Tag Archives: Betty Page

➤ Steve Strange RIP: the great provocateur who led from the front and inspired a generation

Visage ,Blitz Club,Steve Strange ,Blitz Kids, New Romantics, nightclubbing, tributes

The early Visage outside the Blitz Club in 1979: Steve Strange (second right) and from the left, Rusty Egan, John McGeoch, Barry Adamson, Billy Currie, Dave Formula and Midge Ure. (Picture © Sheila Rock)

SO FAR ONLY A FEW SERIOUS COMMENTATORS HAVE glimpsed STEVE’S WIZARDY…

➢ Tom Ewing in today’s Guardian:

The reruns of 1980s Top of the Pops on BBC4 will provide an opportunity to see the change Strange and his friends wrought – a pop scene becoming funnier, more dramatic, and more delightful to look at with each week. By 1981, and Strange’s move to a new venue, Club For Heroes, pop music looked and sounded quite different than when he’d arrived, and he’d played a huge part in the change. Nobody in pop is trusted less than the fashionable. But a generation of small viewers learned more about glamour, improvisation and style from the pop music of Steve Strange’s generation than from anything else on TV, or in real life.

Strange kept making music and running clubs, but the records he left behind – fantastic as they often were – are still only half the story. Steve Strange was important not just as a pop star from a particularly colourful scene, but as one of pop’s secret architects. . . / Continued at Guardian online

Steve Strange, Steven Harrington, Blitz Kids, New Romantics,

Leather-clad Steve Strange photographed in 1982 by Helmut Newton

➢ Neil McCormick in today’s Daily Telegraph:

Strange was a significant figure . . . his influence behind the scenes proving crucial to the newfound confidence and flamboyance of post-punk British pop in the Eighties. . . Dance music became cool again, synths reigned supreme, with Strange amongst the chief instigators of a fresh colourfulness and extravagance that brought fun and glamour back into pop, giving impetus to a flashy, eccentric scene that ultimately inspired the second British musical invasion of America.

His death from a heart attack at 55 may only leave a tiny mark on pop music but Strange himself had already made a much bigger mark. To those who knew, Strange was a genuine pioneer, an inspiration to a generation. . . / Continued at Telegraph online

➢ LISTEN to broadcaster Robert Elms – one of the original Blitz Kids – paying tribute today on BBC London 94.9:

This working-class kid orchestrated London for a couple of years. He was a worker of people, a creator of ideas, a cultural agent provocateur. . . down-to-earth, funny, scurrilous. . . And he made things happen. He played London like a musical instrument

➢ More memories of the man behind the make-up
– by ‘Betty Page’:

I interviewed Steve just before Visage’s first album was released, fully expecting to meet an arrogant 20th-century version of Beau Brummell. He was modelling the Little Lord Fauntleroy look – porcelain face make-up, tumbling curls and two finely drawn black dots placed on the tip of his nose completed the look. I told him that I wished I had the patience to apply such an immaculate maquillage.

“I’ll get up as early as it takes to get my face right,” he replied. “No matter how big the hangover.”

Now there’s dedication. That’s what it takes to be A Creation. I no longer feared that the room was too big for the three of us – Steve, his reputation and me. He was just a sweet working-class boy from Wales who liked to dress up and party. . . / Continued at Berverleyglick.com

18 FEB UPDATE: SULLIVAN’S SOHO RADIO SHOW

I had the immense pleasure of dedicating my radio show today to my old partner in crime and friend since early teens Steve Strange and rounded up some of his best friends to tell us some great Strangie stories including Princess Julia, Jennie Matthias of the Belle Stars, Glen Matlock of the Sex Pistols, Jeanette Calliva who ran Double Bass and The Bank with him. A real honour to do as it was a privilege to be his good friend for 40 years. He was a complete and utter maverick. He had balls the size of basketballs. He didn’t know when to stop and he never knew when the night had ended. Steve’s greatest achievement was that he sussed out he could become notorious being himself in every way and he made a living out of it.

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s:
Nowt so Strange as Steven John Harrington, 1959–2015

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1981 ➤ Birth of Duran’s Planet Earth — when other people’s faith put the Brummies into the charts

Duran Duran, New Romantics

Duran Duran in 1980: Birmingham’s fluffiest New Romantics

Planet Earth, Night Version, Duran Duran◼ 30 YEARS AGO TODAY the Birmingham club-band Duran Duran released their debut single Planet Earth, less than two months after signing to EMI. It charted in mid-March, peaked at No 12, and bagged the band a spot on Top of the Pops, Britain’s premier music TV show. They were the first New Romantic band from outside London to make good, and this week the writer Steve Jansen claims that “inside of three short years, Duran were officially the biggest band on the planet”. He celebrates Duran’s birthpangs with a freshly researched three-day survey of their origins titled Switch It On! – Planet Earth & The Launch of Duran Duran, online at gimmeawristband.com. Jansen talks to all the main players involved during the run-up to the band’s chart debut — here are a few tasters from his epic story, published with permission…

Extracts from Switch It On! – Planet Earth & The Launch of Duran Duran:

❏ Bass player John Taylor recalls himself and Nick Rhodes, both Birmingham-born, founding Duran Duran as “young punks; we just wanted to get involved. To us, music was like a commodity. It was this word-of-mouth thing that brought you together with people; it made you your friends — and some of your enemies. It was the mixer.”

❏ Jeremy Thirlby, who was childhood friends with Rhodes, remembers: “None of us — John, Nick or me was gay — but that whole Kahn & Bell scene [around their fashion boutique] was very appealing to people like Nick because there was something going on; plus he’d always been into the slightly more surreal end of Bowie… Nick had always been single-minded, so it didn’t turn his head. He wanted to get somewhere else, and at the time Kahn & Bell was it.”

Michael Berrow, Paul Berrow, Duran Duran

The management, 1980: Michael and Paul Berrow. Photographed © by Paul Edmond

❏ Duran’s co-manager Paul Berrow: “That unique relationship between [Duran’s] rehearsal room upstairs and the club — which was pumping six, seven nights a week down below — John and Roger, all they had to do if they were running out of inspiration was walk down one flight of stairs and they’d find themselves in a club with four or five-hundred people, with a very loud sound system.”

❏ EMI’s A&R man Dave Ambrose travelled to Birmingham to catch Duran in October 1980. Could he honestly have seen so much in Duran so early? “Honestly. Yes. I swear. This was going to be a very, very important band; I could see them being the next Queen. Simon was like this Elvis figure. Andy was a great craftsman, a really solid musician. There was John, this cool bass player. Roger, a still under-rated drummer. And then there’s Nick, like this Andy Warhol figure; and I thought, what an incredible combination.”

❏ In 1980 Beverley Glick was aka Betty Page at the now-defunct UK music paper Sounds. Paul Berrow invited her to Birmingham to meet his unknown band. Page had doubts: “I thought, do I really want to go all the way up to Birmingham to do this? [Berrow] didn’t even offer me a tape.” Upon arrival, Page was forced to reassess: “I’d never met a bunch of people who were so confident and focused, who knew exactly where they wanted to go; even more so than Spandau Ballet [London’s rival New Romantic band]. It was a kind of youthful arrogance that was quite appealing at the time. I don’t think they ever thought coming from Birmingham was going to stop them — in fact, I think they used it to their advantage really.”

Rod Stewart, Da Ya Think I’m Sexy

Inspiration for Planet Earth: Rod Stewart’s UK number one and US number one single Da Ya Think I’m Sexy was released in December 1978. Most of the music was written by drummer Carmine Appice, and its disco-like arrangement was seen by fans as a betrayal of Stewart’s rock roots at a time when he gyrated onstage wearing tight spandex. The song has a further history. Its refrain was similar to the melody in the 1972 instrumental, Taj Mahal, by Brazil’s popular singer-songwriter Jorge Ben Jor. In an ensuing lawsuit, Rod agreed to donate the profits from his song to UNICEF

❏ Andy Taylor, Duran guitarist: “The essence of Planet Earth came from Da Ya Think I’m Sexy? [from December 1978] which Rod Stewart reckons was brilliant. The synth-guitar hook line that kicks off the tune is played on the same scale and key; the first two chords Dm7 & F are the same, so the melody/ counter melody lines are interchangeable.”

❏ Michael Berrow remembers Bob Lamb who produced Duran’s demos back in 1980: “Bob did a great job on Planet Earth. Bob’s arrangement is pretty well what made the final recording.” When EMI came into the frame, however, Lamb was laid off in favour of Colin Thurston. Lamb said later: “Colin was more fashionable than me at the time. I bumped into him at a studio in London and Colin said to me – and I quote – ‘I owe you a house’ (laughs) — which I’m still waiting for!”

❏ Graphic designer Malcolm Garrett reveals why the 12-inch sleeve of Planet Earth (the Night Version) looks different from the regular 7-inch version: “Economics. I don’t think they had much money, and they didn’t expect it to sell. Hence, they only gave me two colours to print with.”

➢ Read Steve Jansen’s full text of Switch It On!
— Planet Earth & The Launch of Duran Duran

Duran Duran, video, Planet Earth

The New Romantic Jive: Rum Runner regulars Gay John and Lavinya (aka Patrick Black), dressed to the hilt and dancing in Russell Mulcahy’s official 1981 video for Planet Earth

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1980 ➤ How Duran Duran’s road to stardom began in the Studio 54 of Birmingham

Duran Duran, Berrow Brothers, Rum Runner, New Romantics,Nick Egan,video, All You Need Is Now

Duran Duran as full-on Romantics: Betty Page thought only co-founder Nick Rhodes (second right) passed the bouffant test convincingly

❚ ON OR ABOUT THIS DAY IN 1980 (MAYBE), Duran Duran signed their contract with EMI for a £28,000 advance (£90,000 in today’s money), according to Paul Berrow. The band seem mysteriously unable to remember when, so the guess is some time between Dec 9 because Andy Taylor recalls the news of John Lennon’s death ruining his breakfast in London, and possibly Dec 22, date of a celebratory gig at Birmingham’s Cedar Club, though the first official book, Their Story by Kasper de Graaf, places the signing firmly in January 1981.

As the house band of the New Romantics in Britain’s second city, Birmingham, they were styled locally by Kahn & Bell, photographed by Paul Edmond, and managed by Paul and Michael Berrow, owners of the glitzy Rum Runner nightclub on Broad Street.

The Berrows had inherited the family business from their influential bookmaker father who had opened the club in the Swinging 60s and the sickly odours of Brut and Estee Lauder still lingered. Inspired directly by a visit to New York’s Studio 54, the brothers refurbished the Rum Runner in 1979 with state-of-the-art mirror-tiled walls and zigzags of neon. They then introduced a playlist heavily flavoured with Moroder-style imports and the American club-funk championed by the Nile Rodgers band Chic, whose string of chart hits was restoring credibility to disco music following the ridicule inflicted by the low-rent movie Saturday Night Fever. But how to become the Studio 54 of the Midlands?

Enter a band called Duran Duran in January 1980, armed with a four-song demo recorded at Bob Lamb’s studio which included Rio as a work in progress. The DD line-up were offered the club as daytime rehearsal space and jobs by night, including deejaying for Nick Rhodes. Roger Taylor recalls that the brothers “were looking for a band that was a cross between Gino Soccio, Genesis and Chic” — all the more curious that they made many attempts to contact Steve New to recruit the Rich Kids guitarist into the band, but they heard nothing from him.

Duran Duran, Meolody Maker, Andy Taylor

The Melody Maker ad that landed Andy Taylor in April 1980: unearthed by Duran fan Figital

Inevitably the lineup was rationalised and by the summer Andy had been recruited (“They were quite blatant,” Andy told Rolling Stone much later. “They said, ‘We’re posers. We want a good-looking poser band”). Then came Simon Le Bon as singer. According to him: “They had this thing about being between Chic and the Sex Pistols, but I thought they were more like in between Roxy Music and the Sex Pistols.” The band were searching for a musical direction.

Meanwhile as the rival nightclub Barbarella’s fell from favour, the Birmingham poser scene was reinventing itself in local bars around the peacock clothes designers Jane Kahn, Patti Bell and a veteran of Billy’s club in Soho, Martin Degville, who was commuting to London weekly to run a branch of his shop in Kensington Market. That summer the Rum Runner gave over Tuesdays to a Bowie/Roxy night. Sounds familiar? Enter journalist Betty Page and the rest is history.

Within three years Duran Duran’s synth-pop had made The Fab Five one of the handful of British supergroups dominating the global stage. Duran can claim to have led the MTV-driven “Second British Invasion” of the United States from the autumn of 1981 with their raunchy and cinematic videos, and over 30 years enjoyed 21 singles in the Billboard Hot 100 and sales of 100m records.

BETTY PAGE OF SOUNDS RECALLS HOW SHE WAS
INVITED TO “DISCOVER” DURAN DURAN

Betty Page, Sounds, Beverley Glick

Betty Page in youthful bloom, more recently identified as Beverley Glick

In September 1980 in the pages of the music weekly, Sounds, Betty had slapped the label “New Romantics” on Spandau Ballet, house band of London’s Blitz club and then received a call from the hungry manager of this Brummie band called Duran Duran…

Paul Berrow was a smooth operator. ‘Come to the Rum Runner,’ he said of the club he co-owned with his brother Michael. ‘We’ve got a scene going on up here to put the Blitz to shame, and a band to go with it.’ Clever, I thought. He had singled me out to be the first journalist to write about his group. And they actually wanted to be called New Romantics! Nick was the most obviously New Romantic — a bouffant blond David Sylvian lookalike who sported extravagantly frilly shirts and shiny suits — but the style sat rather uncomfortably on the others.

The alarmingly pretty, floppy-fringed bassist John Taylor drew the line at satin shirts and a shoulder sash. ‘We were never meant to be bagged in with any elitist scene,’ said John, the pretty one. ‘The main chunk of our audience in Birmingham is those people,’ said Nick, the bouffant one, ‘but we’re not as tied to it as Spandau obviously are. When people come to see us we’d much sooner they dance and have a good time rather than dress up in the clothes and just stare…
© Beverley Glick

➢ Read Betty Page’s retrospective survey of the New Romantics
– I Was There, originally published in Record Collector in 2004

ARCH-RIVAL MANAGER’S VERDICT ON DURAN

Years after both bands had achieved superstar status, Steve Dagger, the manager of Spandau Ballet, wrote this nugget summarising Duran Duran’s contribution to the 80s music scene. It was published in a partwork published by The Sunday Times in 1997 titled 1000 Makers of Music, which spanned all genres from classical to pop:

Rolling Stone, Duran Duran,Fab Five,Second British Invasion Duran were among a new group of artists who provided a glittering, sexy contrast to the prevailing dull corporate pop-punk of the 1970s. Taking their influence from the art-school underground of electronics/Ferry/Bowie, they came to prominence as the Birmingham ‘it’ band at the same time Spandau Ballet reigned over a similar scene in London. After an awkward but successful period as the Birmingham ‘answer to’, Duran metamorphosed in 1982 into a sleek, glamorous international entity with the seminal album Rio, having perfected a distinctive Duran sound fusing synths and guitar licks over post-disco rhythm. Inspired songs such as Hungry Like the Wolf were accompanied by cinematic videos, together creating an electric pop culture moment. After being derided for years, Britain had produced a group America could not ignore: Duran surfed in on the newly conceived MTV to conquer the States. They continue to make great British records and should recently have won a Novello for their lament to the 1980s, Ordinary World. [Key work: Is There Something I Should Know? (1983)]

❏ View this hilarious early video of white-faced New Romantics doing their wobbly dances to Duran Duran’s first single Planet Earth, performed at the Rum Runner in 1980 (now remastered in high quality). Note the hijacked Warren Street Jive in the official promo video sequences shot much later in a studio . . .

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