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I was a closet New Wave fan | The Philippine Star Lifestyle Features Sunday Life

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By Lucien C. Dy Tioco (The Philippine Star) Updated March 14, 2010 12:00 AM
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Reminiscing about life in the early ’80s: Author Lucien Dy Tioco recently revisited UST where he received the Arts and Letters AB Gantimpala Award.
MANILA, Philippines - My time in college from 1981 to ‘85 was the most exciting time for music and I am fortunate to have been part of that era. This was the period when punk and New Wave had gone mainstream, the seeds of synthpop and early forms of the dance music you hear nowadays flourished; ska and reggae were in their most raw and popular forms, the second British invasion of the US charts happened during this time and every new musical act had the guts to experiment, even in the purest pop formats, compared to the manufactured boy and girl bands record companies now churn out every year. Most importantly, MTV and the compact disc were born during our time, and it changed music forever. I embraced all the things that happened during this time that helped define my teenage years.
So you might think I’d have been one of those leather-clad dudes with pierced earrings and heavy eyeliner, probably sporting an orange spiky haircut? Well, not really.
Back in college, I’d be easily dismissed as a quiet, mild-mannered, withdrawn boy-next-door type, those decidedly not boy-next-door material. More like a boy-next-door-shut most of the time. There I was, not exactly the most approachable classmate but rather an impenetrable kind, making you awkward after attempting to strike up a conversation for more than two minutes. So by the time the exchanges had reached “What kind of stuff are you into?” I’d reply with a curt “Music.” And that was that.
What I would have shared with you was that I had been listening heavily to The Specials, The Selecter, Madness and tell you how ska perked up my days; how my heart pounded when I started playing Roxy Music, Ultravox, Simple Minds and how I’d wish I could dress up like Adam Ant in his New Romantic garb with war paint on my cheeks’ how pop music could sound so fresh with The Human League, Depeche Mode and The Thompson Twins around; how intrigued I was upon first hearing New Order’s Blue Monday, which sounded like disco but was gloomy and how I puzzled over why it was only available in a 12-inch format. All these I could have had a full day discussion about, but in the end I just clammed up. What’s wrong with that, you might think? In those days, it wasn’t exactly cool and acceptable to be listening to those bands.
At that time, the New Wave genre was not warmly accepted during my first year in college. Some enterprising record company marketed punk and New Wave as a dance fad, conveniently promoting The B-52’s Rock Lobster and The Police singing De do do do, De da da da as punk, where you bounce your head sideways like a spastic, and Change’s Holiday as New Wave, which was screaming Italian disco in the first place. Things had gone from bad to worse when they created an unthinkable genre, calling Devo’s Peek-a-boo “Punk Jazz”! As nauseating as the idea was, punk and New Wave became big hits, but sadly its kitchy appeal didn’t sit well with the college crowd.
Speaking of kitsch, radio didn’t help either. The airwaves were full of crap — er, sappy ballads. For starters, there was Lionel Richie, whose songs like Hello and Truly were played to death on radio and MTV on heavy rotation to the point where every bodily crevice was ready to bleed from those songs. By the way, Truly was my Journalism classmate’s love song to her college crush who never knew her nor even got to hear her lovelorn anthem. But the song stuck on her like Richie’s Stuck On You, and to this day we still adorably call her “Truly.”
While Richie played the prince of ballads, David Pomeranz was the king for the masses, sending out anthems for sweethearts celebrating their anniversaries (we didn’t have monthsaries; our generation wasn’t that fickle) with King and Queen of Hearts and Got To Believe In Magic. Some might contend that Barry Manilow was the king but he doesn’t count, because — ahem — he probably wouldn’t call himself one. His hits like Somewhere Down the Road were remarkable; his songs build up like colorful fountains with fireworks you can hear in the background. There were also torture hits — Menudo’s pre-Ricky Martin era sang If You’re Not Here, Richard Sanderson’s Lady and Cook Da Books’ Your Eyes had very strong LSS venom at the time, creepily rousing you awake at the midnight hour. Awoooh!
Instead, it was cool and acceptable to brag about jazz especially if you were listening to Hiroshima, Angela Bofill and David Benoit. So rather than meet with raised eyebrows for my music preferences, poor timid me chose to shut up and endure life as a closet New Waver.
This went on until a seatmate of mine during my sophomore year got curious as he noticed I was carrying an album of ABC’s “Lexicon of Love.” He asked “Are they good? I could swap Yazoo if you lend me that.” And from there, I finally struck up a friendship with someone whose had common tastes. At least we were now two closet New Wavers in the whole of UST’s Arts and Letters — but not for long.
The breakthrough came when episodes of MTV shows from the States could be rented out in Betamax shops, and we got to see New Wave acts like Duran Duran, Eurythmics and Culture Club who had visual appeal and a strong fashion image that captured our imaginations and took our musical experience to another level. A new generation of artists took advantage of this new medium and brought them to stardom. Who could ever forget Michael Jackson’s footsteps lighting up in Billy Jean, Madonna’s cute, round navel in Lucky Star and the androgynous style of Annie Lennox and Boy George? Perhaps the most convincing case of turning around your musical accessibility through MTV was Cyndi Lauper’s Girls Just Wanna Have Fun. When I first heard it on radio, I dismissed it as a Minnie Mouse-sounding novelty record by a black girl. Imagine my surprise and instant change of opinion when Lauper’s video was played on that popular channel.
From listening to safe, formulaic sounds, teens like me in our junior years were basking in new music of the MTV generation. Even black music was fast blurring the lines of pop segregation, with the onset of hip-hop beats from American urban ghettos, strutting and breakdancing to Grandmaster Flash’s White Lines and Herbie Hancock’s invigorating Rock It. By this time, I was already the credible music source of the gang, lending out the latest U2 album (for a fee; I was already enterprising) or others, informing them of the chart position in the US and UK of a particular song and what record label they were on. Suddenly, my passion for new music led me to be part of the “in crowd.”
This was the stuff we repeatedly talked about during our journ class breaks until some students outside started heeding the imposing calls of “Makibaka!” as we all headed to Liwasang Bonifacio to protest Ninoy’s assassination and call for the downfall of the Marcos dictatorship. All of them went, while I went the other direction and trooped down with my sophomore friend, Peter, to all the record bars in Glorietta to check out the latest imported vinyl or proceed to this cool record bar called A2Z in Kamuning owned by former Jingle magazine editor Ces Rodriguez, who impressed me with her wide array of musical genres from The Smiths, R.E.M., and other bands before they got big, to the odd and rightfully obscure like The Residents, Laurie Anderson and Half Man Half Biscuit. It was a glorious and passionate time for us indeed.
Going into our senior year, and three years cooler and no longer a closet New Waver, I was clever enough to choose the topic of music television as an effective promotional tool for my thesis. As the rest of my class came out sweating trying to defend their work about the political turmoil of the time, social ills and press freedom in our revalida, mine was a walk through the flowers as the panel, who before me who were regarded as institutions in our beloved USTE but generations older than I was, didn’t know what to ask in the first place about this new medium. I ended up giving a lecture and got a fairly high grade in return. I think I was the only one who had the look of one who didn’t have an idea I was going to be fed to the lions and still come out alive.
There were many great things that happened in music during my college years that helped kindle my passion for it, as it far outweighed my passion for journalism as my chosen course. As my journ friends went on to become famous writers, reporters and editors after college, a record company opened a position for me to do nothing but listen to records all day. Though I have changed careers since then, the many happenings during college made me discover how passion can lead you to do great things, and it’s a great thing I did.
* * *
The author is part of UST’s Journalism Class of 1985 who recently celebrated with his batch their Silver Grand Alumni Homecoming of the Faculty of Arts and Letters. This article is a reprint from UST AB Souvenir Program that captured life in the early ‘80s. Together with The Philippine STAR’s Sports Editor Lito Tacujan and Entertainment columnist Butch Francisco, he is recognized as one of the alumni awardees of the UST Arts and Letter’s first AB Gantimpala Awards held at its campus grounds.

View previous articles from this author.

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*Many thanks to the author, Lucien Dy Tioco, who happens to be the youngest brother of my childhood bestfriend, Boots Dy Tioco-Cristales, for giving me permission to re-post his article which truly delves into the breadth of his knowledge of his favorite music genre. I'm sure that you will enjoy reading this piece as I have. It is not only entertaining but also gave us an insight into the psyche of the author. 

2 comments:

for the love of music.. i like this line: passion leading to great things...

:)

I do agree wholeheartedly, Tina, for passion is the force that pushes us towards the fulfillment of a dream and steers us to act on that which is our innermost desires. Hope you are doing well...

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