memories of the ’80s – Cars by Gary Numan

File:NumanCars.JPGLeaving behind the punk and hard rock of the 1970s, Gary Numan established the new wave song with his hit “Cars“.

During the late 1970s, Numan was known as Tubeway Army and had released four singles, an LP and an album, as well as garnering a hit with the song “Are Friends Electric?”.

In 1979, he released the single Cars, ahead of his next album The Pleasure Principle in August. The single immediately went to the top of the British charts with its catchy new wave rhythms, which Numan accentuated with the extensive use of keyboards in the production.

The song was written after Numan experienced a road rage episode while driving in London, when another driver threatened him.

The accompanying video, showing Numan emotionless and like a robot also added to his allure. Suffering from stage fright and bad skin before a live performance, Numan had gone onstage with lots of makeup and acted very stiff, which then became his persona.

Hitting the top of the charts in Canada, US, Belgium, Ireland and Germany, the single and its video was in heavy rotation on MTV and MuchMusic as well.

Cars became the first single that led to the many new wave hits of the 1980s and was the hot one hit wonder of Numan’s career in the decade.

memories of the ’80s – Haircut One Hundred

This Brit band’s style and songs made them pop music darlings from the beginning of the decade: Haircut One Hundred.

Formed in 1980, Nick Heyward and Les Nemes had left Moving England to form Haircut 100, and were joined by Graham Jones, Phil Smith and Pat Hunt.

Recording a demo led them quickly to signing a deal with Arista Records.

The band recorded their first single – Favourite Shirts (Boy meets Girl) – and this song became a radio favourite, hitting number four on the UK pop charts and landing the band a prestigious spot on hitmaking TV show Top of the Pops.

The second single for the band was Love Plus One, another hitmaking single for the band. Both singles were included on the band’s first album, Pelican West, which was released in February 1982.

Reaching number two on the album charts, Pelican West produced two more hit singles – Fantastic Day and Nobody’s Fool.

Soon the band was touring extensively, in England, throughout Europe and then the rest of the world. Magazine covers, tv appearances, videos, concerts – the band was being pulled in every direction as part of the burgeoning New Wave music movement.

Lead singer Nick Heyward couldn’t deal with the pressure and was pushed out of the band, replaced by Mark Fox in 1983. In 1984 the band released its next album, Paint and Paint, which flopped, leading to the band splitting.

But the band’s sounds from its debut effort fueled the style of New Wave, which would continue in the decade’s pop music movement embraced the electronic, dance and synthesizer sounds.

memories of the ’70s – Blondie

Little did two people who wanted to capture the essence of punk in their new band realize that they’d become icons of the decade with the formation of the band Blondie.

Created by Debbie Harry and Chris Stein, Blondie was formed after the duo met while both members of The Stilettos. Wanting to take their music in a punk and new wave direction, the two initially formed Angel and the Snakes in late 1974 and the next year renamed the band Blondie.

Considered part of the underground music scene in New York City, Blondie’s first self-titled album was released in 1976.

Performing regularly at NYC mainstays Max’s Kansas City and CBGB, the band’s following was with New Yorkers and foreigners – European and Australian music charts loved their sound.

In 1977, Blondie toured Australia, and got a top 10 single with the song “X-Offender”. With the release of their next album on Chrysalis Records Plastic Letters, the band solidified its fan based in the UK with touring and the lead single “Denis” which hit top 10, the first time an American punk/new wave band had broken big  in the British market.

In 1978, Blondie released their third album, Parallel Lines, which was their breakout album. With top 10 singles in the UK with “Picture This” and “Hanging on the Telephone” , American listeners were captured by the third single “Heart of Glass” and the follow-up “One Way or Another”.

Parallel Lines, with its numerous singles and constant radio airplay, pushed Blondie into the spotlight on the both sides of ocean. Lead singer Deborah Harry epitomized the cool chic of the punk scene – and became a favourite of magazine covers as well as part of the Andy Warhol scene in New York City.

In June 1979 Deborah Harry was photographed by Annie Leibovitz for the cover of Rolling Stone, while that Fall the fourth album was released Eat to the Beat. Scoring top 10 singles in Europe with “Atomic” and “Dreaming”, the band kept pursuing the US audience, but kept their sound their own.

I remember seeing early posters of the band and thinking how cool Harry was – a tough girl among the boys, but still feminine. I so wanted to have her style.

The end of the decade led the band to do a single with producer Giorgio Moroder for the soundtrack of the film American Gigolo – “Call Me”, which became their next major hit and propelled sales of the soundtrack around the world.

For the 1970s, Blondie epitomized the change in the music industry and the street style that was going mainstream – in the best way possible.

memories of the ’80s – Scandal

Born out of the music scene of New York City, Scandal was initially a new wave band with five members including lead singer Patty Smyth.

Formed in 1981, Smyth was joined by Ivan Elias, Keith Mack, Benjy King, Tom Welsh, Frankie LaRocka and Eran Asias. For a brief time, Jon Bon Jovi worked with the band.

In 1982, the band put out the EP Scandal which featured the first single Goodbye to You and the second single Love’s got a line on You. Although neither song were huge hits, the steady airplay of music videos helped the band move on to its first album release The Warrior in 1984.

The band was now featuring Thommy Price on drums instead of LaRocka and was facing many internal struggles. But the first single from the album, the title track, was the hot song – The Warrior peaked at #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart and the video was on heavy rotation on MuchMusic and MTV.

The album spawned two more singles: Beat of a Heart and Hands Tied, both which hit mid-chart numbers with Billboard.

I remember seeing this video play regularly on MuchMusic – the lead singer Smyth was the focus of the video with her oh so ’80s style – bold makeup, big hair and post-apocalyptic wardrobe.

The band was slated to go on tour in 1984, and the band members fighting led to several members leaving except for Smythe and Mack by the end of the tour, which is when the band officially broke up.

Smyth decided to become a solo artist but the band’s one hit wonder of The Warrior was a memorable song at the height of the 1980s new wave popularity.

memories of the ’70s – Debbie Harry

This band was the epitome of New York City cool, punk and rock ‘n’ roll all in one package – with a lead singer that embodied the band’s name – Blondie and a woman to admire – Debbie Harry.

Growing up in New Jersey, Harry moved to New York City as a young adult, immersing herself in Manhattan as a waitress at Max’s Kansas City club, working as a receptionist and eventually as a Playboy Bunny.

In the 1970s, she joined the girl-group The Stilettos, where she met guitarist Chris Klein. She and Klein would leave to form Blondie in 1975, named for what Harry was often called on the streets of New York City.

Blondie became a regular fixture at the scene at Max’s Kansas City as well as punk club CBGB, where the band was well-known for belting out a unique combination of punk, rock and new wave sounds. In December 1976, Blondie issued their first self-titled album, but by late 1977, the band bought back its contract to sign with Chrysalis Records, hoping to break out. Considered an underground band in the US, Blondie’s first taste of fame was in Australia.

The second album, Plastic Letters, did well in Europe, especially in the UK, but the US market wasn’t as radio-friendly to the unique Blondie sound. It was third album lucky with the release of Parallel Lines in 1979, with the Brit charts loving the singles “Picture This” and “Hanging on a Telephone”.

The US finally woke up to the power of Blondie with the single “Heart of Glass” influenced by the disco beats of The Bee Gees. The sexy video, which showcased Debbie Harry, led the single to be played endlessly on MTV and MuchMusic and the band went from underground to mainstream. The next single “One Way or Another” was a fast-rising song,  and in June 1979, Blondie graced the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine and Debbie Harry was an apparent regular at Studio 54. To date, the album has sold over 20 million copies worldwide.

As the 1980s began, Blondie was riding high, with a collaboration with Giorgio Moroder for the soundtrack to the film American Gigolo, more albums and more success. But the punk/new wave girl was what first intrigued me when I first saw the video for “Heart of Glass”. I thought Debbie Harry was super cool and unique – not a pop princess nor an overblown rock god. She was strong, smart and in charge of her destiny.

Years later I got to see Debbie Harry perform in Austin with Jazz Passengers, and was impressed with her cool stage presence, her voice as well as her love for music. The young angry punk had cooled into a sophisticated woman, who still had the edge and knew how to still conjure up the magic of art, pop culture, and music with her voice.