Nov 162012

Beside Linda Rondstadt and Billy Joel, did any established rock artists of the late-’70s attempt to cash in on New Wave and Punk music? I can’t think of any others beside The Rolling Stones‘ “response to Punk” album (a phrase they now embrace but a notion I believe they rejected at the time), Some Girls. I’m sure there are a few other examples beyond Townman alexmagic‘s long-imagined, never-delivered Bob Seger New Wave album.

Let’s face it, there wasn’t much cash to cash in on regarding New Wave music of the late-’70s and early-’80s. If this music had caught fire, however, like Disco did a few years earlier, can you imagine the New Wave single big bands of the ’70s might have released? Can you imagine KISS‘ cash-in New Wave single? Can you imagine the Eagles‘ cash-in New Wave single? Instead of “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy” Rod Stewart could have ripped off “Dancing With Myself.” And what about Seger’s long-imagined, as-yet-undelivered New Wave nugget?


  56 Responses to “If New Wave Mu$ic Could Talk”

  1. bostonhistorian

    I think the Eagles new wave cash in is Don Henley’s “Dirty Laundry”.

  2. 2000 Man

    Pete Townshend’s Empty Glass always seemed like an attempt to “keep up” to me. I can’t remember what the whole album sounds like, but Led Zeppelin’s In Through the Out Door seemed like an attempt at getting those newfangled keyboards involved. At least the big hit, All My Love (Man, that song suuuuucks).

  3. Suburban kid

    It occurred to me that some of the heaviest monsters of 60s-70s rock (Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, Grateful Dead) made disco songs at some point in the mid-late 70s, but I can’t think of any new wave Zep songs.

    I WILL point out that in Zeppelin’s first publicity shots post-1977 (for In Through the Out Door, I think), depicted them in suits with skinny ties — quite a drastic shift from the old dragon suits and girls’ blouses. Other Big Rock Stars started wearing suits and ties and leaving the early 70s fashion behind, in response to punk and New Wave, too.

  4. Yes, I think this new wave co-op thing happened a lot more frequently than Mr. Mod is suggesting. Both The Who and solo Pete in the early ’80s made many nods in new-wave directions. Also, The Kinks in their arena-filling phase, 1979-1983. Both groups also tried to cut their hair in new-wave-friendly ways. And then there’s Back to the Egg and McCartney II!

  5. Rod Stewart had that song Young Turks (“Young hearts beat free tonight…”). It always seemed like a grab at New Wave to me. Wikipedia informs me that “The song was produced with synthesizers and a hi-hat played over a drum machine.”

    The prominent synths in Dancing in the Dark by Bruce make it seem like he was trying to keep up with the trends. I guess Bruce’s collaboration with Patti Smith don’t count because he never released that song until later.

  6. Todd Rungren’s insipid Bang on the Drum All Day is a big synthy departure from his singer songwriter persona of the 70’s.

  7. machinery

    I always felt Cheap Trick tried to have to both ways — two hair rockers and two nerds who were the new wavers, right? And for some reason I feel Tom Petty dipped his toe into the new wave pool there for a second. I was never into the Tubes, but didn’t they take a fast left turn when MTV came out and suddenly became new wave? (Not that the tTbes were established artists — and not that I really know anything about them — but I remember back then some dudes complaining that the Tubes had sold out in some way.)

  8. Yes, there were “keeping up” moments, as listed, but few outright attempts at aping New Wave moves, the way Rondstadt and Joel (whatever his New Wave rockabilly number was called) did. I guess Robert Palmer and Hall & Oates made some gestures to the New Wave.

    Maybe I’m way off about this, but I think artists like Cheap Trick and Petty and even Rundgren were already attuned to that music. Hell, Rundgren produced precursors to punk and new wave.

    If I’m way off base, so be it. If there was a dearth of cash-in New Wave songs by established artists, feel free to imagine what their songs might have been.

    [E for effort, Mr. Mod!]

  9. hrrundivbakshi

    Neil Young and “Trans”

  10. Slim Jade

    Yeah, “Rough Boys” was a love letter to punks.

  11. Slim Jade

    I don’t want to be sacrilegious, but I feel like David Gilmour’s “Blue Light”, and to some exent Bryan Ferry dipped his toe as well.

  12. Suburban kid

    This is not an example. Just a memory from 1980 triggered by the mention of “new wave”

  13. Suburban kid

    Didn’t Yes go New Wave in a big way with Trevor Horn etc.?

    Could Starship’s pop shit be considered New Wave?

    It’s possible both of these examples are actually post-New Wave, more sort of early-to-mid 80s techno pop, which is distinct from 1976-1981 new wave IMO.

  14. BigSteve

    Yes the Trash and Angel Eyes on Roxy Music’s Manifesto album were on the electro end of the new wave spectrum.

    I also think Jackson Browne’s song Somebody’s Baby off the Fast times at Ridgemont High soundtrack has a new wave flavor. That’s a terrific record.

  15. 2000 Man

    The Tubes definitely didn’t sell out. They were always after the big hit like She’s a Beauty. They were cool because they made albums that were good in spite of the one obvious attempt at chart success per record.

  16. 2000 Man

    How about Bowie? He became the biggest selling 70’s superstar of the 80’s because of Blue Jean, China Girl, Ashes to Ashes and that Cat People song. He was pretty into the New Wave.

  17. Slim Jade

    Apparently, Dancing In the Dark was written for the Ramones, but Bruce’s people convinced him to keep it.

  18. I don’t think of Cheap Trick or Petty going “New Wave” because they were pretty much contemporary with New Wave. Petty’s album came out in November 76 and Cheap Trick’s in February 1977.

    My early recollection of Petty was that he was lumped into the Americana Byrdsy style of New Wave and I know I saw Cheap Trick play the same Delaware Strip Mall Rock bar within weeks of Talking Heads in late ’77.

  19. I must have dreamed I posted this earlier: Bowie, Roxy Music, and other proto-punks/new wavers can’t count. They were only stepping into a world they created.

    I must have decided not to post this thought because my premise seems to have been off and having done so would have only drawn attention to that failed premise and made me seem like a bigger dummy.

  20. I distinctly recall getting Hall & Oates’ “Along The Red Ledge” for X-mas as a teenybopper and thinking that they were trying have it both ways — here’s a punked up song from that 1978 album.

    Alley Katz

  21. Good call on all those — Back to the Egg remains my favorite Wings album, just ahead of LondonTown.

    As a new wave wannabee, I can distinctly recall thinking that The Kinks had “new wave” cred, if that even existed, outside my own teenybopper mind.

  22. That was actually Hungry Heart, written at Joey Ramone’s request.

  23. Hall and Oates is a great example. Success as both 70s blue eyed soul singers and 80s synthy, drum machine loving pop stars.

  24. jeangray

    Rush begin using synths & incorporating New Wave sounds in 1980 on “Moving Pictures.” They would pursue this direction even further as the ’80’s progressed. Queen started using synths & drum machines on their 1982 album “Hot Space.”

    Both bands had previously had disclaimers printed in the liner notes proudly proclaiming that no synthesizers were used in the makings of their albums.

    Consequently, the synthesizer use managed to make both bands sound even worse!

  25. Great call on Queen — I would say The Game was a commercially successful attempt to stay hip — the sound, the cover, Mercury’s haircut!

  26. New wavey haircuts too!

  27. Awesome! I forgot about Rush’s move to a Police-based sound. And yes, the synths were no help whatsoever.

  28. cliff sovinsanity

    Starship was “80’s music”.

  29. cliff sovinsanity

    Rush should have broken up after Signals. Subdivisions is possibly the BEST new wave song by a non-new wave band.

  30. cliff sovinsanity

    I’d throw Iggy Pop and Lou Redd in with this bunch.

  31. cliff sovinsanity

    The J. Geils Band went totally New Wave on the album Freeze Frame, for good and ill.

  32. Elton John ditched the crazy 70’s costumes to keep up with the new wave

  33. jeangray

    Frank Zappa had the biggest hit of his career in 1982 with “Valley Girl.”

  34. jeangray

    Totally forgot about that one.

  35. jeangray

    Hear hear!

  36. cherguevara

    How about Foreigner’s “4” album? They even got Thomas Dolby to play on it.

  37. I have to take issue with “Trans” being a new-wave grab. Neil’s *always* stated that “Trans” and the vocoder and electronics were simply his attempt at building a line of communication with his son Ben, who has CP. And (being in the middle of “Waging Heavy Peace” I’ve just learned this) he meant for the album to be part of a package including videos augmenting his mission of exploring alternative modes of communication for the incapacitated (nixed by Geffen). So even though at the time my buddies and I used to mockingly sing “Well I saw Mr. Soul break dancing in the street,” in retro I think this was more of Neil using tech to chase a purpose rather than to achieve a popular sound.


  38. The “Tusk” version of “Not That Funny” is insipid. In concert I think it’s quite a jam.


  39. “New Song” and “Had Enough” from “Who Are You”.


  40. “The Greeks Don’t Want No Freaks” by (The) Eagles


  41. Now I have to hear it live because I really like the Tusk version.

  42. Slim Jade

    Oops, that’s right! Wow, these pince-nez fit me really nicely!

  43. Bruce did sing on that Graham Parker song “Endless Night.” And it rocked.

  44. I remember “Luanne” not being too bad for corporate power pop.

  45. 2000 Man

    So where do you stand on Tusk? I think it’s a pretty good album. They’ve got better, and I can’t help but enjoy a lot of Fleetwood Mac, even if it destroys my garage rocker cred. I know a lot of people that just hate that record, and I always kinda liked it.

  46. cherguevara

    And speaking of the Police – their entire career. Those guys were prog rockers, their whole thing was a front. That’s not to say that I don’t like them, though – because I do.

  47. …which reminded me of this.

    They were on IRS Records? Who knew?

    And, fittingly, it has a song called “Missing Persons.”

  48. Suburban kid

    I completely forgot, but Peter Gabriel’s third album from around 1979 was utterly post-punk, if not new wave.

  49. True, he was one of the first established musicians to embrace the new scene. Didn’t Paul Weller play on one of his early albums?

  50. Wow, the clip Raoul supplied was REALLY annoying. Buckingham is a major turnoff for me. What was he supposed to be doing by performing that song? Is that him being “New Wave?” It was like watching that old Steve Allen Show episode where Allen mocks a young Elvis Presley by having him sing “Hound Dog” to a hound dog.

  51. Which reminds me of Exposure by Robert Fripp.

  52. misterioso

    He needs slapping.

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