Episode 67: Dave, Scott, and Suzanne Make Their Picks on the Top New Wave Songs of the '80s
Here’s the latest Banzai Retro Club podcast I was invited to do on the best New Wave Songs of the 1980s, where Dave White, Scott Compton, and I talk about the songs of the decade that truly transported us.
We all agree, “New Wave” is difficult to classify and sieve down to only a few memorable sub-genres, and was a challenge to do even in the midst of the movement that swept us all up. No one really had a lock on what song qualified for what category… it was part of the ongoing mystique of an era that embodied everything from ska to goth to hardcore punk. The Pretenders, Madness, The Police, Simple Minds, AFOS … it’s terrific to reminisce about what these bands meant to us, and how the first strains of techno-tronic synthesizers and computerized drums twisted the world’s concept of music and self expression. It didn't have to make sense. It didn’t need to be mellifluous. It didn’t require a guitar solo. It could be sparse and space-age and staccato. It could be strange and inane and mysterious and off-the-wall, or rife with sharps and flats. You could sing it in a hazmat jumpsuit while wearing what looked like a backyard planter on your head. It could be programmed, manufactured beforehand on a keyboard, and laid under gummy vocals featuring obvious, colloquial European accents—and be absolutely transcendent.
And it was all new, for us to brand as our own. No one else had heard music like this—or seen it, for that matter, to which those of us who were glued to the first glaringly bright years of MTV can attest. It was a revolution, at least as formidable as when Elvis swiveled his hip flexors. It was international, welcoming artists from England, Germany, Ireland, Scotland, Australia, Iceland, France, and Sweden. It was unifying. And it was all ours.
I thought it would go on forever. But I suppose even the best of things must sometimes come to an amorphous end… running up against the cold and nihilistic face of grunge rock.
In the meantime, listen to our picks for the best New Wave Songs of the decade (and slightly previous to the decade, since we’ve established that the post-punk New Wave movement edged its way into being more like 1978 or ’79.)
Enjoy, and let me know if you agree with our picks. I’m happy to say this podcast quickly shot up the ranks to become the site's third most-downloaded session.
Banzai Retro Club will be launching a series of New Wave music podcasts with Dave, Scott, and myself, running down our choices for best album of the year, 1979 to 1989, year-by-year. Listen on iHeartRadio, Spotify, iTunes, or Podbean.