The Story Behind The Song: ‘One Way or Another’ Blondie’s rocketship to stardom
We’re taking a look back at one of Blondie’s seminal songs, in fact, arguably the song which propelled the band out fo the grimy New York punk clubs and into the mainstream, free to bathe in the glory of stardom. We find out the story behind Blondie’s ‘One Way or Another’.
Blondie and Debbie Harry may well have had the European market wrapped around their finger by the time they came to record ‘One Way or Another.’ They may well have been the pop-tastic end of the New York cool spectrum but the band still hadn’t cracked America.
It would see the band begin to look outwards for new and invigorating producers to help them achieve their dream of a number one record. That producer was none other than Mike Chapman, the man who had helped the good and the badly glittered of the glam rock age was now getting ready to help launch Blondie into the atmosphere.
As reported in Louder Sound principal songwriter of the group Chris Stein isn’t as convinced “I don’t know if it was that deliberate but certainly Mike Chapman had been involved in a lot of number one records.” Either way, it was hard to ignore the duality of the song. Equally as home in the punk clubs as it was in discos, Blondie had begun to transcend into the pop charts. “It definitely connects punk and pop, especially in the vocals and the raw guitars. It’s got the snarl of punk and the glossiness of pop,” Stein concedes.
Recorded in the summer of 1978 as Blondie were beginning to pull together the pieces of their seminal album Parallel Lines at the Record Plant studio in New York, the song was written by Harry and Nigel Harrison and inspired by an ex-boyfriend of Harry’s who, after their relationship ended, stalked the singer.
She later told Entertainment Weekly, “I was actually stalked by a nutjob so it came out of a not-so-friendly personal event. But I tried to inject a little bit of levity into it to make it more lighthearted. I think in a way that’s a normal kind of survival mechanism. You know, just shake it off, say one way or another, and get on with your life. Everyone can relate to that and I think that’s the beauty of it.”
With the tangible inspiration at the core of the track, the rest of the band went to work on creating the perfect blend of punk’s energy and disco’s purity. It was violent and vibrant still but now it had a glossy sheen sprayed on top. Like when an 18-wheeler gets a sparkling paint job. The song was chock-full of musical elements too.
The track may well be remembered for the sensational lead line on guitar but the bass is a chugging rhythm capable of driving anyone out of their seats and Clem Burke as ever is a metronomic phenom. With all these things in place, plus the odd police siren to boot, Blondie managed to capture the beating heart of New York’s underbelly and married it with Studio 54.
Despite the album largely seeing Blondie becoming the new wave icons they are today, the recording session were more than tense. Chapman was brought in to bring the group together and shine up their diamond in the rough image. It was a gentle repositioning of the band that the group were naturally wary of and it meant they rallied against one another until the final record emerged. When it did, everything changed for Blondie.
Admittedly ‘Heart of Glass’ which had been released before this single may well have seen Blondie find some room on the bIllboard Chart but only teaching number 44 was a sign of the past, ‘One Way Or Another’ may have only reached number 24 but it was the gateway to the future. Blondie had, in effect, invented new wave with the release of this seminal single.
It made Debbie Harry the new strong, sexy and studious songwriter that everybody wanted to be and with it BLondie became one of the most sought-after acts of the decade. They had broken out of New York’s underground and boarded ‘One Way or Another’ as the rocket ship it was and shot straight into the stardom they deserved.
Below watch Blondie perform ‘One Way or Another’ on The Midnight Special