Parallel Lines 2001 Liner Notes CD Booklet
I was sent to the Gramercy Park Hotel to meet them. That's
where they were living. The hotel was old and dark. Very dark. I found their room, knocked, and the door opened. Chris Stein stood there in the hallway. The room was dark and small. I was lead into their bedroom where, seated on the floor in the corner, was an expressionless but beautiful girl. "Hi," she said. That was it. So different from the girl I had seen onstage not long before at the Whisky in L.A. There she was loose, animated, crazy. Here she was dark, silent and serious. Very unnerving.
Chris told me to sit on the bed. There was silence for a full minute or two as we examined each other. "They do not trust me," I thought. "They think I've been sent to destroy their music." We all just sat there. I tried to make small-talk. That didn't work either. They lived in a world I knew nothing about. People I didn't understand were their friends. They went places I would never go. Did things I would never do. They were New York. I was L.A. This was difficult.
"Wanna hear some songs?" Chris asked.
"That's what I'm here for" was all I could manage.
In the next half hour I heard one creative and beautiful song idea after the other. They were all there, the embryos of a musical masterpiece. My life with Blondie had begun. For better or worse.
Rehearsals began soon after.
I found the rest of the group to be pretty accessible. They even knew some of my musical history. To Debbie and Chris that stuff was somewhat irrelevant.
At the first rehearsal we worked on Heart Of Glass. This proved to be a blessing and a huge step forward in cementing our working relationship. It was a great idea that needed to be put into the right shape to find a home on American radio playlists. Since both Debbie and Chris were intrigued by the current disco avalanche that was sweeping the country, we decided to go there with the arrangement. Walking down the street after rehearsal, Debbie caught up with me, sort of smiled and said, "I really like what you did with Heart Of Glass." The ice had started to melt.
For the next couple of months we buried ourselves in the album. Rehearsals were hard. The group didn't know what hit them. I was a taskmaster when I worked. Everything had to be as good as it possibly could be. Before I came along, the band had been pretty casual in their approach to recording. I raised the bar to a point they didn't know existed. Tempos had to be perfect. Clem Burke was a gifted drummer but he was totally out of control. I was his worst nightmare. It was a tough adjustment in the beginning, but together we turned chaos into order. His playing became a very important part of the Blondie sound.
Nigel Harrison and I got off on entirely the wrong foot. During the basic track recording of Heart Of Glass I rode him so hard he threatened to take me apart piece by piece if I didn't back off. For days after that I was worried that we would never make it work. I was soon to discover that they all felt pretty much the same way. No one was happy with my technique. But it had worked for me for years with other artists, so I pushed on.
Jimmy Destri was the other mountain for me to climb. He was Mr. Popstar. He was, in fact, the closest to the kind of personalities I was accustomed to working with so at least we started off in the right place. But his relationship with Debbie and Chris was volatile. I was soon to discover that Jimmy felt his songs were as relevant to the project as theirs and he made no secret of it. He was a good writer, and when Debbie and he agreed on something they came up with some important music. It was just so hard to get there.
I saw Nigel's writing relationship with Debbie start to develop as we went along, and together they gave us One Way Or Another. Not a bad beginning.
But it was Debbie and Chris who gave us the pop gems. Their relationship was pure magic and I was constantly blown away by their genius. I always felt so fortunate to be producing these amazing songs.
The most difficult task I had as their producer, though, had little to do with the music. It was their fragile and delicate personalities. Each one of them came with a truckload of complications. There was never a day free of arguments and clashes with each other. Never a moment when I didn't have to watch every word I said. I was constantly walking in glass.
Frankie Infante should have been the least of our problems. During the whole album he
became my biggest challenge. He was a perfect guitar player for the band. Didn't say much, went about his business and stayed out of the way. Played everything great and did it quickly. I was unaware of the problem this created for Chris. Blondie was his band. He was the guitar player, and as such it was very important for him to play all the parts. Then why was Frankie in the band at all? As time went on, the question loomed larger. They each did their parts - and did them well - but the conflict grew more and more painful for all of us. This was one problem I would never solve.
The joy that the creative process brought to us all, however, more than overshadowed all the pain, and when all was said and done we had survived to give our audience a musical album of intense depth and integrity. And we did it together. Just the seven of us. No record companies or managers or agents or wannabes interfering. It was sweet. We all knew it was good stuff.
The PARALLEL LINES stories are endless and are buried deep in the music. This is how we began. From there it got really interesting...