New Wave Guitar

The mention of the New wave Joy Division and the Cars are some of the groups that come to mind. Today we explore new wave guitar creators and innovators.

The BEGINNINGS of the “The new wave guitar sound?”

Labels are a funny thing especially. There are many subgenres of musical style. Many bands that came after the rise of Punk were called “New Wave” and the new wave guitar sounds began with bands like “The cars and Joy Division”. I find that they created new music moving into a new wave guitar sound in the early 1980s.

Some were just brilliant Rock bands that made a true musical revolution, by being great bands with great music. The often dreaded word “Synth” in the Rock community was gradually assimilated into the bands who hated it. Van Halen even embraced it as well as RUSH. It’s more a matter of who played it as to its complementary nature to bands that thought there was no other instrument other than drums.

Eventually the concept of “Give the drummer some” turned into a drum machine. I have a $100 bill for the person who can find a good document of the “Drum Machine Solo” Live that is an example of inspiration. There is sometimes a thought that The Guitar was lost in the popular music culture of the time. Some of the best guitar work ever came to play, it was a matter of who you were listening to. So Labeled or Mislabeled, “New Wave” had many astounding acts.

New Wave Guitar From The Cars.

The Cars were an American rock band formed in Boston in 1976. Emerging from the new wave scene in the late 1970s, it consisted of Elliot Easton (lead guitar), Greg Hawkes (keyboards), Ric Ocasek (rhythm guitar), Benjamin Orr (bass guitar), and David Robinson (drums). Ocasek and Orr shared lead vocals, and Ocasek was the band’s principal songwriter.

Elliot and Rick crafted not only the song into something radio and fans would quickly grow to love then and now, but the guitar breaks, and in reality, the foundation for a larger portion of their work has not been diminished by time. Elements of Punk, Rockabilly, Art Rock, and pop were exactingly placed to create one of the most unique and identifiable signature sounds of any band ever with their new wave guitar sounds. I’m hard-pressed to find many people who still love the Cars from their debut album

“ The Cars” was released in June 1978, reaching “Just What I Needed” was released as the debut single from the album, followed by “My Best Friend’s Girl” and “Good Times Roll”, all three charting on the Billboard Hot 100. The album featured multiple album tracks that received substantial airplay, such as “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight”, “Bye Bye Love”, and “Moving in Stereo”.

Released in June 1979, Candy-O, the band’s second album, was an even bigger hit peaking at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 album chart, 

Cars, Guitars, and Elliot Easton

The band continued to create spectacular sounds right through the Death of Rick Ocasek.

The Cars: Rock & Roll Hall of Fame video presentation, 2018

Joy Division

Joy Division was an English rock band formed in Salford in 1976. The group consisted of vocalist Ian Curtis, guitarist/keyboardist Bernard “Barney” Sumner, bassist Peter Hook, and drummer Stephen Morris.  They were sparked by The Sex Pistols performance in Manchester where all future band members were present.

They began as a very Raw band, Dark and brooding as well as taking Flack for the very name chosen. Its origin in Nazi abuse was argued, the band was not supporting the Nazi atrocities, They wanted to take the name in a positive direction taking away the origin of the term. For those who do not know the symbol adopted by Hitler the “Swastika” was stolen from Native American culture, it was just a modified spin of position.

I’ve seen the original Hopewell Micah design personally in a museum here in Ohio. Hitler took a positive and turned it into the negative, the band wanted to take the name of the negative and reposition its history.

Joy Division – Shadowplay (40th Anniversary Remaster) 1978 Granada TV, Live

Musically the band was stripped down and new wave guitar innovator Bernard Sumner was playing Heavy Handed Distorted and Powerful Chords. At times a bit heavier than the Punk Element and there were most likely unknown flashes of Link Wray. They were another group evolving in the Public eye. You can see the beginnings of the search for a melodic sense in his solos. They were not hiding in the garage practicing for years, they were out there fearlessly working on their craft on television. 

New Wave Guitar Joy Division Exhibition 768x1024 New Wave Guitar Creators and Innovators

Their self-released 1978 debut EP” An Ideal for Living” drew the attention of the Manchester television personality and when announcement was made by Tony Wilson on his radio show the world started falling in love with joy division. Wilson had signed them to his independent label Factory Records. Their debut album Unknown Pleasures, recorded with producer Martin Hannett, was released in 1979.

Joy Division’s second and final album, Closer, was released two months later; it and the single “Love Will Tear Us Apart” became their highest charting releases. With its pillar new wave guitar sound and bass riff.

The remaining members regrouped under the name” New Order”. They were successful throughout the next decade, blending post-punk with electronic and dance music influences.

Joy Division: The Tragic Death of Ian Curtis

The world would begin to hear Depeche Mode, Trans -X, Yazoo, O.M.D. , Berlin, Kraftwerk, Human League, New Order, Visage, and many more were making their mark. Yet the New Wave Guitar seemed to have vanished in most cases.

Public Image Ltd

“PILL” as they were also known as a very different band that one can look to as in the same song being deconstructionist, Clever, and reaching for something more.

Formed by singer John Lydon, guitarist Keith Levene, bassist Jah Wobble, and drummer Jim Walker in 1978. The group’s personnel has changed frequently over the years; Lydon has been the sole constant member.

Following his departure from the Sex Pistols in January 1978, Lydon sought a more experimental “anti-rock” project and formed PiL. That year PiL released their debut “First Issue” in 1978, creating an abrasive, bass-heavy sound that drew on dub, noise, progressive rock, and disco.

PiL’s second album Metal Box in 1979 pushed their sound further into the avant-garde and is often regarded as one of the most important albums of the post-punk era.

PIL – Public Image

Guitarist Keith Levene had many approaches to the Guitar in whichever context he was placed. One can hear his work in the song “ Public Image” and hear sounds most likely influential to Billy Duffy of The Cult adopted later on.

Levene in time began to drop out of the guitar playing in favor of synthesizer, picking up a new technique although owing to debt to Allen Ravenstine of Pere Ubu.

1981’s “Flowers of Romance” is a personal favorite. In a conversation a couple of decades ago a friend and I were talking about the albums to put on when the Party was getting to that point you wanted people to leave without telling them outright.

I mentioned Captain Beefheart’s “Trout Mask Replica”, He countered by playing me “Flowers of Romance”. 

We came to the agreement that if people did stay after the first 7 minutes, then those were the kind of people we wanted to party with.

Public Image Ltd.- The Flowers Of Romance (Top Of The Pops) 1981

Public Image Ltd. – Anarchy Movie 1985 – Full Show

Elvis Costello has been documented, The Pretenders were just a great Rock N Roll band that were lumped into “New Wave”  The Talking Heads were an Island unto themselves.

Therein lies the problem of the New Wave as a broad stroke of definition. “Tears For Fears” and  “Devo” in the same sentence are confounding.

In Closing, I want to draw attention to an artist and album that feel under the same Label but is a remarkably musical document that conveys the Synth and Guitar properly and is a musical high point regardless of the times.

Marianne Faithfull

“Broken English” released in 1971 is a work for the ages.

 As Journalist Tom Lanham described it “ The daughter of an Austrian baroness, this swinging London socialite was first discovered by Rolling Stones Svengali Andrew Loog Oldham, who provided her first Mick Jagger/Keith Richards-penned hit “As Tears Go By” in 1964.

After flirtations with film, drugs, and even Jagger himself, Faithfull disappeared for a decade, reinventing herself as a smoky-throated chanteuse on 1979’s New Wave gem, Broken English.

It’s a mix of punk and rock and balladry with the generous amount so synthesizers from Steve Winwood, but it’s Faithfull’s smoky, cracked voice singing vulnerable songs about sex and heartbreak that led to a Grammy nomination and critical acclaim. “ 

Marianne Faithfull Broken English

Marianne Faithfull – Broken English Short Film by Derek Jarman

Guitarists Barry Reynolds, Joe Mavety, and Guy Humphries each found their own way to accentuate this music and remind the world of techno sound beginnings that The New Wave Guitar still had its place in popular music. 

You may feel that these are odd choices of music to bring under the umbrella of “New Wave”. We are a guitar-based forum so that was a challenge in some ways. More Importantly, my last conclusion is no matter what you call any form of’s all music.

Labels are helpful in certain circumstances and create confusion in others. Rather than ask “Is it Punk, Post Punk, New Wave, Pop or Rock?’ The question in music might be better served if one asks “Is it good Music or does it fall short?” “Is it Art or Image?” “Will it be important 20 years from now?” 

1980 Music around us – New Wave [ complete ]

By Jimmy Flemming

Jimmy Fleming is a Dystonia advocate and Guitarist from Ohio. He authored and co wrote interviews on over 100 articles about guitar and bands on Guitardoor Listen to his latest music and full biography on his website.

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