Category Archives: London

1979 ➤ Spandau’s manager Steve Dagger tells of two offers to sign his band at their debut

Spandau Ballet, Blitz Club, New Romantics, debut, 40th anniversary, Steve Strange, London

Spandau Ballet’s debut beneath festive bunting: Steve Strange in PX frills introduces the new band at the Blitz Christmas party in December 1979… Tony Hadley supercool in collar, tie, waistcoat and overcoat, Martin Kemp in jaunty trilby with Steve Norman beyond

On the 40th anniversary of Spandau Ballet’s debut
performance at London’s Blitz club spearheading
the post-punk new wave, the band’s manager
Steve Dagger publishes his eye-witness account…

❏ On the 5th of December 1979, Spandau Ballet was born. After a year in metamorphosis and following a successful preview show two weeks before at Halligan’s rehearsal studios, when they were named by journalist and broadcaster to be, Robert Elms, Spandau Ballet emerged onto the stage and into the world at the Blitz on the occasion of Steve Strange and Rusty Egan’s Christmas party in 1979.

Much has been written about the Blitz and its extraordinary position as a cultural funnel at the beginning of the 80s. But Spandau Ballet’s two performances there and subsequent meteoric rise to success did much to drive this tiny club and its spectacular clientele into the headlines and its ethos into popular culture and serve as the template to the 80s.

What happened that night?

No band had played before at a Steve Strange/Rusty Egan event, so the audience was not used to seeing live music in this context. Music was normally provided by Rusty Egan’s DJing, an extraordinary montage of epic electronica which seemed to give a tantalizing glimpse of a future we were all going to take part in.

How would “Spandau Ballet” be received? The preview show had gone incredibly well, so a handful of our friends and key faces on the scene had seen the band already, liked them and spread the word. But it was an impossibly cool crowd. Whether they were fashion students, artists, embryonic designers, wannabe writers, film directors or just London’s coolest of the cool night people, they all had an opinion of themselves and everything else.

The usual crowd was supplemented by a sprinkling of older cognoscenti, a Chelsea crowd who had become aware of the Blitz scene. The likes of Keith Wainwright, uber-cool hairdresser of Smile; artist Dougie Fields to name but a few, plus some musicians who had been drawn to the Blitz. Richard Burgess of Landscape (Spandau Ballet producer to be), Midge Ure of Ultravox and Billy Idol, Steve Severin of Siouxsie and the Banshees and Marco Pirroni of Adam & The Ants.

Spandau Ballet, Tony Hadley , Blitz Club, New Romantics, Steve Strange, London

Spandau Ballet’s second Blitz date, January 1980, most sporting bow ties: Gary Kemp on synth at left, Tony Hadley as vocalist, with Steve Norman and Martin Kemp on guitars held high in their anti-rock stance

So the battle lines were drawn and into the valley death… Actually, the band were much less nervous than they had been for the preview show and also excited about playing in “their” club. When Rusty’s music stopped and they got onto the tiny stage there was a degree of anticipation and curiosity. I think the band realised collectively it was now or never and they seized the moment and started to play confidently and with a bit of swagger. Some of the audience danced, some applauded but almost everyone watched.

Tony sang brilliantly. The set which included most of the songs on “Journeys to Glory” fitted the club. Spandau Ballet fitted the club. “To Cut a Long Story” sounded like a massive hit.

Halfway through the set I was feeling quietly confident and was standing by the mixing desk next to the sound engineer when I became aware of a man standing next to me. He spoke to me.
“Who is this band?”
“It’s Spandau Ballet,” I said.
The new name sounded f*cking great.
“Which record label are they signed to?”
“They aren’t signed.”
“Who is their manager.”
“I am,” I said proudly.
“Well I am Chris Blackwell and I own Island Records, and I would like to sign them.”

First gig as Spandau Ballet… 5-0 up. Another man approached me. He was Danny Goodwin from Peninsula Music Publishing. He wanted to sign them too.

Spandau Ballet, Blitz Club, New Romantics, Steve Strange, London, Heritage award,The band finished their set. I could not wait to go backstage into the tiny dressing room to talk to them. We had all worked very hard for this moment. They were about to become a very important band. The only band that could play in the Blitz. The most important club in the world at that time. Everyone in the Blitz that night was hugely complimentary and positive about them.

We owned the space, we had claimed it. We were about to go through the looking glass and our lives were never going to be the same. The next day, I spoke to Chris Blackwell on the phone and arranged to meet him in a pub. He was softly spoken, charming and very cool. He owned the coolest record label in the world – Bob Marley, Roxy Music, Traffic, Free, Spencer Davis – and he wanted to sign Spandau Ballet. Now. He even gave me a list of lawyers he recommended to act for the band.

It all felt a little strange but somehow like it was all supposed to happen like this. I felt unbelievably relaxed and comfortable, empowered, and the band very confident, entitled energised. Uncrowned Princes of pop culture all of a sudden. We turned him down. But that is another story.

© Steve Dagger
First published today at Spandau Ballet’s website

Spandau Ballet, Blitz Club, New Romantics, Heritage award,

Heritage award from the Performing Rights Society: In September 2014 Spandau Ballet returned to the site of the Blitz Club to see a plaque installed remembering their debut. The club’s original neon sign was also present for the photoshoot

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
1980, Strange days, strange nights, strange people

Spandau Ballet,Evening Standard, Blitz Club, New Romantics, Steve Strange

Steve Strange’s first interview with the Evening Standard, 24 Jan 1980, telling us of Spandau Ballet’s second performance that day

VIDEO OF A LEGENDARY CIRCLE LINE PARTY:

➢ Previously… 1980, The Invisible Hand of Shapersofthe80s
draws a selective timeline for the unprecedented
rise and rise of Spandau Ballet

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35 years since Band Aid’s monster Christmas single and the 80s ceased to swing

Band Aid , Do They Know It’s Christmas?

The Band Aid band, Nov 25, 1984: most of the pop stars who performed, plus artist Peter Blake who created the record sleeve for Do They Know It’s Christmas?

◼︎ TODAY WAS THE DAY IN 1984 THEY RECORDED the song that became, for 13 years, the biggest selling UK single of all time. Do They Know It’s Christmas was released four days later, stayed at No 1 for five weeks, sold over three million copies and raised significant funds for famine relief in Africa. The project lead naturally the next year to Live Aid, the biggest globally televised rock concerts ever, viewed by two billion people in 60 countries, who coughed up still more dollars…/ Continued inside

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s:
How Geldof and Ure rounded up the unlikeliest megagroup
to record the biggest selling single of its era

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2019 ➤ The Boulevard rises from the ashes of the Raymond Revuebar

Architecture, theatre, cabaret, live music, comedy, Boulevard Theatre, Soho, Fawn James, Raymond Revuebar,

Contemporary new Boulevard Theatre and function space, photographed by Jack Hobhouse

comedy, Boulevard Theatre, Soho, Fawn James, Raymond Revuebar, Kiri Pritchard-McLean, Rhys James,

Friday’s Late Night Scene: Kiri Pritchard-McLean and Rhys James

◼ AN INTIMATE NEW 170-SEAT THEATRE and function space has opened in Soho on the site of Paul Raymond’s original striptease Revuebar from 1958 to 2004. It is named after the Boulevard Theatre which reinvented itself there in 1980 from its racy predecessor by showcasing The Comic Strip team who went on to rewrite the rules of British comedy. The stage proved the springboard to success for Alexei Sayle, Ade Edmondson and Rik Mayall, Nigel Planer and Peter Richardson and Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders.

After a £40m redevelopment of the site in Walker’s Court under the shrewd business eye of Raymond’s grand-daughter Fawn James, there’s now an active programme of theatre and weekly late events for live music, cabaret and comedy. This weekend’s unruly Friday comedy set from 10.30pm was fronted by the wry Kiri Pritchard-McLean. Stand-ups included Olga Koch, whose name struck a risqué note from the start, plus an Edinburgh Award winner who sadly didn’t quite click. However, topping the bill at machine-gun speed was TV face Rhys James and he alone was worth the £15 ticket price.

The in-house theatre production playing daily is Ghost Quartet, the 2014 “song cycle about love, death and whiskey” by American Dave Malloy, directed by Bill Buckhurst. In January comes The Sunset Limited, from the American novelist Cormac McCarthy, his 2006 exploration of free will dubbed “a novel in dramatic form” and directed by Terry Johnson, the multi-award-winning British dramatist.

The Boulevard’s rebirth is down to Fawn James as a director of Soho Estates, who says she intends to honour her grandfather’s legacy as an impresario and property investor by helping to promote Soho as an arts and entertainment district. The Boulevard’s artistic director is Rachel Edwards who founded the award-winning Tooting Arts Club.

The glorious Revuebar neon sign from Raymond’s era has been faithfully reconstructed to shine out as a Brewer Street landmark though, true to neon tradition, several letters have already blacked out! The four-storey building houses an adaptable, state-of-the-art auditorium, restaurant, bar, lounge and rehearsal room. Versatility is at the core of the venue, with every space fully customisable for a range of functions embracing weddings and conferences. The Boulevard has been actively recruiting to fill a variety of jobs.

Click any pic below to enlarge

Architecture, theatre, cabaret, live music, comedy, Boulevard Theatre, Soho, Fawn James, Raymond Revuebar,

Boulevard Theatre’s new facade and bridge by Soda Studio

➢ Revolving auditorium is showpiece of Boulevard Theatre by Soda – Amy Frearson reporting at Dezeen magazine, 28 October 2019:

The Boulevard Theatre features stalls and a balcony that both revolve independently, along with a stage that moves up and down, making a wide variety of different configurations possible. The entire project is designed by Soda, a London-based studio that works across architecture, interiors and graphic design. It forms part of a new development in the heart of Soho.

The bar and restaurant is an art-deco-inspired space featuring pink panelled walls, marble surfaces, brass lighting, and leather and velvet upholstery. There are also subtle references here to the Boulevard logo, while the glass bridge features an inlay of lace, in reference to a brothel previously located on this street.

Soda worked with theatre specialist Charcoalblue to make the auditorium as functional as possible. The transformations all take less than 10 minutes, so the space can easily host three or four different types of performance in one day.

Developer Fawn James said: “One of the things that I really wanted was that element of surprise, because when you’re in Soho you don’t necessarily know what you’re getting. Sometimes you could come to a show in the round, go downstairs, grab a bite to eat, then come back up for the next show and feel like you’re in a completely different room… / Continued at Dezeen online

Photography is by Jack Hobhouse unless otherwise stated

Comic Strip, 1980, Rik Mayall, Ade Edmondson, Alexei Sayle, alternative cabaret, cuttings, David Johnson, Over21 magazine

First published in Over21, January 1981

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
1981, At The Comic Strip, ‘alternative cabaret’ throws up the next generation of household names

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➤ A double act is born – Sulls & Elms, take a bow!

Chris Sullivan, Robert Elms, talk, Standard Hotel, London, history, nightlife, memories

Ribald and passionate: Sullivan and Elms capping each other’s stories with gusto

TWO LIFE-LONG PALS, both born raconteurs and clubland wags, sat on a pair of wonky stools this week in public and for an hour had an invited crowd roaring as helplessly as themselves as each capped the other’s stories. The subject was the ever-changing face of London and their faces were those of writer/artist Chris Sullivan (nominally a Welshman who revealed roots that led to a grandfather who’d been a bouncer at the capital’s Windmill Theatre), and BBC London broadcaster Robert Elms (a paid-up Cockney in all but the Bow Bells bit, whose mum was a clippie on the buses at age 15). Both are renowned for having shaped the style revolution of the Swinging Eighties. Now they had taken over a snug corner of the library lounge at the Standard Hotel in King’s Cross, a venue which prompted some ribald tales of their mis-spent teens.

Topics ranged from the East End to West End. There was much mention of food from the era before London became cuisine capital of the world: Elms remembered the early pizza parlours that served your American Hot with a whole baked potato and coleslaw all on one plate. “Which Italian ever had that?” he howled. From the audience, David Rosen recalled Blooms in Whitechapel as an essential kosher eaterie when its walls were blessed with photography by Bauhaus star Moholy-Nagy.

Chris Sullivan, Robert Elms, talk, Standard Hotel, London, history, nightlife, memories

A wrapt audience for Sullivan and Elms: familiar faces from their colourful circle of London friends

For half a century Soho had been the red-light district and as a result, Elms said, by the mid-70s civilised people had given up on the centre of town. Only a public outcry in 1973 protected the 19th-century neo-classical buildings of Covent Garden as the market prepared to relocate to Nine Elms. He added: “London was going to be knocked down after the market moved out and this generation of Londoners [the audience] saved it by our creativity.” It was for instance the place where the seminal New Romantics Blitz club-night opened in 1979, a year before the desolate central market reopened as a shopping centre.

The lack of affordable nightclubs for teenagers in 1979 also drove Bob and Chris to initiate their own pioneering ad hoc parties at the Mayhem print warehouse featuring snake-charmers and blue movies projected onto the ceiling as their “crash course for ravers”. These parties were free, Bob confessed, because they never dreamed they could charge people admission. Chris became so animated at this point he was falling off his stool with laughter.

Of Soho’s Wag club, the pivotal black music nightspot he ran for almost two decades, Sullivan reminded us: “London was a dodgy place. Coming into Soho was taking your life in your hands. The only reason we were able to take over the Wag was because it was a no-go area. About three months after it started, a prostitute got her throat cut outside the Pizza Express by her pimp. People forget it was dangerous. Back then you could be attacked in Soho for wearing the wrong clothes.” Consequently, Elms added: “That Blitz/Wag generation were pretty tough.”

Today the sentimental pair remain firm fans of “the greatest city on earth” but then, they both revel in making things happen wherever they go.

London, history, Durex, shop, Wardour Street,

Condoms by the gross: legendary Soho shop-front

❏ Throwaway revelation: The landmark 18-foot wide DUREX sign that graced a Wardour Street shopfront almost opposite the Wag, and had serviced the needs of timid schoolboys for generations, today belongs to Valentine Morby!

Chris Sullivan, Robert Elms, talk, Standard Hotel, London, history, nightlife, memories, books, publishing, rebels, Canongate, Unbound,

Their latest books 2019: Sullivan’s from Unbound, Elms’s from Canongate

➢ Chris Sullivan hopes this jaw-jaw event will continue with other old friends occupying the guest stool. Keep an eye on his social media

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s: Robert Elms the storyteller on why some stories are “too good to check”

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➤ After his Spandau ordeal, singer Ross shakes off the blues

◼ EX-SPANDAU BALLET VOCALIST Ross William Wild seems to be finally feeling the warmth of the summer sun after weeks of black despair. Without being told his position, it became evident that he had been dumped by the band who recruited him to replace Tony Hadley a year ago. Provoked first by Spandau’s silence and then by an insulting media interview from songwriter Gary Kemp, Ross found a new band and in May announced he was quitting Spandau. Bass player Martin Kemp was next to insult him in a rambling TV interview that made no mention of Ross’s position.

On 28 May Ross told Shapers of the 80s: “I’d put my whole life on hold and was sick of waiting around for them to make up their minds. I told the boys I was quitting and then never heard back from them.”

Suddenly this month Ross has revealed how this tough emotional saga was taking its toll on him. He wrote on Facebook:

“This year has not been an easy one. Last year I was on top of the world and then this year the medical powers that be stuck me on everybody’s favourite mental tourniquet, antidepressants. After quitting Spandau I never even had the time to tell anybody before others were told to get on TV and do some damage control, which made me look like a dick and in turn f***ed me up mentally.

Francesco Lucidi, Emanuele Nazzaro, Fabio Staffieri , Ross William Wild, Dingwalls, Camden Rocks Fest, reviews, grunge, Rock music,

Mercutio at Dingwalls: Ross centre-stage in his second live gig with the metal band

“But things are looking up. Great concert in the West End coming up, couple of international gigs, a green energy company that’s really taking off (more news to come on that soon). And best of all, I’m going on tour with my band Mercutio. We’re really just starting out and I can’t wait to see what our future holds, but mainly, I’m going to enjoy the ride and be present, and get off these goddamn pills.”

His “metal with melody” band Mercutio has played a couple of riff-driven London gigs and released a video for their first single pointedly titled Where the Pain Lives, directed by contemporary dance choreographer Eleesha Drennan. Ross says: “The song is an epiphany. A realisation that some of our best ideas and most creative thinking come from our darkest and most painful places. Where the Pain Lives is an acceptance of this fact.”

Mercutio comprises Fabio Staffieri on guitar, Emanuele Nazzaro on bass and Francesco Lucidi on drums. Their stated aim is to bring mainstream rock music back to the forefront of people’s musical consciousness with a bang. From 28 October they will be supporting Inglorious (“a young Deep Purple”) on four UK dates, and another in Milan.

Ross’s West End event next week stars Jodie Steele (Heathers, Wicked, Rock of Ages) as Daisy Buchanan and Ross as Jay Gatsby, among a cast of eight in three concert performances of a musical take on Scott Fitzgerald’s Jazz Age novel The Great Gatsby.

➢ Gatsby the Musical plays in concert at Crazy Coqs in London W1, 27-29 August. Box office 020 7734 4888 and online

➢ Mercutio support Inglorious at Oxford, Cardiff, Exeter, Brighton, 28 Oct-1 Nov, then 5 Nov in Milan

➢ On 18 Oct Mercutio play at 93 Feet East, Brick Lane E1 6QL

Gatsby the Musical, Crazy Coqs, London, brasserie zedel, Jodie Steele, Ross William Wild,

❏ 30 AUGUST UPDATE VERDICT: As Jay Gatsby, Ross William Wild’s own big numbers were superb, especially The Moon That Never Rose, also Escape the Heat and Broken Wings Broken Dreams with Jodie Steele as Daisy Buchanan confronting her fabled carelessness. Musically Gatsby the Musical proved very promising with Edward Court providing a sensitive accompaniment on piano. The show boasted spirited Jazz Age tunes by Joe Evans, though often touchingly melancholy in keeping with the elusive storyline by Linnie Reedman, plus engaging lyrics, as with I Bet He Killed a Man. Sadly staging concert performances always puts an unnatural strain on the actors so let’s hope the serious shortcomings of the tiny and cramped Crazy Coqs (with a super-loud wall clock ticking throughout quieter scenes!) won’t inhibit this show’s development.

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s: New vocalist Ross rocks Spandau by announcing his new band Mercutio

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s: Another Spandau bombshell – Kemp Brothers drive out Ross their ‘perfect’ new singer

Steve Norman, Ross William Wild, Pop-Helden-Festival, Berlin, pop music

1 Sept update: Ross and Spandau’s saxophonist Steve Norman rehearsing in London today for their appearance together at next Saturday’s Pop-Helden-Festival of 80s Pioneers in Berlin, along with Marc Almond, Paul Young, Wet Wet Wet and Howard Jones

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