Episode 2.5: PARALLEL LINES

blondie-parallel-lines

Parallel Lines – Blondie – Chrysalis Records – 1978

Perhaps one of the most emblematic albums to come out of the musical melting pot of ’70s New York, Blondie’s 1978 breakthrough Parallel Lines is an explosion of influences and styles. Not quite punk, not quite pop, not quite disco — its roster of songs launched Blondie to a new level of success by combining familiar sounds from a variety of genres, mixing the past with the present and looking towards the future, all while still remaining true to their underground roots.

Each member of the band found themselves pushed out of their comfort zone by producer Mike Chapman, and with this album, they hit upon the formula that would bring forth the distinct, iconic Blondie sound for years of records to come.

In this episode, we parse through the various influences and cultural contexts that make up each song, let our nerd flags fly with sonic connections, and continue our musings and discussion of why late ‘70s New York was such fertile ground for music that has endured for decades.

Listen to Parallel Lines: iTunes | Spotify | YouTube

Subscribe on iTunes

Episode notes and postscript corrections

  • If you missed our guest stint on Little Water Radio’s program The Rest is Noise, listen to the archive of it here. We come on around 39 minutes in.
  • We have a thing for bands born out of CBGB. Check out our episodes on Tom Tom Club and Marquee Moon for more on this scene.
  • If you’ve read our FAQs, you’ll know that we’ve repeatedly said that we’re not trying to cover iconic albums because so much has been said about them already. Parallel Lines, however, is different — we think we have more to add to the conversation.
  • Here’s more about Richard Gottehrer, the producer on Blondie’s first two albums.
  • And here’s some more info on Mike Chapman, who produced Parallel Lines.
  • Six of the 12 tracks on the album were released as singles, and most of them had music videos to go with them. Peep our further watching links below to check them all out.
  • Bop over to our Spotify playlist to hear the Nerves’ original version of “Hanging on the Telephone” back-to-back with Blondie’s cover.
    • Shoutout to Clem Burke for being a gd champ on this album.
    • That double backbeat, tho. YOU KNOW we’ve stacked some ‘60s influencing examples in our master playlist, too.
  • PSA: Swim team practice will be held in the PROJECTION ROOM ABOVE THE AUDITORIUM.
  • Women 👏 owe  👏  Debbie 👏  Harry  👏  a  👏  whole  👏  heck  👏  of  👏  a lot.  👏
  • Watch this if you want to further tease out the Mike Chapman vs. Clem Burke comparison to Jimmy Iovine vs. Stan Lynch.
  • Also, fun fact: Robert Fripp plays guitar on “Fade Away and Radiate.” #TheMoreYouKnow
  • Discuss: Can liking commercial pop music be tasteful?
  • No, but really, we’re going to make a playlist called “Okay… sounds fake, but okay” about songs artists INSIST are totally innocent and innocuous but we definitely know better and they’re not fooling us. Get at us if you have any favorites.
  • Wow wow wow “Heart of Glass” is a lot.
    • Again, we always love to talk ‘70s New York. Hit us up if you wanna educate us or share stories.
    • Yes, disco and punk actually evolved out of the same geographic location and similar subcultures. Read this fantastic oral history of disco from Vanity Fair for more.
    • Listen to Blondie covering “I Feel Love,” then head over to our master playlist to hear the early demo “Once I Had a Love.”
    • Oh, and, also, shoutout to Kraftwerk.
  • There are a ton of bands that draw massive influence from Blondie — we’ve got a lot for you to listen to over on Spotify.
  • Blondie disbanded in 1982, but reformed in 1997 and are still around and kicking ass now. We highly recommend their latest album Pollinator for how well it merges the classic Blondie aesthetic with 2017 — something that’s not easy for many legacy bands to do. They avoid both the pitfalls of an old band trying to sound young and relevant and an old band too stuck in their past. Dig.
  • Thanks for being Blondie, Blondie.

Favorite track(s): 11:59 and Heart of Glass (Carly) | Sunday Girl and Hanging on the Telephone (Carrie)
Least favorite track: I Know But I Don’t Know (Carly) | 11:59 (Carrie)

Album credits:
Deborah Harry – vocals
Chris Stein – guitar, 12-string guitar, E-bow
Clem Burke – drums
Jimmy Destri – electric keyboards
Nigel Harrison – bass guitar
Frank Infante – guitar

Further Watching:
Inside the Music: Blondie’s New York | 2014
Blondie’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction | 2006
Rock and Roll Punk (Blondie comes in around part 2)| 1995
Nightmoves interview | 1978
“Hanging on the Telephone” music video
“Picture This” music video 
“Heart of Glass” music video

Further Reading:
Blondie’s Parallel Lines (from the 33 ⅓ book series) | 2016
Chris Stein / Negative: Me, Blondie, and the Advent of Punk | 2014
Making Tracks: The Rise of Blondie* (Ed note: this is mostly photography, but is co-authored by Debbie Harry and Chris Stein. We only recommend authorized/legit biographies in our notes, ya feel?) 

Debbie Harry: June/July Cover Star (in-depth profile of both Debbie and Pollinator) | Nylon (May 2017)
There’s Something About Harry | Harpers Bazaar (March 2017)
Why Did ‘70s Rock Music Hate Disco So Much? | Noisey (February 2016)
Blondie: Success and Sexism | Mojo (March 2014)
35 Years Ago: Blondie Release Parallel Lines | Ultimate Classic Rock (September 2013)
Parallel Lines re-release review | Pitchfork (August 2008)
Parallel Lines review | Rolling Stone (November 1982)
Robert Christgau’s OG review | 1978

Episode 14: COMPUTER WORLD

computerworld

COMPUTER WORLD – Kraftwerk – Warner Bros. Records – 1981

If you imagine a Venn diagram of musical genres, you may not immediately think of Kraftwerk being the common ground for artists creating and performing pop-rock, funk, soul, and hip-hop. Yet, there in the middle, connecting them all, is that small electronic band from Düsseldorf: four men who blurred the line between human capability and digital precision.

Ironically, the band that would go on to inspire musicians from all genres never aspired to make names for themselves individually. Seeking only to expand the scope of musical technology and to comment on a changing world, Kraftwerk’s music grew to be so profound that they came to be known as the “Beatles of electronic music.”

At the onset of accessible computer technology in the early ‘80s, Kraftwerk released Computer World. Listening to it today, in our society so inundated with all things digital, it is impossible not to marvel at what a harbinger it was of things to come. In this episode, we are joined by Kid Ginseng, DJ and head of New York electro-funk label Kraftjerkz, and lifelong Kraftwerk listener. Our discussion is a deep-dive into their background and influence, highlighting an artist who is continuing Kraftwerk’s legacy today.

Listen to Computer World: iTunes | Spotify | YouTube

Subscribe on iTunes

(ps — while you’re there, please rate and review us in the iTunes store so more people can discover us and we can all be friends who talk about music together!) 

Episode notes and postscript corrections

  • First and foremost, a special thank you to our first guest, Kid Ginseng. If you dig electro music and turntablism, or just want something different and funky to dance to, check out the albums he releases from his label Kraftjerkz.
  • We love old music, but we love new music, too, and with our special guest episodes, we’ll be bridging the gap between the two. As we’ve said before — you have to know where you came from to know where you’re going.
  • “Numbers” is a template for current electro beats. Listen to the track here for an idea of what that sounds like.
  • If you don’t have Planet Rock,” then you probably aren’t a good DJ. Just saying.
    • Peep our further reading section for more info about how revolutionary “Planet Rock” was in the hip-hop scene.
    • Hit up our Spotify playlist to hear some of the similar tracks, like “Cosmic Cars,” and pick out the connections.
  • No, really, Kraftwerk used Texas Instruments tools to create music. Way better than hacking your TI-83 to play some off-brand version of Super Mario Brothers in calc class. Not that we did that in high school. Of course we didn’t do that.
  • Kraftwerk probably predicted the nightmare that is online dating and the rise of Tinder, which is pretty pre-woke.
  • Talk about the double-edged sword of technology with us for a second. Yes, technology makes the creative process of making music accessible and open to innovation for almost anyone — good. But, it makes creating music accessible for almost anyone i.e. people don’t necessarily need skills anymore because they can rely on a machine to do it all for them — bad.
  • Kraftwerk was woke — they only used state of the art technology and recorded in the best of the best studios.
  • It feels partially quaint and partially eerie how accurate and prophetic a concept album about the rise of home computing made in the early ‘80s was, doesn’t it? 
  • Read more here about how they began incorporating sequencing on their Man-Machine album.
  • Emil Schult is a lowkey BAMF.
  • No, really, Kraftwerk stans cycling pretty hard.
  • Debate: Is Kraftwerk funky?
  • Hello, fellow millennials! That Coldplay song you love so much is actually built out of Kraftwerk’s melody on “Computer Love.” One good thing: they actually got permission before they used it, which apparently was an issue with people sampling Kraftwerk before.
    • Ugh. We hate lists so much sometimes, but here’s what Pitchfork had to say about “Computer Love” in their 200 Best Songs of the ‘80s list (scroll to number 53). It’s a pretty good blurb.
  • Late ‘90s/early 2000s electroclash takes a huge page out of Kraftwerk’s book — peep our Spotify playlist for some examples.
  • Sorry for talking about LCD Soundsystem again (but not really because it’s relevant).
  • Johnny Rotten + Kraftwerk = World Destruction.
  • Okay, but really. Sofia Coppola cannot curate a bad soundtrack, and the impeccable Marie Antoinette soundtrack is no exception to this opinion.
    • Aphex Twin draws inspiration and samples from Kraftwerk so often — again, hit up our master playlist to listen to some examples.
  • Here are two brief lists of notable times Kraftwerk was sampled: in hip-hop and from Computer World in general.
  • Hi! Do you have opinions about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? We would love to opine with you! Get at us on Facebook, on Twitter, or over email, if you have a taste for salt.

Album credits:
Ralf Hütter – album concept, artwork reconstruction, cover, electronics, keyboards, mixing, Orchestron, production, recording, Synthanorma Sequenzer, synthesiser, vocoder, voice
Florian Schneider – album concept, cover, electronics, mixing, production, recording, speech synthesis, synthesiser, vocoder
Karl Bartos – electronic percussion
Emil Schult – cover

Further watching: 
Kraftwerk: Pop Art documentary | 2013
Kraftwerk & the The Electronic Revolution | 2013
“Computer World” live at the Tate Modern | 2013

Further reading: 
The 50 Greatest Hip-Hop Songs of All Time | Rolling Stone (December 2012) 
Sound Machine: How did a pop band end up in a museum? | The New Yorker (April 2012)
Kraftwerk Day Five: 1981 ‘Computer World’ Invents Electronic Funk | Rolling Stone (April 2012)
Who Knew That Robots Were Funky? | The New York Times (December 2009)
Kraftwerk: I Was a Robot | 2017
Kraftwerk: Man, Machine and Music | 2001