1980, Who was who in Spandau’s break-out year

➤ The Invisible Hand of Shapersofthe80s
draws a selective timeline for the
unprecedented rise and rise of Spandau Ballet

Posted on 5 June 2018

Spandau Ballet,Willy Brown , pop music, New Romantics, Simon Withers, Scala Cinema,

The drama begins: for their fourth public performance the as yet unsigned Spandau Ballet have been made over by designers Willy Brown and Simon Withers, uplit here by photographer Denis O’Regan in stark expressionist style which is what met their first seated audience at the Scala Cinema in March 1980


First comes this unauthorised book that tells the world there were two bands called Spandau Ballet back in 1979 and turns over the whole myth about where their name came from and who on earth made up the twee term for their followers, the New Romantics. Then out of the blue I find there are about 100 shockingly well-informed pages not exactly about me, long before this website existed, but following my every footstep through every month of 1980.

David Barrat

Click on this PDF image to read the David Barrat New Romantics book extract

True, Spandau Ballet had played only eight live bookings before signing an unrivalled contract in October 1980 and made the Top Ten within a year of their first performance, which was good going for any new band. But when author and Spandau fan David Barrat very flatteringly suggests that I was waving some Invisible Hand behind the scenes and actually writes that “their success can be pinned on one Evening Standard journalist”, well, I’d better just tell this tale like it was. . .

If you want to compare my version here below with his, click the PDF image to read a parallel extract from his book, New Romantics Who Never Were: The Untold Story of Spandau Ballet, by David Barrat, from Orsam Books.

THE JAW-DROPPING NEW BOOK surveying the New Romantics scene, meticulously researched by an unknown fan, has revealed much I never knew about the events of 1980 and I was there. Yet its author David Barrat was not. He describes himself as an ordinary fan who discovered Spandau Ballet with True in 1983 and since then has spent much time interviewing people and delving into documents and media reports as a labour of love to fill the gaps in the story of how the Islington boys came together, the origins of their peculiar name, whether they were truly leaders of the New Romantics – a youth cult like punk that intimately married music with fashion – and who on earth came up with that poetic term anyway. (In his autobiography Spandau’s Martin Kemp reckoned it was me, but apparently it wasn’t quite so simple. I’ll drink to that.)

In pursuing his assiduous task Barrat claims that he’s read “every edition of the Ampthill and Flitwick Record from the 1970s” but he also seems to have tracked every mention of Spandau and the Blitz Kids that emerged from my own pen during the crucial break-out year of 1980. Which is very flattering. Downright spooky too. His many strands of inquiry, Barrat told Music News last month, include “the unknown story of how one particular Evening Standard journalist can be thanked for helping [Spandau] to get signed”. It is intensely flattering to be credited with so much agency, to be perceived as some kind of Invisible Hand mysteriously influencing events. He’s right of course. Shame nobody else noticed and popped a cheque in the post.

To narrow the focus, on this page let’s simply explore the year 1980 itself which did indeed prove the old cliché that history “is just one darn thing after another”. Throughout 1979 the Tuesday-night Elektro-Diskow hosted by Steve Strange and Rusty Egan at Covent Garden’s Blitz wine bar had raised scarcely a flicker of interest in any media with sizeable audiences. Steve’s door policy of refusing anyone who hadn’t come with a new Look might have been just too exclusive. The dawn of an unnamed new sub-culture was proving a slow burn as the Elektro-Diskow approached its second year in Great Queen Street.

So when my phone rang at the Standard on 22 January 1980, little did I realise its message meant: “Put out the cat. You’re coming to the party of your life.” The voice on the other end spoke without pausing: “My name’s Steve Strange and I run a club called the Blitz on Tuesdays and I’m starting a cabaret night on Thursdays with a really great new band… They combine synthesised dance music for the future with vocals akin to Sinatra, they’re called Spandau Ballet and they’re going to be really big.”

How could I know that this was my invitation to the Swinging 80s, when London was to become a creative powerhouse as Britain rode out a recession and its youthful entrepreneurs leapt back into the world spotlight? In that quaint era, “mass media” amounted to three national TV networks offering two weekly pop shows, plus the grown-up newspapers selling 16 million daily, and four weekly music newspapers with trivial circulations. In 1980, the Daily Telegraph described discos as a “dehumanising threat to civilisation”. No kidding.

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Back in that day, pop and rock were not deemed news-worthy unless they echoed with the reassuring names of dinosaurs such as Beatles, Who and Stones. That’s not to say newspaper columnists didn’t have platforms for reviewing rock and pop records, but the chances of getting a new band mentioned were virtually zero. In terms of “yoof” culture coverage, the only competition I regarded as serious in 1980 were Robin Denselow in The Guardian and Peter York with his illuminating social autopsies in Harpers & Queen. TOTP was an embarrassment, the pop charts were a desert of blandness (the Two-Tone bands being lone beacons of originality), and newspaper editors generally were actively hostile to being sold things new in show business. The unfamiliar tended to threaten sales.

Also, there was no assumption among our editorial hierarchies that the interests of the young were automatically news-worthy, so we hacks under 40 had to battle constantly to squeeze pop, rock and any kind of yoof culture into our newspapers, even at the liberal-minded Standard. Consequently, in response to demand among younger staff there, we’d been allocated a little oasis of cool to report on young London in a page called On The Line (aka OTL), where I marshalled my colleagues’ contributions.

So here I am this month reading Barrat’s new book when suddenly on page 101 not only do I get a name check but also all this background to the OTL page being spelt out and for the next 100 pages my name appears like a motif dotted along the trail while he demonstrates the depth of his research and how the two parts of his book title – Origins of Spandau Ballet & Truth About the New Romantics Movement – have become his Mastermind topics. We are reading a spooky tale of coincidence and parallel lives as if Sherlock Holmes were our guide.

The book not only reminds me of that call from Steve Strange on 22 January 1980 to announce Spandau’s new music for a Cabaret audience at only their third live performance. I am also mortified to read that I was his poor second choice for receiving the good news that kicked off the decade. Barrat reports that Strange had already informed the naff Ad Lib page, a ragbag of press releases in the rival Evening News, two weeks earlier. Because I’d been on holiday in mid-January and thus missed this, I’ve always thought *I* was Strange’s honoured first call. Durr. Consequently I *wasn’t* the first person to write about Spandau Ballet. Well, technically I was: Ad Lib had given the story one sentence as if it was a bizarre dance event without realising that “ballet” was part of a band’s name. So quietly I reckon I can still claim to be the first to write about them, as opposed to giving them half a name-drop.

Next, Barrat is discussing Spandau’s concert No 4 on 7 March 1980 at the trendy Scala Cinema and the band’s strategy of playing only secret dates at non-rock venues and suddenly he knows all about the call I took from their manager Steve Dagger earlier that week who revealed that his band “put looks before music”(!). . . Oh, that’s right, it’s all coming back now. . . About four years ago Barrat arranged to interview me, that’s where he’s got all this from. Said he wanted to check a few dates and I chattered away. And he gets the dates right too. First crucial date to win media attention, 24 Jan, Spandau play the Blitz (p.101), and previously unknown to me, Barrat records not only that a Bedfordshire band had already performed under the name Spandau Ballet, but also that on this day in 1980 one of their mates saw my report and alerted them that somebody else was using their name at the Blitz that night!

The second crucial date, 4 March, was my meeting with Spandau manager Steve Dagger (p.105). Committed soulboy Dagger took me for a pint to suss out my suitability to write about his un-rocky fashion band in their wing collars and cravats “and really weird followers”, and luckily I mentioned the magic password, James Brown Sex Machine, while enthusing about the same sort of black dance music he rated. Box ticked, I was A-OK for an invitation to see Spandau play and he’d earned his first “Dandies for Dancing” headline in OTL on 6 March, the day before the show.


A photograph never before published: sharply styled Spandau Ballet in 1980 playing the dramatically lit Scala Cinema gig that eventually brought the record companies scrambling to sign them. Photograph by Steve Brown

[At this point, it’s worth recording one of Dagger’s strategies for dealing with the largely indifferent or hostile music press. He’s a shrewd observer with a witty way with words I came to call Daggerisms and could have made a keen journalist himself in another life. He refused to let most rock writers near his group throughout Spandau’s first year, because he knew so few had ever been inside a nightclub. “What’s more, they can’t dance,” he’d snort. In his view this Jets v Sharks divide is the reason the music press has missed the start of every major trend since rock’n’roll, “and they’ve never liked soul”, so before granting access to Spandau, he subjected all interviewers to discreet vetting. Applicants wearing denim or Doc Martens never reached the shortlist. What Dagger perfected was the game he called Squeeze the Lemon. He graded hacks into Herbs, Chives and Lemons and the most helpful of us would be given a friendly “squeeze” whenever a little promotion might help the band. He only let this slip at The Firm’s Finest Hour party in Bournemouth a couple of years on. It was such a hilarious game-plan that I immediately translated it into a crazed board-game titled Squeeze The Lemon that was totally informed by preposterous but genuine anecdotes, colourfully drawn by Conny Jude, billed as “a bitter-sweet lesson in pop warfare” and published across a spread in New Sounds New Styles.]

Then, with Spandau’s fourth concert, March really felt as if Something In The Air had achieved lift-off. Photographer Denis O’Regan had shot a startlingly uplit studio session with the new-look Spandau Ballet, dandified by up-coming designers Willy Brown and Simon Withers, for unveiling at their first performance in a seated auditorium. Simon Brown also attended the highly visual event and found his own pictures would be immediately in demand.


Elektro-Diskow at the Blitz 1980: Anglepoise robots inspired by the music of Kraftwerk and the Trans Europe Express. At rear, cloakroom attendant Julia Fodor (later Princess Julia). The dancing Space Cadets are Dennis Sheldrick wearing a customised overall from his job at Scunthorpe steel-works, and in a similar outfit his partner Denise King

Amid all this activity, Spandau’s dazzling shindig at the Scala triggered a cascade of consequences. The band were starkly lit as for a Fritz Lang movie, while a cuff-linked Tony Hadley flaunted a languid cigarette as he let his rich baritone voice rip. Within four bars I had turned to a colleague and we both said “My God. They can play!” This bit was a surprise. They were a tight team and their music was strong on melody, which in its day was fresh.

What really blew us away, though, was the palpable energy in the room, b-boom! The capacity audience was pure Hammer Horror meets Rank starlet, posing away in outrageous ensembles many had created themselves. As the band played, precocious 19-year-old Blitz Kids leapt to their feet, dancing wildly in the aisles in robotic stances and an overstated jive grasping both hands. I went hot and cold, confronted by what was blatantly what we journos call a scoop. Dagger calls it a Pop Moment, an adrenaline rush when you know in your blood something new is going on. I had this scoop to myself, or did I? We had to race now to get this scoop into print.

All the forces behind a cultural revolution were working overtime for their column inches. After the show, Dagger gave me his blessing by asking half a dozen chatterbox pals to come on the phone within the following week to talk me through the wondrous milieu I’d walked into (in the age before mobiles, this often required the interviewee being in a phone box at an appointed time to take my call). My first explainers in this foreign land were Perry Haines, Robert Elms, Chris Sullivan, Simon Withers and Melissa Caplan, none of whom I actually met till weeks later. One instant outcome came while talking to Perry Haines two days after the Scala eye-opener when I urged him as a third-year student journalist at St Martin’s to propose a fashion item on the dandy theme we’d seen paraded at the Scala to the Standard’s fashion editor Liz Smith. It was more credible that the message came from Haines rather than from me as a colleague suggesting it to Liz myself. It came as news to discover that Perry was already one of Liz Smith’s savvy streetwise informants! Great minds thought alike and a week later I found myself editing Liz’s page for 17 March 1980 with photos from Simon Brown showing the most stylish Blitz Kids at the Spandau concert, and coined the headline “Dandies in hand-me-downs” over a report by Perry. He enthused about his pals: “They adore romanticism and cherish classicism.” Crucially, the one phrase he did NOT use was “New Romantics”, despite what some folk memories believe, and nor did anybody else at the Standard.

I dubbed these preening egos and obsessive dressers the Now Crowd since they lived so much for the moment, prompted by St Martin’s design student Chris Sullivan’s mantra that “One look lasts a day”. Further dominoes fell in quick succession. On 8 April Andy John’s report on the Scala gig appeared in the Daily Star headlined “Just Dandy”. The byline was a pseudonym for Barry Cain, the freelance I’d worked with while moonlighting from my day-job to edit the twice-weekly pop pages in the newish left-wing tabloid (as it then was) and it was he who’d gasped out loud with me at Spandau’s musical prowess. Barry’s longer and masterful analysis of Spandau’s romanticised vision of the class struggle through “working-class elitism” appeared in Record Mirror, his first home, on 12 April under the headline “John, I’m only Posing”, after Gary Kemp told him: “We dress very, very romantically. We want to be dandies, not clones.”

In response to the Star report, on the day it was published I took a phone call from David Thomas, a researcher on London Weekend Television’s documentary strand 20th-Century Box produced by Janet Street-Porter, asking to be put in touch with Spandau’s manager. This duly resulted in the Scala replay concert specially for LWT cameras on 13 May.

I missed the second Scala gig, being abroad on a two-week holiday. And the moment I returned, in came a call from another long-standing acquaintance, the music PR Phil Symes, whose own stylish club-band TCOJ I’d been watching at Maunkberry’s on 9 April. This savvy little soul line-up very much captured the prevailing taste for cabaret and were gigging in clubs including the Blitz from December 1978 to summer 1980, but fatally they did not have the dynamic clubland support network that was proving its worth promoting Spandau and keeping them in the spotlight.

Symes had asked: “This band Spandau Ballet that you keep going on about – do you think they’d be willing to play a couple of weeks in St Tropez? I book the British acts for the Papagayo club there.” Once more, I passed on Dagger’s details, Spandau rehearsed for a St Tropez audition on 29 May, and a month later were motoring off to France to enjoy a fortnight in the sun while playing live nightly from midnight 30 June (closely followed by TCOJ who entertained Papagayo audiences for the next three weeks).

In the Standard I previewed the LWT programme on 8 July underscoring how the Now Crowd was “given to dandyism” and unluckily Spandau, still being in France, missed the transmission on Sunday 13 July of what became a definitive documentary about the band and their flamboyant peer group, narrated by Danny Baker. This stylish piece of TV reportage pinpointed the essence of what was an all-too-visual and utterly original music-and-fashion scene – and this is what brought the record companies swarming.


PX in February 1980: Julia Fodor in attendance when the home of New Romantics ready-to-wear expanded to Endell Street

Melissa Caplan, No Sacrifice, Chenil Gallery, fashion, runway show. Iain R Webb, 1980

August 1980: No Sacrifice released a howl from those London fashion students who had been stepping out of line


❏ Many more of the restless young were making waves. In January Chris Sullivan had established his breakaway retro Hollywood-meets-Weimar night in a cellar beneath Soho’s St Moritz for those who had out-grown the Blitz. After only 10 weeks he called it a day, having decided the world was ready for funk. Under the headline “Chiconomy” the March issue of 19 magazine had featured extreme style-leaders from the Blitz Club, capturing fashion straight-ups of Kim Bowen, Melissa Caplan, Jayne Chilkes, David Holah, Stephen Linard and Lee Sheldrick. On 3 March Christena Appleyard in the Mirror wrote the first major piece about Steve Strange, introducing the term Blitz Kids in its headline and picturing Steve “in bright red taffeta”, Kim Bowen in a “really topping hat” and Richard Wakefield in “full pancake make-up” with 12-inches of vertical hair – though no mention of Spandau, only Visage, Steve Strange’s band. This spring, nightlife venues such as Notre Dame Hall, Witchity and the Scala on Fridays had been reflecting a new fashion-led clubland mood, while Stevø had started a Futurist club-night called Sci-Fi Disco on Mondays at the Chelsea Drugstore under the invocation to “Dress Weird!!!”.

Photographers came humming like bees to the hive: Derek Ridgers had already shot one of the most influential pix of the key Blitz Kids for the prestigious Sunday Times colour magazine which, because of its long lead time, didn’t publish until 27 April. Andy Rosen shot Willy Brown’s Modern Classics fashion show at the Blitz on 6 March, and later Homer Sykes took the first comprehensive set of scene-setting images of the stylish action on the Blitz dance-floor (which eventually emerged in the People newspaper in June). Following the Binnie sisters’ Easter Pageant on 3 April, the British photographer Terry Smith visited the Blitz in mid-April to shoot probably the only colour photos known to exist, while the month grew ever more frenetic for the new movement. All of which prompted one Blitz Kid who later became a pop singer with Animal Nightlife, Andy Polaris, to tell his diary “Blitz packed, best for ages”.


The first published group pic of key Blitz Kids, April 1980: George O’Dowd, Vivienne Lynn, Chris Sullivan, Kim Bowen, Pinkietessa, Steve Strange shot by Derek Ridgers for the Sunday Times Magazine

On 2 May Stephen Linard put the name Neon Gothic to a fashion collection inspired in part by the film Nosferatu and modelled by Blitz Kids in the Alternative St Martin’s show. On 6 May CBS came to film at the Blitz, two days before Strange and Sullivan joined forces to open a more transgressive one-nighter on Thursdays nearby at the failing gay club Hell. For his 21st birthday on 28 May Strange threw a party aboard a Circle Line underground train for a gaggle of Blitz Kids who included Spandau’s Martin Kemp, all filmed for a TV doc titled Strangely Strange. In June the Covent Garden piazza reopened, glamorously refurbed for retail since the fruit-and-vegetable market moved out.

Then on 1 July the godlike David Bowie blessed this glorious summer by visiting the Blitz to recruit four Blitz Kids to strut with his pierrot through the Ashes to Ashes music video, which naturally zoomed straight to No 1 in the singles chart in August. He owed it to them and they to him, the pop icon who had taught them the principles for adopting stances of individualism and transgression. He bequeathed them the template  for living amusing lives, creating disposable identities, and wearing looks not uniforms.

As if to confirm that a novel youth movement was shooting out roots beyond the capital, on 16 July a band called Duran Duran played their first gig at the Rum Runner, their club base in Birmingham. In London on 2 August, Iain R Webb, a designer freshly graduated from St Martin’s and one day to become fashion editor of The Times, organised a modest runway show at Chelsea’s Chenil Gallery for four art-school refusniks including Melissa Caplan – it was titled No Sacrifice, “like the shout of the Red Army Faction”.

Most remarkable during this fertile season, on 3 July Gaz Mayall launched his own flavour of Rockin’ Blues club-night at the ever-fertile Billy’s where the Blitz Kids had previously rehearsed their Looks, attracting instead his own posse of music fans young and old, cool yet not in thrall to fashion. Gaz’s one-nighter proved remarkable because it stands alone today as the only one from 1980 still running in London. Gaz, we salute you.

As for the dreaded label for all of this innovation, it’s very hard to pin down one creator of the phrase “New Romantics”. I had toyed with “A Beano of Dandies” because my impression was that “dandy” was the one descriptor more used than any other during 1980 by Elms, Haines, G Kemp, Sullivan, Richard Burgess, myself and others, yet it never caught on. (In 2008 a Guardian headline stated that Burgess, as Spandau’s first producer, had “coined the term New Romantics”, though it cited no source.) Plainly, “New Romantics” was definitely “in the ether” as Betty Page said after her major survey of the Spandau effect was published in the music weekly Sounds on 12 September 1980: this was covered by the stark headline “The New Romantics”, which was penned by her editor Alan Lewis.

Nick Logan has offered that same ethereal source after he wrote that same phrase as a trailer in issue five of his keen magazine The Face during August: “It was in the air,” he says. Peter York, Alan Lewis and I are all on record as agreeing with that feeling. But it took Lewis to put it on Betty’s report even though she hadn’t used those words in her text. That is a courageous example of editor’s privilege when you’re convinced what’s “in the air” says it all! Even after Sounds had published their headline, on 18 September I carefully chose approximations to the word “romance” in our captions describing OTL’s menswear pictures because Spandau (who were modelling their own new baggy pants Look) absolutely did not want the phrase New Romantics applying to them. Blitz Kids likewise winced at the phrase. Yet today there it is.


Blitz Kids 1980: Leaders among the obsessive dressers fronted here by Stephen Linard, Andy Polaris… and chatterbox Perry Haines throwing a shape. (Photographs by Simon Brown)


❏ During those buzzing weeks of April I not only proposed a major survey on the Now Crowd for the Evening Standard but, realising that its high eccentricity quotient might prove an obstacle, wrote the piece in full before submitting it to the editor, the respected Charles Wintour. My fear was well founded. Wintour scrawled on the text in his distinctive hand, “Rather too esoteric for us” (I still have it!) and the piece was dead in the water.

Scroll forward to the autumn fashion season when Time magazine felt the moment right to publish its report from the Blitz on 8 September 1980, its vigilant team having visited back in mid-April. By now Nick Logan’s new Face magazine was slowly coming round to the New Romantics en route to earning the accolade of Style Bible for the 80s, and Terry Jones, an old hand from Vogue, aided by the eager Perry Haines, had launched i-D as a cheaply duplicated and stapled fanzine in black-and-white, where Steve Johnston invented his own brilliant “straight-up” form of kerb-side photo-reportage to feature the craziest Blitz Kids among many others.

For Men’s Fashion Week, the On The Line column on 18 September zoomed in on Pose Age Man and the unisex tabard silhouettes of Melissa Caplan sported by two Blitz Kids John Maybury and Holly Warburton, Willy Brown’s printed workwear plus trousers by Simon Withers modelled by Spandau Ballet and the La Rocka prints of Lloyd Johnson – giving due credit to the hair stylists of the day, Ollie O’Donnell at Smile, James Cuts in Kensington Market and Antenna on Kensington Church Street. On 1 October the milliner Stephen Jones, who had established a business in the basement of the PX shop in Endell Street, flagship for New Romantic ready-to-wear, announced his wittily titled “First Collection” to meet orders coming in from the New Romantic pop groups Visage, Spandau Ballet and the world beyond.

On 9 October OTL committed half a page to a quiz of 20 questions to discover the “grooviest person in London” offering a £500 Sony sound system as prize. It tested how well people had been reading this page and posed questions such as the origins of the phrase Spandau Ballet; Steve Strange’s real name; which restaurant designer Paul Howie favoured; and which song OTL’s title was named after. The tie-breaker asked for your phrase describing the past 12 months and readers offered these not-bad designations:
“Year of recessionist chic”;
“A groovy juve-y poove-y movie”;
“Cut the pile with style” (Luciana Martinez);
“Potential and pretensions; excitement and extremity” (Robert Elms);
“Punk gave way to pazazz”;
“Keeping up is not as easy as the cryptic crossword”;
“Brave new twirls” (M Caplan).

Two weeks later we announced Peter Thurgood and Frances Webb, aged 30 and 26, to be the grooviest people in Upper Norwood, he photographed in a tweed jacket from Flip, she in fake fur by Miz. They declared: “Parties are the easiest way to entertain and the best have themes – Sixties, favourite blondes, TV personalities and weird locations.”


Milliner to the Blitz: Stephen Jones with his mannequin de vie, Kim Bowen in 1980

By then the dress-up story was so blatantly evident in clubs, bars and street markets that I broadened my previous survey spiked in April by the editor and sought out eight persuasive examples of youthful do-it-yourself self-expression, wrote it up and this time submitted 2,000 words to the Standard’s deputy editor Roy Wright who exploded. “You’re making this up!” he stormed, to which I protested, “Roy, you live in Fulham, you must have noticed these weird people on the King’s Road every Saturday afternoon.” Wright replied: “I’m pleased to say I haven’t walked down the King’s Road in 20 years” and he spiked the new piece.

Not to be beaten again, I sent a copy in to Wintour’s office as a court of appeal (where this time he possibly took soundings from his daughter, yes, Anna, already a fashion editor) and within 10 minutes the editor walked over to Wright, handed him my piece and said, “Roy, we’d better put this in”.

And who were the prodigies who on 16 October 1980 appeared in the Standard under the headline summarising a typical week in the “Private Worlds of the New Young”? From their Hammer Horror club-night at Hell, Steve Strange and Chris Sullivan. . . for his new “100mph dance music” i-D night at Billy’s, Perry Haines. . . at Olympia committing designer Antony Price’s runway show to film, John Maybury. . . also at Billy’s the weekly Gaz’s Rockin’ Blues. . . at Kensington Market in the full-on pantomime of his Dispensary, Brummie clothier Martin Degville. . . and over at the Blitz, beaming his cheshire-cat smile, Steve Dagger, as he clutched a fat cheque signed by Chrysalis Records for his band Spandau Ballet. None of these heroes was older than 22.


Year-ending December 1980: At the Waldorf Hotel, the team who had brought Spandau Ballet to fame, their average age 20 – seven musicians, six designers, three media and management, three club-hosts, two deejays, one crimper and 22 egos. Photographed by Herbie Knott

One more small chapter followed Spandau’s first single reaching No 5 in the UK chart on 6 December 1980, only three weeks after entering. As a way of acknowledging the sheer spirit of collaboration inspired by the Blitz and which turned newly emerging club-nights into job centres creating opportunities for all, on 16 December 1980 I corralled the 22 Blitz Kids, soulboys and New Romantics who had put the show on the road in 1980 for a now-nostalgic team photo in the mirrored glamour of the Waldorf Hotel. Here were the key helpers who had brought Spandau Ballet to fame and defined the new way to promote a pop group. Their average age was 20.

Headed by the five Spands from Islington, with Steve Strange and Rusty Egan to the fore, were the people who had specific roles to play in staging and promoting the band: seven musicians, six designers, three media and management, three club-hosts, two deejays, one crimper and 22 egos. Photographed for the Evening Standard by Herbie Knott. Inevitably Roy Wright spiked yet another preposterous chapter in their story offered by yours truly and this unseen picture has only resurfaced in recent years. By 1981 Dagger, Elms, Sullivan, Strange, Egan and friends were well out front making waves.

On 18 December 1980 we held an OTL pioneers Christmas lunch at Joe Allen’s where key guests included Nick Logan, the editor of the soon-to-become-seminal style magazine, The Face. Here were Steve Dagger as manager of the newly signed Spandau Ballet, and key Blitz Kids Kim Bowen and Stephen Jones from St Martin’s School of Art, plus Robert Elms and Simon Withers – all of whom were leaders of the burgeoning New Romantics movement whether they liked the name or not. Plus Rick Sky, a Daily Star freelance, and James Johnson, the Standard’s rock reporter who was still bemused and declared that their scene was going nowhere. Yet by May 1981 James decided to join a press jaunt to New York, along with distinguished rock writer Ray Connolly and TV’s Paula Yates as critics, to witness “the first Blitz invasion” of the USA with an Axiom runway fashion show (masterminded by designer/promoter Jon “Mole” Baker) and a live synth-driven Spandau Ballet concert before Manhattan’s glitterati, blessed by Tina Turner and Robert de Niro. I was there in my role as a moonlighting music editor elsewhere, so I suppose you could say this was my reward. Hang on a minute, I seem to remember paying my own fare.

➢ All of which leads neatly on to 1981 and the first Blitz
invasion of the US – and by then I’d learned to carry a camera


Shapers of the 80s share Christmas lunch 1980: clockwise, James Johnson and Standard colleague, Steve Dagger, Stephen Jones, Robert Elms, Rick Sky, David Johnson, Melissa Caplan, Nick Logan, Kim Bowen, Simon Withers



TAGS – history, pop music, biography, fashion, beano, dandies, Swinging 80s, Blitz Club, Blitz Kids, Scala Cinema, Papagayo Club, St Martin’s School of Art, PX, New Romantics Who Never Were, The Untold Story of Spandau Ballet, Steve Dagger, Spandau Ballet, Tony Hadley, John Keeble, Gary Kemp, Martin Kemp, Steve Norman, Rusty Egan, Steve Strange, Kim Bowen, Simon Brown, Willy Brown, Barry Cain, Melissa Caplan, Jayne Chilkes, Martin Degville, Duran Duran, Robert Elms, Perry Haines, David Holah, Lloyd Johnson, Steve Johnston, Stephen Jones, Terry Jones, Alan Lewis, Stephen Linard, Nick Logan, Gaz Mayall, John Maybury, Ollie O’Donnell, Denis O’Regan, Betty Page, Andy Polaris, Derek Ridgers, Andy Rosen, Lee Sheldrick, Chris Sullivan, Homer Sykes, Phil Symes, David Thomas, Peter Thurgood, Frances Webb, Iain R Webb, Simon Withers, Peter York, Orsam Books, David Barrat