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March 02, 1984 - Image 29

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1984-03-02
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MUSIC - OnCampus
Triumph of the 'New'
By JIM SULLIVAN

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The year 1983 will be remembered as the
time the rock and roll tide finally turned.
Actually, "turned" might be too mild a
word for what has happened over the past
18 months. Last year American rock and
roll fans embraced a brave new world of pop
called New Music, and this commercial and
cultural tidal wave crumbled the sea wall of
stodgy mainstream rock. A new crop of
bands, such as Culture Club, Duran Duran
and Men at Work, dominated the sales
charts and dance clubs, coming from out of
the blue and into the black to create an
alternate mainstream.
What exactly is New Music and how did
it get where it is? For one thing, it's not
exactly new. New Music is an outgrowth of
the punk and new-wave movements that
began in 1976-77 in New York and London
as reactions against the tepid, formulaic
state of mid-'70s mainstream rock.
The New Music of 1983-and no doubt
1984 and beyond-encompasses a wide
array of musical styles and philoso-
phies. There's new technology at work (pre-
eminently synthesizers and drum ma-
chines); there's a fascination with the
darker, turbulent side of romance; there's a
rediscovery of older pop idioms such as
rockabilly, Motown soul, Jamaican ska and
reggae; there's fertile stylistic cross-
pollination, such as the merger of Afri-
can rhythms and traditional American pop
forms. Danceability is a key element. New
Music can also be rebellious, playful, whim-
sical or bitter. But even those terms are
limiting. At its best, New Music is about
creating something fresh, about risk and
adventure. It'smusicthatmovesone'sspirit.
I n1976and 1977therockandrollplayed
by the Ramones, the Sex Pistols and the
Clash was harsh, demanding music-
forged out of frustration and boredom with
rock and roll's flagging spirit of rebellion.
That music-first called punk rock, later
new wave-took England by storm, revolu-
tionizing its pop scene. In America the
storm pretty much blew out to sea, ignored
by album-oriented rock-radio stations (and
thus by most rock fans). The stations were
comfortable playing old rock favorites that
were unchallenging and bland. Radio
deemed punk and new wave as (pick any
combination) too aggressive, too artsy, too

quirky, too eccentric or too dangerous.
The rapid shift toward New Music began
in January 1983 during two meetings of
radio-station programmers in Florida. Lee
Abrams, a rock-radio consultant, recalls
the attitude at the meetings: "By 1982 New
Music was breaking left and right, with or
without air play. We had to react or fade
away." Clubs playing New Music'were
packed; records were getting onto the
charts. And then there was the new and very
big kid on the block, MTV, the rock-video
cable system. In just two years MTV, which
has exposed numerous New Music bands,
became a major challenger for the rock
audience. Says MTV vice president John
Sykes: "We really integrated the most pow-
At its best, New
Music is about risk
and adventure. It's
music that moves
one's spirit.
erful forces in our two decades, TV and rock
and roll." It was a giant first step; radio
stations were forced to play the songs people
had seen and heard on MTV.
Last July about 3,000 people met in New
York for the fourth annual New Music
Seminar. In previous years the predominant
question always was, "How can New Music
succeed?" Miles Copeland, the keynote
speaker, greeted this session's packed ball-
room with a broad smile. "We won!" he
proclaimed. "The New Music is not the
fringe anymore. No one's going around say-
ing, 'It ain't gonna happen here'." Some,
like Copeland, see New Music's success as a
victory, a commercial vindication of the
upheaval that punk and new wave forced
into rock and roll seven years ago. Others
areless certain. "New Music isjust a sophis-
ticated marketing tool we all ought to be
aware of," says Martin Ware of the English
funk-rock band Heaven 17.
"What happened to 1976?" asks Lux In-
terior, lead singer for the chaotic punk-
rockabilly band, the Cramps. "All these
bands that were like-'urgh! aargh! there's

Helpmi nYou Help Yoursef
College placement services offer guidance, but stu-
dents must accept responsibility for the job search.
Ihe Office of Career Services and Off- knew what my needs were." Advisers are
Campus Learning sits smack in the frustrated too, complaining that students
middle of the Harvard campus: one often wait until it's too late before seeking
block from the university's administrative counseling-and then expect jobs handed
offices in Holyoke Center, a block and a to them on a silver platter.
half from the gates of Harvard Yard. But, Delays are understandable, though, giv-
says junior Bill Cleary, "even though I en the state of the job market. "The current
walk by OCS-OCL every day, I've never crop of students is terrified of making any
been inside. I'm not thinking about the real decision," says Dean Susan Hauser, direc-
world just yet." From her office inside, tor of career services at Yale. "They don't
counselor Linda Chernick watches stu- want to leave." And the fear of emerging
dents like Bill Cleary walk on by. "Most into the real world can be compounded by
students wait until the last minute before confusion over the role of college: is it to
they get going," she sighs.."I wish they'd educate, to prepare one for a job-or both?
take a little more responsibility." Acknowledges Nancy Nish, director of the
Cleary and Chernick are players in a Career Center at Colorado College: "There
familiar drama: although placement and is a friction over career counseling at liberal-
counseling centers like Harvard's OCS- arts schools, and there can be a tendency to
OCL are meant to serve as gatehouses be- ignore career goals in favor of academic
tween school and the real world, the rela- experiences."
tionship between students and counselors is Counselors say that even after students
troubled. Many students simply ignore ca- decide to use career services they all too
reer counselors until the chill winds of sen- often have an unrealistic idea of what can be
ior year begin to blow. Others, like Colora- done for them. Two things counselors can't
do College senior Mary Lois Burns, use the do are make decisions for students about
services but find them lacking. Burns calls postcollege life (that's for the students to
her visit to the CC Career Center unproduc- do) and guarantee jobs (that, no one can do).
tive, generating little more than tips on Counselor Bill Phillips of the University of
which books to read and what to look for in Texas sums it up: "We're more catalysts
the morning classifieds. "Maybe it's me," than directors." At Texas's Career Choice
she says, "butI didn't feel that anyone there Information Center, students work with

counselors to "determine values," "inven-
tory strengths," "clarify interests." And
when Phillips and his associates hear ques-
tions such as, "Should I be a poet?" they
carefully avoid yes-or-no answers. Says Da-
vid Stansbury, a placement officer in the
Communications College: "If you're seri-
ous about being a poet we'll ask what ways
that could be realized. Does it mean you
want to be another John Berryman or that
you like to write catchy phrases, like in
copywriting? What will it cost you to be a
poet, and is it a cost you're willing to bear?"
ttempting to streamline their oper-
ations, larger universities have in-
creasingly adopted decentralized
systems in which each school or department
is responsible for advising and placing its
own students. Theoretically, this allows
them to tailor services to the different needs
of students in different disciplines. In prac-
tice, the system can be ungainly and confus-
ing. Indiana makes 13 different services
available to its students, ranging in size
from the Business Placement Office, which
operates out of a 36-room suite, to the Geol-
ogy Department, where the chairman's sec-
retary works part time coordinating place-
ment and recruiting. At the Texas career
center, many of the 15,000 student visits
each year are devoted to checking on proper
style for a resume or to practicing an inter-
view on videotape. For more specific place-
ment activity, Texas students are more like-
ly to use one of 20 departmental offices on
campus. Some are little more than bulletin
boards posted with job offerings; others,
like those operated by the colleges of

no rock and roll today!'-now they all
sound worse than the bands from back then.
Now it seems like most of the bands that
were called punk bands a few years ago are
playing refrigerator music."
X, an acclaimed Los Angeles punk band
that has pushed its way into the main-
stream, hasasongcalled "I Must Not Think
Bad Thoughts" on its latest album ("More
Fun in the New World"). "I hear the radio
is finally gonna play New Music," sing John
Doe and Exene Cervenka. "You know, the
British invasion, but what about the Min.
utemen, Flesheaters, DOA, Big Boys and
the Black Flag? Will the last American band
to get played on the radio please bring the
flag? Please bring the flag!" X's point is that
bands on the cutting edge, particularly
American bands, are still shunned by radio
and still unheard by the mass audience.
Most New Music hits come from England
or, increasingly, Australia. U.S. record
companies have found it safer to import
proven bands than develop talent.
T he situation, however, is better than
a year ago. Record companies, pro-
grammers and audiences seem more
willing to take risks. Michael Jackson,
R.E.M. and Eurythmics-all New Music
artists-can be played sequentially on rock
stations without listeners balking.
Dave Stewart, guitarist and co-song-
writer of the London-based Eurythmics, is
bemused at the American hoopla over New
Music's acceptance into the mainstream.
Still, Stewart says, "at least this new main-
stream is very good because it is diverse.
You can do something different." That
principle has long been at the core of great
rock and roll. American rock and roll fans
have begun to reclaim that right.
Jim Sullivan is a regular contributor to
The Boston Globe.

24 NEWSWEEK ON CAMPUS/MARCH 954

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NEWSWEEK ON CAMPUS/MARCH 1984

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