While Mike Chapman had a mess of hits as a songwriter (with Nicky Chinn) for Sweet and Suzi Quatro, his great effort as a producer is a cornerstone of the new wave era, Blondie’s Parallel Lines.
“I saw Blondie three nights in a row at the Whiskey in L.A. in 1977 and absolutely flipped out over them. The songs were incredible, and they weren’t a particularly tight band, but their performance was spectacular. They sent me a little note and I was excited. About six months later Terry Ellis signed them to Chrysalis, came straight to me, and asked me to meet with them. Chris [guitarist/writer Stein], Debbie [singer/writer Harry] and I got together in New York and decided to take a shot,” said Chapman.
Parallel Lines was the first new wave album to trust its material enough to allow for broad stylistic diversity. “They were sort of punk, sort of funny, sort of pop, retro, futuristic, etc., and on Parallel Lines each track is different, but it’s all glued together with the same sort of glue so it sounds like a terrific package,” exclaimed Chapman.
Terrific indeed: “Hanging On the Telephone” and “One Way Or Another” are great tough-girl rockers. “Pretty Baby” and “I’m Gonna Love You Too” are cool girl group sing-alongs. “Sunday Girl” is perfectly light and charming without being smarmy. “Heart of Glass” successfully united new wavy techno-pop and disco for the first time, and rode that chariot to No. 1 the world over.
Throughout, Chapman’s production is hard and tight enough for new wave – Stein and Frank Infante’s guitars blaze and crunch while Clem Burke’s drums thunder and shimmer – yet subtlety is never sacrificed as Jimmy Destri’s keyboards range from ’60s organ to space electronics as needed. Hip, yet unabashedly pop, Parallel Lines is the highlight of Blondie’s career and one of the greatest albums of the ’70s.