Friday, 1 June 2018

Blondie - Plastic Letters (1977)

Was it destiny? I don't know yet....


Released February 1978

Recorded at Plaza Sound Studio, New York City

In early 1978, when Blondie’s second album was released, fourteen months after their first quirky debut, they were still barely known in the UK (as opposed to in the US). Indeed, many bought their debut album AFTER buying Plastic Letters, now that they were familiar with the band. However, It was the hit single Denis that earned singer Deborah Harry a legion of teenage male fans and girls who admired her chutzpah too. Blonde hairdos emerged all over the place. Regular girls found a way into punk via Blondie too, which previously had been difficult, unless they wanted to go down the Siouxsie Sioux route, which many didn’t. Here, by looking like Debbie Harry, they could get their punk kicks while not going the whole gothic hog.

I remember seeing them perform Denis on Top Of The Pops. Everybody was talking about them the next day. That was when Blondie really arrived. 


1. Fan Mail
2. Denis
3. Bermuda Triangle Blues (Flight 45)
4. Youth Nabbed As Sniper
5. Contact In Red Square
6. (I'm Always Touched By Your) Presence, Dear
7. I'm On E
8. I Didn't Have The Nerve To Say No
9. Love At The Pier
10. No Imagination
11. Kidnapper
12. Detroit 442
13. Cautious Lip                                                          

Punkier than the 50/60s-influenced debut, to be honest, Plastic Letters is a bit of a mish-mash of short, frenetic, organ-based guitar pop songs that often finish before they have even got going - classic examples are Fan Mail, the exhilarating Contact In Red Square, Youth Nabbed As Sniper, the intense Bermuda Triangle Blues and I'm On E (written about the drug ecstasy twenty years before its 1997 heyday). Just when you are getting into these songs, they end. Enjoyable, but nowhere near as accomplished as the songs that appeared a few months later on Parallel Lines. There again, two minute thrash punky pop songs were the order of the day, so nobody really complained at the time, thinking that indeed Blondie had their finger on the punk pulse. In many ways they had. In early 1978, this album fitted the prerequisites perfectly. The old “side one” contains the shorter, faster songs, while “side two” saw some longer, more introspective material. Listening to it now, it all sounds perfect. Better than I remembered it. Kidnapper sounds just like Suzi Quatro, though.

The two hit singles from the album are top notch, however - the delightful power pop of Denis and the more mysterious  (I'm Always Touched By Your) Presence, Dear and Detroit 442 is a more complete rocky closer to the album.

An underrated, rarely mentioned gem is to be found in Presence’s “B” side, the lovely ballad Poets Problem - proof that punky ballads could be created. Retrospection has slammed this album as “the difficult second album”, but at the time myself and my peers and many others loved it. We heard tracks like Fan Mail and were more than satisfied. Songs like the surprisingly good I Didn't Have The Nerve To Say No, the powerful "Beatles-styled lyrics meets hard rock” of No Imagination and the rousing Love At The Pier contain hints as to what they next few months’ songwriting would yield from the band, however. Blondie were now one step from their period of brief greatness.

Below is a clip of Blondie performing Denis on Top Of The Pops