How Taxi Cabs and Laundromats Figure in Blondie’s Career
Blondie members Debbie Harry and Chris Stein recalled how they developed a “taxi test” for songs they weren't sure about.
The first time it worked for them is when Stein was convinced to record their 1978 cover version of the Nerves’ “Hanging on the Telephone” after years of wanting to do it.
“I was really drawn to that song,” he told Rolling Stone in a new interview. “[W]e were in Tokyo and we were in a taxi cab and I was playing it on a boombox … the old cab driver started tapping his fingers on the steering wheel, and I went, ‘Oh, okay. That’s the sign!’”
“There’s something that goes along with that,” Harry added. “From there on, any kind of song that we had that we wanted to test, we’d get into a cab and give it the taxi test.”
Blondie - 'Hanging on the Telephone'
Stein went on to explain that, despite the disco overtones of hit single “Heart of Glass,” the band were actually thinking about a different style of music at the time. “We were referencing Kraftwerk,” he said. “We were much more thinking about the electronica aspect than about the disco aspect. … It was all about syncing the rhythm machine up to the Roland synthesizer – that was such and exciting thing for us because it was the first time we’d experienced that.”
Discussing the “pulse” beat that inspired them, Harry recalled: “I used to go to the laundromat to get a pulse – I used to do a lot of songwriting in the laundromat because that thing was going on. The whole room was practically vibrating.”
Blondie - 'Heart of Glass'
Elsewhere in the interview, Harry discussed her brief period as backup singer in folk-rock band the Wind in the Willows, saying that it had been part of her development as an artist, regardless of whether it was a good or a band move. “A lot of it is directed by the industry, by what the A&R people are looking for to invest in, and that’s sort of what we got involved in,” she said.