Record Rewind: An Original Blonde

by Mark Jacobo

Before Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, even Madonna, and certainly before Kesha (I refuse to stylize her name with a dollar sign), there was Debbie Harry.

Don’t recognize the name? You recognize Harry’s blonde hair, and her talented band named after it — Blondie.

Blondie, one of the defining groups of the late 70s and early 80s, combined a variety of genres during its eight-year stint. Its 1978 album, “Parallel Lines,” has been named one of the best albums of all-time by numerous magazines and websites, with its most popular songs are frequently featured in movies and commercials — yet the album is pushed into obscurity by other songs about wanting to see a man’s peacock and some dude named Judas.

Overshadowed by glitter and today’s auto-tune frenzy, the raw attitude displayed by “Parallel Lines” has been seemingly forgotten in time — making it the perfect pick for this week’s Record Rewind.

The album starts off with Blondie’s rendition of “Hanging on the Telephone,” a heavy song about a desperate caller anxious for the person on the other line to pick up. Harry’s voice transitions from smooth to harsh on the track, exhibiting some punk rock roots Blondie was founded on. Her voice is also harsh on “One Way or Another,” a song about an ex-boyfriend-turned-stalker.

But if you like Harry’s softer, more sultry voice — and are a fan of disco — then tracks like “Heart of Glass” and “Fade Away and Radiate” are more for you. Still, Harry’s voice — harsh or smooth — remains pretty damn sexy throughout the entire album.

Harry, a former Playboy bunny, and the original men of Blondie (Gary Valentine, Clem Burke, Chris Stein and Jimmy Destri) were just a group of punk rock innovators playing their music in a rapidly changing world that shunned anyone who wore or sang the wrong things — Blondie knows by experience after hitting the mainstream circuit. Its work on “Parallel Lines,” however, proves the band’s worth.

Read Record Rewind  only on J.A.M.