The Meaning Behind “Call Me” by Blondie

Call Me” was one of Blondie’s four No. 1 hits that ruled the Billboard Hot 100. But unlike the other three (not to mention the rest of their catalog), much of the song was not performed by them. Blondie originally laid down tracks for the song in New York, but producer Giorgio Moroder wasn’t happy with the recording process, so he had all of the instrumental parts recorded with other musicians in Los Angeles.

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But the lead vocal and lyrics? That’s all Debbie Harry.

“Call Me” is the opening theme song for the 1980 film American Gigolo, which stars Richard Gere as a male prostitute. Moroder, who produced a series of successful singles for Donna Summer during her disco-era peak, wrote the music for the tune, calling his instrumental “Man Machine.” Harry was charged with writing the lyrics, though only after Stevie Nicks turned down the opportunity due to her involvement being forbidden by her record contract.

The Meaning Behind Harry’s Lyrics

Since “Call Me” was to be featured in a movie about a gigolo, she included several references to sex and intimacy, such as Cover me with kisses, baby and Roll me in designer sheets. However, just as American Gigolo was, at its core, not a movie about sex, Harry’s lyrics for “Call Me” focused on the film’s other themes. Gere’s character, Julian Kay, was status-conscious and used his fashion and possessions to ingratiate himself to his wealthy clients. Upon screening the movie, Harry was struck by how it looked, and she told Far Out that she had been impressed by the film’s color palette. So the first verse focuses on the look of American Gigolo, mirroring the story’s emphasis on outward appearances.

Color me your color, baby
Color me your car
Color me your color, darling
I know who you are
Come up off your color chart
I know where you are coming from

The second verse repeats the word “cover” instead of “color,” reflecting the movie’s themes of self-protection and hiding. Kay is framed for a murder, and he has an alibi for his whereabouts on the night of the murder, but the married client he was with has to cover up her infidelity. In this context, “cover me with kisses” could refer to a client’s desire to hide or escape from reality. The verse ends with an explicit allusion to Kay’s predicament: Cover up love’s alibi.

The bridge cleverly alludes to another aspect of Gere’s character. Kay speaks several different languages, so Harry begins the section with Ooh, he speaks the languages of love. Then she follows that line with translations of “Call Me” in Italian (“chaimami”) and French (“appelle moi”).

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There is also a third verse, which was cut from the single version, but it’s included on the eight-minute version of the song on the American Gigolo soundtrack. (Oddly enough, the full version does not appear on any of Blondie’s greatest hits albums.) This verse serves to further depict Kay as a prop to be used by his clients.

Take me out and show me off
And put me on the scene
Dress me in the fashions of the 1980s

In the context of the song and movie, which were released in the early weeks of 1980, dressing in “the fashions of the 1980s” signifies having a style that is ahead of the curve.

The Impact of “Call Me”

“Call Me” was wildly popular at the time of its release, topping the pop charts for six consecutive weeks and also ranking No. 1 on Billboard’s year-end pop chart for 1980. It ranked eighth among all Billboard Hot 100 songs for the decade of the ‘80s and 57th on the all-time Hot 100 songs chart.

The song’s impact continues to be felt decades later. U2 gave Harry and Moroder co-writing credits for their 2023 song “Atomic City.” The track, which was used to promote the U2:UV Achtung Baby residency in Las Vegas, features a melody that is clearly influenced by “Call Me.”


Much of the song’s allure comes from Harry’s powerful vocals and Moroder’s high-energy musical composition. Harry’s lyrics give the song added punch, too. Her repeated use of phrases like “my love” and “baby” imply a tender intimacy. Even the song’s title, “Call Me,” suggests a desire to be reached out to and to be vulnerable. Yet the allusions to Kay being used as a status symbol give the song an appropriately chilling feel.

Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images

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