Category Archives: soul music

2017 ➤ Nightlife’s Polaris comes out as fan of the hot girl bands of the 70s

Swinging 80s, Gary Crowley, Andy Polaris,biography, history, London life,pop music,BBC Radio London

Buddies who found fame in the Swinging 80s: deejay Gary Crowley with singer Andy Polaris at BBC Radio London today

WOOOH! JUST COMING DOWN from a breathless hour of lunchtime radio today as Andy Polaris very nearly talked the hind leg off deejay Gary Crowley – which is quite a feat! The BBC Radio London host was inviting former Animal Nightlife singer Andy to reminisce about his life in the metropolis and to pick six landmark tunes that still matter to him. Of course his teen years were dominated by pop, but apart from the obvious gods such as Bowie, Andy surprised us by bigging up those feisty strong female bands of the late 70s who were muscling in after punk imploded. Andy spent weeks following Siouxsie and the Banshees round the country to catch her gigs.

He says: “The women singers like Poly Styrene, the Slits and Siouxsie were way ahead of the guys. The guys were doing more clichéd macho stuff. The women were doing more arty things.

Siouxsie, Banshees, Vortex

Siouxsie Sioux at the Vortex in October 1977. (Photo: Romany WG)

“Siouxsie you would see at a Bowie concert, and at a Roxy concert. The Slits you’d see at reggae concerts. Their music was fantastic: those albums Cut and The Scream and the X-Ray Spex first album – they’ve stood the test of time.

“Imagewise as well they were way ahead of everybody else – I loved that stuff to do with cinema, Poly Styrene with The Day the World Turned Day-Glo, and talking about recycling. She was well ahead of her time. Before the Body Shop and Anita Roddick.”

ANDY’S SIX KEY TRACKS

Dr Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band – I’ll Play The Fool, 1976
David Bowie – Golden Years, 1975
Siouxsie and the Banshees – Hong Kong Garden, 1978
Sylvester – You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real), 1978
Grace Jones – I’ve Seen That Face Before (Libertango), 1981
Michael Kiwanuka – Black Man In A White World, 2016

➢ Listen to My London again at 9pm today on BBC Radio London then on the iPlayer

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s: Escape to the Nightlifers’ Shangri-la just in time for Christmas

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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 fan 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 the 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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2017 ➤ So who can fill Tony Hadley’s big Ballet shoes?

Spandau Ballet , pop music,Gary Kemp, Martin Kemp, John Keeble, Steve Norman

Face wanted in the Spandau Ballet lineup: from left, Gary Kemp, Martin Kemp, John Keeble, Steve Norman. Might the new singer even be female?

AFTER YEARS OF HINTING that his career as Spandau Ballet’s frontman was over, both during and after two world tours – all of his bombshells reported here at Shapersofthe80s – today Tony Hadley finally quit with a single tweet. Immediately, the Spandau management declared that the other four resting band members will rise like Lazarus to “move on as a band”. Er, well, perhaps, but Big Tone’s suave 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m) frame leaves not only a physical hole in the five-piece line-up, none of them especially noted for their singing voices, but an inevitable audible gap too. The four Spandau remainers provide the complementary blue-eyed soul music to a big balladeering voice, albeit described as a “dramatic warble” by Dan LeRoy at AllMusic, or that of a “top crooner” by somebody at BBC Somerset.

➢ Earlier at Shapersofthe80s:
Today’s Hadley bombshell

So who’s in the frame for the key job without which Spandau’s legacy will remain all behind them? It has to be either a dead ringer who plays to fans’ expectations, or a radical candidate who will set a new direction. One obvious contender is Paul Young as a singer who built a strong reputation for vocal interpretation during the same renaissance of British pop music that made Spandau an international supergroup. His covers of Marvyn Gaye and Jimmy Ruffin well qualify him at 61 to become the big brother of the Spandau dad-band.

Click any pic below to launch slideshow

Less obvious but no less talented is Brandon Flowers, 36, former frontman of the Killers with whom he helped repopularise the sounds of the 80s in the noughties. His charismatic presence and fashion sense would sit comfortably with the Spandau heritage.

Amazingly, Will Young has reached the ripe old age of 38 in minutes seemingly, but as a respected vocalist and former Pop Idol winner he can claim four UK number-one albums and two Brit awards, while his recently acclaimed stage experience in Cabaret might bring a fresh note of theatre to Spandau performances.

Olly Alexander, pop music,

Olly Alexander at Glastonbury (Getty)

But if Spandau really want to inject some millennial youth into their daddy line-up they could consider the chirpy presence of actor-vocalist Olly Alexander, 26, whose sheer energy would trigger a mighty refresh. Olly describes himself as a “real left-winger” which should sit well with the millionaire Spands whose working-class roots reach back to Islington.

Of course, they could just as easily invite on-board one of those Hadley impersonators who wowed viewers of the Saturday night talent show Stars in Their Eyes – such as Martin Lewis who sang Gold brilliantly in 1997 or Steven Houghton who sang the same number in 1998.

NOW NOMINATE SPANDAU’S NEW VOCALIST

❏ Who would you like to see as the next vocalist with Spandau Ballet? Many fans today have been wailing how irreplaceable Big Tone is, while others have condemned him harshly for robbing his former schoolmates of their pensions. Clearly the band believe they have one more album and tour ahead of them, but who will lead them on through the barricades? Please leave your comment below.

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➤ Princess Julia: More tales from 80s clubland

BBC 6 Music,Princess Julia, "New Romantics","Swinging 80s", nightclubbing, "Blitz Kids", ,Gemma Cairney,clubland, dance music,

In the BBC 6 Music studio for Lost Clubs: Princess Julia, centre, with deejay Gemma Cairney at front. (BBC)

AT FACEBOOK TODAY original Blitz Kid and club deejay Princess Julia reports: “Jolly afternoon recording a Radio 6 show with presenter Gemma Cairney due to be aired Sunday 1pm. Graeme Park is on as well, we did a live link-up and covered nightlife from over 4 decades! Past, present and future #lostclubs all in the space of an hour!”

➢ Tune in to Julia live on Sunday at 1pm or catch up later at BBC 6 Music online – “As a companion show to Lamacq’s Indie Venue week, Gemma Cairney explores the rich history of clubs like the Blitz, Hacienda, Club NME, and White Trash that are no longer running, and look at how Fabric was saved. Talking to experts and those involved with the clubs, she’ll play tunes that were the soundtrack to a night out. Expect Happy Mondays, New Order, Bowie, Oasis, Spandau Ballet, Visage, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Pulp.” [BBC Online]

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➤ Thank you, George, says Paul Simper. You left me wanting to dance like you

George Michael, Aldo Zilli, Paul Simper, birthday party, Wham!, London, nightlife, clubbing, Lilli Anderson, Alex Goddson, Sam McKnight, Josie Jones

Simper’s 25th birthday at Aldo Zilli’s Il Siciliano in Soho: visible faces clockwise from front left: Lilli Anderson, Alex Godson (standing), Sam McKnight, the host (standing), Josie Jones, George Michael. Photo by Simper

Paul “Scoop” Simper arrived in London as a cub
journalist who soon became a backbone of No1, one
of the two leading pop magazines covering the
Swinging 80s. He also became a face about clubland
and in the years after he first met George Michael,
when Wham! was launched, became friends.
Shapers of the 80s is pleased to publish Scoop’s very personal tribute to one of the UK’s leading superstars who died this week

OF COURSE HE HAD TO LEAVE US ON CHRISTMAS DAY. As a pop lover, especially one raised in the 80s, George Michael has been a part of mine and so many people’s Christmases for years.

This one was no exception. Nipping up the high street to the supermarket for one last shop on Christmas Eve, there was something both joyous and comforting about hearing him – not just as Wham! but on his lonesome giving us December Song and on Band Aid – whilst trolling up and down the aisles for a bottle of fizz and a few more festive nibbles.

If anything, this year he’d felt ever more present. A pre-Christmas gathering of my old 80s pals had stirred up memories of Whambley – that perfect pop farewell on the sunniest of days in ’86 in front of 72,000 adoring but heartbroken fans when George and Andrew signed off at the top of the charts (both albums and singles) with their friendship still intact.

Wham! fans came in all shapes and sizes. Not long ago I’d been listening to a bootleg of The Final concert, lovingly recorded and shared with me by No1 magazine’s then editorial assistant Dave Ling, later of Metal Hammer, a heavy metaller through and through, who made an honourable exception when it came to George and Andrew.

As I think about it now, not being a Wham! or George fan has always been a bit of a deal-breaker. One early relationship of mine came to a very swift end when she questioned my love of George. My pal June Montana (lead singer with Brilliant and gatekeeper on the Limelight’s VIP bar, who was actually a bona fide friend of his) and I were like the George gestapo. We could sniff out a non-believer at 100 paces.

Part of that devotion came from the fact that in 80s London clubland, Wham! were never really cool. They were outsiders. They were from Bushey, Hertfordshire. As a country lad from Wiltshire I felt a kinship, particularly with George.

He was a year younger but for both of us our first introduction to the game-changing London club scene of the early 80s was Le Beat Route – a Soho club I was gagging to go to the second I saw Spandau Ballet’s Chant No1 video, the anthem for this pop moment.

In the last interview I did with George, in 2006, when we were talking about Spandau, he remembered the thrill of going down for the first time to what was then the hottest club on the planet and actually sighting both Steve Strange (on the Space Invaders) and Tony Hadley (at the bar).

George Michael, Geri Halliwell,, birthday party,

George’s 35th birthday where Simper was deejaying dressed as a Spice Girl angel: George was obliged to introduce him to Ginger Spice. Photo by Simper

Le Beat Route was where Andrew Ridgeley came up with the “Wham! Bam! I am a man!” rap. It was where George would perfect his pair dancing with Shirlie Holliman to D-Train, Was Not Was and Evelyn “Champagne” King. It was the inspiration for Club Tropicana.

Of equal importance though had been Saturday Night Fever – the movie that rang the death knell for disco for the cool kids of the underground dance scene but for those in the sticks in our teens the first pulling back of the curtain (even though it was actually set in faraway Brooklyn) on a thrilling new world. On reflection, it’s perhaps surprising that George never covered a Bee Gees song, with the exception of side project Boogie Box High’s Jive Talkin’, but he was always a massive fan, applauding their return to the top of the charts after a lengthy absence with You Win Again and marvelling, after a visit to Barry Gibbs’ home in Miami, that he was the only man he’d met who took even longer over his hair than George did.

Friday nights at Le Beat Route were just about over by the time I first interviewed George and Andrew in October ’82, although Wham! did throw one last Christmas party there to celebrate leaving their first record company, Innervision. Instead it was now The Wag on Wardour Street, which, as Wham! took off, increasingly became George’s place to hang out, unbothered.


If Chant No1 belongs to Le Beat Route, then The Wag at Christmas ’84 is where I think of for Wham!’s Everything She Wants. It was where I first heard deejay Fat Tony play the 12-inch mix with its glorious, expanded middle eight, which George had handed him that night to test out on the dance floor. From its rapturous reception and the delighted look on George’s face you could see he’d got the confirmation he was after. Like Chant, he’d delivered his club classic.

First at Melody Maker, then at No1, I was lucky enough to get my fair share of interviews with George. In early No1 days that included him going on a Blind Date with Keren Woodward from Bananarama which ended with him popping up to the 26th floor of IPC magazine’s HQ in King’s Reach Tower to play us a just-finished mix of Bassline (later retitled A Ray of Sunshine) on our tinpot stereo system.

They were more innocent, uncomplicated times in terms of pop coverage but even once Fleet Street turned its attentions to him and much of that side of it became more wearisome, he continued to be one of my favourite pop stars to interview, funny and forthright, as I hope the two interview clips attached here illustrate.

GEORGE/SIMPER 1987 INTERVIEW ON BEING CAMP:

++++++++++++

GEORGE/SIMPER 1987 INTERVIEW ON UNDERPANTS:

++++++++++++

Thanks primarily to June – “Don’t forget Simper!” she’d holler – I saw him more socially once Wham! finished and his solo career began. Merry Chianti-filled nights at Aldo Zilli’s two Dean Street restaurants, Il Siciliano and Signor Zilli’s, and dancing to his records at Brown’s and later Abba, the weekly Hanover Square one-nighter run by June and Fat Tony.

I loved the fact that he danced to his own records. After all if you can’t dance to your records why should anyone else? Fellow clubber and George fan Bayo Furlong reminded me that George always danced exactly like George Michael – the soul boy steps, the arms aloft, the finger and toe points, the hips shake, the swivel, the spin – which is even more brilliant. He was the singing, dancing embodiment of his own Wham! mantra (Wham!tra?) “Enjoy what you do”!

And what a voice. Of his generation, take your pick between him and the other George, for greatest white male soul singer of the 80s. It was there as early as Wham! ballads Nothing Looks the Same in the Light and Club Tropicana B-side Blue and grew on Careless Whisper and A Different Corner. His duets with Aretha Franklin and Mary J Blige – ringing endorsements in themselves – raised the bar again only for him to reach even higher with the likes of Older, You Have Been Loved and Jesus to a Child.

He said himself that he wasn’t the most prolific of writers. Two Wham! and four solo albums of original material and rarely much left over for B-sides (though Fantasy is a little gem) but as a pop star he aced it – twice over.

First in the perfect pop group, two teenage buddies who remained in spirit, sound and success as Wham!-like from the opening volley of Wham Rap! and Young Guns to the last howl of The Edge of Heaven. Then a second time, making the daunting leap from teen idol to internationally successful solo artist, barely breaking a sweat where so many others have fallen.

He told me he’d set himself the goal of joining the then 80s elite of Prince, Michael Jackson, Madonna and Bruce Springsteen. If the Faith album was his Thriller, with its 25 million sales, he went one better than MJ, surpassing it artistically with Older. And, despite the subsequent fall-out with Sony over record sales, Listen Without Prejudice Vol I – which includes the gorgeous Bacharach-style ballad Cowboys and Angels – isn’t too shabby either.

As our careers both went in different directions, I got to interview him less, but deejay for him more. Fat Tony got me on board to help out with George’s 30th birthday celebrations and I was there again for his 35th in 1998. Both had fancy-dress themes, the latter one Cowboys and Angels, and good sport that he was he didn’t bat an eyelid when I asked him, dressed in a fetching Spice Girl Union Jack bathing suit and wings, to persuade a reluctant Geri Halliwell to do a photo with me.

“He’s a bit strange,” George explained to Ginger Spice, “but he’s a very old friend.”

I’ll settle for that. He did a lot more for me than I’m sure I ever did for him. Dancing to Everything She Wants – dancing like him to Everything She Wants – still gives me more pleasure than most things in life.

At the time of that last Spandau interview he was in the studio still working on his final studio album, Patience. When he played me Flawless (Go to the City) I knew he’d got me again.

It’s no good waiting. You’ve got to go to the city.

That small-town thrill. The anticipation for those Beat Route, Saturday Night Fever moments was still somewhere in our DNA.

I was back in the countryside, tucked up in bed at my mum’s, when I heard he had gone. I only ever went to his house in Goring once, one Boxing Day thanks to June and another good pal, his wonderfully considerate PA Shiv Bailey. He sent a car for me and the only way it could have been any more perfect is if Richard and Judy hadn’t just departed. Otherwise it was all my Last Christmas joy rolled into one.

So thank you, George, for all those happy Christmases, and for everything else you gave.

SIMPER’S OWN GEORGE PLAYLIST AT SPOTIFY




➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s:
Britain stunned by sudden death of George Michael, our biggest pop superstar of the 80s

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s:
2016, Soho’s young guns remember George Michael

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