Release date: 23 September 1978
UK chart peak: #1
Running time: 39:06
Singles: Picture This (#12), Hanging on the Telephone (#5), Heart of Glass (#1), Sunday Girl (#1)
Although Blondie had enjoyed success prior to Parallel Lines, this was the album that brought them attention across the globe, hitting the top 40 in Italy & Finland (#11), Norway (#16) & Austria (#24), with top ten hits in Australia & Canada (#2), the Netherlands & Portugal (#7), Germany & Sweden (#9), New Zealand (#3), and the USA (#6).
1978 was something of a transitional phase in popular music; the volatile punk culture started to lose a bit of its initial intensity, leading to the birth of new wave, and disco’s popularity continued. Around the time of this release, the soundtracks to both Grease and Saturday Night Fever were riding high (at #5 and #4, respectively), Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds made it to the top ten (#6) and Boney M bagged a number one with Nightflight to Venus. In the singles charts, The Commodores (Three Times A Lady) and 10CC (Dreadlock Holiday) tussled for the number one slot, Siouxsie and the Banshees reached #7 with Hong Kong Garden, and David Essex charted at #5 with Oh What A Circus.
Parallel Lines ended up becoming Blondie’s most successful album, breaking through on the strength of number one smash hit Heart of Glass. Up until this point, the band had faced a period of instability as the line-up kept getting tinkered with – though by the time of Parallel Lines‘ release, they had finally settled as a six-piece: Debbie Harry (vocals), Chris Stein (guitar), Clem Burke (drums), Frank Infante (guitar), Nigel Harrison (bass), Jimmy Destri (keyboards).
After years of intending to listen to this album, I finally had the perfect excuse by way of the 1,000th #TimsTwitterListeningParty – not that I should have needed an excuse! This album fizzes with the raw energy of a debut album, despite it being Blondie’s third; over 40 years on and it still feels incredibly fresh. Every song is under four minutes long (many around the three-minute mark), so it zips through the track listing really quickly – also helped by the plethora of hits and radio playlist favourites dotted across the record.
As ever, it’s really tough to pick favourites as this is an incredibly strong album – the perfect pop-punk package. Until recently I had no idea that Hanging on the Telephone wasn’t an original; it’s a cover of a track by The Nerves, a fellow American new wave band – possibly the fact that they were contemporaries helped the style of the song to gel very naturally. Saying that, the Buddy Holly cover (I’m Gonna Love You Too) also fits the band perfectly, so maybe it’s just excellent decision-making on their part! One way to select highlights is perhaps to think about which songs I would put on repeat and not find myself reaching for the ‘skip’ button; One Way or Another definitely fits this bracket (with a newfound appreciation for the guitar solo), as does Picture This and – a new album track discovery for me – 11:59. I also can’t not mention Heart of Glass, that magical blend of new wave & disco which lost some of its sparkle a few years back by radio overplay, but now that really isn’t an issue.
The Greatest Show
Blondie were on the road pretty much non-stop throughout 1978 & 1979, including the US (3 July until 11 August) & UK (9-16 September) legs of the Parallel Lines tour. Boyfriends & Rockpile were amongst the support acts for these dates. The band even completed another world tour for the album’s 30th anniversary (June until August 2008).
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