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Music

Remembering when Blondie collaborated with Blood Orange

As a band, Blondie needs no real introduction. The New York legends were formed by frontwoman Debbie Harry and guitarist Chris Stein in 1974 and had been cutting their teeth on their synth augmented post-punk for a long time before the punk explosion opened the world of music up to new and infinite possibilities in 1976. 

Although their first two records are exceptional, 1976’s Blondie and 1977’s Plastic Letters, their third effort, 1978’s Parallel Lines, is universally hailed as their masterpiece. It broke the band into the mainstream, and their refreshing mix of disco, punk and reggae showed the masses that being confined to one genre was a thing of the past. The future was here, and fluidity was the name of the game. 

Boasting the enduring hits ‘Heart of Glass’ and ‘Hanging On the Telephone’, Parallel Lines remains a classic and a must-have in any music lover’s collection. On the back of Parallel LinesBlondie proved themselves to be a colourful star, marking themselves out from the monochrome and somewhat derivative landscape of post-punk. 

They had their secret weapon in Debbie Harry, and taking the baton from the likes of Grace Slick, Aretha Franklin and Janis Joplin, she and Patti Smith showed that women could rodeo with the men in music and supersede them, showing them how to do it. Harry gave Blondie their real USP, and it is her who really continues to inspire today. 

Although their career afterwards was meandering and produced many misfires, you cannot criticise Blondie for refusing to allow themselves to be consigned to the dustbin of history or as a kitsch act. Since they reunited in 1997, after a 15-year hiatus, the band has consistently produced music, delighting their unwavering fanbase.

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One of the highlights of Blondie’s second wind came with 2017’s Pollinator, their eleventh studio effort. A return to form by all accounts, it saw the old Blondie that we all love return to the fore, in the most triumphant fashion. The highlight of the album was undoubtedly ‘Long Time’, and it was via the magic of one of the contemporary era’s best songwriters, Dev Hynes, AKA Blood Orange, that Blondie were able to signal their most recent artistic triumph. 

Harking back to the disco-leaning sound of their best days, ‘Long Time’ shares many dynamic and musical similarities to 1979’s mega-hit ‘Heart of Glass’. Whilst you could argue that it was a cynical rehash of an old formula, it worked and breathed life into a band that many had thought were gradually turning slightly stale. A heady piece, this was Blondie lifted by the wonders of the modern recording studio. 

“I’ve been running circles round a night that never ends,” Harry sings. “I’ve been chasing heartache in a city and a friend / I’ve been with you so long, even seen you lose / But who cares?”. A candid ode to New York City and all its idiosyncrasies, including a reference to 9/11, the most surprising part of the track was the verve with which Harry delivered her vocal performance. 

A defiant anthem in the face of old age and the ever-changing music industry, ‘Long Time’ is one of the key reasons why Blondie have remained active for the past five years. It showed that there was still life in them yet, and that, if anything, via the genius of Dev Hynes, there were many thematic and musical areas to be tapped into, something that they’ve continued to expand on today.

Listen to ‘Long Time’ below.