How Blondie Created ‘Heart of Glass’
Blondie’s Debbie Harry and Chris Stein talk about ‘Heart of Glass’
By MARC MYERS
Until 1978, Blondie was a punk band with a cult following and not much visibility in the U.S. beyond New York’s Lower East Side. Eager for a hit album, Chrysalis, the band’s label, paired Blondie with Michael Chapman, an inventive producer who had success recording other downtown artists, including Suzi Quatro and Sweet.
The result was “Parallel Lines,” Blondie’s third album, and the single “Heart of Glass.”After the song’s release in early 1979, it became Blondie’s first Billboard pop-chart hit, climbing to No. 1 in April 1979, helping to pave the way for synth-pop and electronic dance music (EDM).
Mr. Chapman and the song’s co-writers—Debbie Harry (who opens at New York’s Cafe Carlyle March 24) and guitarist Chris Stein(author of the recent “Negative: Me, Blondie and the Advent of Punk”)—talked about the hit’s evolution, Donna Summer’s influence and the struggle to adapt the high-impact Euro-techno sound. Edited from interviews:
Chris Stein: When Debbie and I were living in our top-floor apartment at 48 W. 17th St., I often messed around on a borrowed multitrack tape recorder. It let me record a rhythm guitar track and then layer melody and harmony lines on top. I wrote and developed my songs this way. In the summer of 1974, I wrote a song and referenced the catchy feel of “Rock the Boat” by the Hues Corporation, which was a big hit then. Debbie and I began calling it “The Disco Song.”
Debbie Harry: I used to keep a notebook to jot down lyrics and ideas that came to me. On this one, Chris was constantly experimenting with the song, and the lyrics just floated into my head. The words I came up with expressed a very high school kind of thing, of falling in and out of love and getting your feelings hurt. But instead of dwelling on the pain, the words sort of shrugged off the breakup, like, “Oh, well, that’s the way it goes.”
Chris and I both came from an art background, and we were familiar with existentialism, surrealism, abstractionism and so on. The feeling I wanted to get across was, “Live and let live,” like this is what happened and now it’s not happening, you know? I threw in the “Ooo-ooo, ohhh-oh” fill when we started performing the song at CBGB. It was a 1960s “girl group” thing. Chris and I both loved R&B.