Pop Goes The Movies: CALL ME - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Pop Goes The Movies: CALL ME

Gentlemen prefer Blondie...
Make no mistake, Blondie scored themselves a massive hit with the theme to the 1980 film American Gigolo. But Debbie Harry and co. were not the first choice to record the theme tune.

The film itself was a crime drama which firmly established Richard Gere as a Hollywood leading man. It tells the story about a high-priced male escort in Los Angeles who becomes romantically involved with a prominent politician's wife while simultaneously becoming the prime suspect in a murder case. A huge hit upon release with critics and audiences alike, American Gigolo went on to make over $52 million on it modest $4.7 million budget.

As for the hit single, legend has it that Italian disco producer Giorgio Moroder had originally asked Stevie Nicks from Fleetwood Mac to help compose and perform a song for the soundtrack, but she had to decline due to a contracting issue. Moroder then turned to Debbie Harry and Blondie, presenting Harry with a rough instrumental track called "Man Machine" and a rough-cut of the film itself. Harry was asked to write the lyrics and melody, a process that Harry states took a mere few hours. She wrote the lyrics from the perspective of the Gere's character in the film, a male-prostitute (ergo - for a good time, call me). Harry later said,
"When I was writing it, I pictured the opening scene, driving on the coast of California."
Which is perhaps why the two go hand in hand so well, as evidenced in the video below...

The recording process didn't go as smoothly as the band would've liked though. Moroder had already laid down the instrumental for Debbie Harry to provide her vocals, but when she turned up at the New York studios to do this the entire band was in tow and insisted they would play their own parts. They did begin to do this and a near-complete version of the single was recorded, however Blondie's guitarist Chris Stein's guitar and amplifier were buzzing and noisy, so his setup needed repairing. Frustrated with the delays, Moroder stopped the unfinished session and took the project back to his studio in Los Angeles to add the final parts - and picked his own musicians in the process! The band were angry about being replaced by session players, but when the song turned out to be very successful, they took it in their stride.

And what a success it was. Released in the US in early 1980 as a single, Call Me was No. 1 for six consecutive weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, where it became the band's biggest single and second No. 1. It also hit No. 1 in the UK and Canada, where it became their fourth and second chart-topper, respectively. In the year-end chart of 1980, it was Billboard's No. 1 single of the year.

Of course, now they had scored another huge hit, Call Me was added to just about every one of Blondie's live gigs, and as it varied greatly from the version the band had originally laid down it meant they had to replicate the Moroder-cut. Probably the one that felt this the hardest was Blondie keyboard player Jimmy Destri who was obligated to play that impressive mid-section keyboard-solo in concerts.

And a fun fact for you - Georgio Moroder's choice of keyboardist for the single version, and the man who was working as the tape engineer when Debbie Harry laid down her vocals, was Harold Faltermeyer. Yes, that Harold Faltermeyer. The man behind Axel F, the theme tune for Beverly Hills Cop. But that's a Pop Goes The Movies for another day.

Check out all our Pop Goes The Movies articles here.

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