Category Archives: Clubbing

➤ Ex-Blitz Kid Rusty Egan and friends dress 80s electro-pop in brilliant new clothes

Welcome to the Dancefloor, Rusty Egan, electro-pop, Blitz Kids, New Romantic, EDM, synthesisers,

Egan deejaying at Tramp this week: a nightclub launch for Welcome to the Dancefloor

AFTER FIVE YEARS OF BLAGGING, and five years of feuding with former collaborators, 80s Blitz Club deejay Rusty Egan’s own “electro-diskow” album, Welcome to the Dancefloor, is out this week and it amounts to a superb sonic landmark. He and his guest performers engage an impressive range of emotions by dramatically humanising the potential starkness many associate with electronica.

ALBUM REVIEW
Welcome to the Dancefloor
Rusty Egan (Black Mosaic)

Spookily, their energy rockets us immediately into that vast clean stereo soundscape that uniquely defined the new music of 1980. Here synthesiser chords are stretched and layered and cracked like a whip, as if by an invisible hand in another time and space, which of course was precisely the sound of London clubland when its youth culture erupted as a volcano of creativity. The album’s pacey opening track finds ex-New Order’s Peter Hook on The Other Side spinning through the Milky Way, his thin 80s vocal style querulous and wistful, yet poppily optimistic.

That era did after all abandon the overpowering noise of the rock stadium and the punk nihilists to celebrate a return to melodious singing voices and to arch lyrics meant for listening, while synthesisers defined a fresh musical ambience. Inexperienced young artists unsure about their singing ability half shouted, half vocodered their limited vocal range to re-imagine their teenage dreams on a different planet.

Egan’s collaborators: click any pic below to launch slideshow

While Egan has carefully selected 13 tracks reflecting the wide spectrum of synth possibilities, half are love songs in the spirit of the 80s generation who were dubbed by the press New Romantics. Nevertheless he has created a consummate showcase for electronic music, co-produced by Nick Bitzenis (aka Nikonn), has had a hand in writing a majority of the songs, many co-written with Chris Payne (of Fade to Grey fame), these subsequently endorsed and expressed by a handful of starry friends such as Midge Ure and Tony Hadley on tracks of their own.

Despite its title, this is not dance music that the funk nation would groove to. Laying down a dominant 4-4 beat is not conducive to free-form movement unless you think you’re Tik or Tok. Exceptions include Egan’s own pulsating title track with robo vocals as if by Stephen Hawking and knowing breaks parodying Tenek and the Human League; also the nippy number Hero, which gains spiritual resonance from Andy Huntley’s richly textured delivery.

The stand-out track is Midge Ure’s transformation of an Egan/Payne song titled Glorious. He rewrote lyrics and melody so as to construct one magnificent crescendo filled with space and tension reminiscent of “Oh, Vienna!” A close second for reconjuring the authentic 80s is Egan’s own Wunderwerke, driven by his Trans-Europe vocals through classic synth sweeps, hypnotic repeats and bass stabs. Third comes Erik Stein on the astonishingly contemplative Ballet Dancer, basking in a wonderful waterfall of synths.

Like Brexit, Tony Hadley *is* Tony Hadley and here (without the Ballet) on the coltish lovesong Lonely Highway he canters to the top of a whole new hill as a crooner. What distinguishes this album is that it’s awash with affecting lyrics and fine voices to listen to in the name of electro pop – among the gentlest are Be The Man featuring the gorgeous inflections of Kira Porter; Nicole Clarke’s ethereal contribution to Love Can Conquer All; and Love Is Coming My Way, a second number from the silken-voiced Stein.

And just wait for the Chariots of Fire finale: Egan’s intensely personal track, Thank You, which unleashes a shock of the best kind. To describe more would be to spoil a gifted idea. It is emotional and all too evidently sincere. Thank you, Rusty.

Welcome to the Dancefloor, Rusty Egan, electro-pop, Blitz Kids, New Romantics, EDM, synthesisers,

Rusty Egan: co-producer, co-writer and much else – has created a landmark album in Welcome to the Dancefloor

➢ Welcome To The Dancefloor was released by Black Mosaic in digital formats on 3 Dec 2016. Pre-order your 180g vinyl LP and CD variants, plus bonus mixes, at Pledge Music

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s:
1980, First sighting of the Blitz Kids

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➤ Escape to the Nightlifers’ Shangri-la just in time for Christmas

Animal Nightlife, Andy Polaris, soul music, jazz, pop group,London, Andy Polaris,nightclubbing,Shangri-la, CD

Cool-hunters 1985: the Animal Nightlife lineup who charted with their album Shangri-la. . . Billy Chapman, Paul Waller, Andy Polaris, Leonardo Chignoli and Steve Brown

REMEMBER SNAKE-HIPPED ANDY POLARIS, frontman for Animal Nightlife, the soul/jazz/pop socialist collective who emerged from London’s cool clubbing scene and charted with Native Boy in 1983? This week their debut album Shangri-la is re-issued in a deluxe two-CD edition, having charted in summer 1985 only on vinyl.

Andy says: “It comes with a bonus disc of remixes and a great booklet with retro photos of the band in its two phases. Just in time for Christmas. The vinyl album has long been deleted and since then a very poor compilation of songs was released. The re-issue’s  tracks consist of the album in its original form and a second CD containing other singles and extended remixes that were only available on 12-inch before.” Lois Wilson supplies some nicely informed sleeve notes identifying Animal Nightlife’s role as innovators when the UK’s thriving underground changed the face of nightclubbing.

Managed by Steve Lewis, London’s coolest club deejay in the Beat Route’s heyday, Nightlife’s swing sound with an electronic twist enjoyed its moment as the hippest trend in music while Polaris penned his own brand of torch song and the band wore head-to-foot styles from Bolshevik bolshieness to Johnson’s jazz-age retro. Rabid clubbers must remember how Nightlife’s crazy animalettes and animalads went through about 35 line-up changes during their eight years on the scene, sadly scoring only four chart singles. For some band members, good times tended to take precedence over naked ambition in those highly competitive years when British acts were storming international pop charts.

“Just listen to the Pink Panther style
saxophone of instrumental Basic Ingredients
and try not to lose yourself momentarily
in another world, a better world even”
First review (7/10) by Loz Etheridge

By 1985 the band had slimmed down to the five-piece pictured on the CD cover. They consisted of Andy Polaris (vocals), Leonardo Chignoli (bass), Paul Waller (drums), Steve Brown (guitar) and Billy Chapman (playing a thrilling saxophone). After switching from the finger-snappy Innervision label to supercool Island Records, they were all packed off to Philadelphia where the first album was recorded at the legendary home of Philly World Records.

“The label wanted a bit more discipline from us,” Andy says, “and they sent us to America to get us out of our element and into the hands of those seasoned veterans who’d created the fabled Philly sound. We five working-class boys from London were wide-eyed and just did everything they told us. It paid off, because our producer Dennis Weinreich helped create an urban jazzy feel that translated after our sojourn at Philly World into a more sophisticated British club sound.”

❑ Standout track on the second Shangri-la CD of lost mixes is reggae producer Dennis Bovell’s version of Native Boy. Whoever’s on vibes – “mm, nice”.

➢ Shangri-la is cheaper direct from Cherry Red records (plus quick delivery)

➢ Definitive yet unofficial Animal Nightlife band history created online by Mike Albiston, a fan who remembers their last gig and senses something’s afoot that might require a web update

➢ Catch Andy Polaris’s reminiscences in the recent BBC doc Boy George’s 1970s: Save Me From Suburbia

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s: Animal Nightlife as part of the second wave of 80s image bands

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➤ 40 years on, Ridgers casts an honest spotlight on the birth of punk

Derek Ridgers, punk ,Vortex , Clare Thom

“I didn’t make a very good punk,” says photographer Derek Ridgers, here snapped by a passing punk at the Vortex in 1977, with future Blitz Kid Clare Thom at right

◼ THE CLICHES ABOUT PUNK are the rage, the nihilism, the safety pins. In fact, punk dawned in 1976, like all British youth cults, as a fashion statement that trumped those clichés. A new and powerful photo book from Derek Ridgers titled Punk London 1977 shows in 152 pages just how considered were its style leaders who had to invent their own iconoclastic looks before they could be bought off the peg. There were no mohican haircuts at the Roxy club when it opened in December 1976 and for 100 days became the platform for Generation X, the Clash, the Jam, the Heartbreakers, the Boys, Buzzcocks, Siouxsie and the Banshees and a raucous wave of rebel music that spread to Soho’s Vortex and the 100 Club.

Ridgers says: “In ’76 the audience became more interesting than the bands.” As he turned his camera away from the stage, he focused on the unique characters in the audience who were creating a new movement through self-expression. “Most of the early punks didn’t look like punks anyway. They just looked like young people who would alter their clothes: very often it would be school uniform or there would be bin liners, a few safety pins but not very many. The ethos of punk is really ‘Do it yourself’. It’s not dressing up in leather and having a mohican.”

Click any pic below to launch slideshow

The book launched last night in Mayfair with a vibrant exhibition of its photos and a swell party hosted by menswear designer Paul Smith and the British Fashion Council. Rightly Vogue.com asked Ridgers yesterday: What did you wear while documenting these kids? He replied: “Often I’d be going to gigs straight from work, so I simply wore what I’d worn there—usually a jacket, open-neck shirt, and jeans. I was not a punk by any means.” There’s a key picture of the Damned playing the Roxy in early 1977 where Ridgers is visible in the top right-hand corner, standing on the stairs, in glasses, open-neck shirt, cardigan, smiling. “I didn’t make a very good punk,” he says. No, just a very perceptive footnote to history!

Dazed Digital probed further and asked: Out of all the scenes you’ve photographed, which have you most felt part of? Ridgers replied: “There must be a part of me that wanted to be part of all of them. I see my photography as a very vicarious thing. I suppose if I didn’t wear glasses and if I’d been a little bit more of a macho type of guy, I would have been a skinhead. I don’t think I could’ve ever been a punk or a new romantic.”

As an observer he carved out his own beat along the labyrinthine path British youth culture took during the exotic 80s and became the go-to lensman for his take on more extreme outsider cults. Ridgers told Dazed: “There were a lot of photographers around but I stuck it out longer. Woody Allen said something about success is 80% just being there. It’s the thing with me – I was there. I can’t make any other claims apart from the fact that I was there. Through everything. On the edge looking in. With a camera I was able to stare with some legitimacy.”

The trash mag Polyesterzine asks Ridgers if he could compare today’s Zeitgeist to any of the eras he had shot. “No, not at all,” he replies. “The late ’70s and early ’80s was a very different, much darker time. The streets of London were a mess. The poor guy [I photographed] who had ‘We are the flowers in your dustbin’ tattooed across his forehead had it exactly right. They did all seem like the flowers in a dustbin. . . Things are very different now because a lot of those little clubs don’t exist. Soho for instance, where nearly half my nightlife photographs were taken, is rapidly changing. There isn’t the same after dark frisson of excitement about the place any more. Gentrification and the need for developers to maximise the profit from every square inch of the place means that there just aren’t any scruffy, little basement clubs left. Those scruffy, little basement clubs were the area’s lifeblood.”

➢ Punk London 1977 is published by Carpet Bombing Culture

Adam Ant, Jordan, Vortex, punk, Derek Ridgers,

Derek Ridgers immortalises the night that the pioneering punk icon Jordan sang with The Ants at the Vortex, and says today: “They played far better music IMHO than when Adam became a big star in the 80s”

A GALAXY OF GALLERIES OF RIDGERS’ PIX

➢ At i-D – light on punk’s incendiary early days

➢ AllAccess Online in the cauldron of youth culture

➢ Dazed Digital pictures Punk London

➢ Accent shoots Brutus SS16 with Derek Ridgers

Captain Sensible , Damned , punk music, Roxy , Derek Ridgers

Captain Sensible fronts the Damned at the Roxy in 1977: spot Ridgers the cameraman top right in glasses and open-neck shirt. Photographed by Erica Echenberg

Don Letts, Andrew Czezowski , punk,Roxy

28 March 1977: deejay Don Letts and club promoter Andrew Czezowski outside the Roxy when it closed, three months after giving birth to punk. Photographed by Erica Echenberg

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2016 ➤ Telling it like it is, Mister Nightlife aka Swindells Junior

Dave Swindells,exhibition, talk, Doomed, nightlife, London

Dave Swindells at Doomed, in front of one of his photos of Taboo in 1985: “It was such an adventure, a crazy night in terms of what happened there, partly because there would be a whole suitcase load of ecstasy” (Photo by Shapersofthe80s)

◼ WE FIRST MET, I VAGUELY RECALL, at the Leadmill in that damp autumn of ’82 when Dave Swindells was still a student at Sheffield Uni. I was the hotshot “Man from The Face” doing a whistle-stop tour of Sheffield clubs for my monthly Nightlife column in Britain’s coolest subcultural magazine, so I was quite used to people standing in front of my camera trying to get into shot. Swindells on the other hand turned his back on me while he lined up his Kodak Box Brownie in a pathetic attempt to capture some new-wave synth band on the barely lit stage. I smiled smugly to myself at his teen gaucheness and leaned in paternally to whisper the advice I’d gleaned from another snapper of the night, Richard Young, himself emerging as the celebrity paparazzo we know and love today: “Give give it f/8 and push the film in the developer.”

The grateful Swindells gushed his thanks and asked: “Please, sir, how do I get into photography for a living?” – “Stick to what you know,” I replied sagely. “Why not photograph what your friends get up to at night?” Ha! I knew full well dark clubs were a nightmare to capture on the slow film of those years before digital, when the trickiest part was having to use flash at close quarters, which reduces faces to a white blotch.

Dave Swindells, Dalston, Doomed Gallery, talks, exhibition,nightlife, photography,

Flyer for the Swindells talk on Tuesday: explain this lot, Dave!

Within two years the little bastard had stabbed me in the back and was toting a very upmarket Pentax as Nightlife Editor of Time Out magazine – a job he then hung onto for the next 23 years!!! His photographs have been featured in i-D, The Face, The Observer etc, while swanning round the world on travel freebies. I’ve been kicking myself ever since.

Next Tuesday 3 May he’ll be telling us all how on earth he got away with it for so long. He’s giving a talk at some achingly on-fleek gallery in Dalston called Doomed, where there’ll be a display of photos and a limited edition Photocopy Club zine to take away. Dave’s title is “Keeping It Real” and he promises “a fascinating insight into the trends, attitudes, and nuances of London’s clubbers. Evocatively shooting the emergence of the rave scene in the late 1980s, Dave follows the journey from the wild attitude of rave to the night-time antics of modern day”.

Frankly, I can’t think of anybody better qualified to tell the tale of the past three decades of hedonism pursued to the hilt as only the Brits know how. Dave’s the one who’s got the proof in pictures, and how.

➢ Swindells keeps it real, 3 May from 6.30pm to 8.30 at Doomed Gallery, 65 Ridley Road, London, E8 2NP

6 May update: Catch Dave’s talk at Vimeo

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➤ Remembering Steve Strange: Today’s tweet from Midge Ure

Midge Ure, Rusty Egan, Steve Strange,,anniversary, death, Visage, pop music, Blitz Kids, New Romantics

Click to view original Tweet

❏ To which Rusty Egan, Steve’s partner in the Blitz Club and other landmark ventures that helped create the Swinging 80s, replies:

For 2 years prior to this unfortunate event Steve and I were embroiled in a public feud. Sadly we did not kiss and make up and I like most people was shocked he left us so young. RIP Steve. I have still got a few things I need to do… will sort that biz out later.

Visage, Swinging 80s, pop music, Blitz Kids, New Romantics,Midge Ure, Rusty Egan, Steve Strange, Dave Formula , Billy Currie

Visage 1980, left to right: Midge Ure, Rusty Egan, Steve Strange, Dave Formula and Billy Currie. (Photo © Denis O’Regan)

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s:
2015, Original Blitz Kids say farewell to Steve Strange – read exclusive tributes to the King of the Posers

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s:
1980, One week in the private worlds of the new young

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s:
Catch up on New Romantic landmarks reported here at Shapers of the 80s

➢ Read the story of Spandau Ballet, the Blitz Kids and the birth of the New Romantics at The Observer, by Yours Truly

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