I Was A Token New Waver…

The Token New Waver; not just a band phenomenon as Johnny Slash demonstrates

The Token New Waver; not just a rock band phenomenon as Johnny Slash demonstrates

I’ve written in the past about the curious phenomenon of False New Wave®, which got pretty rampant during the salad days of the trend. We were treated to the spectacle of rawk stars a generation older adopting the colorful plumage of the Now Set; often to their detriment! But let’s look at this from another, less celebrated, angle. Let’s suppose that you were a musician who was really into this new thing, maaaaaaan. And yet you were hooked up with en establishment rocker like [purely as an illustrative suggestion] Bob Seger. At what point would the cognitive dissonance cause your head to burst into flames? Similarly, how far could you venture into your comfort zone before you were the subject of a band intervention; confronted about how you just no longer seemed to fit into your fearless leader’s conception of The Silver Bullet Band? ‘Tis truly a vexing problem, but fortunately for musical misfits everywhere, there seemed to be some wiggle room for what I can only refer to as the Token New Waver® scenario.

This phenomenon was pretty widespread in the early eighties where a mainstream band often seemed to have that one member, who visually, was on another wavelength to the image being put across by the rest of the band. Often, it was the keyboard player. Given that New Wave had the aura of hipness by 1979, I’m sure that established bands with some sense of security were happy to have the Token New Waver® present in photo shoots, if anything, to add a slight aura of the au courant for bands that would otherwise be lacking in that department. For bands still clawing their way up the cliff face of Rock, I would imagine that any member who stepped out of line, visually, would find his pitons filed away to the breaking point.

And their glasses…

Yes: Trevor is too cool for this bunch…

I vividly remember when Yes made their first album without Jon Anderson as if it were yesterday. As a lapsed fan of Yes and a big fan of The Buggles, I found the notion of Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes replacing Rick Wakeman and Jon Anderson kind of thrilling, in a warped way! To this day, I still don’t know who came up with that cockamamie idea, but I thank them for it. The only Yes album in my Record Cell post 1979 has been the “Drama” album. I even bought it as soon as it came out on CD ca. 1987! Just six tracks – most of them long; about like any Yes album, really, but the lack of Jon Anderson means that the band can finally rock for once! “Machine Messiah” is the heaviest that Yes ever got as Chris Squire and Steve Howe got to investigate their y-chromosomes without Anderson casting reproachful looks. Still, publicity photos of the new Yes show Horn looking really uncomfortable, even though he had a similar vocal range to the erstwhile singer and the material here is among my favorite Yes music.

Prince: One of these things is not like the other…

Prince: One of these things is not like the other…

I also remember when I first heard Prince around the time of his Dirty Mind” album. His blend of funk and New Wave was of its time, as potent as the rock and soul that Sly Stone proffered in the late 60s. When “Controversy” was released, I became a firm believer, though it was around this time that I began to see the earliest Prince music videos on the pre-MTV airwaves. I could not help but notice that [as usual] keyboardist Matt Fink stuck out visually like a sore thumb from the dapper showbiz glam of the backing band. Dr. Fink, as he’s known, had a penchant for the brief New Wave vogue of scrub suits* paired with the shades; its always the shades, that usually mark the Token New Waver® within any rock group of the era. He rocked this look all the way to the end of the Prince train.

RED ALERT! We have a Token New Wave Overload!!!

Pat Benatar: RED ALERT! We have a Token New Wave Overload!!!

Stop the presses!! Some rock bands took the notion of the Token New Waver about as far as it could conceivably go! What about Rock Chick® Pat Benatar’s group photo on the back of her hardly New Wave sophomore album, “Crimes Of Passion?” Yow! One would be excused for thinking that this might be a New Wave album instead of Nerf Rock®. Bassist Roger Capps [top right] has the requisite short hair and The Shades. He could walk right into a video by The Epoxies and we would not bat an eyelash. It must have been the 1979 zeitgeist in action, since even Neil Giraldo [top left] is sporting a skinny tie. But the New Wave ball got hit out of the park with the sharp figure cut by drummer Myron Grumbacher who looks to have bested Joe Jackson at his own game! I don’t think I need to tell you where Grumbacher is sitting!

The Token New Waver® phenomenon was over and done with by 1983, about the same time as New Wave, as it turns out. The trope was past its sell-by date by that time, but for about five heady years, we could play “Spot The Token New Waver®” with some of the least likely bands imaginable. What other Token New Wavers can you add in the comments below?

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* Ace commenter and close, personal friend chasinvictoria was rocking this particular wardrobe action at the point when I met him in high school way back in 1979!

About postpunkmonk

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16 Responses to I Was A Token New Waver…

  1. Linda Ronstadt lobbied hard to take the reigns of New Wave and successfully used it to further her career on at least 2 albums. Then dropped it like a hot rock and went on to record traditional Latin, Pop & Swing albums. I still dig her “New Wave” stuff, though.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Orange County DJ – We covered the related but different False New Wave phenomenon in the early days of this blog, and rest assured that Linda Ronstadt figured prominently in that discussion. We are going for a different vibe this time with mainstream bands, playing mainstream rock, but with that one member that doesn’t quite fit.

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      • I get it. I’m gonna take the opposite tack here and explore members of New Wave bands who didn’t seem to belong. Greg Hawkes of The Cars immediately springs to mind. With his giant bifocals, mop top haircut and Austin Powers inspired wardrobe, he could easily be confused with an extra from the Sonny & Cher Show circa 1971.

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        • postpunkmonk says:

          Orange County DJ – You have a point there. He was so geeky looking that he was, in effect, the Token New Waver in a New Wave band! Sorry this comment was held up but it was in the spam folder. Grrrrr. and I hardly have time to get into my dashboard and look around much right now. Burning that midnight oil, as it were!

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  2. Taffy says:

    I’m on a Queen kick (just saw the remnants of the band with Adam Lambert…don’t judge, it was a great show!), and am reminded of back when The Game album came out in 1980. Freddie went for a gay clone look (leather jacket, mirrored aviator sunglasses, etc), Brian May kept his crazy mane of hair, but Roger Taylor (to some extent) and especially John Deacon went new wave. I have a picture (can you embed them here?) of Deacon with buzzed hair, buttoned up shirt, skinny tie, brightly colored pegged pants, the full deal.
    Is this what you’re looking for? I don’t recall Queen being discussed in your false new wave threads, altho one could argue that the stylistic dabbling going on here (rockabilly on Crazy Little Thing Called Love, disco funk on Another One Bites The Dust, etc) made for faux wave.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Taffy – Queen. Hmmmm. You may have something there. Was not “Radio Ga Ga” their stab at New Music? [it was a little late for New Wave by 1984] It was certainly synth pop. So Deacon was the Token New Waver in Queen, eh? A lot of bands had them. You can’t embed pix in the comments, but I’d opt for a URL of the image in question (it has to be already hosted somewhere) and paste that in. As admin, I may be able to help on my end. We need visuals.

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  3. Thanks for the shoutout, O Monk! Yes, I had picked up on the trend from the paper jumpsuits of DEVO, probably in the hopes that frenzied women would rip it off me — but alas, no luck!

    There were quite a few bands where ONE GUY would decide he wanted to adopt the hip new 80s look, even while the rest of the band were hopelessly stuck in the 70s. The first image this column conjured up for me was the post-beard Lindsey Buckingham in 80s Fleetwood Mac:

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    • echorich says:

      At one point all the “new wavers” in my High School were wearing green scrub shirts to school. We were a tight knit group coursing our way through the Zeppelin Heads and Kiss Army members. We all owned Ramones T-shirts – purchased at shows! – some had zipper bondage shirts (me) and all of us had a variation on the A Clockwork Orange look as well, which had the added bonus of unnerving a few of our teachers – no billy clubs though but eyeliner was enough to cause a stir in 1979…

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      • postpunkmonk says:

        Echorich – I knew the scrub suit thing had to be an actual trend and not just a lone malcontent at my high school [I meant it as a compliment, chasinvictoria!] since I once saw a late 70s issue of Rolling Stone that had a mail order ad in the back for these. In high school I wore the double knit polyester clothing my parents bought me. Gaah. But I could not have cared much at that age.

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        • echorich says:

          As much as music, fashion was one of my greatest acts of rebellion. Thankfully stores like Trash & Vaudville in NYC were right next door to record stores like Freebeing Records allowing me to indulge in both almost simultaneously…

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  4. Tim says:

    Bob Seger as an example….

    I grew up in a small midwest town (population 50k) and actually heard people there in the 80’s refer to Bob Seger as “dance music”…..

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Tim – I’m afraid that I can’t conjure up a snappy retort to that statement. It’s the black hole of comments that sucks up every potential thread in its wake. But thanks for sharing. Hopefully, we all learn something in the process.

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