The UK Number Ones Blog Favorite Single: Atomic (Blondie) 1980
Stewart at UK#1s Blog asked his followers which UK #1 song was their favorite. There were so many to choose from but, I am a kid/young teen of the late 70s, early 80s and this was a no-brainer for me. This is, hands down, my favorite Blondie song. Just as a side note, my second choice was Cathy’s Clown by The Everly Brothers.
Released on February 23, 1980, Atomic was the ninth track on side two of the album Eat to the Beat, Blondie’s fourth album, produced by Mike Chapman. Written by Debbie Harry and Jimmy Destri, it was the third single released and the band’s third #1 in the UK Singles Chart. A rock, disco and new wave fusion, Atomic is described as “a cool, electronic enhanced dance number (PDF). Debbie Harry’s laidback vocals blend into the musical wood work.”
‘Atomic‘, which featured King Crimson‘s Robert Fripp on guitar and Ellie Greenwich on backing vocals, was lyrically meaningless and was described in Record Mirror as ‘vapid and irritating…the best thing about this single is the live [cover] version of David Bowie‘s ‘Heroes‘ on the B-side (12″ UK single).’ “Jimmy Destri wrote this song…” Debbie claimed. “He was trying to do something like ‘Heart of Glass‘ and, then, somehow or another, we gave it the spaghetti western treatment. Before that, it was just lying there like a lox. The lyrics, well, a lot of the time, I would write while the band were just playing the song and trying to figure it out. I would just be kind of scatting along with them and I would start going ‘Oooooooh, your hair is beautiful‘.”
1000 UK #1 Hits
Jon Kutner & Spencer Leigh
May 26, 2010
Atomic didn’t do as well in the US. It only made it to #39 on Billboard’s Hot 100, debuting on May 17, 1980 and peaking on July 5, 1980. It may be ‘lyrically meaningless’ but, it is certainly not vapid and irritating. It has a great beat and an energy that is hard to deny. Debbie’s vocals do, indeed, blend well with the ‘musical wood work.’ The single Call Me from American Gigolo had an instrumental version on the B-side and Debbie did some vocal blending with that, too.
The late Gia Carangi was dancing in the video.
Song Saturday: Call Me (Blondie)
Returning to my phone playlist, I submit for your approval on this chilly Saturday night, Blondie‘s Call Me, the theme from the 1980 movie American Gigolo. I was 13 when this film came out and, with its “R” rating, I wasn’t allowed to see it (I caught it on HBO, later, tho…). The drum beat opens the movie as Richard Gere cruises in a black Mercedes. This movie was so bad-ass (to a teenager) and Siskel & Ebert gave it a decent rating but, the rest of the critics panned it. Oh, well. This was the movie that put Gere on my radar (I hadn’t seen Looking For Mr. Goodbar).
Produced and co-written by Giorgio Moroder, he originally approached Stevie Nicks to assist in composing and performing a song for the soundtrack but, she was prevented by contract to another company. Moroder then asked Debbie Harry and she fashioned lyrics, and the melody, in a few hours.
The song made it to the #1 spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 and stayed there for six weeks. It also made it to #1 in Canada, the UK and in Record World magazine. There are 20 covers of this song with Blondie re-recording it in 2014 and, a live cover done in 2002.
Tune Tuesday: Heart Of Glas 1979
Forty years ago, today, the #1 song on the Billboard Hot 100 chart was Heart of Glass by Blondie. Written by Harry and Stein in 1974-75, its working title was Once I Had A Love. The inspiration for its writing came from The Hues Corporation‘s song Rock the Boat.
From The Guardian:
Heart of Glass was one of the first songs Blondie wrote but, it was years before we recorded it properly. We’d tried it as a ballad, as reggae but, it never quite worked. At that point, it had no title. We just called it “the disco song”. Back then, it was very unusual for a guitar band to be using computerised sound. People got nervous and angry about us bringing different influences into rock. Although we’d covered Lady Marmalade and I Feel Love at gigs, lots of people were mad at us for “going disco” with Heart of Glass. There was the Disco Sucks! movement, and there had even been a riot in Chicago, with people burning disco records. Clem Burke, our drummer, refused to play the song live at first. When it became a hit, he said: “I guess I’ll have to.” The lyrics weren’t about anyone. They were just a plaintive moan about lost love. At first, the song kept saying: “Once I had a love, it was a gas. Soon turned out, it was a pain in the ass.” We couldn’t keep saying that, so we came up with: “Soon turned out, had a heart of glass.” We kept one “pain in the ass” in – and the BBC bleeped it out for radio. ~Debbie Harry
As far as I was concerned, disco was part of R&B, which I’d always liked. The Ramones went on about us “going disco” but, it was tongue-in-cheek. They were our friends. In the video, there’s a shot of the legendary Studio 54, so everyone thought we shot the video there but, it was actually in a short-lived club called the Copa or something. I came up with the phrase “heart of glass” without knowing anything about Werner Herzog or his movie of the same name, which is a great, weird film. It’s nice people now use the song to identify the period in films and documentaries. I never had an inkling it would be such a big hit, or become the song we’d be most remembered for. It’s very gratifying. ~Chris Stein
In season one, DJ Johnny Fever not only plays Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” on his broadcast but, home audiences actually hear him announce the band’s, and the song’s, names. It was fantastic promotion for the up-and-coming Blondie, whose huge breakthrough album, Parallel Lines (with other seminal singles like Hanging on the Telephone and One Way or Another), came out the same month WKRP in Cincinnati debuted. The band reportedly gave the show a Gold record plaque celebrating the album’s major sales numbers as a “Thank You” card. It can be seen in the background as set design on several episodes in later seasons.
Unlike many DJs from that era, Fever played punk as well as rock and soul. The range of music on the show gave this fictional radio station a better playlist than most of the era’s real ones. […] although the show helped break Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” big, the exception, in Fever’s case, was disco. “I asked him to play one disco record and he threatened to throw himself in front of Donna Summer‘s tour bus,” Travis complains in “Baby, If You’ve Ever Wondered,” from season two.
As of April 20, 2011, Heart of Glass is #259 of Rolling Stone Magazine’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
Awards & Nominations
♦ Best Selling International Single (Juno 1980)
♦ Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (2006)
♦ Grammy Hall of Fame (2016)