“Some people loved it and some people hated it…”: Blondie’s Clem Burke on the making of their classic hit Rapture

Blondie in 1979
(Image credit: Maureen Donaldson/Getty Images))

Blondie’s 1981 single Rapture was a ground-breaking song for the New York icons. Taken from their hugely successful 1980 album Autoamerican, it became the first song featuring rap vocals to top the charts in the US. Its accompanying promo clip, meanwhile, is touted as the first ever rap video to be aired on MTV, Debbie Harry and co. helping to shine a light on the ever-burgeoning hip-hop scene. Speaking about the track’s creation to this writer a few years ago, drummer Clem Burke said it summed up Blondie’s outlook in music that anything goes.

“Bowie had always been a template for Blondie and that really enabled us to keep an open mind about approaching a song like Rapture, and not thinking it was too far off the orbit of what Blondie would do,” Burke explained.

Even Burke, though, was surprised when he heard singer Harry embark on the famous rap at the end of the track. “The lyrics were not really completed until after the basic track was done, so it was definitely a revelation to hear Debbie's rap, surprising and fun to hear,” Burke explained. “I had no idea, we just kind of left however many bars open for whatever was going to happen there. After we completed a record, I would have a little party in my loft and play the record for some friends and I'll always remember the looks on their faces when they heard Debbie burst into the rap in Rapture. It was new territory at the time. I was aware of the rap music that was going on in the Bronx, it wasn't something that I was focussed on that much, but of course, Debbie and Chris Stein were.” 

The song went on to become a massive hit but the band’s label weren’t convinced when they first heard it, Burke recalled. “When we gave the album to the record company, they basically said they didn't hear any hits. And that was their quote: “we don't we don't hear a single”. It had two Number Ones! And both were very innovative as well. We were all kind of dismayed at the reaction to the record, because it’s probably my favourite Blondie album… it really stands up, the music is very esoteric and there's a lot going on. I think the reaction to Rapture was some people loved it, and some people hated it, which is probably always a good sign.”

Watch the video to the Blondie classic below: 

Niall Doherty

Niall Doherty is a writer and editor whose work can be found in Classic Rock, The Guardian, Music Week, FourFourTwo, on Apple Music and more. Formerly the Deputy Editor of Q magazine, he co-runs the music Substack letter The New Cue with fellow former Q colleagues Ted Kessler and Chris Catchpole. He is also Reviews Editor at Record Collector. Over the years, he's interviewed some of the world's biggest stars, including Elton John, Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, Muse, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Depeche Mode, Robert Plant and more. Radiohead was only for eight minutes but he still counts it.