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?
I never owned this comp either, but remember it well. I thought the cover art so cool – and that of course I could totally be that ironing board surfing punky androgyne (minus the cigarette). What I *did* own, and what was pivotal in exposing me to new wave, was the soundtrack to some British film (which i still know nothing about) called “That Summer!” Tracks by seminal CBGB bands (Richard Hell & The Voidoids, Ramones, Mink Deville, Patti Smith) rubbed shoulders with Elvis Costello, the Boomtown Rats, The Undertones, etc. I owe a massive debt to this album for turning me on to one of the greatest songs of all time…I speak of Another Girl, Another Planet by the Only Ones. This is truly three of the finest minutes of punk-pop perfection.
Enclosing a link for you to check out the album if you’re not familiar with it…
Taffy – Wow! That was one that I had never heard of! I also have a comp LP with “Another Girl, Another Planet” but that’s a New Wave Comp for another day. I certainly agree with your assessment, re: The Only Ones. I have never heard more than that song as I’m sacred that all the rest won’t measure up. Dang! That is one hellaciously fine compilation! On Arista UK and yet no Simple Minds? No wonder they were keen to leave that label! But man, what a great collection of songs. I have about 80% of those in the Record Cell.
No Wave is an amazing compilation. For a time it looked like A&M was going to be the home of New Wave/Punk, but in the end they weeded through the depth of their signings and kept what they could make money with. I.R.S. managed to give them credibility with their distribution deal. I alway thought Sire was the real New Wave Label, being still fairly independent until they signed Madonna and Warners swooped in for the kill.
Have to agree Monk, lots of time for Klark Kent and my Police interest wanes after Regatta De Blanc with a only a later soft spot for Ghost In The Machine.
Squeeze are a favorite of mine. Difford and Tilbrook are songwriting masters. They represent some of the best of the Pop and Pub Rock scene that just preceded Punk and New Wave. Not many of those players could adapt like Squeeze did.
I’m a diehard Joe Jackson fan. His musical ADHD had provided the world with some really wonderful work. From the Punk Power Pop of the first two albums to Beat Crazy’s wild dub, reggae and angst, he hit all the right notes for these ears. It’s a complex album that doesn’t ask you to like it but forces you to accept it. Seeing him tour the first two albums was amazing and then to see him again when he brought his Big World Tour to The States are memorable concert nights.
As for The Only Ones, I think they were sorely underrated. The Only Ones found a formula that mixed power pop, punk, glam and Syd Barrett style psychedelia into a powerful musical stew. Peter Perrett had that adolescent adenoidal vocal style down pat. And Another Girl Another Planet is one of the great subversive drug songs of all time…innocent it is not!! It’s a song that rates high enough to be included in my 50 favorites at 50 playlist. There’s also a great building excitement to the opening of the song that few have ever matched. It lays out it’s purpose with almost 50 seconds of intrumental before Perrett even begins to sing.
Just to show how small a world the burgeoning punk and new wave scene was in London, Squeeze’s Glen Tilbrook was Perrett’s first guitarist just before The Only One’s coalesced into it’s original lineup. Perrett also worked on Johnny Thunders first solo album and plays on You Can’t Put Your Arm Around A Memory – another all timer for me.
seems like we also got this in the UK but some additional/alternate tracks and a variety of coloured vinyl and a ‘pay no more than £2.99’ sticker to boot !.
As PPM so kindly says, this record was ground zero for me. I had enjoyed Bowie and Roxy but was mostly listening to mainstream radio in my youth. Long before my meeting with the Monk, I had flirted with the Dark Side of Rock … I attended (and hated!) the Sex Pistols concert in Atlanta, but someone bought me their album a year or two later that I liked a lot better. I was getting into Elvis Costello and the Clash in Miami, but more as a tonic to all that disco we had to listen to NON-STOP. Devo at the time I mostly knew from their WTF?! performance on Friday’s and SNL. And this is all before I moved to Orlando in ’79. I was probably *rediscovering* the Beatles stuff I’d missed when I ran into the Monk, but as he relates I was keen to explore beyond the top 40!
No Wave, quite apart from its pitch-perfect artwork that screamed “MUNDANES STAY AWAY!!”, was so important to me because it was the first “bible” of what was going on underground that was all in one place. It’s amusing now to consider acts like The Police and Joe Jackson as “punk” (American definition), but they were edgy for the time with unconventional singing styles and occasionally non 4/4 time signatures (!!). The Monk is not kidding about my penchant for buying every copy of this record I see — it never came out on CD of course, and the cheap plastic our promo copy (yes, Monk remembers correctly!) was literally worn down with repeated playing (though I may still actually have that copy …). So I keep buying replacements (I even have one here in Victoria, despite having no turntable!).
The last two tracks of side one are the two oddball ones — the rest, by and large, have become standards that every New Wave (and most “rock”) fans have heard at least once. “I’m Alive” is one super-obscure track but it features what I can only describe as some of the most “look at me I’m NEW WAVE” singing this side of Ian Dury! Tremelo abounding with a pinch of spaz, set to a catchy tune that wouldn’t have been too far off the path of the late 50s/early 60s novelty bin? That’s our early New Wave all right!
As for “Bring On the Nubiles,” PPM is right to find the subject abhorrent, but this song still fascinates me all these years later for two main reasons. The main one is simply that even then it was astonishing that it was even allowed to exist, and this is taking into account rock n roll’s rich history of songs about fucking underage girls! Today this song couldn’t even be thought about, much less made and distributed, by a major label (or even an indie one by and large!). So it kind of paints a picture of how wide-open and wild the music scene was then.
Secondly, this was a whole new kind of “heavy” to me that I’d not had much exposure to before. The Stranglers never went darker than this one, and its arrangement compliments the subject with a very rough, dangerous tone that was distinct from what I knew as “punk” at the time. When a song like “Warm Leatherette” feels normal by comparison, you know you’ve stumbled into the dark underbelly of rock’s most evil imaginings. So its a fascinating song to me that I still find utterly amazing that it even exists.
Having all of this new music in one place really kickstarted my inner “wild child” and I never looked back. As proof, I will send PPM a picture from the time which he could post here shortly.
Those among this group whom I’ve not (yet!) had the pleasure to meet will still be able to spot the guy who’s not on the straight and normal path anymore … (please note that sadly, the Monk is not in the picture). And no that’s not Jerry Harrison in the background, that’s one of the other WGAG guys this music changed profoundly … still in the music business to this day, in fact!
Pingback: Dave Greenfield: 1949-2020 | stranglers (serbia)
This album was a great dip in to the New Wave post punk culture craze.
In 1979 I found this album in a bin at a record shop where you could exchange your old albums for other hand me down records .
This music was not listed to much on the airwaves in South Florida and it got me wanting more of this kind of stuff. Then I discovered The Ramones and the rest was history . Never again would I care to listen to Freebird or Magic Carpet Ride.
David Carr – Welcome to the comments! Ah, it sounds like you found out about used record stores just about a year ahead of me. The first one I went to was Retro Records in Orlando, Florida on Bumby Street. Probably in 1980, as I recall. Amazingly, it seems to still be there, though run by a different owner. Retro lit a fire under me by actually having a “New Wave” section where you didn’t have to see Ted Nugent albums while browsing! That’s where I deep sixed those ELP albums!