Blondie: Stories Behind the Songs |


Blondie: Stories Behind the Songs

The immortally cool band that helped bring punk and new wave to the masses celebrates its 40th anniversary this month with a double album, ''Blondie 4(0) ever.'' Frontwoman Debbie Harry and guitarist Chris Stein look back and forward at their work.

Chris Stein, Jimmy Destri, Debbie Harry, Gary Valentine, and Clem Burke in Los Angeles in 1977 (Michael Ochs Archive/Corbis)

”Rip Her to Shreds” (1976)
Debbie Harry We wanted to do something like the Velvet Underground, or a Lou Reed, New York kind of song. ”Rip Her to Shreds” was this composite piece about a lot of female people in the scene, and it was kind of a gossipy thing. In that scenario, I’m both doing the ripping and the one being ripped. I was poking fun at other people but also at myself. It’s a tough song.

”Heart of Glass” 1978
Harry ”Heart of Glass” was pretty set from the beginning. Once we had the track nailed down, it stayed that way since 1975 — that’s when we first started working on it…. People got upset because I sang ”ass.” Maybe because it’s a three-letter word and not a four-letter word? I think we got banned in a few places because of that. We were very raw and minimalist then. Simultaneously, the advent of synthesizers came into play, and all the little gadgetry and rhythm machines.

Chris Stein It was such a big deal just to get the damn synthesizer to sync with the rhythm machine. Now 8-year-olds are doing that stuff on GarageBand.

Harry It took us three to five days just to get that track! I was always frustrated by the analog. It was so labor-intensive, that whole process. Your ideas sometimes sort of slide away or become less clear.

”One Way Or Another” 1978
Harry Some of it is autobiographical. We started jamming on it in a rehearsal studio, and the lyric just popped into my head. ”Drive past your house” and all that came a little later, but ”One way or another” was such a good hook line. That was one of those magic moments where things really happen quickly. It happened with ”X Offender,” though it was called ”Sex Offender” then — and ”Call Me,” too.

”Dreaming” 1979
Stein ”Dreaming” is pretty much a cop of [ABBA’s] ”Dancing Queen.” I don’t know if that was where we started, or if it ended up just happening to sound like that.

Harry Sometimes Chris will come up with a track or a feel and pass it on to me, and he’ll say, ”I was thinking ‘Dreaming/Dreaming is free,’ ” and then I’ll fill it out with a story line or some more phrases. A lot of times it’s the rhythm track that suggests what the lyric is going to be. I like working like that.