Eighties New Wave

Among the notable effects of Punk Rock was the general disruption it brought to popular music culture. From the perspective of Punk Rock's advocates, it was a cleansing effect. To that group, Punk was the answer to the fatigue of 1970s mainstream Rock, the excess of 1970s Stadium Rock, the bloodless complexity of the era's Prog Rock. Rock and Roll, they argued, had lost touch with its original spirit, and Punk was the slap to the back of the head that it needed. The early Rock and Roll of Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, and others, handed down several times over, had become something else altogether, something that had lost its connection to the raw, early music. That, at least, was how the believers felt.

Regardless of whether you saw Punk in that light or not, there was little question that the music kicked the doors down and renewed the more democratic character of Rock and Roll culture. Suddenly, clubs were filled with bands that could hardly be called virtuosos — but they were passionate. Punk's liberating idea, learn-three-chords-and-form-band, opened the floodgates. Just as the Beatles appeared on television and made playing in a band look like something anyone could and should do, Punk kicked off a similar movement from the streets. But, in many cases, what came out of that wasn't called Punk. More often it was called New Wave.

From the Talking Heads to the Police to the Cars, Blondie, and Devo, the music of the New Wave had a tremendous range. It was a burst of creative energy with lasting effects and took many forms. It wasn't a club so much as it was a moment. And, different from most of the acts associated with Punk, some among New Wave's many groups had tremendous commercial success. The lessons in this chapter will capture the time, place, and legacy of the New Wave, a movement with many heads, born of Punk.