Before the advent of the internet, it’s hard to believe that any bands outside of the mainstream could cull together enough of a fan base to make a living off making music, especially in the pre-Nirvana days of the 1980s. Going back and catching glimpses of the dedication that the fans had for their indie rock heroes never ceases to be heartwarming, whether it be in the raw 8mm footage from hardcore punk shows, or the occasional news reports that bewildered local news stations when a band with unusual haircuts would breeze through town.
Such is the case with this archival gem from WBNS on ethereal post-punk group the Cocteau Twins. In 1985, the Cocteaus were making some waves in the U.K., but like many indie bands in the mid-80s, an American breakthrough was near impossible, with only the avid zine readers staying in the loop with the newest and most cutting edge sounds. The Cocteaus only hit 5 US vnues that year while supporting their latest EP, “Aikea-Guinea,” and one of those spots was the Newport Theater in Columbus, Ohio, chosen by the band because of one of those zines — Tim Anstead’s “The Offense” music newsletter, which was based out of Columbus and frequently featured coverage of the band.
WBNS seemed so intrigued by the Cocteau Twins and their fans, that they decided to do a followup, going to the actual show where you can see a view from backstage as the band plays “Pale Clouded White,” a then unreleased track. “Critics say that this band is going to be influencing mainstream rock & roll music for years to come…” says newscaster Tom Berman in a most prophetic description in his report.
The best part of this news story has to be the fans, a few of which Berman interviews before the show.
“I think the generalization is that people think we’re nothing but pieces of trash,” says one fan sporting earings and an extreme new wave pompadour. “Punk and trash — I mean I put in my eight hours!” Another fan talks about how he was pulled over during his trip from Michigan and fined $75 dollars because of his hairdo.
While it’s irksome to see fans being put under the judgmental news microscope because of their manner of dress, the on-the-scene newscaster is fairly respectful, and the clip acts as a great outsider’s peak-in document of the scene as it was happening. Not everyone may know the Cocteau Twins today by name, but with their sound being adopted and expanded on by bands like Beach House and Grimes, it’s especially interesting to take a look at a time when fans were discovering the music as it was happening.