Herc Your Enthusiasm (8)

By: David Abrams
August 7, 2013

blondie

Eighth in a series of posts analyzing and celebrating old-school hip hop.

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BLONDIE | “RAPTURE” | 1980

Let’s tick off a list of everything Blondie’s dreamy disco-rap hit “Rapture” spoiled for me: cars, bars, guitars, and men from Mars. I was about to graduate from high school, shoot out into the world a still-wet, amniotic-fluid-soaked young adult full of sexual promise when Deborah Harry started rapping on the radio:

Go out to the parking lot
And you get in your car and you drive real far
And you drive all night and then you see a light
And it comes right down and lands on the ground
And out comes a man from Mars
And you try to run but he’s got a gun
And he shoots you dead and he eats your head
And then you’re in the man from Mars

It was the first genuine “What the Fuck” moment of my life. Like most Blondie songs, “Rapture” drops us into a new world right from the beginning with a strong bass line, a horn section, and cathedral bells. Oh, those bells, those bells! Chime-gonging the melody, they lend the song a religious authority that makes us feel like we’ve just arrived at the gates of heaven. That is, until Debbie H. starts singing about dancing at a disco “toe to toe” and “back to back,” grinding sacroiliac joints in “spineless movement.” It was the paradise of zonked-out sexuality and I was so there as a 17-year-old.

I grew up in Wyoming — far from the nearest Studio 54, but I could well imagine the club humidity, the coke-dusted nostrils, the women floating under the strobe lights like angels. As the Wyoming winter snows drifted outside my bedroom window, I listened to the opening two minutes of “Rapture” and my breath quickened, pulse raced, trousers grew warm. If Debbie Harry had come into my bedroom and laid her body on mine, I would have exploded.

Until, that is, the man from Mars showed up, eating cars, eating bars, and eating my head. That’s when everything went to WTF Land. Suddenly I’m in the Martian’s head, gobbling Lincolns, Cadillacs and Subarus. When that doesn’t sate my hunger, I move on to bars and then, in the final funny flip of “Rapture,” guitars. (Get up!) I am freaked out, unsettled, and wish Debbie Harry could have just stayed her beautiful self with the Marilyn Monroe come-hither vibe, lights strobing across her face. Why did we have to bring the little green men into the picture? Blondie’s “Rapture” rap, hooky and infectious as it may be, really cooled my jets.

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2013: HERC YOUR ENTHUSIASM (old-school hip hop tracks): Luc Sante on “Spoonin’ Rap” | Dallas Penn on “Rapper’s Delight” | Werner Von Wallenrod on “Rappin’ Blow” | DJ Frane on “The Incredible Fulk” | Paul Devlin on “The Adventures of Super Rhyme” | Phil Dyess-Nugent on “That’s the Joint” | Adam McGovern on “Freedom” | David Abrams on “Rapture” | Andrew Hultkrans on “The New Rap Language” | Tim Carmody on “Jazzy Sensation (Bronx Version)” | Drew Huge on “Can I Get a Soul Clap” | Oliver Wang on “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel” | Douglas Wolk on “Making Cash Money” | Adrienne Crew on “The Message” | Dart Adams on “Pak Jam” | Alex Belth on “Buffalo Gals” | Joshua Glenn on “Ya Mama” | Phil Freeman on “No Sell Out” | Nate Patrin on “Death Mix Live, Pt. 2” | Brian Berger on “White Lines (Don’t Do It)” | Cosmo Baker on “Here We Go (Live at the Funhouse)” | Colleen Werthmann on “Rockit” | Roy Christopher on “The Coldest Rap” | Dan Reines on “The Dream Team is in the House” | Franklin Bruno on The Lockers.

HIP HOP ON HILOBROW: HERC YOUR ENTHUSIASM series (25 posts about old-school hip hop) | DJ Kool Herc | Gil Scott-Heron | Slick Rick | Darryl “D.M.C.” McDaniels | Afrika Bambaataa | Biz Markie | U-God | Slug | Adam Yauch | Ghostface Killah | DJ Run | Flavor Flav | Scott La Rock | GZA | Schoolly D | Aesop Rock | Terminator X | Notorious B.I.G. | Melle Mel | Doug E. Fresh | Kool Keith | Rick Rubin | Rakim | Ol’ Dirty Bastard | Madlib | Talib Kweli | Danger Mouse | Kool Moe Dee | Chuck D | Dizzee Rascal | RZA | Cee-Lo Green | Best Ever Clean Hip Hop

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2014: KERN YOUR ENTHUSIASM (typefaces): Matthew Battles on ALDINE ITALIC | Adam McGovern on DATA 70 | Sherri Wasserman on TORONTO SUBWAY | Sarah Werner on JOHNSTON’S “HAMLET” | Douglas Wolk on TODD KLONE | Mark Kingwell on GILL SANS | Joe Alterio on AKZIDENZ-GROTESK | Suzanne Fischer on CALIFORNIA BRAILLE | Gary Panter on SHE’S NOT THERE | Deb Chachra on FAUX DEVANAGARI | Peggy Nelson on FUTURA | Tom Nealon on JENSON’S ROMAN | Rob Walker on SAVANNAH SIGN | Tony Leone on TRADE GOTHIC BOLD CONDENSED NO. 20 | Chika Azuma on KUMON WORKSHEET | Chris Spurgeon on ELECTRONIC DISPLAY | Amanda French on DIPLOMA REGULAR | Steve Price on SCREAM QUEEN | Alissa Walker on CHICAGO | Helene Silverman on CHINESE SHIPPING BOX | Tim Spencer on SHATTER | Jessamyn West on COMIC SANS | Whitney Trettien on WILKINS’S REAL CHARACTER | Cintra Wilson on HERMÈS vs. HOTDOG | Jacob Covey on GOTHAM.

2012: KIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (Captain Kirk scenes): Dafna Pleban: Justice or vengeance? | Mark Kingwell : Kirk teaches his drill thrall to kiss | Nick Abadzis: “KHAAAAAN!” | Stephen Burt: “No kill I” | Greg Rowland: Kirk browbeats NOMAD | Zack Handlen: Kirk’s eulogy for Spock| Peggy Nelson: The joke is on Kirk | Kevin Church: Kirk vs. Decker | Enrique Ramirez: Good Kirk vs. Evil Kirk | Adam McGovern: Captain Camelot | Flourish Klink: Koon-ut-kal-if-fee | David Smay: Federation exceptionalism | Amanda LaPergola: Wizard fight | Steve Schneider: A million things you can’t have | Joshua Glenn: Debating in a vacuum | Kelly Jean Fitzsimmons: Klingon diplomacy | Trav S.D.: “We… the PEOPLE” | Matthew Battles: Brinksmanship on the brink | Annie Nocenti: Captain Smirk | Ian W. Hill: Sisko meets Kirk | Gabby Nicasio: Noninterference policy | Peter Bebergal: Kirk’s countdown | Matt Glaser: Kirk’s ghost | Joe Alterio: Watching Kirk vs. Gorn | Annalee Newitz: How Spock wins

2011: KIRB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (Jack Kirby panels): Douglas Rushkoff on THE ETERNALS | John Hilgart on BLACK MAGIC | Gary Panter on DEMON | Dan Nadel on OMAC | Deb Chachra on CAPTAIN AMERICA | Mark Frauenfelder on KAMANDI | Jason Grote on MACHINE MAN | Ben Greenman on SANDMAN | Annie Nocenti on THE X-MEN | Greg Rowland on THE FANTASTIC FOUR | Joshua Glenn on TALES TO ASTONISH | Lynn Peril on YOUNG LOVE | Jim Shepard on STRANGE TALES | David Smay on MISTER MIRACLE | Joe Alterio on BLACK PANTHER | Sean Howe on THOR | Mark Newgarden on JIMMY OLSEN | Dean Haspiel on DEVIL DINOSAUR | Matthew Specktor on THE AVENGERS | Terese Svoboda on TALES OF SUSPENSE | Matthew Wells on THE NEW GODS | Toni Schlesinger on REAL CLUE | Josh Kramer on THE FOREVER PEOPLE | Glen David Gold on JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY | Douglas Wolk on 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY | MORE EXEGETICAL COMMENTARIES: Joshua Glenn on Kirby’s Radium Age Sci-Fi Influences | Chris Lanier on Kirby vs. Kubrick | Scott Edelman recalls when the FF walked among us | Adam McGovern is haunted by a panel from THE NEW GODS | Matt Seneca studies the sensuality of Kirby’s women | Btoom! Rob Steibel settles the Jack Kirby vs. Stan Lee question | Galactus Lives! Rob Steibel analyzes a single Kirby panel in six posts | Danny Fingeroth figgers out The Thing | Adam McGovern on four decades (so far) of Kirby’s “Fourth World” mythos | Jack Kirby: Anti-Fascist Pipe Smoker

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What do you think?

  1. I wonder if it was partially her thinking that “rapture” doesn’t just mean the joy of disco in this song, but the biblical Rapture. The man from mars being this all powerful diety that comes down and seems to be sucking up an ending everything; but then when it gets to you, you become a part of it, alive inside it. At the end of the song, he leaves and there’s still people left behind… which fits, too (a la those ‘Left Behind’ movies).

  2. It’s funny how Debbie Harry’s rapping sounds better today than it did 30 years ago. Early rappers were very emphatic and landed squarely on the beat (“I’m the KING of RAP there IS none HIGHER”) and the hip-hop consensus in 1980 was that Harry’s looser, more playful approach was just godawful sloppy. Since then the parameters of acceptability have broadened, and rappers like Snoop and Jay-Z are celebrated for a “flow” that teases and plays with the beat in a way that Harry anticipated (though I still can’t imagine any rapper admitting to liking Blondie).

  3. Maybe more similar to “Station to Station,” Josh, since it had a connection to the stations of the cross that Bowie left literal in the title like Harry might have here…

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