Blondie – Rapture (1981)

Blondie was still riding the crest of the wave with the reggae-styled “The Tide Is High” when suddenly this song appeared out of the winter blackness. Reception was cool and mixed at first; not everyone was crazy about rap or…

Blondie - Rapture (1981)

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Blondie was still riding the crest of the wave with the reggae-styled “The Tide Is High” when suddenly this song appeared out of the winter blackness. Reception was cool and mixed at first; not everyone was crazy about rap or hip hop music for one thing. Rap/hip hop was regarded as a new novelty R&B musical form back then. Not everyone liked it, and yet many of us did. But even those of us who did like it would have been shocked if we could have seen into the future and find that it would one day take over the entire music industry. Rap was alternative to disco and pure funk; and it existed in a musical world of many choices. Such was the kind of world we grew up in, one of great musical diversity, and that was the norm for well over six decades and three different generations. “Rapture” was greeted with great enthusiasm once people got over their initial shock that Blondie was trying their hand at rap and, besides, Deborah Harry sang some riveting vocals on it as well as rapping in other portions. It was a kind of rap I prefer, one that would later be associated with the Eurodance duo 2 Unlimited in the ’90s; one that alternates between actual singing with a spoken word rhythm.

Late winter and early spring 1981 was a perpetual party atmosphere. The great sounds of the late fall and Christmas season of 1980 would have been party enough, but in the midst of it all Beatles founder John Lennon died tragically, murdered by a deranged fan. So the party continued, since that was the best way to drown one’s sorrows. It was a heady time; any song with a beat or a unique sound was destined for greatness. In the midst of it all, Blondie continued to reign supreme. Little did we know, but “Rapture” would be the end of the line for one of America’s greatest rock bands and one of the most loved and adored female vocalists to ever front a rock band. Afterwards they would take time out for well over a year, close to 16 months, and when they returned with a new album in 1982 it would be to a much more critical music scene, a bored stagnant scene in search of something new, exciting and different … something which would not be found until most cable operators in the US began carrying MTV in late August 1982. MTV had debuted a year earlier, but only in a few select regions like Kansas City. NYC and LA would not catch up until a year later. During the first nearly eight months of 1982, before MTV went nationwide, it was too damned easy to miscalculate, and many bands almost came to an end … or actually came to an end … because of the bored and overly-critical environment. So much for the flux that marked the early part of the 1980s decade.

One of the things I always found interesting about “Rapture,” which heightened its lure and appeal with the club crowd I was working, was something quite subliminal. I doubt anyone else really noticed it at the time either. But it was the bells. The black, chiming, almost funereal cathedral bells that kept the melody going even when all singing stopped. Although the beat and rhythm was happy and party-going, the melody was dark, gloomy, and almost Gothic. I have only recently become aware of that. The melody in “Rapture” is Gothic. ABSOLUTE GENIUS. We were partying to funeral music and we didn’t even know it! Thus, this video has a visual Gothic theme as well as excerpts from the official music video. Maybe I’m wrong but I think this approach is what should have been undertaken for the video to begin with.

This is the CD album version; my 45 vinyl single is actually a minute or so longer. That was the one that got played at the club. “Rapture” was released in January 1981 in the United States. It became an international smash hit, but only peaked at #1 in the US. It reached #1 on Billboard and Cash Box on March 28, 1981 (CB date). “Rapture” also reached #1 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart.

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