With the 30th anniversary of Blondie’s Parallel Lines, Capitol has released a deluxe collector’s edition of the album that first debuted in 1978. The third release from vocalist Deborah Harry, guitarists Chris Stein and Frank Infante, bassist Nigel Harrison, drummer Clem Burke and keyboardist Jimmy Destri put them on the map with hits such as “One Way or Another” and “Heart of Glass.” Upon listening to the iconic release, it’s difficult to believe that it’s been three decades since it was recorded. Maybe that’s because the songs still can be heard, whether it’s on dancefloors or in commercials for dusters, phone services or snacks. And Blondie’s music—and fashion sense—has been emulated by other musicans in the ‘80s, ‘90s and currently—respectively by Madonna, No Doubt and “new new wave” bands such as the Killers and indie popsters the Ting Tings. The tracks on Parallel Lines seem timeless, as does Blondie’s appeal—whether it’s to young hipsters at ‘80s dance and karaoke nights or to the more mature, dusting (but not dusty) market that Swiffer apparently hopes to capture.
The album starts with “Hanging on the Telephone,” the band’s cover of the Nerves’ song originally recorded in 1976. (More recently, it also was recorded by Chan Marshall of Cat Power for a Cingular commercial.) The punk-infused song is followed by “One Way or Another” and showcases Harry’s tougher vocal style. When she purr/growls, “I’m gonna getcha,” it’s very believable. (Or, sadly, you think about a dusting product that purports to get all dust.) Conversely, there’s “Just Go Away” the hit’s B-side, where an annoying lover is told, “Don’t go away mad. Just go away,” and in which a male chorus back-up chimes in “Get out, pack up, move out.”
“Fade Away and Radiate” begins with a simple drum beat and Harry’s crooning, before Blondie’s signature keyboards and electric guitars and bass kick in. This is also where the band’s reggae influence first rears its beat, as also evident in “Heart of Glass.” By now, the “Ooo-oh” and the trademark keyboards, bass and guitars are some of the most easily recognizable sounds in music. “Picture This” is a sweet ballad, as is “Pretty Baby,” with ‘50s harmonies and a playful speaking part. However, even when pleading for someone to notice her, Harry never comes off as a damsel in distress, part of which makes her one of the mothers of New Wave, and a strong frontwoman.
Oddly enough, the one song that really doesn’t hold up is one of the more recently recorded remix bonus tracks, “Hanging on the Telephone (Nosebleed Handbag Remix)” engineered by Mick Shiner from 1995’s Beautiful: The Remix Album. The thumping, repetitive track from the ‘90s seems kind of clunky and dated, and doesn’t hold up as well as the 1978 version. “Fade Away and Radiate (108 BMP Remix),” also from 1995—remixed by Black Dog for Remixed Remade Remodeled—fares better. The beats mixed are noninvasive and work into the song’s musical tapestry, and the haunting beauty of the original is kept intact.
The reissue also includes a DVD of four videos; starting with “Heart of Glass,” filmed at Studio 54; while the intro and end of the video show vignettes of New York City circa 1979, including the Ed Sullivan Theater and the World Trade Center. And it’s no secret that the camera loved the stunning Harry, whose image has become as iconic as the music. “Hanging On the Telephone” is a simple video with the band against a black and white striped background, like the cover of Parallel Lines. At one point, Destri goofs around with a red telephone prop’s cord to signify the song literally, and reminds us of a time when people actually had to wait by the phone. There’s also “Picture This,” as well as a performance of “Sunday Girl” from the BBC’s Top of the Pops. In the latter, Harry demurely sings wearing a variation of a sailor suit dress, but her red tights and sunglasses let you know she’s a girl next door with a twist. That’s always been part of her contradictory appeal: Harry can turn from sweet chanteuse to punk frontwoman all while maintaining cool elegance with a sassy streak. And Blondie has always walked the parallel lines of being innovative, accessibly pop and continually relevant enough to become a ubiquitous and beloved fiber woven through pop culture.