Category Archives: journalism

➤ V&A celebrates Steve Strange as the poser who put the pazazz into 80s nightlife

Blitz Kids, New Romantics, fashion, pop music, Swinging 80s, archive, nightlife, Steve Strange, Keith Lodwick, lunchtime lecture, V&A museum,

Giving this week’s V&A Lunchtime Lecture, May 2018: Curator Keith Lodwick in full flow. . . On-screen, Bowie’s Pierrot costume displayed in the V&A’s 2013 exhibition Bowie Is, with Steve Strange and other Blitz Kids pictured in Bowie’s Ashes to Ashes video in 1980

80S POP-STAR FRIENDS OF STEVE STRANGE turned out this week for a unique event at the V&A, the UK’s premier museum of art and design. The weekly Lunchtime Lecture was titled Steve Strange: From Blitz Club to Top of the Pops, and was delivered by Keith Lodwick, curator of Theatre and Screen Arts, to an audience that included singer Clare Grogan, ABC’s Martin Fry and his wife Julie, Jennie Matthias from The Belle Stars and Fifi Russell from Yip Yip Coyote. Steve’s mother Gillian Harrington and his sister Tanya had travelled from Wales with PR Amanda Lloyd to attend the occasion with other family members.

The talk traced Strange’s flamboyant life from Wigan Casino, through glam-rock and punk, to hosting a landmark club-night at Billy’s jointly with deejay Rusty Egan, then another at the Blitz in 1979–80. This was the club-night that Band Aid organiser Midge Ure has described as “the beating heart of the electronic dance music that led the 1980s.”

Strange said of his strict admissions policy on the door: “I wanted creative-minded pioneers who looked like a walking piece of art.” Indeed, the club became Strange’s own catwalk for sporting outrageous outfits by both the leading designers of the day and London’s budding fashion students. Lodwick said: “He once told a journalist ‘I am on stage 24 hours a day’. Steve, who died in 2015, remains one of the enduring figures of the New Romantic period.”

Click any pic below to view larger in a slideshow

Lodwick reminded us of the pop pantheon Strange was joining at the museum when he extended “a huge thank-you to Gill, Tanya and Amanda for being a link in the chain that enabled the V&A to acquire Steve’s archive and costumes two years ago. The family donated mainly clothes from the 2000s – including designs by Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen. Steve’s costumes join those worn by Sandie Shaw, the Beatles, Mick Jagger, Marc Bolan, Jimmy Page, Elton John and Adam Ant.”

We watched two video clips which underlined Strange’s obsession with image-making: the music video for his band Visage’s hit Fade to Grey in which he is transformed into a snake; and a documentary in which milliner Stephen Jones suggests that berets he made for both Strange and for the Princess of Wales coupled them “as a fashion force together”.

Lodwick concluded: “Steve’s legacy will live on for being central to re-energising the club scene in London – pushing forward electronic music, fashion, photography and pop.”

➢ Elsewhere at Shapersofthe80s: Strange days, strange nights – first report on the Blitz from Yours Truly in 1980

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

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

Blitz Kids, New Romantics, fashion, pop music, Swinging 80s, archive, nightlife, Steve Strange, Keith Lodwick, lunchtime lecture, V&A museum,

At this week’s V&A talk: Some of the women in Steve Strange’s life. . . From the left, sister Tanya Harrington, Monica Towner, Rachelle Boyle, Eve Ferrett, Kimbo at centre next to Steve’s mum Gill, Jennie (Belle Stars) Matthias (almost hidden at back), Wendy Tiger, Alison Graham, Amanda Lloyd far right

➢ Talks, lectures, conversations and pop-up events at the V&A

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➤ Modern pop: godlike Quincy Jones tells it like it is

Quincy Jones, Vulture, inteerview, pop music, frankness

Multi-talented Quincy Jones photographed for Vulture by Art Streiber

➢ BBC Music’s rolling news site is updated live throughout the week – today it reports Quincy Jones saying The Beatles were the “worst musicians in the world”

HERE’S ONE OF THE MOST exhilarating interviews you’re ever likely to read with a godlike genius of the American music industry who has won 28 Grammy awards and co-produced Michael Jackson’s biggest-selling albums. The Beatles aren’t the only stars to receive blunt verdicts today from Quincy Jones. But then he did train under the celebrated Nadia Boulanger who during seven decades taught hundreds of leading composers and musicians of the 20th century at the elite Paris Conservatoire, so he does know his stuff. Jones also reckons Jacko “stole lots of songs” and claims to know who shot JFK in 1963. Jones is about to turn 85, so what does he have to lose? Read his eye-poppingly frank revelations in a Q&A interview with Vulture, the culture and entertainment site from New York magazine. He does also pay respec’ to six young stars “doing good work”.

➢ Read Quincy Jones’s full wacko interview at Vulture, 8 Feb 2018

OTHER HEADLINES AT BBC MUSIC TODAY:

Zayn Malik tells Elle India that he has recorded a tune in Hindi for a forthcoming Bollywood movie. Bradford-born Zayn is the son of a British Pakistani father and English mother who converted to Islam when they married.
The Libertines to headline Kendal Calling, 26-29 July.
Kylie to play two intimate shows in March in London and Manchester.
Spice Girls ‘to kick off world tour in UK this summer’.

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1983 ➤ When The Face led the cultural agenda

art schools, The Face, magazine, fashion, style, music, nightclubbing, cuttings, subcultures, analysis, history, Swinging 80s, London

London,Chris Sullivan, Dirt Box, Mud Club,Wag club,Dencil williams, Phil Gray , Ollie O’Donnell,White Trash,Philip Sallon,Nightlife, Rob Milton, The Face,Swinging 80s, clubbing

The Face No 39, July 1983 © Nick Logan/The Face Archive

◼ 1983 PROVED TUMULTUOUS for British youth culture. By December, London’s leading club deejay Jay Strongman declared “This was the year of Go For It”, after 17 new British pop groups lorded it in the US top 40 chart that autumn, while our spirited fashionistas were making waves around the world, with Princess Diana playing ambassador for the classic designers, and Boy George pushing the wilder extremes of street style. Among major features I wrote for The Face was February’s cover story The Making of Club Culture, and in the Evening Standard Posing with a purpose at the Camden Palace, a centre spread on the runaway megaclub hosted by Strange and Egan.

Nightlife was a burgeoning story as black beats took over dancefloors everywhere and Manchester’s tearaway megaclub was the Hacienda, despite the oppressive clean-up being imposed by the city’s infamous Chief Constable. Clubbers from across the nation swarmed in to create a grand coalition of all the cults – “your complete i-D line-up, minus the Worlds End spendthrifts”. In my January report for The Face one inmate bemoaned Hacienda music as  “too funk-based” though another, a flat-top lad called Johnny Maher, revealed his secret, despite having launched some new indie rock band minutes earlier. “I schlepp to funk,” he said.

The Face, journalism, RCA, government, cuts, costs, education, fine art, painting, printmaking, film-making, music schools, fashion, Henry Moore,

© Nick Logan/The Face Archive

In July The Face published a major piece of reportage, Art on the Run, prompted by numerous friends in fine-art education, and billed it as a “shock report” on the Conservative government’s debilitating squeeze on the art schools. Ironically in the same issue my regular Nightlife column identified the four hottest clubland teams as a Who’s Who in the New London Weekend: “Not since the Swinging Sixties had London nightlife reverberated to such a boom.” These clubs were the unofficial job centres that kept a generation in freelance employment and introduced the verb to vop into the language (derivation: “What are you up to these days?” – “Oh, a Variety Of Projects”). Some of that effort was fuelling the rise of computer games which in the June issue Virgin assured me was “the new pop industry”!

 Oliver Peyton , Brighton, nightclubs, The Can, The Face, reviews

Brighton hotspot 1983: Ian, Oliver Peyton and Kate hosting The Can (Photo Shapersofthe80s)

My Nightlife column in The Face’s October issue featured Brighton’s trendiest hotspot (seconds before the very word trendy passed its sell-by outside the Greater London stockade). The Can was presided over by a young Oliver Peyton with Andy Hale as the deejay breaking funk there. Years later Oliver thanked me for this exposure and said he would never have come up to London and started opening restaurants without The Face’s prompt! (One of the few people who have ever thanked me for writing about them! Cheers, Oliver.)

Jay Strongman , DJ, The Face, magazine, interview

Jay Strongman in 1983: ruling London’s three hottest turntables

By this fertile year’s end I had FIVE indicative pieces of reportage published in the December issue of The Face including a detailed rundown on the new dance music by club deejay Jay Strongman, plus news of the imminent Westwood/ McLaren break-up which I’d scented from body language backstage at their Paris runway show.

The launch of the first London Fashion Week that same October confirmed that British street style was being feted in the international spotlight, yet it begged the question how on earth had this suddenly come about? Click through to our inside page to read the feature investigation that set out to answer such questions, by asking decision-makers in the industry to identify the best of Britain’s young designer talent under the headline Eight for ’84. . .

The Face, magazine, fashion, style, music, Eight for 1984, cuttings, subcultures, analysis, history, Swinging 80s, London

From The Face No 44, Dec 1983 © Nick Logan/The Face Archive

First published in the Evening Standard, Nov 4, 1983

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2017 ➤ My pantry, my memoir – ‘Scoop’ Simper relives the flamboyant decadent 80s

Pop Stars in My Pantry, PSIMP, Paul Simper, books, No1 magazine, Swinging 80s, Unbound

The boy wonder: “Scoop” Simper plugging No1 on Switch, the TV pop show

A rare book is published this month giving a vivid eye-witness account of one of the most creative eras for British pop music, the Swinging 80s. Paul Simper himself says: “It’s the pop life story pop-pickers have been gagging for.”

He should know, having emerged from London clubland to become the leading commentator on the New Pop led by image-conscious young bands when the rock press at large was giving them short shrift. Not only was he genuinely The Friend of The Stars but was one of the few writers who could also give it pure laldy dancing his socks off down Le Beat Route. Pop Stars in My Pantry is his confessional memoir and today Shapers of the 80s reprints an exclusive extract. . . But first, who is the man called Simper?

Steve Norman, Paul Simper, PSIMP , Pop Stars In My Pantry,

Wakey-wakey! Spandau Ballet sax player Steve Norman discovers our hero Simper relaxing during a characteristic night out on the town during London’s Swinging 80s

THERE’S NO EXPLAINING PAUL SIMPER except as a life force which is Always On – sometimes as a mouse, sometimes a bunny, often in a skirt or a sequinned tuxedo. Not usually at same time, obvs. He’s obsessive, definitely bonkers, extremely good “in the room” and, oh yes, quite an entertaining showbiz writer.

Now he’s had the nerve to bring out his life story as a book called Pop Stars in My Pantry (PSIMP for short) when you’d think people in the music biz would have learned a lesson from Morrissey’s Pooterish own goal. Luckily Simper seems to have had massively more fun than Moz, actually likes the people he writes about and, oh yes, brings a wicked sense of humour to an industry not noted for knowing how to laugh.

books, Unbound,pop life,clubbing,1980s, Paul Simper, PSIMP , Pop Stars In My Pantry,As a singer in Slippry Feet – a marriage of supper-club in a circus ring meets David Lynch in a disco – Simper only ever got as far as being the best group of December 1993. Bar none. Fortunately for this book he has the day job to fall back on and he is SUCH a namedropper. Look at the puffery adorning his book’s back jacket: “Always a joy to hang with” – Siobhan Fahey; “The most trusted person in 80s pop” – Patsy Kensit; “Truly the epitome of the embedded journalist” – Gary Kemp.

Goes with territory when you have become Friend of The Stars, having leapfrogged from Melody Maker within minutes of coming up from the sticks in 1981, onto smart new fan mags like New Sounds New Styles and No 1 which counted clubbing on-the-town as research. There from the off, he was friends with the burgeoning new generation of self-invented nightlife stars who were storming off fashionable dancefloors across the UK and into the singles charts to knock the rock dinosaurs for six. Fellow clubbing names being dropped go from George Michael to Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Bananarama to Boy George. Not to mention Madonna, Prince, Whitney, Elton and Weller. Woohoo!

Early on I nicknamed him “Scoop” Simper because even though I worked for a Deeply Influential Mainstream Newspaper, whenever any big sexy pop star, like, y’know Debbie Harry, flew in from abroad *he* got the exclusive interview even though he “only” worked for one of those pure-pop weeklies full of pinups and lyrics and breathless reviews.

➢ Pop Stars in My Pantry
is on sale at Amazon

So who’s having the last laugh now?! Well probably Scoop, as usual, since PSIMP proves to be “a right frollicking read for the adults in your family”, while my own book has blurted itself out and into this website for several years, clocking up barely a handful of Wikipedia footnotes to credit. And now His Majesty is entrusting Shapers of the 80s with running an excerpt from one of the best chapters in his book, the story of Sade Adu, the Essex girl who rose via St Martin’s School of Art to become one of the UK’s biggest Grammy-award winning pop exports, described by Robert Sandall in The Sunday Times in 2010 as “the most successful solo British female artist in history”.

Scoop spills the beans: “Sade was very much a part of my early years as a young pop writer living in London. She even used to kindly let me sleep on her sofa.” So here’s a short teaser-taster from PSIMP, but do click through to our inside page for the full extract when Sade’s first band Pride goes in search of Manhattan’s edgy Village scene. . .

Sade’s debut with her own band in Aug 1983 at the Yow club, London, Paul Denman to the fore. Photographed © by Shapersofthe80s

MY RESIDENCY ON SADE’S SOFA
BY ‘SCOOP’ SIMPER

I owed Sade and Bob Elms plenty. When I first moved to London I couldn’t have been more grateful for the existence of their north London home tucked away in multi-cultural Wood Green on the Noel Park Estate.

Their old sofa didn’t exclusively have my name on it – fresh-down-from-Hull saxophonist Stuart Matthewman was pretty much clothed, housed and fed by them over the same period – but on the occasions I was invited back, I took some shifting. Sade reckoned that a pair of my old socks stuck around even longer than me until she ceremonially buried them, like high-grade plutonium, in the back garden.

I was never so bold as to turn up unannounced, but if Bob suggested a home viewing of an under-the-counter video of Texas Chainsaw Massacre or The Hills Have Eyes that he’d got his mitts on in Soho (I’d discovered in my early days in London there was a black market for everything), then I was more than up for it.

My telly viewing habits were not of primary importance to the residents at No 64 Hewitt Avenue by the spring of 1982, though, when Bob and Lee Barrett started talking up this new band called Pride that “Shard” was in. Stuart Matthewman was also involved, as were fellow Hull lads drummer Paul Cooke and bass player Paul Denman.

Back in Hull, Stuart had been in The Odds, a pop/mod band similar to The Piranhas that had started out doing speeded-up punk versions of 60s hits like The Dave Clark Five’s Glad All Over. He then played sax in a ten-piece Elvis impersonator show called Ravin’ Rupert, which covered the whole spectrum of The King’s career from rockabilly to Vegas delivered by a front man sporting a quiff and wearing Rupert-the-Bear checked trousers. A tad cooler was Paul Cooke and Paul Denman’s prog-rock band, The Posers, which Stuart credits as being the only band in Hull trying to do something new.

As for Sade, her singing career had only begun a few months previous when she sang onstage for the first time as part of another London band, Ariva. Considering Ariva were viewed as a bit of a Blue Rondo rip-off, ironically it was on the way to a Rondo gig on Barry Island that Lee first clocked Sade singing along to the radio and asked her if she could sing. She thought she probably could so said Yes. . .

➢ Continue reading about Sade’s first foray with Pride
to New York City – inside Shapers of the 80s

Sade Adu, Pride, pop music, NYC, 1982

NYC 1982: Sade and her British Pride posse hang with the locals on the streets of Alphabet City

Sade Adu

By 1986 Sade was touring the world fronting a band in her own name, here in Paris

Sade Adu, soul music

Sade’s band in Paris 1986: keyboard player Andrew Hale and manager Lee Barrett

➢ There’s a launch party and a book review for PSIMP coming up soon so fasten your seat belts for a full report!

PAUL’S OTHER ROOST: NO.1 THE POP WEEKLY

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1981 ➤ The day they sold The Times, both Timeses

❚ ON THIS DAY 30 YEARS AGO… “Australian newspaper tycoon Rupert Murdoch has agreed to buy The Times and Sunday Times newspapers. But the deal will only go ahead if Mr Murdoch can reach a deal with the print unions within the next three weeks over the introduction of new technology. Mr Murdoch will be expected to meet a number of conditions aimed at preserving the editorial integrity of the papers.”

➢ Read Murdoch bids to take over Times
— On This Day at BBC online

Rupert Murdoch, 1981,Harold Evans, Sunday Times, William Rees-Mogg, The Times

In media circles this was the “sale of the century”, and it is captured here in what the photographer Sally Soames calls her “best shot” … Rupert Murdoch announcing his purchase of Times Newspapers on Jan 22, 1981, to a press conference at the Portman hotel. He is flanked by Harold Evans, editor of The Sunday Times, and William Rees-Mogg, editor of The Times. © Sally Soames

This picture of two doomed gazelles at the feet of the tiger is the one photographer Sally Soames last year nominated as her Best Shot ever. I had the pleasure of working with her shortly before her retirement and a print of this historic photo adorns my bathroom wall. Sally’s back catalogue has been a who’s who of political and artistic giants since her first assignment for The Observer in 1963. She works exclusively in black and white and her photographs are instantly recognisable for the richness and depth of her blacks. She told The Guardian last year:

“I WAS WORKING FOR THE SUNDAY TIMES IN 1981, and there was a rumour that Rupert Murdoch was buying the paper, along with The Times. I was sent to a packed press conference given by Murdoch and the two editors. When the purchase was announced, I knew it was the end of The Sunday Times. My newspaper was going down the tubes. I had tears pouring down my face as I worked.

“As always, I went down the front. I was the littlest, always “the girl”. The three of them sat down, and it was everybody’s first sight of Murdoch. I had brought three cameras, one of them with a wide-angle lens. Everyone started shooting Murdoch – except me. I photographed all three: Harold Evans, the Sunday Times editor, on the left; William Rees-Mogg, the Times editor, on the right. They all had name plates, and I knew I had to get Murdoch’s in there, to identify him. I had to tell the story: two papers were going to change completely…”

➢ Update 2019: Read “fearless” Sally Soames’s
obituary at The Guardian

Universal Daily Register, 1785, newspapers, The Times

First issue of the Universal Daily Register in 1785, later to become The Times

❚ THE ROMANCE OF THE BRITISH PRESS has always derived from its being simultaneously glorious and wretched, from its earliest days when kings would jail upstart editors to the decade of continual strife throughout British industry, the 1970s. So powerful were the trade unions that, as former Times editor Simon Jenkins wrote in his 1979 book Newspapers, The Power and the Money: “Action taken… has brought one paper after another to the brink of financial ruin.” Mind you, rich proprietors also made pretty ineffectual managers. One of the more enlightened was the Canadian Roy Thomson, who flexed his muscle by shutting down for a whole year both of the world-renowned newspapers he owned and published in London — The Times (founded 1785, and 200 years later broadening its appeal from its historic role as the “Top People’s paper”) and The Sunday Times (founded 1821, which under Harry Evans had set benchmarks with its hugely influential investigative journalism). In 1980 the papers ran up a £15m loss (equivalent to £50m today) and by then Thomson had reached the end of his tether, so put them up for sale.

Those were the days when ten nationally distributed daily newspapers and nine Sundays averaged 13m paid-for sales every day of the week (serving a UK population of 56m). Seven millionaire contenders sprang into the marketplace to bid for the two Timeses, yet Harry Evans thought none was worthy to own the world’s most prestigious titles. His book Good Times Bad Times is the rippingmost yarn about real newspaper life — “Who were these seven dwarves, I asked a staff meeting, to seek the hand of Snow White?” It was the Australian wot won it. The deal led to 563 redundancies.

 Rupert Murdoch

Rupert Murdoch in his computerised offices and printing plant newly built at Wapping, 1986 © by Sally Soames, National Portrait Gallery collection

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