The Blondie album Parallel Lines was released 45 years ago, in September 1978. There were so many issues in the recording studio it’s amazing how great it turned out to be. This was the third studio album from Blondie, you’d expect that they’d understand the correct approach to record an album. But that doesn’t seem to be the case for Parallel Lines.
It appears as though the whole recording process for the album was pretty fraught. Producer Mike Chapman seemed to have his work cut out for Parallel Lines. There were a number of difficulties he had to face up to in the studio.
Reports indicate that guitarist Chris Stein was under the influence of drugs during recording and was diverted by Chapman towards writing songs more than playing. The keyboard player, Jimmy Destri, seemed to struggle with his instrument, and the drummer, Clem Burke, suffered from poor timing.
Singer Debbie Harry was at times moody and emotional, spending hours at a time in tears in the bathroom. Some of the song lyrics were being written just minutes before they were sung, causing added frustration in the studio.
Chapman makes Parallel Lines a hit for Blondie
Throw in the fact that, apart from the ongoing relationship between Harry and Stein, the band didn’t really like or get along with each other, and you have a producer's nightmare. But Chapman persisted, coaxing the best out of each of the band. He organised the optimal way to lay down each track to maximise the recordings.
And with all credit to Chapman, the output was a tremendous record, a No1 UK album hit, a commercial US success, and an amazing worldwide single success for “Heart Of Glass”. The album had several more hit singles in the UK with "Picture This" and “Sunday Girl” all doing well in the charts, especially in the UK. That UK success was confirmed with Parallel Lines becoming the top seller in the UK album charts in 1979.
Those songs bring back amazing memories of the time. Blondie were such a great band and the songs were very fresh and new. As listeners we had no awareness of all the recording difficulties and cheerfully sang along and danced to the tunes. Terrific times indeed!