Blondie's New York and the Making of Parallel Lines (2014) Movie Script

They were just
a ragtag New York punk band
in a city that was falling apart
at the seams.
I know you wouldn't go
you'd watch
my heart burst then
Just one of many bands
trying to break out
from the niche punk scene
into the pop mainstream.
Jimmy Destri: We were considered
clowns in the beginning,
we were critically lambasted.
Nigel Harrison: I think people
thought we were trashy,
I think people thought
we were unmusical.
Roberta Bayley:
You know, no one thought
they were going anywhere.
Against them
they had the punk purists
who wanted to keep the music
raw and aggressive.
This guy comes up to me,
grabs me,
he goes,
"your disco album sucks!"
Once I had a love,
and it was a gas
But he would be proved wrong.
Soon turned out
had a heart of glass
Their breakthrough album
would sell 20 million copies,
because what they did have
was music in their blood,
a unique sound
and steely determination
to make something beautiful
in a tough city.
Blondie would prove
that they were
more than a garage band
with a pretty singer.
Bob Gruen: Debbie was just
one of the most beautiful girls
I've ever seen.
Was, is and always will be.
One way or another
I'm gonna lose ya
I'm gonna give you the slip
In 1977 Chrysalis Records
spotted the band
and spent $1 million
buying out their contract
and putting top pop hit maker
Mike Chapman in charge
of producing their new album,
"Parallel Lines."
Mike Chapman: I thought, well,
it's gonna be a little tough.
But when I heard the songs,
I thought, well, perhaps
with their cooperation
we can actually pull this off.
Mike realized
that the key
was discipline, innovation
and plain hard work.
Rob Sheffield: Blondie, it seems,
were at a point where
they had to either give up
or they had to go all the way
for this sort of pop perfection
that they'd always really
aspired to.
Pretty baby
you look so heavenly
The tough
studio recording sessions
coming up with Mike Chapman
would turn Blondie from
a greenwich village punk band
into a world class pop band.
Oh, picture this,
a sky full of thunder
picture this,
my telephone number
Clem Burke: We were all
on a high as far as realizing
something really great
was happening.
It brought together
six stubborn people.
Don't leave me hangin'
on the telephone
With the album's release
Blondie would be blasted free
of the dregs of '70s New York
on their very own
musical skyrocket.
I don't think any of us
had any idea
of how big it was gonna be.
Ken Dashow: It's remarkable
that 40 years later
we're still listening
to Blondie.
I'm still playing it
on the radio.
The whole album
was a hit single to me.
"Parallel Lines" would
make Blondie a world class band,
but Debbie Harry's sound, looks
and unpredictable clothes sense
would also have
a lasting influence
on New York's fashion industry,
while the stories the band told
in their songs
would capture the spirit
of New York City.
Now the musicians
and the producer
who wrote and recorded
this landmark album
tell us how they worked together
to create
that musical skyrocket,
which is still flying
40 years later...
a snapshot of a time and a city
that was changing forever.
New York in the '70s was a city
going through tough times.
Ed Koch: The overriding problem
was to save the city of New York
from going into bankruptcy.
It was pretty dangerous,
it was pretty common
to get mugged,
especially over
on the east side.
It was pretty hard
to find jobs.
Roberta Bayley: There were a lot
of single occupancy hotels
that you could sleep
for $5 a night,
and so transient people
and, you know, a lot of drunks
and things like that.
The band thought
of themselves as new yorkers
from an early age.
Jimmy destri was brought up
in Brooklyn.
Did you ever see
those discovery channel shows
with, you know,
the deep ocean vents
and there's all kinds of life
living in impossible conditions?
That's basically what
downtown New York was.
Guitarist Chris Stein
also grew up in Brooklyn.
Chris Stein: There was
a big "be in" in central park
in the summer of '67
that was very impressive,
and a great event I remember
as part of my, uh,
chemical history, you know.
Fellow guitarist
frank infante's
early memories of the city
are still vivid today.
Frank Infante: I remember going
through the Holland tunnel
with my parents in the car,
you know...
And it always was that
real Gothamy kind of vibe,
gritty kind of tunnel, dirty,
it was like, man,
where are we going?
We're going to hell here
or something, you know.
But it was cool.
Drummer clem Burke
and vocalist Debbie Harry,
both from New Jersey, discovered
the west village in their teens.
Debbie Harry:
I think my favorite thing
was to walk around
the west village
and look at, you know,
all the little crafts shops
and just sort of try to catch
the vibe.
It was a place
we used to go
to look at the hippies
in greenwich village.
Kind of walk around and look for
freaky-looking people, I guess.
I guess it was
the forbidden fruit in a way,
full of naughty things.
Even English newcomer,
bassist Nigel Harrison,
soon fell under the city's
wayward spell.
I love New York.
I think if I left New York
I would decompose,
I'd turn to dust.
Since becoming an item
in 1973,
Debbie and Chris
had shared one ambition.
Just to run away
and be an artist of some sort.
In the 1970s
many artists were coming
to live in the city's
abandoned factories
and crowd the east village
Musicians, film makers,
and fashion designers.
New clubs were offering
some raw alternative sounds
and films conceived and shot
far from Hollywood,
such as "Saturday night fever,"
"taxi driver,"
"the French connection,"
and "serpico"
were telling true and
often harsh New York stories.
Indeed one of the first songs
to be recorded
had a feeling of menace
and impending violence.
It was based
on Debbie's experience
with a boyfriend
who had stalked her.
Track 2,
"one way or another."
This was just
a boyfriend and just...
I, you know, I sort of liked
the way that that phrase
kept coming up, you know,
"one way or another,
one way or another."
Nigel played me the track
in Japan.
I used to make
a lot of little demos.
I had this fantastic little
machine I bought in Japan.
Just the thing
that went...
And just two chords
going back and forth
with a little riff in it.
I took that, you know,
with the beat, beat thing,
I had some crazy guitar on it.
I said I like this.
Thanks to Jimmy, who I
was sharing a room with on tour,
said we should make a song
out of that,
that's got to be a song.
And it was thanks to Jimmy
that I...
Because I was too shy
to sort of show it to anyone.
He came in with it and
we just started playing it live,
it was a very automatic
band kind of thing.
Debbie came up
with a great lyric.
You know, because it was
a catch phrase...
one way or another...
it's such a catch phrase.
The phrasing
just fit right, so I just...
and it just sort of happened
in a flash, you know,
it was just one of those things
that came together
really easily.
One of the things,
I think, that made it
is the guitar is playing,
but the keyboard behind it
is doing a seventh.
It's going...
And it just gives it
that edge, you know.
Yeah, that's one
of my favorites.
Frank did a great job on that.
So this is Frankie
playing Nigel's riff,
and Chris with
the harmonics thing.
And you can hear,
those are Chris's lines.
Da da da da da da
A little out of whack.
It has this sort of
odd country hillbilly thing
going on underneath it all.
It also sort of reminds me
of some kind of a polka.
I'm gonna meet ya,
I'll meet ya
I will drive past your house
The best part of this was
when Debbie spat out those words
and then to see her out there
with the sort of
facial contortions and...
I mean, she really went
for this track.
One way or another
I'm gonna find ya
I'm gonna getcha, getcha,
getcha, getcha
one way or another
I'm gonna win ya
I'll getcha, I'll getcha!
And that, I mean,
that really tells you
all about her personality,
you know, it's like
"I'll get ya, I'll get ya."
One minute she's
this sort of frantic,
and the next minute she...
You can't even talk to her.
What's really amazing
is how many people
actually relate to this song.
They point and they go
like that.
The lyrics are unusual,
and people often
get them wrong...
As Debbie and Chris discovered
in an unlikely place.
We were in...
A hard rock cafe
in South America somewhere.
They had
a really good forgery
of Debbie's lyrics for this.
Yes, that was
in Santo Domingo.
And we knew it was
a forgery
because it didn't say rat food,
it said something else food.
And, you know, that...
the phrase rat food
is in here somewhere.
I walk down the mall,
stand over by the wall
I think she wrote
these words on the spot,
these weren't written yet,
she said...
...supermarket check out
some specials and rat food
"Check out some specials
and rat food," you know.
She's got the...
Where I see can it all,
find out who you call
Even today
Debbie is not sure
she gave her performance
quite enough menace.
Not menacing enough.
I'm gonna getcha, getcha,
getcha, getcha
I should be clamped
in irons for this.
I wanna meet ya, meet ya,
meet ya, meet ya
one day, maybe next week,
I'm gonna meet ya
I'm gonna meet ya,
I'll meet ya
Alright, that's enough.
The band had first
gotten together
three years earlier at cbgb's,
a run-down venue on the bowery
which became the headquarters
of the New York punk
and new wave scene.
Up-and-comers Blondie
had some tough competition.
Other cbgb regulars included
talking heads, the ramones,
the Patti Smith group,
Johnny thunders and television.
The interesting thing
about going to cbgb's...
and I don't think
that an 18, 19-year-old
will have any sort
of parallel to it now,
and I think the only parallel
would be like the people
who went to the cavern club
in the late '50s, early '60s.
You didn't go to see
the Beatles,
you went to the cavern club.
We were not the,
you know,
the darlings of the scene,
you know,
we were sort of the struggling
out, you know,
outer edges of it.
I think people thought
we were trashy,
I think people thought
we were unmusical.
That's how
the little girl lies
he's telling
his little girl lies
I think people thought
the band was a novelty.
Everyone liked them
as people a lot,
but, you know, no one thought
they were going anywhere,
and especially the competition,
which was television
or the ramones.
We were informed
by the music
that we were surrounded by,
by our peers.
And we were changing
and doing different things,
and our sound was changing.
With the success
of "Saturday night fever"
came an enthusiasm for disco,
and Blondie was
the first punk band
to incorporate it
into their sound.
It was a move that punk purists
would regard as treason,
but it would increase the band's
chances of hitting the big time.
They'd been playing
at cbgb's for a while,
and I just heard this sound,
and it just sounded bigger
than any of the bands
that had played there...
And Debbie was just one
of the most beautiful girls
I've ever seen.
But it was now
becoming clear
that Blondie was much more
than a pretty girl
with an unformed band
behind her.
They were a great band,
they could really play.
And let's not lose that
in the discussion of her image
and the scene and the punks
and all that...
this band could
play their ass off.
And one night
they were doing just that
when they were spotted
by Terry Ellis
of Chrysalis Records.
He saw Debbie's star quality
at once
and immediately spent $1 million
buying the band out
of their existing record deal.
To make sure
his investment paid off,
he decided to put pop record
producer Mike Chapman in charge.
Mike had a string of hits
to his name,
but he couldn't have been
less punk.
How could he turn Blondie
into a hit-making team?
I wanted nothing more
I know you wouldn't go
you'd watch
my heart burst...
Knowing that this
was basically
a New York underground,
sort of punk influence band,
I thought, well,
it's gonna be a little tough.
But when I heard the songs,
I realized that, that they
were songwriters.
Since 1971 Mike had
had an impressive 20 hit singles
in the charts.
I told them, I said,
you know,
these songs are
absolutely amazing.
And they said,
oh, do you think so?
I said, yeah, I know so.
So let's...
Should we give it a try?
"Yeah, okay.
Let's give it a try."
He was good humored
and, you know,
he had all these funny sort
of Australian sayings
like "oh, she bangs
like a [bleep] house door
in a cyclone."
And you know, it's like working
with Billy the kid or something.
Yeah, yeah,
or a pirate or something.
He was funny,
and he was very cute, you know.
He was wily
and a good spirit, you know.
Mike would go on to record
three other albums
with the band,
although during
the "Parallel Lines" session
his technique of building a hit
bar by bar
would be at odds
with the band's usual technique.
On their previous two albums
they had recorded a song
a few times
and then chosen the best take.
Later tempers would fray,
but at the outset it was all
sweetness and light.
Blondie's New York,
track one,
"hanging on the telephone."
Of the 12 tracks
on the album,
Mike agreed with the band
that they would write 9 of them,
but there would be
three covers, too.
The first track was written
by west coast musician Jack Lee.
Hustler Jack just couldn't
believe his luck.
We met Jack, Jack was
gone, out of his mind...
he was staying at the y,
you know,
and he was pushing
his songs to people,
and he would come in
and show us the song.
And he would be so enthusiastic,
and we'd have to go,
"Jack, calm down,
we're gonna do the song,
we're gonna do the song."
I can still hear
clem's unsteady foot here.
Now clem would kill me if he...
well, he will kill me
when he hears it.
But I can hear his...
If you listen to his kick drum,
he's not...
like there...
he's not right on.
Let's hear the bass
in there now, and...
So this was Nigel's thing,
just his pedaling
these bass notes.
And it's all a little
out of sync, it's not perfect.
Now that was the secret,
I think, to, to, to the...
Keeping the element
of Blondie in the record.
Then you put in some guitar...
Suddenly it starts
to pull it together.
To me, the genius
of Chapman
is that this sounds
so spontaneous,
and it wasn't at all.
After doing it for an hour
and playing the same parts
for two hours,
it didn't feel
very free-flowing at all.
It was very mechanical
and rigid feeling.
And now when I hear it,
it sounds so spontaneous
and effortless, which is great,
that's the way Mike
was a [bleep] genius.
Mike would walk around
in circles,
and sometimes
he'd have a stopwatch,
and then he'd say,
why is that ending so long?
Why is the intro so long?
Why does it take so long
for the vocals to come in?
I heard your mother,
now she's going out the door
did she go to work
or just go to the store?
All those things she said
I told you to ignore
And when the vocals
did come in,
it was Debbie's aggressive
and unladylike delivery
that made people wake up
and listen.
You have to really drive
for some kind of forceful
emotional content, you know.
Because, I mean, you can just
actually just sing technically
and just be a technical singer,
and it would be fine.
But he was always saying,
"oh, you've got to put
something in it,"
you know, put something in it.
Emotional content.
Bruce Lee.
Emotional content.
Thank you, Bruce.
If I don't get your calls
then everything goes wrong
I want to tell you something
you've known all along
don't leave me hangin'
on the telephone
That's the emotional part.
Mike wasn't happy with the way
the end of the song sounded
and added his own voice.
Oh, whoa, whoa whoa
So, and they're all
looking at me going,
"are you sure, Mike?"
And I said, it'll work.
Oh, hang up and run to me
oh, whoa, whoa, whoa,
run to me
The song needed
to come to a climax...
Oh, whoa, whoa, whoa
And suddenly it was like...
that's it.
Mike was beginning
to get the band
working to his methodical style,
but he still had
a long way to go.
He was very hands-on
in arrangements,
he was a guitar player,
he helped with the total
creative process,
he wasn't just in
the control room ordering pizza.
Mike would be completely
"do it over and over and over
until it gets exactly right,"
so we'd be like, man,
wasn't that good enough?
It was more based
on our musicianship...
and Mike took it to a whole
other level of meticulousness,
where we were doing stuff
over and over again
to make it really precise
and perfect.
In Blondie
everyone's so stubborn,
everyone's headstrong
and stubborn,
no one takes orders.
And it was the first time we...
Anyone even remotely
had the nerve
to question anything we'd done.
Not that we were right, but we
were convinced we were right.
Here he is coming in
and telling us, you know,
you have to go to school,
you really have to go to school,
you know.
And I'm glad he did.
I'm really glad he did.
I learned so much.
Blondie, it seems,
were at a point
where they had to either give up
or they had to go all the way
for this sort of pop perfection
that they'd always
really aspired to.
And again, every band
in that little world,
regardless of what they'll say,
wanted a big hit.
We all dreamed of it.
The band
was living and rehearsing
in a loft on the bowery in
a derelict district of the city,
and Debbie and Chris had now
been together as a couple
for over four years.
So this was their loft.
Debbie, Chris, Jimmy,
I think Gary Valentine
lived in the building.
You know, it probably
wasn't palatial,
but I think the fact of living
in a communal setting
was probably very helpful
to a band, you know,
coming together and
making music together.
And they were making
New York music.
The New York grime
there was enough of that
in each of the tracks,
through the playing.
I think clem and Frankie
and certainly Chris
with his guitar parts...
Added New York
into those tracks,
and Debbie sounds like Debbie,
you know,
she doesn't sound like
any other singer,
which was such a blessing
because, you know,
how often do you get
to record a singer
who is instantly identifiable?
And she represented New York.
And a New York which was then
often a dangerous place to be.
Ed Koch: Crime was escalating,
not in the village,
in the whole city, not just
especially the village.
It was escalating,
and people were afraid.
It looked like dresden
after the bombing
or something like that.
I guess in retrospect
it's very romantic to people
now, too, and it was.
There was a kind
of freedom involved
with living on the fringes
of this decaying society, too.
There was kind of
no future.
In New York in the '70s,
a lot of stores were closed up,
there was a lot
of empty storefronts.
You could see lines
of people lined up
to buy their drug of choice.
There was a lot
of street crime.
We were frequently
getting held up and stuff.
I got held up several times.
1970s New York
could be violent,
but that didn't deter
the celebrity pack
from exploring the mean streets
of the city...
people such as Andy warhol
and Mick Jagger,
Tom waits and Allen Ginsberg...
who went in search
of the thrill of danger
and other like-minded revelers.
I am the night life.
It all started
with one discotheque,
then more and more and more.
I live everywhere.
I live within you.
People have more energy
to have a good time.
I come to the discos
to absorb an energy,
to emit a positive energy
that is happening in New York
and in the world.
Andy warhol
was not decadent.
Was it a racy time?
It depends on what you mean
by racy time.
It was a fun time.
I thought Allen Ginsberg
and warhol and all the others
who gave greenwich village
a wonderful ambience and name,
so to speak, so that people
were drawn here.
I happened to live
in the village.
Glenn O'Brien: You would see
the most famous artists,
the most famous
New York musicians
and the best fashion designers
all hanging around with
other assorted characters.
So things were more unified.
It wasn't... Now the...
it's very "industry," you know,
music industry,
fashion industry.
But then it was more
of a creative community.
But it was
a creative community
that found it hard to accept
a band fronted by a woman,
and a woman who also wrote
explicit lyrics.
I think it annoyed me
when I was...
When I was growing up that,
you know,
that I was expected to,
you know, do...
Raise a family and be...
and be the woman, be the wife.
And it didn't particularly
appeal to me,
that I might not be
particularly good at it.
All they talk about
is her looks and how...
You know, how's she aging
and how beautiful she was,
but the fact is she's
an incredible lyricist,
and it's very rare that people
go out of their way
to even talk about the lyrics,
and it's insane.
On the first album
was "look good in blue,"
"I could give you some head
and shoulders to lie on,"
you know.
It's like she never shied away
from saying anything risque.
She was gonna follow you
see who's hanging around,
if she doesn't like this
hanging around you,
bad things are going to happen.
Or you'll rip her
to shreds like, you know,
if you're really jealous
and you're gonna actually rip
the other girl to shreds,
that's quite a statement,
you know.
It's not like,
oh, I feel so bad.
It's like, I'm gonna get you,
you know.
And yeah, she was
very aggressive.
Ha! Stand tall
for the beast of america
Even nearly 40 years later
a younger generation
of performers
feel that Debbie
broke down doors
by being candid
about her feelings.
Aja volkman sings
with L.A. band Nico vega.
Aja Volkman: That predatorial
thing is totally inspiring,
you know, for a woman
to be able to go out
and get what she wants
and not be afraid
of her sexuality and her beauty,
and not... not be intimidated
by it and, also,
not to feel like
she's threatening people.
Debbie and Chris
were newly in love,
and so there probably was
a lot of sexy thoughts
going around and all of that.
And you know, it was cool to be
raunchy in punk rock.
Everybody liked that.
I think that's what men
love about women, you know,
is that they can create life
and they're, you know,
seductive and beautiful, and...
and it's like, you know,
our species is...
it's designed that way.
You know, women are supposed
to attract you and pull you in
and make you want to stay.
Debbie got a lot of flak
for her overt sexuality,
which is...
Ridiculous, because she
was so tame by modern standards.
That sexuality was
very evident on "picture this."
Track three,
"picture this."
When Debbie showed me
the lyrics, I thought "whoa!"
This was something
she'd obviously lived through,
you know, that she was singing
about an event in her life,
and I guess she was
watching Chris shower.
I wouldn't have wanted
to watch Chris shower,
but obviously Debbie enjoyed it.
Picture this,
a day in December
picture this,
freezing cold weather
you've got clouds on your lids
and you'd be on the skids
if it weren't for your job
at the garage
if you could only...
You could
come in with a song
and just go, you know,
here's "picture this."
Which are the chords.
But if you come in, if you
put this on those chords...
It sounds different.
It was Mike's
experience as a guitarist
that helped him get
the very best
out of the band's guitarists,
frank and Chris...
However long it took.
As we built on this thing,
the sensitivity of the song
came into focus.
And then we add
some guitars to it.
That must have taken
so damn long to do.
I mean, it sounds
very precise and refined,
and, you know, I just play
a lot more casually than that.
But I do like
the guitar break.
And this beautiful solo,
like a waterfall effect here.
All I want is 20/20 vision
a total portrait
with no omissions
all I want
is a vision of you
And then she's back to it.
If you can, picture this
a day in December
picture this
freezing cold weather
you got clouds
on your lids...
The lyric to this day,
to me,
is elusive and, and beautiful,
and it's such an important part
of the "Parallel Lines"
and it all came from this,
this amazing girl, who...
Who could, you know,
sell ice to the eskimos.
But now the band
had to concentrate more
on selling their new sound
to a world audience
who thought of them...
if at all...
as a punk band with attitude.
But their then manager
had other ideas,
as they discovered
at a photo session.
We had the concept
of being in front of these
black and white stripes.
Nobody wanted to smile.
It was punk rock.
And then
our erstwhile manager said,
"why don't you all
take a picture smiling?"
So everybody took one shot
smiling and that...
And then he, you know,
unbeknownst to us,
used those on the cover.
I just hated
that posed album cover.
It looked like it was designed
by management
and put together by marketing.
It was just awful.
I don't think
you'll ever hear a boy
complain about that album cover,
except maybe the boys
who were on the album cover.
But part of it was
that it presented
the personality of the band
in such an appealing way,
because they're wearing
their matching suits,
it's very beatlesque,
and the idea of Debbie Harry
in the middle of it preening,
as if to say, yeah,
look what I've got,
look at my harem around me.
That was an image that
pretty much everybody loved.
It's an eye-catching record,
it's a classic cover
that can be a piece of...
like an Andy warhol,
piece of art by itself...
it could be like
a Campbell's soup can, you know,
but it's "Parallel Lines."
As a result of her
artistic and unpredictable
but always confident
and individual style,
Debbie was now fast becoming
a fashion icon.
Debbie's wearing
a tiger dress,
which she actually made herself.
I think it's some kind
of seat-cover fabric
that she found cheaply and...
and she made a dress out of it,
which was very dramatic.
Debbie just came walking across
the street from me...
towards me, and I took a couple
of pictures,
and she looks
absolutely stunning,
as a lot of people really think
it's one of their
favorite pictures,
because she just looks so good
and she's kind of got
this wet tee-shirt on,
you know, which is very sexy.
Photographer Roberta bayley was
also at coney island that day
shooting with Debbie
for one of the film-like
cartoons the band made
for "punk" magazine,
telling fantasy stories of life
in New York City.
That day Debbie was cast
as "beach bunny"
in "mutant monster beach party!"
She's sort of wearing
these really ripped-off,
cut-off jeans,
and I think
a one-shoulder tank top.
She had an idea of the character
and the look.
Debbie's punk style continues
to inspire fashion designers
nearly 40 years later.
Ktystyna Kozhoma:
I think it's this bad-ass
attitude to everything.
You know, everybody wants
to make a statement,
and I think it's
an amazing feeling
when you know that you
are limitless,
so that's what is so attractive
in punk movement.
Andrew Bolton:
I think punks were incredibly
brave, heroic individuals
who didn't really care
what people thought about them.
It was highlighting
the idea of creativity,
highlighting the idea
of individuality,
and also was very critical
of the status quo,
so it was both a political
and an aesthetic movement.
So many designers
have been using it...
reusing it all the time...
recycling punk
in their collections.
I hope that my dresses
are talking for themselves
about punk.
The track "pretty baby" reflects
Debbie's interest in movies,
though it's not about her
but about another
rising superstar of the day.
Track five,
"pretty baby."
Eyes that tell me
incense and peppermints
your looks
are larger than life
That song was written
for Brooke shields.
I think Debbie wrote that
inspired by Brooke
and her beauty and, you know,
the fact that she was a girl
coming of age in stardom,
you know, and all of that.
"Pretty baby" was
child star Brooke shield's
breakout performance.
To this date she has made
nearly 40 films.
We met her when she was
what, 12 or something or 13.
Yeah, she was a baby.
She was very sweet.
She had this complete...
You know, she was portrayed as
having sexuality, you know.
Well, she's in practically
every shot of the film.
That song is just
so pop to me.
It's just that feel,
it's that...
All that stuff, you know.
It's very abba.
Pretty baby
I just thought what...
what an amazing melody.
Absolutely breath-taking melody.
I remember I put
that bass line in.
Bum bum bum bum
bum bum ba da
I fell in love with you
pretty baby
I fell in love with you
oh-oh, oh oh oh
It's just so pop,
I get goose bumps, I get chills.
I do.
"Pretty baby" was
an out-and-out pop song.
With Mike's help,
the band had broken away
from their punk roots,
and in doing so alienated
many of their fans.
But was the new album
going to find a new audience?
"Parallel Lines"
was the most foolish album
anybody ever made.
You're trying to build
your sound,
you're trying to build
an image for yourself.
This band is this sound.
And what do you do
for your breakthrough album?
You just disperse it
and do a little jazz
and a little reggae
and a little disco.
You added disco to it?
Even though we were
very diverse,
there were certain threads that
connected people up, you know,
and so Nigel was there with his,
you know, brit pop sensibilities
that clem was very attuned to.
I'm an English guy
who grew up
on the greatest bands
in the world.
Right after
the Beatles came.
The next day, which I got
a guitar and a beatle wig.
Frankie was...
loved the stones...
I loved the stones.
In high school
in particular,
I would like to really chill out
with jazz,
and so I listened
to a lot of jazz.
It's funny that to those
of us in the rest of the country
"Parallel Lines" seemed
like such a New York record,
because there were so many
different kinds
of pop music in it,
and that all these songs could
thrive together on one album
was really innovative
and really mind-blowing.
One of the most unashamedly
pop songs on the album
was "Sunday girl."
Its peaches and cream lyrics
and romantic inspiration
would have been seen as an act
of pure treason
by the cbgb's punk faithful.
Track nine,
"Sunday girl."
The Phil spector
"be my baby" is...
hal Blaine riff is the beginning
of "Sunday girl,"
which is like...
I remember
Chris wrote the lyric,
and I was really impressed
when I read it,
you know, and Chris, "hey,
what do you think of this?"
I said Jesus, "cold as ice cream
and still as sweet,"
that's beautiful.
Chris and
his then-girlfriend Debbie
maintain that the song
is about their pet cat.
It was about the cat
whose name was Sunday man,
and he ran away
when we were on tour,
and it was very tragic. And...
He was a nice cat.
He was
a great character.
He was, you know,
a funny little...
A funny little man.
But keyboardist Jimmy destri
says it's really a love song
and not about a cat at all.
It's not about the cat.
It's not about the cat.
That's a cool, you know,
brush-off by them saying...
They wrote that.
Chris wrote it to Debbie,
of course, you know, yeah.
It was really
a beautiful song.
When I saw you again
in the summertime
if your love
was as sweet as mine
I could be Sunday girl
Overall the band
was now accepting
producer Mike Chapman's
working methods,
but when it came to the song
guitarist Nigel Harrison
had had enough.
Track seven, "11:59."
Mike was suddenly "don't
go up here, stay down there."
"Clem, don't do this,
watch it on that part."
There was all these instructions
coming at us.
And that to me was
like an act of war,
because it's like
this guy is nuts,
'cause by this time
it's like take 22.
And I had my meltdown and I said
"are you [bleep] crazy?"
And I just, I just...
I lost it.
But the rebellious Nigel
was about to be won over.
I do remember
the turning point
was when Mike sat us down
and said look,
what we're doing here
is we're making records,
we're making records,
we're not documenting
a live performance.
"11:59" was written
by the band's keyboardist
Jimmy destri.
One of Jimmy's
best songs, too.
Jimmy had a particular style
of writing.
A lyric about alienation,
I guess, you know,
looking back on my, you know,
little alienated bits of life,
you know.
It's about late night club life
and the sort of, you know,
being in a crowd
and being isolated
and, you know,
posing and all that,
very, you know,
very new yorkish.
Today could be the end of me
it's 11:59
and I want to stay alive
I can even smell the air
in New York at the time,
you know, taste the food
we were eating
and the drugs we were doing.
By 1978
disco was on the rise
with the Bee Gees'
"Saturday night fever"
dominating the charts
and the New York
underground scene
was shifting from punk
to new wave...
punk lite.
This is how
New York sounded.
You're frustrated because
you've got to take the subway,
it's crowded, it's dirty,
it's dangerous,
so that's got to come through
your pen and your guitar,
and that's what you hear
in all this music.
Everybody in Blondie
was a real New York character,
you know.
I mean, Chris was somebody
that you could imagine being
like in tin pan alley in 1939,
you know,
and the same with Debbie.
She was like a, you know,
a broad cracking wise, you know.
So, yeah, they were like
real New York characters.
And these New York characters
were about to deal
a game-changing blow
to the punk versus disco battle.
It was called "heart of glass."
We played him
everything we'd got,
and, and then he said
"anything more?"
And then, you know, I think
Chris said, well,
we have this old song, you know,
that we don't use
because we've never been able
to really finish it
the way we wanted it to be,
and that was "heart of glass."
Bob gruen had heard Blondie
perform the fledging hit
at cbgb's the previous year.
And I remember
clearly having a feeling
this is bigger than this club,
this is gonna go out
into theatres,
it's gonna go around the world.
And I never had that feeling
for anybody else down there.
It was now up to Mike
to make this half-formed song
into a hit,
and he and clem Burke
were already thinking "disco."
Track ten,
"heart of glass."
Once I had a love,
and it was a gas
soon turned out
had a heart of glass
seemed like the real thing,
only to find
mucho mistrust,
love's gone behind
The way the song
was recorded was a click track...
just a little beat from a little
tiny Roland rhythm box.
We thought we were kind of
doing a sort of takeoff
on kraftwerk, dance music,
"Heart of glass"
was a nightmare to record
because it was an idea beyond
the technology at the time.
My influence, once again,
I think is felt on that record
with my sort of homage
to the "Saturday night fever"
I started playing
the disco dance beat
from "night fever,"
the Bee Gees record,
which I loved.
To help clem
lay down the drum tracks,
Mike brought in a piece of
then cutting-edge technology...
a drum machine.
So I brought this thing in
once we had decided
that we were going to disco
this song up a little.
They got the click track
going and they did clem...
it was like a meccano set,
they put bits and pieces in it,
so clem did the bass drum.
Kick drum
and the drum machine together.
All the way
through the track,
then the snare drum,
then the high hat.
Then we built
the whole thing up.
Then we did
the Tom breaks, the Tom Toms...
all the different Tom breaks...
and then we added the cymbals.
And it literally
took days.
Put the bass.
And this is where I had a major
run-in with, with Nigel.
He wasn't playing stiff enough,
he wasn't like...
That was the disco link,
the octave thing.
And he said,
"I have to play that?"
And I said,
well, you don't have to,
but it would be nice,
if you don't mind.
So after our run-in,
he agreed to do it.
And suddenly the whole thing
was starting to feel good,
so then we added some guitars.
35 years later,
Debbie and Chris are reunited
with the original
multi-track recording.
That's the space.
This is probably...
I know what that is.
All those weird sounds
are the Roland space echo
or chorus echo.
I can't remember.
It's an old box.
These are still out there.
All those jungle noises
were Chris doing his "waaa"
with his e-bow, I guess,
and then...
ded de de de
Now that was the hook
in the song.
Frank was insanely good
on that song.
Once they had
the drums and guitars in place,
Jimmy and Mike
then had to make sure
the keyboard tracks
fit precisely, too.
We didn't have midi
in those days,
so all of these keyboard parts,
we had to do these in sections.
Mike and I had to do
on the one, 1, 2, 3, 4.
Through the whole song.
We were all fighting...
But I said no,
just keep going, guys,
because we're getting there,
we're getting there.
So finally we had
all the track pieces in place.
And we had this wonderful...
let's hear it now
with the drums in there...
The guitar gave it the swing.
The drums were sort of...
There was a little bit of
Keith moon in there for clem,
and then all we needed
was Debbie to come in and sing.
Now, when Debbie
put a voice on it...
She sang it in that little,
sweet sing-song voice,
and the whole thing
just came together.
Once I had a love
and it was a gas
I didn't realize
that Debbie
was actually gonna sing this
in this head voice, this...
La la la
And there she is out there,
like lullabying to us...
And I thought,
"wow, that's so cool,"
'cause up till then
she'd probably been going
"once I had a love,"
you know, in full voice.
Once I had a love
and it was devine
I said, oh, that's great,
this is beautiful,
it's so dreamlike.
I was losing my mind
seemed like the real thing,
but I was so blind
"Heart of glass" was...
At the time
there was dance music around
and disco music,
even though we did that song
as sort of a, you know,
it was a tongue-in-cheek
it wasn't really supposed to be,
you know,
straight-ahead disco for real,
it was like fake disco,
and that sort of seemed
like it had possibilities.
But the pure punk fans
clearly didn't get
the tongue-in-cheek subtleties.
Right after "Parallel Lines"
was released
and before it really blew up,
we played this, like,
farewell gig at cbgb's,
because we knew
we couldn't come back.
There were lines
around the block.
And I was walking
up to the stage,
because that's what you
had to do at cbgb's,
and this guy comes up to me,
grabs me,
he goes,
"your disco album sucks!"
And I was like
I guess it's gonna be a hit,
because we've finally broken out
of the little world.
I don't think any of us
had any idea
of how big it was gonna be.
Once I had a love,
and it was a gas
soon turned out
to be a pain in the ass
The album
was released in 1978
and has to date sold
around 20 million copies.
"Heart of glass" was number one
in 16 countries
and became one
of "rolling stone's"
500 greatest songs of all time.
The band is still touring today
and has recorded seven more
albums since "Parallel Lines."
Except for drummer clem Burke,
they all still live
in New York City
and still feel
that city's energy.
Just walking around,
you know,
I like that it's still here,
the energy is still here.
I mean, you know,
the money thing is...
it's a bit of a drag, you know.
New York City went
from "don't go there"
to "you can't afford it,"
like that, in a heartbeat.
I think it was
the early '80s
when I realized that
corporations were moving in,
they were seeing something
that, you know,
they could make money from.
There's still
bits and pieces
that some people
just think are grimy
and I see as beauty,
as a masterpiece.
The streets
are not the same.
The streets are not full
of colorful characters,
you know, it's pretty...
it could be anywhere.
One place where music
can still be heard
is oddly enough the original
cbgb's on the bowery,
which was turned
into a fashion outlet
by the entrepreneur
John Varvatos in 2008.
John Varvatos:
There's a history here,
and there was a history
with this space
that talked to people,
and it was a very important part
of people's life.
I'm not trying to recreate that
by any means,
I'm just trying to preserve it
to some degree
and keep that energy alive
that's been here on the bowery
for many, many years.
John keeps the music alive with
regular concerts at the shop.
Vintage trouble is one of the
bands that has played for him.
Have mercy on my soul
There's something
about the space
and something about the history
and something about those walls
that speaks to them.
And I can't put my hand on it
and I can't get my arms
around it,
but I feel it every time.
I have goose bumps
every time we do a show here.
Much of the bowery neighborhood
has been redeveloped
and its spirit and passion
but "Parallel Lines" remains
to tell the story
of a band held together by their
love affair with the music
and the city that inspired it.
One way or another
I'm gonna find ya
I'm gonna getcha, getcha,
getcha, getcha
one way...
It does sum up a time,
but it's not just that,
it's that people like the music,
they like the sentiment,
they like what it says.
They had really smart lyrics,
in the same way that, you know,
the great American songbook
writers did,
like, you know, Cole Porter
and Gershwin, you know.
I guess, you know,
we tried to make it
about real experience,
incorporating my little world,
my own personal experiences.
The best thing
is when I hear...
I hear from kids who say,
you know,
it helped me get through
my teenage years, you know,
I was having such a hard time
and I used to listen
to the music,
and that's very moving,
you know.
As a record producer
you've got to say,
well, thank god I had something
to do with this,
because opportunities like that
don't come along every day.
"Man doth not live
on bread alone,"
and that's a reference
to the arts.
It stimulates you,
it enhances your creativity.
I mean, without the arts
we might as well go back
to the caves.
I'm in the phone booth,
it's the one across the hall
if you don't answer,
I'll just ring it off the wall
I know he's there,
but I just had to call
don't leave me hanging
on the telephone
don't leave me hanging
on the telephone
I heard your mother,
now she's going out the door
did she go to work
or just go to the store?