Among the conversations with Lileks the other night at the MOB party - a revelation about Blondie's "Call Me":
Blondie killed New Wave. It started with “Heart of Glass,” which sounded fresh and new-wavey when it debuted, but now sounds like music to wear Halston shoes by. It wasn’t New Wave, of course, but Blondie came out of the CBGB world, so they were grouped with Television, the Talking Heads, the Ramones, and other groups. I’m sure they fit the mold early on, but they went mainstream faster than any other group, culminating in the Great Sell-Out of 1980: “Call Me.” The idea that a CBGB group should make a record with Giogio Morodor, king of flaccid mechanical synth-pop, was heresy. Heresy!Blondie always bugged me. They highlighted - badly, usually - the big difference between "Wave" and "Punk"; Punk was raw, brash and authentic; New Wave slathered on the attitude, the style and the irony.
Irony? Debbie Harry started as a Playboy bunny, then sang in "The Stilettos", a faux-cabaret act that specialized in trashy girl-group covers, a hanger-on to the whole CBGB scene. Blondie was to New Wave what Billy Idol (and before that, Generation X) were to punk, or Creed was to grunge; a face and a voice in the right place at the right time; technically the "real thing", but just a bit...too...perfect.
I actually loved "Dreaming", one of their lesser-known hits, a song where Clem Burke's Keith Moon-like drumming overshadows Debbie Harry's preening.
I was working in a bar when that accursed song came out, and it played 10 times a night; every night, a stab in my heart! New Wave had been co-opted! No one who ever stood on the same stage as Tom Verlaine can sing “roll me in designer sheets” – somewhere, Lou Reed sat down, and yea he wept.I was working at my first radio job in 1980 when I heard it for the first time (on the "American Top Forty" show with Casey Kasem, natch). After the glorious power-pop of Eat To The Beat, hearing that mechanical, Giorgio Moroder drone was...depressing.
But there's a revelation:
Well. The other night “American Gigolo” was on, and I watched it for the first time in (gulp) a quarter century [Heh - Ed.]. Even though it was shot inLileks links to both audio files - go check 'em out.
’79, it’s very much a movie of the 80s - reasonable lapels, venetian blinds, pretty pictures set to synthetic music. The “Call Me” tune appears in 18,209 variations, but my ears perked up when I heard the Blondie version used in the credits.
Straight forward guitar chords. Now here’s the movie version, again, by Blondie. Note the difference. The chords are different – augmented, I believe. Much jazzier, and somehow more elegantly corrupt. Almost makes it a better song, doesn't it? That's what radio was like in 1980: they had to dumb down "Call Me" to make it palatable.I can almost picture a meeting at Chrysalis Records in 1980:
SLICK EXECUTIVE: "Call Me, huh? I like it..."I'm going to put on Eat To The Beat now and forget the whole thing. Posted by Mitch at September 6, 2005 07:20 AM | TrackBack
GIORGIO MORODER: "Great!"
MORODER: (alarmed) "But?"
EXEC: "Gotta lose those funny notes..."
MORODER: "Augmented notes? Sevenths and ninths?"
EXEC: "Whatever. Yeah, those. Jazz doesn't play in Peoria"
MORODER: "It's not jazz, it's just a..."
EXEC: "Look, lose the funny notes, or you got no single!"