Just over five years ago I published the first songbook on these pages – Blondie’s Parallel Lines, which led to the first of our album / theme nights. 34 song books and 17 theme nights later, we’ve almost come full circle, but this time it’s an album that collects together the very very best of Blondie from their golden era.
The Best Of Blondie was the first Blondie compilation, released at the end of 1981 when the band were very much at the height of their powers (and thankfully before the huge disappointment that was The Hunter, their last album before their split). As such it is – in my opinion – an unrivalled collection of the songs that really made the band. Comprising just the singles (and in this instance I’ve followed the track listing of the International version, not the North American version) it really is banger after banger, and highlights the richness and variety that made up the bands oeuvre. So for every power-pop classic (and there are plenty of those – from the likes of “Picture This” and “Dreaming”), you also get swooning sixties girl-group and pop (“In The Flesh”, “Denis”), pure pop (“Sunday Girl”), disco (“Heart of Glass”, “Atomic” – the latter complete with a spaghetti western vibe), reggae (“The Tide Is High”) and rap (“Rapture”).
The band had originally emerged from the punk scene centred around New York’s CBGBs club – a venue that had a pivotal role in the careers of a huge number of bands around that time, from Talking Heads and Patti Smith to Television and The Ramones. Although associated with the punk scene, Blondie were always far more than the rather formulaic perception that label seems to conjure up. Whilst their first couple of albums (1977s Blondie, and 1978s Plastic Letters) were certainly inspired by the “I’ll do it my way” mentality of Punk, they were far more of a prototypical New Wave sound – especially when compared to contemporaries like The Ramones – and were shot through with the spirit of 1960s pop. Both albums were instrumental in building the band a fan base and a level of success both domestically and internationally.
But it was with 1978s Parallel Lines that the band really broke through. Produced by Michael Chapman, it was deliberately engineered to create a more commercial sound. And boy, did they succeed. Four / five (depending on how you count) huge hit singles, worldwide sales of 16 million, and Blondie were everywhere – undoubtedly the most successful band of their time, and with Debbie Harry at the front, the most recognisable. Everything they did turned to gold, and Parallel Lines follow-up, Eat To The Beat was – if not as consistent, was a successful continuation. But with 1980’s Autoamerican the band took something of a radical departure, broadening their musical palette with a variety of influences, from rap and reggae to jazz, electronics and orchestral.
The Best Of Blondie stops there – thankfully! 1982’s The Hunter was a mess, poorly received both critically and commercially, and saw the band breaking up 6 months later. A late 1990s reformation has seen a steady stream of new material (including the number one single, Maria), but in truth, it is the songs on The Best Of Blondie that are what sustains people’s love for the band. Classic’s every one, this music, this record, is timeless.
So here it is – The Best Of Blondie songbook. Obviously there are some overlaps with Parallel Lines, and in the process of pulling this together I’ve tweaked some of those (and updated the Parallel Lines songbook in the process). Most of these songs are relatively simple, and I’ve done a bit of transposing of some of the songs to make them even easier. Rapture is likely to be the most challenging, but that’s more for the rapping than the playing. And there’s the French version of Sunday Girl. But this is a book to be played from start to end, and sung out loud. So Enjoy!
As well as the full songbook, you can also find individual song sheets for each song – links below: