433. ‘Heart of Glass’, by Blondie

Picking up where Ian Dury and the Blockheads left off, Blondie enter the scene with another tight groove. Disco and rock are colliding here, in the early weeks of 1979, and the results are magnificent.

Heart of Glass, by Blondie (their 1st of six #1s)

4 weeks, from 28th January – 25th February 1979

When we come to monster hits like ‘Heart of Glass’, part of me is happy (it’s a great song) and part of me is frustrated (everything that needs to be said about it has been said before.) See also ‘Dancing Queen’, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, ‘Get It On’… Sometimes this job’d be easier if every #1 was rank-rotten! But we will persevere. Nobody will be sad about giving this classic yet another spin…

The melody is great, for a start. The disco beat paired up with churning, writhing synths. Our 3rd ‘New Wave’ chart-topper finally sounds like what I think New Wave should sound like. When the organs come into the mix, and then the wall-of-sound drums, you’re in finger kissing perfection territory. The breathy, husky backing vocals – dum da dum, dadadada dum da – are wonderful too.

But the real star of the show – the star of this uber cool NYC gang – is the lead singer. Many are the tales of the sexual awakenings wrought upon Britain’s teenage boys by Debbie Harry in the late-seventies (and the sexual re-awakenings of their fathers, pretending not to watch the TV). Her vocals are stunning here. High-pitched, and ice cold: Once had a love, And it was a gas… Soon found out, Had a heart of glass…

She doesn’t bother singing in full sentences, and sprinkles fun Americanisms – mucho mistrust… and we coulda made it cruisin’… around the place. Best of all, she sings about heartbreak, about her glass-hearted lover, as if the loss is all his. She knows she’s hot, and that she won’t be single for long. Half of the time you can’t understand what she’s saying – in researching the lyrics for this post I realise that I’ve been singing the wrong lyrics for years. Riding high, I’m lost to the good life… is actually Riding high, On love’s true bluish light… for example.

I know I’ve moaned a lot about recent chart-toppers going on for too long, but when it comes to this record then the longer the better. Mainly because the 12” version has the drum-machine intro missing from the 7”, and the song’s sassiest line: Soon turned out, To be a pain in the ass… In actual fact, there are so many edits of this song that there’s a version for everyone: intro, no intro, third verse, no third verse, extended disco breakdown…

Originally, when Blondie first recorded the demos for this song, several years before it was a hit, they called it ‘The Disco Song’. And you can see why. They were already a chart force, with guitar driven post-punk hits like ‘Denis’ and ‘Hangin’ on the Telephone’ before this took them stratospheric (and caused an inevitable, ‘Disco Sucks’ backlash.) They’ll be the biggest band in the land for the next couple of years, with one of the strongest ever runs of #1 singles, starting right here. Don’t go anywhere!

16 thoughts on “433. ‘Heart of Glass’, by Blondie

  1. Love Blondie. Loved Denis when that came out, bought it same day I bought Baker Street. Bought this. Topped my charts. Debbie was a boys fave pin-up. She was 32 when they broke through in 1978, so no spring chicken by debut pop star standards, positively middle-aged by debut female pop star standards of the time, and she broke all the pop/rock rules along with the other creatives in Blondie, not least her hubbie. Early Blondie were totally punk, they were in with Andy Warhol, Debbie set up future Madonna as a career template, and the albums were good, the singles divine.

    And anyone that can (clearly) inspire future Morrissey titles making a hit out (I’m Always Touched By Your) Presence, Dear or punkify Rip Her To Shreds and X-Offender before punk was a thing is inspirational. All-time greats, still great either live or on new recorded material. Debs is 76, and that is very hard to believe!

    1. Looking at their discography – what a run of singles they had between 1978-80. And very few bands can match the quality of their #1s. They’re all 8-10 out of 10, until The Tide is High, which always felt a bit lazy to me… And I’ve never got the buzz about Rapture, either. But my favourites are probably the very earliest ones: X-Offender, and Rip Her to Shreds.

  2. US wise Blondie is noteworthy for being the big chart breakthrough for new wave and the whole underground CBGB New York scene and it’s not hard to see why listening to “Heart of Glass.” Tom Breihan mentioned perfectly that Blondie were the only CBGB act that knew how to function as a pop group and were the rare act from this scene that liked what they heard on the radio and adapt their sound to what they liked which explains why a lot of their big hits don’t sound much like one another. It’s easy to see “Heart of Glass” being the breakthrough for new wave on the US charts mainly because of its disco influence when it was still dominating right before the backlash started. For rock acts attempting disco, “Heart of Glass” serves as another good example of how to do it right with its spacey sounding synths, the hiccuping guitar riff, and the disco four/four drum rhythm. This song is also one of the first major uses of the Roland Cr-78 drum machine which is featured prominantly in the intro which thanks to Breihan found out that Missy Elliot and Timbaland used to build Elliot’s biggest hit “Work It” around.

      1. Blondie had four #1s in America up to “Rapture” in 1981 but yeah I noticed outside of those hits everything else didn’t hit the same way. They don’t have any other Top 10 songs outside of their #1s from what I’ve seen to where even a song as classic now as “One Way Or Another” only peaked at #24. And after “Rapture,” the hits just abruptly stopped with their next album in 1982 representing a big drop. And even their big 1999 comeback “Maria” only made it to #82 despite ‘99 being a good year for boomer artist comebacks.

        Ultimately, I feel Blondie’s legacy is felt more in their look. Their songs still get played and remembered but I noticed the band and especially Debbie Harry have come to represent a very ‘70s New York coolness. And Harry herself has become a major fashion icon notably with Harley Quinn’s outfit in the DC movies being inspired by a photo of Harry.

  3. badfinger20 (Max)

    She was an absolute doll…I have to admit…and I have no defense…I never thought of this as a disco song but it clearly was a disco song. I guess they kept enough edge to throw me off…but yea I could watch Debby yodel and be happy as hell.

    1. She is stunning in the video here… But also completely unapproachable. You wouldn’t be chatting her up in your local bar…

      The demo was known by the band as ‘the disco song’ for years before they actually recorded it.

      1. badfinger20 (Max)

        Oh yes it’s disco…I never classified it as one…maybe back then I was in denial lol… she does look like she would shoot you down in flames…hey but being shot down by Blondie? It would be worth it.

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