11/24/2015

New Wave Music Gets Introduced to America (1979)



Given the efforts of people like Malcolm McLaren to turn punk rock into a viable commercial product—or at least a quick cash grab—it’s a little surprising it took as long as it did for “pop punk” to find its profitable 90s/oughties teenage niche. Always a catch-all term for an eclectic variety of styles, punk instead further diversified in the eighties into various kinds of post-punk, hardcore, and new wave. The latter development, however, quickly found a commercial audience, with its successful fusion of 70s pop, reggae, and disco elements with punk’s wry, arty-outsider sensibility. Artists like Gary Numan, Blondie, DEVO, Talking Heads, and even The Clash emerged from the 70s with highly danceable hits that set the tone for the sound of the next decade. 

But first the public had to learn what new wave was, and many of them did in a surprisingly mainstream way, in the 1979 special produced by ABC’s 20/20 in two parts here. By comparison with the number of awkwardly clueless or blatantly sensationalistic news reports on emerging youth cultures over the decades, the show is “impressively astute,” writes Dangerous Minds, “for a news segment on new music from one of the major TV networks.” It features a number of the above-named artists—DEVO, Blondie, Talking Heads—and makes an interesting attempt to situate the music on a continuum with Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, and the Rolling Stones....more