Category Archives: Pop music

2015 ➤ All in one room – more Blitz Kids than you could shake a New Romantic frill at

Café Royal, commemoration

Style guru Peter York meets Steve Strange’s family at Club Café Royal last night – sister Tanya, nephew Connor and mother Gill at right – with old friends centre, Judi Frankland and Anne Pigalle. (Photographed by © Shapersofthe80s)

◼ A BUZZING REUNION OF OLD ROMANTICS partied hard last night in memory of the inspirational host of the 80s Blitz Club Steve Strange, who died suddenly last February. He would have been proud of the gathering at London’s Club Café Royal last night, organised by his close friends Rosemary Turner, Amanda Lloyd and Steve Mahoney. Along with Amanda, Steve’s mother Gill and sister Tanya Harrington have created a charity called the Steve Strange Collective to sustain his legacy as style icon, popstar and one of the key shapers of the 80s. This celebration of Britain’s New Romantic heyday was the first of their projects.

The most impressive turnout last night came from the St Martin’s Massive ’78-84, a galaxy of original Blitz Club regulars whose attitude and talent ignited a new pop culture that became the Swinging 80s. Significant absentees included those living abroad or currently on the road with their still-active acts, such as Rusty Egan, Culture Club and Spandau Ballet.

The champagne party warmed up with a series of Steve’s admirers providing intermittent entertainment, opening with poet Celine Hispache. As Two Blondes and a Harp, former Shock dancer Lowri-Ann Richards in leather jacket and her accompanist Glenda Clwyd gave us a Berlinesque rendering of Visage’s Pleasure Boys. Cabaret chantoose Eve Ferret shimmied in a full-length black peignoir before the Harrington family, first setting fashionistas Stephen Jones and Fiona Dealey a-boogeying before animating her number All Ze French I Know by scattering mangetouts o’er the guests. Eve reminded us how Steve became the nucleus around whom a generation of like-minded spirits came to express themselves. For her the night became more special when she was reunited with her onetime partner James Biddlecombe of their act Biddie and Eve which was a backbone of the Blitz wine bar’s cabaret programme.

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Later Romance vocalist Jamie Lovatt reminded us of his near triumph on The Voice TV talent show, and electro-swing deejay Lee Being gave us Love Croaks. Finally came the loyal friends who joined with Steve in recent years to revive the 80s clubbing spirit with their Face club-nights, Camden Palace doyenne Rosemary Turner and new-generation deejay Alejandro Gocast. He hushed the guests gently and reminded us with intense poignancy of Steve’s giant influence on possibly every single person in the room tonight.

Another giant figure quietly circulating the party was style guru Peter York, who in this context we could dub the Anna Wintour of subcultural commentators, having documented all manner of British tribes from Sloane Rangers to his unique discovery, Them, in his landmark book Style Wars. Back in the day, York claimed that Steve’s Blitz club created “a powerful mix of magpie retro, fastidious taste and market exploitation, tailor-made for what they were calling the art form of the 80s”. Last night, he was charm itself, evidently wowed to meet the Harrington family.

The evening’s music was absolutely on fleek. While David Holah resurrected the fabulous Blitz Jive amid some hefty dancing to good old Romo tunes from Roxy and Japan and Bowie, spinning the platters was a sequence of deejays from Lee Being, Dennis Da Silva, Alejandro Gocast, Steven John Proctor to Little Andy.

Lifelong friend of Steve and bright spark of the Welsh contingent Kim Smith reported today: “Steve, we celebrated your life last night and it was fabulous to meet people that you have told me about.”

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In no particular order here are few of the guests we recognised at the Club Café Royal celebration, with apologies to many more whose names we hope to add once they become known. . .

Gill, Tanya and Connor Harrington, Kim Smith, Mark Fuller, Mark Paul Jones, Lorraine Fitzgerald, Amanda and Shannon Lloyd, Lloyd Daniels, Trevor Byron Jones, Richard Lewis, Peter York, Princess Julia, Fiona Dealey, Stephen Jones, Greg Davis, Judith Frankland, Duggie Fields, Darla Jane Gilroy, David Holah, Steve Mahoney, Jennie Belle Star Matthias, Dennis Da Silva, Alejandro Gocast, Steven Proctor, Little Andy, Leo Baker, Paul Simper, Mark Wardel, Pam Hogg, Daniel Lismore, Franceska Luther King, Anne Pigalle, Mick Hurd, Peter Ashworth, Kiki, ‪Gabriella Palmano‪, Paul Lonergan, Gemma O’Brian, Bob Biewald, Louise Prey, Ajay Kenth, Kenny Campbell, Nelson Santos, Robert Gordon Eddie, Tamara Adair, Lowri-Ann Richards, Janice Long, Tommy Mack, Mark Tabard, Laura D’Alessio, Steven Jones, Logan Sky, John Harlow, Kevin Buck, Marc Albert, Pinkietessa Pinkie, Caroline Fox, Terry Challingsworth, Soraya Wilkinson-Wyke, Sandra Fox, Angelina Emma Whelan, Bart Barton, Francesca Shashkova, Crimson Skye, Philip Anthony Gable, Nigel Marlow, Tony Vickers, Mark Allen, James Leigh, Ffio Welford, Fifi Russell, Peter Barney, Jurgita Kareivaite-Hamblin, Alejandro Dante, Neena Richies, Dave Baby, Glenda Clwyd, Matthew Mullane, ‪Lee Being, Issidora Mua Rose‬, Heather Crimson, Andy Adamson, Jamie Karl, Alex Gerry, Sasha De Suinn, Stephanie Henie, Dane Goulding, Michelle Deyna-Hayward, Kevin Bennett…

➢ Click to view Nigel Marlow’s brief video at Club Café Royal

➢ Click to view video by Francesca Shashkova of Alejandro’s moving tribute to Steve

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s:
A Strangely Steve farewell – the funeral video, 2015

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s:
Original Blitz Kids say farewell to Steve Strange, their host, pivot, style icon, friend


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. . .

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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 ➤ Pitch now to make a video for Duran’s slinky come-back party single

Pressure Off, Paper Gods, Duran Duran, album, video,UK tour, US tour

Duran reignited for 2015: Roger Taylor drums, John Taylor bass, Nick Rhodes keyboards, Simon Le Bon vocals. (Photograph by Stephanie Pistel)

◼ FILM-MAKERS AND CREATIVE TYPES, Duran Duran are talking to you! Deadline for pitching your treatment to make a new lyric video is Sunday 28 June. When they threw out a free-for-all invitation in 2011, dozens of brilliant music videos resulted from people adapting classic Duran tracks. Now DD are trying something similar for their single Pressure Off, the first from a new album, in another video collaboration with Genero TV – click now to apply.

In September, after a gap of nearly five years, the former house band of the Brummie Rum Runner club’s New Romantic scene launch a new studio album – Paper Gods, their 14th. As part of a recording deal with Warner Bros Records, the album starts the next chapter in the Duran story, and features a host of A-list collaborators who include Nile Rodgers, Mark Ronson, Mr Hudson, Janelle Monáe, John Frusciante, Kiesza and Davide Ross.

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s:
2011, Ten killer videos made as tributes
to Duran’s return to creativity

Duran Duran,Pressure Off, Janelle Monae,pop music

Pressure Off features Janelle Monáe

“We found a whole new level of inspiration on this album,” says the band’s keyboardist and aesthetic overlord, Nick Rhodes. “We were talking the other day about artists that have been around for a long time – our contemporaries and some older ones, and there’s only a handful of the latter now, still out there playing shows. And we were saying, ‘What albums did they make this far down the line that we own?’ And that was a difficult one.”

DD seem convinced that this album will be one of the most visceral and daring of their career. A senior editor at Yahoo Music has already given Pressure Off a rave review, saying: “The sexy, slinky, all-around groovy party track is the legendary group’s best single in years. . . The remix-ready cut sounds fresh and modern, even as it traffics in D2’s tried-and-true signature sounds: super-Chic chickenscratch guitars, thick ’n’ gooey basslines, sassy soul-sister backup vocals, irresistibly effervescent chants.” Listen now at YouTube and you decide (no prizes for linking the cocktail of images with DD classic hits). Pre-order Duran Duran’s Paper Gods on iTunes and get an instant download of Pressure Off.

➢ Duran Duran 2015 tour dates at their own website – The four-man Duran line-up is set to headline at Bestival, in the UK, in September, and a trickle of European tour dates kicked off this week in Barcelona and The Hague, following up with the US and UK before climaxing in December.

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s:
1981, Birth of Duran’s Planet Earth — when other people’s faith put the Brummies into the charts


Spandau 2010 ➤ Normski says Hola! to Barcelona

Steve Norman, Barcelona

Steve Norman doppelgangers in BCN: live in yer face at front of stage and caught on the video backdrop. Pictured © by Shapersofthe80s

➢ View the video of Normski’s live sax break here

◼ STEVE NORMAN GIVES A THUMBS-UP FOR BARCELONA during one of his dirrrty sax solos on Spandau Ballet’s Reformation tour in 2010 (above). He and the rest of Spandau Ballet returned to Spain this week on their worldwide Soul Boys of the Western World Live tour and tickets are still available for their two weekend dates at the Festival Pedralbes in Barcelona.

Earlier this week on his personal art tour Gary Kemp was bowled over in Bilbao: “Wow. Just seen Gehry’s Guggenheim museum for the first time in the flesh. Even in the rain its magnificent.” Martin tweets: “Thank you Madrid… You were fantastic!” Now Steve is all set: “Ya venimos Barça.”

Spandau Ballet, Soul Boys of the Western World Live, concerts, Madrid, Spain

Surprise acoustic taster: Steve Norman, Tony Hadley and Gary Kemp playing bang in the centre of Madrid. Photo: Carlos Rosillo

➢ Tickets still available for 20 and 21 June when Spandau Ballet play the Festival Pedralbes 2015 in Barcelona, priced from €58 to 128

➢ Spandau’s UK and international concerts continue through the summer months