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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

April 28, 1979

Welcome to another edition of the Tuesday Timeline

I certainly hope that most of you like music, because today's featured entry is all about music.  In fact, I suppose you could call it a signature hit of sorts for a particular New Wave band.  Not bad, given that the song had a disco flavour to it.

That's your one and only clue for now.  In the meantime, have a look at some of the other events that took place on April 28 throughout history.  There's certainly quite a lot that has happened.

1788 - Maryland becomes the seventh state to ratify the Constitution of the United States

1792 - The French Revolutionary War begins with the invasion of Austrian Netherlands by France

1881 - Billy the Kid escapes from the Lincoln County Jail in New Mexico

1910 - Louis Paulhan wins the 1910 London to Manchester Air Race

1916 - Ferruccio Lamborghini (d. 1993) - the founder of Automobil Lamborghini - is born in Italy

1920 - Azerbaijan becomes a part of the Soviet Union

1930 - In Independence, Kansas, the first night baseball game is played

1932 - A medical breakthrough is discovered when a vaccine for yellow fever is announced for use on humans

1945 - Benito Mussolini and his mistress are executed by firing squad

1948 - Igor Stravinsky conducted the premiere of his American ballet, "Orpheus", in New York City

1949 - Tragedy strikes the Philippines as the former First Lady - Aurora Quezon - is assassinated along with her daughter and ten others en route to a hospital dedication in honour of her late husband

1969 - Charles de Gaulle resigns as President of France

1970 - President Richard Nixon authorizes American combat troops to fight communist sanctuaries in Cambodia

1986 - The nuclear accident in Chernobyl that took place two days earlier is publicly announced following the discovery of high radiation in some parts of Sweden

1987 - American engineer Ben Linder is killed in an ambush by American funded Contras in Nicaragua

1988 - Passengers aboard Aloha Airlines Flight 243 have a scary experience when the fuselage of the plane breaks open mid-flight, killing flight attendant C.B. Lansing

1996 - A gunman opens fire at a cafe in Port Arthur, Tasmania, killing thirty-five people

2001 - Dennis Tito becomes the world's first space tourist

And, let's have a look at the number of famous faces celebrating a birthday today.  Birthday wishes go out to Harper Lee, Lois Duncan, Ann-Margret, Alice Waters, Ginette Reno, Paul Guilfoyle, Jay Leno, Chuck Leavell, Mary McDonnell, Kim Gordon, Jimmy Barnes, Nancy Lee Grahn, Steven Blum, Lloyd Eisler, Kari Wuhrer, Jorge Garcia, Elisabeth Rohm, Penelope Cruz, Vernon Kay, Lauren Laverne, Jessica Alba, and Nikki Grahame.

Now we get to the real meat of the matter.  Today's Tuesday Timeline date.

And, well...I hope you all like the 1970s, because we're visiting the tail end of that decade.

It was April 28, 1979, and disco was three months away from being murdered.  As most of us know, July 12, 1979 was the official day that disco officially "died", which saw the detonation of disco records in the middle of a baseball game between the Detroit Tigers and the Chicago White Sox.  The event caused thousands of fans to rush onto the field and the game was forfeited by Chicago because of the damage caused.

So, what does this have to do with the Tuesday Timeline date?  Well, you have to understand that disco music dominated the charts in 1979.  Almost every single number one hit of 1979 was disco themed from Donna Summer and the Bee Gees to Michael Jackson and even Rod Stewart!

And given that by 1979, many people were getting tired of the disco scene, they saw any artist who released a disco single as a sell-out or someone who lacked creativity.

And that included a rock band out of New York City.  A band that formed in 1974 with the goal of making music that didn't sound like anything else at the time. 

A band that scored their very first number one single with this hit thirty-six years ago today.

ARTIST:  Blondie
SONG:  Heart of Glass
ALBUM:  Parallel Lines
DATE RELEASED:  January 3, 1979

Yes, the New Wave group "Blondie", made up of Debbie Harry, Chris Stein, Frank Infante, Nigel Harrison, Jimmy Destri, and Clem Burke, had a #1 hit with "Heart of Glass" between April 28 and May 4, 1979, and yes, it was a disco hit.

Well, actually, it started off as a song called "Once I Had A Love", which was penned by both Stein and Harry in 1974 - right when the band had first gotten together.  Recorded as a demo in 1975, the song had a very different sound than the version most of us got to hear.  It was a lot slower, and had a more basic disco beat.  And, reportedly, the band experimented with several genres of music to try and make the song work before settling on pop disco.

At one point, the song was almost released as a reggae hit, similar to the group's 1981 smash "The Tide Is High"!

Now, it's really unclear as to who came up with the idea to make "Heart of Glass" a disco single.  Some sources say that record producer Mike Chapman convinced Harry and Stein to make the record a disco one, while other sources claim that Harry was the one who insisted that disco was the way to go.

And to be fair, Harry supported the disco scene.  In an interview she gave with NME Magazine in 1978, she stated that while disco was commercial, but was also good.  She cited famous disco producer Giorgio Moroder as an example of this.

And prior to Blondie releasing "Heart of Glass", the group had performed at the Blitz Benefit at the famous rock club CBGB in May 1978 where to everyone's shock, they performed an impromptu cover version of "I Feel Love" by Donna Summer.  Certainly Blondie seemed to break down barriers and maintained their neutrality stance.  They knew that rock was cool, but they wanted to show that they liked disco music too.  Sure enough, that moment in 1978 was one of the first times that a rock band had performed a disco hit live.

I only wish that I could have found the original music video to show you guys, but alas, it is not available on YouTube.  But I do have a link to the video HERE.  I can also tell you a few things about it.

Obviously, the video was filmed in New York City, as we see shots of the Empire State Building and the former World Trade Center intertwined between shots of the band performing in what appears to be a discotheque.

TRIVIA:  Contrary to what some may think, and despite the appearance of an exterior shot of the club appearing in the video, the video itself is NOT filmed at Studio 54.  It was actually filmed in a different club in New York City.

Oh, and Debbie's interesting dress?  You'll never guess where the inspiration for it came from.

Believe it or not, the pattern came from television scan lines.  The asymmetrical dress - designed by Stephen Sprouse was inspired by the scan line pattern which was photo printed onto a piece of fabric, which was then draped over a layer of cotton fabric and chiffon on top.  It was quite a fantastic piece.  I should also note that Debbie Harry herself had a designing credit.  She designed all the T-shirts that the male band members wore in the video.

Of course, while the single did become Blondie's first #1 hit, it also caused fans to cause a backlash against them for selling out.  And certainly some of the members of Blondie felt the same way.  Drummer Clem Burke would refuse to play the song live until it became a huge hit and he was forced to.  Other members like Stein and Harry defended the single and were proud of its success.

Oh, and in some British radio stations, the line "once I had a love, and it was a gas, soon turned out it was a pain in the ass" was banned from airplay.  Or at the very least, the BBC would mute the lyric completely from radio play.  Yeah, it's not even that offensive, people!  To solve the problem, a second version was recorded where the "pain in the ass" lyric was changed to "had a heart of glass".  Because repetition is so much better than having a naughty word.

Anyway, whether you liked disco or not, "Heart of Glass" was the #1 song 36 years ago today.  Where does the time go?

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