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MORE INTERESTING THAN MOST PEOPLE’S FANTASIES — THE SWINGING EIGHTIES 1978-1984They didn’t call themselves New Romantics, or the Blitz Kids – but other people did.
“I’d find people at the Blitz who were possible only in my imagination. But they were real” — Stephen Jones, hatmaker, 1983. (Illustration courtesy Iain R Webb, 1983)
“The truth about those Blitz club people was more interesting than most people’s fantasies” — Steve Dagger, pop group manager, 1983
“See David Johnson’s fabulously detailed website Shapersofthe80s to which I am hugely indebted” – Political historian Dominic Sandbrook, in his book Who Dares Wins, 2019
A UNIQUE HISTORY➢ WELCOME to the Swinging 80s
➢ THE BLOG POSTS on this front page report topical updates
➢ ROLL OVER THE MENU AT TOP to go deeper into the past
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❏ Header artwork by Kat Starchild shows Blitz Kids Darla Jane Gilroy, Elise Brazier, Judi Frankland and Steve Strange, with David Bowie at centre in his 1980 video for Ashes to Ashes
TOLD FOR THE FIRST TIME
◆ Who was who in Spandau’s break-out year of 1980? The Invisible Hand of Shapersofthe80s draws a selective timeline for The unprecedented rise and rise of Spandau Ballet –– Turn to our inside page
- ➤ Farewell Kansai the fashion genius who breathed the same colours as Bowie
- 2020 ➤ Yes, Midge Ure has Fleetwood Mac to thank for his landmark hit Vienna
- 2020 ➤ UK Madheads re-invent the Madness hit Our House
- 2020 ➤ Star drummers salute Ringo Starr in an ear-opening demonstration of his gifts
- 2020 ➤ Vocalist Hadley hammers final nail into the coffin of Spandau Ballet
- 2020 ➤ Gaz still rockin’ those blues a lifetime later
- 1980 ➤ Why Bowie came recruiting Blitz Kids for his Ashes to Ashes video
- 2020 ➤ Singer Ross reveals how Spandau drove him to try ending it all
- ➤ Why every Stephen Jones hat casts its own magic spell
- 1979 ➤ Ethereal Bowie sets the bar for one of his inadvertent hits
- ➤ Sullivan & Elms relive their clubland double act
- 2020 ➤ Sheeran and Radcliffe bag the big bucks in Sunday Times Rich List
SEARCH our 700 posts or ZOOM DOWN TO THE ARCHIVE INDEX
UNTOLD BLITZ STORIES
✱ If you thought there was no more to know about the birth of Blitz culture in 1980 then get your hands on a sensational new book by an obsessive music fan called David Barrat. It is gripping, original and epic – a spooky tale of coincidence and parallel lives as mind-tingling as a Sherlock Holmes yarn. Titled both New Romantics Who Never Were and The Untold Story of Spandau Ballet! Sample this initial taster here at Shapers of the 80s
CHEWING THE FAT
LANDMARK FAREWELLS. . . HIT THE INDEX TAB UP TOP FOR EVERYTHING ELSE
✱ “I’m not a rock star” Bowie often said – No, David, you were a messiah – Obituaries and key videos on the godlike one
Archive — Many publication dates are arbitrary, so click and take pot luck!
Category Archives: Tributes
◼ ONE OF THE MOST RESPECTED singers of our age died on Friday in London aged 76: the US-born Noel Scott Engel, who became a British citizen in 1970.
I interviewed him as Scott Walker in 1967 at the very moment he was transitioning from teen idol into a more serious solo icon with his first album Scott, released in September and featuring the brilliant rendering of Brel’s angsty songs My Death and Amsterdam. For him the last straw had been to appear that April in the Walker Brothers trio on the Sunday-night TV variety show hosted by Bob Monkhouse at the London Palladium, and on viewing it Scott decided to split. Among his solo moves that December he released as his first single the risqué Jackie, from the new album Scott 2 (another Brel co-composition with louche themes that caused the BBC to ban it from airplay). As it headed up the UK pop chart, we met during rehearsals for Scott’s appearance on a TV Christmas special at ABC’s Teddington studios.
He lived in Marylebone at the time, had split from the Brothers (who were not actually blood brothers), gone into a monastery to study Gregorian chants and then set about starting an idiosyncratic solo career. He hated both the idea of being a pinup and his all too evident “pop-star” good looks. His most startling admission to me was that he was drinking “a bottle of wine and a bottle of Scotch a day” – in order to coarsen his baritone voice, he said! Scott recorded four seminal albums, Scott 1 to 4 and then disappeared.
In 1984 came Climate Of Hunter, the first of an experimental and challenging series of albums over many years, with titles such as Tilt 1995, The Drift 2006 and Bish Bosch 2012. All of them broke the rules of regular music and back in the day I listened to each album twice and remain gobsmacked today. (There’s a great video clip, shown above in the 30th Century Man trailer, of a percussionist punching a side of raw pork to achieve the exact kind of thwack Scott sought for the song Clara on The Drift.)
In recent years Scott could often be seen in my local supermarket in west London doing the shopping with his partner Beverly. Older and gaunter, he pulled his baseball cap down over his face but it was quite obvious to perhaps six other shoppers marking him that we knew who he was and as respectful fans we kept our distance. Scott is survived by his daughter, Lee, his granddaughter, Emmi-Lee, and Beverly.
BOWIE 1997: “MY IDOL SINCE I WAS A KID”
➢ The Songs of Scott Walker – watch for this programme to become available at BBC iPlayer: Jarvis Cocker welcomes Scott Walker back to the Sunday Service ahead of the late-night BBC Prom celebrating his music, which took place at the Royal Albert Hall on Tuesday 25 July 2017. Includes the moment Walker made David Bowie cry on air.
➢ 30 Century Man (2007), directed by Stephen Kijack: Comprehensive survey of Scott’s life from his early days as a jobbing bass player on the Sunset Strip in which he describes his “lost years” in terms of creativity. Premiered at the 2006 London Film Festival followed by the 2007 Berlin International Film Festival. Available from Amazon on Blue-Ray and DVD.
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…
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…
◼ THE VERY DAY THIS WEEK WHEN HM THE QUEEN put a smile on the face of the British fashion industry, by attending London Fashion Week for the first time, also brought the sad news of Judy Blame’s death, aged 58. He (yes, he) was one of those self-taught iconoclasts who was acquiring a luminescent reputation in the electric 1980s when Fashion Week came into being, driven in part by the streetwise youth culture that Shapers of the 80s celebrates.
Blame shared friends with the charismatic Ray Petri whose flair gave kudos to the word “stylist” by injecting attitude and dash into the role of the humble gofer who gathered props and make-up for a photo shoot. This was the generation of creatives who asserted their urban savviness and shifted the word style itself from meaning a suspect and second-rate lure with which marketeers sold their wares. By the end of the decade, style and fashion had become distinct goals in their own right, the first announcing individuality in consumer choice and mainstream media, while fashion confirmed convention.
Blame’s own talents as an image-maker were celebrated in 2016 at an Institute of Contemporary Arts exhibition titled Never Again which displayed his DIY jewellery, objets trouvés, clothing, photomontages, sketchbooks and T-shirts, and gave insights into working with Neneh Cherry and Massive Attack.
Born Chris Barnes in 1960, Blame died on 19 February 2018 and the tributes flowed in. Dylan Jones, editor-in-chief of GQ, wrote: “He was an artist, a genuine one, someone who could cherry-pick cultural detritus and then mix it all together to create something new, something lasting.”
Nick Knight, photographer and director of SHOWstudio, wrote: “Always totally unique, always a champion of the underdog, always fiercely anti-fascist and anti-establishment, always inspiring, always so immensely talented and always one hundred % brilliant.”
Scarlett Cannon, Blame’s dearest friend and partner in fronting the Cha-Cha club-night 1981-82, said: “I’m heartbroken but so happy to have had him in my life all these years. He left such a rich heritage of inspiration and touched so many people.”
➢ So much purpose. So much talent – Tribute by Paul Flynn at Guardian online, 20 Feb 2018
In tribute to Mark Edward Smith who died today, here’s his biggest fan, the legendary deejay John Peel, who was commissioned to summarise the uniqueness of The Fall in The Sunday Times’s partwork, 1000 Makers of Music, published 25 May 1997:
“ Nothing in the history of pop has been remotely like the Fall. Mark E Smith is not only the writer of lyrics that often boast more ideas in a verse than most bands contrive for an LP, but is also credited with what is often said about Viz, that it isn’t as funny as it used to be. Fall devotees are accustomed to hearing similar assessments of their favourite band but believe that, through a bewildering number of personnel changes, the Fall remains the band by which all others must be judged. Their dozens of records crawl with anger, insults, waspish poetry and roaring guitar/bass/drums/keyboards-driven music some have styled Manc-a-billy after their home town. We the faithful can argue that anything, from 1979’s Live At the Witch Trials to last year’s The Light User Syndrome, might be the best. Smith’s press interviews – ranting against political correctness and students (the song Hey, Student from the 1994 LP Middle Class Revolt is a Fall classic) – make marvellous reading. (Keywork: Hey, Student.) ”