Along with the short-lived NBC Night Music, New Wave Theater (albeit to a more limited audience on Los Angeles UHF Channel 18) may be the greatest slab of electic-music-focused American TV, running 1981-83. Originally featuring some mostly-local underground acts, the show’s hop over to USA’s Night Flight gave mainstream, cable-watching living rooms their first glimpses of Fear, Angry Samoans, and the Circle Jerks, and is documented by some out-of-print Rhino VHS anthologies. The show was hosted by Peter Ivers, an enigmatic, free-spieling genuine character of manic persona, who also wrote the Eraserhead theme song for David Lynch, and had several LPs for Epic and Warner Brothers. Ivers was found murdered in his apartment in 1983, suspect never found, his story is documented in a 2008 book called In Heaven Everything Is Fine: The Unsolved Life of Peter Ivers and the Lost History of New Wave Theatre.
Years ago I spun at an event put on by Ian Marshall that featured various artists fronting an Ivers covers band which was great, but I was also excited to see a lot of NWT TV clips that never saw You Tube’s light of day, or trickle on and off. Keep hearing word that there’s DVDs in the works, they’ll definitely be a treasure. Here’s some of my faves from the Channel 18 era that definitely highlight LA’s true underground and darker underbelly (or in Earth Dies Burning’s case, the very suburban underbelly). Love the lo-fi presentation of it all, stock footage of nuclear blasts in grainy VHS juxtaposed with mascara’d singers’ deer-in-headline stares, shrieks of “don’t let your kids drink the water!” It all had the immediacy and rawness that the bands were trying to portray, and the college-TV-studio effects certainly helped a bunch too. And naturally Ivers’ whimsical-yet-intense interviews make these shows a solid home run. I wish the Vox Pop clips were still up, they’re must-sees! (brian turner)
Castration Squad “A Date With Jack”
Suburban Lawns “Janitor”
Earth Dies Burning