Category Archives: Media

2015 ➤ Hot revelations from the Flexipop book party

Flexipop, pop music, London, Swinging 80s, books,Barry Cain, Tim Lott, Red Gallery

Flexipop founders: Tim Lott and Barry Cain at Red Gallery last night. (Photographed by © Shapersofthe80s)

◼ THREE DECADES AFTER the maverick monthly music magazine Flexipop closed, guilty names were named during last night’s book launch at Shoreditch’s coolest new venue, the Red Gallery. During a Q&A with the mag’s founders Barry Cain and Tim Lott, they confessed that the three most difficult artists to deal with in those heady days of Britain’s burgeoning pop scene were. . . [X-Factor-style pause] . . . Tears for Fears and . . . Paul Weller and . . . the American new-wave band Blondie! Lott tactlessly remarked that what surprised him most was that singer Debbie Harry had “a huge head out of all proportion with her body” – which clearly means he really had a thing about blondes.

Whinging hosts apart, guests at their party were distinctly more polite. Generating tidal waves of affection was the original 2 Tone rude girl Pauline Black, who was happy to chat about this summer’s new album titled Subculture 36 years after her band The Selecter set out, having survived two splits and reunions, and now poised for a UK tour. . . Exchanging gossip beneath the “Free hugs” notice we found veteran 80s popsters Christos Tolera (Blue Rondo à la Turk) and Phil Bloomberg (Polecats). . . Catching up on the music du jour were the gifted jazzer Mark Reilly (Matt Bianco, still going strong and knocking out albums every few years) and the ubiquitous Andy Polaris (Animal Nightlife, long defunct) who these days injects magic into the windows of the UK’s trendiest Oxfam in Dalston. . .

Click any pic below to launch slideshow

Powering through the crowd was photographer Neil Mackenzie Matthews, eager to push his exhibition of pop-star photos printed on smart Somerset paper and selling at very affordable prices. He produced some flopsy-bunny big ears which apparently was the prop he invited stars of the 80s to wear in front of his camera. We saw immortalised on a poster the playful chanteuse Toyah Willcox, though Neil recalled how, despite having bought the ears as a gift for the precious Ian McCulloch of Echo and The Bunnymen (geddit?), he refused outright to see their entertainment value.

It was Flexipop’s belief that all celebs should be humiliated at every turn. As further proof, souvenirs of the magazine’s heyday were visible everywhere, including a blown-up cartoon strip satirising Marc Almond as a “sex dwarf” and Dave Ball his partner in Soft Cell as a beer-swilling “mega-hunk”. Writs for libel were due to be served at midnight.

Flexipop’s trademark plastic 7-inch discs were being dispensed free, after unsold supplies were recently unearthed in Cain’s mum’s garage – and “still playable”, assuming you have a wind-up gramophone.

Apparently Paul Weller couldn’t get along to the party as he was collecting some award as Modest Mod-father of Them All.

➢ The big public Flexipop! book launch party
for charity starts at 7.30pm tonight 25 Sept at the Red Gallery, London EC2A 3DT – tickets £20 at door


2015 ➤ Brace positions! Flexipop aims to drag us all back in time

Flexipop, pop music, London, Swinging 80s, books, Glen Matlock

80s survivor: Glen Matlock, bass guitarist in the original Sex Pistols line-up, relishes Flexipop-the-book-of-the-mag

◼ THE MOST RAUCOUS OF ALL 80S POP MAGS was Flexipop, dedicated to pricking pomposity and kicking the egos of the jumped-up nobodies shrewd enough to bunk into the UK pop charts for the obligatory two singles – and an album if they had the staying power – such was the state of the geriatric music industry bequeathed by the 70s, the decade of corporate megagroups.

The unashamedly puerile Flexipop was unleashed “like an explosion in a paintball factory” by two ex-Record Mirror journalists, Tim Lott and Barry Cain, designed “by a chimp” so it claimed, and determined to put the larks back into pop, in contrast to the earnest Baudrillard-heavy NME. It ran for three years from Dec 1980 and now it’s back with revengeance as The-Book-of-the-Mag, being launched tomorrow by invitation, and for J Public at a charity bash with bands on Friday.

Flexipop, pop music, London, Swinging 80s, books,

Now The-Book-of-the-Mag

According to the Flexipop manifesto, 35 years ago “a golden future beckoned and our hearts beat to a fusion of punk, soul, Motown, new wave, new romantic, rock’n’roll and reggae”. Its verdict on the 80s was “a haphazard, ludicrous mish mash of genius. Such a moment required a haphazard, ludicrous mish-mash of genius to reflect it all”.

Though the rest of us had rather higher standards and wrote eloquent essays in praise of the new “pure pop” that was creating world-beating British supergroups, Flexipop insisted in dragging us all down into the gutter to enjoy its unique view of the stars.

Its big draws were zany photo stories and a thin plasticky 7-inch flexi-disc featuring an exclusive track from a major chart act taped to the cover of every issue. Many of them are collector’s items today, such as Adam and the Ants doing A.N.T.S. to the tune of YMCA. Guests to the party will receive an original flexi-disc and a copy of the magazine (presumably unsolds stashed in a warehouse for three decades).

Flexipop, pop music, London, Swinging 80s, books,

Madness songwriter Lee Thompson photographed by Neil M Matthews for Flexipop – for sale at the 2015 book launch party

➢ The big public Flexipop! book launch party starts at 7.30pm Friday 25 Sept at the Red Gallery, London EC2A 3DT. The Flexipop! photographer Neil M Matthews exhibits his iconic 80s photos, while three intrepid bands attempt to recreate the hysteria of the 80s. Tickets £20 available online and on door. The event is in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust and the National Foundation for Youth Music.

➢ The first Flexipop! book launch party is an invitation-only event at the Red Gallery on 24 Sept that will include the official launch of the book and a limited edition Flexipop! photo/poster exhibition by Neil Mackenzie Matthews.

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s: When new media meant a bendy Flexipop freebie


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…

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


➤ A dance sensation: Baryshnikov meets Lil Buck to music by Venetian Snares

Baryshnikov, Lil Buck , Rag & Bone, fashion, film, Georgie Greville, Music , Venetian Snares, dance,video

Baryshnikov meets Lil Buck in Rag & Bone Men’s Fall/Winter 2015 film by Georgie Greville. Music by Venetian Snares

◼ YOU ARE ONE CLICK AWAY from a mesmerising, funky, brilliant music and dance and video sensation as Baryshnikov meets Lil Buck in Rag & Bone Men’s Fall/Winter 2015 film by Georgie Greville. Must be viewed at full-screen. Music by Venetian Snares.


Baryshnikov, Lil Buck , Rag & Bone, fashion, film, Georgie Greville, Music , Venetian Snares, dance,video

Baryshnikov meets Lil Buck in Rag & Bone Men’s Fall/Winter 2015 film by Georgie Greville. Music by Venetian Snares

Baryshnikov, Lil Buck , Rag & Bone, fashion, film, Georgie Greville, Music , Venetian Snares, dance,video

Baryshnikov meets Lil Buck in Rag & Bone Men’s Fall/Winter 2015 film by Georgie Greville. Music by Venetian Snares

Baryshnikov, Lil Buck , Rag & Bone, fashion, film, Georgie Greville, Music , Venetian Snares, dance,video

Baryshnikov meets Lil Buck in Rag & Bone Men’s Fall/Winter 2015 film by Georgie Greville. Music by Venetian Snares

➢ Remix of Billie Holiday’s version of Gloomy Sunday, released on Rossz Csillag Allat Szuletett in 2005 by Venetian Snares, aka Canadian experimentalist Aaron Funk

Little white flowers will never awaken you
Not where the black coach of sorrow has taken you.
Angels have no thought of ever returning you
Would they be angry if I thought of joining you?

Gloomy is Sunday, with shadows I spend it all,
My heart and I have decided to end it all.
Soon there’ll be candles and prayers that are sad I know.
Let them not weep, let them know that I’m glad to go.
Death is no dream for in death I’m caressing you
With the last breath of my soul I’ll be blessing you.

Darling, I hope that my dream never haunted you.

You know my love of dreams. . .


➤ Today’s pix from Steve Strange’s funeral

◼ EXCLUSIVE VIDEO FOOTAGE coming soon at . .

Steve Norman , Blitz Kids, New Romantics, Martin Kemp , Steve Strange, funeral, Boy George, Wales, Stephen Harrington

Steve Strange’s funeral, Porthcawl, Wales

Grief was all too evident throughout today’s funeral in Wales for Visage frontman Steve Strange. Here Martin and Gary Kemp of Spandau Ballet contemplate lifting the coffin, as pall-bearers. . . Two pop stars made eulogies at the service. As a close friend of Strange, Spandau sax player Steve Norman said: “A lot has been said since Steve passed about the pop culture and how he shaped it in the 80s. We wish a few more people had said it when he was around.”

Steve Norman , Blitz Kids, New Romantics, Martin Kemp , Steve Strange, funeral, Boy George, Wales, Stephen Harrington

Steve Strange’s funeral, Porthcawl, Wales

Here Steve Norman and Martin Kemp help carry Steve Strange’s coffin back to the hearse after his funeral service today. Boy George’s feet can be seen in silver trainers. In his eulogy George, who wore a flat cap throughout the high Anglican church service, described Steve as “a part-time nemesis, new romantic, old romantic, futurist fashionista, Welshman, weirdo, sister, saint and sinner”.

❏ Curious fact: On the funeral’s Order of Service Steve Strange’s real name Stephen Harrington was revealed to be spelt with “ph”. Since our paths first crossed, he had always spelt his own name as Steven with a V. It’ll take a while for us to correct the many mentions of his name here at Shapers of the 80s.

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s:
All on one website: the tidal wave of tributes that have
flooded in for Steve Strange