WELCOME ➤ TO THE SWINGING EIGHTIES

In 1980 a youth movement began reshaping Britain.
Its stars didn’t call themselves New Romantics, or the Blitz Kids – but other people did. This writer was there and these words and pictures tell the tale.

David Bowie

◼︎ As a decade, the 1970s spelt doom. British youth culture had been discredited by punk. A monumental recession followed the Labour government’s “winter of discontent”, threatening the prospect of no jobs for years ahead.
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Swinging 80s, London, history, blitz club, blitz kids, theblitzkids, theblitzclub, cult with no name, billy’s, gossip’s, nightclubs, fashion, pop music, steve strange, rusty egan, boy george, stephen jones, kim bowen, stephen linard, chris sullivan, robert elms, perry haines, princess julia, judi frankland, darla-jane gilroy,fiona dealey, jayne chilkes, derek ridgers, perry haines, terry jones,peter ashworth, lee sheldrick, michele clapton, myra, willy brown, helen robinson, stephane raynor, melissa caplan,Dinny Hall, Kate Garner, rachel auburn, richard ostell, Paul Bernstock, Dencil Williams, Darla Jane Gilroy, Simon Withers, Graham Smith, Graham Ball, christos tolera, sade adu, peter marilyn robinson, gaz mayall, midge ure, gary kemp, steve dagger,Denis O’Regan, andy polaris, john maybury, cerith Wyn Evans, iain webb, jeremy healy, david holah, stevie stewart, worried about the boy,Yet from this black hole burst an optimistic movement the press dubbed the New Romantics, based on a London club called the Blitz. Its soundtrack was a pounding synthesised electro-pop created for the dancefloor by a studio seven-piece called Visage, fronted by the ultimate poser, Steve Strange. He and other fashionista Blitz Kids were picked by Bowie to represent their movement in his 1980 video for Ashes to Ashes (above). But the live band who broke all the rules were five dandies with a preposterous name: Spandau Ballet.
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As the last of the Baby Boomers, the Blitz Kids were concerned with much more than music. In 1980 they shook off teenage doubt to express all those talents the later Generation X would have to live up to — leadership, adaptability, negotiating skills, focus. Children of the age of mass TV, these can-doers excelled especially in visual awareness. They were the vanguard for a self-confident new class who were ready to enjoy the personal liberty and social mobility heralded by their parents in the 60s.
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For Britain, the Swinging 80s were a tumultuous period of social change when the young wrested many levers of power away from the over-40s. London became a creative powerhouse and its pop music and street fashion the toast of world capitals. All because a vast dance underground had been gagging for a very sociable revolution.

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“From now on, this will become the official history”
Verdict of a former Blitz Kid.

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Below: View Blitz Club host Steve Strange in all his poser glory in the promo video for Fade to Grey (1982), also starring the club’s cloakroom girl, Julia Fodor, aka Princess

CLICK HERE to run the anthemic 80s video ♫ ♫ from Spandau Ballet and feel the chant:

nightlife, st moritz, club for heroes,le kilt, wag club, beat route,hacienda, cha-cha, holy city zoo, rum runner, camden palace, scala cinema, studio 21,crocs, le palace, white trash, fac51, Dirt Box, mud club, batcave, barbarella's, croc's, electro-pop, synth-pop, Chant No 1, kid creole, blue rondo, animal nightlife, visage, duran, depeche mode, ultravox, human league, gentry, ABC,soft cell, bolan,vince clarke, haysi, wham!, mclaren, heaven 17, yazoo, foxx, omd, bauhaus, phil oakey, jay strongman, Martyn Ware, martin fry ,altered images, 20th-century box, vivienne westwood, PX, axiom, body-map , foundry, sue clowes,demob, seditionaries, acme attractions, i-D, the face, new sounds new styles, Korniloff, andrew logan, kahn & bell, biddie & eve, toyah,

July 2, 1981: Shooting the video for Chant No 1 at Le Beat Route club in Soho, “down, down, pass the Talk of the Town”. Photograph © by Shapersofthe80s


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2022 ➤ Out of chaos comes forth Grace Jones

Grace Jones, Meltdown, Royal Festival Hall

Grace Jones’s finale at Meltdown: 20ft above the stage in Keith Haring printed dress

■ WHAT AN O-T-T SPECTACLE Grace Jones made of her finale last night as the annual Meltdown Festival’s curator over ten days at London’s Royal Festival Hall. Backed by an eight-piece band (which includes her son Paolo), plus a magical accordionist during Libertango, Grace’s own set reached back through her entire catalogue of reggae, dub, soul, new wave, pop and disco. As her supporting act, the evening had showcased the black British singer and percussionist Eska (who Radio 6’s Gilles Petersen has called “one of the most important singers in the UK”).

Grace Jones, Meltdown, Royal Festival Hall

Grace as Meltdown logo

Grace was on-stage for 1h45m while she changed costumes for virtually every number and was visibly fortifying herself during the changes with red wine, an apparent spliff and who knows what else. Let’s face it, at 74 years old, this was a helluva lot of stage minutes to cavort through in her uniquely burlesque style without break!

The show opened to reveal her singing the trip-hop This Is, mounted like a mannequin atop a massive 20ft “dress” bearing a Keith Haring print and wafting as if animated within by vigorous dancing feet. The witty chaos that followed didn’t falter, and never overshadowed the music.

Click any pic below to enlarge all in a slideshow

Telling us “I feel like the wicked witch,” Grace proceeded to destroy two sets of side drums, spin her famous hula-hoop throughout Slave to the Rhythm while tweaking her bare nipples, surf her way up through the stalls during Pull Up To the Bumper buoyed by an eager audience, then returning to the stage to fight her own full-on Hurricane from a wind machine, the whole time proffering her sensually painted torso to us, led by a curiously masculine bulge over the crotch of her black corset. All of which exhausted many among the sell-out standing audience across the generations who had to sit down at frequent intervals to recover their wits.

Grace’s legendary creative chaos endured to the end: the band had taken their bows and exited past the scheduled finish time, when Grace lit a cigarette and told us “I can sing a cappella” only to linger alone to give us La Vie En Rose. Then, er, that done, she walked off. Here’s to Grace’s 75th!

Grace Jones, Meltdown, Royal Festival Hall

Grace Jones at Meltdown: backed by her eight-piece band

➢ Read Andy Polaris’s expert review of Grace’s triumphant return to the London stage – at his blog Apolarisview

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
2011, Mother of all disco divas Grace fans her hurricane

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2022 ➤ Spandau seek your help to create a major new showcase

Spandau, New Romantics, pop music, New York City, 1981

Spandau in New York City 1981: were you there and do you have any memorabilia?

■ THE FIRST NEW BAND out of Eighties clubland to score a chart hit are planning a celebration of those early formative years when the world called them the leaders of the New Romantics.

Today Spandau Ballet – all now in their sixties – announced “a major career-defining project” and appealed to fans for help. The band invites everyone who attended any of their performances between 1979 and 1981 to send in memorabilia such as flyers, posters, tickets, video or film footage of Spandau Ballet, onstage and off. For example, these would include their appearances at London’s Blitz Club, Mayhem Studios, Scala Cinema, HMS Belfast, their first Top of the Pops, Birmingham’s Botanical Gardens, Tiger Bay Cardiff, Heaven and the Sundown in London, Exeter Bowl Bournemouth, Le Palace in Paris, the Underground Club in New York, the Ku Club in Ibiza or the Much More in Rome.

Likewise, send them your memories of the pace-setting dance-led clubs during those years, such as Billy’s, the Blitz, Rum Runner, Le Beat Route, Le Kilt, Club for Heroes, Danceteria, the Voodoo Club, or from 1982 the Camden Palace and the Wag club. Again, memorabilia that captures the fashions and the atmosphere is welcomed.

➢ Click to visit Spandau’s special website for
submissions and more information

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
1980, Steve Strange’s call to join the party

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1982 ➤ When fans first screamed for Spandau and two climbed up to their window

Spandau Ballet, Blitz Kids, New Romantics, Liverpool Empire, 1982, Diamond Tour, fans,

8 May, 1982: Now identified! A teenage fan shins the drainpipe at the Liverpool Empire giving access to Spandau Ballet’s dressing room on their first nationwide tour with the Diamond album. Snapped by © Shapersofthe80s

40
YEARS
ON

■ THE YEAR WAS 1982. Spandau’s seventh single Instinction had put them on Top of the Pops during Easter week and sales were rocketing. The night of May 8, towards the end of Spandau’s first nationwide tour, with stand-up comedian Peter Capaldi in support, has become known as The Return of the Scream. The moment the house lights dimmed, a mighty roar lifted the roof off the Empire, the city’s legendary music venue. It didn’t stop for 75 minutes. The band hadn’t heard anything so intense and were visibly shaken when they came offstage. Guitarist Gary Kemp said in disbelief: “I had to stop playing. I couldn’t hear my own monitor.”
➢ Click through to read all about 8 May 1982 – the return of The Scream to British pop

Yes says Jan: that’s me shinning up
the drainpipe in 1982

■ A 30 YEAR-OLD MYSTERY HAS BEEN SOLVED. At the climax to Spandau Ballet’s first national tour in 1982 fan mania broke out on a level comparable to the 1960s. When their single Instinction crashed into the UK charts with freshly injected energy from producer Trevor Horn, three extra tour dates were added in May. After the show in Liverpool, the creative birthplace of British pop music, a crowd of about 500 fans mobbed the stage door at the fabled Empire theatre. A shadow had only to fall across the band’s dressing room window for screams to erupt in the street. Two girls then decided to shin the drainpipe and beat the window with their handbags until they were let in…

➢ Click through for more about the girls who entered Spandau’s dressing room via the window

Spandau Ballet, Blitz Kids, New Romantics, Liverpool Empire, 1982, Diamond Tour, Martin Kemp, fans, Gary Kemp,Steve Norman, Tony Hadley, Peter Capaldi

Inside the Liverpool Empire, May 8, 1982: fans shocked security staff with the roar that greeted Spandau Ballet. Photograph by © Shapersofthe80s

➢ 1982, How Spandau put Peter Capaldi on the road
to play the new Doctor Who

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1982 ➤ Strange takes UK clubbing mainstream

Koko, Camden Theatre, Camden Palace, nightclubbing, music venue, fire, architecture, Music Machine,

Steve Strange in 1982: for ever being filmed at Camden Palace

40
YEARS
ON

❏ In the same season that Next opened its first shops in Britain to bring colour to the high street, Steve Strange and Rusty Egan went mainstream with their first mega-club venue for the growing generation of nightlifers who had discovered that dressing up could change your life. On this day in April 1982, Strange & Egan began fronting what became the Camden Palace a couple of nights a week, way north of London’s West End. This huge Edwardian theatre was most famous in the postwar years as BBC radio’s studio for recording the Goon Shows.

Within its first year and open five nights a week, the Palace came to offer easily the best night out in London because, as well as the usual delights, this poser’s paradise won a reputation for offering more. The world’s media and photographers learned this was the fashionable place to find the next big thing and on the crowded stairways here, posing truly began to pay its way…

During 1982 mega-clubs began appearing across the country, from the Hacienda in Manchester to Rock City in Nottingham and the Academy in Bournemouth. Click below to read my report in the Evening Standard nailing how streetwise New Romantic followers set about expressing their inner talents in ways that helped transform rampant unemployment into a jobs market in which the young began to thrive…

Camden Palace, nightclubbing, Steve Strange

First published in the Evening Standard, 11 May 1983

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
1983, A silly hat and a calculated look might be
the best career move you’ve ever made

London, nightlife

Palace forecourt 1983: in their circle of peers everyone in this picture is a household name. Picture © by David Montgomery

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
2020, Second time unlucky as fire ravages
the former Camden Palace nightspot

➢ 2022, On 29 April Koko, the renamed Camden Palace,
reopens as a state-of-the-art venue after massive refurbs
including a new roof garden. Arcade Fire plays live

Koko, nightclub, London, reopens, live venue

Koko in 2022: a roof-terrace bar as part of its £70m refurbishment

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2022 ➤ New Romantics? Here are some who won’t own to that name

BFI Flare Film Festival 2022, Tramps!, Kevin Hegge, Brian Robertson, movies, New Romantics

After yesterday’s Gala premiere of Tramps! – BFI host at left, then director Kevin Hegge, Scarlett Cannon, Jeffrey Hinton, Philip Sallon, Verity Susman (music), Matthew Sims (music) and Brian Robertson (producer). (Photo © Tessa Hallmann)

❚ MAYBE IT TAKES AN OUTSIDER to see a whole decade with a fresh perspective? Saturday night saw the launch of a documentary called Tramps! that attempts to do just that in almost two hours.  The much-spun truths and fables of a movement which, even after this film’s premiere, refuses to own its given name, appears to have a new champion. In truth there was not just one group of people who started the emerging movement, there clearly were many who at times intermingled but also grew their own quiet revolutions under a greater umbrella that later came to be called a cult: the New Romantics. This is the story of some of them.

Tramps!, BFI Flare Festival, Mark Dooris, review, movies

FILM REVIEW BY
MARK DOORIS
(Photo Tessa Hallmann)

The Canadian Kevin Hegge’s film opens cleverly to a domestic picture of the model Scarlett Cannon tending to her sun-drenched garden as she recollects her formative years. In this unexpected view of a woman whose powerful and iconic imagery has been documented and used as one of the least compromising style statements of the Eighties (playing “key identity” for the V&A Museum’s major exhibition From Club to Catwalk), she speaks about simply being there!

Just like the film’s poster, this is well-placed bait that slowly draws you into what will turn out to be a very well-constructed game plan. A definitive film about the so-called New Romantics has yet to be made but this contribution to the BFI’s annual Flare Film Festival offers a well-stacked sandwich of people and events that gives a very personal view of their experiences through a uniquely creative period of history.

Driven by a musical score that both emotes and supports the story, we see unfolding before us spliced and collaged pictures and film clips of a selection of renegades who love and survive in punk’s underlying gloom and spend ten years carving out a brighter world through Thatcher’s hectic Britain. The patchworking together of views and motivations of some of the witnesses proves that the movement was bigger than its over-used title.

Judy Blame steals the show by saying it as it is. The unrepentant gay designer, who has sadly died since being interviewed by Hegge, is often overlooked for his contribution to Eighties style and gay culture. Disc jockey Princess Julia remains a constant through the film, as indeed she should, as a very relevant force in style and club culture to this day.

In a new twist, nightlife entrepreneur Philip Sallon was given credit and indeed respect for his very singular influence on both the scene and indeed the followers who helped change the growing movement. Unlike many previous interviews, this time they let his wit and views be heard rather than using him as the cymbal-clapping monkey who offers only light relief to the story of the times. At Saturday’s screening, the effervescently clad Philip asked the audience to be kind to each other and to look beyond the superficial outer paint to the person within and that, at its core, is what this film itself does.

BFI Flare Film Festival 2022, Tramps!, Kevin Hegge, movies,

Kevin Hegge, director of the documentary TRAMPS! © Kevin Hegge

“If you have a bone of contention with
the movie… make your own movie”
– director Kevin Hegge

John Maybury talks of his film-making career and the people who appear in the clips we see of his days in the legendary Warren Street squat, plus the influence and support that director Derek Jarman gave him to discover and use his skills after being invited to join what turned out to be the cult film Jubilee in 1977. Artist Andrew Logan with his occasional Alternative Miss World competitions is rightly identified as a pioneering force in the new bohemia party scene that was emerging, while the painter Duggie Fields added some graceful recollections of this time gone by, he too having passed on since filming.

Thrown aside are the frilly shirts in favour of the BodyMap duo of David Holah and Stevie Stewart, offered up as the fashion revolutionaries who, hand in hand with Michael Clark and Les Childs, danced to a different beat. Performance artist Leigh Bowery is featured throughout the film and images of his eccentricity almost drive the visual impact with its cinematic styling and its Venus in Furs-esque vibe. An intriguing insight is given into the apparent genius of Bowery’s room-mate Trojan (Guy Barnes), his part in the Taboo nightclub set and the impact he might have continued to make if not for his untimely death.

Michael Costiff and his amazing partner Gerlinde are acknowledged for their roles in both the club world and the counter culture that was emerging, as were Miss Binnie and the Neo Naturists who are almost forgotten in most reviews of the Eighties. Sadly many people were lost to the Aids epidemic that cut its way through the careers of others referenced within the film and their contribution to gay culture, as was the demise of many in the drug-fuelled parts of club world. What and who are missing is a list too long to type but a refreshing and often underplayed star emerges in disc-jockey Jeffrey Hinton’s outlook during a pivotal chapter in the history of style.

Curiously, the title Tramps! and its poster are misleading about the ground this film covers and what it offers instead, but as an insight into how key people saw their time in the sun, it’s a winner. And impressively moving.

The Gala evening was not awash with big names from the Eighties and indeed a grave lack of New Romantic superstars was evident at both screening and drinks party after. Sadly the promised Questions and Answers section never really hit the mark and no chance was given for the audience to question the director or cast. That said, Tramps! made a great choice for the closing night of the Flare Festival.

❏  The film is not yet on general release

Blitz Kids, film, New Romantics, Swinging 80s, Michele Clapton, George O’Dowd, Lee Sheldrick , Princess Julia, Kevin Hegge, Tramps!, BFI Flare Festival

Leading the Goth wave in 1980: Blitz Kids Michele Clapton, George O’Dowd, Lee Sheldrick and Princess Julia, on the rooftop at St Martin’s School of Art, photographed by Graham Smith and dressed in Gothic mode for Stephen Linard’s “Neon Gothic” collection in the second year’s Alternative Fashion Show

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s: 1981, Who are the New Romantics, what are their sounds and how do they dance?
➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
1980, The year the Blitz Kids took their first steps into the headlines

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