Heart of Glass (song)

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"Heart of Glass"
Single by Blondie
from the album Parallel Lines
Released January 3, 1979
Format 7", 12" vinyl
Recorded June 1978
Genre Disco,[1] new wave[2]
Length 5:50 (12" version)
3:54 (LP/international 7" version)
3:22 (US 7" version)
Label Chrysalis
Writer(s) Deborah Harry, Chris Stein
Producer(s) Mike Chapman
Certification Platinum (UK, NZ)
Gold (US, Germany)
Blondie singles chronology
"Hanging on the Telephone"
(1978)
"Heart of Glass"
(1979)
"Sunday Girl"
(1979)
Audio sample
file info · help
Alternative cover
US edition of the "Heart of Glass" single with alternative cover art

"Heart of Glass" is a song by American new wave band Blondie, written by singer Deborah Harry and guitarist Chris Stein. Featured on the band's third studio album, Parallel Lines (1978), it was released as the album's third single in January 1979 and topped the charts in several countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom.

In December 2004 Rolling Stone ranked the song number 255 on its list of the 500 greatest songs of all time. It was ranked at number 259 when the list was updated in April 2010.[3]

Currently, "Heart of Glass" is ranked #56 in the UK's official list of biggest selling singles of all-time with sales of 1.28 million copies.[4]

History[edit]

Debbie Harry and Chris Stein wrote an early version of "Heart of Glass", called "Once I Had a Love", in 1974-75. This earlier version was initially recorded as a demo in 1975. The song had a slower, funkier sound with a basic disco beat. For this reason it was known as "The Disco Song".[5][6] The song was re-recorded in a second demo with the same title in 1978, when the song was made a bit more pop-oriented. Harry said that "'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", and that "the lyrics weren't about anyone. They were just a plaintive moan about lost love."[6] It was only when the band met with producer Mike Chapman to start work on Parallel Lines that Harry recalled Chapman "asked us to play all the songs we had. At the end, he said: 'Have you got anything else?' We sheepishly said: 'Well, there is this old one.' He liked it – he thought it was fascinating and started to pull it into focus."[6]

Exactly who decided to give the song a more pronounced disco vibe is subject to differing recollections. On some occasions the producer Mike Chapman has stated that he convinced Deborah Harry and Chris Stein to give the song a disco twist. On other occasions Chapman has credited Deborah Harry with the idea.[7] As a band, Blondie had experimented with disco before, both in the predecessors to "Heart of Glass" and in live cover songs that the band played at shows. Bassist Gary Valentine noted that the set list for early Blondie shows often included disco hits such as "Honey Bee" or "My Imagination".[8]

In an interview published in the February 4, 1978 edition of New Musical Express, Debbie Harry expressed her affinity for the euro disco music of Giorgio Moroder, stating that "It's commercial, but it's good, it says something... that's the kind of stuff that I want to do".[9] A notable example of this type of musical experimentation occurred when Blondie covered Donna Summer's "I Feel Love" at the Blitz Benefit on May 7, 1978.[10] In his history of CBGB, music writer Roman Kozak described this event: "When Blondie played for the Johnny Blitz benefit in May, 1978, they surprised everyone with a rendition of Donna Summer's 'I Feel Love'. It was arguably the first time in New York, in the middle of the great rock versus disco split, that a rock band had played a disco song. Blondie went on to record 'Heart of Glass,' other groups recorded other danceable songs, and dance rock was born."[11]

In any event, no matter who came up with the idea, the song was ultimately given the disco orientation that made the song one of the best-known Blondie recordings. For the single release the track was remixed by Chapman, with the double-tracked bass drum even more accentuated.

In reflecting on the development of "Heart of Glass" from its earliest incarnations until the recorded version on Parallel Lines, Chris Stein noted that the earliest versions had a basic conventional disco beat, but that the recorded version incorporated the electronic sound of Eurodisco, stating that "The original arrangement of 'Heart of Glass'—as on the [1975] Betrock demos—had doubles on the high-hat cymbals, a more straight-ahead disco beat. When we recorded it for Parallel Lines we were really into Kraftwerk, and we wanted to make it more electronic. We weren't thinking disco as we were doing it; we thought it was more electro-European."[5]

The Parallel Lines version (as well as most others) contained some rhythmic features that were very unusual for the disco context, which typically follows a strict four-beats-per-measure pattern for maximum danceability. The instrumental interludes in "Heart of Glass", in contrast, have a beat pattern of 4-3-4-3-4-3-4-4, with eight measures totaling 29 beats instead of the more-standard 32.

The song was released in January 1979, and reached number one in both the US and the UK. The UK B-side was "Rifle Range", from Blondie's self-titled debut album, while the US single used the Parallel Lines track "11:59".

Mixes

The versions appearing on original 7" and 12" singles issued in early 1979 varied from country to country:

  • Original Album Version - 3:54
    • Used for UK 7" releases
  • Album Edit - 3:22
    • Used for US/Canada 7" releases
  • 12" Disco Mix Edit - 4:10
  • Disco Mix/Album Version No. 2 - 5:50
    • Used for 12" releases and Germany/Netherlands 7" releases; replaced original album version on all future pressings of Parallel Lines.
  • Special Mix - 4:33

Production[edit]

The production of "Heart of Glass" was discussed in detail by Richard Allinson and Steve Levine on the BBC Radio 2 radio program The Record Producers that was aired on May 25, 2009. As explained in the program, the production of "Heart of Glass" was built around the use of a Roland CR-78 drum machine. The CR-78 was first introduced in 1978, the same year that Parallel Lines was recorded, and the use of this device on "Heart of Glass" was, according to the program, among the earliest uses of this device in popular music. As the program explained, it was also very unusual to use a drum machine in the context of a rock band.

In deciding to use the CR-78 for "Heart of Glass," the choice was made to combine the sound of the drum machine with the sound of actual drumming. This reflected the hybrid nature of the song, the combination of a drum machine that was typically used in the context of dance music with the actual drum sound that was a traditional aspect of rock recordings. In combining these elements, the sound of the drum machine was first recorded on an individual track. To synchronize the actual drum play with the drum machine, the drums were also recorded on separate tracks, with the bass drum recorded separately from the rest of the drums.

Having combined the drums with the drum machine, another important feature of the CR-78 was that it could be used to send a trigger pulse to the early polymorphic synthesizers. This trigger pulse feature was also used on "Heart of Glass." The trigger pulse created by the CR-78 became a distinctive electronic/synth element of the song. The additional synthesizer portions of the song were played separately.

For the guitars, each guitar part was again recorded on separate tracks. For the vocals, a single track and a double track of Debbie Harry's voice were combined into a single vocal recording.

In an interview in the magazine that is part of the collector's edition for the ninth Blondie studio album Panic of Girls, Debbie Harry explained that band members Chris Stein and Jimmy Destri had purchased the CR-78 from a music store on 47th Street in Manhattan, and that this is how the device had become part of the production of "Heart of Glass": "Chris and Jimmy were always going over to 47th Street where all the music stores were, and one day they came back with this little rhythm box, which went 'tikka tikka tikka'... And the rest is history!" Stein also credited Destri with influencing the song's sound, saying he "had a lot to do with how the record sounds... It was Jimmy who brought in the drum machine and a synthesiser. Synchronising them was a big deal at the time. It all had to be done manually, with every note and beat played in real time rather than looped over."[6]

Controversy[edit]

Almost immediately after its release, "Heart of Glass" became the subject of controversy because of its disco sound. At the time, Blondie was one of the bands at the forefront of New York's growing new wave music scene and were accused of "selling out" for releasing a disco song. According to Debbie Harry, "Heart of Glass" made the band pariahs in the eyes of many of their fellow musicians in the New York music scene. The band was accused of pandering to the mainstream that many punk/new wave bands at the time were actively rebelling against.[12] She also said, "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'... 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.'" Chris Stein was equally unrepentant about the song's disco sound, saying, "As far as I was concerned, disco was part of R&B, which I'd always liked."[6]

There was also the issue of the use of the expression "pain in the ass" within the lyrics which, at the time, did not sit easily with the BBC in the UK. The radio edit changed it to "heart of glass." Debbie Harry told The Guardian, "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."[6]

Despite the controversy, the song was a huge hit and helped propel Blondie from cult group to mainstream icons. The band itself has acknowledged the success of the song in helping their careers and has downplayed criticism of the song, pointing out that Blondie always experimented with different styles of music and that "Heart of Glass" was their take on disco. The band itself has jokingly taken to referring to the song as "The Disco Song" in interviews.

Music video[edit]

The "Heart of Glass" promotional video was directed by Stanley Dorfman. Contrary to popular belief, it was not filmed at the Studio 54 nightclub: Chris Stein said that "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".[6] The video begins with footage of New York City at night before joining Blondie on stage. Then, the video alternates between close-ups of Debbie Harry's face as she lip-syncs, and mid-distance shots of the entire band. Harry said, "For the video, I wanted to dance around but they told us to remain static, while the cameras moved around. God only knows why. Maybe we were too clumsy."[6]

In the video Harry wears a silver asymmetrical dress designed by Stephen Sprouse.[6][13] To create the dress, Sprouse photo-printed a picture of television scan lines onto a piece of fabric, and then, according to Harry, "put a layer of cotton fabric underneath and a layer of chiffon on top, and then the scan-lines would do this op-art thing."[14] The popularity of the song helped Sprouse's work earn a lot of exposure from the media.[15] Harry also said that the T-shirts used by the male members of the band in the video were made by herself.[6]

"Draped in a sheer, silver Sprouse dress," Kris Needs summarized while writing for Mojo Classic, "Debbie sang through gritted teeth, while the boys cavorted with mirror balls". Studying Harry's attitude in the "effortlessly cool" video, musician and writer Pat Kane felt she "exuded a steely confidence about her sexual impact... The Marilyn do has artfully fallen over, and she's in the funkiest of dresses: one strap across her shoulder, swirling silks around about her. Her iconic face shows flickers of interest, amidst the boredom and ennui of the song's lyrics." Kane also noted that the band members fooling around with disco balls, "taking the mickey out of their own disco fixation."[16] Reviewing the Greatest Hits: Sound & Vision DVD for Pitchfork Media, Jess Harvell wrote that while "owning your own copy of 'Heart of Glass' may not seem as cool [anymore]... there's the always luminous Deborah Harry, who would give boiling asparagus an erotic charge, all while looking too bored to live."[17]

Track listing[edit]

UK 7" (CHS 2275)
  1. "Heart of Glass" (Debbie Harry, Chris Stein) – 3:54
  2. "Rifle Range" (Stein, Ronnie Toast) – 3:37
UK 12" (CHS 12 2275)
  1. "Heart of Glass" (Disco Version) (Harry, Stein) – 5:50
  2. "Heart of Glass" (Instrumental) (Harry, Stein) – 5:17
  3. "Rifle Range" (Stein, Toast) – 3:37
US 7" (CHS 2295)
  1. "Heart of Glass" (Harry, Stein) – 3:22
  2. "11:59" (Jimmy Destri) – 3:20
US 12" (CDS 2275)
  1. "Heart of Glass" (Disco Version) (Harry, Stein) – 5:50
  2. "Heart of Glass" (Instrumental) (Harry, Stein) – 5:17
US 1995 Remix CD (7243 858387 2 9)
  1. "Heart of Glass" (Diddy's Remix Edit) - 3:57 *
  2. "Heart of Glass" (Original Single Version) - 3:54
  3. "Heart of Glass" (MK 12" Mix) - 7:16
  4. "Heart of Glass" (Richie Jones Club Mix) - 8:42
  5. "Heart of Glass" (Diddy's Adorable Illusion Mix) - 7:33
UK 1995 Remix CD (7243 882236 2 1)
  1. "Heart of Glass" (Diddy's Adorable Edit) - 3:57
  2. "Heart of Glass" (Diddy's Adorable Illusion Mix) - 7:33
  3. "Heart of Glass" (Richie Jones Club Mix) - 8:42
  4. "Heart of Glass" (MK 12" Mix) - 7:16
  5. "Heart of Glass" (Original 12" Mix) - 5:50 **
  • * This mix is identical to the UK Diddy's Adorable Edit.
  • ** This is the original 1979 Disco Version.

Remixes and samplings[edit]

the "Heart of Glass" beatbox intro, sampled by among others Missy Elliott

Problems playing this file? See media help.

The first official remix of "Heart of Glass", by Shep Pettibone, appeared on the Blondie/Debbie Harry remix compilation Once More into the Bleach in 1988 and was also issued as a single in certain territories. The song was remixed by Diddy and re-released again in July 1995, reaching number 15 in the UK singles chart, and was included on the 1995 remix compilation Beautiful - The Remix Album.

In 2007, Positiva Records released a seven-track EP consisting of the original radio and album versions of the song, plus five new remixes by DJ Edison. Missy Elliott's 2003 hit "Work It" sampled the famous Roland CR-78 drum machine intro from the track.[18] Natalie Bassingthwaighte sampled the song on her song "Supersensual", which is from her debut studio album, 1000 Stars. Celine Dion sampled the track for the Ric Wake remix of her 2002 hit, "I'm Alive".[19]

A jazz version of the song is available on These are the Vistas, a 2003 album by The Bad Plus.[20]

Chart performance[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Berger, Arion (June 8, 2000). "Review: Parallel Lines". Rolling Stone (New York): 129. 
  2. ^ Theo Cateforis (2011). University of Michigan Press, ed. Are We Not New Wave?: Modern Pop at the Turn of the 1980s. p. 37. ISBN 978-0472034703.  "Undoubtedly the rock disco helped in breaking the year's first new wave / disco crossover hit, Blondie's chart-topping smash “Heart of Glass”"
  3. ^ "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone (New York City, USA: Wenner Media LLC). April 2010. 
  4. ^ The UK’s Official biggest selling singles of all-time. officialcharts.com. June 27, 2013. Retrieved 2013-11-26. 
  5. ^ a b Green, Jim (September 1982). "Blondie: Pumping Vinyl". Trouser Press (77). p. 19. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Simpson, Dave (April 29, 2013). "How we made: Heart of Glass". The Guardian (London, England: Guardian Media Group). Retrieved April 29, 2013. 
  7. ^ Wolk, Douglas (March 2006). "The Greatest Songs Ever! – 'Heart of Glass'". Blender (London, England: Dennis Publishing). 
  8. ^ Valentine, Gary (2002). New York Rocker: My Life in the Blank Generation. Thunder's Mouth Press. p. 73. ISBN 1-56025-944-2. 
  9. ^ Parsons, Tony (February 4, 1978). "Gentlemen Prefer Blondies...". NME (London, England: IPC Media). 
  10. ^ Harry, Debbie; Stein, Chris; Bockris, Victor (1982). Making Tracks: The Rise of Blondie. Horizon Book Promotions. pp. 129–30. ISBN 0-440-55150-1. 
  11. ^ Kozak, Roman (1988). This Ain't No Disco: The Story of CBGB. London, England: Faber and Faber. p. 110. ISBN 0-571-12956-0. 
  12. ^ Bardach, Ann; Lydon, Susan (August 26, 1979). "A Cool Blonde and a Hot Band". The New York Times (New York City, USA: Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Jr.). p. 191. 
  13. ^ Che, Cathay (1999). Deborah Harry: Platinum Blonde. London, England: André Deutsch Ltd. p. 95. ISBN 0-233-99957-4. 
  14. ^ Souter, Ericka; Stoynoff, Natasha (March 13, 2006). "Heart of Class". People (New York City, USA: Time, Inc.). p. 146. Retrieved April 29, 2013. 
  15. ^ Morrisroe, Patricia (March 29, 2004). "The Punk Glamour God". New York (New York City, USA: New York Media LLC). Retrieved June 16, 2008. 
  16. ^ Kane, Pat (July 15, 2007). "Feeling right at home". The Scotsman (Edinburgh, Scotland: Johnston Press). Retrieved June 16, 2008. 
  17. ^ Harvell, Jess (March 10, 2006). "Review: Blondie – Greatest Hits: Sound and Vision". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved June 16, 2008. 
  18. ^ "Missy Elliott's Work It sample of Blondie's Heart of Glass". WhoSampled.com. Retrieved 15 July 2013. 
  19. ^ "Céline Dion's I'm Alive (Wake Up Mix) sample of Blondie's Heart of Glass". WhoSampled.com. Retrieved 15 July 2013. 
  20. ^ "The Bad Plus's Heart of Glass cover of Blondie's Heart of Glass". WhoSampled.com. Retrieved 15 July 2013. 
  21. ^ "Australia n°1 Hits - 70's". Worldcharts.co.uk. Retrieved 10 June 2013. 
  22. ^ "Blondie – Heart Of Glass – Austriancharts.at" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40.
  23. ^ "Ultratop.be – Blondie – Heart Of Glass" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  24. ^ "Heart of glass in Canadian Adult Contemporary Chart". Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 5 June 2013. 
  25. ^ "Heart of glass in Canadian Disco Singles Chart". Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 5 June 2013. 
  26. ^ "Heart of glass in Canadian Single Chart". Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 31 May 2013. 
  27. ^ "Blondie - Heart Of Glass". Charts.de. Media Control.
  28. ^ "Heart of glass in Irish Chart". IRMA. Retrieved 31 May 2013.  Only one result when searching "Heart of glass"
  29. ^ "The best-selling singles of 1979 in Italy". HitParadeItalia (it). Retrieved 3 June 2013. 
    29. Heart of glass - Blondie [#8]
  30. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Blondie search results" (in Dutch) Dutch Top 40.
  31. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – Blondie – Heart Of Glass" (in Dutch). Mega Single Top 100.
  32. ^ "Charts.org.nz – Blondie – Heart Of Glass". Top 40 Singles.
  33. ^ "Norwegiancharts.com – Blondie – Heart Of Glass". VG-lista.
  34. ^ John Samson. "Heart of glass in South African Chart". Retrieved 31 May 2013. 
  35. ^ "Swedishcharts.com – Blondie – Heart Of Glass". Singles Top 60.
  36. ^ "Blondie – Heart Of Glass – swisscharts.com". Swiss Singles Chart.
  37. ^ a b "Blondie". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 31 May 2013. 
  38. ^ a b c "Blondie awards on Allmusic". Allmusic. Retrieved 31 May 2013. 
  39. ^ "Canadian 1979 Top 100 Singles". Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 24 January 2014. 
  40. ^ "Billboard Top 100 - 1979". Retrieved 2010-12-30. 
  41. ^ "Canadian certifications – Blondie – Heart of Glass". Music Canada. Retrieved 29 March 2012. 
  42. ^ "French certifications – Blondie – Heart of Glass" (in French). Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique. 
  43. ^ "Les Singles en Or :" (in French). Infodisc.fr. Retrieved 29 March 2012. 
  44. ^ "Gold-/Platin-Datenbank (Blondie; 'Heart of Glass')" (in German). Bundesverband Musikindustrie. Retrieved 29 March 2012. 
  45. ^ "British certifications – Blondie – Heart of Glass". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 29 March 2012.  Enter Heart of Glass in the field Search. Select Title in the field Search by. Click Go
  46. ^ Sedghi, Ami (November 4, 2012). "UK's million-selling singles: the full list". The Guardian (London, England: Guardian Media Group). Retrieved November 4, 2012. 
  47. ^ "American single certifications – Blondie – Heart of Glass". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 29 March 2012.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]