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"Phony Beatlemania has bitten the dust!" -The Clash

How New Wave Began

New Wave music has been defined as "The illegitimate offspring of Punk and Disco". An interesting and not entirely inaccurate description. New Wave WAS music you could dance to. But unlike Disco, the lyrics and themes were often dark and foreboding.

The late 1970's Punk revolution was influenced by earlier ground breakers like The Stooges and The New York Dolls. Punk opened the door to alternative sounds, leading to the New Wave explosion of the early 1980s.

Much of New Wave was also also heavily influenced by 70's Glam, Garage Rock, 60's Psychedelia, and even 50's Rock. Within New Wave lurked many musical sub-strains including Ska, New Romance, Rockabilly, Gothic, Mod, Synthpop, Alternative and Punk.



Are You Mod Or Ska?

Ska bands like The English Beat, The Specials and Madness mixed a punk attitude and a sped up reggae beat. The mascara clad New Romantics included bands like Ultravox, Visage and Duran Duran. They took their cue from androgynous predecessors Roxy Music, David Bowie and Queen. The Rockabilly camp included The Stray Cats, The Blasters and The Violent Femmes. Against the grain of the supposed progressive new music, they brought back the raw rock sound begun by innovators Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis in the 1950's.

Goths, represented by Siouxsie and The Banshees, The Cure and Soft Cell, added their brooding, dark sound to a disco beat. REM, The Church and The Bangles began a Neo Psychedelic/Folk movement based partially on 60's bands like The Byrds and The Beatles. The Mods rode their scooters and listened to legendary English rockers, The Jam.

Synthpop groups included OMD, New Order and Yaz. The Disco dance beat was there but the lyrics were about alienation, conflict and angst. Straight on Punkers included Social Distortion, The Clash and Billy Idol.

The Police, Pretenders, Elvis Costello, U2, Psychedelic Furs, The B-52s, Blondie, The Smiths and others combined many influences to create their sound. A sound that would also carry on in the form of countless future alternative bands.

These diverse musical elements came together at a time when the music world desperately needed something new. The studio produced pop tripe of the mid to late 70's and the oversaturation of mindless disco was taking it's toll. People were tired of formulaic, "safe" music being force fed to them. The reaction- a widespread, collective unconscious movement of music lovers determined to take music creation into their own hands.

Punk Paves The Way

The initial result was the late 70's Punk revolution. Spike haired kids with snotty attitudes towards all things "establishment" bought, borrowed or stole guitars and learned to play as they went. Bands like
The Ramones, The Clash and The Sex Pistols provided a rebellious mentality and a raw energy that had been missing from the music scene. What they lacked in technical expertise they made up for in attitude. They were an inspiration to countless numbers of people who immediately started their own bands.

By the early 1980's, an explosion of new sounds and new groups broke through, challenging the status quo. Even their names were designed to provoke a response.
Oingo Boingo, Human League, Adam And The Ants, The Motels, Romeo Void, Wall Of Voodoo, Sparks, Altered Images, Echo & The Bunnymen, Depeche Mode, Simple Minds, X, A Flock Of Seagulls, Missing Persons, Talking Heads, Culture Club, Berlin, Split Enz, INXS, B-52s and the list goes on. Their mission: Reject authority- reclaim the music and save the world.

The simultaneous revolution of new sound technologies such as synthesizers and drum machines, changed the way music could sound. It also made it easy for just about anyone to play.

Many New Wave/Punk bands ran the speed of their songs up to a brisk 160 to 190 beats per minute. These were no disco dance club anthems. This was fast, 3 chord rock music you could pogo, mosh and slam dance to. The resulting release proved not just physical but emotional and spiritual as well.

Children Of The Revolution

It's no wonder that many New Wavers created songs reflecting the dark realities of life. Themes of isolation and repression resonated with many who grew up in the 70's. Disenchantment grew as the promise of the 60's Peace and Love movement faded into the malaise of the 70's.

This was also the first generation of "latch key" children. Divorce rates skyrocketed in the 60's and 70's. As did the need for those still married to earn two incomes. The offspring of these parents were without adult supervision for much of the time. Many had to fend for themselves, reaching maturity without the advantage of full time role models.

When these kids grew up and started bands, their detachment was expressed in their music. It was sometimes stark, sometimes angry and usually played with a desperate urgency. Quite a contrast to the lightweight pop and disco that had been dominating the airwaves.

Many sang about injustice and the need for change as awareness grew about growing political corruption. Personal responsibility and integrity became a mantra for others. And some encouraged living life on your own terms.

The energetic music of artists like
The Go-Go's, Cyndi Lauper, The Bangles, Nina Hagen, Blondie, The Waitresses, X, Bow Wow Wow, Missing Persons, B-52s, Human League, Talking Heads, Kate Bush and Pretenders represented a rise in the female influence in music that hadn't been seen since the "girl groups" of the early 60's.

We Got The Beat!

The New Wave 80's provided music lovers an abundance of groundbreaking, exciting bands to listen to. People were glued to their radios, wondering what new sound they would hear next. This diversity of breakout sounds is testament to the power of those who risked everything to make a difference.

For a brief moment in time, the music took precedence over the business of selling records. The New Wave 80's was a golden age of experimentation and was, as it turns out, the last great era of Rock and Roll.

- DJ Craig

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