“Plastic Letters” by Blondie (1978)
Release Date: February 1978
Produced by Richard Gottehrer
Chart Positions: #72 (US), #10 (UK), #32 (Netherlands), #33 (Sweden), #38 (New Zealand), #64 (Australia)
Certifications: Platinum (UK)
Singles: “Kidnapper (Japanese only release), “Denis” (#1 Europe, Belgium, Netherlands, #2 UK, #3 Ireland, #8 France, #9 Germany, #10 Austria, #12 Australia, #19 Sweden, #30 New Zealand), “(I’m Always Touched By Your) Presence, Dear” (#8 Netherlands, #10 UK, #14 Belgium)
“Plastic Letters” was the second studio album recorded by new wave/punk band, Blondie. It was their first album to chart in the US as well as being the album released just before their major breakthrough “Parallel Lines.”
Less than a year after their self-titled 1976 debut, Blondie returned with the stronger, punkier `Plastic Letters', complete with their pop trash culture influences solidly intact. Again produced by 60s pop composer Richard Gottehrer, the songs on this second album have more drive, more attitude and, with the general increase in song-writing sophistication of everyone involved, must have indicated that the band were likely to deliver even better things in the near future.
The prowess of the band members became more evident as songwriters. Keyboardist Jimmy Destri's predilection for mod- infused new wave pop-rock was becoming increasingly clear with some absolute gems among his six contributions on the 13 tracks. `Fan Mail', `Contact in Red Square', `No Imagination', `Kidnapper' and the awesome rocker `Detroit 442' (with Chris Stein) all serve to anchor the harder, faster approach on this release. Stein's six are slightly less consistent, but `Youth Nabbed by Sniper' is a perfect companion piece to Destri's style while the awesome, giddy, acid-rock infused semi ballad, `Bermuda Triangle Blues', about a mysterious plane disappearance in said zone, is the album's super nova moment. Bassist Gary Valentine's `(I'm Always) Touched By Your Presence Dear' is also a high point. Debbie Harry and her partner (at the time) Chris Stein wrote the very and quirky “I’m On E.” The fast moving album highlight “Love At The Pier” was written by Deborah Harry and sports a strong percussive rhythm accented with moving surf guitar parts. The dark and melancholic “Cautious Lip” brings the album to a dramatic close.
Destri's keyboards soar into their own on this record while Deborah Harry's trademark sneer and coquettish phrasing become fully formed, stamping her as far more than just a good looking lead singer. There is something happening on `Plastic Letters' and, even not knowing back in 1977 what was to come, it must have pointed to a band that was not likely to fade away (and radiate) any time soon.
The first single release “Kidnapper” was only released in Japan but failed to chart. The second single “Denis” was a huge hit in Europe charting in many countries as well as charting #1 on the Eurochart Hot 100. Neil Levenson wrote “Denise”, his childhood friend, Denise Lefrak, inspired the song. In 1963, the song became a popular top ten hit in the US, when recorded by the American doo-wop group Randy & the Rainbows. The cover version by Blondie, re-titled "Denis", reached #2 in the UK Singles Chart in 1978 and charted all throughout Europe. The third single “(I’m Always Touched By Your) Presence, Dear” was written by Blondie bass player Gary Valentine, a/k/a Gary Lachman, for his then-girlfriend Lisa Jane Persky before his departure from the band. Valentine left Blondie prior to the recording of “Plastic Letters” to pursue a solo career.