Post Punk Imposters #2 – Cyndi Lauper

By the early 1980s major record companies had worked out that they didn’t really have to understand what was going on, they could simply synthesize or home brew something close to this “New Wave” thing in their corporate Frankenstein laboratory of illusion – there was really no need for any of it to be real. Stylists were called, press releases were written, songs were recorded and infused with just the right amount of carefully rehearsed attitude, and with matching photos and of course a video, the package was complete. Now, with the right style and the right wording, “New Wave” was in their grasp. New Wave to them just seemed to mean having brightly coloured dyed hair, and a faux rebellious “playful” attitude, especially where women were concerned.

Record companies knew that if didn’t get to grips with the post punk movement, they were over. They wouldn’t last long on their go-to hippy back catalogue sales, so it was crucial to become part of this new establishment. What they needed was to invent their own version of different -“establishment different” if you will. The game play was the same as the pre-punk music business, but now the emphasis was on being “New Wave”. It was a bit like trusting the government or your school to choose the music, but with the major labels herd hitting budgets, it wasn’t long before this version of “new” was being served up to a trusting public without any kind of disclaimer.

b70e9dfbc3a4c3b6d32dd8e25601f79d--cyndi-lauper-costume-s-hairIn 1983, an outrageous “new” talent, Cyndi Lauper was introduced to the world via an outrageously different, new girl anthem and accompanying video. This “new” talent had previously sung in various cover bands, was already well versed in the hits of artists like Janis Joplin and Led Zeppelin, and by 1978 had fronted a band called Blue Angel who were signed to Polydor – if you missed that don’t worry, the album was not a big seller.After the band’s inevitable break-up Lauper, remained in the clutches of the majors and signed to a subsidiary of Epic, which is where the “punk” transformation began.
Lauper was given a “New Wave” make-over by well known stylist Patrick Lucas who was drafted in to oversee her re-birth as something very modern. By this time, and evidently empowered by this new interest, Lauper was even interested in writing her own songs, but the record company had other ideas, although she allegedly changed some of the lyrics in the material she was given.This is certainly not an attack on Cyndi herself; we kind of admire the way she’s stuck to her guns and continues to make music, these days more on her own terms. It’s more of a comment on how the major labels took the more obvious elements of post punk and claimed it all for themselves, via their stylists and the whole machinery they had developed to sell records and turned it into a total mess. “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” was probably the majors take on a song like “Typical Girls” by the Slits – but where the Slits “Girls” brimmed with their own feral energy on drizzly bandstand, the then 30 something Cyndi got sunshine, professionally dyed hair and carefully selected “vintage clothes”. The upshot of which is that “Girls” were once again reassuringly light-weight, non-threatening, and all the things we’d fought hard to change.We know which “girls” we prefer…

 

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