Lost & Found: ‘The New Wave’ Doc Shows Punk on the Verge in 1977
The short documentary ‘The New Wave’ was shot in 1977, right as the punk scene in Los Angeles was starting to get some notice with bands like the Germs and the Zippers. This interesting little piece of punk history is hosted by Andrew Amador, a DJ who comes across like a cheesy news anchor reading clunky copy about “a new kind of music, a rock ‘n’ roll which even the more ardent rock aficionados find distasteful, but there is a street following here … “
‘The New Wave’ also features brief clips and interviews with the Germs (check out Nirvana‘s Pat Smear with a ‘fro), the Runaways and Rodney Bingenheimer, the legendary L.A. radio host who is also seen introducing the Germs onstage at the Whisky. (It’s funny to see Bingenheimer being the most verbose interview subject in this special, especially considering he’s so inarticulate, he makes Robert De Niro look like Mark Twain.)
While we saw bigger shifts in music and culture in 1979, this documentary gives us an idea of what kind of culture clashes were to come in the years ahead. As the documentary opens, you can see an upcoming Van Halen show advertised on the Whisky marquee, while punk bands are jamming inside the club — punk and metal were bitter enemies for many years before the music “crossed over” years later.
A lot of documentaries and TV shows of this time tried to examine punk like an alien species. What is this music? What is it trying to say? Why do the fans dress like this? Does this music have any chance of becoming the next big thing? Of course it took punk a long time to become mainstream and acceptable, and the sound and aggression had to be considerably watered down before it became wildly popular.
But back when ‘The New Wave’ was shot, many were indeed looking to punk as a revolutionary new sound that would one day take over the world, and today it’s an amusing look back at when the scene was just starting to gain its foothold in L.A.