Anatomy of Clem Burke’s Drums on Blondie’s ‘Heart of Glass’

[SKF NOTE: Thank you to the Wall Street Journal for giving writers a chance to publish accounts of well-known songs. It is fantastic to have these musical insights for posterity.]

Wall Street Journal
How Blondie Created ‘Heart of Glass’
Blondie’s Debbie Harry and Chris Stein talk about ‘Heart of Glass’
By MARC MYERS – March 3, 2015 11:57 a.m. ET

[Michael Chapman, an inventive producer who had success recording other downtown artists, including Suzi Quatro and Sweet]: We went into New York’s Record Plant in June 1978, but the sound I wanted turned out to be a Pandora’s box of nightmares. The first step was to get the tempo right. I had this Roland drum machine that I wanted to use in sync with Clem Burke ’s drums. You hear the machine on the opening. To provide Clem with a track guide, I recorded the vocal in falsetto. After we had the kick drum pounding, I changed the arrangement so it would skip a beat along the way, to give it a dance feel. I had to get the Roland to skip the beat at the same time.

Then we recorded the rest of the drum parts individually—the high-hat, the snare and the tom-tom. The eight tracks of drums took a week, and synchronizing them with the drum machine was the toughest part. We only had a 24-track recorder, and we couldn’t cut and paste like you can today. What I was asking Clem to do was close to enslavement, and he was ready to kill me. I also brought in two EMT 250s, the first digital reverb machine. I discovered the EMT in Montreux, Switzerland, a year earlier. They gave the snare drum—and later, the vocal—more dimension and an electronic vibe.

Once we had the drum tracks, I turned to the bass. Next came Jimmy Destri on the keyboard. When we had the rhythm-section track, I turned to recording Debbie [Harry]’s vocal on top.

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About Scott K Fish
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