I was too young to experience many of the groups and performers featured here when they were in their prime. Sure, I heard the music of Led Zep, Dylan, the Rolling Stones, the Who, et al growing up, but I didn’t own any of their albums until the ’80s when I started my serious record collecting phase — which tends to happen when you get older and get a job.
Musicians, like everyone else without a trust fund, have to make a living, too — even those who made millions in the ’60s and ’70s. By the late ’70s/early ’80s, many “older” rockers tried to stay relevant by incorporating stylistic flourishes that later became known as New Wave. New Wave often (though not always) meant that that soulless contraption known as the synthesizer would find a way to weave itself into the fabric of a song. Sometimes having synth sounds or electronic drums would be great; other times it would miss the mark and sound kind of, well, crappy. Whatever the case, here are six songs from very well known artists whose music was caressed by “The New Wave Effect.”
“Carouselambra,” Led Zeppelin (download)
For those who bought the LP when it came out, side two started with this oddity. Drenched in a tinny synth — but with a really awesome bass line — this tune has become one of my favorites from The Mighty Zep. Perhaps it’s the fact that, to my ears in 1978/79, it was kind of cool to hear Led Zeppelin create a 10-minute song where the guitars receded into the background for the majority of the first part, surface in the middle section, and then evaporate into the ether for the third section. Bonham’s drumming was not all that spectacular on this album, but at the 1:08 mark he unleashes this barrage of a drum fill that, almost 30 years later, I find perplexing but can’t help but love.
“Undercover (Of the Night),” the Rolling Stones (download)
This is the first Rolling Stones album I bought because, quite frankly, I saw the video repeatedly on MTV. But after I brought the LP home and played it over and over, I really loved what the Rolling Stones did to create a more contemporary feel to their music — “contemporary” for the ’80s, that is. The gunfire drumming, the spare production that allowed the instruments to really stand out, and even the disco bass line all sounded wonderful to me.Â But really what got (and gets) me on this song is the fadeout guitar strum followed by the fade up with a reverse effect on the ride out. A guy I was working with at the time really hated this song and the album because it didn’t sound like the Rolling Stones he was used to — while I liked it precisely for the same reason.
“Eminence Front,” the Who (download)
I’ll admit that being a child of early MTV, I watched videos more than listening to the radio in the early ’80s. It took me a long time to get used to the recorded version of “Eminence Front” because I was so conditioned to know every sound (subtle and not so subtle) of the video version. So, for your listening pleasure, here’s the video version MTV played to death back in the day – a version culled from a sound check on what was supposed to be the Who’s farewell tour. Ha! We all know how that turned out.
“Tight Connection To My Heart (Has Anyone Seen My Love),” Bob Dylan (download)
Boy, were people in my circle of acquaintances slagging this album when it came out. Sure it’s quite a departure from Infidels (which I also really liked), and it has that really compressed sound that’s a hallmark of many records of the ’80s, but damn if I didn’t play this tape over and over for a good month. And truth be told, Empire Burlesque was my gateway album for Dylan. After wearing this album out, I started buying his older albums and, well, became a fan.
“Come Dancing,” the Kinks (download)
Yeah, the Buggles said that video killed the radio star, but for the Kinks, video really revived their career. Sadly, I think half the people who bought this album for the single were probably quite disappointed by the fact that rest of the album didn’t have the calypso-flavored pop of “Come Dancing.”
“Transformer Man,” Neil Young (download)
For a few years during the early ’80s, it was pretty interesting to watch Neil Young’s career.Â With the release of Trans, he certainly pissed off many of his early fans, but it was kind of interesting to hear someone like Neil Young embrace a synthesized sound, and then turn around and go all rockabilly on us with his next album. That chameleon-like behavior made me buy many of his records just to hear what he was going to do next.