Ongoing History of New Music

Ongoing History Daily: The origin of the term New Wave, part 2

The use of “New Wave” as a musical descriptor first appeared in the early 70s and eventually became interchangeable with “punk.” A bit confusing, but things were very fluid back then.

Towards the end of the 70s, Sire Records, the indie label who’d signed the Ramones and the Talking Heads, started bringing over bands from the UK that came from a punk environment but didn’t play punk-style music. Think The Pretenders and The English Beat.

Knowing that calling these bands “punk” would be a tough sell to American radio and music fans, the label grabbed the term “New Wave” and turned it into a marketing campaign under the name “Don’t Call It Punk.”

It worked and New Wave became one of the biggest genres of the era.

Part one of the story can be found here.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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One thought on “Ongoing History Daily: The origin of the term New Wave, part 2

  • When I was in middle school in the early 80’s the term “new wave” became a catch all for everything that wasn’t on the radio. If you were at a some-kids-parents-are-away-house-party and you tried to slip on a Cure, Smiths, or REM album you’d get hit with a barrage of “turn that NEW WAVE shit off!” screams. Ahhhhh the good old days.


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