Category Archives: London

2022 ➤ Out of chaos comes forth Grace Jones

Grace Jones, Meltdown, Royal Festival Hall

Grace Jones’s finale at Meltdown: 20ft above the stage in Keith Haring printed dress

■ WHAT AN O-T-T SPECTACLE Grace Jones made of her finale last night as the annual Meltdown Festival’s curator over ten days at London’s Royal Festival Hall. Backed by an eight-piece band (which includes her son Paolo), plus a magical accordionist during Libertango, Grace’s own set reached back through her entire catalogue of reggae, dub, soul, new wave, pop and disco. As her supporting act, the evening had showcased the black British singer and percussionist Eska (who Radio 6’s Gilles Petersen has called “one of the most important singers in the UK”).

Grace Jones, Meltdown, Royal Festival Hall

Grace as Meltdown logo

Grace was on-stage for 1h45m while she changed costumes for virtually every number and was visibly fortifying herself during the changes with red wine, an apparent spliff and who knows what else. Let’s face it, at 74 years old, this was a helluva lot of stage minutes to cavort through in her uniquely burlesque style without break!

The show opened to reveal her singing the trip-hop This Is, mounted like a mannequin atop a massive 20ft “dress” bearing a Keith Haring print and wafting as if animated within by vigorous dancing feet. The witty chaos that followed didn’t falter, and never overshadowed the music.

Click any pic below to enlarge all in a slideshow

Telling us “I feel like the wicked witch,” Grace proceeded to destroy two sets of side drums, spin her famous hula-hoop throughout Slave to the Rhythm while tweaking her bare nipples, surf her way up through the stalls during Pull Up To the Bumper buoyed by an eager audience, then returning to the stage to fight her own full-on Hurricane from a wind machine, the whole time proffering her sensually painted torso to us, led by a curiously masculine bulge over the crotch of her black corset. All of which exhausted many among the sell-out standing audience across the generations who had to sit down at frequent intervals to recover their wits.

Grace’s legendary creative chaos endured to the end: the band had taken their bows and exited past the scheduled finish time, when Grace lit a cigarette and told us “I can sing a cappella” only to linger alone to give us La Vie En Rose. Then, er, that done, she walked off. Here’s to Grace’s 75th!

Grace Jones, Meltdown, Royal Festival Hall

Grace Jones at Meltdown: backed by her eight-piece band

➢ Read Andy Polaris’s expert review of Grace’s triumphant return to the London stage – at his blog Apolarisview

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
2011, Mother of all disco divas Grace fans her hurricane

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2022 ➤ Spandau seek your help to create a major new showcase

Spandau, New Romantics, pop music, New York City, 1981

Spandau in New York City 1981: were you there and do you have any memorabilia?

■ THE FIRST NEW BAND out of Eighties clubland to score a chart hit are planning a celebration of those early formative years when the world called them the leaders of the New Romantics.

Today Spandau Ballet – all now in their sixties – announced “a major career-defining project” and appealed to fans for help. The band invites everyone who attended any of their performances between 1979 and 1981 to send in memorabilia such as flyers, posters, tickets, video or film footage of Spandau Ballet, onstage and off. For example, these would include their appearances at London’s Blitz Club, Mayhem Studios, Scala Cinema, HMS Belfast, their first Top of the Pops, Birmingham’s Botanical Gardens, Tiger Bay Cardiff, Heaven and the Sundown in London, Exeter Bowl Bournemouth, Le Palace in Paris, the Underground Club in New York, the Ku Club in Ibiza or the Much More in Rome.

Likewise, send them your memories of the pace-setting dance-led clubs during those years, such as Billy’s, the Blitz, Rum Runner, Le Beat Route, Le Kilt, Club for Heroes, Danceteria, the Voodoo Club, or from 1982 the Camden Palace and the Wag club. Again, memorabilia that captures the fashions and the atmosphere is welcomed.

➢ Click to visit Spandau’s special website for
submissions and more information

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
1980, Steve Strange’s call to join the party

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1982 ➤ Strange takes UK clubbing mainstream

Koko, Camden Theatre, Camden Palace, nightclubbing, music venue, fire, architecture, Music Machine,

Steve Strange in 1982: for ever being filmed at Camden Palace

40
YEARS
ON

❏ In the same season that Next opened its first shops in Britain to bring colour to the high street, Steve Strange and Rusty Egan went mainstream with their first mega-club venue for the growing generation of nightlifers who had discovered that dressing up could change your life. On this day in April 1982, Strange & Egan began fronting what became the Camden Palace a couple of nights a week, way north of London’s West End. This huge Edwardian theatre was most famous in the postwar years as BBC radio’s studio for recording the Goon Shows.

Within its first year and open five nights a week, the Palace came to offer easily the best night out in London because, as well as the usual delights, this poser’s paradise won a reputation for offering more. The world’s media and photographers learned this was the fashionable place to find the next big thing and on the crowded stairways here, posing truly began to pay its way…

During 1982 mega-clubs began appearing across the country, from the Hacienda in Manchester to Rock City in Nottingham and the Academy in Bournemouth. Click below to read my report in the Evening Standard nailing how streetwise New Romantic followers set about expressing their inner talents in ways that helped transform rampant unemployment into a jobs market in which the young began to thrive…

Camden Palace, nightclubbing, Steve Strange

First published in the Evening Standard, 11 May 1983

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
1983, A silly hat and a calculated look might be
the best career move you’ve ever made

London, nightlife

Palace forecourt 1983: in their circle of peers everyone in this picture is a household name. Picture © by David Montgomery

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
2020, Second time unlucky as fire ravages
the former Camden Palace nightspot

➢ 2022, On 29 April Koko, the renamed Camden Palace,
reopens as a state-of-the-art venue after massive refurbs
including a new roof garden. Arcade Fire plays live

Koko, nightclub, London, reopens, live venue

Koko in 2022: a roof-terrace bar as part of its £70m refurbishment

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2022 ➤ New Romantics? Here are some who won’t own to that name

BFI Flare Film Festival 2022, Tramps!, Kevin Hegge, Brian Robertson, movies, New Romantics

After yesterday’s Gala premiere of Tramps! – BFI host at left, then director Kevin Hegge, Scarlett Cannon, Jeffrey Hinton, Philip Sallon, Verity Susman (music), Matthew Sims (music) and Brian Robertson (producer). (Photo © Tessa Hallmann)

❚ MAYBE IT TAKES AN OUTSIDER to see a whole decade with a fresh perspective? Saturday night saw the launch of a documentary called Tramps! that attempts to do just that in almost two hours.  The much-spun truths and fables of a movement which, even after this film’s premiere, refuses to own its given name, appears to have a new champion. In truth there was not just one group of people who started the emerging movement, there clearly were many who at times intermingled but also grew their own quiet revolutions under a greater umbrella that later came to be called a cult: the New Romantics. This is the story of some of them.

Tramps!, BFI Flare Festival, Mark Dooris, review, movies

FILM REVIEW BY
MARK DOORIS
(Photo Tessa Hallmann)

The Canadian Kevin Hegge’s film opens cleverly to a domestic picture of the model Scarlett Cannon tending to her sun-drenched garden as she recollects her formative years. In this unexpected view of a woman whose powerful and iconic imagery has been documented and used as one of the least compromising style statements of the Eighties (playing “key identity” for the V&A Museum’s major exhibition From Club to Catwalk), she speaks about simply being there!

Just like the film’s poster, this is well-placed bait that slowly draws you into what will turn out to be a very well-constructed game plan. A definitive film about the so-called New Romantics has yet to be made but this contribution to the BFI’s annual Flare Film Festival offers a well-stacked sandwich of people and events that gives a very personal view of their experiences through a uniquely creative period of history.

Driven by a musical score that both emotes and supports the story, we see unfolding before us spliced and collaged pictures and film clips of a selection of renegades who love and survive in punk’s underlying gloom and spend ten years carving out a brighter world through Thatcher’s hectic Britain. The patchworking together of views and motivations of some of the witnesses proves that the movement was bigger than its over-used title.

Judy Blame steals the show by saying it as it is. The unrepentant gay designer, who has sadly died since being interviewed by Hegge, is often overlooked for his contribution to Eighties style and gay culture. Disc jockey Princess Julia remains a constant through the film, as indeed she should, as a very relevant force in style and club culture to this day.

In a new twist, nightlife entrepreneur Philip Sallon was given credit and indeed respect for his very singular influence on both the scene and indeed the followers who helped change the growing movement. Unlike many previous interviews, this time they let his wit and views be heard rather than using him as the cymbal-clapping monkey who offers only light relief to the story of the times. At Saturday’s screening, the effervescently clad Philip asked the audience to be kind to each other and to look beyond the superficial outer paint to the person within and that, at its core, is what this film itself does.

BFI Flare Film Festival 2022, Tramps!, Kevin Hegge, movies,

Kevin Hegge, director of the documentary TRAMPS! © Kevin Hegge

“If you have a bone of contention with
the movie… make your own movie”
– director Kevin Hegge

John Maybury talks of his film-making career and the people who appear in the clips we see of his days in the legendary Warren Street squat, plus the influence and support that director Derek Jarman gave him to discover and use his skills after being invited to join what turned out to be the cult film Jubilee in 1977. Artist Andrew Logan with his occasional Alternative Miss World competitions is rightly identified as a pioneering force in the new bohemia party scene that was emerging, while the painter Duggie Fields added some graceful recollections of this time gone by, he too having passed on since filming.

Thrown aside are the frilly shirts in favour of the BodyMap duo of David Holah and Stevie Stewart, offered up as the fashion revolutionaries who, hand in hand with Michael Clark and Les Childs, danced to a different beat. Performance artist Leigh Bowery is featured throughout the film and images of his eccentricity almost drive the visual impact with its cinematic styling and its Venus in Furs-esque vibe. An intriguing insight is given into the apparent genius of Bowery’s room-mate Trojan (Guy Barnes), his part in the Taboo nightclub set and the impact he might have continued to make if not for his untimely death.

Michael Costiff and his amazing partner Gerlinde are acknowledged for their roles in both the club world and the counter culture that was emerging, as were Miss Binnie and the Neo Naturists who are almost forgotten in most reviews of the Eighties. Sadly many people were lost to the Aids epidemic that cut its way through the careers of others referenced within the film and their contribution to gay culture, as was the demise of many in the drug-fuelled parts of club world. What and who are missing is a list too long to type but a refreshing and often underplayed star emerges in disc-jockey Jeffrey Hinton’s outlook during a pivotal chapter in the history of style.

Curiously, the title Tramps! and its poster are misleading about the ground this film covers and what it offers instead, but as an insight into how key people saw their time in the sun, it’s a winner. And impressively moving.

The Gala evening was not awash with big names from the Eighties and indeed a grave lack of New Romantic superstars was evident at both screening and drinks party after. Sadly the promised Questions and Answers section never really hit the mark and no chance was given for the audience to question the director or cast. That said, Tramps! made a great choice for the closing night of the Flare Festival.

❏  The film is not yet on general release

Blitz Kids, film, New Romantics, Swinging 80s, Michele Clapton, George O’Dowd, Lee Sheldrick , Princess Julia, Kevin Hegge, Tramps!, BFI Flare Festival

Leading the Goth wave in 1980: Blitz Kids Michele Clapton, George O’Dowd, Lee Sheldrick and Princess Julia, on the rooftop at St Martin’s School of Art, photographed by Graham Smith and dressed in Gothic mode for Stephen Linard’s “Neon Gothic” collection in the second year’s Alternative Fashion Show

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s: 1981, Who are the New Romantics, what are their sounds and how do they dance?
➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
1980, The year the Blitz Kids took their first steps into the headlines

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2021 ➤ Steve Norman returns with The Sleevz and a surprise royal send-off!

Sleevz, Pizza Express Live, Steve Norman, pop music, concert

Sleevz live at Pizza Express 2021: L-R, Steve Norman, Sabrina Winter, Jaco Norman and Paul Cuddeford. (Photo: Shapersofthe80s)


Updated on 27 August 2021
❚ AFTER 18 MONTHS OFF-STAGE Spandau Ballet sax player Steve Norman and his own band The Sleevz have returned to what he calls “our fav venue” Pizza Express Live in Holborn, London. On Thursday night and Friday afternoon they played a “festival set” including Spandau’s most popular hit songs, alongside some of Steve’s own tracks and personal favourites. The lineup included his wife Sabrina Winter, his son Jaco Norman, Paul Cuddeford and Joe Bongo Becket.

During Spandau’s heyday in the Swinging Eighties, the multi-instrumentalist Steve introduced the saxophone as his signature sound then wrote and played one of the most iconic saxophone solos on the band’s No 1 hit True. Steve toured the globe with Spandau Ballet and in 1985 he appeared at Live Aid at Wembley Stadium.

In 2014 the band released a documentary about themselves and 1980s culture more broadly, Soul Boys of the Western World, followed by the album The Story – The Very Best of Spandau Ballet, and another world tour in 2015. In 2017 Steve started playing solo shows across Europe accompanied by his five-piece band.

➢ Click here for tickets for August 26 (8pm) and
August 27 (1:30pm matinee)

The Sleevz, Pizza Express Live, Steve Norman, pop music, concert

Steve Norman, left, with his band Sleevz: Paul Cuddeford,‪ Sabrina Winter, Joe Bongo Becket, Jaco Norman

friends, Sleevz, Pizza Express Live, Steve Norman, pop music, concert

Steve Norman at Pizza Express 2021: with wives of his schoolfriends in Family Corner. (Photo: Shapersofthe80s)

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s: Spandau Ballet’s 2014 comeback with a film of their soul-boy journey through pop

ALSO OUT OF THE BLUE THIS WEEK!

The Band of the Coldstream Guards and the Band of the Scots Guard, Changing the Guard, Gold, pop music

CLICK on this pic to view The Royal Family’s video of Gold being played live on the Forecourt of Buckingham Palace this week

❏ As an amazing coincidence, on Monday the Royal Family’s page at Facebook posted this video of Spandau Ballet’s 1983 hit Gold being played live on the forecourt of Buckingham Palace. Back on duty for the first time since March 2020, we see the State Ceremonial Musicians performing while the daily ceremony of Changing The Guard took place. Here, the Band of the Coldstream Guards and the Band of the Scots Guard combined in a special tribute to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics which began this week.

Steve Norman commented: “I’m very proud of our Spandau legacy. Almost 40 years on and still going strong. My mum would be so proud. She loved the pomp and ceremony of Changing the Guard. Congratulations to team GB for their Olympic achievements.”

❏ Spandau’s original singer Tony Hadley wrote on Twitter: “So honoured for the Ceremonial Musicians to have done their first performance since March to Gold. What a brilliant job! Many thanks. Tone.”

➢ Steve Norman & The Sleevz play the Wonderhall Festival, Lytham St Annes, Lancs, on Saturday 28th from 2pm onward

➢ Tony Hadley plays Let’s Rock Scotland 2021 on Saturday from noon at Dalkeith Country Park near Edinburgh

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