Back in the 1970s and early 80s, we didn’t have 24 hour music television, like MTV or Canada’s version, MuchMusic. In fact, music media wasn’t well developed at all. We all know how important refining one’s musical tastes is to the evolution of an adolescent’s identity, so back then the quest for “alternative” music was a serious one, indeed. No internet, no music television, no magazines, no cool friends…. most were doomed to absorb the fashion, ethic and outlook of the dominant artistic culture which, back then, meant classic rock, mullets, and over-tight jeans.
For sensitive, fey and poetic young wusses like me, this was emotional death. Luckily, those of us in Toronto had access to a very special TV show, called The New Music (see Wikipedia entry here), hosted by future media icons Jeanne Beker (eventually made world famous as the creator and host of Fashion Television) and John “J.D.” Roberts (eventually made famous as an American news anchor).
For many of us “alternative before there was a name for alternative” kids, The New Music was a life-saving show, giving form to a certain longing for music, fashion and outlook that had an emotional resonance apart from the jeans & denim staple of the time. Only now, in the era of YouTube, have I been able to revisit some of the old videos shown on that show, which would have otherwise been lost to history.
Let’s begin with a song that has haunted me for decades, though its video is embarrassing by today’s standards. It’s “A New Day” by Killing Joke, an was supposedly inspired by the band’s sojourn in rural Iceland, where witchcraft and mysticism are said to be prevalent. Here’s the video:
Next up is a forgotten classic by Mike Oldfield, he of the Tubular Bells fame. It’s called “Five Miles Out”:
Last up is one of my favourite songs of the era, a tight synthopop classic by OMD called, “The Maid of Orleans”, about, of course, Joan of Arc. I was so impressed by this song that it inspired me to try to build my own synthesizer. I know, that sounds laughable in today’s climate of cheap electronics and programmable personal computer sound. But no such thing existed for the masses back in the early 80s. All of this was quite new. (For the curious, my design didn’t allow for changes in octave. Oh well.) Here’s the video: