Days of Punk | Fashion


The 80s new wave scene birthed a bevy of colorful characters—artists who not only embraced oddity, but reveled in it. To my mind, the epitome of this ilk was and always will be Lene Lovich. Oft forgotten and criminally underrated, Lovich seldom gets the love she deserves. She may not be the most prolific musician of her generation, but she’s certainly had a lasting impact on our culture.

Born in 1949 to a British mother and a Serbian-American father, Lovich spent her early childhood in Detroit. When she was thirteen, she moved to Hull, East Yorkshire, England with her mother and three siblings. There, she met her future collaborator and life partner, Les Chappell.

In 1968, Lovich moved to London to attend art school, and soon found herself ensconced in a number of different creative fields. She studied sculpture and painting, taking a particular shine to surrealism. She busked on the London underground and danced at cabaret clubs around the city. She took to the stage with various fringe theater groups. She toured Italy with a West Indian soul band, and played saxophone for multiple musical groups. She wrote lyrics for Cerrone, the French disco star. She even spent some time recording screams for horror films. You’ll struggle to find an artist with a more eclectic CV. 

Lovich first gained traction in the mainstream in the late 70s. By then, Lovich had released a few recordings with (to put it generously) limited success. While her 1976 Christmas three-track “maxi-single” hardly launched her to stardom, it was enough to get her moving in some of the right circles, and in 1978, DJ Charlie Gillett offered her recording of “I Think We’re Alone Now” to Stiff Records bigwig Dave Robinson. 

Robinson agreed to release it as a single, leaving Lovich and Chappell (by now her frequent collaborator) to write and record a B-side as quickly as possible. The result was “Lucky Number”, which the Stiff staff decided to release as the A-side instead. It was a hit, ranking in the top 3 on the UK Singles Chart. 

On the heels of her single’s success, Lovich released Stateless, her first full album for Stiff. Ever wondered what would happen if the Addams Family found a synthesizer? Then Stateless is the album for you. This decidedly gothic take on new wave with its dark, thrumming baselines and bright, synthy overtones evokes all the peculiar whimsy of a house party in a haunted mansion. It also highlights Lovich’s extraordinarily unique vocals. She yips and yelps her way through each track, leaning into every possible affectation with obvious delight. Her quirky delivery combined with the vaguely Balkan undercurrents of the album at large make for an unforgettable listen. 

Stateless was well received, and over the next few years, Lovich recorded two more albums—Flex and No-Man’s-Land—and an EP titled New Toy for Stiff, before leaving the record label behind and taking a few years off to raise a family. In 1989, she released a new album, March, with Pathfinder Records, and did three tours around the U.S. to promote it before taking a second recording hiatus, this one much longer than the first. In 2005, she re-entered the fray with Shadows and Dust, released on the Stereo Society label. 

Since then, Lovich has continued to pursue all kinds of artistic endeavors, collaborating with fellow musicians on a broad range of projects. She began performing as a member of the Lene Lovich Band in 2012, and started her own record label—Flex Music—in 2013. She’s also spent much of the last few decades advocating for animal rights. 

Lene Lovich with Singer-Songwriter Thomas Dolby

Despite her relatively sparse musical back catalog, Lene Lovich has had a profound effect on our society, whether we’ve noticed or not. She wasn’t afraid to be strange at a time when women in music were expected to perform a very specific, male-approved version of femininity. Lovich bucked convention by leaning into her own oddity, joyfully embracing the bizarre with no thought at all for “acceptable gender presentation”, and left a legacy of unabashed individuality and self expression in her wake. 

Want to get up close and personal with new wave icons like Lene Lovich? Order a copy of Michael Grecco’s punk rock photography book, Punk, Post Punk, New Wave: Onstage, Backstage, and In Your Face, or check out his extensive portfolio of incredible punk rock prints today.