Tag Archives: Blitz club

➤ Soul Boys Spandau rise like a phoenix from the flames of their film premiere

Spandau Ballet, Soul Boys of the Western World, premiere

Spandau Ballet: smart-casual on the red carpet

Spandau Ballet, Soul Boys of the Western World, premiere

Spandau live at the Albert Hall: All six members of the band reunited, the sixth being manager Steve Dagger in the wings

Spandau Ballet, Soul Boys of the Western World, premiere

Royal Albert Hall: full house for Spandau’s premiere

◼︎ 6,000 PEOPLE WERE UP FOR an emotional roller-coaster ride at London’s Royal Albert Hall on Tuesday – hundreds more watched simulcasts in cinemas across the land. Today Rolling Stone has called it “the biggest home-movie party in British pop history”. We sped through yards of breathlessly cut vintage footage even the band hadn’t seen before, showing how five glammed-up school friends adopted the preposterous name Spandau Ballet and effectively rewrote the rules of a moribund pop industry to rocket into the charts and become one of Britain’s six supergroups of the New Romantic 80s…

We saw how their friendships turned nasty and imploded in a law court… and how they’ve agreed to make this film 20 years later in which each tells his own version “warts and all”, soul boys baring their souls in a cathartic process of reconciliation and redemption. Why, they’d even titled their home movie, Soul Boys of the Western World, ironically referencing one of theatre’s tragic morality tales about human failings, the greater irony being that the band themselves were actually shocked to hear each other’s words at the first screening. They were the film’s only narrators, recorded separately talking one-to-one with the director and telling the tale with more “crashing and burning” than tact.

Tuesday’s audience picked up these cues in pantomime tradition. We were bearing witness just as the penitent members of Spandau Ballet were hoping. We oohed and aahed at some really tear-jerky best bits. We howled at odd Spinal Tap daftness. We heckled the cocky Cockney TV presenter. We laughed at our quaint mullets and hilarious teenage pretensions four decades ago. Then when the screen froze in a silent moment of grim truth, the whole Albert Hall groaned “Ohhhh no!” One hero had been damned, but a succession of jaw-dropping out-takes from pop-idol interviews hanged the others in turn. Icicles formed in the air, Steve Norman’s voice told us “You can see on our faces Spandau Ballet has just come to an end” and we shared their pain. At times the spoken bluntness came too near the knuckle and between last spring’s hair-shirt trailer and this autumn premiere a couple of killer icicles have been chopped.

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Apart from that, Mrs Lincoln, the yarn rattled along as a fascinating piece of social history, to a soundtrack deftly clipped from 22 Spandau numbers and a host of others that shaped the 80s. Tuesday’s melodrama came in three acts and we confessors gave the film a standing ovation, took a quick break to share our own shock at the band’s courage, and then rose to our feet again as the 6,000 to welcome onstage the happy smiling band of brothers, plus their equally glamorous film director, George Hencken, who had brought a woman’s instincts to handling the boys’ emotional baggage.

Spandau Ballet, Soul Boys of the Western World,

Soul Boys oWW reviewed by NME

Act 2 heard the team answer those burning questions live onstage, among them Gary Kemp saying “Yes, I’m the baddie”, and his brother Martin admitting disappointment in himself when young, while Tony Hadley said all the bitterness had weighed heavy on their families. There was plenty of humour too. When asked what he’d missed most since the great days, John Keeble said “the cheeseboard” (a reference to a backstage luxury specified in the band’s touring contract). Drummers, eh?

Act 3 was the equal of all that had come before. We rose to greet Spandau’s live set of six copper-bottomed hits, kicking off with their hymn of defiance, Through the Barricades, then sprinting into To Cut a Long Story Short. By Chant No 1 all six tiers of the Albert Hall were on their feet and cheering the dancefloor anthem that just missed being the chart No 1 in the riotous summer of 1981. Martin looked reassuringly relaxed powering its funky bassline, and Steve’s sax breaks were definitely dirtier than of old. In Only When You Leave Tony’s big balladeering vowels confirmed what a magnificent bel canto baritone he has become. And of course the last two classics, True and Gold, were inevitably hijacked by the choir filling the hall.

In words of the Eurovision winner, Spandau Ballet have risen from their ashes like a phoenix (fortunately without beards or frocks). We turn to our philosopher-drummer Keeble for the last word: “The film is a three-act play: guys have success, the wheels come off, then there’s some redemption. This now feels like fun and games – with love in it.” Gulp.

Spandau Ballet, Soul Boys of the Western World, premiere

Spandau film premiere: Rock god Keeble photographed by Dave Hogan

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY ABOUT SBWW

Spandau Ballet, Soul Boys of the Western World, premiere

Soul Boys oWW reviewed by Empire magazine

“More than a typical rock doc … the biggest home-movie party in British pop history” – David Fricke, Rolling Stone

“I found it gripping. Despite having never understood the appeal of the New Romantics, I enjoyed the hell out of Soul Boys of the Western World” – Observer film critic Mark Kermode on BBC-tv … “The mark of a really good rock documentary is that it makes you care about a band who played music that you were never a fan of” – Kermode again, on BBC News channel, picking his DVD of the week 24 Oct

“A funny, absorbing, trivia-filled portrait of friendship, the 80s music biz and bad hair” – Ian Freer, Empire Online

“The muscular musicianship of the band suggested that this latest stage of their reunion is more than just a nostalgia-wallow” – James Hall, Daily Telegraph

➢ Soul Boys of the Western World goes on general release 3 October, plus w/b Oct 20 screenings at Rome Film Festival and cinemas across Italy, Belgium’s Film Fest Gent… from Oct 27 Barcelona, Madrid, Bilbao, Pamplona… Plus, Nov 15 Spandau’s first public appearance in New York since 1983.

➢ Oct 20: tickets on sale today! Auckland NZ Nov 2, Melbourne Nov 5 and Sydney Nov 7 for special Q&A screenings of SBWW – Spandau Ballet are heading Down Under where the Melbourne screening will include a 20-minute live performance by the band.

➢ Plus Oct 24: Spandau’s first European tour dates announced: Amsterdam 21 March, Luxembourg live 22 March and a five-date Italian tour 24–30 March

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➤ A taste of the 80s Blitz Kids — this photo book captures their unseen glory

Sullivan and Smith at last night's exhibition: man in the middle is king of the posers and Blitz Club host, Steve Strange. Photography by Shapersofthe80s

❚ THE HEROES SHOW IS ON THE ROAD. As of last night the Smith/Sullivan definitive history of 80s clubbing We Can Be Heroes had raised 36% of its “crowd-funding” target required to ensure publication goes ahead. Hence last night’s selling exhibition of Graham Smith’s photography from 30 years ago, most of which has never been seen. His family and friends joined the slebs at the party (video below) hosted by Inside Events in Notting Hill.

Smith said his favourite image on sale last night was on the cover of the book: showing Blitz Kids Clare Thom and a scene-stealing George O’Dowd claiming centre stage by gesturing with both hands and competely masking the face of the second girl beside him, designer Michele Clapton. (Prints are priced from £150 to £450 according to size — inquire by mailing to grsmith [@] mac.com)

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Smith was in the thick of the New Romantic underground taking photos as London nightclubbing revolutionised British pop music and made stars out of Boy George, Sade, Spandau Ballet and scores more new bands. Sullivan was a key player as stylist, host of Soho’s infamous Wag club for 19 years and leader of Blue Rondo à la Turk who had a 1982 chart hit with the soundtrack to our video, Klacto Vee Sed Stein. Broadcaster Robert Elms has written an intro, and there are forewords by Boy George, Steve Strange and Gary Kemp.

The 21st-century way to publish high-quality, short-run numbered editions is to secure sales in advance of publication. So visit Unbound Publishing to place your order which will secure your name in the first edition — and other perks.

Graham Smith in selling mode: can he persuade 22-year-old Bill de Melowood to buy his print of Steve Strange drinking with a bunch of Cardiff dockers? Photography by Shapersofthe80s

Partying family: Graham Smith and wife Lorraine at right, with their daughter Carla and boyfie John. Photography by Shapersofthe80s

❏ iPAD, TABLET & MOBILE USERS PLEASE NOTE — You may see only a tiny selection of items from this wide-ranging website about the 1980s, not chosen by the author. To access fuller background features and site index either click on “Standard view” or visit Shapersofthe80s.com on a desktop computer. ➢ Click here to visit a different random item every time you click

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1980 ➤ Strange days, strange nights, strange people

It is January 1980 – out of the blue comes a call to join the late-night party that would run for years. It turned into the Swinging Eighties

Blitz, Christine Binnie, Jennifer, Iain R Webb, Julia Fodor

High art at the Blitz, Easter 1980: Julia leads Jennifer Binnie and sister Christine (“Miss Binnie” the artist), both clad in sackcloth, in their first performance piece at the club. The girls sing Death Where is Thy Sting? and are passing out creme eggs to communicants. (The sack dress had earlier won some competition to predict what people would be wearing in the 80s, long before the notorious Binnie neo-naturists threw away their clothes.) The allusion to crucifixion, left, speaks for itself though it does not explain how the victim, fashionista Iain R Webb, would eventually secure the fashion editorship of The Times some years after this tableau was created. Blond-quiffed, white-faced Stephen Linard (extreme right, rear) is evidently pushing the Regency fop look that season. Photograph courtesy of http://www.homersykes.com

First published in the Evening Standard, Jan 24, 1980:

❚ OF ALL THE BRIGHT YOUNG TIDDLERS in one small, though turbulent London pool, Steve Strange is the Big Fish. His is the pool the new Tatler magazine calls the 80s Set whose exploits it reports after its pages on solid old pedigree Society, under the section headed The Other Society. Only under-21s qualify for the 80s Set and by day you can be anything (broker’s runner, Tesco till-girl) but by night you must put on your Look.

King of the posers: London club host Steve Strange in Willy Brown workwear with Vivienne Lynn. Photograph by © Derek Ridgers

Steve was born with his (at 20, he resembles Marc Bolan’s baby brother), so he emerged as a natural arbiter of who has the Look and who hasn’t. And for a couple of years he has been positioned on the doors of the Right Places vetting entrants and ensuring exclusivity for the 80s Set.

At Billy’s in Dean Street he fronted a David Bowie lookalike night. Then the Blitz wine bar in Covent Garden gave him Tuesdays, which he still calls an Electro-Diskow where everyone has to dress to high-tech standards and create new dances to electronic music.

Witchity in Kensington kept imploring him to stage a party a month for them but that place, he says, “looked like a coal-cellar”, so he demanded, as Big Fish should, that they smarten up and improve their sound system. Triumphantly, next Thursday, Steve hosts an 80s prize ball there (admission £2, plus your Look).

Tonight, however, he begins a wild new night at the Blitz. Thursdays from now on will be cabaret night on a strictly Liza Minnelli level (a Bowles Club, perhaps?). Everyone must dress in Berlin/Pigalle/Vegas style and the band, Spandau Ballet, will attempt to combine vocals akin to Sinatra with “dance music for the future”. Believe it or not, Frank Sinatra and Shirley Bassey, says Steve, are very big with under-21s.

“We’ve already booked a fire-eater and what I want are more acts like strippers and jugglers,” he says, urging aspiring acts to contact him at the Blitz.

Understandably, our Big Fish’s ambition has really been fired and in his next breath he’s saying: “Two nights a week at the Blitz aren’t enough. London is just waiting for a good Saturday place – I mean, where do kids spend their Saturday nights? The Scala Cinema. I’m ready to start somewhere like New York’s Mudd Club. I’m only looking for the right backer…”

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Second date at the Blitz: Spandau Ballet pictured on Jan 24, 1980 © by Derek Ridgers

Spandau Ballet,Evening Standard, Blitz Club, New Romantics, Steve Strange

Steve Strange’s first interview with the Evening Standard, 24 Jan 1980, telling us of his new cabaret night on Thursdays

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