Various Artists: No Wave US LP 
- U.K. Squeeze: Take Me I’m Yours
- The Police: Roxanne
- Joe Jackson: Got The Time
- Klark Kent: Don’t Care
- The Secret: I’m Alive
- The Stranglers: Bring On The Nubiles
- U.K. Squeeze: Strong In Reason
- Joe Jackson: Sunday Papers
- The Dickies: Give It Back
- The Police: Next To You
- The Stranglers: Nice N’ Sleazy
- The Dickies: You Drive Me Ape (You Big Gorilla)
Yesterday I tiptoed to the precipice. Today I’ll jump off the edge and discuss possibly the most influential record I’ve never owned. In the world of art and commerce, sometimes timing is everything. For whatever reason, A+M Records was convinced that this New Wave thing would one day connect with a mass audience. In spite of the bad rep punk rock got in America. In spite of the fact that virtually no radio stations would touch it in Middle America. A+M weren’t content to have their Token New Waver® signed to get a little cachet of hipness for the label. They had jumped in the puddle [that was growing daily] with both feet to see how big a splash they could make.
With critical mass occurring in their artist roster, some bright young thing got the idea to make a style comp of these New Wave bands the label had signed and throw it out there to see what stuck to the wall. That man was Ron Moss [son of Jerry Moss, the “M” in A+M Records] and in the case of this album, nepotism was a gift from the gods that no money could buy. So now we know who to thank after all of these years.
I never had this record, but my friend, Charles [a.k.a. ‘chasinvictoria’] did, and together we were about to hop on the New Wave waterlside with a vengeance in 1978. When I met Charles, he stated his favorite band was The Beatles. Mine were Emerson, Lake, And Palmer. I initially met Charles since he also worked at our high school radio station and he was looking to do a pilot for a local FM Rock station which he called “Crest Of A Nu Wave” and had pinned a note to the station bulletin board looking for examples of the genre that he could borrow from the staff. There was certainly none of it on our racks! At the time I had some DEVO and the next thing you knew, we were also at the right place at the right time, as the most fascinating explosion in popular music in a decade at least, was happening.
He somehow obtained this album and it became like a religion to him! He had to buy each of the bands on it and since we were friends, I went along for the ride. When I invoke religion, I’m only half-joking. I’ve seen this man buy every copy of this album he ever seen in record stores when we shop together! And this in years when his record player was often in storage 3500 miles away! At the time it came out, The Police and Joe Jackson had established a New Wave beachhead even on the notoriously conservative Orlando, Florida radio stations that I listened to. The tracks by those artists here were cherry picked examples of the very cream of the band’s debut albums, which were actually selling in America. That they were mastered on delightful, swirling ocean blue vinyl was icing on the warm fresh cake.
“Got The Time” was a flat out exciting Joe Jackson number, and this from an artist who often suggests a more pretentious Elvis Costello at his worst. But those days of over-intellectual back-pedaling were still far in the future for Mr. Jackson. “Roxanne” was the most popular song here, with substantial FM Rock airplay beginning to get inroads to pop radio for the UK band. Better, was the urgency of “Next To You,” another fast-paced number from The Police, who in the years ahead would fill me with inertia with the likes of Sting’s ponderous solo career.
I remember the first two “U.K. Squeeze” records being serviced to our high school station, WGAG. The call letters, by the way, were so named for “green and gold,” our school colors. The station sponsor had to submit five call letters to the FCC and wouldn’t you know, someone there with a perverse sense of humor picked that one. Now that I recall, the only major [or minor for that matter] that serviced us with promos was A+M/I.R.S, so Charles might have heard his first copy of “No Wave” as a promo. But I digress. I was never much of a Squeeze fan. They seemed too conventional to me. “New Wave” as made by guys who thought The Beatles were genii. After 36 years, “Take Me I’m Yours” is the one Squeeze song I have time for. I like it because it sounds fun and gimmick-laden. The relentless synth-beat sounds like nothing else I’ve heard in passing from Squeeze in the years hence. I’ve actually not heard the other Squeeze track on “No Wave,” so I can’t comment.
I may run hot and cold on The Police, but my torch for Klark Kent [a.k.a. Stewart Copeland] burns brightly. “Don’t Care” is a fun single, but not really his best track. It was probably the best-charting song he ever had in the UK. In that light, its appearance here is not entirely mystifying. As we discussed yesterday, I have equal esteem for the A+M era of The Dickies, and “Give It Back” and “You Drive Ape [You Big Gorilla]” were fine amphetamine speed punk par excellence from the “Incredible Shrinking Dickies” album.
This album has two cuts from the classic sophomore Stranglers album, “No More Heroes” but by this time I had already heard the band earlier via their third album, “Black + White.” Good thing too, because if “Bring On The Nubiles” had been my entrée to the group, it would have been a short ride indeed. This was, without a doubt, the most offensive song I’ve ever heard. I actually find it repellent. I’ve only listened to it once even though I own the song and have for decades. If I could excise it from a CD, I would. When I play “No More Heroes,” I always have to hit the “next track” button to avoid it. I am a bit shocked that it was thought that putting such a divisive number on a sampler album was the thing to do! The Stranglers have a distinct misanthropic side, but that track was just vile. “Nice + Sleazy” is not my favorite number from “Black + White,” but at least my flesh doesn’t crawl when I hear it. Had I been the hand at the controls, perhaps “Tank” and “No More Heroes” would have been better contenders for inclusion.
Finally, there’s “The Secret,” with “I’m Alive.” More I cannot say, since not only have I never heard this track, but I’ve never even heard of The Secret… even 36 years later!! This album had a profound reverberant quality in the development of my friends and I and after all of these years, ten of its tracks reside in my Record Cell. They have for decades. The stylish packaging gives it that element X that causes it to stand out in any setting. The colored vinyl is gorgeous. But it wasn’t the end all of A+M Records New Wave compilations. Wait, there’s more…
Next: …Now how much would you pay?