Punk may not have been the cultural phenomenon in the US that it was in the UK, but it still managed to inspire a bunch of up-and-coming new bands. Blondie was one of them. Formed in the mid-1970s, they took the thrashing guitars, hold no prisoners attitude, and hard-edged melodies of punk, added some gloss, put a blonde, unstoppable force of nature up front, and almost single handily pioneered the New York new wave scene. After they’d conquered new wave, they turned to disco. Then pop. Then reggae. At one point, they even did a bit of rap. In essence, they did everything, and they did it all exceptionally well. Without further ado, these are the 10 best Blondie songs of all time.
Exactly 20 years after the band hit the top spot in the UK with Heart of Glass, they were back there again with Maria. Taken from the 1999 album No Exit, it was the band’s first new release since 1982. It was like they’d never been away. Harry sounded as good as ever, the band were as tight as they’d ever been, and the song was as infectious as anything they’d released in their hay day.
Dreaming catches Blondie at their poppiest best. Its got bounce, swagger, and a hook that could land a whale. It didn’t really get anywhere in the charts, peaking and stalling at No. 27 – that aside, it still ranks as one of their most infectious pieces of pop candy.
8. Hanging on the Telephone
Named by faroutmagazine.co.uk as one of the greatest Blondie songs of all time, Hanging on the Telephone marks the transition of the band from a crew of rough and ready New York new wavers into polished pop stars. It’s still got the potent rawness of the band’s earlier work, but there’s a new slickness and tightness that doesn’t go at all amiss.
7. Rip Her To Shreds
Rip Her To Shreds was Blondie’s first UK single. Released in late 1977, it failed to chart. It did, however, unleash a big enough dose of New York attitude on the British public to make them sit up and pay attention. Punk it appeared, didn’t need to be performed by a group of scary-looking guys wearing safety pins and Mohicans. Waif-like blondes from New Jersey could do it too – at least, they could if their name was Debbie Harry. Rip Her To Shreds (and Harry herself) was a breath of fresh, fragrant air, sweeping away the cobwebs and slipping the rug very neatly from under the feet of all those smelly boys.
Yes, Debbie Harry raps on it and no, that’s not necessarily a good thing. But does it really matter? No. Blondie experimented. It was what they did and it was what made them iconic. So Harry’s flow doesn’t flow as it should. So what? This was a new wave band referencing Grandmaster Flash and Fab Five Freddy at a time when most of their audience thought hip-hop was some kind of funky dance move involving rabbits. Blondie was always ahead of the curve – that’s what’s kept them relevant for so many years and that’s what gave America its first No 1 single featuring rap. It wasn’t rap as we know it, but it still counts.
Atomic might have silly lyrics, but that doesn’t make it any less awesome. Elevated from standard disco fare by an insanely delicious guitar riff with Spaghetti Western vibes, not to mention the spinetingling sultriness of Harry’s laid back vocals, the song raced to the top of the UK Singles chart and stayed there for two weeks, becoming the band’s third number one in the UK.
4. The Tide Is High
On paper, a new wave band tackling a ska classic shouldn’t have worked. But Blondie didn’t just cover this 1966 rocksteady song from The Paragons, they made it their own. And why wouldn’t they? This, after all, was a band that threw the rulebook out the window before they’d even tasted a drop of success. They did hip-hop before it had even emerged as a genre. They baffled their fans by switching from new wave to disco (and succeeding). And they took The Tide Is High to No. 1, proving that what doesn’t work on paper can often work very well in the charts.
3. One Way or Another
If you thought the Police’s Every Breath You Take was the most sinister stalking song ever committed to tape, just wait till you get an earful of One Way or Another. Described by Paste Magazine as the ‘ultimate stalker anthem,’ Harry rips through the song like a whirling dervish, spitting out threats like “I will drive by your house, and when the lights are all down, I’ll see who’s around” with an abandoned recklessness that would get the rest of us a restraining order, but which gets One Way or Another a place at No.3 on our list of the 10 best Blondie songs of all time.
2. Call Me
Written as the theme song for the 1980 movie “American Gigolo,” Call Me took just a few hours for the band to complete from start to finish. It takes some talent to create a hit in such a short amount of time, but Blondie had talent by the boatload. As genius.com points out, Call Me became the biggest song of 1980 in the US, spending six weeks at the top of charts. It also topped the UK charts and broke the Top 20 in eight other countries. A guaranteed dance floor filler, it still sounds as fresh today as it did back then.
1. Heart of Glass
When Blondie went disco with Heart of Glass, fans of their old sound didn’t much like it. Even some of the band didn’t like it, with drummer Clem Burke refusing outright to play it live at first. But it had the desired effect. Heart of Glass propelled the band into the mainstream, reaching No.1 in both the UK and the US and helping its accompanying album, Parallel Lines, shift over 20 million units. Despite the controversy surrounding its release, this isn’t the sound of a band selling out, it’s the sound of a band finding its groove. Disco might be pushing up the daisies, but that groove is still kicking it.