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Dec 08

BLONDIE – “The Tide Is High”

FT + Popular49 comments • 2,807 views

#469, 15th November 1980

Horns pitched to sound like strings; strings played low and swinging like horns; a pot-pourri of roughly Caribbean percussion – instrumentally, “The Tide Is High” is delightful escapism. Even so it’s a little bit of a let-down. Debbie Harry gives a gentle, intimate performance, but gentle intimacy isn’t really what you go to Debbie Harry for. Once she savaged her rivals and dismissed her lovers, now she’s playing a long game – with supreme and justified confidence, of course, but the woozy, flippant Blondie on show here lack the flash and fire of previous encounters. “Tide” is a postcard from a band on holiday, something to cheer up a dreary Autumn: the holiday just ended up a little longer than anyone thought at the time.

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Comments

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  1. 26
    Billy Smart on 3 Dec 2008 #

    Does anybody else like ‘War Child’ off ‘The Hunter’, the last hit from the original run of Blondie? I haven’t got it to hand to refer to, but the 12″, where Clem Burke’s drumming is fully indulged and Harry barks “I’m a WAR CHILD! I’m a WARRIOR!” is quite exciting…

  2. 27

    flyby as i’m superbusy, but i think rapture achieves a whole bunch of quite unusual things (for successfully chart-pop)– it starts in hyper-erotic yet grown-up territory, luxuriating in the absolute confidence of adult sexuality, where the bulk of pop is centred round teenage boasting and insecurity (admittedly a more fruitful territory listener-wise), and then just flips into this funny, easy, unbothered tot-pop epic

    how annoyed by this flip you are is probably a matter of personal turn-on-taste rather than anything more Socially Important or Artistically Medal-worthy (personally i’d say polymorphous perverse wahey but i consider myself pretty much the popular posterboy for what peter g is calling “people who are funny”) (ie people who aren’t especially bothered that their turns-ons aren’t “normal”)

  3. 28
    abaffledrepublic on 3 Dec 2008 #

    Although this hit version of the song is sung by a woman, the lyrics give it away as a man’s song, just like ‘Take A Chance On Me’.

  4. 29
    AndyPandy on 4 Dec 2008 #

    Agree with No23 if theyd not had every teenage boys fantasy figure as lead singer (and despite the “Blondie is a group” campaign back in the 70s to most people Blondie was Debbie Harry)as far as chart music goes we’d have never had heard of them. Admittedly some of the later stuff ‘Heart Of Glass’, ‘Atomic’ was ok but without the pin-up angle I dont think the very average pop-rock that preceded those singles would have put them in the position to make the later better stuff.

  5. 30
    Lex on 4 Dec 2008 #

    Coincidentally the terrific Heatwave blog has just posted the latest incarnation of this song, and it’s much much better than Blondie’s – Kardinal Offishall and Keri Hilson have a fantastic new single, all booming drums and crunching synths, which interpolates the ‘Tide Is High’ hook – Hilson’s sweet take on it, esp when juxtaposed with the arrangement and Kardinal’s surprisingly ruffneck MCing, is definitely preferable to the perfunctory Blondie version.

    Sadly that post also reminded me that Atomic Kitten also covered ‘The Tide Is High’ once – I had managed to excise that horror from my brain :(

  6. 31
    Tom on 4 Dec 2008 #

    Discussion of the Atomic Kitan version is prohibited by the Atomic Bunny.

    I think it’s interesting that this song – which as people have said even in its original version isn’t THAT amazing – keeps getting revived and versioned. There must be something about the sentiment and central hook that people reach for.

  7. 32
    Mark G on 4 Dec 2008 #

    It’s easy, it’s familiar, that’s it.

  8. 33
    LondonLee on 4 Dec 2008 #

    I think it’s the Blondie version that keeps getting revived and versioned isn’t it? Musically referencing hip and iconic 80s sounds means a lot more to a contemporary audience than The Paragons do. It’s not the song, it’s Blondie.

    I could be wrong, never having heard any of these newer versions.

  9. 34
    Lex on 4 Dec 2008 #

    Uhhh I think it is slightly more likely that dancehall/reggae-affiliated artists like Kardinal Offishall would be using The Paragons as their reference point rather than Blondie!

  10. 35
    lonepilgrim on 4 Dec 2008 #

    Thanks for that link Lex – it’s refreshing to hear it’s soothing qualities used as a counterpoint to the energy of the shouty man.

  11. 36
    LondonLee on 4 Dec 2008 #

    Well I said I could be wrong. I’m old, cut me some slack. I’ve never even heard Atomic Kitten’s version.

  12. 37
    Tom on 4 Dec 2008 #

    #34 I would imagine that Kardinal Offishal is i. well aware of the Paragons’ version, and ii. also well aware that the Blondie version was an absolutely enormous mega-hit. So the question isn’t ‘which is he versioning’, but “would be be doing so without the other one (whichever that it)”.

  13. 38
    Mark M on 4 Dec 2008 #

    Re: 34 – possibly, maybe even probably, but not necessarily. After all, Blondie were massive everywhere, and the Paragons – terrific as they were, not. On the other hand, there is an early (great) DJ version by U Roy, so Kardinall Offishall is far from the first to set his rasping against that tune.

  14. 39
    DV on 4 Dec 2008 #

    This is surely Blondie on the slide (I may be summarising what everyone else has posted).

  15. 40
    vinylscot on 4 Dec 2008 #

    Obviously their worst (first time round) #1, this was an odd one. Two years earlier they’d have got away with it, but Two Tone had brought a lot of ska and other reggae styles to the airwaves, so the Paragons’ infinitely superior version was familiar to many.

    I always had the opinion this was bought by Blondie fans rather than pop fans. I didn’t buy it although I had bought all four of their earlier #1s (got sick of “Call Me” pretty damn quick tho’)

    A quality control lapse, or the beginning of the end??

    Possibly both.

  16. 41
    Malice Cooper on 9 Dec 2008 #

    The live version of this showed Debbie singing one note for the entire chorus. It was the kiss of death for them and certainly the beginning of the end

  17. 42
    Brooksie on 15 Feb 2010 #

    @ Billy Smart # 26:

    I love ‘War Child’. Last gasp of the group, and the best song off ‘The Hunter’ by a mile.

    Don’t get the criticism for TiH on here. Yes, it’s lightweight reggae, yes, it doesn’t have the muscle of their previous hits. But they were trying to adapt to survive in the especially harsh environment of the rapidly changing new wave scene. On first listening you can hear that this is a guaranteed number one hit; it’s catchy, it’s fluffy, it’s exactly what it should be to go straight to the top of the charts, which is exactly what it did in both the UK and US. Ok, it’s not Blondie gold, but it is Blondie silver, which makes it better than 90% of music both then and now (cliche alert?). Sure, they were scratching around for ideas, and ‘Automerican’ proved they were crumbling creatively, but they were also looking for a way to finance their drug habits, and hits were the way to do it. TiH sits on a best of Blondie perfectly well along with all the more meaty songs. Sure it’s a bit of fluff, but at this point Blondie were easily as good as The Police… at least until the album came out. Besides, six months after this single came out Adam and the Ants were Kings and everybody else looked old-fashioned; Debbie made the piss poor album ‘Koo-Koo’, which meant two duff albums in a row; by the time ‘The Hunter’ album came out, it was strike three-you’re out. At least on a musical level it was; the group had a lot of personal issues to sort out, but if the public ever cared, they had given up by the time of The Hunter.

    My big issue with this song has more to do with the music we hear; I constantly find myself wondering just how much of it is played by the band, and how much is played by session musicians?

  18. 43
    Chelovek na lune on 8 Sep 2010 #

    On Blondie singles referencing (however indirectly or obliquely) I far preferred and prefer “Island of Lost Souls”: This (and indeed, even that) is just rather too ordinary for a group that had proved themselves capable of very much better.

  19. 44
    Chelovek na lune on 8 Sep 2010 #

    referencing “the sea” I meant…

  20. 45
    Auntie Beryl on 21 Feb 2013 #

    re Rapture – it occurs to me that Lana Del Rey was taking notes…

  21. 46
    Auntie Beryl on 21 Feb 2013 #

    …and American Life era Madge.

  22. 47
    hectorthebat on 30 Aug 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Dave Marsh & Kevin Stein (USA) – The 40 Best of the Top 40 Singles by Year (1981) 21
    Paul Morley (UK) – Words and Music, 210 Greatest Pop Singles of All Time (2003)
    Toby Creswell (Australia) – 1001 Songs (2005)
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)

  23. 48
    enitharmon on 20 Oct 2014 #

    And it’s goodbye John Holt of the Paragons, writer of this song. Not to be confused with John Holt, Professor of Experimental Physics at Liverpool University in the 1970s (and for some time before) who lectured on Special Relativity to first year undergrads in an alarmingly tedious manner (he lived on until 2009 though, apparently).

  24. 49
    Jimmy the Swede on 20 Oct 2014 #

    # 48 – Yep, it’s clear that poor old Holty didn’t make it through the night…

    Blame Erithian for that one, the little tinker!

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