Debbie Harry is the poster-girl of the new wave scene and for good reason, with Blondie managing to make punk songs dressed up in the shape of pop-friendly radio hits that didn’t compromise the ethos that the band had put in stone when they began back in ’74.
In 1980 Blondie, by the time the band had got round to releasing their fourth record Eat To The Beat on which ‘Atomic’ featured, they were riding a wave off the back of Parallel Lines which took the New Yorkers from relative obscurity to one of the coolest acts in the world.
Blondie managed to redefine the idea of New York cool in the two years leading up to the release of Eat To The Beat and expectations were high in the build-up to the release. As the whole world questioned whether the LP could match the quality of its predecessor which featured the monster hits ‘Heart Of Glass’ and ‘One Way Or Another’.
Unsurprisingly, Debbie Harry and the band didn’t feel this pressure one bit and went on to produce another chart-topping record in the UK and one of the highest-selling albums in the decade across in America. The one track that encapsulates all the chic bruising energy that Harry provided is ‘Atomic’. The track captured the band their fourth UK number-one single and cemented their place at the mountain top of music.
Harry said in the book,1000 UK #1 Hits by Jon Kutner and Spencer Leigh, “He (Jimmy Destri) was trying to do something like ‘Heart of Glass’, and then somehow or another we gave it the spaghetti western treatment. Before that it was just lying there like a lox.
The lyrics, well, a lot of the time I would write while the band were just playing the song and trying to figure it out. I would just be scatting along with them and I would just start going, ‘Ooooooh, your hair is beautiful.'”
‘Atomic’ showcases Blondie’s versatility. It showcases how they can create a pop masterpiece such as this one minute then and make a rock anthem like ‘One Way Or Another’ the next. One thing that is perhaps understated in Blondie is that Debbie Harry was seen as the looks of the outfit and her striking image can sometimes wrongly overshadow what an incredible vocalist she is. She is the personification of the whole New Wave era but also one of its most talented artists.
There’s no better way to enjoy Harry’s talent than hearing ‘Atomic’ with the track stripped to just the vocals isolated where you can hear her stunning range in full flow.