◼ HERE’S A CRUCIAL AND THOROUGH APPRECIATION of London nightclubbers in 1981 – variously known as the New Romantics or the Blitz Kids – plus an early career interview with Spandau Ballet whose first single had been in the UK chart for 11 weeks and their second was launching in January 1981. Few mainstream journalists had paid much attention to this massive underground following, but Robin Denselow, a savvy music writer for The Guardian, had also been recruited by the BBC’s new nightly current affairs strand, Newsnight. Denselow’s 1981 report pays great attention to detail and plays a key role in kick-starting this fashion-and-music cult’s explosion as a media phenomenon. Rival dance-driven “image bands”, Visage and Ultravox were in the singles chart, while Depeche Mode and Duran Duran were only weeks away with their first hits.
Over the next three months tabloids and TV staged a vampiric feeding frenzy, gorging on the new Pose Age fashionistas who justified dressing up as an act of participation rather than consumerism. “You are your own visual entertainment,” said Spandau’s Gary Kemp.
“ One look lasts a day ”
– Chris Sullivan, Blitz Club regular and later
Wag club director (March 1980)
Denselow follows key clubland trend-setters such as Chris Sullivan, Steve Strange, Gary and Martin Kemp, designer Jon “Mole” Baker, and Perry Haines cub editor of i-D magazine, who rejects the label escapism in favour of “living an alternative reality”. He was wrestling with Guy Debord’s then fashionable theories of society as a spectacle.
On the night the BBC team visited the tartan-lined Le Kilt – a legendary discotheque surviving from the Swinging 60s – everybody had rehearsed their soundbites from the New Romantic manifesto of optimism and creativity in the face of grinding recession and 3 million unemployed, scripted by those motormouth spokesmen Bob Elms, Steve Dagger and Perry Haines, who was also styling Duran Duran’s first video with his other hand. I couldn’t have expressed Denselow’s closing words better myself when he concluded: “Is this a return to the heady days of the 60s or the more desperate escapism of the 30s? Behind the posing and the dressing up the New Romantics are, at the very least, optimistic and creative. At least someone’s trying to dispel all the gloom.” These pronouncements have rattled around the history books ever since.
New Romantics, Blitz Kids, Steve Strange, Gary Kemp, Spandau Ballet, Le Kilt, Blitz Club, Graham Smith, Chris Sullivan , Swinging 80s, UK, youth culture, Swinging 80s, Perry Haines, Jon Mole Baker, electronic music, nightclubbing, Robin Denselow, Visage, Ultravox, Depeche Mode, Duran Duran