Hi. Welcome to Mad World: The Blog Of The Book. Take your shoes off. You’ll find the Purellto your left. Comfortable? Good. Here’s the introductory explanation. Some 18 months ago, we saw a brief interview with Spandau Ballet’s Gary Kemp celebrating the 20-year anniversary of his classic blue-eyed British soul ballad “True.” The piece, discussing the inspiration, writing and recording of the song, as well as its reception and place in pop history, ran a scant two paragraphs but, at the end of it we exclaimed in unison, if not perfect harmony: “We would happily read a hundred of these stories!” By that we didn’t mean we wanted to read a hundred stories of songs by Gary Kemp (except for the one that went, “She used to be a diplomat and now she’s down the laundromat.” That deserves deeper scrutiny). No, we wanted to hear the true stories behind our favorite new wave songs — our favorite songs from the years between 1978 and 1985, a.k.a. The Last Golden Age Of Pop.
So that’s what we did. (We’re saying that glibly, like the idea flowed smoothly from conception to completion; you can’t imagine the endless emails back and forward to Bananarama. They’re still holding out!) We approached our favorite artists from our favorite era and asked them to take us on the journey that led to their breakout song. Their “Tainted Love,” their “True,” their “Don’t You (Forget About Me),” their “Blue Monday,” their “Girls On Film” and their “Mad World.” And yes, okay, even their “I Ran.” Their response: “Never use the word journey again!” Their second response was a British-accented YES. Not that we planned it this way, but “Mad World” turned out to be a very UK-centric piece of work. America is represented by, among others, Devo, Berlin and Animotion (don’t rush to condemn us over that one: it’s a harrowing story of record industry abuse and chicanery, we promise). We wish we could have included more European acts. After all, new wave, more than any other genre before or since, broadened the American mind and weakened it’s resistance to foreign tongues. But we’re still waiting to hear back from Nena, Peter Schilling and Falco. (That’s right, we buy into the whole Falco Lives! conspiracy theory.)
We heard stories of bands of brothers who weathered changing musical climates, emerging as enduring iconic figures. We heard stories of groups who shattered into angry, ego-bleeding pieces at the first caress of fame. We heard stories of artists who stumbled accidentally into success and stories of people amazed by the endurance of the music they created all those years ago.
We talked to Duran Duran, New Order, The Smiths, Echo & The Bunnymen, Gary Numan, Devo, OMD, Simple Minds, Thompson Twins, ABC, Berlin, Bow Wow Wow, Adam & The Ants, Depeche Mode and many more about the culture of the times, the highs, the lows, the fights, the failures and, obviously, the hair. And then we threw it all in the blender, added our own individual opinions and, thus, a book was born. Perhaps not the most definitive book on the subject; certainly not the most serious. But definitely the only one with a Kajagoogoo interview that runs longer than most Kanye West monologues.
And this is our little hub, our little atrium where we’ll keep you updated on the progress of the book as it takes its first faltering steps into the cruel marketplace. We’ll share some extra content — bonus tracks, if you will — that didn’t make the final edit. We’ll make lists (because no one can live without lists). And we’ll keep you up to speed on the artists in this book, the artists who may not have made this book but who, hopefully we’ll give the attention they deserve in the future, and the newer artists who fly their own version of the new wave flag in these hardscrabble times. Now and then we’ll even talk some shit about the current state of pop culture.