The mid to late 70's saw the rise of disco
- epitomized by the Bee Gees
and Saturday Night Fever
. The only alternative seemed to be the treacly sweet musings of singers like Leo Sayer
, Debbie Boone
, or Barbara Streisand
. But in England The Sex Pistols
, and The Damned
, and The Clash
were leading a revolt. It was called punk
Youthful energy could be spent at either the strobe-glittered disco dance floors filled with Angel Flight slacks or amidst the purple mohawk, black leather and safety-pins of the urine-soaked British punk pubs. Post-punk, new wave, power pop -- all of these refer to a wide range of music that became popular in the late 1970's and early 80's to provide an alternative. Sometimes difficult to categorize, it wasn't disco and it wasn't punk. It grew out of the punk revolt, but kept the infectious dance floor rhythms of disco. New-wave (or new wave), was the most popular catch-all phrase used to refer to this music.
Blondie may have been the first band to cash in - they'd have several big dance hits in the early 80's. They first hit the charts and the dance floors with Heart of Glass in 1979. Devo joined them in 1980 with Whip It. Kim Carnes with Bette Davis Eyes in 1981. The Human League, Men At Work, and former punkers The Clash in 1982. Falco, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, and New Order all had dance floor hits in 1983. Wham and The Pet Shop Boys in 1984 and Tears for Fears in 1985. By 1986 the dance cycle was nearly over.
Though New Wave was especially suited for the dance floor, it spilled over into popular music in general. Gary Numan, The Pretenders, and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers all hit the radio charts in 1980. Greg Kihn and The Police in '81;1982 saw Soft Cell, Tommy Tutone, The Cars, The Go-Go's, The Motels, Men At Work, and A Flock Of Seagulls all have significant hits.
1983 was probably New Wave's crest: The Police again, Men At Work again, The Pretenders again, the Human League, the Eurythmics, Culture Club, Dexy's Midnight Runner's, Greg Kihn, Eddie Grant, Thomas Dolby, After The Fire, Men Without Hats, The Stray Cats, Naked Eyes, Kajagoogoo, Adam Ant, The Clash, Madness, Joe Jackson and Spandau Ballet. Several of these groups had more than one hit song that year - so the top 100 chart for the year is filled with New Wave bands.
1984 again saw multiple hits by some of these bands: Culture Club, Cyndi Lauper, The Romantics, Nena, Billy Idol, The Eurythmics, The Cars, Wang Chung, The Police, The Go-Go's, and Peter Schilling
1985 saw a noticeable dropoff, only Wham, Tears for Fears, A-Ha, Simple Minds, Cyndi Lauper, 'Til Tuesday, and the Eurythmics charted top selling hits.
1986 saw Mr. Mister, Pet Shop Boys, Simple Minds, The Human League, Berlin, The Cars, Cyndi Lauper and Arcadia - but few multiple hits by any of these groups.
Other bands often considered New-Wave:
The Talking Heads, Warren Zevon, 20/20, The Adverts, B-52's, Animotion, Aztec Camera, Big Country, Billy Bragg, Boomtown Rats, Bow Wow Wow, Bram Tchaikovsky, The Buggles, The Busboys, The Buzzcocks, Elvis Costello, The Cult, The Cure, Depeche Mode, The Dickies, Ian Dury, Echo and the Bunnymen, The English Beat, Erasure, Everything But the Girl, Fine Young Cannibals, The Fixx, Flash and the Pan, Flying Lizards, Generation X, Godley and Creme, Ian Gomm, Haircut 100, Richard Hell and the Voidoids, The Hooters, The Jam, Level 42, Lene Lovich, Nick Lowe, Madness, Magazine, Martha and the Muffins, Mi-Sex, Missing Persons, Modern English, Musical Youth, Oingo Boingo, The Only Ones, Graham Parker, Pearl Harbor and the Explosions, Pere Ubu, The Plimsouls, The Pogues, The Psychedelic Furs, Public Image Ltd, REM, The Ramones, The Replacements, Romeo Void, Siouxsie & The Banshees, Skafish, Skids, Patti Smith, The Smiths, The Specials, Split Enz, The Sports, Squeeze, Stiff Little Fingers, The Stranglers, Style Council, The Suburbs, Talk Talk, Timbuk 3, Tin Huey, Ultravox, U2, The Vibrators, The Violent Femmes, The Waitresses, Was (not was), Wire, XTC