1980 ➤ As Spandau play in Heaven, all around we can hear the new sounds of 1981

Spreading the New Romantic message, including clothes by PX: Spandau Ballet play Heaven, Dec 29, 1980. Photographed © by Shapersofthe80s

❚ SIX WEEKS IN THE CHARTS with their debut single, To Cut a Long Story Short, on this day in 1980 Spandau Ballet play at Heaven, the biggest disco in London, and probably in Europe. Their average age is 20. A year after their unveiling at the Blitz club, this is still only the band’s tenth public date, and only their second concert since signing to Chrysalis in October. Their policy is to maintain an air of exclusivity, to thwart the backward rock press by playing admission-by-invitation dates in nightclubs rather than conventional rock venues, and to rely on stylish videos to stress the message that here was a new generation of new sounds and, equally important, new styles. Take it on trust that for the whole of 1980 Spandau Ballet had been the most achingly fashionable pop group on the planet, dressed by the designers of the moment. Significantly, as the first club band to win a record deal, they had been the only New Romantics to appear on Christmas Day’s year-ending edition of Top of The Pops, the BBC’s flagship music show. (Yes, Adam and the Ants also appeared, but he was “glam-punk”, important distinction, as Marco Pirroni confirms.)

On Dec 20, Visage, the Blitz club’s seven-piece studio line-up had entered the singles chart with Fade to Grey. The same week saw Le Kilt’s Christmas party, the new New Romantic club that had opened almost as soon as Steve Strange’s clubnights at the Blitz had ceased. Le Kilt’s co-host Chris Sullivan had murmured something about putting together a band he called Blue Rondo à La Turk. Not to be outdone, i-D’s cub editor Perry Haines had mentioned not only a band he was managing, Alix Sharkey’s Stimulin, but tonight in Heaven he now talks of his involvement with Duran Duran, the Rum Runner house band we’d all run into at Spandau’s November show in Birmingham.

Depeche Mode, Daniel Miller, Dreaming of Me, synthpop

Basildon’s finest: Depeche Mode recorded their first single, Dreaming of Me, in December 1980, after a verbal contract with Daniel Miller’s synth-driven label Mute

Here too is Daniel Miller, an anarchic electronic musician with his own label called Mute and a recording studio in an old church where he had set up all his synthesisers. Only last night he’d been watching Depeche Mode, an unsigned teenage band from Essex, playing the Bridge House pub in east London where they were regulars — he’d heard them play their technopop tune Dreaming of Me, helped them record it and they’d all agreed it would make a great first single.

All round us in UK clubland platoons of amazingly young bands making dance music were lining up to storm the charts in the New Year. By the spring, Spandau Ballet was staging the first Blitz invasion of America with a live concert plus fashion show by a gang of Blitz Kids whose average age was 21. During 1981 the group decided against a tour as being “too rocky”, and played only 10 live dates in the whole year — OK, plus a fortnight at the Ku club in Ibiza that summer, which counted as one booking. While the movement took root, staying cool seemed to suit the style of the times.

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