INDEX OF ALL 700+ POSTS
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
An “invaluable website” — historian Dominic Sandbrook, 2012
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
➢ FOR NEWS & MONTH BY MONTH SEARCH, see the sidebar below
❏ 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
- 1967 ➤ Secret of how Scott Walker achieved a new adult voice as he went solo
- ➤ Elms the storyteller on why some stories are ‘too good to check’
- 2019 ➤ Spandau vocalist Ross rocks fans by announcing his own new band Mercutio
- 2019 ➤ George Michael’s art for sale: funky, X-rated and naughty as you’d expect
- ➤ A personal tale about the genius staring out from a painting expected to sell for £30m tonight
- ➤ Bowie TV trilogy triumphs thanks to candour and a few tears
- ➤ Thanks, Steve, for my invitation to the Swinging 80s
- ➤ Four years on: How the Blitz Kids paid magnificent tribute to Steve Strange
- ➤ Topical issues enliven Leave to Remain, an innovative stage musical about gay romance
- ➤ Sullivan the wag changes hats at the touch of his paintbrush
- ➤ Magical glimpses into the unreal world of pop photographer Peter Ashworth
- ➤ Truly a once in a lifetime evening of pure joy with David Byrne
SEARCH our 700 posts or ZOOM DOWN TO THE ARCHIVE INDEX
NEWS — OLD FACES, NEW MIXES FOR THE 20-TEENS
✱ Watch out for the 1 April launch of ex-Wag Club supremo Chris Sullivan’s book Rebel Rebel for £15. It’s a whopper at 455 pages plus illustrations of the likes of Bowie, Iggy and Robert Mitchum by Sullivan himself. Buy direct from Unbound
✱ Celebrating 40 years of music in her 60th year, Toyah Willcox has opened bookings for 2019’s first live dates from February to April via Toyah’s own website – “Live with full electric band”
✱ Ex-Spandau singer Tony Hadley’s Talking To The Moon UK tour was a triumph at the London Palladium. . . View Tone’s first YouTube music video – for his single Tonight Belongs To Us, from his album Talking To The Moon … Hadley’s events list gives more live European dates into the spring, and his US agent will be planning more.
✱ Latest from legendary Blitz Club deejay and remixer Rusty Egan: Welcome to the Remix at Bandcamp, plus Welcome to the Beach in which Austrian producer HP Hoeger and Egan have taken last year’s Welcome to the Dance Floor and transformed it for the beach with additional musicians joining in and adaptations and spoken word. . . More Egan mixes at Mixcloud. . . and personal playlists at Soundcloud. This man seems to own the interweb.
✱ Jeff Young on Jazz FM last year made the new 18-track Siren his album of the week. This January it won the Bright Star Music Award for Best Soul / R& B Album 2018, brainchild of Colourful Radio. It was superbly crafted by Londoner Robb Scott, with strong supporting lineup, for the Expansion label. Soul Brother Records says: “A collection of classy soul/jazz grooves on that has jazz at its heart but with some superb soulful brushstrokes applied.” Purchase directly from the artist’s store
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
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: Youth culture
◼ EVEN AMONG THE UK ROCK PRESS, few of its music historians have conceded that the New Romantics amounted to an ambitious subculture that changed the rules of the game – largely because the rockists completely missed the boat by idolising guitar idols, never went to nightclubs, and what’s more, couldn’t dance.
The most audible consequence of the clubbing underground was to fundamentally change the rhythm of the pop singles charts within a year – from the rock guitar to the bass-and-drum, namely, to dance music. After 1981 scarcely any significant new rock groups made the singles charts, only the old dinosaurs, if at all. Rock was relegated to the album chart and new dance-music stars such as Madonna and Prince transformed the pop music of the new decade.
The other New Romantics keynote was the central role of image with the dawn of MTV as a platform for music videos. A band became the leaders of fashion, while their style-conscious nightlife followers collaborated in promoting them through the clubbing grapevine. As synth-pop pioneers during 1980 Spandau Ballet pushed a button for the fashion-conscious young. They were signalling that the language of pop called for new styles as much as new sounds.
During the first five years of the decade, more than 100 “image bands” and acts entered the UK charts – most of them new, led in the South-East by Ultravox, Linx, Spandau Ballet, Visage, Landscape, Depeche Mode, Kid Creole, Blue Rondo a la Turk. Many more emerged from clubland across the UK: Duran Duran, Soft Cell, Heaven 17, Altered Images, Imagination, Eurythmics, Thomas Dolby, ABC.
During Spandau’s North American tour in November 1983, alongside their hit True among the Billboard Top 40 singles in the USA, there were 17 other British bands – more than the Swinging 60s ever knew. Insolence and narcissism lit a torch that led a generation of school-leavers through what threatened to be Britain’s dark age of unemployment. As clubs became workplaces and nightlife the essential engine of cultural evolution, they liberated music, design and, especially, ambition for the young.
“ There was one album from 1968 that distilled all the bombast and buffoonery of the singularly themed song cycle in pop music, housed in a round LP jacket miming the vintage tobacco tin it was named after. Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake was the fourth LP by East London’s Small Faces, a mod quartet who set themselves apart not only by their uniformly demure stature among its members — guitarist/vocalist Steve Marriott, bassist/vocalist Ronnie Lane, keyboardist Ian McLagan and drummer Kenney Jones — but their heavy influence on the grittier end of the R&B/soul spectrum that was propelling many of the British Invasion bands.
Under the recording guidance of the great Glyn Johns – who had also spent ’68 already working on a ton of other albums including Beggars Banquet by the Rolling Stones, the second Traffic LP and the debut from The Pentangle – the group pushed their art beyond the pop charts and toward a more adventurous strain of their signature sound. The sense of raggedness exhibited by the band upon their return from an Australian tour opening for The Who is quite palpable in the mix as well. . . ” / Continued at Billboard online
❏ Stevie went on to join Peter Frampton in Humble Pie – he writes in Billboard: “Ogdens’ was the best Small Faces album for me. It was just after its release that I first met Steve Marriott and Ronnie Lane, and there was talk of me joining the band as the fifth member as well. They were always one of my most favourite bands from Whatcha Gonna Do About It onwards. This album’s great material and concept are what made it their finest work. Its eye-catching round cover made it unique before you even heard the music. Love this record.”
THE DAY WE MET OUR ICON LITTLE STEVIE
◼ IT WAS MARTIN KEMP WHO’D HAD ENOUGH of the schmoozy dinner laid on by his record label while Spandau Ballet were touring the USA on the back of their chart-topping True in November 1983. They had a package of TV shows and other promos scheduled in Los Angeles which made a trip to join them on the West Coast more fun, but this dinner was yawning a bit. “You won’t guess who’s playing a gig tonight at a country club just up the Valley,” said Martin: “Steve Marriott!” Well you couldn’t have offered any better temptation to those of us with Mod sensibilities than our hero from the Small Faces, who back then had settled in the States and never stopped working the club circuit with his own dedicated band, however humble the venue. Since impresario Don Arden had defaulted on the Small Faces’ unpaid royalties, Stevie had moved to California to escape monstrous tax liabilities in the UK.
Within minutes Martin had inquired how far the venue was and had laid on a limo for all who were keen to zoom off to Stevie’s late-night show. These amounted to the ultimate Mod, Spandau manager Steve Dagger, drummer Johnny Keeble, Sam Brown (providing backing vocals on the tour), plus yours truly and the local record company hand-holder David Levy. The rest of the Spands had made other arrangements so our party of six squeezed into the limo and roared off up the Valley for a truly exceptional bonus to a long day.
The sad truth was that the big-name Reseda Country Club was a yawning cavern containing 1,000 seats, and the Marriott band’s audience numbered literally about 20 people including ourselves. Nevertheless, the minute his quartet hit the stage they made a sound so tight it could have thrilled a stadium, while Stevie the consummate pro delivered that oh-so-fabulous voice, albeit slightly rasping at the ripe age of 36, and brought full value to a good few piquant hits from the Small Faces and Humble Pie, including All Or Nothing.
I wasn’t going to pass up the chance of going down to the stage to shoot off a sentimental roll of film but the biggest surprise came at the end of easily one of the 10 best sets I’ve heard in my life. Sam Brown said since we were here we really ought to go backstage and say Hi to Stevie – whereupon the Spands all revealed the genuine humility of real fans and mumbled stuff about not dreaming of barging in on him. Whereupon Sam announced she knew Stevie very well through her dad, the 60s legend Joe Brown, who of course knew Marriott of old.
The result you see above: a fab souvenir photo of our chirpy hero who was tickled pink to hear some authentic British vowels while on the road. The pow-wow was a blast all round. Eight years later, little Stevie Marriott, one of the greatest talents in British pop, died in a blaze at his Essex cottage.
◼ A SURPRISING NEW CACHE of photographs of the Blitz Club in colour has been discovered from the spring of 1980 when TIME magazine asked British photographer Terry Smith to turn his lens on the nightlife posers at Covent Garden’s Blitz Club. They were to become feted as the New Romantics.
Tuesdays at the Blitz were all ritual. Everyone supped and danced on the same spot every week according to some invisible floorplan: downstairs near the bar stood the boys in the band (no make-up), their media and management by the stairs, credible punk legends such as Siouxsie Sioux along the bar, suburban wannabes beside the dancefloor.
Deep within the club, around Rusty Egan’s deejay booth, were the dedicated dancing feet, the white-faced shock troops, the fashionista elite – either there or near the cloakroom, ruled first by Julia Fodor (still going strong as deejay Princess Julia) and later by George O’Dowd (known today as ex-jailbird Boy George). Downstairs, the women’s loo was hijacked, naturally, by boys who would be girls. Upstairs on the railway banquettes might be respected alumni from an earlier London: film-maker Derek Jarman, artists Brian Clarke and Kevin Whitney, designers Antony Price and Zandra Rhodes…
◼ AN ENORMOUS NEW CACHE of photographs of the Blitz Club in colour has been discovered from the spring of 1980 when the UK media started to take an interest in the Tuesday-night antics of the nightlife posers at Covent Garden’s Blitz Club. They were to become celebrated as the Blitz Kids by some and as New Romantics by others. Until this moment it has been easy to count the number of surviving professional pictures ever taken inside the Blitz during its 20-month life – all of them in black-and-white – and the total doesn’t even approach 100.
Now a call to Shapers of the 80s by the British photographer Terry Smith has unearthed probably 300 more images, commissioned by Time magazine. Many of them are in glorious colour, shedding extra light on the creativity of the night-owls who were in the throes of transforming the fashion and pop landscape of Britain in the Swinging 80s.
Shapers of the 80s today showcases the first of four batches of Terry’s pictures capturing the Blitz in colour, while a selling exhibition of his black-and-white images is preparing to open on 7 June in St Leonards-on-Sea.