When I was in high school, my family and I made routine trips to Denton, Texas. This is a musical, artistic town full of nooks and crannies to explore. It also has a few fantastic record stores.
I remember looking up on the wall in one of these stores and seeing the album Parallel Lines by Blondie. The instant I saw the album cover, I was in love. I purchased the record that day, not knowing a thing about Blondie, I was only judging the band by their cover.
Sometimes covers aren’t deceiving.
I wasn’t disappointed when I got home and was able to take it for a spin. I immediately had to know more about Blondie and Debbie Harry. At the time the album was fun, but today I have discovered its innovation.
It’s hard to believe this record was released in the 1970’s, but it couldn’t be out of any other decade. The album transcends time pulling from the styles of rockabilly, pop, disco, punk, and 70’s rock. It is a collaborative album that brings together many genres and styles into a single vinyl, yet it distinctly keeps its own style.
After researching this album, I learned that Mike Chapman, a producer known for working in “British pop,” produced this album. Essentially, Chapman honed in all of the bands skills into one cohesive tool instead of 6 independently moving parts. Although Harry has referred to him as a dictator, Chapman went on to produce their next three albums. It was a love hate relationship, but it resulted in their first commercial success.
The versatility of Harry’s vocals are well crafted in this pop foray. Sometimes from song to
song she sounds like a completely different vocalist, then her attitude and identifiable interpretative abilities come out full force. The release of this album is when Harry’s image finally took off as a vocal powerhouse and new age sex symbol.
The album opens with “Hanging on The Telephone,” a cover of a very short-lived rock group from the west coast. The energy of this song is addicting and will immediately have you pulling the needle back for repeats. This song is the hook. Next, the album goes into the classic Blondie tirade “One Way or Another.” Personally, I find this to be one of the low points of the album. It’s a good song, but better material follows. Lastly, on side A you have “Fade Away and Radiate.” A beautiful song that could be interpreted many ways, but alas, pays tribute to those who have passed on.
Side B is more rewarding. It has the lonely ode “Sunday Girl.” This song is another lyrical masterpiece that leaves you with room to interpret. I also enjoyed Blondie’s updated version of “I’m Gonna Love You Too,” originally sang by Buddy Holly. Lastly, there is the disco infused, pop genius of “Heart of Glass.” Harry’s vocals effortlessly flow over this Saturday Night Live inspired tune. This song puts the listener on a high not knowing where you are headed. Is it disco? Rock? Reggae? It is truly one of the most brilliant “pop” songs ever recorded.
In the end, when listening to Blondie’s previously released material and the pop/rock of that day, this album just doesn’t fit in. It creates its own undefined space. The album is named Parallel Lines, which was the title of an omitted song, yet it doesn’t seem to run anywhere along the then musical order.
The album is just a gas creating perpendicular shapes.