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Don't Trip on the 3/4 Measure: Changing Meter in Blondie's "Heart of Glass"

A funky 3/4 measure tossed in the bridge to throw off your roller skating.

I have played Blondie more often in classroom settings than I'd like to admit.  While teaching general music several years ago, "Rapture" was a staple as we discussed the roots of hip-hop and its reach in the early 1980s.  I brought that song back up again as we dived into our "School of Rock" curriculum last spring.  Additionally, Blondie is a band that kids should know from a cultural competency standpoint.  Love them or hate them, they were important, and "Heart of Glass" has some subtle, notable compositional features in what seems like a trite pop song.  

“Heart of Glass” - Blondie

Intro: An original CBGBs band from the 1970s, Blondie helped to build punk from the ground up. Upon the release of Parallel Lines in 1978, from which “Heart of Glass” was the third single, Blondie broke through to the mainstream. The album reached #6 on the Billboard 200 Albums Chart and #1 on the UK Albums chart, having sold 20 million copies worldwide. “Heart of Glass” topped both the Billboard Hot 100 Chart and the UK Singles chart, reaching #1 in six other countries upon its release as a single in 1979. The band continued to record and tour until 1982, reforming in 1997. Blondie was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006.

Analysis: With both a live drumset playing and an electronic beat imitative of clave pattern, this song begins as a genuine dance number, awash in electronic ornamentation. The song remains in four-four through the first verse and the chorus, with the continuous clave pattern in the background. After the second verse & chorus, things change in the bridge. At 1:59 in the video recording linked above, the vocal melody from the chorus (echoed on the synthesizer) is heard in changing meter for six measures; at this point in the song, the meter switches from 4/4 (duple-duple) to 3/4 (triple-duple) each measure for a short six measure stretch. Starting at 2:10, the song finishes out in 4/4 time. At least one more measure of 3/4 can be heard in the song's instrumental outro, as well. The slight change in meter makes for a very interesting feature in the punk pioneers' poppiest song.

Considerations for Teaching: Blondie was an extremely important band in the development of popular music in the 1970s and onward. From their NYC roots to Debbie Harry's revolutionary rap breakdown on the song “Rapture”, Blondie is not only a band that is appropriate to play for young students, they are culturally important. However, in the third & final repetition of the verse, Harry does sing "pain in the ass." The changing meter section occurs before this, so teachers can get the point across before this lyric is heard.

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