Music HistoryOngoing History of New Music

The Ongoing History of New Music, episode 913: The Post-Punk Explosion part 2: Techno-pop

For the longest time, the sounds of rock were made with voice, guitars, bass, drums, and keyboards like piano and organ. There were plenty of ways to manipulate the sounds of those instruments with effect pedals, studio tricks, deliberate vandalism, and happy accidents. And for a couple of decades, this was plenty to work with. We discovered all sorts of techniques to create sound that no one had ever heard before.

But when engineers started messing with electricity in new ways, it became possible for musicians to create sounds that had never been heard before, but sounds we never imagined hearing. This resulted in an explosion of amazing new music that was based mostly (if not entirely) on electronic sounds.

Experimentation in this space started a hundred years ago, but it was in the 1960s when things started taking shape. These sounds worked their way through classic music, pop, and prog-rock. And at the very end of the decade, the tech had become cheap enough for young musicians in the last months of the original punk rock scene to adopt these new music-making machines as their own.

I’m talking about synthesizers, of course. And as bands in sharp suits and skinny ties released spikey New Wave pop songs, another cohort went all-in with synths. And in the post-punk era–the late 70s and early 80s–we saw the rise of techno-pop.

Here’s how that happened.

Songs heard on this episode:

  • Depeche Mode, Just Can’t Get Enough
  • Kraftwerk, The Model
  • The Normal, Warm Leatherette
  • OMD, Electricity
  • Gary Numan, Are “Friends” Electric?
  • Buggles, Video Killed the Radio Star
  • Human League, Don’t You Want Me
  • A Flock of Seagulls, I Ran
  • The Smiths, This Charming Man

Here’s your playlist from Eric Wilhite.

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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.

Alan Cross has 38296 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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