New Wave Rock #3

The eternal question – “is it punk or is it new wave?” – has never seemed as urgent nor as befuddling as it does on the pages of New Wave Rock #3 from February 1979. Those were different times, were they not? I’m just old enough to remember how confused mainstream journalists and record companies were in trying to get ahead of it all. The latter did everything they could for a very short time to market anything that wasn’t nailed down as “the new wave” or as “modern music”. If you didn’t “catch the new wave”, right now, you were at serious risk of becoming dangerously out of date. You probably ought to buy this AC/DC or this Rachel Sweet album just to make sure that didn’t happen.

I remember Nick Gilder’s “Hot Child in the City” was commonly thought to be new wave, at least at my elementary school – but man, Tom Petty is a real stretch. Even the guy assigned to do this piece in New Wave Rock #3, Michael P. Liben, is a bit taken aback: “When I was asked to interview Tom Petty, I had one nagging thought: Is he new wave? Granted, the press has labeled him new wave (spelled p-u-n-k), but superficially I had my doubts.”

It follows that this magazine is very hung up on such questions – punk vs. new wave, or neither at all – and I swear it comes up in every single piece in one form or another, whether it’s an interview with Mink Deville or Howie Klein’s San Francisco scene report. Such was the tenor of the times in early 1979, at least in the offices of Whizbang Productions, the outfit that put this glossy magazine out (later in the magazine there are ads for some of their other fine creations – a King Elvis giant pictorial tribute to “The King”, and a KISS Meets The Phantom: Superscoops From The 1st KISS Movie! magazine.

I believe only three of these came out in total. #1 had Kiss on the cover; #2 had Bruce Springsteen and Patti Smith. I come here not to bury but rather to praise New Wave Rock #3 – it’s a fantastic artifact, even for real-deal punkers who were reading Slash and Damage at the time. Leaving aside the “Richard Meltzer’s poetry” two-page spread, there’s also a Lester Bangs piece about when punk really started; how he was on the front lines of it all from day one with The Stooges, Velvet Underground and MC5 (fair enough); and how this vaunted second wave of punk has a big whiff of deja vu for him. Again, fair enough. The 29-year-old Bangs also rips into the “young” editors of Punk magazine, Legs McNeil and John Holmstrom and whatnot, for their ultra-orthodox stance on what he should be allowed to listen to, i.e. nothing outside of their narrowed box of 1976-78 punk. This is Lester Bangs we’re talking about, kids!

Photos in this one are amazing, and many of them I’ve never seen elsewhere. Beautiful ones of Mark Perry, Peter Laughner, Only Ones, The Screamers, The Zippers and NY Scene report “Bowery Babylon” columnist Rusty Hamilton (holy smokes!) – as well as hideous ones of The Dead Boys and The Runaways, including a soft-focus centerfold of the latter, mere moments before they were about to break up. There are four big scene reports: SF, LA, NY and London – which I reckon makes some sort of sense. Paul Grant, a guy I used to see at every Lazy Cowgirls show in Los Angeles circa 1987-89 and who’d often be the one to do a big windup & intro of the band before they started playing, wrote the LA one. 

Howie Klein’s SF one has a few choice bits of gossip, erroneous and otherwise. First, there’s the lament about rock station KSAN basically banning new wave from the airwaves. I distinctly remember the howls of anguish a year later when this once-freeform station changed formats completely to country music in 1980 to try and ride the “Urban Cowboy” phenomenon. Klein also tells us that Jefferson Starship’s Paul Kantner went to see The Avengers to see if Penelope Houston might be a good candidate to replace Grace Slick in the band (oh come on). There’s a bit about the “Nix on Six – Save The Homos” punk benefit at the Mabuhay Gardens attended by Harvey Milk a mere two months before he was killed (his November 1978 assassination clearly happened before New Wave Rock #3 went to press, as he’s referred to in the present tense).

I could absolutely go on, as I tend to do. It’s a terrific time capsule that hovers somewhere between corporate rock mag and gritty fanzine. I googled New York’s Whizbang Productions and really came up with nothing at all – perhaps a reader can tell us what their deal was, beyond what I’ve discerned myself in this post? Our comments are always open for your input.

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