Tag Archives: blondie

1001 Songs – 1980: Part One

List Item:  Listen to the 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die

The Winner Takes It All – ABBA

‘The Winner Takes It All’ is one of the greatest pop songs made – one of the greatest pop acts of all time. It’s difficult to take the band members at their word that this song about the destruction of a marriage is not about them. If not about them directly, it was clearly shaded – their own experiences and was a massively cathartic song to both be written and sung.

The lyrics brilliantly mix the metaphor of life as a game versus the stark reality of having judges and lawyers decide the outcomes of a divorce. Then there is is Agnetha’s solo vocals from the point of view of a woman who apologizes to her ex-husband for having won everything in the divorce settlement. It’s such a different perspective, the guilt of a winner, compared to a normal break-up song about someone who has ostensibly lost everything. She’s still lost so much, but in the eyes of others she has won. It’s here on the list because of this wonderful song production and who else has made a song that breaks your heart from the point of view of someone who just won their divorce settlement. It’s genius that makes me cry.

Rapture – Blondie

‘Rapture’ is in all the quiz trivia books to be the first song to top the US Billboard Charts with a rap element. Listening to it now, this fusion of disco and hip-hop – a new wave group, is like nothing else that I’ve heard on the list. It’s not really like anything else that I’ve really heard released since. Debbie Harry’s rap skills aren’t great, as she has said since, but let’s also appreciate that the first song with rap elements to top the charts was fronted – a woman.

At this point in musical history, rap had yet to become as big as it was – let alone have a whole song constructed around a rap rather than using an existing backing track. It helped raise awareness of a then more underground genre as well as contribute to paths later pursued – hip hop artists. So yes, an interesting part of music history right here.

While You See A Chance – Steve Winwood

Something has clearly changed in 1980. This is a song that I can’t imagine really existing in 1979 – a rock song with synths and an ABBA-inspired piano line. There’s also part of this song that screams Paul Simon and Randy Newman to me about elements of it too. This… this is early electro-pop. Not the kind of moodiness you get in Gary Numan, but a lighter mood to it. Like this is the sort of song where I can see the beginnings of a branch of pop music that would eventually lead to the work that Xenomania did in the 2000s and 2010s.

With the rise of the New Romantics and more electronic instruments coming in, this is going to be such a cool decade to be listening to. Especially since punk has exploded and we’re left with the remnants fighting it out for innovation.

Heartattack and Vine – Tom Waits

Compared to his last song of his on the list, ‘Heartattack and Vine’ is closer to the Tom Waits that I was enjoying in swordfishtrombones. That voice is the song equivalent of a whisky on the rocks. Literal rocks. Driveway gravel kind of rocks. This is still not as experimental as I have later seen him, but it’s very much him setting up his own cabaret stage and waiting for us to settle in to whatever he is going to deliver.

Kings of the Wild Frontier – Adam and the Ants

So, rather than ‘Prince Charming’ or ‘Stand and Deliver’, the book has decided to go for this earlier single. Now that I’ve heard it, yes the book made the right choice. After all, this isn’t meant to be the 1001 best songs, but down to other factors including their influence.

All the elements that I know from other Adam and the Ants songs are here. The powerful Burundi drum line. The flamboyance of the vocal delivery. The cheers and response vocals from the rest of the group. Sure, it is not as catchy as the later singles that have become staples on Best of 1980s collections – but it’s weirdly powerful. This has yet to veer off into the new wave and pop direction, instead this is one of the many routes that post-punk chose to go down. It makes for a very interesting song.

Redemption Song – Bob Marley & The Wailers

This is not like any Bob Marley song I have ever heard. This isn’t even reggae at this point. It’s an acoustic ballad where the only thing that is remotely reggae is Marley’s delivery. Other than that, this is a folk song. A type of folk song whose background I have heard in folk artists like Bob Dylan and in some country music (the one that immediately came to mind being the title track of ‘All American Made’ by Margo Price, who name checks Tom Petty).

It’s a song of quiet power which is given more power – how close to death he was when writing and recording it. Makes me a bit glad that I still have one Bob Marley album to listen to for the albums list – now I can have this in mind when giving it a go.

Dead Souls – Joy Division

‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ is coming up in a future 1001 songs post, but before that it’s a song that got right under my skin.

‘Dead Souls’ as a piece of goth rock is unsettling. Hearing Ian Curtis sing this song about past lives and being ripped apart as they call you is even more unsettling when you know that he will have killed himself within a few months of recording this. There is an intense eeriness when you mix these odd lyrics with his tortured delivery and the dark drive of the guitars and bass. It’s a weird one to end the section of songs on, but I think I need a break after this.

Progress: 533/1021

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1001 Songs – 1979: Part Three

Usually for these posts I insert YouTube clips so you can listen along, this plugin doesn’t appear to be working anymore. Sorry about that.

List Item:  Listen to the 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die

Outdoor Miner – Wire

Not sure I’ve ever heard of a label asking a band to make a song longer for a single, but with the album version clocking in at a slender 01:44 – you can see where they were coming from. This is a post-punk song that has the potential for mass commercial appeal – like I can hear this song in a lot of music I listen to that’s being made now, but also it feels like a song that could have been in a car commercial. Really like this one.

Rapper’s Delight – The Sugarhill Gang

Thanks to comedian Paul F. Tompkins, I cannot hear the name ‘Sugarhill Gang’ without thinking of his character Cal Solomon.

This is not the first rap single. I’ve heard rap before when doing this list, so I am already seeing this as a bit of a development from there. It’s also weird that I’ve heard ‘Good Times’ by Chic, which this song samples heavily.

What this is, is one of the most important singles in American history because of how it helped to raise the profile of rap. It was controversial at the time since it took an art form that is improvisational by nature and gave permanence to a single performance.

California Über Alles – Dead Kennedys

Given how quickly it appears that punk exploded in 1977 and left post-punk in its wake – it’s interesting to actually hear some purer punk that was still going on. I mean it makes complete sense that these bands would still be going, but it took a lot of songs before we got here.

Weirdly though, I cannot hear the delivery of this song without thinking of ‘Rock Lobster’ by the B-52s. Means that there must be a surf rock element here holding it all together, but the predominant genre is very much punk.

Typical Girls – The Slits

Back in the world of post-punk, but this time with a bit of a reggae influence. Also, one of the rarer instances of an all female punk group – giving a different perspective in this genre than I’ve really had before. Because of the reggae guitar breaks, this isn’t really a song for me – but it is interesting to hear a very different take of a genre that I’ve heard a lot of in these 1001 posts.

Atomic – Blondie

For me, ‘Atomic’ is one of the great songs. The lyrics mean nothing, but you cannot help but sing along to them. It’s a genre mash-up of new wave, rock and manages to fit in a disco-style dance break. The beginning guitars are a rip-off of the kid’s song ‘Three Blind Mice’. Somehow all of these elements make this brilliant feel-good song. Maybe I’m biased because I love Blondie, but it sounds like nothing else on this 1001 list.

Gangsters – The Specials

I don’t usually like ska, but wow if this song didn’t crawl into my head. I have yet to listen to the debut album by The Specials for the albums challenge, but after listening to ‘Gangsters’ I think that their take on the genre might appeal to me. After all, this is the band that gave us ‘Ghost Town’, so I should have had a bit of faith. It’ll be interesting to see how I respond to a full album of this though.

Cars – Gary Numan

The second Gary Numan song (after Tubeway Army’s ‘Are Friends Electric’) in the 1979 section of the 1001 list and it is another classic of synth music. Like, this is one of those songs that I don’t think I have ever heard all the way through before outside of playing Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, but it is so synonymous with this era and style of music that I feel I heard parts of it for all of my life.

I don’t think I know any of his music from after 1979, like he basically threw all his tricks into one big year and then just became irrelevant after he became iconic. Very strange.

Babylon’s Burning – The Ruts

A technically proficient song where we see another reggae-infused punk song, this time with a harder rock vocal and overall feel to it. Honestly, that’s all I have to say on it. It’s a decent enough song, but I’m not sure I find it too interesting.

Message in a Bottle – The Police

And so we close out the 1970s for the 1001 list after who knows how many years and posts. We have seen the rise and explosion of punk, the emergence and destruction of disco and the resilience of reggae to outlast so many other genres. It’s fitting therefore to end on a song that infuses two of the three big musical trends.

‘Message in a Bottle’ is no ‘Roxanne’, then again few songs are, and it’s weird for me to hear Sting put on a full reggae accent when I mostly know his voice from ‘Every Step You Take’. I’m, again, not the biggest fan of this sub-genre of music but it’s one of the better songs of this batch.

Progress: 526/1021

1001 Songs – 1978: Part One

Non-Alignment Pact – Pere Ubu

We start this series of songs with another in a long run of different shades of post-punk. This time, we’re getting in some more industrial sounds and interesting whistling choices in order to make something more experimental, like it’s the art rock version of punk. I’m assuming art punk exists, right?

In any event, the use of synthesizers and a less angry (whilst distinctly punky) sound makes this a interesting way to start the bunch. It’s the ushering in of new wave music, whose big name is in two songs time, and it’s going to be interesting to see where these threads of influence lead.

Blue Valentines – Tom Waits

Well, this is a far cry from swordfishtrombones and Rain Dogs. You still have the rough and untamed voice. There’s no strange noises or comically gruff use of his vocals, instead this is a remarkably earnest blues song and that’s knocked me a bit for six.

His voice is perfect for this kind of blues as he can sound like that half-drunk guy at the bar whose voice breaks the moment his emotions get hold of him. I need to listen more of this era of Tom Waits.

Heart of Glass – Blondie

Ah man, I love this song. Parallel Lines is in the running to be my favourite album from the 1970s and this is such a highlight. It’s just such a strange departure to have this disco-influenced new wave on a song that is far more focused on being cool and within the vision of being a new wave pioneer.

However, facts are facts – ‘Heart of Glass’ is a brilliant song that, despite some die-hard Blondie fans of the time’s accusations of them selling out for commercial gain, endures to this day. It’s one of those songs I’ve been playing since I got a Greatest Hits album back in 2001 that made me a Blondie fan… which makes it hard to think of this within a historical context.

All I know is that this is a disco-infused masterpiece and is one of a few songs that I’ll be coming across for this list.

Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve) – Buzzcocks

Much like most of Blondie’s 1978 output, ‘Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)’ is a exceptional piece of power pop and pop punk. It almost feels like a punk band doing a cover of a fragment of Beatles song, because it doesn’t exactly fall into the punk category and it’s too strong for pop.

This is the kind of music I can really get on board with and it really flies in the face in the face of what you would consider a proper punk subject. There’s no anger, just a sense of incredibly urgency that just doesn’t want to get out of your head.

Le Freak – Chic

Time for some pure disco. Growing up, the only time that I would ever hear disco music would be in commercials or if I was in someone else’s car and it came on the radio. ‘Le Freak’ came up pretty often, so I’ve probably heard the chorus done to death.

Little did I know, however, that I would be hearing that chorus again and again and again. I know that songs like this needed to be played in the club and allow time for dance breaks, but come on if you’re going to be playing it in your home or on the radio it needs more variation. I do appreciate that this song started life with ‘Fuck Off’ in the lyrics rather than ‘Freak Out’. That’s cool.

Milk and Alcohol – Dr. Feelgood

Well, the album cover for this song is pretty damned scary. The song is not. At the core is the very basic kind of rock and roll structure that I would have heard back in the 1950s, but with more of a proto-punk feel. Wikipedia calls this pub rock, which I guess makes sense as it feels pre-punk and it is a song that was apparently influenced by a night of drinking Kahlua.

It’s a bit of a throwback, which isn’t always a bad thing, but it doesn’t add much to the table compared to other songs in this section of the list.

Don’t Stop Me Now – Queen

This is the only Queen song that I have some positive associations with, so it’s nice to see it here as being one of their entries on the 1001 list. We sang it at school as part of a singing competition between houses. We didn’t win, but that doesn’t make it any the less fun to sing and to come up with dance moves to… kinda wish they hadn’t made us freestyle through the guitar solo.

It’s yet another example of how wide the berth is in the world of power pop and, with punk’s instantaneous collapse, this was one of the big genres that was born to fill the void. I still have a complex relationship with this band, but there’s no denying how much fun this song is.

Teenage Kicks – The Undertones

You can’t have good power pop without there also being some good pop punk, and that’s exactly what ‘Teenage Kicks’ is. I probably heard the Nouvelle Vague bossa nova version of this song before hearing the original many years later, which is undoubtedly the better version.

With such a pop punk/punk pop start to 1978 I can only wonder how the rest of the songs are going to shake out, but for now I got to say that I am enjoying this year.

You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) – Sylvester

This might be the first time that I’ve ended a batch of songs on something that is this gay, but it’s also a whole lot of fun. There is so much joyful energy in Sylvester’s impossible falsetto vocals that helps you to forget that you are pretty much hearing the same 4-5 lyrics over and over again.

Then there is the production that takes more than a note from Georgio Morodor’s work on the disco pinnacle of Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’. We’re starting to see disco morph into what would later become dance music and, once pop starts to grab a hold on songs like this, then it’s going to be time to welcome synthpop and the New Romantics. The 1980s cannot come soon enough.

Progress: 483/1021

Music Monday: Parallel Lines by Blondie

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 20/250Blondie_-_Parallel_LinesTitle: Parallel Lines
Artist: Blondie
Year: 1978
Position: #126 (Previously: #119)

After a short trip to the 1990s it is back to the 1970s I go where I am listening to one of my favourite albums of that era; Parallel Lines by Blondie. A band that I got know at a young age with the release of ‘Maria’ in 1999 which I liked so much that I was given a copy of Blondie’s greatest hits. I listened to that album a lot, falling for tracks such as ‘Atomic’, ‘Hanging on The Telephone’, ‘Heart of Glass’ and ‘One Way Or Another’ (not so much ‘Tide is High’… and I only got into ‘Rapture’ within the last five or so years). I only listened to Parallel Lines as an studio album in my final years of secondary school.

Thinking about it… Blondie actually helped to shape my overall music taste. A strong female voice. Pop music. Attitude. Never made that connection before. Cool.

Anyway, we have Parallel Lines which acted as the crossover success that propelled Blondie to the top of the charts around the world and ensured that they are an act that music will likely never ever forget. It saw them adopting pop music in the place of their punk rock roots (although it is still there in ‘Would Anything Happen’) and, controversially at the time, even take on disco in their million-selling single (in the UK anyway) ‘Heart of Glass’.

The strange thing about going from the Greatest Hits to Parallel Lines is that the latter album plays like a best of album. Half of the tracklist ended up being released as singles anyway and the remaining six songs are all so tightly written and varied that it is hard to get bored. Of the non-singles there are two stand outs that could have easily been singles in their own right; ‘Just Go Away’ and ‘Fade Away and Radiate’. The former is a bitchy schoolgirl track that I used a lot as a featured song on MSN when I was talking to people I didn’t like (I was 16) and then there is the latter… which is creepy, beautiful an unlike anything else I have heard Blondie record.

As albums go it is infinitely cool and incredibly catchy. A rare instance of pop music that can be openly listened to without derision from any passers-by. Unlike Steps…