The third time was the charm for Blondie after releasing their second album Plastic Letters. The New York City band had finally released their breakthrough album with Parallel Lines in 1978, birthing their No. 1, disco-flirting hit “Heart of Glass.”
In the mix of the more punked up “Hanging on the Telephone” and driftier “Sunday Girl,” was “One Way or Another,” a heavier song inspired by some heavy subject matter, and that track, according to founding member, guitarist, and songwriter Chris Stein, that helped Blondie finally break through in America.
New Jersey Stalker
Written by singer Debbie Harry and former Blondie bassist Nigel Harrison, the lyrics to “One Way or Another” were “inspired in part by a New Jersey stalker of mine,” said Harry in the liner notes of the Blondie box set Blondie: Against The Odds 1974-1982, a collection of outtakes and rarities, along with remastered editions of the band’s first six albums. The incident forced Harry, a New Jersey native, to move from her hometown to New York City.
Lyrically, the meaning of the song is darker than it may sound and goes into detail about a man with sinister intentions. “I was actually stalked by a nut job, so it came out of a not-so-friendly personal event,” said Harry in a 2011 interview. “I tried to inject a little levity into it to make it more lighthearted. It was a survival mechanism.”
I will drive past your house
And if the lights are all down
I’ll see who’s around
And if the lights are all out
I’ll follow your bus downtown
See who’s hanging out
Blondie Goes Psychedelic?
The title and idea for the song just popped into Harry’s head during a band rehearsal, and most of it was fleshed out there. At first “One Way or Another” was moving in a more psych-rock direction.
“I used to make home tapes with two tape recorders and a rhythm machine,” said Harrison in the Against the Odds liner notes. “My original music for ‘One Way or Another’ was this psychedelic, Ventures-like futuristic surf song gone wrong. Jimmy [former Blondie keyboardist Jimmy Destri] really liked this piece of music, and we would play it while on the road. Then Debbie picked up on it. She came up with the ‘getcha getcha getchas.’ The ending, where it gets crazy, was Chapman’s [producer Mike Chapman] idea.”
One way, or another, I’m wanna get ya
I’ll get ya, I’ll get ya, get ya, get ya, get ya (where I can see it all, find out who ya call)
“I sort of regret that I did that now,” said Debbie Harry of her get ya, get ya, get yas. “I feel like I was imitating Ethel Merman or something.”
Though the song has been featured in numerous films (Mean Girls, Donnie Brasco) and television series (The A-Team, Glee), Harry’s performance of “One Way or Another” on The Muppets Show in 1981 is one of the most memorable. Along with her sweet rendition of “Rainbow Connection” with Kermit the Frog, Debbie Harry gave “One Way or Another” the track a lighter flair.
Photo Credit: Norman Seeff