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Mad World: An Oral History of New Wave…

Mad World: An Oral History of New Wave Artists and Songs That Defined the… (edition 2014)

by Lori Majewski (Author), Moby (Afterword), Nick Rhodes (Foreword), Jonathan Bernstein (Author), David Cashion (Editor)1 more, Evan Gafney (Designer)

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The authors provide an oral history that celebrates the New Wave music phenomenon of the 1980s via new interviews with some of the most notable artists of the period. Each chapter begins with a discussion of their most popular song but leads to stories of their history and place in the scene, ultimately painting a vivid picture of this colorful, idiosyncratic time.… (more)
Title:Mad World: An Oral History of New Wave Artists and Songs That Defined the 1980s
Authors:Lori Majewski (Author)
Other authors:Moby (Afterword), Nick Rhodes (Foreword), Jonathan Bernstein (Author), David Cashion (Editor), Evan Gafney (Designer)
Info:Harry N. Abrams (2014), 320 pages, 2nd Printing
Collections:Your library
Tags:Music, history, New Wave, punk

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Mad World by Lori Majewski



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I've always loved music, but coming of age in the early 1980s I especially loved new wave. I still remember hearing "Cars" by Gary Numan, and loving the sound of it. One evening, with it stuck in my head, I mentioned to my cousin (my best friend, really) that I really liked it, and was surprised by his 'are-you-kidding-me?-you-actually-like-that-stupid-song?' reaction. Later, when I heard "I Ran" by A Flock of Seagulls and "Pop Music" by M, I knew I'd found what resonated with me. But even though new wave was very popular in Salt Lake City (where I grew up), I always felt on the musical outskirts, and most of my friends preferred the rock and pop music. I still feel that way.

"In the U.K.... new wave was initially code adopted by journalists and disc jockeys eager to be perceived as cool but too nervous to actually use the word 'punk' with all its threatenting implications. In America, new wave was an umbrella the size of a circus tent. It covered synth pop, ska, goth, alternative rock, bubblegum, Eurodance, industrial, new romantic, blue-eyed U.K. soul, and electronic dance music. It was a Tower of Babel populated by American bands who wanted to be British, British bands who wanted to be German, and German bands who wanted to be robots. It was an insane asylum whose patients were predominantly ambiguous, untouchable males with sucked-in cheeks, 3-D makeup, and wedding-cake hair."
Seldom have I laughed so much while reading a book as this one. We didn't have MTV in my home, so I missed out on a lot of information about the bands I loved - and I was suprised at the HUGE EGOs many of the new wave "artists" had - Limahl of Kajagoogoo and especially Ian McCulloch of Echo & the Bunnymen - particularly considering their relatively modest popular success. Others really saw themselves as "artists" and eschewed the popularity that came (OMD), while others actively pursued it (Duran Duran and ABC). And there was no shortage of competition and jealousy among them:
Curt Smith, Tears for Fears: 'People say, ‘music’s not what it used to be,’ and I’m like, ‘Yeah, it is.’ Most of the stuff we listened to sucked. What you remember is the really good stuff. But there was a ton of crap in the 80s. For every one of us, there was a Flock of Seagulls.'
Mike Score, A Flock of Seagulls: 'The word that springs to mind is jealousy. Curt Smith may be living in a little fantasyland that Tears for Fears was something spectacular.'

This book features edited interviews with about 3 dozen new wave bands where they discuss an important song of theirs and their history (as well as a 'where-are-they-now' follow up). The only band I didn't know was The Normal, and the only other band I don't have any music from in my collection was Joy Division (I'm more of a New Order fan). Still, the book sent me scurrying to YouTube to listen to songs I wasn't familiar with - "Kings of the Wild Frontier" by Adam Ant and "Being Boiled" by Human League, among others - and digging out CDs I haven't listened to in years (New Order). Some chapters I found boring - ABC, Spandau Ballet, DEVO, Dexy's Midnight Runners, and even Howard Jones (whose music I LOVE) - and others were fascinating. Just a few of the highlights for me (sometimes paraphrased rather than quoted in full):

- Peter Hook of New Order: 'Musically, I love Adam and the Ants. They’re one of my favorite groups. But it was very difficult for me as a Northern male to relate to the dandy look. We would’ve been laughed out of Manchester had we even considered it. Bernard [Sumner] and I used to go out in London with all them lot… We looked like working-class yobs, and everyone else was dressed up as a pirate.'
- Kim Wilde: 'When it was a hit in America, they were like, 'Why East California'? Why not all the way over to the west? I was trying to come up with any excuse why my dad might have written 'to East California,' and if you ask, he'll say 'Cause it sounded better'... When I feel self-conscious about saying 'New York to East California,' I think of the Police singing 'De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da,' and I don't feel so bad.'
- Andy Rourke, The Smiths: 'Morrissey used to buy his-I was going to say 'shirts,' but they were actually blouses-from a clothing place for fat women in Manchester. These women's blouses that nobody wanted became Morrissey's trademark. He used to like tearing them up and throwing them into the crowd.'
- Midge Ure: 'People consume music in a very different way. It doesn't seem to be as all-important as it used to be for us. Kids have got computer games and a million other things to keep themselves entertained. We had music and our imaginations, and that was it.'
( )
1 vote J.Green | Nov 22, 2016 |
3 1/2 stars: Good.

From the back cover: New wave is the unquestionable defining movement of the 1980s. It started as a response to punk, was groomed by the disciples of Bowie, and exploded with the help of MTV. Mad World is the ridiculously entertaining and irreverent cultural history that celebrates the phenomenon through the voices of more than 35 of the biggest artists of the era alongside a parade of vintage photographs. In all new interviews, the musical stars of the decade discuss their breakthrough songs, histories, and place in the scene, creating a vivid picture of this colorful, idiosyncratic time. Included are:

Adam and the Ants--"Kings of the Wild Frontier"
Gary Numan--"Cars"
Duran Duran--"Girls on Film"
New Order--Blue Monday"
ABC--"Poison Arrow"
Devo--"Whip It"
Echo and the Bunnymen--"The Killing Moon"
Spandau Ballet--"True"
The Human League--"Being Boiled"
Heaven 17--"Temptation"
Dexys Midnight Runners -- "Come on Eileen"
Bow Wow Wow--"I want candy"
The Waitresses--"I know what boys like"
The Normal--"Warm Leatherette"
Kajagoogoo-- "Too Shy"
Thomas Dolby--"She Blinded me with Science"
The Psychedelic Furs--"Love my Way"
Depeche Mode--"New Life"
Yaz---"Only You"
Kim Wilde--"Kids in America"
Howard Jones--"New Song"
Berlin--"The Metro"
A Flock of Seagulls--"I ran"
Modern English--"I melt with you"
Soft Cell--"Tainted Love"
A-Ha-- "Take on Me"
Joy Division-- "Love will tear us apart"
The Smiths--"How soon is now?"
Tears for Fears--"Mad World"
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark--"If you Leave"
INXS--"Original Sin"
Thompson Twins--"Hold Me Now"
Simple Minds--"Don't you (Forget about me)"
Band Aid-- "Do They Know Its Christmas"


Less interesting book than I had hoped. I did learn a little bit, most notably that Michael des Barres wrote and made a good life for himself, the song "Obsession" ("by" Animotion---a pop band manufactured for this song).

"Bowie-- The voice, the hair, the videos, the clothes. The way he cut words up to construct lyrical collages. The way he juggled genres. Pretty much every musician who drew breath in the 80s owes everything to the career blueprint of David Bowie."

"The amount of words I will say to an audience during a tour is a page of a notebook, and they would mostly be "thank you". I don't like talking much between songs. It's a degree of shyness and a degree of not seeing the point in saying any of those things. I don't feel the need to go 'Are you having a good time, fill in the name of the city. "--Richard Butler of the Psychedelic Furs. [Interesting to me, because as of this writing I have seen them 3 times and heard Richard Butler say a grand total of 2 words in 3 shows....

"Now if you just go 'Be happy and be positive' and its done in a shallow way--if you do that without having grappled and fought the battle with yourself--then I don't think it carries any weight. If my music has any effect, it's because it was born from this battle I was having with myself the general thinking that you have no control over your future. It's not true." --Howard Jones

"New Song' is probably my favorite. It is radically different from what you'd hear in most pop songs. The line 'Challenging pre-conceived ideas' you would never hear that in a pop song. That song is packed with stuff like that: 'Don't crack up/ Bend your brain" don't be thrown or side tracked, don't succumb to weakness, be strong. And "See both sides" that's really important to see both sides of an argument. -- Howard Jones

"What is love?' questions the idea that romantic love is the Holy Grail. "Maybe love is letting people be what they want to be"--not putting them in a box and tying them down and making them what you want. To really love somebody, you've got to let them express themselves and not try and dominate them and want to make them be like you." --Howard Jones

"Terri [Nunn] and I nearly got married. ... I met Terri and we fell in love instantly and were never apart for a year and a half. 'The Metro' was a perfect storm: great female vocals, a catchy chorus, and a story about lost love. It was exotic rather than erotic. It had a driving dance beat that still works to this day. It's about 168 beats per minute! You put that song on, and you cannot sit on your ass." --Richard Blade, KROQ DJ. ( )
1 vote PokPok | Dec 26, 2014 |
A very good book that I received as a gift. Recent interviews from many band members about the music they created in the 80s which is still enjoyed by many fans of today. All of them spoke about the 80s music style having fallen out of favor and how they were negatively typecast by the music industry execs because of it. They all now can say they loved their past musical success even if the appreciation was slow in coming due to burnout, financial difficulties, or band member changes. I've read many books/memoirs on bands from the 80's but this summarizes many of those books. Yaz, Bow Wow Wow, The Waitresses, New Order were excellent chapters for me. ( )
  sacredheart25 | Oct 16, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Lori Majewskiprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bernstein, Jonathanmain authorall editionsconfirmed
MobyAfterwordsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Rhodes, NickForewordsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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