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Salute: The Complete History of New Wave

The pulse of a generation

New Wave was a short-lived yet albeit highly influential blend of Punk and synthesized pop.

Contagious, revolutionary and visually striking, it struck all of the right chords with teenagers that were looking for something fresh and new.

With roots in the 70’s, the genre blossomed in the 80’s as the pioneers of the genre began to shape its course.

Punchy synth-laden compositions, syncopated beats, orchestral touches and MTV-ready images were all common denominators for bands often associated the term.

The problem with the genre is that in the minds of many it refers more to a timeframe than it does a sound.

The phrase came to power in the 70’s when critics used it to throw bands like the Velvet Underground into the same pit with other artists that were a bit different from the AOR rock that owned the radio.

Underground zines took the phrase, made it their own and often tagged emerging punkish bands with the phrase.

Seeing a marketing opportunity record exec Seymour Stein decided that the word punk would kill radio airplay (and sales) for his artists and he campaigned vigorously for new wave to replace the term in the United States.

Matter of fact, Stein went as far as to tell Music Ally that he came up with the term.

“I did [com eup with the term New Wave]. It’s not that I didn’t like the word “punk”. I didn’t care what word is used. But a lot of people didn’t like the term “punk”. I didn’t mind the word “punk” at all. I don’t mind any word. Unless it’s a really nasty word – which punk isn’t. Unless it’s a racial slur or a religious slur – I don’t care. You shit! I don’t care about those words.

By this time, I had just about signed Talking Heads and they weren’t punk – under any fucking definition. I thought and I thought about what we could do about this. Then I started thinking that what I loved most about New York at the time was that music was coming back to the city.

New York, when I was younger, was Ground Zero in the US – and that meant Ground Zero in the world. Then we started losing a lot to LA. We started losing a lot to Detroit. We started losing a lot to Memphis, Philadelphia and other places.

That was good as the more pockets you have the more great talent you are going to find. You don’t have to wait for someone to come all the way from Memphis to New York to make it. Philadelphia was an hour and a half away but not the others.

I thought that New York was back on top and there’s a new wave of music. That’s where I came up with the phrase “new wave”. It had been used before [like La Nouvelle Vague in French cinema]. I am sure they used it in fashion. I am sure they used it in everything.

I just didn’t want to use “punk”. I didn’t even want to use it where The Ramones were concerned because I think some of the Ramones’ songs are incredible if you really listen to them. The Ramones certainly didn’t care. That’s why I came up with the term “new wave.”

This is how bands as diverse as The Ramones and A Flock of Seagulls were thought of as new wave bands.

In retrospect, its artists from both the United States and Britain that embraced rhythms, individuality and of course synths that will wear the patch for eternity.

Athens, GA pioneers The B-52s were New Wave before they crossed over. Blondie has  New Wave roots. Bow Wow Wow was New Wave and of course so were the stars of the genre.

Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love” is such an anthem that it’s been covered by an immeasurable amount of modern artists. OMD’s “If You Leave” is still standing as a how-to guide for teenage romance.

The genre’s visual impact played into the success of Adam and the Ants and Missing Persons who stuck out for their tribal and futuristic styles respectively.

If new wave artists had one thing in common, it’s that their songs were almost always danceable.

ABC ran that space as did Roxy Music who amplified the bottom end to play up to the other genre that both acts were associated with which was the New Romantic movement.

The two genres were almost interchangeable takes on the same concept which in a pre-internet did more to confuse the fans than anything else.

In spawning New Romantic movement, New Wave achieved what influential genres of music do which the creation of sub-genres.

Like Metal created Blues Metal, Thrash Metal and Black Metal, New Wave begat New Romantic.

Ultravox, Culture Club and Duran Duran often get placed in that box moreseo than New Wave.  New Romantic up-streamed influence back to New Wave.

As the little brother was based on the styles pitched in trendy London boutiques, the older sibling had no choice but to take notice.

Thus the haircuts, shiny clothes and androgynous approach often attributed to New Wave should also be seen as innovative ideals pushed forward by its off-shoot.

By the late 80’s New Wave was largely a left-of-the dial afterthought.  The rise of hair metal had filled the void for girls who love boys that look like girls and MTV was cashing in on the success behind bands that they featured on Headbangers Ball.

Bands like The Cure certainly picked up at the tail end of the wave and continued to push the agenda forward but they got thrown into the other catch-all category of alternative.

In the now, it’s safe to say that The Killers, Interpol and large list of others that date back to turn-of-the-century synthetic hit-makers Orgy would not have existed without the rise of New Wave.

Thought it spawned its share of one-hit wonders, nearly all of those hits still resonate with fire and purity today.

Stream: Salute To New Wave Playlist

Next Monday The History of returns to Salute Magazine

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