2012 ➤ Soho’s nightowls revisit the club that sifted the Artex monkeys from Bowie’s Heroes

Cultural observer Peter York: eager for the Sullivan autograph on the new edition

❚ THE 80s BLITZ KIDS turned out in force last night. As Kitten Kouturist Franceska Luther King remarks today: “an elegant crowd, older, but still the same spirit.” Those clubbing compulsives who defined the sounds and styles of Soho 30 years ago, swarmed into the tiny steaming Artex-lined cellars of the St Moritz restaurant, the fit all the tighter thanks to a fair few middle-aged paunches. For three months in 1980 this was the site of their milestone one-nighter which signalled the first faction to break away from the futurists at Steve Strange and Rusty Egan’s pioneering elektro-diskow, The Blitz. In host Chris Sullivan’s words, this was “the more alert end of the Blitz crowd” – in other words, the hardcore fashionistas.

Initially St Moritz’s music evoked interwar Berlin cabaret until Charles Fox, the theatrical costumiers, staged its closing-down sale in Covent Garden and injected a huge Hollywood movie wardrobe. You could be a gangster, a geisha, or Geronimo. The New Romantics had been born – just like that!

“No single shop sale ever had such an influence on street fashion before or since,” Sullivan writes in the fabulous photo-book, We Can Be Heroes. This ribald account of the dawn of UK clubbing in the 80s, led by the eye-popping photographs of Graham Smith, was the reason for last night’s beano. Soul-music diehards Smith and Sullivan graduated from The Blitz to become two of the St Moritz deejays (along with Robert Elms and Steve Mahoney) and half a lifetime on they were hosting yet another launch party. The book’s revised and amended second edition of 2,500 copies is released this week through regular retail outlets. Copies of last year’s limited edition are still available from the fund-it-yourself publisher Unbound.

St Moritz 1980: Chris Sullivan and Michele Clapton – from Smith’s book We Can Be Heroes

Back in the day, the St Moritz posse distinguished themselves from The Blitz by playing retro lounge-lizard tunes from Lotte Lenya or Nat King Cole. In today’s arts pages of The Times Sullivan recaps how, in their efforts to avoid the present, he and his cohort helped create the future: “We decided to oppose Blitz futurism and turn the clock back with music from Marlene Dietrich, Monroe, Sinatra and soundtracks from A Clockwork Orange, Last Tango in Paris and Cabaret. It was an alarming success.”

Rob Milton: Shooting the Pump in the deejay booth

♫ Click to hear Shoot the Pump in a new window

Fashions in music moved apace. Within a year successive London club-nights at Hell, Le Kilt and Le Beat Route were stirring into the club mix not only familiar 70s soul but the edgy new urban sounds of North America.

Choosing the soundtrack last night at St Moritz were the were the astute ears of David Hawkes, Christos Tolera and Sullivan himself, plus Dirt Box co-founder Rob Milton, who raked the dancefloor early in the evening with the crazed beats of Shoot the Pump. This intoxicating debut single from 1981 was a state-of-the-art fusion of emergent street sounds – rap, hip-hop and funk with a hint of mutant disco – from the “playin’ brown rapper” and graffiti artist J Walter Negro & the Loose Jointz (on Zoo York Records via Island). J Walter is urging his crew of Zoo Yorkers to spray docile citizens with the water from a fire hydrant: “You make like a monkey with monkey wrench, cos you feel a little funky, got a thirst to quench.” In 1980–81, something similar was pumping the adrenalin in London.

CLICK ANY PIC TO LAUNCH CAROUSEL:

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