New Wave is just one of the many 80s fads that swept across the music scene. Though the new wave movement started in the late 70s, it took hold and grew to popularity in the 80s.
A hybrid of rock, punk, pop, and synth-pop, New Wave is a vague term. Sometimes it’s raw and edgy. Other times, it’s synthesizer-heavy and packed with pop sounds.
The Birth of New Wave
New Wave is one of the 80s fads that originated in Britain, though it’s unclear where the term came from. Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren used it as an alternate label for punk music. The term also referenced an avant-garde film movement out of France, which occurred during the 1960s.
Wherever the term started, it was adopted by British punk fanzines and later made its way into mainstream music publications. In the early days, New Wave and punk were used interchangeably as labels for anti-pop music. But by the end of 1977, New Wave had come to define a more specific breed of underground music out of the UK.
In time, New Wave would evolve closer to pop than its punk predecessor, eventually becoming a genre for rock-based pop dance music emblazoned with synthesizers.
Growing 80s Fads
In the U.S., punk music was mostly centered around the scene at popular New York club CBGB. Record producers were concerned that punk rock was just one of many 80s fads, so they set out in search of a better term to apply to this new genre of music. “New Wave” won the day.
Early New Wave artists included bands like The Ramones and The Talking Heads. Their music was experimental and they were anti-corporate, critical of commercial art, and particularly wary of anything that could be lumped in with mainstream 80s fads.
New Wave Music
New Wave music had a sound that was reminiscent of punk but had too much pop flavor for the punk genre. The New Wave scene was less centered around anarchy and far more experimental in its music artistry. Song lyrics tended toward complexity that was almost poetic.
Well-known artists who were associated with early New Wave include Nick Lowe, Patti Smith, Blondie, Elvis Costello, and Joe Jackson. Other artists, who were originally considered punk, were moved into the New Wave category.
Outliving most 80s fads, New Wave continued to evolve. In time, it marked a genre that was less noisy than punk. In fact, many New Wave songs were soft. They were usually heavily laden with synthesizers and New Wave bands were eventually manufactured by record labels.
In its maturity, New Wave came to include acts such as Spandau Ballet, Flock of Seagulls, Depeche Mode, and Soft Cell. Darker New Wave bands were considered post-punk. These included Siouxsie & the Banshees, The Cure, and The Psychedelic Furs.
According to Wikipedia: “Although distinct, punk, New Wave, and post-punk all shared common ground: an energetic reaction to the supposedly overproduced, uninspired popular music of the 1970s.” In many ways, New Wave was a rebellion against disco.
80s Fads Popularized By MTV
New Wave started falling out of favor it Britain just as it was taking hold in the U.S. during the early 80s.
In fact, MTV brought the New Wave movement its greatest success and longevity that surpassed most other 80s fads. Using the medium that was music video, British acts left Britain behind and swam across the pond to MTV and legions of new fans. British artists on independent labels outsold American artists on major labels and the phenomenon was called the “Second British Invasion.”
At this point, the term New Wave was used liberally to refer to almost every new pop artist that featured synthesizers or did not have long hair (and therefore was not a hair band). Groups that found themselves tucked under the New Wave umbrella included A-ha, OMD, and the Pet Shop Boys. Numerous one-hit wonders came out of New Wave, many of which were theme songs in Brat Pack films – Valley Girl, Sixteen Candles, and The Breakfast Club.
New Wave After the 80s
All good things come to an end and 80s fads are no exception, though we here at Total 80s Remix hope fervently that many 80s fads will see a revival (soon). By the end of the 80s, New Wave was becoming even more electronic and helped feed the development of house music and techno. The independent spirit of New Wave continued to influence music of the 90s, feeding styles such as college rock and grunge, as well as alternative rock.
By the mid-90s, the grunge fad had passed and New Wave saw a mini-rebirth with bands like Elastica and Smash. No Doubt and Gwen Stefani as a solo artist both encapsulated New Wave and cited New Wave as a dominant influence.
So it seems New Wave doesn’t fit in with most other 80s fads. In many ways, it lives on in the music of today. Rock it, enjoy it, and dance to it.
The Rubiks Cube came out of nowhere. One day, you’d never seen such a thing and the next day, everybody had one. Year after year, new variations came out – a little Rubik’s Cube you could put on your key chain, a big one for extra puzzling, and a whole rainbow of colors and hues to choose from. It was the ultimate in 80s toys!
We Loved Rubiks Cube
The Rubiks Cube is a mechanical puzzle – a cube that you twist and turn. Each of the six sides of a Rubiks Cube are colored with nine little stickers. Traditionally, these were red, blue, white, yellow, green, and orange, but eventually there were variations on the colors. Spin the cube to mix up the colors, and then try to align them all again.
It’s totally harder than it looks, people.
The toy was named after its inventor, Erno Rubik, who was a Hungarian sculptor and professor of architecture. He licensed his puzzle to Ideal Toys in 1980 and Rubiks Cube quickly became one of the biggest and longest lasting 80s fads. The Rubiks Cube was even the subject of a patent lawsuit in the early 80s, and cheap knockoffs of the Rubiks Cube have been showing up on sales racks for almost three decades.
Long Live 80s Toys
To date, over 350 million of these 80s toys have been sold, and that makes Rubiks Cube the number one selling puzzle of all time. Some say it’s not only the biggest selling puzzle, but the bestselling toy as well.
Rubiks Cube hails as the king of 80s toys and the mother of 80s fads.
Even today, almost 30 years after Rubiks Cube first hit the market, speedcubers still compete in championships to see who can solve the puzzle fastest. Meanwhile, the rest of us are just trying to solve it.
The standard Rubiks Cube is a 3x3x3 cube. However, variations go up to a 7x7x7 (for cubemasters) and down to a 2×2 (for the little ones). The beloved cube has inspired tons of similar puzzles (often called twisty puzzles), with all different sizes and shapes and even a few that actually change shape (like Rubiks Snake). Word even has it that Mr. Rubik is releasing a brand new puzzle in the summer of 2009, and Rubiks Cube fans await with great anticipation.
Long Live 80s Fads
Today there are tons of variations on the Rubiks Cube, which means that 80s fads live on, just like we 80s people always knew they would. You can get cubes with your favorite sports teams, globe-shaped cubes, and even cubes with your own personal photos instead of the colored stickers.
Like all 80s fads, Rubiks Cube inspired books, t-shirts, and a host of other items. Can’t solve your Rubiks Cube? Get The Simple Solution to Rubik’s Cube and you’ll be twisting your cube to solution in no time.
Rubiks Cube is probably the best of all the 80s fads and it’s definitely the number one among 80s toys. It’s outlasted many other fads and toys (go on, try to buy a brand new Atari) and has outsold pretty much all of them. Now we’ll just wait and see what Mr. Rubik has in store for us next.
Let’s face it, nothing was enough in the 80s. All those 80s fads and fashion, 80s music and movies, as big and bodacious as they were, still left us wanting more.
Everything we did and even what what we wanted was out of control in a way that was so complete, so total, that we were pushing past one hundred percent.
In 80s slang, “totally” became so frequent, so standard, that it actually lost some of its meaning. It was just some word you plugged in front of every other word. It was another word for “yes,” a way to emphasize anything under the sun, and a way to plant yourself firmly in the 80s.
You couldn’t get through five minutes of the day without hearing this 80s slang staple somewhere – at school, at work, on 80s TV, and even on the radio.
- Are you having fun? Totally!
- I’m totally obsessed with Prince!
- That is a totally rad shirt you’re wearing!
If you weren’t using the word “totally,” you were either deaf or dumb, or living on some other planet. In fact, it was so overused in 80s jargon that we actually shortened it and morphed it into some strange new 80s slang adjective.
That’s right, when “totally,” wouldn’t work, we just pulled off its last two letters and said “total” instead.
- It was not just a blast, it was a total blast.
- You are a total babe.
- I’m totally having a total meltdown.
What was it about this word that made us all want to embed it into our throats and have it permanently rolling off our collective tongues?
One thing’s for sure:
It’s a totally 80s fad. Total 80s slang.
Kids took up 80s fads and they became crazes, fetishes, wildfires that burned up the culture and then burned out.
One day you absolutely HAD to have twenty pairs of neon socks. The next day, you wouldn’t be caught dead in them. Hey, that’s what makes them fads.
80s Fads and Fashion
Fads and fashion always go hand in hand. The 80s fads that affected fashion were curious, bold, and outrageous. Shoulder pads were added to almost every shirt and jacket, giving women (and some men) a boxy shape. Not flattering, but totally popular nonetheless. Layers were a better look even though some people overdid it, layering every item of every outfit to the hilt – two hats, three shirt, two pairs of tights, four pairs of socks, and sadly, just one pair of shoes. It got kinda lame.
Jelly shoes came and went but oh how the girls loved them, even though if you wore them without socks, your feet turned into a sweaty swamp of stink. Low-cut boots with a loose fit were worn with everything from shorts to dresses. And who could forget the shoe that every girl alive in the 80s donned? Keds. In every color imaginable.
80s fads totally slammed the world of fashion accessories – jelly bracelets, banana clips, and bulky, long necklaces with oversized crosses. Everyone started getting multiple piercings in their ears (even the guys) and you had to have one pair of enormous earrings for each oversized shirt you in your wardrobe. And lacy fingerless gloves. What self-respecting Madonna wannabe didn’t have ten pairs of those?
80s Fads at School
80s fads took on a whole new meaning for kids who had to face the harsh competitive world known as the schoolyard. If you didn’t have enough friendship bracelets or pins, you were clearly a loser. Were your jeans rolled the right way? Did you have sunglasses that looked like Ray-Bans even if they weren’t the real thing?
Girls toted armfuls of Cabbage Patch Kids into the classroom for show and tell and the other girls eyed them with envy. The boys proudly balanced boom boxes on their shoulders and carried around scraps of cardboard so they could pretend to be breakdancers, even if their skills were limited to just one or two moves – like maybe the snake and a wannabe version of the backspin.
You better not be seen carrying a paper sack. A tin lunchbox featuring one of the most current icons was a necessity or you risked feeling like a leper. Pac-Man, Dukes of Hazzard, Strawberry Shortcake, and of course, Star Wars were all totally acceptable for lunchtime containers.
The pressure was on high and it was something new all the time, like every week the trends were changing! Kids could make or break those 80s fads and once a couple of cool kids adopted some new item, it caught on and next thing you knew it was as common as clouds in the sky.
80s Jargon and Slang
Every generation makes some kind of contribution to the language. New technology and inventions fatten our dictionary, and writers are always concocting new turns of phrase that slip from our tongues and end up as part of our lingual makeup. But nothing marks an era like the slang that comes out of it.
In the 80s, every other word was “like,” or “ohmygod.” The California valley girls’ intonations somehow found their way to the far reaches of the nation and suddenly everyone under the age of twenty-one were crying “gag me with a spoon!” making sure to roll their eyes while simultaneously rolling that last syllable through every pitch possible: spooOOOoooon.
Fresh, tubular, rad. Bitchen, awesome, and bad. Sure, a few of these words stuck. Who doesn’t still say awesome? Or rad? Other 80s slang words disappeared before the decade did. And while every era sees a new collection of slang words, few come close to the sheer bulk of words that the 80s managed to put out.
Love Those 80s Fads
If you sat down and listed all the 80s fads, you might lose another decade. They just kept coming. And going. In a neverending stream, they totally rained down on society, splashing across cities, countries, and continents only to die quick, forgettable deaths.
But there’s a place where we still remember those 80s fads. And you, my friend, have found it.