30 years ago today ➤ First survey of their private worlds as the new young trigger a generation gap

John Maybury, Marek Kohn,Blitz culture,  ZG

Left, film-maker John Maybury in Tortures That Laugh © John Maybury 1978, artist’s collection; right, graphic from ZG magazine, issue one, 1980

❚ THE BLITZ CLUB SCENE EVOLVED RAPIDLY during the summer of 1980 as media coverage caught up, and it became clear that the New Romantics were not the only social group making waves. In the London Evening Standard’s On The Line column I had been following the Blitz Kids all year and, unsurprisingly, my nocturnal antics raised eyebrows at the Standard by day. “Do they talk sort of funny?” colleagues would ask about my bizarre playmates, meaning did they say “Leave it aht” instead of “OK yah”? Over time the generation gap I was reporting caught the attention of the Standard’s perceptive film critic Alexander Walker, who couldn’t read enough about Britain’s self-possessed youth movement. “Not so much a generation gap,” he observed sagely. “More a genus gap!” In this respect, the parallels with the digital natives of today’s Generation Y are spooky.

A key difference was the naked ambition of the media-savvy Blitz Kids who shunned rock music as a stone-age relic. They were spreading inspiration through Britain’s clubland, even as Steve Strange’s Tuesday nights at the Blitz ended suddenly on October 14, as also did Hell, their Thursday offshoot. Key players were changing trains. That very week Spandau Ballet had signed their first record deal, while I had been darting daily from concert to club to Kensington Market surveying the many competing expressions of youthful endeavour, then trying to persuade the editor Charles Wintour that A Significant Youthquake Was About To Break.

A month earlier during London fashion week I’d only just scraped into print with my first Pose Age report showing Melissa Caplan’s unisex tabards which were being worn to shock. “You’re making this up,” raged one senior editor whose veto against publishing was over-ruled by Wintour. Now I was proposing that this sweeping survey for On The Line should make a spectacular centre spread in the paper. Yet the eye-searing kids in our pictures were a bridge too far even for the enlightened Wintour, who sent me a memo saying it was all “Rather too esoteric for us”. Under protest, he finally conceded splitting the survey between two separate pages a week apart.

By Christmas Spandau’s single became a chart hit, along with Fade to Grey by Visage, fronted by Steve Strange. We could not know then how quickly Britain’s clubbing grapevine was to hurtle yet more clubland bands into the charts, many unveiled by sharp young managers the same age as the talent. Or that 1981 would soon be spinning like a New Romantic dynamo.

Evening Standard, Oct 16, 1980

First published in the Evening Standard, Oct 16, 1980

THE CYNICS may have written off London as dead in 1980 but somewhere under the skin a dozen small worlds are struggling to prove our swinging capital is not yet finished. Each private world has its own star system and its own code of conduct. Some steer a scenic route through the maze of being young, broke and having energy to spare. . .

➢ Click to continue reading
One week in the private worlds of the new young

Shaping ambitions at the Blitz in 1980: Lee Sheldrick, Melissa Caplan, Kim Bowen and Bob Elms


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