Blue States-Atomic 79
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Blue States - Atomic 79

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Blue States Atomic 79


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The big question many rock artists began asking in the very late 1970s was what would have happened if 60's Beach Rock, Garage Rock, and early Psychedelic Rock (and other similar forms) had not faded away in the early 1970s, but had continued to evolve, adding to it the higher tech musical instruments and recording equipment that was in use as the 1980s approached. Punk had already paved the way for reviving and reworking the old 60's formulas, but snubbed its nose at sophisticating its sound. Enter the New Wave movement which, seeing the glamour enjoyed by the rival late 70's disco music, wanted to take the plunge into sophistication. Taking their cues from varied rock, soul, and ballad influences of Link Wray, The Shadows, The Strangeloves, The Shangri-Las, The Electric Prunes, Syd Barrett, Arthur Lee and Love, Gloria Jones, New Colony Six, and so many others, the New Wave bands reinvented the 60s sound and brought with it a new glamour and sophistication. Many of the members of the bands grew up in the late 1950s and 1960s listening to this music, and some were already performing in bands in the late 60's and early 70's.

One of the premiere New Wave bands that recorded their first LP at a time few people in the United States were looking for a change from the status quo was Blondie. Popular in the UK and Australia since 1977 with the release of their first single, "X Offender," it would not be until late winter/early spring 1979 that America would take notice of the group after the September 1978 release of their third album, Parallel Lines. The album, along with Elvis Costello's This Year's Model and Outlandos d'Amour by The Police, was a favorite of FM radio disk jockeys in the fall of '78 and winter of '79, but it would be the release of the disco-flavored "Heart Of Glass" that would propel Blondie and its lead singer to superstar status. Many early fans and listeners mistakenly believed singer Debbie Harry had the stage name of "Blondie" not realizing this was the band's name. Harry's strikingly sexy and fashion model allure were an added asset to the band, Harry having been a go-go dancer and Playboy Bunny in the late 1960's, and then beginning her music career by forming her own folk rock band in 1968. Debbie Harry brought the one thing to New Wave that was sadly lacking: the same glamour and glitz that had been the hallmark of the disco era. Although it is probably being hotly debated to this day, I believe Debbie Harry was the sexiest woman in rock history: the true Marilyn Monroe of the rock music industry. Blondie, perhaps more than any band other than The Cars or The Police, established New Wave as the mainstream choice of rock music in the 1980s, and Harry herself inspired 80's fashion designers to create a new look adapted from her own unique style ... a look that continues to inspire to this day.

"Atomic" was the follow-up single to the much more successful Giorgio Moroder/Debbie Harry collaboration "Call Me" and was released in April 1980. Yours truly used to play it to death where I worked as a disk jockey. For me "Atomic" may have been Blondie's greatest hit. It arrived at an appropriate time of new angst in the world, the Middle East was becoming unstable with Iraq and Iran headed for conflict, Russia had invaded Afghanistan, and the Cold War between Russia and the United States was reaching its worst period since The Cuban Missile Crisis. The threat of nuclear war was once again becoming an unthinkable possibility that would grow worse each year of the first Reagan administration, not evaporating until Mikhail Gorbachev entered the world scene in 1985. The song peaked at #1 in the UK, but sadly (and I still cannot understand WHY to this day) only managed to make it to #39 on Billboard and an even bleaker #49 on Cash Box on June 28, 1980. The Brits knew a good thing when they heard it; Americans obviously had some catching up to do (but certainly not THIS American).

Blondie did something fascinating with this song, they managed to turn the threat of nuclear war into a romance, a "what would you do if this was your last night on earth" sort of thing. Films such as 'Miracle Mile' (1988) and the sadly underrated Canadian film 'Last Night' (1998) would explore this same issue a decade and almost two decades later. My music video takes the themes of glamour and romance on the one hand, and nuclear war on the other, to what I consider to be the most emotionally-charged and visually entertaining resolution my imagination could conjure up ... with the stunningly beautiful and alluring Debbie Harry appearing as the song's major star! From 1980, this is "Atomic."
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