I'm happy to be working with Dave White and Scott Compton of the Banzai Retro Club on a new podcast series, where we'll be giving our picks for Best New Wave Album of the Year, year by year, 1979 to 1989. We've come to consensus that New Wave didn't start on cue in 1980, that it was sort of ushered in by an underground punk movement that started in the late 1970s.
[Link to podcast: https://banzairetroclub.podbean.com/e/episode-71-favorite-1979-new-wave-albums/ ]
Take a listen for our picks, but more, be ready to immerse yourself in the nostalgic rush that accompanied the emergence of a new genre of music: part self-expression, part programming skills, part performance art, part New Romantic beat poetry revival, part mating ritual. I want these discussions to recall the experience of New Wave, which shoved the tackiness of disco and AM radio straight to the discount rack of the record store.
I recently read a Twitter thread that asked me to describe the first time I heard a favorite song. I think that’s too simplistic and random a question. I don’t remember where I was when I first heard such-and-such a song. Instead, I remember a day when something amazing happened to me: When I walked into that first party, when I popped open that first beer, when I took that first guy’s hand … I remember what song was playing in the background. A lot of those songs happened in 1979.
I remember a night that summer when I was 15. My best friend dragged me along to a party one of her older brother’s buddies was throwing for his 17th birthday. He lived around the block, but we had never met because he went to a different school district.
Blondie’s “One Way Or Another” was blaring on the stereo. I stepped into the dark house, full of brooding teens splayed out on plaid 1970’s den furniture. The guest of honor was leaning over a pool table, an older, cooler guy than I typically hung around with. He lowered his gaze and gave me a serious stare.
No one at my school ever looked at me like that.
I was so nervous I almost threw up.
But Debbie Harry yelled, I’m gonna gitcha-gitcha-gitcha-gitcha!! in my ear, and I fell head over heels in love—an overwhelming, didn’t-know-what-the-f*&$-hit-me teenage love. It was one of the coolest moments of my life, and Blondie was playing.
Sadly, Blondie’s album Parallel Lines was released in (late) 1978, so it couldn’t make the podcast list, but it’s still one of the most vivid memories I have of a kick-ass New Wave album, one that created a giant stir—a spiked elixir that fueled an entire decade to come.
Listen to how these tunes affected us, in a year when mainstream radio was playing little more than Donna Summer, top 40 R&B, or Neil Sedaka’s latest ballad… until DJs at groundbreaking stations like KROQ and WLIR discovered people like Joe Jackson and Gary Numan.
It was a hell of a pivot point.
**If you'd like to follow the whole series, or other Banzai Retro Club podcasts, you can find them on Spotify, iHeart Radio, iTunes, Podbean at https://banzairetroclub.podbean.com/