Category Archives: Swinging 80s

2021 ➤ Olly Alexander fronts new C4 drama series exploring Aids in the Eighties

TV drama, gay issues, youth culture, It’s A Sin, Channel4, Olly Alexander

Gay activist as Aids casts its shadow: Olly Alexander as Ritchie in It’s A Sin

GAY TIMES has teamed up with Channel 4 for a series of video conversations between cast members from tonight’s new series It’s A Sin and artists and activists who lived through the decade, offering social and political context to the themes explored in this LGBTQ+ drama from Russell T Davies. . .

Gay Times, Omari Douglas, Andy Polaris, video, It's A Sin,

Comparing notes: Omari Douglas and Andy Polaris in conversation for Gay Times

❏ “People forget how homophobic and racist it was in the 80s. People would actually say to you bluntly ‘You’re going to die of Aids – this is going to happen to you.” So says Andy Polaris – Eighties pop-singer with Animal Nightlife – to Omari Douglas, star of It’s A Sin. Omari plays a character called Roscoe who is forced to leave home when he’s 17 and his family finds out he is gay. The character quickly finds his tribe and a new group of friends who support each other during the decade that revealed the horrors of a new deadly virus.
➢ Click to watch Omari and Andy’s conversation at Gay Times

TV drama, gay issues, youth culture, It’s A Sin, Channel4, Olly Alexander

Hedonism in Heaven: Olly Alexander on the dancefloor in It’s A Sin

Russell T Davies has given us iconic television shows such as Queer As Folk, Years & Years, Banana, Cucumber, A Very English Scandal, and more. Set during the 80s, his new queer drama It’s A Sin has a soundtrack (guided inevitably by Murray Gold) that evokes the youth, vibrancy and gay sensibility of the era – big electronic anthems that have stood the test of time and changed the musical landscape.

Asked for an iconic tune that he loved, singer-actor Olly Alexander chose for his ambitious and complex character who leads the show Hungry Like The Wolf by Duran Duran. Omari chose Respectable by Mel and Kim, saying: “I just went through a phase of being completely obsessed with them.”

It’s A Sin starts today 22 January at 9pm on Channel 4, with all episodes available immediately after on All 4.

TRAILER PLUS DISCUSSION


❏ At YouTube, the BFI organised a 40-minute panel discussion on It’s A Sin, hosted by comedian Matt Lucas with guests Russell T Davies, exec producer Nicola Shindler, director Peter Hoar, Channel 4 head of drama Caroline Hollick, and from the cast Olly Alexander, Keeley Hawes, Omari Douglas, Callum Scott Howells, Lydia West and Nathaniel Curtis. The trailer for the series precedes the discussion.

➢ AnotherMag airs the vital role today of It’s A Sin with its creator Russell T Davies who declares: “Cast gay as gay – you not only get authenticity; you get revenge”

A HIT WITH REVIEWERS

TV drama, gay issues, youth culture, It’s A Sin, Channel4, Omari Douglas

It’s A Sin: Omari Douglas assumes the role of entertainer

➢ Aids drama is a poignant masterpiece – Lucy Mangan in The Guardian: “Humour and humanity are at the heart of this sublime series about London’s gay community in the 1980s, from the creator of Queer as Folk.”

➢ Aids drama is a reminder to find joy in the scariest times – Ed Cumming in the Independent: “For anyone who’s been through the agony of coming out, especially to a hostile family, or who lost loved ones to Aids, this series will be especially moving.”

➢ Living young, free and under the shadow of Aids in the 1980s – Hugo Rifkind in The Times: “Russell T Davies is a thousand miles away from, say, Hugo Blick or David Hare with their darkness and portentous heft. And yet I’m pretty sure he’s a far more important dramatist than either of them.”

➢ A dance in the face of death – Euan Ferguson in The Observer: “Russell T Davies depicts with wisdom how so many, shunned and ‘othered’ for most of their lives, might have chosen to adopt a defiant mood towards yet another orthodoxy, that of scientific reason.”

➢ Aids-crisis drama will break your heart and fill you with joy – Anita Singh in The Telegraph: “Russell T Davies’s best series so far.”

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2020 ➤ Premiering tonight: Spandau’s Parade tour from the Swinging 80s

Blitz Kids, New Romantics, pop music, Swinging 80s, Spandau Ballet, Parade World Tour,

Spandau Ballet in 1985: dressed to impress for their Parade World Tour

❚ THIS WEEK 40 YEARS AGO Spandau Ballet’s first single peaked at No 5 in the UK chart three weeks after its release and exactly one year after the unknown band’s debut at the legendary Blitz Club. More amazingly, in their first year Spandau had been booked to play live on only 10 occasions (two of those on TV, the last being Top of The Pops)! That’s how sudden was their rise during 1980. That’s how phenomenal was their fan base powered by the New Romantics movement.

40
YEARS
ON

Tonight at 8pm GMT the band celebrate by premiering online the video Rockpop In Concert which evokes the Parade Tour of 1984-85, their biggest globally, launched with five nights in Tokyo and its UK leg culminating in December 84 with six nights at Londons Wembley Arena (one more than Duran Duran achieved). These were Spandaus international glory years, fronted by the dazzling vocals of Tony Hadley. This rare 45-minute video captures their taste for flamboyant designer-fashion in their performance at Dortmund’s Westfalenhalle arena, filmed for the German TV show Rockpop and aired in January 1985.

Also marking their 40th anniversary, Spandau have released a choice new compilation album titled 40 Years – The Greatest Hits, as a triple CD set and as double vinyl LPs.

Sax-player Steve Norman says: “I hadn’t heard these mixes for almost 40 years. I’d actually forgotten that we did two 12-inch mixes of ‘Story’. The band’s energy is all over it, which is how I remembered it sounding.” In a promo vid drummer John Keeble notes: “Oh, and I’ve got a credit for backing vocals… about time too!”

➢ Watch tonight’s streaming of Spandau’s Rockpop In Concert video at You Tube: 4 December 8PM GMT / 12PM PST / 3PM EST. The show will continue streaming for the next 48 hours

➢ Order Spandau’s new album 40 Years – The Greatest Hits, plus new items of merch

➢ View Spandau’s first appearance on Top Of The Pops playing To Cut a Long Story Short, on 13 Nov 1980

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s:
1980, The Invisible Hand of Shapersofthe80s accounts for the unprecedented rise and rise of Spandau Ballet

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1980 ➤ Life on Mars as you’ve never heard Bowie before!

40
YEARS
ON

Just watch this long-lost footage from the Johnny Carson show. Bowie utterly sensational on both tracks, the second being Ashes to Ashes. But this powerful version of Life on Mars has to be yet *another* definitive one!!!

➢ Posted at YouTube by Nacho Video:
Here’s my new clean-up of the classic David Bowie 1980 performance on The Tonight Show – recorded at NBC Studios in Burbank, Los Angeles on September 3rd 1980. It was broadcast forty years ago on the 5th of September 1980.

Performing with Bowie on the Tonight Show was a one-off band. Bowie’s regular musical right-hand man, Carlos Alomar was leading the band of young up and coming musicians, who were playing with Bowie for the first, and as it turned out, the only time.

The Tonight Show performance is unique in other ways. It was Bowie’s only live appearance of 1980, and the only time any Scary Monsters material was performed live, in its day. And the Tonight Show was one of only two live appearances he made (the other SNL, 1979) in the five-year period between the ISOLAR II 1978 tour and the Serious Moonlight tour in 1983.

The Tonight Show performance is great! Bowie is in fine voice and the band are full of spirit. I love Bowie and Alomar’s big smiles, as it becomes clear that the performance is a success. For me, this performance has always been frustratingly good, because it is a tantalizing glimpse of what a Scary Monsters tour could have been like. . . / Continued at Nacho Video/Youtube

David Bowie, Tonight Show, live TV, 1980, pop music

Unique live lineup for The Tonight Show, 1980: Bowie sings Life on Mars in James Dean rebel mode with Carlos Alomar on guitar at left


➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
1980, Why Bowie came recruiting Blitz Kids
for his Ashes to Ashes video

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2020 ➤ Yes, Midge Ure has Fleetwood Mac to thank for his landmark hit Vienna

40
YEARS
ON

❚ ON THIS DAY in 1980 Ultravox released one of the three most significant albums of the year that exemplified Britain’s new wave of synthesised electronic music – the others coming from Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark (in February) and Japan (in October). None of them acknowledged any association with the New Romantics movement. Ultravox’s 12-track album Vienna made an immediate impact, though its title track was only its third to be released, hitting No 2 in the charts in January 1981, later winning Single of the Year at the Brit Awards and an age later voted “the UK’s favourite No2 of all time” in a BBC poll.

It was produced by the German Conny Plank with an evocatively romantic landmark video directed by Russell Mulcahy who was creating a stunning visual vocabulary for the then novel music video. Midge Ure can take full credit as lead singer and guitarist for breathing a subtle blend of Roxy Music’s style and krautrock clarity into Ultravox and building them into a credible vanguard for electronica. Even as the word punk was given the heave-ho in favour of the term “new wave”, Ure was probably the first active player of a synth among any of his clubbing pals, having bought his first, the polyphonic Yamaha CS-50, in the summer of ’78.

As one of the most innovative musicians of the new decade, having had fingers in more pop pies than most, Ure is well qualified to stake his claim to have shaped the music of the Blitz Kids (among whom he was very much an honorary member), and here he describes the inspiration for Vienna, in an extract from his eloquent and candid 2004 autobiography If I Was (Virgin Books):

The first time I plugged in and made a noise with Ultravox was in April 1979 at a rehearsal room in the Elephant and Castle. Right from the first minute I knew I had come home. This noise was what I had been searching for, not only could these people make that noise, but they also could teach me how to make it. [These people being Chris Cross, Billy Currie, Warren Cann.]

What we were doing was radical and new: synthesisers, drum machines and electric guitar mixed together, synth bass with regular drums playing on top of it, the electronic and the organic. It had never been done before. Our sound was massive, this weird crossover between Kraftwerk and the guitars, bass and drums that belonged to every rock band in the world…

I might have been a one-time teeny-bop guitarist but once I was behind the technology, the music that made me famous was the darkest, most serious stuff I’d ever done. Those early days in Ultravox were the best time of my life. The result was a complete crossover, maybe that’s why it worked. The music came from all of us: everyone contributed and we split all the songwriting credits four ways. The classic example of all of us working together was Vienna.

Midge Ure, Ultravox, pop music, Swinging 80s,

The day job: in 1979 Midge Ure (moustachioed) resurrected the name of Ultravox along with Billy Currie, Chris Cross and Warren Cann. © Getty

One night I was sitting having a conversation with my old manager, Gerry Hempstead, who had co-managed the Rich Kids, when his wife Brenda said to me: ‘Midge, what you need to write is a song like that Vienna.’ I looked blank and she went, ‘You know, the Fleetwood Mac song.’ I looked blanker. ‘No, it wasn’t Vienna,’ said Gerry, ‘it was Rhiannon.’ That was the night I went home with Vienna lodged in my brain.

The next morning it was still there. I walked into the kitchen in my little flat and said to Billy, who was staying over, ‘I’ve got a line running around in my head I can’t get rid of, “this means nothing to me, this means nothing to me, Vienna”.’ We built the song from that one lyric. Every component element came from all four of us. It wouldn’t have been Vienna without Warren’s heartbeat drum sound, and it wouldn’t have been Vienna without the bass synth notes and Billy’s eerie viola… / Continued in Chapter 10 of If I Was

➢ Buy Midge Ure’s If I Was: The Autobiography

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
1978, Midge stakes his claim as the weathervane of synth-pop who helped shape the British New Wave

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
110+ acts who set the style for the new music of the 1980s

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2020 ➤ UK Madheads re-invent the Madness hit Our House

❚ NO OF COURSE MADNESS HAD NOTHING to do with the New Romantics but in the indolent UK pop scene of 1980, where most acts and record companies were as dull as ditchwater, only the bands on the cool Two-Tone label would really catch your eye and ear. Who could resist tapping a toe to this zany North London ska combo who scored nine Top Ten singles during the first two years of the 1980s, kicking off with One Step Beyond?!

Among even more hit singles, Our House made the UK Top Ten in November 1982 and became their biggest US hit. Today, during the Covid 19 Lockdown, the Madness boys have released a frantic #MadheadsOurHouse version after asking fans to have a go at re-creating the original Our House video [above]. They declared it “a thing of beauty!”.

Click any pic below to enlarge the Madheads in a slideshow


➢ The Madness website

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