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Mad World: An Oral History of New Wave Artists and Songs That Defined the 1980s Paperback – 1 Sep 2014
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'If you're a big fan of 80s new wave music, they take all of those songs, and each chapter is a behind-the-scenes about the song, like 'Come On Eileen', 'Take on Me', 'True' by Spandau Ballet. I am fascinated by this book.' --Gary Dell'Abate, aka Baba Booey (executive producer of the Howard Stern Show, on the post-Stern Wrap Up show)
About the Author
Lori Majewski was a cofounder and editor-in-chief of 'Teen People'. She was also an executive editor of 'Entertainment Weekly' and 'Us Weekly'. She lives in Weehawken, New Jersey. Jonathan Bernstein is a Los Angeles-based writer. He is the author of, among other titles, 'Pretty In Pink: The Golden Age of Teenage Movies', and has contributed to publications such as 'The Guardian', 'Spin', 'Rolling Stone' and 'The Face'.
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So....when it arrived I carefully worked my way through.
It covers some interesting artists....some "underground"...some who turned from "underground" to Mainstream and pop.
It does seem like a big jump from The Normal to ....(forgive me) one hit wonders (in the UK ) like Animotion...with Duran Duran and Ultravox, INXS and Thompson Twins in between.
The book does try and capture the audiences from both Sides of the Atlantic....including some English expressions explained to out Trans Atlantic brothers and sisters. The word "pissed" for example.
So the chapters give an opening salvo from the two writers/editors...one male UK , one female US.
This is important when you consider the appeal of some of the bands discussed...but there are honest opinions from both.
The US female writer never "got" The Smiths.......!!! the UK male writer did…-
It is an entertaining read..with comments from some of the artists and band members about the particular song chosen.
So this is my issue.....up for a debate
The bands are classed as "New Wave"
“Punk Rock……..Power Pop” wrote Bruce Foxton on the Jam Single “News Of The World”…now I was a keen music buyer/listener when punk started to filter through to rest of the UK from London and Manchester. Out of Punk came the term “New Wave”…..I recall my mate the drummer of a band I was playing in kicking off about this term….and penning a song called “There’s No Such Thing as New Wave”. New Wave appeared to be a convenient box to place new bands that were not “Punk” but wanted to still appear up to date and not seem like old farts or spandex covered freaks.
New Wave (Back then…I’m talking late maybe 78-81) was more about skinny ties maybe bright suits and jackets and semi spiked hair (maybe) These bands were trying to find a place in the “market” as “The Biz” would have it.
So you could dump any band that came along really into the category…..The Police.?? The Korgis..??
Blondie even got chucked in there…The Shirts..??? Elvis Costello was often classified as New Wave..although he was around at “The Height of The Fighting”….
So my new wavers would be like …The Jags (written on the back of my hand) Tonight (Drummer man!!) maybe The Motors (Beat the Hell out of Me….later Airport) that kind of stuff…Plastic Betrand anybody….
I remember too. My good friend Caffy involved in “The New Wave of New Wave” (She may even have coined the phrase) while she was promoting bands like SMASH and THESE ANIMAL MEN back in the 1990’s. These were guitar based bands with a bit of OOOmmph about them.
So where am I going with this ..sorry.
The bands in the book, largely I wouldn’t consider new wave….Ok so like Punk to me despite the generalisations nowadays….did cover an amazing range of “styles”…it was not just 1234 bang bang bang.
So in the book we have the “darkness” of Joy Division…the “foundation and rouge” of Duran Duran and Spandau..and the “hairspray” of Flock Of Seagulls. The “Funk Rock” of INXS..and the Germanic Strains of Ultravox “Vienna” period. The Boomtown Rats are referred to as a “Post Punk” band…Ok I do have issue with that one….were they punk…were they new wave..were they pop….but post punk was after punk….and Mr Geldof and crew were as with Elvis…kind of there at the “Height of The Fighting”…pyjamas and all!!
So…this is bit of a mixture….in the main they were pop groups ..some hovering on the new romantic tag…spilling out to mainstream pop…some electronic bands some more experimental which broke into the pop world like OMD, Soft Cell and Depeche Mode.
But I wouldn’t call any of them NEW WAVE……I’ll sit back and wait for the abuse…..
Thanks for your time….
There are some quality anecdotal accounts from some of the artists themselves (though some notable band members didn't contribute to some chapters, which is a pity). There's a bit of opinion from the authors, some of which I agree with, some of which I don't. No one said this book is the ultimate authority on any of these artists though, it's a flash back through an interesting time in music history and I appreciate the authors explaining their motivations for writing it, and their opinions of the artists. It's written by fans, not some stiffs who got told to write about something they don't care about, and it's honest and authentic in that regard.
A bit of opinion from the artists too, loved McCulloch's passage on Bono, although I view McCulloch generally as a cocky gobs***e who massively overestimates his cultural contribution to the world. He also employs that tedious trick of running other credible artists down to big himself up, but his contribution to this book was probably the most entertaining of all the artists. Just my opinion, since we're all doing it.
Back to the book as whole. I found it didn't contain any references to US culture that I didn't fully understand. A previous reviewer has claimed that it's packed with American cultural references that mean nothing to a Brit. Unless mine is a drastically revised edition I have to say that's utter nonsense, besides which there are two authors to this book, one of whom is Scottish and didn't "graduate from High School" as such. Also, I have to say, if anyone is "outraged" by the opinions in this book they're probably also outraged by soap opera story lines not going in the direction they'd hoped........ just sayin'.
Plenty of interest in this book, and particularly in the light of Bowie's recent sad, sad passing it's notable just how many bands owe so much of their success to the trail he blazed ahead of them. Nice to see him quite rightly name checked so regularly from the start of the book and throughout.
It's a good book, and I'd very much like to see a follow up, or two :)
The thing that irked me the most about this book, is how filled with personal opinion of the writers the book is. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of factoids enclosed within the lengthy verbose paragraphs, however I was left feeling more than a little offended at some of the extreme personal opinions made about my favourite artists many of whom bear no resemblance to my knowledge and personal experience of them.
What a shame; the book promised so much yet, for me, spectacularly failed to deliver. I was left feeling disappointed and a little outraged.
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