Friday, 13 December 2019

New Rock - The compilation album that shaped my musical tastes of the following decade

It was - almost - a giveaway. A half price offer to be more precise. At a time when most vinyl records cost 250 drachmas, all you had to do was collect a coupon from the inside of POP AND ROCK magazine (the top selling music magazine at that time in Greece), present it to one of the paricipating record stores, pay 100 drachmas, and the record was yours. In 1979, I had already been listening to non-Greek music for just two years. I had started with Abba, progressed to Boney M, discovered The Beatles and Elvis Presley and then landed onto the soundtrack world of Saturday Night Fever and Grease. I had been reading Pop And Rock magazine for a while and I thought I should take advantage of this offer in order to get into "rock" music. I had heard "Sultans Of Swing" (the album's opening track) just a couple of times before and I knew of Blondie without having heard any of their songs. The latter had mainly caught my attention because I had seen pictures of Debbie Harry in the magazine and I knew that one day I was going to marry her. So after buying and listening to this album, I decided to buy records from the artists it featured and I started with the first, self-titled Dire Straits album on my birthday in 1979.
Now "New Rock" was supposed to be a new wave compilation (hence the name). What did Dire Straits have to do with it? Well, at the end of the seventies after a long period when progressive rock was the most popular music genre and just after the punk explosion which had come as a result of prog's dominance any new band that emerged was usually classified as "new wave". It didn't matter if they played plain old classic rock like Dire Straits did. Nor did it matter that guitar new wave gradually made way for synth based acts like Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark or Soft Cell. They were all classified as "new wave". We even thought Culture Club were "new wave" when they played Rock In Athens in 1985.
After Dire Straits, I decided to try The Jam whose track "David Watts" was the third on the album. (I didn't much care for Sham 69 then who not only had the second track on the album but also had another track in it). So, I bought the "Going Underground" 7 inch single and that was it: I was hooked! They became my favourite band and I followed Paul Weller on to his Style Council and solo days. And imagine that: "David Watts", the first Jam song I ever heard was one which Paul Weller didn't even sing! Lead vocals were by Bruce Foxton, the band's bassist. And it wasn't even their own song, it was a Kinks cover!
I then moved on to Blondie, as expected, buying not only their "Eat To The Beat" album, but also their "Heart Of Glass" single (my first 12 inch - and probably the first 12 inch single to be issued in Greece) and then their "Call Me" single on 7 inch. I continued with Magazine when I bought their live album "Play" and later "Magic, Murder And Their Weather", their final LP. Like several favourite bands of mine from "New Rock" such as The Jam and Blondie, Magazine also disbanded a few years later. I would continue buying records from artists featured in New Rock for the next four decades. In 1985 Flash And The Pan came to the forefront with their hit "Midnight Man" (one of my numerous 12 inch singles of that year). I remember how overjoyed I was in the summer of 1990 when a night club in the Greek island of Skiathos played "Down Among The Dead Men", the Flash And The Pan song featured on "New Rock". And although I did not have any Generation X records at that time, I had several by Billy Idol, their lead singer. As time went by and the CD era rushed in I would buy records from all the other artists on the album like Penetration, The Motors, Skids, The Members, City Boy, culminating with last month's purchases: a Sham 69 compilation from Amazon and the 12 inch of "Dancing With Myself" by Fingerprintz, the last track on the album, from Discogs.
But it wasn't just the artists featured on this album that I got interested in. This album turned me into the (mostly Brirish) New Wave genre so I bought records by other artists that I would read about in Pop And Rock magazine, usually without even having heard a single note of them. Back then, there was only one radio show in Greece playing pop and rock music called "Pop Club" hosted by Yiannis Petridis, who was also the chief editor of Pop And Rock magazine as well as the person who compiled the songs on "New Rock". And there was no YouTube either. So it was difficult for me to listen to all these bands mentioned in Pop And Rock magazine. As a result I would often buy a record because of something I had read in the magazine. (I bought my first two Depeche Mode records without having heard them actually). For example the next record I bought after "Eat To The Beat" by Blondie was "The Fine Art Of Surfacing" by The Boomtown Rats. And Polygram, the record company that issued the compilation used to display the covers of some of their other records on their inner sleeves, so I got to know (though not to hear) about bands as diverse as The Who, Status Quo, Jethro Tull, Thin Lizzy and even... La Bionda. Being very young though then, a pre-teen, I couldn't understand the artistic concept behind the record (it featured posters and photos of horror movies) on the front and on the back cover over the song titles and I remember writing a letter to the magazine about that. They answered (featuring my name printed on the magazine, wow!) that the pictures had nothing to do with the bands.

Pop And Rock gave away a couple more records a few years later, but these featured mostly b-sides. (These b-sides however were unavailable in Greece like "A Man Inside My Mouth" by The Cure). The songs featured on "New Rock" are mostly the bands' best. It comes as no surprise that the Magazine anthology was called "Touch And Go", the Penetration and The Members best of compilations were called "Don't Dictate" and "The Sounds Of The Suburbs" respectively plus the most famous song (and biggest hit) by The Motors is, of course, "Airport". In fact, Morrissey even played the Penetration's "Don't Dictate" video before coming on stage for his 2014 Athens concert. As for me, I listened to "New Rock" again, only a few hours before writing this post.
In 1998, when magazines very often gave away cover mounted CD's, Pop And Rock featured a CD compilation including some of the songs and several others by artists featured in "New Rock". It was called "Flash Back To '78"...

Side 1:
1. SULTANS OF SWING - Dire Straits
3. DAVID WATTS - The Jam
4. AIRPORT - The Motors
5. TOUCH AND GO - Magazine
7. 5-7-0-5 - City Boy
Side 2:
1. DOWN AMONG THE DEAD MEN - Flash And The Pan
4. KING ROCKER - Generation X
5. HURRY UP HARRY - Sham 69
6. DON'T DICTATE - Penetration
7. DANCING WITH MYSELF - Fingerprintz