From Dawn to Distraction, The Good Old New Wave Era
The year was 1986, the place, St. Michael’s bar in Makati Avenue, the bands were "Sake" (the japanese wine) and "Charlotte Russe" (which happens to be a cake). The frontman for Sake is someone who is now popular in the Philippine variety show circuit, he is the disc jockey MOD, Noel Makanaya (or at least I think that’s who he is). Sake played the Red Rocker’s "China" and Charlotte Russe covered the Boomtown Rats’ "I Don’t Like Mondays".
The era, of course, was new wave…if this is the music you grew up to as did I, you will never understand pop and rnb, you would probably dig grunge and alternative rock, and you might develop a healthy appetite for classic rock (jimi hendrix, jim morrisson, led zeppelin and the who)…but boy will you love bob marley. New wave used to be the hippest sub-culture in Manila. It has limited access so not a lot of people know about it and those who do are quite possessive and selfish, not wanting to share it and not wanting for it to go mainstream. Its like an elite club for high school and college kids from Manila's private school system, otherwise known as the paying class or the paying audience. I bet no one designed it that way, its just the way it is. There was one and only one radio station that catered to this market, its fully self-sustained so no major advertisers and no tie-ups with local recording outfits. Their records (at that time, it was all vinyl) are all imported from the UK and occasionally from Canada and Australia. The radio station is called WXB 102, their tag-line is "The Station That Dares to Be Different".
In the surface there are acts that have gone mainstream, like Duran Duran, Tears for Fears, The Cure and U2. Notice that these are all British acts and they have all been given adequate air play in most all radio stations then but new wavers never thwarted their music (save maybe for Boys Dont Cry, which really made it big in the mainstream). But then there is the deep end of new wave, which never saw the light in all the other local rado stations.
This sub-culture thrived on the parties and concerts organized by WXB 102, these shindigs happened every weekend religiously in clubs and other concert venues. There was a healthy pool of local new wave acts that do mostly covers of their British idols, with the signature outrageous names like, Violent Playground, Identity Crisis, Silo, The Dawn, Deans December, Advent Call. These bands would cover the hits of The Clash, U2, Siouxie and the Banshees, The Bolshoi, The Alarm, Kraftwerk, Soft Cell, Madness, Orange Juice, The The, The Joy Division and a lot more.
Even the parties-cum-concerts have catchy titles like Sneak Attack, Requiem, Nightmare at Insomnia Theater, Portable Playground, etc. The crowd was a mix of post-punk to progressive rock, with new wave in the middle of course. So its not uncommon to see custom-made safety shoes and leather ala Sid Vicious and black satin costumes ala Siouxi Sioux. The dominant color was black and spikes tall and short is the hair style. It takes a while to achieve this look really (how long did you think Siouxie achieved hers?), you need a teasing comb and tons of hair spray to keep it high and hard enough to withstand the elements. Black eyeliner and lipstick is a staple for male and female both and the bling consist of chains and crosses, throw in the silver cravat in the collar and the brooch that hangs by the neck.
Im pretty glad to live in this era, not because of the parties or the concerts or the fashion but because of the music. I have never been a fan of pop even then, my sisters got me started on jazz and its all I really know till I went to high school. I never liked those cheesy dance songs dished out by Debbie Gibson. Nor did I enjoy the rap of Run DMC. It was love at first hear for me the moment I listened to The Smiths.
This is The Cult, in Revolution c. 1984
Gene Loves Jezebel in Desire c. 1986
If new wave has one thing in common with jazz, its the use of a wide variety of musical instruments especially the synthesizers. New wave is actually the rebirth of punk with several other elements such as mod, synthpop, disco, funk and electronica. New wave has been described as the music of performers that are associated with punk but is actually different from it. Simply put, punk is the Sex Pistols and new wave is the Ramones. New wave leaned towards more complex lyrics, musical experimentation, and more polished production, that contrasts it from the garage band sound that is punk.
During the late 70s to the early 80s, new wave was used interchangeably with post-punk to describe the underground music in Great Britain. This music also spawned the synthpop sub-genre that became popular as the soundtrack of American director John Hughes' brat-pack films like the Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink (acts featured were the Simple Minds, Psychedelic Furs, Orchestral Maneouvres in the Dark, New Order and Depeche Mode). Today, Adam Sandler has used new wave music, particularly the songs of The Cure for his movie soundtracks, inlcuding the Wedding Singer and 50 First Dates. The movie Just Like Heaven with Reese Witherspoon is actually taken from a song by The Cure with the same title.
Truly, new wave music has graduated into the classics. It has been repackaged and remade over and over through the years (The Verve, Oasis), and the music of several popular acts today (Gwen Stefani, The Killers) is highly reminiscent of the new wave sound. I tried my luck in the video sites to find rare acts in an attempt to define this era, let's see if you recognize some of these and if not, then welcome to the music and the look known as new wave.