Over the last week, I read the rather hefty Dylan Jones book Sweet Dreams: The Story of the New Romantics. Was it worth the time? Well, I’ll save my review for an upcoming episode of The Encores Club with Rhonda. As I tend to do with these sort of books, I found myself doing a deeper dive into the forgotten corners of popular music in search of the musical threads that tie each decade to the last.
With the New Romantic scene, the touchstones have always been very obvious both musically and visually: David Bowie and Roxy Music with the precise tomorrow that Kraftwerk promised. But that is an oversimplification; it has to be. The scene couldn’t have been spawned from such limited influence – imagine the DJ’s trying to get through fours hours at the club!
So, between the book, my own music collection, and consultations with a London scenester from the early 80s (ok, my wife over dinner), I put together a playlist of what was happening over the last two years of the 70s as punk lost it’s momentum and the first rumblings of the 1980s could be felt in the clubs. The familiar names (Gary Numan, Simple Minds, Human League, etc.) weren’t commercial stars yet but there was a new sound forming.
For me, the aftermath of punk has always been two occasionally entwined paths: post-punk and New Pop. While they sometimes bumped into each other on the dance floor, the angular guitars of Gang Of Four and The Slits occupy a different headspace than the emerging synth-pop of Gary Numan and Human League. I’ve listened to and dove deep into the roots of post-punk for many years but this playlist represents my first “deep” dive into some of the forgotten artists (Harry Thumann?) that helped shape the emerging New Romantic scene. Enjoy.