Heart of Glass (song)

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For the Werner Herzog film, see Heart of Glass (film).
"Heart of Glass"
Single by Blondie
from the album Parallel Lines
Released January 1979 (1979-01)
Format
Recorded June 1978, Record Plant, New York City
Genre
Length 3:22 (7-inch version)
5:50 (12-inch version)
Label Chrysalis
Writer(s)
Producer(s) Mike Chapman
Certification see below
Blondie singles chronology
"Hanging on the Telephone"
(1978)
"Heart of Glass"
(1979)
"Sunday Girl"
(1979)
Audio sample
file info · help
UK picture sleeve

"Heart of Glass" is a song by the American new wave band Blondie, written by singer Debbie 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 reached number one on 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.[1] It was ranked at number 259 when the list was updated in April 2010.[2] Slant Magazine placed it at number 42 on their list of the greatest dance songs of all time[3] and Pitchfork named it the 18th best song of the 1970s.[4]

Currently, "Heart of Glass" is ranked at number 56 in the UK's official list of biggest selling singles of all-time with sales of 1.3 million copies.[5]

French music producer and DJ Bob Sinclar and Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bündchen recorded a cover version of "Heart of Glass" in 2014 that became an international European hit. The song is a charity single for the H&M 2014 campaign.[6] The royalties from Gisele's single are for raising funds for UNICEF.[7]

Blondie version[edit]

Background[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 the band referred to it as "The Disco Song".[8][9] 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."[9] 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."[9]

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 Harry and Stein to give the song a disco twist. On other occasions, Chapman has credited Harry with the idea.[10] 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".[11]

In an interview published in the February 4, 1978 edition of NME, 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".[12] 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.[13] 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."[14]

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 Euro disco, 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."[8]

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.

A 5:50 version of "Heart of Glass" was first released as 12-inch single in December 1978.[15][16] Some radio stations in the US were reluctant to play the song because of the "pain in the ass" lyric, so an edited 7-inch single was released in January 1979.[16][17] The original album version was released as a single in the UK where the BBC bleeped out the offending word. 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."[9]

The single reached number one on the singles charts in the US and the UK. In the US, the single was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America in April 1979, representing sales of one million copies. In the UK, it was certified Platinum by the British Phonographic Industry in February 1979 for sales of 600,000 copies.

The song is associated with the disco and new wave genres.[18][19]

Mixes

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

  • Original album version – 3:54
  • Single edit – 3:22
    • Used for US/Canada 7" releases
  • Disco version – 5:50
    • Used for 12" releases and Germany/Netherlands 7" releases; replaced original album version on all future pressings of Parallel Lines.
  • Disco mix edit – 4:12
  • Special mix – 4:33

Production[edit]

"Heart of Glass" was recorded at the Record Plant in New York City in June 1978.[20] 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 polyphonic 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."[9]

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 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.[21] 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."[9]

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 they 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".[9] 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."[9]

In the video Harry wears a silver asymmetrical dress designed by Stephen Sprouse.[9][22] 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."[23] The popularity of the song helped Sprouse's work earn a lot of exposure from the media.[24] Harry also said that the T-shirts used by the male members of the band in the video were made by herself.[9]

"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."[25] 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."[26]

Track listings and formats[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.

Chart performance[edit]

Remixes and samplings[edit]

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.

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

Blondie re-recorded the song for the 2014 compilation album Greatest Hits Deluxe Redux. The compilation was part of a 2-disc set called Blondie 4(0) Ever which included their 10th studio album Ghosts of Download and marked the 40th anniversary of the forming of the band.

Gisele & Bob Sinclar version[edit]

"Heart of Glass"
Single by Gisele and Bob Sinclar
Released April 29, 2014[7]
Format Digital download
Length 3:04
Label Ultra
Writer(s)
Producer(s) Bob Sinclar
Gisele singles chronology
"All Day and All of the Night"
(2013)
"Heart of Glass"
(2014)
Bob Sinclar singles chronology
"Cinderella (She Said Her Name)"
(2013)
"Heart of Glass"
(2014)
"I Want You"
(2014)

Background[edit]

In 2014, the Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bündchen went into the recording studio with French music producer and DJ Bob Sinclar to record a cover version of Blondie's "Heart of Glass" for H&M.[70][71] She is credited on the single by her mononym Gisele. The song is Gisele's and Sinclar's charity single for the H&M 2014 campaign.[6] Bündchen spoke to the fashion trade magazine Women's Wear Daily about the opportunity of working with Sinclar on "Heart of Glass" stating: "I never in a million years thought that I would record a song and to work with a producer like Bob."[71][7] A year earlier, she had recorded and released a cover version of the Kinks' "All Day and All of the Night" as her contribution to the H&M 2013 charity campaign.[6]

Reception[edit]

The "Heart of Glass" single was issued on the Ultra Records label and was officially released on April 29, 2014.[7] The new version turned out to be an international hit charting in a great number of European singles charts including France at number 31, reaching number 73 in Germany, peaking at number 28 in Poland, number 27 in Spain, number 31 in Hungary, number 63 in Austria and at number 16 in Belgium. All proceeds from the song are to go towards helping to raise funds for UNICEF.[7] The radio edit single version is available on iTunes.[72]

Music video[edit]

The "Heart of Glass" music video by Gisele and Bob Sinclar shows her dancing on a beach.[73] The video also features Bündchen's vocal rendition of the song as the supermodel poses in sexy beachwear.[74] The music video made its premier on the morning television show Good Morning America.[74][75]

Track listings and format[edit]

US Digital
  1. "Heart of Glass" (Radio Edit Version) (Debbie Harry, Chris Stein) – 3:04[76]
US Digital (UL5303)
  1. "Heart of Glass" (Club Extended) (D. Harry, C. Stein) – 4:16[77]

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (2014) Peak
position
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[78] 63
Belgium (Ultratip Wallonia)[79] 16
Belgium Dance (Ultratop Wallonia)[80] 35
France (SNEP)[81] 31
Germany (Official German Charts)[82] 73
Hungary (Single Top 40)[83] 31
Poland (Dance Top 50)[84] 28
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[85] 27

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]