I was thirteen years old when I discovered New Wave Theatre on channel 18 in 1980. A little while later, I found it again on the USA Network’s Night Flight (Night Flight deserves its own blog post, but the Wikipedia entry is pretty good, too.) Today, New Wave Theatre and the strange, revelatory world of UHF and early cable television was brought to the front of my mind once again thanks to a post by Joyce on MetaFilter.
Now, in 1980 I wasn’t even a freshman in high school yet. I was a young thirteen, and my musical tastes hadn’t yet bloomed with eclecticism. New Wave Theatre may very well have been the first time I saw or heard bands like the Dead Kennedys, FEAR, Bad Religion, or the Fibonaccis… and it was probably the last time I’d see them for some time.
It’s a forgotten influence, to be sure. I know my young mind was, if not blown, certainly intrigued. New Wave Theatre was something I’d catch while flipping through the channels, and it would catch me, in turn, all unaware. It was as strange and wonderful as the secret television broadcasts of reptoid jazz musicians in Daniel Pinkwater’s “Lizard Music,” another earth-shaker in my young life.
Where Are The Secret Channels Today?
This post was originally going to be simply “hey, look at this, remember this?”
While I’ve been writing, and watching blurry video clips, and reading, and thinking and remembering, I realize New Wave Theatre, Night Flight… heck, even Wally George and Dr. Gene Scott… helped expand my awareness and, indeed, acceptance of different forms of art and culture.
Most importantly, these fringe outlets showed me that “punk rock” meant so much more than loud, fast, short songs. Punk was an attitude, and everyone from the Harvard-educated host of a music video show to the iconoclastic pastor of a television minisitry could and did embrace it.
These shows, these secret channels, made me feel like I was getting away with something and being educated at once. And today, thinking about it, it makes me wonder:
Where, now, is the equivalent?
Does it happen on the Internet? Is it interwoven on YouTube, between the cute cats and bedroom cover song performances?
Or is the secret channel now just another stream that anyone can, and does, dip into whenever they want?
If so, does it have the same impact?
What do you think? Let’s talk about it in the comments.
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