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Mad World: An Oral History of New Wave Artists and Songs That Defined the 1980s
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Mad World: An Oral History of New Wave Artists and Songs That Defined the 1980s

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3.94  ·  Rating details ·  890 ratings  ·  150 reviews
Mad World is a highly entertaining oral history that celebrates the New Wave music phenomenon of the 1980s via new interviews with 35 of the most notable artists of the period. Each chapter begins with a discussion of their most popular song but leads to stories of their history and place in the scene, ultimately painting a vivid picture of this colorful, idiosyncratic tim ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published April 15th 2014 by Harry N. Abrams
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3.94  · 
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 ·  890 ratings  ·  150 reviews


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Laura Shannon
Apr 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is a really good "bathroom book". I don't read in the bathroom (gross!) but this is one of these books you can read in brief installments and skip around the chapters that don't interest you. I read all of it and confirmed that I still so love INXS, Echo, Depeche Mode and the Smiths. I also confirmed that nothing can make me like Dexy's Midnight Runners. Howard Jones or OMD. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the chapters on Gary Numan and Thomas Dolby and I loved all the back stories ab ...more
Caroline
Jun 10, 2014 rated it liked it
Let's get this out of the way: the book is a bathroom book. And the reason it is a bathroom book is because the design is so embarrassing you wouldn't possibly want to be seen reading it in public. And the paperstock is so thick it's too heavy to carry around much anyway. I bought this book online site unseen, and otherwise I probably would not have given it a chance. But! I am glad I did.

My favorite chapters were: Echo & The Bunnymen, Adam Ant, Devo, Spandau Ballet (how anyone who wrote an
...more
Jeremy Helligar
Feb 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Some kids have a favorite doll, a teddy bear, a toy or a lucky blanket. I had a book: “Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 Yearbook.” I can’t remember where I got it, but for most of the early ’80s, it was my one constant companion, a not-so-imaginary best friend. I carried it everywhere. The book, which came out in 1979, profiled every single artist who scored a Top 40 hit during Billboard magazine’s 1978 chart year. In the back, there were Billboard year-end charts for all of the various genres cove ...more
Elisa
Feb 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I was honored to be given an advanced copy of MAD WORLD, and I wasn't disappointed.

MAD WORLD is more than a mixtape for a generation—it’s the story of a period of musical innovation, told by the musicians themselves and put into perspective by two of many whose lives were set to its soundtrack. Lori Majewski and Jonathan Bernstein perfectly blend credibility, humor, style, and nostalgia as they present over thirty songs that changed the pop musical landscape in the early-mid 1980s. Each song is
...more
JBP
Sep 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2014
This is going to be a longer one and it might turn into a rant. You are warned. I grew up in the 1980s and was a massive music fan...still am. Many of the bands covered in Mad World are bands that I still hold near and dear to my heart: Depeche Mode, The Smiths, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Echo and the Bunnymen, Soft Cell, The Cure, The The, Gary Numan, Human League, New Order, Kate Bush, Yazoo and on and on it goes. When people make fun of the music in the 1980s they are, for the most pa ...more
Ben Kalman
Jun 19, 2016 rated it it was ok
The stories are great - the history of the songs and the quirky trivia facts about the bands from the mouths of the artists is always fun to read, with the inconsistencies and clearly biased memory (in talking to you Limahl) as well as a sense of the squabbles in some bands that spill right over into the oral storytelling, making it almost a dialogue in some cases.

The problem with the book is twofold: the framework and the editing, and they're tied together. A lack of understanding of what new w
...more
Len
Apr 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
It's pretty simple. If you came of age in the 80s and loved modern rock you will enjoy this book. Each chapter tells the story of a different seminal new wave song through discussion and interviews with the artists. From Howard Jones to The Smiths to Echo and the Bunnymen, it's all there and with no hold's barred.

It's really amazing to think that most of these songs are more than 30 years old, and even more amazing to hear from the artists who performed them. It's not often you get this sort of
...more
Steve
Jul 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
This breezy read was surprisingly hard to put down, even though I am not even a big fan of new wave music. I am fascinated by this period in pop culture history more than I am enthralled by the music.
To be sure, I connect with the music as the soundtrack of my childhood, and I think most of the songs are great catchy pop tunes. However, the glossy production and synths really turn me off for the most part. There are certainly exceptions. The book sent me on an INXS binge for a few days, and rem
...more
Sagar Jethani
Mar 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, music
Delightful romp through the New Wave era as experienced by the musicians whose songs defined it. Although I grew up listening to Duran Duran, Howard Jones, Simple Minds, etc, I learned a lot about the genre through the authors' introduction, such as—

* the role MTV played in pulling talent from the UK
* how David Bowie's influence on New Wave cannot be overestimated
* why synthesizers suddenly displaced guitars as the instrument of choice
* how so many of these bands had thriving back catalogs that
...more
Corinne
Feb 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2019
The way this book is structured is 36 New Wave artists talk about one of their songs- the lead up, the creation, and then where they are now. Each band also had an intro page- usually giving just enough info that I ended up on the internet researching some facts on each act. This book took me longer to read, as most music books do (thanks youtube!).

Thing I disliked: the order of the book, which I couldn't seem to figure out- for example, New Order is in the front, but Joy Division is in the bac
...more
Jennie Mandigo
Feb 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library, read-in-2018
This book was pure New Wave fun. I recommend pairing this with YouTube while you read!
J.S. Green
Oct 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: music
I've always loved music, but coming of age in the early 1980s I especially loved new wave. I still remember hearing "Cars" by Gary Numan, and loving the sound of it. One evening, with it stuck in my head, I mentioned to my cousin (my best friend, really) that I really liked it, and was surprised by his 'are-you-kidding-me?-you-actually-like-that-stupid-song?' reaction. Later, when I heard "I Ran" by A Flock of Seagulls and "Pop Music" by M, I knew I'd found what resonated with me. But even thoug ...more
Jesse
Dec 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
Three best bits from this, which is better than you'd expect. Not quite as better-than-you-expect as the MTV oral history, which is GREAT, but definitely better than you'd....

#3: John Taylor, of Duran Duran: The serious press had such a hard time with Duran in the beginning, and one of the reasons is because there was nothing for them to do. A lot of other bands--and I hesitate to say Radiohead, U2, or even the Rolling Stones--it took them three albums to find their thing, and along the way, the
...more
Tracy
Apr 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
So, so entertaining. In-depth interviews about the music that I cut my teeth on. I'm pretty sure author Lori Majewski and I were separated at birth, at least as far as our experience of music in the 1980s goes. It's kind of scary how similar our opinions and experiences were/are. (We were in touch for a bit, too: I subscribed to her Duran fanzine for a while in the early 1990s.) All the bands I was interested in are in this book, except for the Cure; were they unavailable to interview, or did th ...more
Paul Grech
Jan 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Liking new wave music did not come naturally to me. It has taken years to start appreciating the work that went into creating the synth driven music that dominated in the first half of the eighties. Today, however, bands like Joy Division, the Smiths, OMD and New Order are among my favourites which is partly down to the deep contrast that there is with current music.

So it was hardly surprising that as soon as I heard of this book I wanted to get it. And it did not disappoint. Some of the decades
...more
Marissa
Oct 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
A fun breakdown of some of the bigger hits of the 80's new wave era, including newer interviews with the musicians behind them. I did skip a couple of the songs because I never liked them or the bands, but I was a fan of *most* of them. Some fun tidbits:

- Thomas Dolby (SCIENCE!) was a hired musician to work on Foreigner's "4" album. That haunting intro to "Waiting For a Girl Like You"? That was all Thomas Dolby. This gig helped fund him being able to make his own album, and I am very grateful fo
...more
Wysterria
Aug 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
My first 10 years on this Earth were in the 80s, so you'd think that maybe my exposure to New Wave would be limited. But I had an older sister and brother, 10 and 9 years older respectively, so I heard all the good stuff through them. (Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, Tears for Fears, Psychedelic Furs, New Order, to name a few.)
This book is set up in interview form, with the two authors introducing each band's section, and then various members of the bands talking about their history and the history o
...more
Nat Mathews
Sep 21, 2014 rated it liked it
I would have given this a higher rating but the introductions to each chapter were often irritating. I really didn't care to know Ms. Majewski's inner dialogue for most of these songs mostly because she is tragically shallow but also because she doesn't have the presence of mind to establish her recollections within her own cultural zeitgeist as Johnathan Bernstein did with his experiences of the songs in England. I did really detest when either of them would harp on how they hated one particula ...more
Peter Smith
Jan 08, 2015 rated it liked it
You would think a book dedicated to the dominant popular music of my childhood would automatically get 5 stars from me just due to the subject matter. But unfortunately this book just seemed OK to me. I think part of the problem is that it spends as much time on the lesser-talented one-hit wonders (Animotion? Really?) than it does on more prolific (Duran Duran, INXS) or more credible (Joy Division/New Order, The Smiths) bands (and that's not even including bands that weren't mentioned at all lik ...more
Peter
Aug 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: music
A thoroughly entertaining book that will have you going back through the best music of the 1980s. Sure, there are some quibbles - a bias toward the UK, artists that didn't get covered (Wham? Culture Club? The Cars?), and a focus more on the "oral history" (read: interviews with the band members, who tend to ramble on about nothing sometimes). And that's a shame, considering that the editors/authors are superb writers whose introductions make up the best part of the book. I would have loved to ha ...more
Shannon
Apr 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I wish I could give this book more than five stars. I have loved 1980s New Wave music, especially from the UK, since it first came out. In fact, it is still pretty much all I listen to, thanks to Sirius. The artists back then were all stylish, talented, and kind of mysterious. It was not like now, where we know every little detail about every single public figure. In the 1980s, all we had was MTV and magazines like Star Hits and Bop! publishing stories of questionable truth! As an adult, it is f ...more
Melissa
Oct 09, 2014 rated it liked it
It was okay. A lot of interviews with a lot of one-hit-wonders and random band members dragged this book down. I walked away with some fun intel like what an egomaniac Ian McCulloch is, how the members of New Order never really got over Ian Curtis' suicide and fought all the time (turns out every Monday was Blue for them), and that Bow-Wow-Wow was just as manufactured as any Demi Lovato-type band Disney creates today. But pages of pages of B-list wasn't exactly what I had signed on for. Four pag ...more
Jim
Feb 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The book of my Duran Duran/Culture Club 80s fanboy dreams. It's even titled after that awesome Tears for Fears track. Each divine chapter is a different 80s New Wave/ New Romanticism music group, including the good (Depeche Mode), the bad (Animotion) and the guilty pleasured ugly (A Flock of Seagulls)! Includes band member interviews and an irresistible That Was Then This Is Now section (named after one of my favorite ABC songs) that gives a "Where are they now?" update on the bands. Thompson Tw ...more
Mindy
Dec 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book is fantastic! It's entertaining and informative. I love it! I love it! I love it! I have been talking about this book to anyone and everyone I can. I've been showing it to people. I've told my husband so much he probably doesn't have any reason to read it himself, though he might.

Love history? Read it. Love music? Read it. Love the 80s? Read it! You will not be disappointed.
Billy
Apr 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Just an enlightening novel!

I loved this book! I’m not a total new wave aficionado like my wife is; but I grew up in the same age! I found it very great
Tiffany Day
Jun 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
As an idea, as a read... I really, really liked this book. I am a post-punk, new wave, new romantic devotee; as such, this book speaks to my musical soul - and memories. That said, let's remember I was but a mere 4-8 years old when most of the bands covered here were forming and releasing these impactful singles. I admit, I was not familiar with a few of them. While there are some with whom I've been obsessed (Duran Duran, Adam Ant) others I maybe knew the song or perhaps the singer (Heaven 17, ...more
Rob Murphy
Mar 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
My love of music basically started in the 80s. As my taste developed I found myself completely drawn to new wave so this history of the both the songs and the artists was intriguing to me. As the punk movement in the UK began to die, a number of musicians found themselves creating a new path, experimenting with sound and image, which became new wave. As they moved beyond three chords and angst, they discovered an original voice and sound. There are a number of art-school students turn pop stars ...more
Mike Clarke
Jul 04, 2018 rated it it was ok
Must we throw this filth at our pop kids? : I’d recommend not. “Noo wave” really isn’t the best topic for American music journalists. The over-analysing, explain it till it’s a dessicated husk school of writing (see Griel Marcus) doesn’t so much shine a light as sear the subject to death. Here we have 36 pop acts of the early 80s, the vast majority of them Brits, cut up into small pieces and inspected on slides in a laboratory whilst some US bint yammers away humourlessly in one’s ear, like Jani ...more
Mark Altosaar
Aug 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was an excellent book to read alongside something more focused -- good for a chapter here and there when I needed a break. They're all self-contained vignettes.

It sounds a bit superficial, but it's probably the best behind-the-music-type content I've read. Doesn't hurt that it covers so many of my favourite bands. Most of the stories are interesting, and despite being a devotee of The Ongoing History of New Music, so much of it was new to me.

At the end of each chapter there's a "That was t
...more
Trevor
Jan 18, 2018 rated it it was ok
I got this book as a present for Xmas 2016. It's a book I wanted, having added it to my Amazon wishlist.

It took me 12 months to get to it, due to the sheer number of books I need to get through and was excited to finally make a start on it being a lover of 80s music.

I really wanted this book to be good, having put off reading it for so long. I desperately wanted to like this book. Alas, it was not to be.

The book purports to be a history of New Wave Artists of the 80s - New Wave to me meaning The
...more
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34 followers
I'm a diehard Duranie, so it's appropriate that my first book is Mad World: An Oral History of New Wave Artists and Songs That Defined the 1980s (Abrams, 2014). Co-authored by my BFF Jonathan Bernstein, it's a fun, full-color salute to the music of Duran Duran, The Smiths, New Order, Tears For Fears, Depeche Mode, Human League, OMD, Echo and the Bunnymen, Adam and the Ants, and many more! In all-n ...more
“Duran Duran chose me—I had no choice in the matter. I still remember, clear as day, the first time I saw the “Hungry Like the Wolf” video. It was like I was being possessed. From then on, everything was different: Everything I thought and felt was in the name of Duran Duran. I traveled to their concerts and waited outside their hotels and recording studios. I ran an internationally known Duranzine before pursuing a career in entertainment journalism just so I could be paid to be near them. I married a man named Simon, only to divorce him for an even hotter guy named John. I have lived for them, lied for them, and questioned my own sanity over them. And I’d do it all again. Don’t say a prayer for me now—save it ’til the morning after!” 2 likes
“Michael [Hutchence] is hands down one of the greatest frontmen in music. The style, the voice—all of it. Any way that I was ever influenced by him really comes down to small, pale imitations compared to the real thing. There is a fearlessness about him. Watching him at Wembley Stadium with 70,000 people, he looks as comfortable as if he were in his own living room.” 2 likes
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