Category Archives: Youth culture

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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➤ Steve Strange: deciphering the pen portraits of the man of masks

Toyah Willcox, Steve Strange

Click on image to view BBC vintage video from 1981: Toyah Willcox interviews Strange in Robin Hood guise

◼ ONE OF STEVE STRANGE’S TALENTS was persuading the press to believe in his latest wheeze, however fantastic. He had a way of convincing himself that a story was already written and a mission achieved before he had pressed the accelerator and set off. This irritated as many journalists as it amused and many were consequently very sceptical of his next big announcement – like saying he’d booked a big American star to do her first live promotional performance in Britain at his crowning glory, the Camden Palace, capacity 1,410. But in fact he had and she did, and in June 1983 the unknown Madonna was launched singing to backing tapes for half an hour.

The myths surrounding Steve were always the stuff of self-promotion. Today, he would say, I am Robin Hood, tomorrow Ruritanian Space Cadet, the next day Marionette with the mind of a toy. A compulsive man of masks presents a tricky subject for the scribblers obliged to capture that life once it is spent, so we must tiptoe through the obituaries like a minefield, and beware of tripping over Steve’s much-spun versions of history that were pure fantasy. Even national newspapers seemed to fall for many of the dreams he spouted, as well as the exceedingly vague memories committed to his 2002 book, Blitzed.

➢ Read extracts from the obituaries inside Shapersofthe80s: As the mainstream writers lead you through those New Romantic years, see if you can spot the porkies

BOY GEORGE’S OWN TRIBUTE TO HIS RIVAL

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

FRONT PAGE

➤ Steve Strange RIP: the great provocateur who led from the front and inspired a generation

Visage ,Blitz Club,Steve Strange ,Blitz Kids, New Romantics, nightclubbing, tributes

The early Visage outside the Blitz Club in 1979: Steve Strange (second right) and from the left, Rusty Egan, John McGeogh, Barry Adamson, Billy Currie, Dave Formula and Midge Ure. (Picture © Sheila Rock)

SO FAR ONLY A FEW SERIOUS COMMENTATORS HAVE glimpsed STEVE’S WIZARDY…

➢ Tom Ewing in today’s Guardian:

The reruns of 1980s Top of the Pops on BBC4 will provide an opportunity to see the change Strange and his friends wrought – a pop scene becoming funnier, more dramatic, and more delightful to look at with each week. By 1981, and Strange’s move to a new venue, Club For Heroes, pop music looked and sounded quite different than when he’d arrived, and he’d played a huge part in the change. Nobody in pop is trusted less than the fashionable. But a generation of small viewers learned more about glamour, improvisation and style from the pop music of Steve Strange’s generation than from anything else on TV, or in real life.

Strange kept making music and running clubs, but the records he left behind – fantastic as they often were – are still only half the story. Steve Strange was important not just as a pop star from a particularly colourful scene, but as one of pop’s secret architects. . . / Continued at Guardian online

Steve Strange, Steven Harrington, Blitz Kids, New Romantics,

Leather-clad Steve Strange photographed in 1982 by Helmut Newton

➢ Neil McCormick in today’s Daily Telegraph:

Strange was a significant figure . . . his influence behind the scenes proving crucial to the newfound confidence and flamboyance of post-punk British pop in the Eighties. . . Dance music became cool again, synths reigned supreme, with Strange amongst the chief instigators of a fresh colourfulness and extravagance that brought fun and glamour back into pop, giving impetus to a flashy, eccentric scene that ultimately inspired the second British musical invasion of America.

His death from a heart attack at 55 may only leave a tiny mark on pop music but Strange himself had already made a much bigger mark. To those who knew, Strange was a genuine pioneer, an inspiration to a generation. . . / Continued at Telegraph online

➢ LISTEN to broadcaster Robert Elms – one of the original Blitz Kids – paying tribute today on BBC London 94.9:

This working-class kid orchestrated London for a couple of years. He was a worker of people, a creator of ideas, a cultural agent provocateur. . . down-to-earth, funny, scurrilous. . . And he made things happen. He played London like a musical instrument

➢ More memories of the man behind the make-up
– by ‘Betty Page’:

I interviewed Steve just before Visage’s first album was released, fully expecting to meet an arrogant 20th-century version of Beau Brummell. He was modelling the Little Lord Fauntleroy look – porcelain face make-up, tumbling curls and two finely drawn black dots placed on the tip of his nose completed the look. I told him that I wished I had the patience to apply such an immaculate maquillage.

“I’ll get up as early as it takes to get my face right,” he replied. “No matter how big the hangover.”

Now there’s dedication. That’s what it takes to be A Creation. I no longer feared that the room was too big for the three of us – Steve, his reputation and me. He was just a sweet working-class boy from Wales who liked to dress up and party. . . / Continued at Berverleyglick.com

18 FEB UPDATE: SULLIVAN’S SOHO RADIO SHOW

Sullivan's Suits - Chris Sullivan - 18th February by Soho Radio on Mixcloud

I had the immense pleasure of dedicating my radio show today to my old partner in crime and friend since early teens Steve Strange and rounded up some of his best friends to tell us some great Strangie stories including Princess Julia, Jennie Matthias of the Belle Stars, Glen Matlock of the Sex Pistols, Jeanette Calliva who ran Double Bass and The Bank with him. A real honour to do as it was a privilege to be his good friend for 40 years. He was a complete and utter maverick. He had balls the size of basketballs. He didn’t know when to stop and he never knew when the night had ended. Steve’s greatest achievement was that he sussed out he could become notorious being himself in every way and he made a living out of it.

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

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➤ Nowt so Strange as Steven John Harrington

Steve Strange, Steven Harrington, Blitz Kids, New  Romantics, nightclubbing, Swinging 80s, London, fashion, pop music, Visage, tributes

Steve Strange: Precocious club host and the face of synth band Visage, he changed British nightlife for ever

RIP Steve Strange
28 May 1959–12 Feb 2015

King of the Posers, Leader of the Blitz Kids,
co-founder of the Blitz Club,
PIED PIPER FOR THE NEW ROMANTICS,
catalyst for London’s fashion and pop
explosion in the 1980s

“ I chose to become famous and I work very hard at promoting myself. For me going out at night is work ”
– Steve Strange,
speaking to the Evening Standard in 1983

Iain R Webb, original Blitz Kid, later fashion editor of The Times and other publications, pays tribute to Steve Strange, who died in Egypt earlier today:

Steve gave us somewhere to go and beyond the crazy costumes and caked on make-up (maybe because of the…) made us each believe we had someone to be. He burned bright and we followed that light like moths to a flame – Billy’s to Blitz to Hell to Club For Heroes to Camden Palace… Oh, how we danced. His maverick spirit will never fade

Kim Bowen, stylist and former Queen of the Blitz Club, says:

“ You did create the stage on which
we all appeared ”

Andy Polaris, original Blitz Kid, and vocalist in Animal Nightlife, says:

It’s always a shock when you hear news that snatches away part of your youth. Steve Strange was not only a colourful character who had always left an impression on my teenage years. He was also a pivotal player in transforming London nightlife, along with deejay Rusty Egan. Their Tuesday nights at Billy’s club gave birth to the Blitz Club that influenced a generation of designers, musicians and artists. It’s remarkable the amount of creative talent that emerged from these clubs. It’s important to acknowledge that without Steve’s input a lot of these creative synergies might have never happened

Midge Ure, synth pioneer with Ultravox and Visage and driving force behind Band Aid, said:

Steve and Rusty created a movement in London. The Blitz and the subsequent Blitz Kids grew into a massive movement in the UK associated with fashion and image and photography. You could stand in the Blitz Club and look around you and there’d be future journalists and film-makers and writers and musicians, and a young Boy George taking coats at the coat check. There was something really vibrant about that, and they were responsible

Above: Steve Strange and three other Blitz Kids handpicked by David Bowie star in his 1980 video for Ashes to Ashes

➢ Read my history of Steve Strange, the Blitz Kids and the birth of the New Romantics at The Observer

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s:
1980, Strange days, strange nights, strange people – my invitation to the party that would last five years

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s:
1982, Strange takes six cutting-edge British fashion designers to show their wares to the French

Steve Strange, Steven Harrington, Blitz Kids, New  Romantics, nightclubbing, Swinging 80s, London, fashion, pop music, Visage, tributes

Steve Strange in 1980: wearing Willy Brown’s Modern Classics, photographed by Derek Ridgers

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s:
1983, Posing with a purpose at the Camden Palace – the ultimate expression of Strange & Egan’s clubbing prowess

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➤ Kerpow! Splat! Remix wizard Rusty unleashes all barrels on the music industry slackers

Rusty Egan, New Romantics, Blitz Kids, DJ, Kraftwerk, conference, Aston University, Soundcloud , Pop music, EDM, synthesiser,

Jan 2015: Rusty Egan ranting, sorry, lecturing at Aston University

◼ DID ASTON UNIVERSITY KNOW WHAT IT WAS DOING inviting deejay Rusty Egan to talk at an academic conference? The drummer and co-founder of the legendary 80s Blitz Club has dedicated his life to promoting electronic dance music so is uniquely qualified to spout on Germany’s seminal synth band at the world’s first scholarly gathering devoted to Kraftwerk and the Birth of Electronic Music. Conference organiser Dr Uwe Schütte claimed: “They are the most important band in the world in the way they changed music.”

Having been among their early disciples, Rusty was besotted enough to go hunting through Germany in the 70s in search of experiments in synthesised pop. His lifelong mission, he believes today, has shown “how Kraftwerk turned into Planet Rock turned into house music and what we know now as dance music.” He tells how he found the world’s first sampler in a German village called Wächtersbach, spent 12 hours making his first mash-up there and “never got paid for that record, not one dime”.

Rusty Egan, New Romantics, Blitz Kids, DJ, Kraftwerk, Pop music, EDM, synthesiser,

Sampling in Wächtersbach, 1979: ‪Rusty Egan‪ with Ian Tregoning making Wunderwerk with Franz Aumüller‬

Rusty made good with bands such as Rich Kids and Visage, in the face of the fat-cat indolence that prevailed in the torpid British music industry of the 70s, so last month’s platform enabled the now 57-year-old Rusty to settle a few scores by naming and shaming the rip-off merchants who, he says, have nicked his arrangements over the years and never paid a penny for them. By his own account, one of the guilty villains Rusty had paid £500 a day responded to his accusation saying: “Yeah but you should have kept the floppy disk.” Another lesson in the school of hard knocks.

The Aston “lecture” is described by one of the 200 delegates as “more of a comedy routine” and by Rusty himself as “Welcome to my insanity”. It’s now on Soundcloud for all to hear, and is typical of many an hour I’ve spent in Rusty’s kitchen trying to follow his uniquely entertaining stream-of-consciousness which randomly leaps from one story to the next while you work out that 20 years separates them. Early in his talk he says “I’m just mad on sound – it wasn’t a case of double paradiddle” illustrating his point with a beatbox break. So you have often to do a bit of Sherlockian deduction to finish his thoughts for him. His splenetic outbursts and ripe language (parental guidance advised) testify both to his indignation at the greed that characterises sections of the pop fraternity and to his own honesty, which even his friends suspect might be charming naivety.

Here’s his first rant:

In my experience record companies have never ever had any idea about creating music or creative people… I spent years not having any respect whatsoever for any guy in a satin jacket with Ace written on it with a briefcase with tour passes on it, long sideburns, dark glasses and a handlebar moustache, saying “Hi! I’m from your record label”. He was the last guy in the world you wanted to talk to and you had absolutely nothing you wanted to say to him.

VERDICTS BY RUSTY’S FANS AT FACEBOOK

Chi Ming Lai You will be in stitches.
Mat Mckenzie‪ This is a fantastic listen Rusty! ‬
Clive Pierce‪ Bravo… Absolutely riveting.‬
Anver Hanif‪ The knowledge and vision are superb.‬
Derek Quin‪ Rusty, you have been a massive influence on my music heritage. When I heard you speak at Aston it reinvigorated me.
Iris Peters‪ Great fun to listen to.
Jon Lowther‪ You and François Kevorkian defined the evolvement of electronica and the DJ. You have managed to maintain your passion, creativity and faith in an industry that fails. ‬
Mats From‪ I literally LOL’ed many times listening to thi‬s.

Rusty Egan, New Romantics, Blitz Kids, DJ, Kraftwerk, Pop music, EDM, synthesiser,

Kraftwerk’s pioneering drummer Wolfgang Flür: Rusty meets his hero in Dusseldorf more than 30 years after he first went in search of synth. . . “I was 22 when I met Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider and spent the evening explaining that future clubs will be playing music made by machines – what must they have thought!”

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s: 1980, One week in the private worlds of the new young when London blazes with creativity

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s: How three wizards met at the same crossroad in time – an inside scene-setter on the forces shaping the Swinging Eighties

RUSTY’S LATEST ELECTRONIC MIX

Rusty Egan February 07 2015 by Dj Rusty Egan on Mixcloud

➢ Update from Spandau Ballet: Legendary deejay and friend of the band Rusty Egan has been confirmed as the support for all of the Soul Boys of the Western World tour UK & Ireland shows

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