Category Archives: London

2015 ➤ Seven’s easy stages: from jelly parties to saviour of the rock scene

TeamRock , radio, interview, Seven Webster, RockComm, Pete Bailey

Seven Webster and Pete Bailey: Face to face interview about a life in music

◼ STRICTLY SPEAKING we don’t allow “rockists” onto this blog, since our idea of 80s yoof culture was defined by the dance music and fashion-forward styles emanating from UK clubland. And what 80s pure pop did was to banish 80s rock from the weekly charts. But Shapers of the 80s is very happy to make one big exception for probably the nicest guy on the entire UK music scene even though he does all his business down at the denim-clad, can’t-dance, beer-belly end of the music spectrum. His parents with the surname Webster gave him the unforgettable first name of Seven, and in the 30 years since he spouted one hilarious soundbite after another when we met in a posey little Numanoid London club, he has learned the ropes as musician and manager and built his own influential company into a thriving business.

Tomorrow, his outfit 7pm Management launches a new annual rock music conference at Rich Mix Cultural Foundation in Shoreditch. RockComm London describes itself as “the first UK-based international rock music conference aimed at bringing together all sectors of the community for positive discussion aimed at stimulating business and growth”. It hopes to unite everyone from labels, publishers, managers, distributors, agents, promoters, manufacturers, digital aggregators, the lot.

Seven says: “With so many great rock music based companies from across the world wanting to be involved, we’ve extended the event to give everyone time to network, which is the conference’s primary objective.”

There are people actively signing rock music
at moment: it’s a very buoyant time for rock

RockComm launches with a full day of networking which will showcase some of rock’s tastiest new bands. “The emphasis will be on quality over quantity.” The conference itself occupies Tuesday 9 June, as an appetiser for the UK’s biggest rock music event, Download Festival, and leading up to both the Kerrang and Golden Gods award ceremonies.

It is more than ironic that Seven is attempting to reconcile the many differences that define the music industry within a week of one of the most influential managers from the 1960s, Simon Napier-Bell (Yardbirds, Bolan, George Michael), partying in Soho to promote the paperback edition of his latest book, Ta-Ra-Ra-Boom-De-Ay. In this painstaking slice of history through the past 200 years of popular music he decides that nothing has changed in a business based on “greed, corruption, self-interest and fun”. Today recorded music remains in tricky balance between art and marketing where traditional record companies are squeezing a dying revenue stream and the US government still prosecutes them for payola offences running into millions of dollars.

Seven is one of a seemingly small band of brothers who is determined to assert his creative ideals. He draws on a lifelong love of music – “it’s my heart and soul” – and believes rock music is in a very buoyant state today, with people actively signing rock acts and wielding what he believes is “a cumulative fist”. His own reputation is as an international rock festival booker (Hard Rock Hell and Hammerfest) and worldwide artist manager of Skindred. His partner in 7pm and in RockComm is Steve Wolfe, a former Universal Records director of A&R.

As a taster of his ideology, Seven gave this hands-up interview to Pete Bailey at TeamRock national DAB and online radio. He talks about being the manager of Skindred, The Qemists and Dido, his brother-in-Law Mick Wayne (RIP) and former guitarist with David Bowie and the Pink Fairies, new bands and brands making waves and monetising their social media…

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During this half-hour stroll through his life-story, Seven reminds us of when he played guitar live at the Lyceum during the Batcave era in a goth band called Geschlecht Akt (German for Sex Act). “We weren’t great,” he says. Make up your own mind here by sampling their track Libido Twist from the Foreplay 12-incher (Criminal Damage Records, 1984) at YouTube.

Seven’s next band One actually signed to Chrysalis for £65k. Seven took his turn, as you did in the 80s, fronting a clubnight called Pigeon-Toed Orange Peel, then edited a magazine, as you did in the 80s, called The Buzz to help launch other bands, as you did in the 80s, which led into management and promoting new acts at the Marquee. So not too much standing still, then. Seven’s advice for the ambitious newcomer? “Don’t emulate, innovate. Take your time and put a good team around you.”

Just to make him squirm a bit, here’s the snap of Seven propping up a fruit machine the night we met in 1983 at a post-Romantic clubnight in Mayfair called the Padded Cell. Though it was fronted by a couple of wannabe 70s Numanoids, he quipped about the exceedingly time-warped crowd that night: “So many people here have stepped straight out of their nappies into bondage gear.” Not him, of course. So what was he doing among this bunch of late arrivals on the synth scene? “I just hate staying in,” he said. “I’ll go to ice-cream and jelly parties, anything.” Which was enough to get his pic into my nightlife review in The Face. The rest is history.

Seven Webster,Padded Cell, The Buzz magazine,  music management

A quiet master of the telling quip: Seven Webster at the Padded Cell in 1983. Photograph by Shapersofthe80s

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2015 ➤ Blow me! Talking Heads’ David Byrne to curate Meltdown Festival

Talking Heads, David Byrne, Meltdown Festival, London, Southbank Centre, new-wave,

David Byrne: Scottish, musician, singer-songwriter, artist, writer, actor, director, film producer, record producer, photography, opera, new wave, Talking Heads, Grammy, Oscar, Golden Globe, Hall of Fame. (Photograph © James Day)

➢ Marianne Tatepo says it all at Konbini global pop culture magazine:

Very few things can take an ominous word and turn it into something vibrant and exciting. Case in point: Southbank Centre’s Meltdown. For over two decades, the London music festival has been host to illustrious names, both on the commissioning and executing end.

Yoko Ono (2013), Jarvis Cocker (2007), Patti Smith (2005), Morrissey (2004), David Bowie (2002), and the legendary late John Peel (1998) are but a fraction of the impressive minds who have curated this modern arts symposium. This year is no exception with writer-cum-photographer-cum-singer-cum-multi-instrumentalist and Scottish legend David Byrne spearheading this session, scheduled for mid-August.

For its host, Meltdown borders on the miraculous: bands have reunited specially for it (The New York Dolls, at Morrissey’s helm) and on another occasion, the unlikely pack of Nick Cave, Pete Doherty and Grace Jones are reported to have sung Disney tunes together. Meltdown is a cult where the currency is interdisciplinary excellence… / Continued at Konbini online

➢ Watch for news of David Byrne’s Meltdown 17–28 August 2015 at London’s Southbank Centre

➢ David Byrne on how tech affects music and the way we listen – at Wired magazine

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2015 ➤ TV doc pits Boy George versus the rest in Culture Club reunion

Boy George, Mikey Craig, Roy Hay, Jon Moss, Culture Club, documentary, TV, Mike Nicholls, reunion, album, New Romantics

Culture Club 2015 style: fractious and bickering, as ever

◼ IN THE EARLY 1980s, Culture Club fronted by the gender-bending Boy George was one of the six British supergroups which dominated pop charts around the world. They won a Brit Award and a Grammy, notched up ten top 40 hits and sold 50 million records before they disbanded in 1986 after George fell victim to drug addiction. A brief reunion around the millennium yielded a tour and an album that didn’t even make the top 40.

Since then temperamental George invested time as a club deejay and in 2009 served time as a jailbird for “falsely imprisoning” and beating a male escort with a metal chain. Other attempted band reunions proved abortive, until the past year when a new album titled Tribes was written though it seemingly cannot be released until funds have been raised through a crowd-sourcing website. This year the deadline for pre-orders was extended to the end of March. And you thought George was millionaire pop royalty living on his royalty stream! Buddy, can you spare a dime?

Meanwhile, 21 putative tour dates for Culture Club in the UK and US had been cancelled because, according to George, a polyp was found on one of his vocal chords. No mention was made of the state of advance ticket sales. So far so bad.

On Friday 6 March BBC4 is scheduled to screen a documentary titled Boy George and Culture Club: Karma to Calamity. Director Mike Nicholls was given unique access and witnessed a fractious band reunion in George’s London home to write new material. From then on, all is chaos (and parental guidance is advised throughout). Under George’s headstrong leadership, tensions from their past emerged and faultlines developed further when the band spent two weeks together in Spain. Relations became even more strained when George and the band signed to separate managers. If these business partners pitched for Dragons’ Den using this film, they’d be sent back to busking on the streets.

George O'Dowd, culture Club, pop music

George quoted at the Culture Club website

BBC publicity says the hour-long film turns over “the band’s troubled past, examining the themes of success, fame and ego”, which means this is likely to be one for diehard fans only. OK, and voyeurs who want the inside track on the always frought love affair between George and drummer Jon Moss, who today is happily married. In one revealing scene online, Jon himself says: “I fell I love with him, he happened to be a man. We were instantly attracted to each other. It was very exciting.” Guitarist Roy Hay adds the reality check: “I just wanted to be in a band and have fun. I ended up in a ******* homosexual drama. The fighting was the problem.” So much for the glamour of life in pop’s fast lane.

❏ After an hour of tedious on-screen bickering, the closing captions read:
The tour needs to be rescheduled but the different managers can’t reach an agreement. Since the cancellation of the tour, George and the band are no longer speaking to each other. [Apart from George] the other band members have declined to be interviewed. The album release is on hold.

➢ View the Culture Club documentary on BBC iPlayer for the next week; or a selection of clips. (Parental guidance advised)

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Romance blossoms: Drummer Jon Moss gives George a peck at Planets club in July 1981 way before Culture Club existed. Photographed © by Shapersofthe80s

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s:
2010, Ex-jailbird George takes his first trancey steps on the path to sainthood

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s:
2010, Three key men in Boy George’s life, but why has TV changed some of the names?

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s:
2013, George still in denial over past misdeeds

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➤ Fashionista Webb plays Sherlock to shed light on the mysteries of a smart invitation

Iain R Webb, book launch, Invitation Strictly Personal, fashion, exhibition, Duke Street Emporium,

Webb’s book launch: “It’s all about ego.” (Pic by Hugo von Hugo)

◼ ANOTHER YEAR ANOTHER BOOK LAUNCH. Here’s Iain R Webb doing the honours signing his latest in Mayfair this week – here for Hugo von Hugo, there for Helen David, there again for Carol Morgan, a professional trend tracker who, he swears, leaves a lasting impression on students at Central Saint Martins, something he knows about himself after four decades of journalism and professorialising. “It’s all about ego,” he declares. “That’s the only reason we do it.” A gaggle of respected colleagues are celebrating, from Hilary Alexander down. Let’s not forget Iain himself has edited quite a few smart fashion pages from The Times and Evening Standard to Elle and Harpers & Queen, since his first forays with Blitz.

This evening is what somebody calls a proper fashion event. Not only is Iain signing his latest book, Invitation Strictly Personal, at a launch party hosted by the Duke Street Emporium, the W1 outpost of Jigsaw, but he has also curated an in-store installation inspired by the book’s theme of whimsical, controversial and artistic promotional wheezes. Webb’s own art works are on sale alongside London Fashion Week T-shirts and totebags he has designed. On top of which is a modest display of his fashion ephemera over at Somerset House, while minor gems left out of the book also form the longest Tumblr on the Showstudio website you’ve ever tried to scroll infinitely.

The guests: Click any pic below to launch slideshow

In her foreword to the book, New York-based designer Anna Sui says the trick of a good invitation to a runway show is to allude to the themes of the collection, without giving away too much. Iain says the quandary faced by designers is to create a buzz while ensuring they get the right bums on front-row seats. His big hardback tome poses as a pick-and-dip coffee-table book of seemingly random moments hinting at one man’s dash through a world of smart bric-a-brac. It is more Sherlockian than that, and proves to be an erudite deconstruction of 300 totemic invitations to prestigious fashion events, plus images of promotional treats, none of which the public ever sees. They form a dotty archive while Iain’s insight wrings observation and surprise out of scores of renowned designers from Kenzo, Hamnett, Gaultier, Miyake, Capellino, Dior to any number of former Blitz Kids. Cent magazine calls it all “beyond fascinating”.

The joy of the champagne book-launch is Hils Alexander working the room garlanded in her infamous string of sacred Roman amulets she claims have power over male fertility. Oo-er. Helen David of English Eccentrics notes that Wendy Dagworthy is wearing Marni shoes‬ (is this comfort envy, one-up-manship or simple irony?). Tony Glenville says the event is “like a live Facebook” though ‪Sam McKnight‪ ‪admits afterwards: “I didn’t get any photos, I was too high on nostalgia!”

Also present are Mouchette Bell, ‪Alison Hargreaves‪, Paul Curtin, Franceska Luther King, Marcelo Anciano, Louise Constad, Fiona Dealey, John Galliano (or his spooky lookalike), Carol Morgan, Jacques Azagury, Lucinda Alford, John Prew, Robert Leach, Sarah Dallas, Tony Bannister, Colin McDowell, Greg Davis, Eve Ferret, Terence Nolder, ‪Tony Glenville‪, Fifi Russell, Nick Coleman.

OF THE BOOK, GUESTS SAY:

Russell Marsh‪ It’s a great read‬
Jo Phillips Of course it is divine.
F‪ranceska Luther King‪ ‬Wonderfully put together
Martin Vintner-Jackson Prolific, consummate and complete
Karl Plewka‪ Absolutely FIERCE!
Robert Ogilvie‪ The book just gets better the more I dig into it.‬

The exhibits: Click any pic below to launch slideshow

➢ 40 Years of Fashion Invitations by Iain R Webb featured at Cent magazine – “A gem to be treasured for ever. This stunning book looks at an outstanding collection of more than 300 contemporary fashion-show invitations, and illustrates how the spectacle of the show is not limited to the runway”

➢ An online jumble of cheap and chic fashion-industry mementoes, curated by Iain R Webb at ShowStudio

➢ Somerset House is displaying a modest selection of Iain R Webb’s fashion show ephemera, 16 Feb–22 March 2015 in the Great Arch Hall, free

➢ Invitation Strictly Personal, Goodman Books, £30

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2015 ➤ Original Blitz Kids say farewell to Steve Strange, their host, pivot, style icon, friend

2013, Steve Strange photographed by Tim Whitby

Steve Strange in 2002 photographed by Tim Whitby

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s:
Nowt so Strange as Steven John Harrington,
28 May 1959–12 Feb 2015

1978, when Steve Strange teamed up with Rusty Egan (Photo © Fin Costello/Redferns)

1978, when Steve Strange met Rusty Egan. (Photo © Fin Costello/Redferns)

HOW THE RULES OF 80s NIGHTCLUBBING
WERE REWRITTEN BY STRANGE & EGAN

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RUSTY EGAN REMEMBERS HIS CLUBBING PARTNER
About this week’s Mi-soul radio show, Rusty said: “I’m very, very sad and down tonight because I’ve lost an old friend. We had our disagreements but we did have a decade of the best times that anybody could ever have wished for. We made some amazing music, some amazing parties, clubs and fun and friends. Underneath it all he was a good soul. Steve, I’m so sorry I didn’t get a chance to say I still love you.

Tonight we say Hello and Wave Goodbye to my friend and foe Steve Strange AKA Steve Harrington who convinced me to let him crash at my place for one night. We were flatmates for five years and never had a night in… friends for 25 years and foes for less than five years. Music says everything I could ever want to say… Bryan Ferry, David Bowie, David Ball, Midge Ure, Lou Reed, John Foxx and The Maths, Joy Division say everything I could want to say + EMT, The Magickal, Jeff Appleton, Visage, The Distant Minds. The good times outweigh the bad.

Rusty Egan 14 02 15 dedicated to Steve Strange RIP by Dj Rusty Egan on Mixcloud

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Steve Strange, Chris Sullivan, Graham Smith, Steve Norman, Blitz Kids, Swinging 80s, London

Chris Sullivan’s 21st birthday, 1981: “me drunk out of my head after a bottle of tequila with the boys in my bedroom in Kentish Town” – the boys being Steve Strange, Graham Smith and Steve Norman (photo © Graham)

CHRIS SULLIVAN, WHO RAN
SOHO’S WAG CLUB

I first met Steve Strange (né Harrington) when I was 14. We were both into Northern Soul and used to meet in Blackwood, South Wales, just a mile or two from his council house home. Then it was funk, Bowie and Roxy. Subsequently, punk, bondage and notoriety. We’d travel to London, Bristol, wherever to satiate our need for nightlife. Thus, London was the only place for Steve so he moved up to work for Vivienne Westwood in 1977. He was 18. I was 17. He became a punk “face” while I finished my A-levels and then went off to San Francisco in search of the Beatnik life (but couldn’t find it) and lost touch with Steve.

Then in October 1978, I bumped into him in Oxford Circus and he invited me to his new Bowie night at Billy’s. Since then we have been inextricably linked. We ran the club Hell together, then he did Club For Heroes and me Le Kilt. He then opened the Camden Palace and me the Wag.

We were both flamboyant club-running Welsh dandies but were never rivals. Steve had too much dignity for that. We were friends and remained so for the rest of his life. And I can say that Steve, despite quite a few hard years, never lost that that spark, humour or joie de vivre, was forever stylish and was always a pleasure to see.

SHAPERS OF THE 80s
extends heartfelt thanks to these key Blitz Kids (as were) for taking the time to contribute these wonderful appreciations of Steve Strange who died yesterday aged 55. We are all in varying degrees of shock, yet it is remarkable how their tributes readily identify the distinct qualities that made Steve a beacon for others to rally round. We hope these words will stand as both epitaph and historic record

I will miss reminiscing about us getting caught shoplifting together, our ferry to Calais as that got stuck in a hurricane going back and forth unable to dock for 13 hours; then hanging out with Grace Jones, Iman and Gaultier and getting spat at by a Parisian old lady who thought we were Nazis (we both had coincidentally brought our leather German trench coats); doing LSD at the Notting Hill Carnival, ecstasy in Ibiza in 1983 and getting lost in New York’s gang infested Alphabet City York at 5am after a night out in 1985 and walking in complete circles till it was light. Adventure after misadventure after misdemeanour. Two working-class Welsh chaps who could not believe their luck sucking the lemon dry.

I spoke to him a lot over his last few years and realised that he, coming from nothing, just threw down the gauntlet and created this being, “Steve Strange”, who was his “art” and, rather like Quentin Crisp and Leigh Bowery, was famous for purely being himself – a rather unique individual, one of a kind and a true maverick who never once towed the party line and always kept you guessing from Telly Tubbies Toys to TV shows. Indeed, our lives ran in tandem for decades and, I can honestly say, that I am proud to have been a friend and associate for 40 years of this great British character. I doubt we will see the likes of him again. Today my melancholia was lifted by one thought. He would have also loved this massive media attention regarding his demise. He would have said “See, I told you I was making a comeback!”

The world is a smaller place without Steve.

Princess Julia, PX, New Romantics

Julia before she was a princess: outside PX in 1980

PRINCESS JULIA, WRITER AND DEEJAY
We piled into his clubs from the late 70s onwards and made things happen. Steve Strange’s notoriety filtered into the mainstream making him a household name, much to his delight. Getting dressed up, going out and getting noticed… Steve was head of a subculture the likes of which perhaps we will never see again. He rode the decades, suffered ups and downs but always retained a vision of creativity, his own and those around him. Encouraging people to follow their dreams, the Blitz was a melting pot of creativity, its ethos a cornerstone to generation after generation who aspired and are aspiring to cast their nets wider.

When I met Steve his style was fearless. He became an entrepreneur in clubland perhaps unwittingly and genuinely enjoyed the ritual of clubbing. On other fronts Visage, initially a studio project, rapidly gained cult status, and he never abandoned performing right up to the present. He had a wicked sense of humour and was ready to tackle challenges even though his decadent years had taken their toll on his health… The stories I could tell you, perhaps I’ll leave that to your imagination!

Kim Bowen

1979, Kim Bowen models for milliner Stephen Jones, assisted by Lee Sheldrick in the Jones boutique

STEPHEN JONES, MILLINER
Steve Strange was a live wire. He made things happen, joined the dots between people. And he was my first customer. I went to his Bowie nights at Billy’s club and then the Blitz as a student at St Martin’s and he asked me to make him a hat out of gold braid. It took me about three weeks and he paid £75, a fortune in those days. Then, he was working at a fashion store called PX in Covent Garden. They had an empty basement, and he asked me if I wanted to set up store in there. So that was my first shop. I owe my start to Steve.

There was a vacuum after punk had gone. Suddenly there were all these kids dressing up in these eclectic, historical, top-to-toe looks we made ourselves from thrift stores. With Steve, it had to be a total look, whether he was wearing a dress, or a slick Antony Price suit. And every look needed a hat.

KIM BOWEN, STYLIST,
ONETIME QUEEN OF THE BLITZ

The hustle, the bustle, the make-up, the clothes, “Julia and I think you should put pencil on that mole of yours, it looks like a spot otherwise” to “I like your hat, do you think Stephen Jones will make one for me?” Rushing enthusiasm, involving everyone, creating insane parties going round and round on the Circle Line. Some truly bad outfits (his not mine.) Shockingly, “Kim, will you be my official girlfriend?” My boyfriend Jeremy Healy was rather outraged at that, sensing a great and grievous social impropriety.

“I know some weird private club in Wandsworth, Lord Longleat will be there, he’s fun, let’s go” . . . “God, look at Mick Jagger, he looks like an axolotl, doesn’t he? – Still, let’s go talk to him” . . . Cramming into the flat on King’s Road that he and Rusty and Julia shared, the height of sophistication as we polished off bottles of Blue Nun.

“ You were the epicentre of a most
particular time and place,
and you did create the stage
on which we all appeared ”
– Kim Bowen, Queen of the Blitz Club

“Will you run a nightclub with me?” became screaming up the stairs at Club For Heroes: “Why are you letting those horrible people in?!” Parties here, parties there, a club here, there and everywhere, places to sit bored and rude, blame him and his shit club, hate the music, be a little bitch, stick your nose up in the air Kim Bowen, and to always, always be asked, to be introduced to David Bailey who photographed me for Ritz magazine, to be implored to be in Bowie’s Ashes video and to refuse, to always be asked to anything fun, anything interesting, daring, mad, silly, stylish by this kind, generous, privately soft and rather vulnerable, funny Welsh guy, who always laughed, until he didn’t and things went dark.

And then they got better again. And then this abrupt goodbye. What a shock. You were the epicentre of a most particular time and place, and you did create the stage on which we all appeared, flourishing our lace cuffs and sharpening our profiles to the footlights. Thank you for that. Because we just came to your clubs, you created them Steve, you and Rusty.

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Above: King and queen of the Blitz: Steve Strange wearing PX and Kim Bowen crowned by Stephen Jones titfer in 1980. Photograph © by Letac / Shapersofthe80s archive

CONTINUED INSIDE
SHAPERS OF THE 80S

➢ Click through to read more of this week’s Blitz Kid
tributes to Steve from:

Peter Ashworth, Ninotchka Bee Bee, Helen Carey, Eve Ferret, Judith Frankland, Boy George, Francesca Von Habsburg Thyssen, Billy Idol, Gary Kemp, Martin Kemp, Simon Le Bon, Stephen Linard, ‪Franceska Luther King‪, Glen Matlock, Mark Moore, Christos Tolera, John Maybury, Steve Norman, Milly Parkinson, Andy Polaris, Stephane Raynor, Graham Smith, Graham K Smith, Midge Ure, Iain R Webb and Mike Leigh, Steve’s agent

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s: At Strange & Egan’s Camden Palace a silly hat and a calculated look might be the best career move you’ve ever made

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