By 1976 I had established an excellent relationship with a second hand record shop and my vinyl collection began to multiply. I don’t know what it was with the good people of Norwich but it seemed that no sooner had they purchased a record than they were selling it off at half price. Any week browsing through the bins I might pick up anything from Jefferson Airplane to The B52’s. It was notable that Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music remained unsold for months but generally there was a very healthy turnover.
And so I came to acquire a copy of the compilation New Wave originally released in July 1977. This was a remarkable record for many reasons. Firstly it was a recognition from the record industry that there was money to be made from that there punk thing. The formula was simple, cobble together a few new sounding tracks and push it out to the punters who were eager to gobble it up. Secondly the title was a formal recognition for a new genre, ‘New Wave’ was more inclusive than punk and, let’s face it, far less threatening.
The record seemed to be rather having its cake and eating it. On the cover was what we all recognised as a ‘punk’ spitting some fluid at the camera but the contents within were barely punk as we knew it.
So what did we get for our money? Well little British punk for starters. The record opens with The Boomtown Rats and their first single ‘Looking after No 1’. Strange but true the band were regarded as punks for a while. Bob Geldoff had maxed out his charisma in befriending anyone from NME journalist Charles Shaar Murray to Thin Lizzy’s Phil Lynott and the band were generally liked and tolerated for a while. The only other British contemporary act was The Dammed with their immaculate ‘New Rose’ which was worth the price of admission in itself.
On the other hand the Americans were well represented due to the fact that they had been at this for longer. We had a brace from The New York Dolls and The Ramones as well as, rather inexplicably, The Dead Boys’ whose main claim to fame this side of the pond is being on this very record. From the slightly artier side there was ‘Love Comes in Spurts’ by Richard Hell and the Voidoids, ‘Piss factory’ by Patti Smith and ‘Love Goes to Building on Fire’ by Talking Heads, all fantastic stuff.
After that it’s increasingly scraping the barrel. ‘Cherry Bomb’ by the Runaways and ‘Shake some Action’ by the Flaming Groovies are fine but a bit unnecessary. ‘All or Nothing’, the Small Faces hit covered by French R&B band Little Bob Story is also pretty pointless but the worst track by far is ‘Horror Movie’ by the Australian Skyhooks. I still can’t actually remember how that track sounds as I was impelled to get up and move the stylus after the first few bars whenever it came on (just after the other Runaway’s track ‘Hollywood’ in case you’re interested).
In the age of the Spotify playlist this LP would amount to nothing but in the days of limited radio coverage it gave us the chance to actually listen to artists who were apparently ‘New Wave’. This was a big selling record and graced many record collections and subsequent bargain bins.
But, possibly by coincidence, the tide was turning. If ‘New Wave’ could encompass American and Australian glam bands and Irish R&B punks it would also encompass the new British bands XTC, Ian Dury and the Blockheads, Elvis Costello and the Attractions and even The Knack and The Police. By 1978 Top of The Pops would be full of skinny young men with skinny trousers and skinny ties, jerking around to the angular rhythms of the new wave.