Redux: I Was A Token New Waver…

July 25, 2014

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] was 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?

– 30 –

* 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

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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20 Responses to Redux: I Was A Token New Waver…

  1. dhrichards says:

    Ahhhhm the Epoxies! The greatest New Wave band that was only 20 years too late…


    • postpunkmonk says:

      dhrichards – Most assuredly! I ran across them in 2006 and was floored by their perfection as someone who had lived through ’78-’79. I had long term plans to visit Portland in August 2008 and they broke up six months prior!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. dhrichards says:

    No Pseudo New Wave discussion can be complete with out the original sin- The Village People circa Renaissance (shudder)


    • postpunkmonk says:

      dhrichards – I still have never heard that album, but would buy it for a dollar [on LP only] just out of morbid curiosity. The thought of America’s top gay disco act going full-on New Romantic [in look, at least] was a head scratcher in extreme. It’s not as if America had swallowed a single drop of the New Romantic Kool-Aid in 1981!


  3. Tim says:

    Where I grew up Bob Seger *was* dance music and was referred to with affection and not irony.
    The new wave era that was heralded and brought to us largely by MTV was a revolution to someone like me who was raised in a small midwestern town where you had to be white, christian, athletic and straight and if you weren’t those and all of them…..too bad to be you.


  4. zoo says:

    Well, there’s Rush, of course. I found some great pics on the web that might lean more-Miami Vice than New Wave….but close enough. For example:

    Liked by 1 person

    • postpunkmonk says:

      zoo – Rush get a special dispensation for basically mutating into Ultravox in ’82-’84 so by exactly the moment in 1986 that Ultravox were moving elswehere, there was a substitute. If you wanted high-tech rock heavy on atmosphere, they were the go-to guys by 1985!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. negative1ne says:

    mr monk,

    i’m going to post this thought out there for your fans.
    to me, the cars were never new wave, despite some
    people thinking that. yes, they were progressive rock,
    and album oriented, and by the time hearbeat city
    came out, they definitely looked the part.

    but, being so overplayed on pop radio, and prior
    to that, hey were constantly on AOR stations.
    how anybody got the idea they were new wave,
    i’m still puzzled at.

    they have exactly 1 12inch remix, of hello again,
    and thats it. the occasional new non-album b-side,
    but they don’t play in new wave festivals, they are
    rarely on compilations,

    that is pretty much my summary of why the
    cars don’t qualify (and neither does the police)



    • David says:

      In 1981, as an eight grader, I asked an upperclassman what new wave was- he answered, straight-faced,”Juice Newton”. So, to me the Cars are fine as New Wave, lol


    • Tim says:

      The Police were good, but vastly, vastly overrated, especially the last album (aka The Wrapped Around Your Finger ep with waaaaay too many bonus tracks),


    • postpunkmonk says:

      negative1ne – So by dint of their AOR popularity coupled with a lack of 12″ mixes you would argue that The Cars and The Police disqualified as New Wave. By the same token, Blondie also sold a ton of records, but since they were played on pop stations, did they still qualify? Thoughts?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Tim says:

        Howard Jones was new wave and then he wasn’t.
        Spandau Ballet were new romantics and then they weren’t.
        The Thompson Twins were new wave and then they weren’t.
        Duran Duran were New Romantics and then they were RAWK STARS who all had to have their own limos.

        I was re-reading an old interview that I have with the Pet Shop Boys and one of the topics that they and the two people interviewing them go into is labels on music and how transitory they are (mixmag august 2012.,…..I can’t get it to open in my browser at the moment, I have a pdf of it that I saved back in the day if the link is dead and anyone wants to read it). Anyhow, the thrust of it is there’s all these labels and it’s all pretty much dance music.

        In the early 80’s everything was New Wave, MTV was hot, it was changing the landscape and every one wanted to be on this bandwagon. I think some artists dipped their toe in the pool, some were really good at it and others it was just the flavor of the day an their career continued.


      • negative1ne says:

        mr monk,

        blondie, much like bjork (whom i adore, [but not so much lately]),
        are one of those bands, who crossover multi-genres at every
        point of their career.

        in fact, blondie not only mutated from rock, to punk, to
        post-punk (couldn’t resist), to disco, to proto-rock, to new wave,
        to alternative, etc, etc.

        they did qualify during their crossover era of 1980-1983,
        with a good bit of rap, reggae, and alt-rock too..

        good question, but poor choice of band, something more
        singular, like the rolling stones, who laughingly dipped
        their toes into the ‘new wave’ look, along with mick
        jaggers solo stuff… and don’t forget some of david
        bowies much crosses over into the new wave
        highway also. but not for long, and not much of it.
        despite all these bands pop sensibilities and popularity.



        • Bpdp3 says:

          Oh I could read threads like this all day. We’re actually skirting two phenomenons here.

          My example of ‘token new wave’ would be the Loverboy debut lp. Few would argue it musically as new wave…but aesthetically the cover and even the band photos on the back of the lp had a new wave ‘feel’. It was ersatz but clearly glomming onto the nascent scene. (Gotta love that thesaurus).

          The other is the notion of the non-new wave artist actually appropriating new wave (Alice Cooper’s “clones” or Linda Ronstadt’s “how do I make you” being infamous examples). In each case, you know neither artist was using new wave as a springboard for a meaningful change in musical direction, but rather just as a springboard. (a temporary life preserver?). Regardless, if I’m lucky enough to hear any examples of this phenomenon on the radio, I’d NEVER change the channel.


          • postpunkmonk says:

            Bpdp3 – Two of my favorite late 70s/early 80s phenomena: Token New Wave and False New Wave! I agree that Cooper’s “Clones” is just perfect as an attempt at bandwagon jumping! Did you see the “Faking It Files” thread early on here? As for Loverboy, I was just discussing that phenomenon with Echorich last weekend in Atlanta. He mentioned how Loverboy used some “New Wave coloration” for fit into the 1980 scene. He mentioned how at first blush, the group were a blend of AOR/pop/New Wave that was neither fish nor fowl until their true colors manifested later on. I countered with in 1981 CBS released the “Exposed” sampler that threw together bands like The Boomtown Rats, Adam + The Ants, and yes, Loverboy, on a cheap 2xLP sampler that was kind of New Wave [especially in style] even as it offered up bands like Judas Priest!


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