Mix Tape Friday: New Wave Friday
Favorite Boy and I have spent many an ’08 night chatting about music and YouTubing videos, which has left me musically nostalgic of late. Thus we must go new wave this fine January day.
You longtime readers may remember that new wave is my favorite genre of music. (You are journaling my likes and dislikes, no?) I’ve pondered the why. The obvious answer: It was the rage during my aurally formative years — eighteen to twenty-five. But it’s a bit more than that. New wave redefined pop music for me. After years of listening to pop ditties about afternoon delights, car washes, and rubberband men, suddenly I was singing along to brilliant, literate songs about detective-watching and Jackie O and shellfish. The subject matter was as cool as the beat.
And, thank God, my obsession with new wave saved me from going down the hairband aisle at Turtles Records.
New wave is hard to define. It’s sort of post-punk, sort of poppy. To paraphrase Justice Stewart, I can’t define it, but I know it when I hear it. I always start with the Stiff Records lineup — Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe, Dave Edmunds and Graham Parker, Wreckless Eric and Ian Dury, Madness and The Bongos — then spin out from there. But new wave isn’t just a British movement. Talking Heads were a major player in the beginning; some say Sire Records’ Seymour Stein coined the name to market post-punk bands like them. About a quarter of today’s tracks are by Stiff Records artists, though.
Today’s tape includes tracks released between 1976 and 1983 — a truly golden age of music. Fittingly, the earliest track — the lone one from 1976 — is by Nick Lowe. I’m sure I missed one of your favorites — but don’t worry, because there will be more New Wave Fridays. List your favorites in the comment box.
Tears for Fears :: Mad World/Pale Shelter
The Psychedelic Furs :: Love My Way
Split Enz :: I Got You
Depeche Mode :: Just Can’t Get Enough
The Cure :: Boys Don’t Cry
Wreckless Eric :: (I’d Go the) Whole Wide World
Nick Lowe :: So It Goes
The Jam :: Modern World
Devo :: Freedom of Choice
Big Country :: In a Big Country
After the Fire :: Der Kommissar
Talking Heads :: Once in a Lifetime
The B-52’s :: Rock Lobster
Buzzcocks :: Everybody’s Happy Nowadays
Bow Wow Wow :: I Want Candy
Joe Jackson :: I’m the Man
The Vapors :: Turning Japanese
Thomas Dolby :: She Blinded Me with Science
The Go-Go’s :: We Got the Beat
XTC :: Generals and Majors
The English Beat :: Twist and Crawl
The Three O’Clock :: Jet Fighter
Let’s Active :: Every Word Means No
R.E.M. :: Stumble
The Cars :: Since You’re Gone
Violent Femmes :: Gone Daddy Gone
Madness :: One Step Beyond
Elvis Costello & The Attractions :: I Can’t Stand Up (For Falling Down)
Squeeze :: Pulling Mussels (From the Shell)
Dave Edmunds :: Girls Talk
Gang of Four :: I Love a Man in a Uniform
Gary Numan :: Cars
Lene Lovich :: Lucky Number
Ian Dury & The Blockheads :: Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick
The Stranglers :: (Get a) Grip (On Yourself)
Human Sexual Response :: Jackie Onassis
The Bongos :: Numbers with Wings
Boomtown Rats :: I Don’t Like Mondays
Aztec Camera :: Oblivious
The The :: Uncertain Smile
When I first started reading the beloved Bee Boy’s blog, he had “Every Word Means No” as his tagline. I knew I’d found a kindred spirit, and that’s why it was easy for me to pick which Let’s Active tune to include today.
You know of my deep love for Elvis Costello and Squeeze (again, you’re jotting down my faves, right?), but I have yet to wax poetic about Joe Jackson. Joe and Elvis defined the new wave era for me. In 1980 I wore white cruel shoes (with skinny ties, of course) just like Joe wore on the Look Sharp! cover. I’ve seen Joe in concert many times, and he’s always amazing — and I just found out hours ago that he’ll be here in April.
I’ve told this story before, but I never tire of telling it. Bob Geldof read the story that inspired “I Don’t Like Mondays” at my college radio station. WRAS had a teletype machine in the newsroom, from which we received news stories. The machine was big and clunky and very loud, especially when a major story was breaking. A big story came across the wire while not-yet-Sir Bob was in the studio, and it was so distracting he stopped the interview to read the story on the air. It was, of course, the story that inspired “I Don’t Like Mondays,” which he wrote later that afternoon. (That was a year or two before I joined the station; I was still in Athens at that time and thus cannot play the I Was There card.)
I worked for a Japanese company in the very early 1980s, where three of the four managers were Japanese. When they’d return to the office after a saki’ed lunch, they’d get me to sing “Turning Japanese,” particularly “No sex, no drugs, no wine, no women / No fun, no sin, no you, no wonder it's dark.” They thought it was a hoot. I never explained what “turning Japanese” meant.
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