New wave

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New wave

Development phase: Mid 1970s
Place of origin: Western Europe ,
North America , Australia
Stylistic precursors
Garage Rock · Pub Rock · Punk Rock · Glam Rock · Synth Pop · Disco Music · Ska · Reggae
Instruments typical of the genre
Electric guitar · Electric bass · Drums · Synthesizer
Stylistic successor
Cold Wave · Dark Wave · Electrowave
1970s and 1980s

New Wave ( English for: New Wave ) is a term that in the second half of the 1970s initially for the punk was used movement. In the course of the late 1970s and 1980s, the term was given further meanings that included punk-related musical cultural phenomena without being assigned to the punk movement:

  • As a generic term for bands that were newly founded on the basis of the punk movement and expanded the energetic basic structures of punk to include foreign elements (e.g. synthesizers) or combined them with other styles of music (see also post-punk ).
  • as a generic term for some youth cultures of the 1980s that had developed in the course of the punk and post-punk movement or celebrated their revival closely linked to it , including New Romantics , Goths and Dark Waver , followers of Electronic Wave and EBM as well the Ted , Mod and Ska revival. Some of these cultures were grouped under the name "Waver".

Origin of name

The earliest mentions of the term New Wave in a music-cultural context go back to 1976. The fashion designer and former art student Malcolm McLaren used it - based on the avant-gardism of the French Nouvelle Vague - for the Sex Pistols , of which he was the creator and manager. Both fanzines from the punk environment, such as Sniffin 'Glue , and the established music press, such as the Melody Maker , picked up the term and used it synonymously with punk . Initially only widespread in the UK, the name found its way to North America, where it was taken over by the Sire Records Company and used for groups such as Talking Heads and Ramones. As a result, New Wave was used in connection with bands that mainly appeared in the CBGB Club in New York, which is considered the nucleus of the punk movement in the USA. As early as 1977 the British label Vertigo Records released a corresponding compilation entitled New Wave , with artists such as Ramones, Patti Smith , New York Dolls , Dead Boys and The Damned . In the summer of that year, New York City-based news magazines such as Newsweek and Time devoted entire cover stories to the New Wave.

It is not clear why the burgeoning rock music movement received different names in the mid-1970s. One reason for using both names could be their origin: in contrast to New Wave, the expression punk rock comes from the Rust Belt of the USA. It was only through the journalist Caroline Coon that he came to Great Britain around 1976. Many journalists and sociologists, such as Rolf Lindner , see the use of the term New Wave as a sales-promoting background, as it has a defusing effect - contrary to the linguistically loaded term punk rock ( English punk = "dirt, trash, junk") .

“The terms 'punk rock' and 'new wave' need some explanation. Without a doubt, the term 'punk rock' is the narrower one. [...] it also has social and societal implications. The phrase 'New Wave' is more neutral and 'less judgmental'. 'New Wave' describes a new fashion whose form and content are interchangeable. The use of the term 'New Wave' stripped punk rock of its social and societal implications. "

- Eugene Wiener: New Wave - Analysis of a sales strategy

This thesis is based on both the use of the title New Wave in punk fanzines and the use of the term punk in connection with releases by established record companies such as RCA ( Punk Collection , 1977), United Artists ( Punk Off!, 1977) and EMI Group ( Meet the New (Punk) Wave , 1978). Only a few label operators, such as Seymour Stein from Sire Records, specifically opted for the title New Wave as a marketing term. In addition, there was the problem that the term punk was already used for garage rock of the 1960s and was therefore less suitable as a marketing label .

New Wave, on the other hand, aroused associations with the Nouvelle Vague . Similar to many of these French filmmakers, the New Wave bands were initially solitary and experimental.


The 1970s

New Wave Pioneers: Talking Heads , live at Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto, May 13th, 1978.

The original meaning of the term was that the punk movement was seen as a "new wave". In its entirety ( music , fashion , attitude ) the punk movement represented something new. It was seen as a reaction to the state of rock music in the 1970s, which due to its lyrics, its artificial and - due to the high technical demands - unspontaneous, musical forms of expression, some of which cannot be reproduced live, were perceived by the audience as alienating. Few believed, however, that punk was a permanent phenomenon. These doubts were reflected in the term “wave”, which underlined the supposedly short-lived and temporary character. A similar use was New Wave in the science fiction - literature or in the previously mentioned French cinema in the late 1950s. Early new wave bands included The Jam , Talking Heads , Television , The Cars , Devo , The Stranglers , Ramones and The Damned . Big record labels like CBS , Polydor and Virgin soon realized that the new wave had a promising future commercially. They signed bands like The Clash, The Vibrators , The Stranglers and The Jam. The negative publicity that attached to punk later turned out to be the optimal sales strategy. For the increasing variety of new bands and styles, New Wave was better suited than the specific term punk and was therefore increasingly preferred by industry and the media. In this way, musically differentiated interpretations, such as the Power Pop-influenced sound of Blondie and the punk rock of the Sex Pistols , were jointly marketed under the collective name New Wave . The performers of the various revivals that were emerging at the time and closely related to the punk explosion in Great Britain , such as ska , with groups such as Madness , garage rock and the mod movement, as well as pub rock from groups such as Dr. Feelgood and Eddie & the Hot Rods .

The Clash , The Slits and especially The Police mixed punk with reggae (this mixture was also called "white reggae"). Joe Jackson and Elvis Costello , for example, used similar musical mixtures .

“New Wave is today's rock 'n roll. [...] Bands like Clash and Slits get a lot of their inspiration from reggae, but the Pistols and the Ramones and many others are the energetic rock 'n' roll bands of the seventies. "

- Barry Myers, Sniffin 'Glue , September 1976

On the reggae side, there were also musicians at the time, such as Bob Marley and Lee Perry ( Punky Reggae Party , 1977), as well as Don Letts , DJ at the Roxy Club in London , who dealt with the punk phenomenon, as they have the same background as in Believed to recognize reggae.

But already at the time of punk, directions were emerging that laid the foundation stone for what was perceived by the public as New Wave in the 1980s in the late 1970s . It was the first album by the band Ultravox , whose conceptual mix of punk, elements of glam rock and Kraftwerk's futuristic , cold, technocratic detachment caused a sensation in 1976. Bands like The Human League and Tubeway Army (feat. Gary Numan ) followed this concept . The Human League in particular placed the musical emphasis on the use of synthesizers and thus advanced to become the pioneers of the electro-wave movement.

In Germany, print media such as Sounds derived the term Neue (Deutsche) Welle from the Anglo-American name New Wave . Unlike in England, however, the New Wave hardly left any notable traces in Germany at that time:

"In Germany, punk doesn't even find a place on the cat table of the show scene: in 1977 barely 100,000 records with punk and punk scraps were sold between Kiel and Konstanz - around 0.4% of total sales on the German music market."

- Rundy Media Information Service, Issue 5, 1978

Even a year later, the commercial potential of the New Wave did not show in Central Europe, while several albums in England made it into the top 30 of the NME rankings.

At the end of the 1970s, new international music-cultural trends developed that clearly stood out from the colorful, heterogeneous appearance of the New Wave movement. These currents , known in German-speaking countries as Doom Wave or Dark Wave and in France as Cold Wave , experienced particularly in the 1980s with bands such as Joy Division , Bauhaus , The Cure , The Sisters of Mercy , Siouxsie and the Banshees and Anne Clark , their full development. Many of these bands were valued well into the 1990s, especially in the black scene . Some of them also appeared at relevant scene festivals, such as the Wave-Gotik-Treffen .

The 1980s

In the late 1970s, the name New Wave experienced a change in meaning. The intention to bring rock music back to the streets with the New Wave ("back to the street") had failed because leading punk bands, the so-called "New Wave Elite", bought their way from the major labels let. Instead, several groups followed in the footsteps of those against whom they had previously rebelled on the occasion of their pop star cult and their estrangement from the audience.

“Without a doubt, the big companies have bought up some of the punk rock, corrupted it. The companies have made significant investments. Investments that have been transformed into equipment. And this process has, by definition, transformed punk rock into 'expanded rock'. "

- Eugene Wiener: New Wave - Analysis of a sales strategy

The Oi! -Punks and subsequent hardcore punks , who opposed the sell-out of punk, distanced themselves from the commercial New Wave. Other youth cultures could no longer be subordinated to the New Wave either. B. the supporters of the mod movement , as New Wave still implied a closeness to punk, which the mods clearly disliked.

From the punk scene, however, variants had developed that slowly gained independence. These variants had, both fashionably and musically, sometimes more, sometimes less strongly related to punk. But they differed in part in their way of life and attitude to punk. This included fashion-oriented cultures such as New Romantic , but also musical cultures such as Gothic , Electro Wave and EBM . Initially, there were no uniformly used names for these youth cultures. In any case, the public hardly noticed the differences between Goths, New Romantics and supporters of the Electro-Wave- and EBM-movement and so the name Waver came about for everything that was “punk-like”. From then on, everything that could not be clearly assigned to punk or a scene revival was subordinated to the New Wave. With this, New Wave established itself , at least in Germany, as a collective term for a collection of closely related youth cultures that is difficult to define.

Many of the synth-pop and electro-wave bands, such as Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark and Depeche Mode , took up Ultravox and Tubeway Army thematically . The music of Joy Division , Anne Clark and The Cure can also be described as cool, distant and introverted . The New Romantic movement, with groups such as Spandau Ballet , Duran Duran and Visage , tried to counteract this by adding a very romantic aspect to their image. But this, too, resulted from the futurism of glam rock and created, presumably unintentionally, the ideal of perfect styling to complement the New Wave aesthetics of the 1980s, which many perceived as cool .

With the increasing commercialization of the New Wave, post-punk developed as an alternative term for bands that could not be classified in the commercial environment and that were musically clearly oriented towards their punk roots. In terms of production method and music style, there are connections to the field of independent music. However, this differentiation between New Wave and Post-Punk has not become generally accepted. Another counter-movement in the New York area was called No Wave . These were bands that combined elements of avant-garde and art rock and the radicalism of punk music.

In Germany, the success of the New Wave was supported by the television program Formula One , which was the first to present music videos in 1983 . The medium was particularly suited to the New Romantics, as they were based on a visual presentation. Many of the videos were produced for MTV at the time .

In the second half of the 1980s, the term New Wave gradually went out of use. At that time, Hi-NRG and Eurodisco as well as simple pop artists dominated the charts, including bands and solo artists who were initially considered to be part of the New Wave themselves and who had gradually moved away from their punk and post-punk roots over time . Music channels like MTV are increasingly dedicated to the metal and sleaze rock environment. New music movements, such as noise pop , Madchester, and acid house , appealed to a wider audience. The end of the New Wave was followed by countless best-of compilations, for example New Wave Classics , New Wave Club Class-X and the eight-part Pop & Wave CD series .


  • Rolf Lindner (Ed.): Punk-Rock or the marketed riot. Verlag Freie Gesellschaft, Frankfurt am Main 1977, ISBN 3-88215-14-9 , (4th edition, ibid 1981, ISBN 3-88215-043-2 ).
  • Tibor Kneif (Ed.): Rock in the 70s. Jazz rock, hard rock, folk rock and new wave. Rowohlt Taschenbuch Verlag, Reinbek bei Hamburg 1980, ISBN 3-499-17385-9 ( rororo 7385 rororo-Sachbuch ).
  • Vernon Joynson: Up Yours! A Guide to UK Punk, New Wave and Early Post-Punk. Borderline Productions, Wolverhampton 2001, ISBN 1-899855-13-0 .
  • Bernard Gendron: Between Montmartre and the Mudd Club. Popular Music and the Avant-Garde. University of Chicago Press, Chicago IL et al. 2002, ISBN 0-226-28737-8 .
  • Ronald Galenza, Heinz Havemeister (eds.): We always want to be good ... punk, new wave, hip-hop, independent scene in the GDR 1980–1990. Revised and expanded new edition. Schwarzkopf & Schwarzkopf, Berlin 2005, ISBN 3-89602-637-2 .

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d Bernard Gendron: Between Montmartre and the Mudd Club. Popular Music and the Avant-Garde , pp. 269, 2002, ISBN 0-226-28737-8
  2. ^ Bernard Gendron: Between Montmartre and the Mudd Club. Popular Music and the Avant-Garde , pp. 270, 2002, ISBN 0-226-28737-8
  3. - "New Wave" Compilation, 1977
  4. ^ Rolf Lindner : Punk as Commerce in Punk-Rock , pp. 16/17, 1981, ISBN 3-88215-043-2
  5. ^ A b Eugene Wiener: New Wave - Analysis of a Sales Strategy . In: Rolf Lindner: Punk-Rock . 1981, ISBN 3-88215-043-2 , p. 42.
  6. - "Punk Collection", 1977
  7. - "Punk Off!" - Compilation, 1977
  8. - "Meet The New (Punk) Wave" compilation
  9. ^ Bernard Gendron: Between Montmartre and the Mudd Club. Popular Music and the Avant-Garde , pp. 268, 2002, ISBN 0-226-28737-8
  10. Raoul Hofmann: From freedom struggle to freedom signals, Neue Musikzeitung, issue 4/77, p. 9, 1977
  11. Dieter Prokop : Massenkultur und Spontanität , pp. 44-101, Frankfurt 1974, Suhrkamp, ISBN 3-518-00679-7
  12. ^ A b Eugene Wiener: New Wave - Analysis of a Sales Strategy in Rolf Lindner's Punk-Rock , p. 43, 1981, ISBN 3-88215-043-2
  13. a b Barry Myers: New Wave is today's rock'n roll in Rolf Lindner's Punk-Rock , p. 81, 1981, ISBN 3-88215-043-2
  14. ^ Rolf Lindner: Punk and Reggae - Interview with Don Letts in Punk-Rock , p. 74, 1981, ISBN 3-88215-043-2
  15. ^ A b c Eugene Wiener: New Wave - Analysis of a Sales Strategy . In: Rolf Lindner: Punk-Rock . 1981, ISBN 3-88215-043-2 , p. 45.
  16. ^ A b Eugene Wiener: New Wave - Analysis of a Sales Strategy in Rolf Lindner's Punk-Rock , p. 44, 1981, ISBN 3-88215-043-2