The New Music
By Glenn A. Baker and Stuart Coupe
Harmony Books, 128 pages, 1981
What comes around goes around is a main message in the early-’80s music book, The New Music. Kicking things off, the authors complain of a time in music — just before punk — when most of the music was put forward by the established record labels, the same old bands (or ones that sounded very similar to them), doing the same old thing. Music was over-produced. Rock stars became more concerned with their fashion style than the substance of their music. And worst of all, it was boring. Sound familiar? Much of the same complaints exist today. Perhaps we’re waiting on our own “new music” movement.
New music, according to authors Baker and Coupe, is basically music that doesn’t suck. It’s played with real instruments. It can be played live, and runs the gamut from Nina Hagen to The Jam; from Bruce Springsteen to transsexual performer Jayne County. There are plenty of acts you’ve heard of here, and many that you’ve haven’t. Both Australian music journalists, Baker and Coupe take their music as seriously as music journalists can, but without — thankfully — a lot of purple prose and breathless descriptions. Rather, they cut to the chase, jamming as much information on this then new music as possible amongst the full-colour photographs.
The two are clearly impassioned and are eager to spread the word about Devo, Blondie, Public Image Ltd. and The Cure. There are too many bands to list, but any ’80s music fan will delight in the vast territory this relatively slim book covers. But it’s not just about the bands. While much of the book is sectioned off by geography, Baker and Coupe pinpoint six major music trends as the sub-genres of the new music: powerpop, rockabilly/R&B, rock ‘n’ roll, heavy metal, synthesiser/electronic, ska/bluebeat and mod. They also dedicate a handful of pages to album cover art (I wish there were more, as these are great — not the same old LP covers you always see in ’80s compilations) and make the ballsy move of predicting who was poised for the big-time, a list that included Joan Jett and Canadian new wave band, Martha and the Muffins.
It’s fun for any ’80s music fan to go through The New Music mentally checking off albums and acts in their head. I had this record. I saw them live. It’s easy to feel a little smug. But what the book is a fantastic source for is finding those more obscure acts, the ones you haven’t heard of and give them a go. On the recommendation of Baker and Coupe, chances are you’ll be pleased with any of their New Music discoveries.