‘Round about 1978-1979 there was something in the air that even established, coke-enhanced rock royalty were catching wind of. Their irrelevancy. Once you’re on top, there’s only one way to go from there. Let’s face it, the new breed that blew in the UK after punk were getting all of the critical mash notes and commensurate column inches, if not the sales, and that was enough to inspire the class of ’72 to want to get hip… again. But how could they do this? Could a leopard actually change their spots? Here’s a notable few who tried.
Linda Rondstat: Mad Love
Back in 1980 when this was released, there was an off chance that if Jerry Brown had snatched the Democratic nomination from Carter we might have to call Rondstadt the “First Girlfriend.” Ay-yi-yi! A few years earlier, she had a hit with her cover of Elvis Costello’s “Alison;” loathed by EC fans everywhere, though it did Elvis’ bank account some good for a change. This time she co-opted a third string New Wave band [The Cretones] that no-one had ever heard of as her backing band, sang three Elvis Costello covers, and had some “edgy” New Wave graphics cobbled together for her cover art. Maybe your mom was fooled, but after this attempt failed to inject some sizzle in La Rondstatdt’s career, she did a volte face [having no ideals that she had built her career on] and started singing 1940s standards. And then your mom bought the albums. By the truckload.
Huey Lewis & the News: Same
I remember the cheapo videos from this album airing on outlets like “Rockworld” since MTV hadn’t been invented yet. This cover tells you almost all you need to know. The posed shot on a white seamless screams “New Wave” but in a 1978 universe. This was two years later; an eternity in the continuum of hipness. That cover sure looked familiar. Where had we seen that before. Hmmm. Oh yeah, on an actual 1978 New Wave classic; The Boomtown Rats “A Tonic For The Troops.”
The main difference is the the Rats’ album cover was designed by graphic designers, not interns. The songs were tired pop rock that couldn’t quite muster up enough power to be deemed power pop. After this album got Huey + co. a toehold on the charts, they managed to follow through with a smug series of meatball rock albums that were indescribably successful to the consternation of the 30% of the loving public that hated them. Lewis seemed for all the world the essence of your basic “hip” ne’er-do-well uncle who had a bar band on the weekends; except that his “bar band” parlayed their tired, lazy schtick into multiple platinum. At least those other albums doffed the faux New Wave patina.
Billy Joel: Glass Houses
Having endured Joel’s sub-Dylan singer-songwhiner schtick for several successful years, it was only natural for the long-in-tooth popstar to start getting the “New Wave” itch like so many other thirtyscumthings of the time. He opted for a faux-Costello-slash-Joe Jackson style on the noxiously condescending “It’s Still Rock & Roll To Me” and “You May Be Right.” Unlike the other two entries in this list, this one sold like hotcakes; proving that you can fool some of the people, some of the time.
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