Blondie: Eat To The Beat – US – CD – 
- The Hardest Part
- Union City Blue
- Eat To The Beat
- Accidents Never Happen
- Die Young Stay Pretty
- Slow Motion
- Living In The Real World
I was late to the Blondie train. Like many, I first heard them when “Heart Of Glass” took to the airwaves and entranced a nation. I first heard “Heart Of Glass” in 1978 while visiting relatives in South Carolina. This is important, because the song had not yet gotten to the Orlando airwaves where I had grown up. Alien as it may seem, things moved very slowly in America before the dawn of the 80s and MTV arrived on the scene. Records may build in one market and sweep slowly across the map… or not. The Charleston stations had jumped on that record in advance of the excruciatingly conservative overseers of Orlando’s airwaves. I was struck by the eeriness of the vocal, and how it had minor key verse structure in spite of being a disco song. Most disco did not roll this way! Even though I was burning out on disco by ’78, I mentally checked off the band for future reference. They had… something.
It was the next year when I fell hard for the band. By that time, I had jumped the Top 40 ship for FM Rock, and WDIZ-FM played a new album every night at midnight. When “Eat To The Beat” dropped, they played it in full and didn’t waste more than week or so before buying that album. I played it a lot. When Chrysalis released all of Blondie’s canon on the shiny silver discs in one fell swoop, I immediately bought this one since it was a favorite album that I could not wait to have on CD. By 1985, I’d swapped all of my Blondie LPs for CD trade value; confident that they would be releasing the compact discs soon – and I was right. At the same time, I also bought a CD of the followup album, “Autoamerican,” due to my historical antipathy towards that release, just to see if I had a different take on it at that time [but that’s another story].
The hyperactive power pop of “Dreaming” was the first single from this one and I was appalled as it barely scraped into the US Top 30 at a number 27 that did nothing to honor the song’s exuberant, almost giddy rush. The hyperkinetic drumming of Clem “Lord of the Fills” Burke pummeled this one along furiously while the vocals of Debbie Harry on lead and Ellie Greenwich on backing soared like birds overhead. I delighted whenever Debbie name-checked the preceding album’s “Fade Away And Radiate” in the lyric. This track, like several from the album, would be the last time that Blondie drew on the girl group traditions that had been a formative influence on their kitsch’n’synch aesthetic. I think that once the band moved fully away from that, they kind of lost their artistic moorings. Finally, I also love the energy that Chris Stein’s e-bow guitar adds to this one. It all hangs together tightly and fills me with hope and energy every time I listen to this single. Which, over the course of 37 years has been a prodigious amount!
The notion that Blondie were going to get very eclectic was unleashed with the next track. “The Hardest Part” was a funk rock number about knocking off an armored truck. I recall Blondie hosting The Midnight Special on TV at the time this album was released. The band did a curious blend of live performance, obvious lipsynch, and even a video was played from their ground breaking video album over the course of the evening. I also remember Robert Palmer on the show and a bit of Frippertronics from Robert Fripp himself; he being chummy with Blondie to the point of playing that solo on the aforementioned “Fade Away And Radiate” the previous year. I recall seeing the band perform this song [lipsync] on the show and there was a good reason why; the tune became the second single in North America, but nowhere else. The tune was never heard by me on the airwaves and barely made the Hot 100 at 84.
Next: …Bliss on demand
FOUNDATION BAND ALERT!! Blondie are deep in the roots of my love for music. Debbie is the ultimate flawed Rock Goddess and Blondie helped invent the New Wave without even trying. As a teen growing up in NYC Blondie was part of my musical awakening and I started with them VERY early. As much as I love the breakthrough which Parallel Lines provided, it’s most important contribution is allowing Blondie to make Eat To The Beat. This album easily slots in as one of my Top 10 favorite albums of all time.
Interesting thing about The Hardest Part…now I know there are few to no new sounds or cord progressions left in the world of pop, but no one will ever be able to convince me that The Clash didn’t mine the opening of The Hardest Part for Lightning Strikes on Sandinista!…Those two tracks butt up against each other on dozens of mixtapes I made in the 80s.
Echorich – I totally hear what you are throwing down!
Random observation – there is a children’s CBGB book. It is called “What is Punk” and it’s by Eric Morse. I’m looking forward to the Blondie series, I’m not as passionate about her catalog as present company but I like the history and the comments on these things.
Yes, totally love this one as well. Parallel Lines’ forgotten twin. Dreaming and The Hardest Part are flawless pop rockers, while Atomic is pure disco euphoria.
Well…the Monk well knows that Debbie Harry is my favorite singer/artist/icon/diva/human and I’m an irrationally rabid fanboy. But I’ll (try to) reign all that in while ETTB gets its public review.
Dreaming might be my favorite album opener ever, and those initial 30 seconds from Clem’s drum roll intro ’til Debbie’s knowing lyric commences (“When I met you in the restaurant, you could tell I was no debutante”…sheer perfection) is surely the most thrillingly giddy moment in all of pop music.
Sorry, all I can do is gag on superlatives!
You are right on track Taffy! and if it’s even conceivable, the album just gets better and better with each track.
Echorich – Verily, it is a greatest hits album unto itself… if you’re me.
Taffy – I tried to reign myself in a bit on “Union City Blue;” surely the divine made manifest in pure sound.
Was just about to pop in an reprimand the assemblage for not mentioning “Union City Blue,” truly the band’s most beautiful song. I got in on Blondie with the second album, Plastic Letters, and had to go back retroactively to the first album. Eat to the Beat was very much the culmination of where they were going, and frankly impossible to top, as the decades have shown. Shirley this was one of, if not the, best record of 1985!
chasinvictoria – Well, it first hit CD in 1985, and that’s what I have in the Record Cell, but of course I bought the LP in 1979. It was a monster for me.
Hi Mr. Monk,
Well the permanent records podcast is reviewing this album. They have a link
to your review here also.
I’m not a blondie album fan, i’m more of a single, remix fan.
So i haven’t listened to this yet, maybe at some point i will get around to it.
Anyways, in the 3rd paragraph, you repeat the lines about ‘fade away and radiate’
negative1ne – Thanks for pointing out the mess in paragraph #3. I write this blog and post so fast I shame myself far too often. If only I were leading a life of leisure this blog would finally be more than just hastily posted first drafts. Thanks for letting me know about the error and the podcast appearance again with the Permanent Records team. I have to respect that they cited me on their “Wild” podcast even though they all disagreed with my conclusions. How easy would it have been just to find writing that parroted their editorial views.
Hi, Mr Monk,
They mention you by name at the 1hr:20min, and read parts
of your review out load. They agree a lot more with what
you have to say this time around.
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