While some songs land at your feet, notes splashing on the floor like the first drops of a thunderstorm, most tracks are taken from the writer’s beating heart. Lifting themes and characters from one’s own life isn’t only the perceivable easier option and adds an attainable realism that can so often be missing from pop songs. However, sometimes, realism can transcend the realm of grit so often preferred by the angrier side of music and land into a far scarier space. For Blondie’s ‘One Way Or Another’, the latter is certainly true.
The song became the anthem that would propel Debbie Harry and her band Blondie into the stratosphere. 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 poptastic end of the New York cool spectrum, but the band still hadn’t cracked America. ‘One Way Or Another’ would be the track to stick its foot in the door and open up some huge opportunities for Blondie. However, the song’s inception comes from a far darker place.
‘One Way Or Another’ was the moment Blondie truly arrived, and they owe a huge debt of gratitude to their producer Mike Chapman. Seen as a man who could guarantee a hit, Chapman began working with the new wave outfit on the song, and it soon kicked itself up a gear. It seemed as though it was Chapman’s introduction that pushed Blondie into new realms.
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 famous Record Plant studio in New York. Despite the upbeat tone of the track and the never say die attitude that permeates each note, the song wasn’t inspired by attitude or desire but an obsession. 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.”
Debbie Harry has often been in the middle of such serious situations, but it has only enhanced her songwriting skill. In truth, the song made Harry appear as 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, all on the back of a song about a stalker.