even went so far as to say that the album was “a crossover smash with sparkling guitar sounds, terrific hooks and middle-eights more memorable than some groups’ choruses” which you have to admit is pretty positive…
This was the band’s third album, but first without Richard Gottehrer producing (Gottehrer was the inspiration for Blondie’s New Wave/Punk sound). The new producer, Aussie Mike Chapman, met some resistance from the band because Deborah Harry decided he was “too L.A.”. Obviously. She relaxed around him when he liked her early work on Heart of Glass and Sunday Girl and it went a bit smoother from there.
I should probably mention for those of you who, like me, may have at one time assumed that Blondie was Deborah Harry’s alter-ego, you definitely aren’t the only one. The band even had to go so far as to release a “Blondie is a group” badge to make sure everyone was up to speed. Harry later admitted that she realised that she played the character of Blondie in the band.
Parallel Lines totally reads as a greatest hits album. One Way or Another, Pretty Baby, Sunday Girl and Heart of Glass are all on this one record, and you can see why it was their breakthrough album in the states. Harry’s vocals are so very punk, but blend seamlessly with the more New Wave sound of the band.
The lyrics on the album have great narrative and the songs are super catchy. You can totally see why this album got the band to the level they reached. It’s not hard to see how people like Garbage’s Shirley Manson, Madonna and Joan Jett cite Blondie as an inspiration. Deborah Harry was even described by Cyndi Lauper as a pre-Madonna (pun intended) icon. Michael Stipe of REM said “I felt like they were just being themselves. Harry particularly. And in my definition of punk rock, that’s as punk rock as you get”. So there you have it.
This is an iconic album. There’s not much more you can say about it. As a teenager, I was into Avril Lavigne, Paramore and Evanescence (I only wanted to be an emo, I didn’t quite get there), and you have to acknowledge Blondie as the natural precursor to these female led acts.
If this album was released now, I’d wager that it would be every bit as successful. The sound is individual and unique, which would make it just as welcome today. The attitude of the record, along with the attitude of Harry herself would be welcomed with open arms in this era populated with strong empowered women.
This album is great. Turn it up loud and rock out to it. I’ll guarantee it brings a smile to your face – and if it doesn’t, you’re wrong.
Is there an iconic film or album you think I should have experienced by now? Let me know @MoveToTRASHUK #latelatereview
Catch up with the Parallel Lines episode of Track By Track: The TRASH Music Podcast here.