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Senior Year

Senior Year, 1980: Cafeteria Nerd Table

by Chuck Eddy

Senior Year, 1980: Cafeteria Nerd Table

About this playlist

It would take record companies a few more years to take the phenomenon into account in their marketing endeavors, but one neat thing about New Wave at the dawn of the '80s was that if you didn't consider yourself one of the popular kids in your class and were too much a square peg to identify with your older brother's hard rock and disco it suddenly felt like there was music for you out there.

Before Devo/Talking Heads/Elvis Costello/Joe Jackson/Lene Lovich/The B-52's/The Buggles (or even Cheap Trick's Rick Nielsen), there weren't exactly a whole lot of rock stars who looked like they could've been on the debate team. So if your idea of a good time was, say, betting on which washing machine would finish first at the local laundromat, you now had your own musical niche one that would (down the line) just maybe make you cooler than the jocks and burnouts after all. Meanwhile, perhaps you and your nerdy friends were discovering The Rocky Horror Picture Show (technically a few years old, but it sure didn't seem like it), or finding out about Weird Al on Dr. Demento's radio show, or starting to wear skinny ties. (How about a pair of pink sidewinders, and a bright orange pair of pants?) A year later, MTV went on the air, and video would start killing radio stars for real. But in 1980, the secret was still yours.

A longer playlist here takes into account oldsters like Billy Joel and Linda Ronstadt already jumping on the New Wave bandwagon, quasi-hipsters like The Boomtown Rats and The Police singing about the travails of actual schoolgirls, and a couple of hit songs (by Rupert Holmes and Sugarhill Gang, say) that just seemed fun to make fun of at the time. Below, though, the true greatest hits of geekdom. Someday you'll invent the Internet, and all the dumb kids will be jealous.