One great thing about Blondie is that you couldn’t really identify their sound. They came up in the NYC downtown scene of the ’70s, and much like the bands they are associated with (Talking Heads, The Police, The Clash, even The Beastie Boys), they pulled musical influences from all over the place.
“Heart of Glass” was Blondie’s first major hit single, climbing all the way to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 in early 1979. This was the height of rock/disco fusion. The waning days of ’78 saw the Rolling Stones hit with “Miss You” and Rod Stewart have a worldwide smash with “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?” Both songs borrowed liberally from the danceable sounds sweeping clubs worldwide. Debbie Harry must have been at least somewhat plugged into the NY disco scene, and the success of “Heart of Glass” certainly increased her profile in two demographics that would ultimately have major love for her and also comprised a sizable quantity of the folks who loved (and started) disco: queer folks and Black folks. I remember hearing “Heart of Glass” being played periodically in the household as a toddler, and Blondie was a known quantity in my childhood (although my older relatives thought Debbie Harry was Blondie and they weren’t a band).
At any rate, “Heart of Glass” was a massive success and it’s a fantastic record. The production absolutely shimmers. There’s also a cutting-edge element to it. “Heart of Glass” is one of the earliest songs to feature a drum machine. The Roland CR-78 provided “Glass” with its memorable opening, and provides the songs pulse along with Clem Burke’s propulsive live drumming (one other fantastic song to deftly combine live drumming with programmed drums? “Billie Jean”.)
Debbie Harry has this weird deadpan way of singing that kind of pulls you in. It’s somewhere between “sex kitten” and “ice queen”, and she uses it to great effect on “Heart of Glass”. That deadpan vocal style also translated into a lot of her televised performances (including Blondie’s videos), although that vacant look in her eyes might just be the after-effects of cocaine. I mean, it was the ’70s.