Hanging On the Telephone
I found this an even bigger theme to grapple with than our foray into the music of the eighties. The seventies were a pretty fruitful decade, with music going in so many different directions. I found that I had the opportunity to pick from dozens and dozens of potential songs and artists, but in the end, decided to go with Blondie.
Blondie appealed to me during my bands-fronted-by-female-singers phase. In high school I loved bands like Garbage, Letters to Cleo, The Cardigans and No Doubt. I loved the music they made, but also the idea of this front-and-center female performer leading the pack. My Dad had Parallel Lines on vinyl. I plucked it from his record collection after he had moved out, when I had the record player set up in my hanging-out room in the basement. Around that time I was obsessed with the movie Almost Famous, I wanted to live music like that, to write about it, to write for Rolling Stone in the 1970s. I liked to hold on to this kind of romanticized idea of the way music was made at that time...the freedom of it...collaboration...nurtured opportunities for creativity...the sex, drugs, rock 'n roll aspect.
I really like this album cover and the way it has become iconic. I saw it the other day propped up in a milk crate at a garage sale on Sherbrooke and it was reassuring, somehow. I love the contrast of black and white, the loopy 'B' of Blondie, Debbie Harry's facial expression, her two-toned hair, her don't-mess-with-me stance, the way she is standing in the foreground, the grins on the faces of the other band members.
I chose "Hanging On the Telephone" over "One Way or Another" or "Heart of Glass" because it is the song I immediately associate with this album. "Hanging On the Telephone" is the album's opening track and a perfect introduction to the rest of the album. A blend of power pop, new wave, floaty disco and punk. (Aside: I just learned that "Hanging On the Telephone" was originally composed and performed by a group called The Nerves. Their version is also enjoyable...but less aggressive, more surf-beach-pop). I love the frenetic pace of Blondie's version. It sounds like anxiety. Like a jiggling knee or a pencil tapping on a desk. There's this crazed desperation that comes out of both the lyrics and the music itself. I think Debbie Harry's voice is interesting, especially in this song...it ranges from sweet to tough; I can almost imagine her singing the words with a pout or a snarl. I love when a throaty growl inches in, "Ohhhh, I can't control myself". This song combined with the image on the album cover made Debbie Harry this awesomely confident woman in my mind's eye. I'm glad I found this album when I did. It appeared at just the right moment to have an impact.