Category Archives: Chronology

2018 ➤ Spooky or what? When two bands went by the name of Spandau Ballet

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Above: Two bands who played in London as Spandau Ballet…
SBv1 originated the name and here play their final gig at the
Hope & Anchor in 1979 with singer Mark Robinson, drummer
Gordon Bowman, bass guitarist David Wardill, (guitarist Mick Austin
off-camera) . . . SBv2, here in their previous incarnation as Gentry,
playing Camden School for Girls in December 1978, with Tony Hadley
on vocals and the chart-topping True five years in the future

DID YOU KNOW LONDON HAD TWO POP GROUPS called Spandau Ballet in 1979? The one who became famous adopted their name from the one who didn’t. A jaw-dropping new history of the New Romantics scene, unauthorised and meticulously researched by David Barrat, a long-time music fan, is published this week titled New Romantics Who Never Were: The Untold Story of Spandau Ballet.

Barrat has gathered a mind-boggling compilation of spooky coincidences and things we never knew before in his 117,000-word paperback, self-published today on his own imprint Orsam Books. Here is no mere fan, but an obsessive one who has made himself the Mastermind champion in the two themes identified in his tongue-twisting title: Who exactly were the New Romantics of the early 1980s, who many of us believe drove one of the most transformational youth cultures of Britain’s postwar years? Barrat discusses how this term came to characterise the style-leaders of British clubland when they unanimously rejected it themselves.

His second theme is the true genesis story of the Spandau Ballet five-piece from Islington who set out with a cunning plan to weave a tapestry of fictions around their launch as electro-synth popsters in 1979. At the outset the band were coolly vague about their origins and you’d have to be a fan with Barrat’s persistence to piece together spasmodic revelations during the succeeding decades. Spandau subsequently became global superstars in that momentous decade when image-conscious new British bands invaded the American pop charts, then quarrelled as pop groups do and arrived in the High Court in 1996 rowing over royalty payments. Individual members remained belligerent for years.

➢ Buy David Barrat’s
New Romantics book here

Whether or not you care for Spandau and the 80s music scene, Barrat’s forensic approach to reassessing this creative landscape is utterly hypnotic and unlike anything you’ve read by the hacks of the rock press. He has spent years in deep Holmesian research delving into official records, newspaper cuttings, TV interviews and first-hand interviews. The result is gripping, original and epic. For instance: revealing all about another band sharing exactly the same distinctive name a matter of months before Tony Hadley stepped onto the stage at the Blitz Club! Here is a well-informed juggernaut delivering into our laps mighty fact upon tiny fact, laid out for inspection and challenge. Barrat’s intent is resolute: to convince us he knows his stuff, and has purged the popular version of events of mutability.

David Barrat contacted me a few years back in order to check dates and events against my own detailed diaries and his aggregation of facts and assumptions is mostly hard to fault. His book now pays extraordinary and generous tribute to this website, Shapers of the 80s, and to myself as a former features editor of the Evening Standard who helped others recognise the potency of the youthquake erupting in 1980.

SO WHO WERE THE OTHER BAND?

❑ The musicians originally called Spandau Ballet (hereafter called SBv1) were four lads who met in 1978 during their teens in Bedfordshire: guitarist Mick Austin, singer Mark Robinson, drummer Michael Harvey and punky bass guitarist David Wardill. They agonised for ages over a band name and Austin remembers a “eureka” moment using the Dadaist method of juggling words on random scraps of paper. They arrived at the darkly Germanic first word (originally with an incorrect umlaut over the U in Spandaü) and paired it with “the softer, romantic” word Ballet. The package was deemed “nicely decadent”, a debut gig was planned for 30 August 1978 and accordingly Robinson designed a poster for it, which we see below. Wardill declared his ambition: “We were going to go to London and become rock stars.”

So how on earth did their oddball band name transfer itself to a five-piece from Islington? The reader’s mind boggles at the number of spooky coincidences that Barrat’s book uncovers. Wardill had fallen in love with journalism graduate Deanne Pearson who rented a flat at 32 Sibley Grove in East Ham so in October 1978 he moved in and members of SBv1 often came to crash on the floor. Coincidentally – this flat was shared with the yet-to-become seminal Blitz Kids – while freshers at St Martin’s School of Art – Kim Bowen, Lee Sheldrick and others, who migrated in the spring to Battersea’s Ralph West student hostel, along with graphics student Graham Smith and future Wag club director Chris Sullivan.

Click any pic below to view complete images

In her forthcoming autobiography Kim relates how, in mid-1979, accompanied by “a trio of self-described Nelly Queens”, she penetrated an empty Georgian house in Fitzrovia to establish the legendary squat in Warren Street, a leisurely walk away from St Martin’s. “Within weeks the creme de la creme of young London was living there,” Kim writes, and her bold manuscript spares no detail. This stylish property became the hub of social life for the Blitz Kids who were meeting every Tuesday at the Covent Garden Blitz Club since Steve Strange’s Neon Nights had begun that February. As milliner Stephen Jones’s mannequin de vie, the wild and startlingly elegant Kim elevated herself to Queen of the Blitz. Many of the Kids’ high-style antics were documented by Graham Smith while he – coincidentally – became the official photographer of the second Spandau Ballet (SBv2) who announced their name only for their first public concert on 5 December that year. (Smith’s lavish photo-book We Can Be Heroes was published in 2011 and remains an unbeatable record of both style and excess).

In October 1978, the Beds boys SBv1 had started working as busboys as well as rehearsing at The Venue, Virgin’s new club in Victoria where they immortalised their band’s name by spraying it in green paint on the toilet walls and on other public walls elsewhere in central London. Amid all the ancient myths about where SBv2 found their name, the band’s early propagandist and future broadcaster Bob Elms has said he first spotted the phrase Spandau Ballet as graffiti variously on prison walls or toilet walls in the Spandau district during a soulboy group trip to Berlin in summer 1979.

Coincidentally – however, during an interview way back in 1984 one prominent Blitz Kid told me the graffiti had been very visible on the toilet wall of The Hope, a favourite pub in Tottenham Street, not far from the Warren Street squat. “Some boys from north-east London were using that name in a school-type band.” Also coincidentally – along the same block as The Hope stood the trendy new Scala cinema, whose programmer then was 22-year-old Stephen Woolley (today a major player in the British film industry), who was a contemporary of SBv2 manager Steve Dagger and their stage designer Simon Withers, all of whom attended Dame Alice Owen’s school in Islington and grew up there with the other members of SBv2 – Gary and Martin Kemp, Tony Hadley, John Keeble and Steve Norman.

This fabulous cascade of coincidences throws up at least SIX PRIME SUSPECTS in The Ballet Great Mystery: Who really fed the name Spandau Ballet through to the Islington band SBv2, who through 1978–79 were known as the power-pop combo, Gentry? Barrat’s new book draws its own conclusion.

PS: EVEN MORE SPOOKILY ON MY DOORSTEP. . .

pop music,

David Wardill: bass guitarist who joined The Passions in 1980

❑ Scroll forward a few years from the birth of SBv2. . . After my day-jobs in journalism, I taught an adult evening class in Creative Writing for 16 years in west London, after which it was traditional for the more entertaining students to continue the evening at a nearby pub. Among several who became long-standing friends was – coincidentally – the same David Wardill of SBv1 (also visible in the video below). His musical background meant we had lots to discuss in 1989, including his earlier life in East Ham with Kim Bowen and Lee Sheldrick.

David and I drifted apart but had a sudden email reunion while I was building this website in 2009. He told me that soon after completing the writing class he sent a story to the BBC which turned up two years later as a film from BBC Birmingham. These days he was a father and teaching art in a secondary school.

As for SBv2, he admitted: “I never really cared much that they had borrowed our band’s name, as I didn’t see much chance of us wanting it back.” SBv1 ground to a standstill in May 1979 and David soon joined another band called The Passions who enjoyed airplay by Radio 1’s influential deejay John Peel and eventually made it to Top of The Pops in 1981 with their song on Polydor, I’m in Love with a German Film Star, which reached No 25. (CoincidentallySBv2 arrived at No 17 with Musclebound in the same edition of TOTP and are announced at the end of the clip below. Oo, er.)

David added: “The Passions reunited recently for a day at a studio in Shepherd’s Bush. That laid a lot of ghosts to rest. Our main song has been covered by the Foo Fighters and Pet Shop Boys. Strange how the past hangs around, although I find the continued interest gratifying, as well as financially useful.” Spoken like a star.

❑ And here today we still have not given away the truly spookiest coincidence among those that Barrat reveals about SBv1 & v2 when their paths almost crossed – it’s a goose-pimples moment that stops you in your tracks. More reflections on this vital addition to our bookshelves will follow here at Shapers of the 80s as we read on…

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s: Just don’t call us New Romantics
➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s: Who’s Who in the Pits – Harry Cool’s Guide to the New Glitterati

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2017 ➤ “It may be false, It may be true” – The life and times of Christine Keeler

Christine Keeler, John Profumo, politics, sex, scandal, obituary, Lewis Morley, Terry O’Neill, Swinging Sixties,

Immature? Alternative unused shot of 21-year-old Christine Keeler from the famous 1963 photo session in Lewis Morley’s Greek Street studio. . . Right, in 1990, a fully-clad Keeler returned to the pose she made famous for a photograph taken by Terry O’Neill

“THEY NEVER STOPPED CALLING ME A PROSTITUTE.” So said the notorious “showgirl” who helped bring down a Tory government, quoted in today’s impressively well rounded Times obituary of Christine Keeler who has died aged 75. Despite posing naked for a now definitive photograph on a plywood chair in 1963, she fell victim to the mores of those times in the whole sex-and-spying soap opera enacted by a cast of deeply sleazy characters. Found guilty of perjury, she was sentenced to nine months in prison.

“Her only real crime was immaturity,” according to The Times obituarist. The war minister John Profumo lied “again and again” throughout the scandal, also according to The Times, whose own editor back in the day thundered that adultery “is a moral issue”. Well worth reading as a comprehensive slice of social history just as the Sixties began to swing.

Christine Keeler, John Profumo, politics, sex, scandal, obituary, Lewis Morley, Terry O’Neill, Swinging Sixties

Telling her own story – News of the World from June 1963

➢ The Telegraph has a moving tribute from Keeler’s son, Seymour Platt – He says: “I don’t think there is any celebrity or star or interesting person from that era who she didn’t meet.”

“IT MAY BE FALSE,” SINGS DUSTY

❏ One sympathetic reappraisal of Keeler’s reputation came with the powerful 1989 feature film Scandal directed by Michael Caton-Jones who created an even-handed and realistic evocation of the saga, with an immaculate cast. Best of all for pop-culture fans was its title track by the Pet Shop Boys who had the brilliant notion of bringing Sixties icon Dusty Springfield out of retirement and she rendered the vocals beautifully. Among a classic collection of tunes for the soundtrack, Chubby Checker even re-recorded The Twist because his original had been embargoed for rights reasons.


This video compilation intercuts clips from the film Scandal with authentic news footage of the rum cast implicated in the Profumo affair of 1963, all overdubbed with Dusty who sings the film’s soundtrack, Nothing Has Been Proved. And yet, nothing about the story was fake by today’s standards.

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2014 ➤ Spandau together again as their ‘surprise’ movie is slated for Texas premiere

Spandau Ballet, Botanic Gardens, New Romantics, Blitz Kids, Birmingham.

Kilted leaders of the New Romantics in 1980: Spandau Ballet plus their entourage of Blitz Kids travelled to Birmingham’s Botanic Gardens to play their eighth live date. (Photograph by Shapersofthe80s)

[Updated Feb 12]

❚ WITH A TITLE AS ZEALOUS AS any of their New Romantic songs from 1980, Soul Boys of the Western World is the documentary movie about the time Spandau Ballet became the musical leaders of London’s underground clubland. For two years they were the trendiest creatures on the planet as they reshaped British music and fashion, believe it. The 102-minute biopic is to be premiered on March 12 in the 24 Beats Section of the prestige new-media conference SXSW in Austin, Texas, running March 7–16. To complete the first reunion of the whole band since their 2010 tour ended, singer Tony Hadley will be flying out to join Gary, Martin, John and Steve at the screening.

Fans who imagine they can gate-crash, however, will be seriously stymied by the price of registration for the film programme which increases to $650 the later you book. Before travelling to Austin, Spandau fans are advised to ensure they have secured a ticket. Hints from the Spandau team suggest there may be more news soon.

Spandau Ballet, New York, Underground club, 1981

1981 footage found: Spandau’s first New York performance recovered after this cameraman was traced. Photographed by © Shapersofthe80s

The film contains no present-day pontificating from the band’s famously garrulous entourage of talking heads, only through vintage film footage telling their story as it unfolds. Steve Dagger, Spandau’s manager and its sixth member since the band was created and now the film’s co-producer, is impressed and excited by the extensive research which has been fanatically pursued for the past three years. Initiated by archive producer Kate Griffith, this has turned up many true gems of previously unseen footage even of the landmark “First Blitz invasion of America” with the Axiom fashion collective in 1981 which was located in only the past three months. Offcuts from footage of the band’s followers shot in Le Kilt club for BBC Newsnight were also discovered in a box that remained unopened for 30 years. There are also clips from the band’s home movies.

Songwriter Gary Kemp is over the moon at the painstaking finesse of the production led by Scott Millaney, one of the iconic producers of 80s pop videos. Kemp said last week: “People should be really knocked out by some of the material we’ve discovered.”

Director George Hencken aims to takes audiences through the cultural, political and personal landscapes of Britain as the Swinging 80s burst from the recessionary gloom of the 70s. Soul Boys Of The Western World explores life inside the bubble of global superstardom when British pop music ruled the world. Spandau Ballet themselves believe the film to be “a brutally honest story of how friendships can be won, lost and ultimately regained”.

documentary, film, Soul Boys of the Western World, Spandau Ballet, SXSW, Texas, premiere, pop music, Swinging 80s, London, fashion, nightclubbing, New Romantics, Blitz Kids,

Nomad warriors on the streets of north London, 1981: Spandau Ballet dressed for their Musclebound video. Martin Kemp called his the Mad Monk outfit. (Promotional pic for the documentary film, Soul Boys of the Western World)

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➤ Index of posts for January

Boy George, John Themis, Bishop Porfyrios , icon,

Two-way exchange: Bishop Porfyrios reclaims his church’s 300-year-old icon of Christ in London, while as a thankyou, Boy George receives a modern version of Christ Pantokrator (right) from composer John Themis. Photo © AP

➢ George Michael celebrates his golden years of Faith

➢ Reliving the Blitz: two pocket fanzines and a request from Rusty Egan

➢ “Too posh for pop” — Grandpa Waterman condemns two decades of musicmakers

➢ 1981, Why naked heroes from antiquity stood in for Spandau on their first record sleeves

➢ Ferry backed by three bass players, Roxy back on the road — how cool is that?

Japan pop group, Mick Karn, Hammersmith Odeon , 1982, Sounds ,Chris Dorley-Brown

Karn onstage at Hammersmith Odeon, November 17, 1982: Japan’s final UK tour. Photographed for Sounds © by Chris Dorley-Brown

➢ 1981, The day they sold The Times, both Timeses

➢ George makes saintly gesture over stolen icon

➢ 1981, How Adam stomped his way across the charts to thwart the nascent New Romantics

➢ Life? Tough? At the Blitz reunion, Rusty delivers a message to today’s 20-year-olds (TV news video)

➢ The unknown Mr Big behind London’s landmark nightspot makes his return to the Blitz

➢ Va-va-vooom! goes the world’s smallest portable record player

➢ F-A-B! Thunderbirds stamps are go!

➢ Julia and Gaz share their secrets for ageing disgracefully

Return To The Blitz , Steve Strange, Rusty Egan, Red Rooms, Blitz Kids, New Romantics

Motormouths back in action: Strange and Egan interviewed on BBC London news in the club where they once reigned. Such were members’ powers of self-promotion at the Blitz, Egan said, that it was the 80s equivalent of Facebook Live!

➢ 2011, Strange and Egan return to the Blitz to kick off the 20-tweens

➢ 200 new acts tipped for the new year in music

➢ Most popular bits of Shapersofthe80s during 2010

➢ Farewell Mick Karn, master of the bass and harbinger for the New Romantics

➢ Prescott says Postlethwaite’s Brassed Off speech inspired New Labour in 1997

➢ Discover Ubu while Christopher Walken takes flight to Fatboy Slim

➢ Happy New Year from Frosty The Snowman and The Ronettes — and hear the smash that changed the sound of 60s pop

➢ List of posts for December 2010

The Ronettes, Phil Spector, Frosty the Snowman, Be My Baby, Wall of Sound, 1963

The Ronettes in 1963: beehive hair-dos and producer Phil Spector

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2010 ➤ Index of posts for December

Duran Duran, 80s, pop

The early Duran Duran: discovered by invitation in 1980

➢ 80s shapers win 2010 New Year Honours for fashion, music and walking in space

➢ 1980 secrets revealed about the SAS, arming Afghanistan and death of the tanner

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

➢ 1980s, So many shapers shaped the decade that people think was all down to Margaret Thatcher — key books of the year

John Lennon death, Daily Mirror, people magazine, 30th anniversary
➢ What larks! Festive fun and games and British ways to make merry

➢ A jolly festive tree by Andrew Logan

➢ 2010, Duran no turkey: here’s the Bacofoil video and two new tracks premiered at East Village Radio

➢ 1980, How Duran Duran’s road to stardom began in the Studio 54 of Birmingham

➢ A feast of Bowie-ana served in waffeur-thin slices

➢ Whatta they like? Essex reality stars shake their vajazzles in the face of Hollywood

➢ 1980, The Lennon we knew: unfulfilled talent with a genius for making friends the world over

Adam & The Ants, David Bowie, Swinging 80s,Top Of The Pops
➢ 1980, The week the Swinging 80s clicked into gear

➢ Live online now, mad hatter Stephen Jones

➢ This £5m iPhone has to be a spoof! Yes, that’s $7.8m or €6m or 52m Chinese Yuan or 245m Russian Rubles

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