❚ FRIDAY NIGHT WAS AN EXCUSE for the wags to tell their tall tales of clubbing in the 80s. This was the first reunion in recent memory of the bright sparks the media once called Blitz Kids and New Romantics. We’re talking about the straighter faction tonight — the make-up brigade had their day at Boy George’s 50th birthday party in June. All of them, whatever their persuasion, were diehard nightowls, the spiritual offspring of the mighty innovator who shaped the 1970s pop scene almost singlehandedly, David Bowie. He taught them to adopt stances: individualism, transgression. He bequeathed them principles for living amusing lives: disposable identities, looks not uniforms. In turn, they then shaped the sounds and styles of the Swinging 80s set in motion by 1976 and the birth of punk, along with a passion for black dance music, on through the decadent glamour of the Blitz Club years, to the watershed of Band Aid in 1984.
On Friday, photographer Graham Smith took over Soho’s newest rendezvous, the Society Club, for a gallery show of his 80s photographs, which capture the panache and derring-do of style leaders such as PX, Stephen Jones, Kim Bowen Melissa Caplan, Stephen Linard, Fiona Dealey, John Maybury and such nascent popstars as Spandau Ballet, Visage, Animal Nightlife, Sade, Blue Rondo à la Turk and others.
Our two videos capture the essence of Smith’s collaborators, Robert Elms and Chris Sullivan, powering through their often unprintable anecdotes, edited on video down to bite-sized chunks and garnished with Graham’s images. The highspot was meant to be Sullivan as guest speaker, but when he was reportedly “still on his way”, in stepped writer and broadcaster Elms to recall the early one-night clubs he also helped to run. He sounded genuinely shocked by the precociousness of his peers — “We were kids!” — who persuaded West End nightclubs to hand over door control to them as teenagers. Eventually, Sullivan arrived in the guise of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, and of course excelled at spinning his “ribald tale of excess” about the mayhem he helped cause in clubland, en route to running Soho’s Wag club for 19 years.
The photos form a dossier creative endeavour, as we’ll soon see in We Can Be Heroes, a 320-page coffee-table book containing 500 mostly unseen images and 100 voxpop interviews by Graham Smith. Warts-and-all main text is penned by the mellifluous Welshman Sullivan, with other contributions from Robert Elms, Boy George, Steve Strange and Gary Kemp.
➢ Visit the publisher Unbound.co.uk to place your order for We Can Be Heroes and secure your name in the limited first edition. This month the authors aim to hit an advance sales target by this new “crowd-funding” technique in order to guarantee publication.
➢ Visit The Society Club, London W1F 0JF where Graham Smith’s photographs are on sale until Christmas. Subjects include Boy George, Sade, Steve Strange, Spandau Ballet, Iggy Pop, Siouxsie Sioux, the Sex Pistols and many more.