◼ TEN OF THE MOST POPULAR POSTS visited here during 2014 confirm Shapers of the 80s as an “invaluable website” in the words of British historian Dominic Sandbrook. Grounded in the 1980s – the most explosive decade for British youth culture since the Swinging 60s – our eye witness reports and monthly reviews of British nightlife were originally published in magazines such as The Face, the “style bible” of its day. Our recent commentaries monitor fresh interest in the revival of 80s music and attitude during the past five years. Year-ending visit figures at Shapers of the 80s during 2014 have increased year-on-year by 16% to total 210,000.
Much unseen vintage video footage was discovered by the producers researching Spandau Ballet’s biopic, Soul Boys of the Western World, which proved an eye-opening slice of social history when it was released this year. Every frame reveals the sheer energy and commitment to hedonism and creative self-expression that characterised a generation of school-leavers who in the economic gloom of 1979 faced the threat of no jobs ever in their adult lives. The parallels with Britain’s protracted austerity today are obvious and we might hope the lessons of the 80s will again inspire the young to take their fate into their own hands.
Real Blitz Kids versus the TV version: George’s boyfriend Wilf and Stephen Linard in 1979 (picture, Andy Rosen)… Daniel Wallace as a Linard lookalike and Douglas Booth as Boy George in Worried About the Boy, 2010 (BBC)
✱ Spandau’s first public appearance in NYC since 1983, plus US release of their new single This Is The Love, plus outdoor mini-concert in LA for their TV debut with Jimmy Kimmel 10 Nov… plus live performance on Fox’s Good Day Nov 13… Plus SBWW screening 15 Nov at SVA Theatre, premiere and band talk at Doc NYC
✱ Now on sale: tickets for 13 dates 3–19 March in Spandau Ballet’s live UK tour 2015, kicking off 3 March from Dublin in the land of music, now taking in TWO London dates at O2 Arena 17–18 March, and ending in Brummie Duran-land
✱ First dates on live European tour 2015: Amsterdam 21 March, Luxembourg 22 March, Italy 24–30 March (Assago, Torino, Padova, Firenze, Roma), Germany 16–22 April (Leipzig, Hamburg, Dusseldorf, Berlin, Frankfurt and Munich)
➢ First US review of the new single This Is the Love at Billboard: “Thirty years after Spandau Ballet’s last U.S. single, the British new-wave quintet brings back everything that made it danceable on This Is the Love, touting a thick sax, Tony Hadley’s syrup-and-silk delivery and poppy drum work. The twist? There’s also a James Bond theme vibe mixed in.” – Andrew Flanagan … 8 Nov Martin Kemp tweets: “Billboard single of the week in the U.S.”
SPANDAU INTERVIEWED IN NEW ZEALAND, 2 NOV
➢ Or, read a transcription of the above interview with New Zealand’s arts website, The 13th Floor – Here’s Tony Hadley on how life was different when he was a teenager: “The 80s was probably the last innocent decade in a kind of weird way, pretty primitive, you know. In Britain we had three TV channels. As a young person, you had music and you had fashion. So everything was pretty tribal and we’ve always been like that in Britain anyway, with the Mods, the Rockers, psychedelia, punk. So you picked your tribe and the kind of music you wanted to be associated with and that was it – it was just a simple time. We’ve now entered into a period where social media and connectivity around the world is unprecedented, incredible. So as a young person, you don’t necessarily need just fashion and just music. It’s a very different world we live in.”
Click pic to open the Wham Rap! video in another window … “Man or mouse” Andrew Ridgeley establishes his clubbing credentials – along with sidekick George Michael – in the opening shots of the Wham! video by reading this very Face cover story on Club Culture that you’re about to read!
THE MOST READ FEATURE ARTICLE AMONG 890,000 VIEWS SINCE THE LAUNCH OF SHAPERS OF THE 80s
➢ Spandau Ballet, the Blitz Kids and the birth of the New Romantics — This much-recycled account originally penned by Shapers of the 80s tells who did what to make stars out of a club houseband, change the rhythm of the UK charts — and ultimately rejuvenate the British media. The obsessive fashionistas behind one small club in London in 1980 went on to dominate the international landscape of pop and fashion, while putting more British acts into the US Billboard charts than the 1960s ever achieved. Spandau Ballet songwriter Gary Kemp responded: “A superb piece. It will be referred to historically.”
➢ Three key men in Boy George’s life – In 2010 the BBC turned the pop star’s teens ’n’ twenties into a 90-minute drama of foot-stamping, chair-throwing, cry-baby tantrums over his self-confessed “dysfunctional romances”, all of which he had documented in his eye-wateringly frank 1995 autobiography, Take It Like a Man. Shapers of the 80s summarises George O’Dowd’s stormy lovelife.
At home in Kentish Town Chris Sullivan chooses the right zootsuit for today’s mood: his wardrobe is legendary, his taste impeccable, and his influence immeasurable. Shapersofthe80s shot this for his first Evening Standard interview in June 1981
Spandau live at the Albert Hall: All six members of the band reunited, the sixth being manager Steve Dagger in the wings
Royal Albert Hall: full house for Spandau’s premiere
◼︎ 6,000 PEOPLE WERE UP FOR an emotional roller-coaster ride at London’s Royal Albert Hall on Tuesday – hundreds more watched simulcasts in cinemas across the land. Today Rolling Stone has called it “the biggest home-movie party in British pop history”. We sped through yards of breathlessly cut vintage footage even the band hadn’t seen before, showing how five glammed-up school friends adopted the preposterous name Spandau Ballet and effectively rewrote the rules of a moribund pop industry to rocket into the charts and become one of Britain’s six supergroups of the New Romantic 80s…
We saw how their friendships turned nasty and imploded in a law court… and how they’ve agreed to make this film 20 years later in which each tells his own version “warts and all”, soul boys baring their souls in a cathartic process of reconciliation and redemption. Why, they’d even titled their home movie, Soul Boys of the Western World, ironically referencing one of theatre’s tragic morality tales about human failings, the greater irony being that the band themselves were actually shocked to hear each other’s words at the first screening. They were the film’s only narrators, recorded separately talking one-to-one with the director and telling the tale with more “crashing and burning” than tact.
Tuesday’s audience picked up these cues in pantomime tradition. We were bearing witness just as the penitent members of Spandau Ballet were hoping. We oohed and aahed at some really tear-jerky best bits. We howled at odd Spinal Tap daftness. We heckled the cocky Cockney TV presenter. We laughed at our quaint mullets and hilarious teenage pretensions four decades ago. Then when the screen froze in a silent moment of grim truth, the whole Albert Hall groaned “Ohhhh no!” One hero had been damned, but a succession of jaw-dropping out-takes from pop-idol interviews hanged the others in turn. Icicles formed in the air, Steve Norman’s voice told us “You can see on our faces Spandau Ballet has just come to an end” and we shared their pain. At times the spoken bluntness came too near the knuckle and between last spring’s hair-shirt trailer and this autumn premiere a couple of killer icicles have been chopped.
Click any pic to launch slideshow
The old gang: Robert Elms, Christina Wilson
At rehearsals, Dagger and Norman
The old gang: Graham Smith, daughter Carla Jane
The old gang: 80s Spandau keyboardist Jess Bailey
The old gang: Christos Tolera, Wendy Bevan
The old gang: Spandau biographer Paul “Scoop” Simper
Vintage MTV interview: Gary, Tony and an icicle moment
Q&A: George Hencken and band face Lauren Laverne’s questions
Spandau live: Hadley sings True.
Barricades photographed by Dave Hogan
Spandau farewell: keyboardist Sean Barry and backing singers Lex Cameron and Derek Green
Apart from that, Mrs Lincoln, the yarn rattled along as a fascinating piece of social history, to a soundtrack deftly clipped from 22 Spandau numbers and a host of others that shaped the 80s. Tuesday’s melodrama came in three acts and we confessors gave the film a standing ovation, took a quick break to share our own shock at the band’s courage, and then rose to our feet again as the 6,000 to welcome onstage the happy smiling band of brothers, plus their equally glamorous film director, George Hencken, who had brought a woman’s instincts to handling the boys’ emotional baggage.
Soul Boys oWW reviewed by NME
Act 2 heard the team answer those burning questions live onstage, among them Gary Kemp saying “Yes, I’m the baddie”, and his brother Martin admitting disappointment in himself when young, while Tony Hadley said all the bitterness had weighed heavy on their families. There was plenty of humour too. When asked what he’d missed most since the great days, John Keeble said “the cheeseboard” (a reference to a backstage luxury specified in the band’s touring contract). Drummers, eh?
Act 3 was the equal of all that had come before. We rose to greet Spandau’s live set of six copper-bottomed hits, kicking off with their hymn of defiance, Through the Barricades, then sprinting into To Cut a Long Story Short. By Chant No 1 all six tiers of the Albert Hall were on their feet and cheering the dancefloor anthem that just missed being the chart No 1 in the riotous summer of 1981. Martin looked reassuringly relaxed powering its funky bassline, and Steve’s sax breaks were definitely dirtier than of old. In Only When You Leave Tony’s big balladeering vowels confirmed what a magnificent bel canto baritone he has become. And of course the last two classics, True and Gold, were inevitably hijacked by the choir filling the hall.
In words of the Eurovision winner, Spandau Ballet have risen from their ashes like a phoenix (fortunately without beards or frocks). We turn to our philosopher-drummer Keeble for the last word: “The film is a three-act play: guys have success, the wheels come off, then there’s some redemption. This now feels like fun and games – with love in it.” Gulp.
Spandau film premiere: Rock god Keeble photographed by Dave Hogan
◼ “KIDS THREW ORANGES AND COINS at me in Brighton. It’s the first time I’ve tapped into that iceberg of sympathy.” Such was the welcome the 23-year-old Scot, Peter Capaldi, received on his first serious outing as a stand-up comedian supporting Spandau Ballet’s first national concert tour in 1982. I’d been bowled over by his high-octane act a week earlier in Manchester and now the tour was winding up in Bournemouth where I’d come for its Easter weekend finale. His energetic performance suggested an interview was going to be fun, and I’d snapped some onstage pictures that spookily presage an aspect of Capaldi that was to win a Bafta award later in his career.
So here we were in 1982 in the Royal Exeter hotel talking about his lucky break earlier on the same tour – being spotted supporting Spandau’s Glasgow gig by film producer Bill Forsyth who also recognised talent writ large. One result was me resting my notebook on a thumping fat filmscript titled Local Hero, and the other was Capaldi admitting: “I’m terrified of starting this film – standing in front of a camera.”
Oh the irony. Tonight Peter Capaldi, now 56, stepped into the best role in British television to play the 12th Doctor Who – a rendering as fierce and dotty as any who went before. Today too I finally found my long-lost notes from the first interview he’d given as an unknown comic, plus the cassette tape of our very relaxed conversation about his days at Glasgow School of Art, singing with a local band, and his yen to try comedy, inspired by 1981’s nationwide tour by Rik Mayall and the Comic Strip team, who a year later leapt onto British television screens on Channel 4’s opening night.
Local Hero, 1983: Peter Capaldi with Burt Lancaster and Peter Riegert, a gentle Scottish comedy directed by Bill Forsyth
For Capaldi’s debut in autumn 1981, he had invented a dim character called Fraser Meaky after thinking “I can’t go onstage as myself!” but then Gary Kemp’s circle of Spandau friends, who did not want another band supporting their tour, asked him to be a comedy warm-up before the main event. Fraser was shed in favour of a much more frenetic onstage Capaldi wearing a distressed old showbiz tuxedo, the humour retuned to lampooning the ego maniacs in politics and pop.
Recently, he had been compering a Monday live band night at a Glasgow club. “I like fast clean idea jokes, like Steve Martin,” he said. “The trouble with Glasgow is that it’s a small audience and every time you play you face the same crowd so you have to invent new material. After three weeks I couldn’t think of any more jokes, so it fell through.” How he solved this dilemma was revealed as we spoke. More of the interview will follow soon, meanwhile listen to our chat.
MORE INTERESTING THAN MOST PEOPLE’S FANTASIES — THE SWINGING EIGHTIES 1978-1984
They didn’t call themselves New Romantics, or the Blitz Kids – but other people did.
“I’d find people at the Blitz who were possible only in my imagination. But they were real” — Stephen Jones, hatmaker, 1983. (Illustration courtesy Iain R Webb, 1983)
“The truth about those Blitz club people was more interesting than most people’s fantasies” — Steve Dagger, pop group manager, 1983
An “invaluable website” — historian Dominic Sandbrook, 2012
A UNIQUE HISTORY
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❏ Header artwork by Kat Starchild shows Blitz Kids Darla Jane Gilroy, Elise Brazier, Judi Frankland and Steve Strange, with David Bowie at centre in his 1980 video for Ashes to Ashes
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NEWS — OLD FACES, NEW MIXES FOR THE 20-TEENS
✱ Party Time! The current B-52s World tour returns to the States 26 July until September
✱ Visit Radio2 online before 25 June to catch up on this sweeping three-hour musical panorama of what made the Swinging 80s so compelling a chapter in British youth cultural history. Stars among the guests on Martin Kemp’s New Romantics are veteran motormouths, the broadcaster Robert Elms and Wag club director Chris Sullivan, who remind us energetically why they are rightly key Shapers of the 80s. We hear other great stories from Blitz Club deejay Rusty Egan, Blitz Kid and clubbing legend Princess Julia, journalist Paul Simper, ex-Bananarama member Siobhan Fahey, deejays Mark Moore (S’Express/Mud Club) and Playground’s Fat Tony. High-octane playlist of 35 tunes demonstrates the innovative range of sounds that fuelled our dance-floor excesses. Abs no rock.
✱ Watch out for ex-Wag Club supremo Chris Sullivan’s new book Rebel Rebel for £11. It runs to 480 pages with rigorous appreciations of such heroes as Bowie, Iggy and Robert Mitchum, plus his own illustrations. Cheapest bought from Waterstones
✱ Jeff Young on Jazz FM last year made the new 18-track Siren his album of the week. This January it won the Bright Star Music Award for Best Soul / R& B Album 2018, brainchild of Colourful Radio. It was superbly crafted by Londoner Robb Scott, with strong supporting line-up, for the Expansion label. Soul Brother Records says: “A collection of classy soul/jazz grooves on that has jazz at its heart but with some superb soulful brushstrokes applied.” Purchase directly from the artist’s store
✱ If you thought there was no more to know about the birth of Blitz culture in 1980 then get your hands on a sensational new book by an obsessive music fan called David Barrat. It is gripping, original and epic – a spooky tale of coincidence and parallel lives as mind-tingling as a Sherlock Holmes yarn. Titled both New Romantics Who Never Were and The Untold Story of Spandau Ballet! Sample this initial taster here at Shapers of the 80s
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