Category Archives: North America

➤ Soul Boys Spandau rise like a phoenix from the flames of their film premiere

Spandau Ballet, Soul Boys of the Western World, premiere

Spandau Ballet: smart-casual on the red carpet

Spandau Ballet, Soul Boys of the Western World, premiere

Spandau live at the Albert Hall: All six members of the band reunited, the sixth being manager Steve Dagger in the wings

Spandau Ballet, Soul Boys of the Western World, premiere

Royal Albert Hall: full house for Spandau’s premiere

◼︎ 6,000 PEOPLE WERE UP FOR an emotional roller-coaster ride at London’s Royal Albert Hall on Tuesday – hundreds more watched simulcasts in cinemas across the land. Today Rolling Stone has called it “the biggest home-movie party in British pop history”. We sped through yards of breathlessly cut vintage footage even the band hadn’t seen before, showing how five glammed-up school friends adopted the preposterous name Spandau Ballet and effectively rewrote the rules of a moribund pop industry to rocket into the charts and become one of Britain’s six supergroups of the New Romantic 80s…

We saw how their friendships turned nasty and imploded in a law court… and how they’ve agreed to make this film 20 years later in which each tells his own version “warts and all”, soul boys baring their souls in a cathartic process of reconciliation and redemption. Why, they’d even titled their home movie, Soul Boys of the Western World, ironically referencing one of theatre’s tragic morality tales about human failings, the greater irony being that the band themselves were actually shocked to hear each other’s words at the first screening. They were the film’s only narrators, recorded separately talking one-to-one with the director and telling the tale with more “crashing and burning” than tact.

Tuesday’s audience picked up these cues in pantomime tradition. We were bearing witness just as the penitent members of Spandau Ballet were hoping. We oohed and aahed at some really tear-jerky best bits. We howled at odd Spinal Tap daftness. We heckled the cocky Cockney TV presenter. We laughed at our quaint mullets and hilarious teenage pretensions four decades ago. Then when the screen froze in a silent moment of grim truth, the whole Albert Hall groaned “Ohhhh no!” One hero had been damned, but a succession of jaw-dropping out-takes from pop-idol interviews hanged the others in turn. Icicles formed in the air, Steve Norman’s voice told us “You can see on our faces Spandau Ballet has just come to an end” and we shared their pain. At times the spoken bluntness came too near the knuckle and between last spring’s hair-shirt trailer and this autumn premiere a couple of killer icicles have been chopped.

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Apart from that, Mrs Lincoln, the yarn rattled along as a fascinating piece of social history, to a soundtrack deftly clipped from 22 Spandau numbers and a host of others that shaped the 80s. Tuesday’s melodrama came in three acts and we confessors gave the film a standing ovation, took a quick break to share our own shock at the band’s courage, and then rose to our feet again as the 6,000 to welcome onstage the happy smiling band of brothers, plus their equally glamorous film director, George Hencken, who had brought a woman’s instincts to handling the boys’ emotional baggage.

Spandau Ballet, Soul Boys of the Western World,

Soul Boys oWW reviewed by NME

Act 2 heard the team answer those burning questions live onstage, among them Gary Kemp saying “Yes, I’m the baddie”, and his brother Martin admitting disappointment in himself when young, while Tony Hadley said all the bitterness had weighed heavy on their families. There was plenty of humour too. When asked what he’d missed most since the great days, John Keeble said “the cheeseboard” (a reference to a backstage luxury specified in the band’s touring contract). Drummers, eh?

Act 3 was the equal of all that had come before. We rose to greet Spandau’s live set of six copper-bottomed hits, kicking off with their hymn of defiance, Through the Barricades, then sprinting into To Cut a Long Story Short. By Chant No 1 all six tiers of the Albert Hall were on their feet and cheering the dancefloor anthem that just missed being the chart No 1 in the riotous summer of 1981. Martin looked reassuringly relaxed powering its funky bassline, and Steve’s sax breaks were definitely dirtier than of old. In Only When You Leave Tony’s big balladeering vowels confirmed what a magnificent bel canto baritone he has become. And of course the last two classics, True and Gold, were inevitably hijacked by the choir filling the hall.

In words of the Eurovision winner, Spandau Ballet have risen from their ashes like a phoenix (fortunately without beards or frocks). We turn to our philosopher-drummer Keeble for the last word: “The film is a three-act play: guys have success, the wheels come off, then there’s some redemption. This now feels like fun and games – with love in it.” Gulp.

Spandau Ballet, Soul Boys of the Western World, premiere

Spandau film premiere: Rock god Keeble photographed by Dave Hogan

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY ABOUT SBWW

Spandau Ballet, Soul Boys of the Western World, premiere

Soul Boys oWW reviewed by Empire magazine

“More than a typical rock doc … the biggest home-movie party in British pop history” – David Fricke, Rolling Stone

“I found it gripping. Despite having never understood the appeal of the New Romantics, I enjoyed the hell out of Soul Boys of the Western World” – Observer film critic Mark Kermode on BBC-tv

“A funny, absorbing, trivia-filled portrait of friendship, the 80s music biz and bad hair” – Ian Freer, Empire Online

“The muscular musicianship of the band suggested that this latest stage of their reunion is more than just a nostalgia-wallow” – James Hall, Daily Telegraph

➢ Soul Boys of the Western World goes on general release 3 October, plus w/b Oct 20 screenings at Rome Film Festival and cinemas across Italy, Belgium’s Film Fest Gent… from Oct 27 Barcelona, Madrid, Bilbao, Pamplona… Plus, Nov 15 Spandau’s first public appearance in New York since 1983.

➢ Oct 20: tickets on sale today! Auckland NZ Nov 2, Melbourne Nov 5 and Sydney Nov 7 for special Q&A screenings of SBWW – Spandau Ballet are heading Down Under where the Melbourne screening will include a 20-minute live performance by the band.

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1929–2014 ➤ Bacall slouched, she simmered and she gave as good as she got

Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, cinema, glamour, goddess, Hollywood,

Bacall raised the temperature in Hollywood: Bogie used to tell her, “Keep it quiet. If in doubt, don’t answer”

❚ THE ONLY TIME I MET LAUREN BACALL was at London’s Hayward Gallery in the late 70s. I was minding my own business admiring a huge colourful painting by David Hockney, when that unmistakably smoky voice boomed into my ear: “Aw, that is a perfect match for the curtains in the ocean room back home!” I just about suppressed laughing out loud and we became instant pals for the duration. She did actually like the Hockney, one of his sunny landscapes, and certainly gave the impression of knowing her way round the art world. Did I even ask one personal question? In the orbit of so dazzling a supernova? You’re kidding. And everyone in that gallery was silently begging me to.

➢ Lauren Bacall, the tough-talking femme fatale who taught Humphrey Bogart how to whistle, has died at the age of 89 – Guardian obituary:

cinema, glamour, goddess, Hollywood, Lauren Bacall,  Tributes, Walk of Fame

Betty’s star today on Hollywood Boulevard’s Walk of Fame

She was so nervous in her first film role, at all of 19 years old, that her head shook; so she tilted her chin down to steady herself, and had to look up from under at the camera. She stood at the bedroom door of ‘a hotel in Martinique in the French West Indies’ – the Warner Bros lot in Hollywood – looked up, and asked Humphrey Bogart for a match. And defined her life… / Continued at Guardian online

Lauren Bacall,

The inimitable Lauren Bacall with Sophie, her papillon, in her apartment at the Dakota, in New York City. Photograph by Annie Leibovitz

➢ At 86 Lauren Bacall looked back on a lucky, if often difficult, life as she gave it straight to Vanity Fair:
You are going to cut me to ribbons, I can tell. What’s the argument for this story? That I am still breathing? I don’t talk about the past,” she proclaims, taking a piece of Bissinger’s and pushing the rest in my direction. Nevertheless, the past is present everywhere in this room and all over the apartment. It is, in fact, never far from her thoughts. She has lived in great comfort in this place since 1961, when she bought it for $48,000. “I called my business manager in California and said, ‘Sell all of my stock’ — what little of it I had — and it’s the only smart financial move I ever made,” she says… / Continued at Vanity Fair online

“Go to work, Slim”

❏ Above, we see 19-year-old Betty at her sexiest in To Have and Have Not, her first movie with Bogie when they fell for each other and married for life, making it rather superior to Casablanca for romance. Watch her minx up this quirky number, How Little We Know, with Hoagy Carmichael tickling the ivories.

Lauren Bacall, cinema, glamour, goddess, Hollywood, interview

1945: Bogie and Bacall married within a year of meeting. She said the 25-year age gap was was the most fantastic thing in her life

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2009 till now ➤ Archive of posts at Shapersofthe80s

❏ iPAD, TABLET & MOBILE USERS PLEASE NOTE — You may see only a tiny selection of items from this wide-ranging website about the 1980s, not chosen by the author. To access fuller background features and site index either click on “Standard view” or visit Shapersofthe80s.com on a desktop computer.
➢ Click here to visit a different random item every time you click

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➤ Mad man dies after skewering the American Dream and bequeathing us Alfred E Neuman

Al Feldstein , Mad magazine, Alfred E Neuman , comics, satire, American Dream,

Al Feldstein in 1972 © Photograph by Jerry Mosey/Associated Press

❚ THE CREATIVE GIANT WHO EDITED America’s most influential satirical magazine has died. From 1956 Al Feldstein took the circulation of Mad from 400,000 to a peak of 2,850,000, and spent 29 years not only making a young generation laugh but fearlessly challenging sacred cows and urging scepticism about the American Dream and its furshlugginer advocates (a not-Yiddish word invented for the purpose). One issue a few years ago contained contributions from ten Pulitzer-winning cartoonists. In creating an American institution, Feldstein paved the way for National Lampoon, Saturday Night Live, The Simpsons, South Park, The Onion – and for Britain’s Viz magazine, according to its editor Graham Dury, creator of the Fat Slags…

Al Feldstein , Mad magazine, Alfred E Neuman ,

Mad magazine’s trademark, the grinning gap-toothed Alfred E. Neuman created by Feldstein: as an American icon, he is the face of every cover star

➢ The soul of Mad magazine dies at 88 –
by Bruce Weber in the New York Times:

The founding editor, Harvey Kurtzman, established its well-informed irreverence, but Al Feldstein gave Mad its identity as a smart-alecky, sniggering and indisputably clever spitball-shooter of a publication with a scattershot look, dominated by gifted cartoonists of wildly differing styles.

In his second issue, Mr Feldstein seized on a character who had appeared only marginally in the magazine — a freckled, gaptoothed, big-eared, glazed-looking young man — and put his image on the cover, identifying him as a write-in candidate for president campaigning under the slogan “What, me worry?”
At first he went by Mel Haney, Melvin Cowznofski and other names. But when the December 1956 issue, No 30, identified him as Alfred E. Neuman, the name stuck.

He became the magazine’s perennial cover boy, appearing in dozens of guises, including as a joker on a playing card, an ice-skating barrel jumper, a totem on a totem pole, a football player, a yogi, a construction worker, King Kong atop the Empire State Building… Neuman signaled the magazine’s editorial attitude, which fell somewhere between juvenile nose-thumbing at contemporary culture and sophisticated spoofing… / Continued at NYTimes

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➢ He was not a warm and fuzzy guy –
David Colker in the LA Times:

The goofy, cartoon face of Alfred E. Neuman looked out from the cover of Mad magazine for decades in various guises, always with the same message: “What, Me Worry?”

“He looked like a boob, but he had a very interesting philosophy,” said Al Feldstein, who as editor built Mad from near-obscurity in the 1950s into a satirical powerhouse, “meaning no matter how bad things get, if you maintain a sense of humor, you can get through it.” Under Feldstein, who edited Mad from 1956 to 1984, the magazine skewered presidents, the Cold War, the tobacco industry, Madison Avenue advertising, Hollywood and numerous other targets. And its legacy from that time lives on.

“Basically, everyone who was young between 1955 and 1975 read Mad,” comedy writer/producer Bill Oakley said in the book The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History. “That’s where your sense of humor came from… / Continued in LA Times

Mad magazine, Alfred E Neuman, Lego issue ➢ Today, Mad is published by DC Entertainment – The latest issue No 526 is the Lego issue (right), after the number one movie in America.

➢ 15 things Mad magazine gave the world:

Comics in the 50s didn’t encourage people to question anything – everything was more about being pleasant and not rocking the boat. Mad came along and started picking holes in the American Dream, suggesting the products Americans were buying were crap, their leaders were clueless and that the people were being treated like dicks. These days everyone’s a cynical bastard, but Mad invented it… / Continued at Anorak online

➢ The UK edition of Mad Magazine, published by Thorpe and Porter, began in 1959 – Over the years there were a number of UK sourced covers and sometimes UK produced interior stories. View a few Mad UK covers from the 1970s with such topics as British Rail, Doctor Who, the Royal Family… even the long-running TV soap opera Coronation Street.

Mad magazine, Alfred E Neuman , comics

Feldstein’s spirit still alive and well in recent issues of Mad

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➤ Another emotional gem on Spandau’s long walk to freedom

Soul Boys of the Western World, interview, Spandau Ballet, SXSW, Austin, premiere, movie, pop music,

Spandau Ballet’s post-gig interview at SXSW in Texas: Steve Norman finds the humour in St John Keeble’s healing homilies

❚ NOT TO BE MISSED! Freshly posted at YouTube is yet another heart-on-sleeve prequel to Spandau Ballet’s promised Reconciliation and Redemption tour. A group interview on video unexpectedly becomes a very moving and positive expression of the band’s solidarity as friends. Famously “sticky moments” from the kamikaze wrecking of the band at the height of its success and the atomic fall-out during the 90s are glancingly referred to in the spirit of mild self-flagellation. The five musicians who defined Britain’s New Romantic movement are discussing Soul Boys of the Western World, their warts-and-all documentary biopic premiered last month at SXSW, the cool new-media festival at Austin in Texas.

“The film is pretty honest and hard for us to watch at times,” says songwriter Gary Kemp. “You can see in the film I was a bit precious.”

“That Kray twin moment [a reference to the Kemps making a feature film about the Krays in 1990]: for me that’s really embarrassing cos me and Gary’s answer is really conceited, but that’s who we were at the time,” says brother and bass player Martin. “The film lets us examine where we went wrong.”

SOUL BOYS SET FOR CANNES

The Spandau Ballet documentary that proved a hit at SXSW in March, is to be screened to buyers at the ➢ Cannes Marché next month, handled by UK sales company Metro International

“We’re human, we didn’t always get it right, we were young kids thrust into the limelight,” says singer Tony Hadley.

“We went through that terrible time facing each other in court at one point,” says instrumentalist Steve Norman. “It was awful. I put my saxophone on the top shelf and didn’t want anything to do with it for about four or five years cos it was symbolic of Spandau.”

Throughout the interview St John of the Drums emerges as the Kentish Town savant with a healing prayer for the sins that destroyed lifelong friendships between the five soulboys. “You can’t be revisionist,” Keeble observes. “It was a major thing when we got back together five years ago. You cannot unknow stuff that’s gone on but I think everyone felt in their hearts that it was now better to focus on the future. The whole world’s still in front of us.”

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➢ Why the trailer for Soul Boys of the Western
World stops you in your tracks

What’s sad from a fan’s perspective is that the live gig in Texas which followed the film’s screening was the first and only time Spandau have played together since their year-long Reformation tour ended in 2010. That comeback tour was a sensational success, just as this gig has proved to be. The video interviewer, writer Lori Majewski, called Spandau a formidable live band: “I was surprised how tight you guys were, how great the live show was!” Entertainment Weekly reported the gig exuding “a rare atmosphere for a very youth-centrict fest, and a truly inspired musical moment – not bad for a bunch of fifty-somethings”.

The documentary has received keen reviews for its sole use of vintage footage and director George Hencken’s intelligent deployment of the band’s hit tunes from the 80s. The SXSW interview also reveals that at the 1985 Live Aid concert Steve Norman shot some under-cover footage backstage where cameras officially weren’t allowed. John Keeble remarks on the amount of original footage in their movie which the band themselves had never seen before – much shot by Martin Kemp as a Super8 enthusiast – while there’s plenty more footage that didn’t make the cut. So come on, lads. Let’s stage a premiere for the Spandau out-takes.

Click on video title above, then scroll to No 7 in the playlist

❏ This meeting of travellers at a crossroads in Austin has all the signs of a mystical resurrection sent from heaven, yet we’re told a Spandau tour is unlikely to happen this side of New Year. How patient must fans be? They had to wait three years for this film to be finished, having evolved naturally from a gifted film-maker recording the Reformation tour.

Two superb books on Spandau have been in preparation for years: one, a smart limited edition photobook, still awaits a strategic publication date to support a career jump-start.

The other was commissioned ten years ago, yes ten, in a wishful gesture of reconciliation while band members roamed the wilderness of solo careers. The showbiz writer Paul Simper was rightly deemed the only person qualified and trusted to capture the fascinating inside story of Spandau Ballet. His manuscript was revised five years ago to boost the Reformation tour, then publication was postponed in order to embrace the selfsame Reformation tour. His gripping text is far more thorough than many rock biogs because of the extraordinary times it describes and the wide-ranging context his research has captured. Currently, Simper is re-retuning his words which could become the book-of-the-film – once the film is given a release date. “Hearing the band talk so eloquently and emotionally gives me new impetus,” he said today. “It’s thrilling to hear them looking to the future.”

For the fans camped at the tiny Oasis of Hope, the road to truth and reconciliation for the band who’ve been pals since schooldays is a long one, as it has been for post-apartheid South Africa, and for Ireland since partition. But y’know, those two were nations with histories riven by British politics. Not a chart-topping pop group. Why doesn’t somebody ask Jerry for his Final Word then we can all get back to the music?

SPANDAU BALLET LIVE AT SXSW 2014

AND AT THE LOU REED TRIBUTE AT SXSW

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s: Curtain up on Spandau’s rollercoaster saga of war and peace

CHEEKY CHAPPIES: THE WAY THEY WERE IN ’81

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