❚ SHAPERS OF THE 80S TELLS THE DEFINITIVE STORY of a subcultural revolution in British music and style 30 years ago. Its detonator was a youthful blast of impossible trendiness and its stars didn’t call themselves New Romantics, or the Blitz Kids – but other people did. This site gathers together the eye-witness journalism and photography of one observer who knew a good time when he saw one and was published in the coolest titles of the day.
Now in its fifth year, this site has attracted a total of 722,500 views since its launch, according to year-ending WordPress stats. The figures also identify the 20 most widely read items out of more than 600 posted here. Most of these pieces were first published back in the day, but seven of the Top 20 items reflect the continuing interest expressed through the recent 80s revival. In many ways, London is again displaying all the symptoms of being the world’s most swinging city, as it was in the 60s and the 80s, when there were a galaxy of reasons to hit the town every single night of the week.
The difference seven months made: In May 1980 The Face launched with Jerry Dammers of the Specials on its cover. By November the new direction was Bowie plus a feature on The Cult With No Name, as the New Romantics were first known
Left, real Blitz Kids – right, the TV version… George’s boyfriend Wilf and fashion student Stephen Linard in 1979 (picture, Andy Rosen)… Daniel Wallace as a Linard lookalike and Douglas Booth as Boy George in Worried About the Boy, 2010 (BBC)
Seminal spread in i-D issue one: the straight-up style of photography is established with, at left, one then unknown New Romantic and, right, one punkette. Photographed on the King’s Road by Steve Johnston
Click pic to open the Wham Rap! video in another window … “Man or mouse” Andrew Ridgeley establishes his clubbing credentials – along with sidekick George Michael – in the opening shots of the Wham! video by reading this very Face cover story on Club Culture that you’re about to read!
THE MOST READ FEATURE ARTICLE AMONG 720,000 VIEWS SINCE THE LAUNCH OF SHAPERS OF THE 80s
➢ Spandau Ballet, the Blitz Kids and the birth of the New Romantics — The much-plundered story originally researched by Shapers of the 80s tells who did what to make stars out of a club houseband, change the rhythm of the UK charts — and ultimately rejuvenate the British media. The obsessive fashionistas behind one small club in London in 1980 went on to dominate the international landscape of pop and fashion, while putting more British acts into the US Billboard charts than the 1960s ever achieved.
➢ Three key men in Boy George’s life – In 2010 the BBC turned the pop star’s teens ’n’ twenties into a 90-minute drama of foot-stamping, chair-throwing, cry-baby tantrums over his self-confessed “dysfunctional romances”, all of which he had documented in his eye-wateringly frank 1995 autobiography, Take It Like a Man. Shapers of the 80s summarises George O’Dowd’s stormy lovelife.
At home in Kentish Town Chris Sullivan chooses the right zootsuit for today’s mood: his wardrobe is legendary, his taste impeccable, and his influence immeasurable. Shapersofthe80s shot this for his first Evening Standard interview in June 1981
Braced for the Piers Morgan grilling: Martin Kemp (right) with Spandau manager Steve Dagger, Steve Norman and Shirlie Kemp. (Cam-tweet by Kemp cam)
❚ ALL THEREAL MARTIN KEMP tweeted last night was “#lifestories What a wonderful evening…. Thanks everyone!” Closely followed by Spandau Ballet pal Steve Norman Real tweeting: “I have arrived at the conclusion that @piersmorgan is actually a gentleman”!!! Closely followed by legendary gossip hack and TV host Piers Morgan tweeting: “Ssshhhh, you’ll ruin my reputation @SteveNormanReal”!!!
Four ropey backstage snaps were also tweeted from their respective camphones, but otherwise the Spandau camp were remaining tightlipped about what was revealed at Elstree Studios yesterday. Spandau bass player and TV star Martin (aka onetime EastEnders bad boy Steve Owen) had been a special guest for the new series of Piers Morgan’s Life Stories, and the two-hour recording has yet to be edited down to its final 40 minutes for broadcast very soon.
Morgan is the notorious former editor of Britain’s tabloid Daily Mirror, currently based in the United States, whose Life Stories are famous for wringing tears from at least 11 of his celebrity interviewees in front of live audiences, spiced up with video contributions from friends and family. A sort of This Is Your Life with the gloves off.
Today Martin remained tactful about how moist his grilling became: “It was a close-run thing… But it was so much fun.”
Morgan’s 10th series for ITV starts with Coronation Street’s former termagant Bet Lynch aka Julie Goodyear in the hot seat at 9pm on Sept 20. This firecracker will also feature “revealing interviews with her ex-lovers, former co-stars and close friends” it says, so Julie must be gritting her teeth behind those scarlet lips. (Kempie was Julie’s best pal inside last year’s Celebrity Big Brother house – until almost the end, so we might see whether they’ve kissed and made up since.)
In the new series Julie Goodyear is being followed by Gloria Hunniford, Brian Blessed, Julian Clary, Peter Waterman and Beverley Callard (kidnap victim Liz McDonald in Corrie). So far no date set for Steve Owen!
Moral support at the Elstree studios: the Kemp family, Roman, Harleymoon, Martin and Shirlie. (Cam-tweet by Kemp cam)
Electronic Beach Club in Ibiza: Rusty Egan and Steve Norman poised to start last Friday’s session. Photograph courtesy El Brasero
❚ THEY WERE DANCING IN THE STREETS OF IBIZA last Friday night to the toe-tapping toons of Steve Norman (saxophonist, guitarist and percussionist with Spandau Ballet) and Rusty Egan (former Visage drummer and deejay at London’s legendary Blitz Club in the 80s). Regular readers of Shapersofthe80s know that Norman-Egan’s storming double act, billed as Electronic Beach Club, have been entertaining sunseekers at the Nassau Beach Club on Playa D’en Bossa, fortnightly since May and they’re in residence until September.
Steve of course made his home on what he calls “this fair, white isle of Ibiza” in the 90s when he introduced the idea of live musical improvisation with the deejay at a club residency in San Antonio. What’s new today is the idea of beach clubs, and he and Rusty are finding themselves in demand across the island. Last Friday saw a huge gay pride street party in Ibiza town when the open-air El Brasero restaurant invited them to entertain the crowds from a first-floor terrace. Their playlist featured a lot of 80s pop and even Daft Punk’s Get Lucky. Naturally, we asked Steve for an update…
❏ Steve Norman writes: “Friday’s street party was fantastic, very emotional. My first proper street gig since The Roots Silver Jubilee set back in 1977. El Brasero is one of a collection of fab little eateries in the Gypsy quarter of Ibiza town. We set up on the terrace overlooking the street with a washing line complete with the family’s Sunday best hung out to dry serving as a backdrop.
Photographs by El Brasero, Carrer Passadis 4, Ibiza
The week’s washing aloft, Egan-Norman to the fore
Click any pic to launch carousel
“Rusty surpassed himself with his choice of tunes and I sweated like a trooper on what was a very, very hot August night. But the main protagonists were the crowd, all the people drinking, eating or passers-by who stopped to watch. They all entered into the spirit of the event and the connection was made. For me it was one of my fave gigs ever. And the woman whose washing line it was never did throw water over me as she had threatened to do, should I not live up to her expectations, when what I could’ve done with was a nice cold shower!
“All great with Rusty, he’s a pal. Not driving me nuts anything like he normally does. I am doing gigs without him as he is doing without me but we have something unique together. What go down well are songs that people half recognise. Melody is the key, that’s why I believe the sax resonates so much with audiences. I always try to be singalongy with what I play – as Deuce Barter says, ‘simple phrases that the postman can whistle’. Oh and a deep version of True by Deep Mind normally finishes it off quite nicely.
“I’ll be taking my sax to Sa Trincha at Salinas Beach Friday for a brief session with deejay Franco Moiraghi and again with Franco at Downtown Cipriani when the restaurant turns into a nightclub on Saturday night/Sunday morning… that’s a very decent gig indeed. Rusty’s coming to watch and take the piss!”
HERE THEY ARE IN THE LOCAL PROMO
❏ Una actualización del comerciantes del Barrio / Update: Newly published video by the retailers of the Marina district to capture the Ibiza Orgullosa and the inimitable Norman-Egan double act… “Exito espectacular de la primera edicion de Ibiza Orgullosa, organizada por la asociacion del barrio de la Marina de Ibiza ciudad. Gracias a todos por asistir y disfrutar del evento.”
“Possibly one of the best shows yet,” he says, this time featuring Giorgio Moroder, Pet Shop Boys, MGMT, Vivien Glass, Vile Electrodes, Margaret Berger, Kid Moxie, Perfume, Marsheaux, BEF, Sin Cos Tan, Mason, Isaac Junkie feat Heaven 17’s Glenn Gregory, Kurt Baggaley, OMD, Tenek and more.
Steve Norman snapped by Neil Matthews for Flexipop! The location is Parliament Hill lido in north London in 1981. In the caption fit Steve Norman reports: “I love scuba diving. Funnily enough, I’ve never caught one yet.”
❚ A GREAT MUSICAL PARTNERSHIP lands on the Mediterranean island of Ibiza tomorrow. Fresh from their pop-up jam sessions at the Cannes film fest, two former 80s Blitz Kids – Spandau Ballet’s sax-percussionist Steve Norman plus Visage drummer and club deejay Rusty Egan – continue their working holiday in the sun. Getaway hedonists can catch their storming double act at the Nassau Beach Club on Playa D’en Bossa, fortnightly on Mondays until September.
It’s a trick they’ve been pulling at smart parties and corporate events ever since Spandau asked Egan to introduce their Reformation reunion tour performances at London’s O2 in 2009. There, as a warm-up before the show, the deejay reminded audiences of the synth soundtrack to the New Romantic era – electronic Blitz Club classics by The Normal, Gina X, Kraftwerk and the like. The chemistry was apt: Egan was co-founder of the original 80s Blitz club-night, while Spandau Ballet emerged from its members in 1979 as the house band who put the rhythms of the new decade into the charts.
After the Reformation tour, Norman and Egan teamed up to develop a deejay-led set enhanced with live saxophone, percussion and any other instruments the versatile Steve laid his hands on.
May 28 update: no sign of first-night nerves as Steve makes friends at Nassau Beach Club. Photograph from Kitita Pastrana (centre)
On the phone from Cannes this week Steve said: “We’re playing soulful deep house, four on the floor. With me vibing on top of Rusty’s music, it gives an audience something to focus on. It’s always nice to see somebody hit hell out of the bongos!”
For Steve this kind of bongo-bashing started in 1988. “My mate Deuce Barter said I should come down to his Passion club in Maidenhead and meet Joe Becket. We went head to head in a battle of the bongos playing live over house music and we hit it off. On the strength of that battle I asked Joe if he would like to join Spandau Ballet on the 1989-90 tour. He was gobsmacked.” Later, Joe Bongo was to become the regular percussionist in Steve’s band Cloudfish after Spandau split.
In 1993 Steve made his home in Ibiza and during 12 years there he introduced his idea of improvising live with the deejay at a club residency in San Antonio. “It was an extension of my antics with Spandau. I’m the one who moved around the stage. I’d climb up on a speaker with my sax, flying by seat of my pants, feeling very exposed up there, so I’d pull out all the stops.”
These days, though billing themselves as Electronic Beach Club, Steve insists the musical collaboration with Egan is “definitely not to be lumped in with the retro movement”. EBC have moved on from 80s sounds to contemporary club music, interspersed with current mixes of classic tracks.
He says: “I do play Spandau mixes. In an uptempo version of True by Deep Mind I just lay down the sax and Rusty drops in the Oakenfold mix and I switch to heavy percussion. We also do Fade to Grey mixed up with Magic Fly. That’s his little nod to the original Visage.”
Last autumn, Steve scoped out the Nassau Beach Club during his first visit to Ibiza in four years and he’s basing himself there with Rusty for the summer. “It’s my second home, where I left a little piece of me. It’s where my son Jack was brought up and daughter Lara was born and I struggle to accept I’m not still there. I’m trying to convince Mrs Preston Norman to come out and drag herself away from the dog and cat at our cottage in Hampshire.
Nassau Beach Club
“What’s new on Ibiza is this idea of beach clubs. I remember when the Blue Marlin was just a few tables and chairs on the sand, now it’s become a nightclub on the beach. These places are springing up all over the island. After chilling out by day, people are ready to go for it by night. At the Nassau Club there’s a stage area on the beach where Rusty plays a set 5-8pm, with me raising the tempo.”
Creatively, the Norman-Egan team want to make more music together. Steve says: “I’ve done a sax track on Rusty’s album project and we still hope to do a track together.” On July 18 Steve will be a “gun for hire” joining an all-star supergroup called Holy Holy at the massive Latitude Festival in Suffolk, when London’s ICA presents Bowiefest, a celebration of the Ziggy/Aladdin year of 1973. The line-up so far features Clem Burke of Blondie, James Stevenson of Generation X, Gary Stondage of Big Audio Dynamite, Traci Hunter and Maggi Ronson on BVs.
Speculation grows around another reunion by Spandau Ballet. What can be confirmed is the epic documentary film by Scott Millaney, Soul Boys of the Western World, due out next spring. Steve promises his own exclusive discovery. “I found an old home movie from 1977 made by my dad on Standard 8. You see us pre-Spandau all performing up the road from Tony’s for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee celebrations – at a street party.” Busking, obviously!
THIS SUMMER’S SUN-AND-SEA SOUNDS
Rusty Egan in action with his Traktor Scratch Pro
❏ Hot from Rusty Egan on his Lilo: “I’m playing chilled beach mixes and remixes of classic tracks like True by Deep Mind, and electro pop such as Kate Bush’s This Woman’s Work (Echoes Remix), some cool house with Grass Is Greener’s Start Again, and Lewis Lastella’s remixes of Depeche Mode’s Enjoy The Silence and New Order’s Blue Monday.”
Kate Bush remixed above, Depeche Mode remixed below
+++ ➢ Footnote to the top pic – In Dec 1980 Flexipop! was launched as a plastic 7-inch disc with an overexcitable magazine attached. It was invented by music journalists Tim Lott and his business partner at the time, Barry Cain. It made the career of “Smudger” Neil Matthews, one-third of the official New Romantic photography contingent (along with Graham Smith and Shapersofthe80s), and his pix were exhumed late last year in archive form at a Flexipop Facebook page.
MORE INTERESTING THAN MOST PEOPLE’S FANTASIES — THE SWINGING EIGHTIES 1978-1984
They didn’t call themselves New Romantics, or the Blitz Kids – but other people did
“I’d find people at the Blitz who were possible only in my imagination. But they were real” — Stephen Jones, hatmaker, 1983. (Illustration courtesy Iain R Webb)
“The truth about those Blitz club people was more interesting than most people’s fantasies” — Steve Dagger, pop group manager, 1983
➢ THE BLOG POSTS on this front page report topical updates ➢ ROLL OVER THE MENU AT TOP to go deeper into the past ➢ FOR NEWS & MONTH BY MONTH SEARCH, see the sidebar below ➢ WELCOME to the Swinging 80s
✱ Above, Steve Norman and Martin Kemp in 1980... If you’re planning to visit Texas hoping to see Spandau Ballet’s gig or the premiere of their biopic Soul Boys of the Western World on March 12, read the small print. The organisers say about $12 tickets being offered on the day: “Advance ticket purchases do not guarantee reserved seating or entry to the theatre”
✱ Singer Tony Hadley announces a 10-stop UK tour performing songs from his new album along with the hits of Spandau Ballet once again with a full orchestra, the Southbank Sinfonia, climaxing at London’s Theatre Royal Drury Lane ... Catch him too at both Rewind Festivals 2014 ... Also Big Tone’s party show Saturdays 7–9pm GMT on Absolute 80s Radio
✱ Booking now: Spandau songwriter Gary Kemp opens in the landmark 60s musical Fings Ain’t Wot They Used T’be at the Theatre Royal Stratford East on May 8. Pictured above with Jessie Wallace
✱ Turner Prize winning artist and wag Martin Creed asks ‘What’s the point of it?’ in the first major survey of his work, spanning its most minimal moments and extravagant room-sized installations at London’s Hayward Gallery, 29 January–27 April 2014. We are promised wit, humour and surprise in a series of events including a performance of his ballet Work No 1020, and a new work for organ Face to Face With Bach. Below, Work No 79, Some Blu-Tack
✱ Scarlett Johansson fronts the spring 2014 issue of a restyled and no-longer confused Dazed magazine, photographed by Benjamin Alexander-Huseby, styled by Jacob K. This 224-page issue claims to be a call to arms for the creatively minded
✱ Pre-spring 2014 i-D’s Future Fashion issue 329 may or may not be out soon (impossible to tell from its un-navigable new website). Photography Alasdair McLellan
✱ The Laboratory Project is a utopian vision designed to take music to a global audience. Sample its latest compilation Taste Masters 4 on iTunes
✱ Powering on into the spring – Peter Hook & The Light perform Joy Division/New Order live at home and abroad
✱ Tue-Sat: Distrkt, Green Room, FCK, #FRI251, Stonelove on Sats at Factory251 – house, garage, hiphop, tech, Soul, disco and indie over three floors designed by Ben Kelly ... Clubnights and live bands at Princess St Manchester M1 7EN
✱ Remake Remodel claims to be “The Nation’s Saving Grace of Alternative, Rock’n’Roll” with pure indie at Soup Kitchen, Manchester, on Mondays, and at Ruby Lounge every first Saturday
✱ As Robbie Vincent considers life after Jazz FM, Shapersofthe80s tells how Robbie influenced the shape of British musical taste in his 35 years as master of hot cuts... Meanwhile JazzFMLondon has left the national network
237,000 VIEWS PER YEAR
◆ By January 2014 WordPress had reported more than 474,000 views at Shapers of the 80s during the prevous two years
Judi at Spandau’s 1981 Sundown show, pictured by Shapersofthe80s
David Bowie spotted Steve Strange, of 1980s group Visage, wearing one of Judith Frankland’s creations, a black wedding dress, and asked if he could use it in his video. Judi says now: “Steve and I became firm friends. The Blitz was the place to be seen. It wasn’t big and could only hold 200 people, but you could never be too outrageous and only the wildly dressed got in. Those who stood around never met anyone… I can’t remember going to *meet* men in the Blitz. In purple, black and white make-up you felt like death anyway.”
◆ Shapersofthe80s is declared an “invaluable website” by historian Dominic Sandbrook, author of the rich new cultural analysis, Seasons in the Sun: The Battle for Britain, 1974–1979. We report how Sandbrook gives generous credit to key influencers on youth culture. His unstuffy combination of high and low life energised the BBC2 series The Seventies aired in 2012
◆ Elsewhere at Shapers of the 80s, telly don Simon Schama succinctly expresses why we should document the “irreverent freedom” that is a special aspect of life in Britain
◆ Tony Hadley at Facebook: “My wife and I are pleased to announce the safe arrival of our beautiful baby daughter born on February 6, 2012” ... But for Spandau, Tony dropped another bombshell on ITV’s Loose Women on May 16
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