Aug 022011
 

Among those of us who lived through the New Wave era, that is, the minor boom of fun, late-’70s power pop/punk rock bands, not, as VH1 retro programmers, Entertainment Weekly writers, and youthful bloggers might have you believe, early synth-pop bands from 1983-1985, did you take great pains to examine where these bands fell along the fine line of “cool?” I did. Let me explain.

Despite what 98% of my fellow students would have said regarding my tastes in music circa 1979, I knew it was cool that I liked punk and new wave bands. I wasn’t cool—don’t think I was deluded into thinking such a thing—but my tastes were cool. That being said, it took only a few weeks of delving into this new music scene to realize that I, as a young rock nerd, had to uphold certain standards of excellence within this genre. Leaving out the punks, almost all of whom were cool, with possible reservations over the suspiciously phony Stiff Little Fingers, judging the coolness of artists loosely categorized/marketed as “new wave” was open to much interpretation. Elvis Costello, Rockpile, and Graham Parker were way cool. Blondie, despite what really cool cats in the New York punk scene had been whispering, were cool. The Police, when they first appeared on the scene, were pretty cool, even if the writing was on the peroxide bottle that they might have bigger fish to fry than empowering awkward teenage boys with a sense of cool. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers and Cheap Trick clearly were so cool that we tried to drag him into our New Wave Army, whether they wanted to serve on the front lines for us or not. The Cars would surely pull their lesser new wave cohorts into the mainstream, no?

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Aug 012011
 

I caught this video on VH1 Classic about 4 years ago and, despite the fact that it blew my mind, I forgot everything about the song that would enable me to search for it once I got on the internet. What can I say? It was early in the morning, and I’m really no good until my second cup of coffee. Fortunately, I found it on a blog this morning — after all, lots of people are posting their favorite early-’80s videos in commemoration of MTV’s 30th anniversary.

The intro to this video is weird and goofy and corny as all get out. (Be careful, the first few seconds of this YouTube file are quieter than the rest.) Yet it makes me incredibly happy that it exists, that someone involved in rock ‘n’ roll thought to do this. For those of you who were paying more attention to music (particularly power pop and new wave) back then, had you seen this before? What were your thoughts then? And how about now?

Also, according to Wikipedia, this band was from Atlanta, GA. I call upon jungleland2 to provide any special insight he might have.

I look forward to your responses.

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Jul 112011
 

With this Sunday’s demise of the British tabloid The News of the World, it got me to thinking about Joe Jackson‘s “ode” to that form of journalism, “Sunday Papers.”

This tune is from Jackson’s Look Sharp, one of my favorite albums and a strong contender from 1979. But thinking about my time here at The Hall, I can’t think of many, if any, mentions of Joe Jackson or his music. I mean, this is a guy who initially appeared to be part of that holy trinity of English angry young singer-songwriters (alongside Elvis Costello and Graham Parker) and whose choice of footwear influenced a subset of the hip and happening. He writes some pretty clever lyrics, plays keyboards and a mean harmonica, was an early adopter of the music video form, and has worked with Francis Ford Coppola.

I’m trying to ascertain RTH’s disinclination to embrace The Man. Could it be his hairline? That he has worn an earring? That he plays the piano rather than a guitar. That he has embraced multiple musical styles that don’t always sync with the tastes of the time? That he cooperated on a cover of a Pulp song with William Shatner?

That string of albums, including Look Sharp, I’m the Man, Beat Crazy, and Night and Day, are some of my favorites. Why aren’t they yours?

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May 142011
 

Sounds of the Hall in roughly 33 1/3 minutes!

In this week’s edition of Saturday Night Shut-In Mr. Moderator celebrates the good parts of the spring season, right before summer hits and he gets all hot and sweaty. We will also reveal the identity of this week’s Mystery Date, live, hopefully through the brainpower of a real, live Townsperson calling into the Rock Town Hall Contest Line! Something tells me the smartypants among you will be ringing the phone off the hook.

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[Note: The Rock Town Hall feed will enable you to easily download Saturday Night Shut-In episodes to your digital music player. In fact, you can even set your iTunes to search for an automatic download of each week’s podcast.] Continue reading »

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Apr 292011
 

Who among the following New Wave–era skinny tie wearers were Skinny Tie Poseurs and who were the Real Deal, Stylish Hepcats?

Real Deal, Stylish Hepcat or Opportunist?

If you don’t recall or are too young to have lived through it, the New Wave era of the late-1970s was when skinny ties were first brought back into hipster vogue by a generation of forward-thinking, backward-dressing musicians who weren’t comfortable with the wide ties of the late-1960s through mid-1970s. While The Clash sang about phony Beatlemania having beaten the dust, a number of their music-scene peers were embracing the skinny ties and suits that Brian Epstein and his tailor pushed as de rigueur among original British Invasion bands.

Goin' skinny!

It’s funny, to me, that The Beatles’ skinny tie beginnings carried so much stylistic clout because they were not skinny tie purists. Through the 1960s they would ride the vanguard of rock tie fashion: from skinny to bow to wide ties and eventually the cravat. Not that it really matters to this discussion, but as a boy I modeled my fashion sense along with each new development in the Fab Four’s Look, which explains why I’ve never moved past a deep preference for wide ties let alone developed much of a Look beyond what the band left me following their breakup. Continue reading »

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Jul 092010
 

Casting Call

Did anyone bother to see that movie on The Runaways? I had no interest in seeing it, but I’d be tempted to see a rock biopic on Blondie. How about you? The tide is high, and a casting call is going out to Townspeople to cast the band members and related scenesters (eg, Seymour Stein, members of Talking Heads and The Ramones).

For starters I’d propose Kirsten Dunst as Debbie Harry and Jason Schwartzman as Chris Stein. You may have other actors in mind. Shoot!

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Jun 252010
 


In my high school days, when staying up on Saturday nights, or whenever, to catch the half-hour syndicated, pre-cable music television show Rockworld was a highlight of my week, I’d look forward to catching some exciting New Wave artist I’d been reading about in Trouser Press, Creem, and any other off-the-beaten path rock mag I could get my hands on. One night I saw the video for The Beat‘s “Different Kind of Girl.” They may have already been known in the US as “Paul Collins’ Beat,” to avoid confusion with the ska band, but it felt cool to refer to them as “The Beat” too. I immediately found this song really catchy and classic. The video, if memory serves, was done on a classic white background. One of the guys, maybe the drummer, wore a horizontal striped shirt. I used to think they were cool. The band members all had modified moptops, which, I’ll explain to younger folks who may be rolling their eyes as they read this, was pretty cool in the late-’70s. I wish I could find that video. I’ve remembered it and the song fondly over the last 30+ years, but today I realized that I never bothered to follow up on anything by Paul Collins and The Beat. I don’t know why, but I think I had a sense that hearing even one more song by this band might ruin the unexpectedly simple joy I got from “Different Kind of Girl.”

At the time, I easily could have bought the album including that song. Today I could go on YouTube and watch a half dozen videos by Collins from that period. There’s probably a site where I could download that album, be it legally or not. I know he’s thought highly of among fans of New Wave and Power Pop music, styles of music I’ve got plenty of familiarity with. I used to own the first two albums by 20/20, but I’ve never heard another song by The Beat – Paul Collins’ The Beat, that is. I don’t know why. For that matter I’ve never heard a song by Nick Gilder other than “Hot Child in the City,” and that’s another great single from my youth!

Is there a song you love by an artist you’ve never bothered to further investigate?

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