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New Wave 80’s Today

The best of the New Wave Past...


By Tom Cuffia

New Wave 80’s Today

The best of the New Wave Past...


In the United States, where punk had less impact, there was not the explosion of do-it-yourself garage rock and indie record labels as there was in Great Britain in the late 1970s. In America, disco and arena rock continued to dominate the charts throughout much of the later 1970s. So when the market for disco collapsed in late 1978, there was little “in the pipeline” for record companies to fill the void. Many of the punk and new wave acts that were established on the East Coast and in the Midwest had disbanded during the disco era. The few surviving punk/new wave acts came to the fore and sparked American interest in this “new” genre. Out of the New York’s CBGB’s club scene came Blondie. Fronted by sexy lead singer Deborah Harry, Blondie was far more flexible politically than their punk brethren. Their flexibility permitted them to crossover into the pop and disco markets in 1979, the breakout year for new wave. That year, The Cars and The Talking Heads, both with ties to the New York punk scene, also entered the charts. Los Angeles’s beat revival act, The Knack, also made a big splash on the charts in 1979 with their hit single, “My Sharona.”

Gary Numan’s 1980 album The Pleasure Principle marked the arrival of British new wave on the North American pop charts. Numan’s synthesized dance music set down a template that would come to characterize one broad subgenre within new wave. The heavy reliance on synthesizers and the stark minimalism of Numan suggested influences ranging from Kraftwerk to Brian Eno to Mike Oldfield. Numan’s breakout album not only produced an eminently danceable cut, “In Cars,” but popularized synthesizer-produced dance music, which became known in some circles as “synthpop.” Some of the more notable synthpop acts following Numan onto the American charts include Ultravox, Orchestral Manoevers in the Dark, Depeche Mode, Human League, Howard Jones, A-ha, New Order, Soft Cell, and The Pet Shop Boys.

By Tom Cuffia

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