Adele Bertei – Queen of the No Wavers

Featured image above of Lydia, Adele and Anya by Julia Gorton

It’s New York City, the late 1970s. Without getting too stuck in semantics, let’s just agree that The Ramones are Punk, Blondie, by now were New Wave, but what about the third way, what about No Wave? What was that all about? No Wave started as a reaction by some musicians to the same old “rock-isms” which had  continued to dominate music, even after the great cultural punk rock onslaught of ’77. Punk rock evidently hadn’t been enough of a shake-up for some people. The 4/4 times, the guitar, bass, drums line-ups, the verse, chorus, verse, chorus song structures, all still grated on them. Wanting to go further, the No Wavers introduced choppy rhythms, discord, and even funk bass lines, which made the tracks both danceable and unpredictable, in a way that Punk, Ramones-y garage Punk, by definition, didn’t. No Wavers were guilty of pushing the pogo envelope. The more commercial end of No Wave might be the Talking Heads, and in the UK it was probably the Gang of Four and the Au Pairs. But, we’re not quite ready to go that commercial just yet…
The BloodsIn the No Wave heartland of NYC, The Bloods were the first all girl, no wave, punk funk band. They were also the first out lesbian band of the punk and no wave scene. In the late 1970s, being an LGBT band was generally seen as a hindrance, in fact as far as any major labels marketing department were concerned, it was complete suicide.

“Back then, female performers couldn’t be too wild, and certainly not outspokenly gay, even a little. Defying the rules had its consequences. This was exacerbated by the horrid reputation I had in the 1980’s, some of it hyperbole but not all of it completely unfounded. Half-Piaf, half-Hemingway… singing and brawling. Wrestling in public with quite a few demons that I should have dragged to a therapist”- Adele Bertei

The Bloods were led by by the fantastically talented Adele Bertei, the former keyboard player of The Contortions. The line-up was completed by Annie Toone, Kathy Rey, Kathleen Campbell and Brenda Alderman. A step sideways from Punk, The Bloods and their ilk had moved on from CBGBs; the No Wavers hung out at Artist Space and underground film festivals, and, via Adele’s stint as his PA, The Bloods were also co-horts of art-rockers like Brian Eno.

adele & Leslie Woods
The Bloods toured internationally, they opened for the Clash in New York and shared bills with, Gang of Four, Bush Tetras (more ex Contortions), Richard Hell, Johnny Thunders, the Slits, the Au Pairs, Lydia Lunch, and Delta 5.
They released the now classic single “Button Up”, on the Au Pair’s label, Exit Records in 1981, and were, of course, championed by John Peel.

Pictured right, Adele with Leslie Woods.


After The Bloods disbanded, Adele continued to work as a solo artist, composing the soundtrack to, and starring in the feminist sci-fi fantasy flick “Born In Flames”. She was also invited by Thomas Dolby to provide backing vocals for his The Flat Earth LP, where she wound up co-singing on the hit single “Hyperactive”, which became an international hit and even spawned an appearance on the UK’s Old Grey Whistle Test in 1984.

As a vocalist, Adele Bertei can also be heard backing artists like Culture Club, The Passions, Tears For Fears, Sophie B Hawkins and Deborah Harry, and as a composer she has written for The Pointer Sisters, Sheena Easton, Arthur Baker, Lydia Lunch and Matthew Sweet amongst others. Adele has also collaborated with artists like Scritti Politti and Jellybean Benitez.

Adele Bertei2Adele’s androgenous, punk-waif-like look belies her incredibly un-waif-like work ethic. She also came out at a time when it was far from fashionable to do so, but by doing just that, she foiled the industry rumour mill and has worked on her own terms ever since.

As a composer, singer, writer, film-maker, director, radio host and columnist, Adele Bertei continues to produce work across a whole range of disciplines. A Queen of the No Wavers; sparky, productive, singular and staunchly resistant to definition. As someone who took Punk Rock and all its freedoms as a launch pad, Adele Bertei has always pushed herself and her listeners, viewers and readers, just a little bit further… which is maybe why we like her so much.

You can find out more about Adele and her work HERE.

Above image by Julia Gorton

5 thoughts on “Adele Bertei – Queen of the No Wavers

  1. Please credit my photo of Adele with Lydia and Anya. As well as my portrait of her smoking in a jacket.
    Julia Gorton thanks!

    1. Wow! Hi Julia, we’re incredibly happy to see you here. Apologies for not having credited your photos, will update. Any chance we could send you a few questions to answer for a future post?

    2. Ok, that’s fixed.

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