Introduction to Popular Culture Studies

An update on my term paper proposal. Just imagine synthesizers and glitter being thrown around the blog for a visual.

Posted by exileontaytayst on May 6, 2013

“Experience the New Wave.”

Several advertisements from music publications in the late Seventies and early Eighties ran promotions with tag lines similar to this one mentioned above. What was the “new wave” of music? The seventies had been defined by the sounds of disco coming out of your mainstream radio speakers. The sound of rhythmic dance beats had ruled the charts and airwaves, and many music listeners had grown tired of the predictably of faux drum beats and high falsettos.
It may be hard to believe, but disco was not the only form of music being made during the decade of shag carpet and Farrah Faucett hair. A genre of music with a drastically different sound was beginning to come out of downtown New York City. A sound of music driven by loud, brash guitars, pounding drums, and snarling front men who sang about taboo topics ranging from sexual frustration to the government, in a way that was unheard of by the general public. This style of music was referred to as Punk.

The 1970’s was a decade which was fueled by change. Women were liberated, presidents and other public figures were being exposed, and the “free love” mentality made popular in the previous decade slowly became eclipsed by conservative political control. New found political ideals were making people restless. The pressure to conform with society and political rule became very tedious and made many people angry, particularly the younger generation, who felt as if they had no voice. These young people wanted to find a match for their frustration, and punk music provided all the answers they needed. Punk rock was a form of rock and roll that was loud and unapologetic. The songs were very short and stripped; the idealism of punk rock was to cultivate something for yourself. Since the establishment was not going to listen to the common man, noise had to be made in order to be heard.

The roots of punk began to cultivate in the mid-Seventies in New York City in a downtown Manhattan club called CBGB’s, ironically standing for “country, bluegrass, blues.” The crop of bands who played at CBGB’s in the early days would later become some of the pioneers of the punk genre and faces of the coming decade. Among them were The Ramones, Talking Heads, and Blondie.

Blondie became noted for having a woman lead singer who was backed by a bunch of men. The women’s liberation movement of the seventies was still occurring, so having a woman take center stage and direct a group of men was a fairly daunting concept. Blondie’s sound was stripped down and muddy like many of the early punk bands they played with at CBGB’s. Blondie’s lead singer, Deborah Harry, was quite different from any of her male punk counterparts. Her striking physical looks gave Blondie an image. Imagery was not a typical factor in punk rock music. The message of punk rock was to destroy the concept of image. While Blondie’s music may have been overshadowed by Deborah’s looks, her looks were the unknown foundation for the music that was to follow punk; a term coined “new wave.”
My term paper is going to focus on Deborah Harry and Blondie, and the influence the band brought to the “NEW WAVE” movement of music that rose to incredible popularity in the eighties. The music in the new wave genre was considered to be lighter than the rough thrashings of punk, with a focus on synthesizers and elements of dance music. Image became a very strong association with the music with the invention of the 24 hour music video MTV in August of 1981. Suddenly, music required a visual element. Blondie was a group that was able to successfully transition from the anti-establishment roots of punk to the ESTABLISHMENT FLASH that the 1980’s thrived on.


One Response to “An update on my term paper proposal. Just imagine synthesizers and glitter being thrown around the blog for a visual.”

  1. Sam Ford said

    Thanks, Taylor. I appreciate seeing your paper as it comes along. I’m especially interested in seeing the academic sources that came along with your research and where/how you see Blondie’s legacy–and New Wave–fitting in with developments of the time period and/or in music more broadly. It’s certainly expanded my understanding of New Wave and its cultural placement already.

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