After Beastie Boys at #28, we’re staying in New York for the latest in my favourite songs rundown – with “Atomic”, the icily perfect 1980 number one single from Blondie.
And as with Beastie Boys, “the hardest part” is to pick just a single favourite Blondie song – ask me a year or two ago and it would likely have been “Union City Blue”, before that “Hanging On The Telephone”, plus “Heart Of Glass” or “Call Me” are never out of the conversation. Or “Dreaming”. You get the picture (this). “Atomic” wins out as an ideal distillation of all that makes Blondie pretty much the ultimate pop band: jangling guitars anchored by an insistent disco adjacent beat, continually soaring vocal melodies constantly striving higher and higher. Then the eccentric instrumental break halfway through, where even a bit of Seinfeldian slap bass somehow manages to improve a song (accompanied by some “interesting” dancing in the video) before the final push to “make it magnificent, tonight” encouraged by the assertion that “your hair is beautiful, tonight”.
“Atomic” was a UK chart topper early in 1980, and it can sometimes be forgotten just how massively popular Blondie were in those days. They had 5 UK number one singles in just 1979 and 1980 alone (with “Dreaming” just missing out as a number two in late 1979 as well), back when singles were still selling in massive quantities of course. “Heart of Glass”, “Sunday Girl”, “Call Me” and “The Tide Is High” were Blondie’s other 4 records to reach the peak during this imperial phase. With their comeback single “Maria” also hitting the top spot in 1999, Blondie are only one of only 2 US acts to have UK number ones in the 70s, 80s and 90s – along with Michael Jackson, so a handy little nugget of trivia there.
I’m a bit young to remember Blondie’s heyday properly, but have seen them live on their comeback trail just the once, a performance which was notable for being in the strange environs of Kenwood House (north of Hampstead Heath) for an “English Heritage Picnic Concert”. As a review at the time mentioned “CBGBs it ain’t”, but as the write-up also states, Blondie still had “it” – a very different gig experience to what I’m used to, but the sheer power of their songs coupled with Debbie Harry’s ageless magnetism won out, as some of us ran past the carefully pitched picnic chairs to scamper stage front. We were determined to get closer to the action, “one way or another”. Mind you, I’m getting nostalgic even for picnics too at the moment (and my hair is very far from beautiful tonight)…
VIDEOS AND OTHER STUFF
- “Atomic” video on YouTube
- Bonus video: “Dreaming” on TOTP
- Bonus video: “Picture This” on TOTP
- Other great Blondie songs that just missed out include: Union City Blue, Hanging On The Telephone, Picture This, Heart Of Glass, Call Me, Dreaming.
- “Atomic” is featured on my 379 to 50: 26 to 50 Spotify playlist
- Also featured on my 379: Pop Spotify playlist
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