Robert Elms with fire in his belly: Talking last night in a 5×15 event at EartH (Evolutionary Arts Hackney). (Photo: Shapersofthe80s)
◼ SENTIMENTAL AS EVER, onetime Blitz Kid now broadcaster Robert Elms – the professional cockney not born within the sound of Bow Bells – marshalled his gorblimey vowels and glottal stops at a 5×15-minute live talk last night in Hackney, in trendy east London, to argue for a return to the down-at-heel west London he was born into 59 years ago. He invoked postwar bomb-sites as instructive playgrounds, the punk explosion as his most life-enhancing event, the squats in disused houses with freezing outside WCs that characterised his upbringing in Notting Hill and still more squats for fostering the creativity of his teenaged peers who dreamed up the New Romantics movement. . . He poured scorn on the developers who have transformed sectors of London into swish modernity and urged the need for new slums to teach flaky young millennials the facts of life.
Bob, once an amiable young man, has matured into an Angry Old Man yet the fire in his belly aimed to persuade us that deep-down he actually loves this contradictory city. An interview he gave to last month’s GQ signals the flavour of his new book, London Made Us: A Memoir of a Shape-Shifting City (from Canongate Books):
“What I certainly wasn’t hoping to do was out-Peter-Ackroyd Peter Ackroyd,” laughed Elms [referring to our capital city’s most distinguished historian]. What he did do – “because I’m not a proper historian and this is not a textbook” – was focus on the stories that seem too slight, or too fanciful, for the grander almanacs. “Some of them might not bear taking apart. My theory with all the stories in the book is: they’re too good to check” . . . Other sections are filled with incidents that are unique to Elms after decades living around London, from Burnt Oak to Holborn to Camden. There’s the incident when money rains from the sky near the soon-to-be British Library, or the story of the monkey jazz band in Notting Dale, “a troupe of 13 simian swingers to entertain the happy flappers” who escaped their captivity, some of them ending up as far away as Rugby…/ Continued at GQ online
Last night’s event was all about plugging new books. In Bob’s case it provided an excellent incentive to attend his next performance, much longer than 15 minutes on April 2.
➢ An Evening with Robert Elms at Waterstone’s in
Tottenham Court Road
➢ Nostalgic protest against the sanitisation of London – review by Nicholas Lezard in the Evening Standard
➢ Elms isn’t afraid of nostalgia in this part memoir, part cultural history. Is he pining for his youth? asks Fiona Sturges in the Guardian review
➢ Elms has written about one of London’s most successful,
and most forgotten, mass murderers: Interview with David Levesley from the March issue of GQ
Posted in books, History, interviews, London, New Romantics, Reviews
Tagged 5x15, Blitz Kids, Canongate, cityscapes, EartH (Evolutionary Arts Hackney), Evening Standard, GQ magazine, Guardian, London Made Us, punk, Robert Elms, slums
On the fourth anniversary of Steve Strange’s passing
(not to mention the 40th anniversary of his Tuesday club-night
opening at the Blitz), how better to remember the man who revolutionised London nightclubbing than with the massive collection of tributes assembled here at Shapers of the 80s
from every significant Blitz Kid the day after Steve died…
1978, when Steve Strange met Rusty Egan. (Photo © Fin Costello/Redferns)
➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
Read the fulsome tributes to Steve paid by the Blitz Kids here after his sudden death in 2015
Brief tasters. . .
Original Blitz Club deejay Rusty Egan said: “I’m very, very sad and down tonight because I’ve lost an old friend. We had our disagreements but we did have a decade of the best times that anybody could ever have wished for. We made some amazing music, some amazing parties, clubs and fun and friends. Underneath it all he was a good soul. Steve, I’m so sorry I didn’t get a chance to say I still love you.”
Chris Sullivan, who ran Soho’s Wag Club: “We were both flamboyant club-running Welsh dandies but were never rivals. Steve had too much dignity for that. We were friends and remained so for the rest of his life. And I can say that Steve, despite quite a few hard years, never lost that that spark, humour or joie de vivre, was forever stylish and was always a pleasure to see.”
Princess Julia, writer and deejay: “Getting dressed up, going out and getting noticed… Steve was head of a subculture the likes of which perhaps we will never see again.”
Kim Bowen, stylist, onetime Queen of The Blitz: “Rushing enthusiasm, involving everyone, creating insane parties going round and round on the Circle Line. Some truly bad outfits (his not mine.) Shockingly, ‘Kim, will you be my official girlfriend?’ ”
And many, many more delicious anecdotes…
Posted in Britain, Clubbing, Fashion, History, interviews, London, New Romantics, nightlife, obituaries, Pop music, Swinging 80s, Tipping points, Tributes, videos, Youth culture, zeitgeist
Tagged Blitz Kids, Chris Sullivan, Kim Bowen, New Romantics, Princess Julia, Rusty Egan, Stephen Harrington, Steve Strange, Visage
Carioca then and now: left, the cover for Chris Sullivan’s band’s 1982 single Carioca and, right, his new upfront reworking for 2019
Leah Seresin and mum Deirdre, newly painted by Sullivan
◼ WHO IS CHRIS SULLIVAN THIS WEEK? That all-round creative dynamo who drove much of the Swinging Eighties and ran the influential Wag club for 19 years epitomised that New Romantic era by declaring “One look lasts a day”. Suddenly he is enjoying another creative spurt. Fans will have noticed a series of bold and comic painted caricatures of his friends appearing on Facebook this month. As affectionate portraits they speak for themselves. But then last week he posted one called Carioca, inspired directly by the 12-inch single sleeve for his band Blue Rondo a la Turk. It was included in their album Chewing The Fat which dates from 1982.
Fans will also recall that Sullivan as vocalist not only put the band together as a septet of crazy soul-jazz-Latin musicians on a 0-to-10 sliding scale of eccentricity – where all of them scored at least an 11 – that won them a £500k contract with Virgin. He also painted every one of their vinyl record sleeves in his own playful version of cubism. So here above we can now compare his restrained vamp Carioca from 1982 with her current rather more in-your-face madame for 2019. So what’s this all about, Chris?
Bear in mind Sullivan was one of that gang of St Martin’s heroes who put London clubs such as the Blitz, Beat Route and the Wag on the map from 1980 on, and had studied first on the college’s fashion course, then switched to fine art. I am off to Soho to find out and will be reporting back. . .
Sullivan caricatures: A pair of what the painter calls Beat Peeps from Eighties New York
STEPPING OUT TO CARIOCA ON
THE ITV SHOW RAZZMATAZZ 1982
➢ Elsewhere at Shapers of the 80s:
Yours truly writes the first magazine feature about Blue Rondo a la Turk as they created a new buzz with Latin sounds and an extreme suited dude look – from New Sounds New Styles in August 1981
➢ Razzmatazz, the weekly pop show beamed out to 6 million ITV viewers from Tyne Tees TV in Newcastle
Posted in art, caricature, New Romantics, Pop music, Swinging 80s, TV, videos
Tagged Blue Rondo a la Turk, Carioca, Chris Sullivan, Leah Seresin, Wag club
Peter Ashworth seen between his portraits of Annie Lennox in the Eurythmics shot at Bagley’s Warehouse for the cover of issue 42 of The Face in 1983; and John Lydon in PiL 1987, referencing Friedensreich Hundertwasser’s colourful paintings. (Photographed by Shapersofthe80s)
◼ PETER ASHWORTH’S PIONEERING IMAGES detonate a superlative flashback to the vibrant 1980s music scene with his Mavericks exhibition of magically unreal, sometimes surreal photographs of pop stars from Tina Turner, Mari Wilson and Swing Out Sister to Soft Cell, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Associates and the Clash hitmen.
Most of the richly detailed photos are familiar as mood-board sleeves for hit albums and singles, capturing attitude and style and helping build the legend of “An Ashworth Snap”, as a Mari Wilson lyric dubbed them. All push photographic innovation to the hilt which is better appreciated in the room viewing these printed enlargements made from superb digital files than on the web. The room is Clerkenwell’s Lever Gallery and this is amazingly Ashworth’s first solo show, curated by @duovision_arts.
Thursday’s nostaliga-drenched preview proved a time-warp gathering of many leading faces plucked from fabled nightclubs (Eve Ferret, Mark Moore), fashion cliques (Iain R Webb, Greg Davis) and the music biz (Glen Matlock, Andy Polaris). More updates to follow…
➢ Mavericks by Peter Ashworth runs at the Lever Gallery, Goswell Road, EC1V 7HD, Tues–Sun until 8 December. All prints are for sale.
80s clubland regulars gather for a selfie with Corinne Drewery, ex-St Martin’s singer with Swing Out Sister, who were gigging in London last week too. Pic © Corinne.
➢ Peter Ashworth’s own website
Posted in Clubbing, exhibitions, Fashion, interviews, London, New Romantics, nightlife, photography, Pop music, Swinging 80s, zeitgeist
Tagged Annie Lennox, Blitz Kids, Corinne Drewery, Duovision, John Lydon, Lever Gallery, Mavericks, Peter Ashworth