Rapture :: Blondie
directed by Keef
Rapture is from Blondie’s November 1980 studio album titled Autoamerican. In January 1981, Rapture was released as the second and final single from the band’s top 10 album Autoamerican, the first being The Tide Is High. The song reached #1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart, where it stayed for two weeks. The song peaked at # 4 in Australia and # 5 in the United Kingdom.
Rapture is a combination of New Wave, disco, R&B, pop, and hip-hop with the rap section forming an extended coda. While it was not the first single featuring rapping to be commercially successful, it was the first to top the charts. Its lyrics were especially notable for name-checking hip-hop pioneers Fab Five Freddy and Grandmaster Flash.
Debuting in 1981, the music video was the first rap video ever broadcast on MTV. Set in the East Village section of Manhattan, the “Man from Mars” or “voodoo god” (dancer William Barnes in the white suit and top hat) is the introductory and central figure. Barnes also choreographed the video. The final shot is a one-take scene of Debbie Harry dancing along the street, passing by graffiti artists, Uncle Sam, a Native American and a goat. Fab Five Freddy and graffiti artists Lee Quinones and Andy Warhol artist Jean-Michel Basquiat make cameo appearances. Basquiat was hired when Grandmaster Flash did not show for the filming.
This was the first # 1 hit song with a rap. Artists like Grandmaster Flash, Afrika Bambaataa, and Kurtis Blow had been rapping since the mid-’70s, and The Sugarhill Gang had the first Top-40 hit earlier in 1980 with Rapper’s Delight, but until this, rap had never been incorporated into a hit Pop song. Debbie Harry did the rap, and it was really ridiculous, with lyrics about the “Man from Mars eating cars,” but the novelty helped the song become a hit.
Harry’s rap is so goofy that it sounds like she could be mocking the genre, but this was very early in the evolution of Hip-Hop, and many of the rhymes that came out of the New York block parties were just as silly. Harry and Chris Stein of Blondie championed rap and got involved in the community, often attending these block parties – they even took Nile Rodgers to one, which is where he learned that his song Good Times was a DJ favorite. Blondie brought rap to a far larger audience with this song; Debbie Harry says that a lot of rappers told her it was the first rap song they ever heard, since rap wasn’t on the radio then.
If you listen carefully to the lyrics, you might hear something naughty. Shortly before the rap, there is a line that sounds a lot like “Finger Fucking.” Most lyric sheets list this line as “Finger Popping.” The lyrics, “Flash is fast, flash is cool” are a reference to pioneering Hip-Hop DJ Grandmaster Flash.
Editor’s note :: this song is junior high to me, in all its gore and glory. I was a parochial school girl who had been given the fire and brimstone fear kind of religion growing up. I knew what the Rapture was supposed to be, and there was a part of me that was a bit uncomfortable when I would listen to my 45″ single of this and dance around my bedroom to it. Was I supposed to be rocking out to the end of the world? Hell yes!