MONDAY, JUNE 29, 2015
WEEK 26: NEW POP
It could be argued that the true harbingers of new pop were M’s ‘Pop Muzik’ and The Buggles ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’, but if new pop had an architect it was Paul Morley, NME writer supreme at a time when the weekly music press mattered more than ever before or since. In December 1980, reacting against post punk’s percieved miserablism and doomy seriousness, he called for an ‘overground brightness’ to ‘bring life back to the radio' and ‘make the single count’.
In reality, even if it hadn’t been defined as such, new pop had already emerged in the disjointed strands of post punk; Japan and Adam Ant, the early electro pop of Gary Numan and OMD, the indie pop ideal of Postcard and Orange Juice, and Malcolm Mclaren and Bow Wow Wow’s playful celebration of sun, sea and cassette piracy.
Following Morley’s manifesto, the ‘pop’ word was everywhere as groups began to espouse the healthiness of pop rather than the darker conditions of post punk. Thereafter, the peak of new pop came remarkably quickly as a horde of new sonic terrorists seized control of the mainstream. In a glorious 18 month stretch between the spring of 1981 and the autumn of 1982, non stars went supernova if only for a moment.
To varying degrees, all of these new groups had grasped the importance of image and its power to seduce and motivate. They had all coated their music in a commercial sheen, some pursuing a ‘sugared pill’ strategy while others reveled in sonic luxury for the sheer glam thrill of it all. While on the surface they appeared as a ‘punk never happened’ scenario, a retreat into escapism, in truth they were furthering punk’s original mission, albeit in a much transformed context.
New Pop sounded utopian and it was, but as early as 1983, there was an ever increasing sense that the new pop dream had already turned sour. Scritti Politti, ABC, Human League, Soft Cell, The Associates and the other creative bright sparks who had pioneered it all had been displaced by the clones and opportunists who had little or no connection to punk. The utter deluge of Eurythmics, Wham’s, Culture Club’s, Flock Of Seagulls and Kajagoogoo’s diluted the impact and it all became too shiny, too false, and too fucking meaningless.
In the end, new pop’s ultimate mischief as well as its ultimate undoing came from Frankie Goes To Holywood. An apocalyptic gay disco army, they were new pop with a punk hard-on although their reign would be shortlived. Far too intense and brazen for Thatcher’s children, post Live Aid they got lost in an arid musical wasteland of old rockers, careerist charlatans and men who would be God. After six years of post punk and new pop terrorism, it had all ground to a rather ignominious halt. Modern music culture would never be quite the same again.
01 M ‘Pop Musik’ (A Side March 1979)
02 GARY NUMAN ‘Cars’ (A Side August 1979)
03 JAPAN ‘I Second That Emotion’ (A Side February 1980)
04 ORCHESTRAL MANOUVRES IN THE DARK ‘Messages’ (A Side May 1980)
05 ORANGE JUICE ‘Blue Boy’ (A Side August 1980)
06 ADAM & THE ANTS ‘Dog Eat Dog’ (A Side September 1980)
07 TEARDROP EXPLODES ‘Reward’ (A Side January 1981)
08 BOW WOW WOW ‘W.O.R.K.’ (A Side March 1981)
09 SOFT CELL ‘Memorabilia’ (A Side March 1981)
10 HEAVEN 17 ‘(We Don’t Need This) Facist Groove Thang’ (A Side March 1981)
11 DURAN DURAN ‘Careless Memories’ (A Side April 1981)
12 HUMAN LEAGUE ‘Love Action’ (A Side July 1981)
13 SCARS ‘All About You’ (A Side August 1981)
14 DEPECHE MODE ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’ (A Side September 1981)
15 ALTERED IMAGES ‘I Could Be Happy’ (A Side November 1981)
16 ASSOCIATES ‘Party Fears Two’ (A Side March 1982)
17 SCRITTI POLITTI ‘Faithless’ (A Side April 1982)
18 ABC ‘All Of My Heart’ (A Side September 1982)
19 ART OF NOISE ‘Beat Box’ (Into Battle With The Art Of Noise EP August 1983)
20 FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD ‘Two Tribes’ (A Side June 1984)