Parallel Lines was the breakout album from Blondie. Filled with catchy tunes that borrowed from several genres, it shot up the charts from its release in 1978 until it hit number one in the UK and number six in the United States in 1979. Probably the first album most Blondie fans purchased back in the day.
Although Blondie's first two albums were fun and quirky, Chrysalis (a music publisher) picked up their contract and sent them in to the studio with producer Mike Chapman. He worked to refine their music, directing it away from sillier and more tongue-in-cheek tunes like "Giant Ants from Space" and "X Offender" towards more approachable (and commercial) music.
Chapman has stated that Blondie was one of the toughest, most difficult bands to work with. Coming from a punk background, he noted that the members didn't give a crap about anything except having a good time. Some members were constantly stoned, some were not particularly good at their instruments at the time, especially Clem Burke, who had a difficult time at keeping time. The funny thing is Mike did an excellent job at making the group sound fantastic, enough that Clem's finished recorded drums is what got me interested in playing the drums back in the seventies.
Despite all of the headbutting and some of the songs literally getting the lyrics finished moments before being recorded, the album was a smash hit.
Hanging on the Telephone
The opener was a cover of The Nerves tune, a frantic and short ditty that showcased Debbie Harry's now iconic snarl as she sang about stalking someone. I actually heard this tune before I heard the top-ten single Heart of Glass. I had to find out who this gorgeous woman was with the East Coast accent and sounding like she was ready to kick some ass.
One Way or Another
Penned by Deborah and bassist Nigel Harrison, this was stylistically similar to the previous track and charted as one of the singles released by Chrysalis. More kick-ass snarling lyrics as Debbie goes from stalking to downright threats that she's going to get you. This was an excellent one-two punch to open the album. It was a top-ten hit in the UK and a top-40 in the US, and it also hopped back on the charts in 2013 on downloads alone.
Debbie, her then-boyfriend Chris Stein, and keyboardist Jimmy Destri wrote this less intense tune that allowed the listener to recover from the initial assault of the first two tracks. Debbie turns from a pissed off punk to a crooner, almost a torch singer, as she sings about how things used to be in her love life. This was released as a single in the UK markets and charted as certified silver.
Fade Away and Radiate
I always associate this atmospheric song to the movie Videodrome because it's so odd, even though they have nothing to do with each other. Almost creepy haunted house keyboards over a minimal drum bashing with lots of reverb, Chris Stein wrote this one solo. Mike Chapman noted that he tried to keep Chris occupied with songwriting because of Chris being constantly stoned.
Debbie and Chris collaborated on this lighthearted tune focusing more on how someone appeared than what they had inside.
I Know But I Don't Know
Guitarist Frank Infante tried his hand at writing, turning in this tune that is certainly the weakest of the album. It did give him a chance to show off some of his guitar chops but the lyrics were more reminiscent of the previous albums.
This time it was keyboardist Jimmy Destri's turn at writing solo, and his final result was one of the better songs on the album in my opinion. I still have this tune pop into my head to this day, especially when I happen to glance at the clock when the time is right.
Will Anything Happen
Jack Lee, who was not a band member but who did write The Nerves' "Hanging on the Telephone", also turned in this catchy tune. I find it more like a mix of the opening two songs of the album except with Debbie singing with less of a snarl and more feeling.
Chris Stein is back, and this time with a pop-ish light tune with some French lyrics thrown in for good measure. This was also released in the UK as a certified gold single. If anything this song allowed the listeners to see that Blondie was far more than a one-note, one-style band.
Heart of Glass
The Big Kahuna, the huge breakout smash with the disco beat and Clem Burke's splashy, swishy cymbals. Penned by Debbie and Chris, this turned the band into a household name during 1979. There were actually two versions of this song released depending on when the vinyl was pressed. The non-disco version originally appeared but when the disco version hit they switched the album to include the popular version.
I'm Gonna Love You Too
This was a Buddy Holly cover penned by three songwriters and modernized by the band. It actually charted in Belgium and New Zealand.
Just Go Away
A Debbie Harry tune, this was the weakest tune of the second side of the album and the second-weakest tune of the album in my opinion. She does employ her iconic snarl to tell someone to go away (and stay away). It does balance out the opening of the album though, in a "now that I got you how can I get rid of you" sense.
The picture of the band on the cover, all smiling and in suits in back while Debbie Harry frowns front and center in a white clingy dress and high heels with her hands on her hips, ready to put the beatdown on anyone dumb enough to get in her way, was rejected by the band but overridden by Chrysalis. It became the iconic image of the band as a whole.