We really did belong to a club. There were degrees of
membership, of course - hey, nice asymmetrical haircut! - but one thing was for
certain: if you were lucky enough to have lived through the new-wave music
invasion of the early 1980s, Long Island was the place to be.
Sure, KROQ-FM in Los Angeles played a mix of modern rock - still does - but
when Duran Duran hit the States for its inaugural club tour in 1981, the group
gave its first radio interview to our own WLIR/92.7 FM (you can't write a mash
note to new wave and not include the station that "dared to be different").
And the boys' debut U.S. performance? At Spit in Levittown. To quote the
Scottish band APB, 'LIR gave us something to believe in with the
synthesizer-driven pop the other commercial stations in New York never played.
New Order, Depeche Mode, Ultravox, Yaz and Blancmange were early staples.
There were fashion elements, which were apparent in the early MTV videos
(see Duran Duran, Adam Ant). "They didn't look like the guy next door," said
Jim Henke, vice president of exhibitions and curatorial affairs at the Rock and
Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland and a former writer and editor at
Rolling Stone magazine. "MTV really burned these groups into people's brains."
And for the most part, the music was happy and smart and insulated us with
an innocence during those Reagan years. Of course, you could also dance to it,
and there was no shortage of clubs on the Island that pumped new wave from its
sound systems - Malibu in Lido Beach, Heartbeat in Oyster Bay, Paris New York
The sights and sounds of that era make a live reappearance Friday when the
Regeneration Tour plays Nikon at Jones Beach Theater. Yes, the Human League,
former Go-Go Belinda Carlisle, ABC, A Flock of Seagulls (that hair!) and Naked
Eyes will all
be on one stage. Ron Delsener never put on a show like this back in the
day. But lest you think enjoying these bands 25 years after their heyday is
somehow solidifying new wave as the next wave of nostalgia, there's more to it
"That sound is still so relevant," said Malibu Sue, a longtime WLIR disc
jockey who now works the day shift at WMJC/94.3 FM in Farmingdale. "It captured
sentiment and intelligence that other music did not. Somebody once said that
it's music for the thinking man."
The man who was thinking of the future and setting things in motion for
Long Island's new wave '80s was Denis McNamara, the program director who
started at WLIR in 1974 as a part-timer when it was still a progressive rock
station (trivia: 'LIR's other part-timer was Murray the K).
"It was the right time and right place," said McNamara, who now heads up
the entertainment division of vTuner, an Internet radio guidance developer with
offices in Manhattan and Northport. "There was a period in the '80s where the
entire music industry was looking upon 'LIR and that 'LIR marketplace of New
York and Long Island as one of the hippest music areas of the world. People
used to refer to it as the gateway to America if you were an upcoming artist."
Years later, bands who got their start on the little 3,000-watt class-A
station in Hempstead went on to seep into the popular consciousness. You may
have heard Devo's "Whip It" in a TV commercial for the ever-popular Swiffer
sweeper, or the lesser-known The The's 1983 gem "This Is the Day" for a recent
M&M's spot. It's the little things, but they add up to a feeling that, hey, our
music didn't just crawl away and die when hair metal sprayed it in the face
with Aqua Net in the late '80s.
Don't worry, though, we'll get the last laugh Friday.
"These sort of shows are really fun to do," Carlisle said. "It's like a
night of instant gratification for the audience. And for us, the performers, we
get to do a set of hits. And the audience doesn't have to sit through filler
Singer on the go-go
It's freezing in London a few weeks back. "How's the weather there?" Belinda
Carlisle asks. When told it's hot, she giggles in that way that she does, and
then remembers the Regeneration Tour will land at the Beach. "I love Jones
Beach, it is such a great venue," the former Go-Go purrs.
Although she's lived in France for the past 15 years - that would explain
"Voila" (Rykodisc), her 2007 album of French-sung tunes - she's in England
prepping for a tour of Japan. And before that the mother of one, who turns 50
on Sunday, was a judge on MTV's "Rock the Cradle" ... and perhaps just a little
too mean to Jesse Money and Jesse Blaze Snider. No matter, we're still mad
about her, in an '80s sort of way.
On "Rock the Cradle" you were kind of tough on some of the kids.
I think I was honest. I was doing my job. I wouldn't be doing any favors if I
wasn't honest. It was amazing to see people improve along the way.
How were you chosen for the show?
I went to Los Angeles to renew my driver's license, and while I was taking my
test, sitting next to Carol Burnett, I got a phone call to go over to the
Valley to meet with MTV because one of the judges for a new show had dropped
out. So I drove over, and I was hired.
So, you think your son, James, will be on "Rock the Cradle"?
I don't think so. He's in Washington, D.C., right now being a congressional
page. His interests are much more important than - well, no, I am not going to
say that, because music is important, too.
But I wouldn't really want him on there, and I don't think he'd want to be on
You have plenty of solo material to play on the Regeneration Tour, but do you
think you'll also dip into any Go-Go's stuff? And speaking of the Go-Go's, is
anything on tap for a reunion?
I might do one or two Go-Go's songs, but it'll be pretty much my stuff.
As for a reunion, I can never say never, but I don't think there will ever
be another album. We might have a year or two left in us, but we'll see.
Everyone has other
things going on now. Three of us have kids ... it's just not that simple.
Party like it's 1983
Friday's Regeneration Tour concert will be Nikon at Jones Beach Theater's
official 25th anniversary celebration - for rock shows. Eric Clapton played the
venue's first rock concert in 1983. Concert promoter Live Nation will admit
for free the first 500 attendees dressed in Members Only jackets, leg warmers
and parachute pants (nothing really "new wave" about those fashions).
Some tickets are available at 1980s flashback pricing: $19.83.
Everyone in attendance Friday will receive a limited-edition poster celebrating
the venue's 25 years of performances.
The Regeneration Tour plays Nikon at Jones Beach Theater at 7 p.m. Friday.
Tickets are $19.83- $99 at Ticketmaster, 631-888- 9000, ticketmaster.com.
NAME The Human League
HIT SONG "Don't You Want Me"
NAME A Flock of Seagulls
HIT SONG "I Ran (So Far Away)"
NAME Pete Byrne, from Naked Eyes
BIGGEST HIT "Always Something There to
Remind Me" (written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David)
NAME Martin Fry, from ABC
HIT SONG "Poison Arrow"
NAME Belinda Carlisle
HIT SONG "We Got the Beat," with the Go-Go's