Tag Archives: Blitz Kids

➤ V&A celebrates Steve Strange as the poser who put the pazazz into 80s nightlife

Blitz Kids, New Romantics, fashion, pop music, Swinging 80s, archive, nightlife, Steve Strange, Keith Lodwick, lunchtime lecture, V&A museum,

Giving this week’s V&A Lunchtime Lecture, May 2018: Curator Keith Lodwick in full flow. . . On-screen, Bowie’s Pierrot costume displayed in the V&A’s 2013 exhibition Bowie Is, with Steve Strange and other Blitz Kids pictured in Bowie’s Ashes to Ashes video in 1980

80S POP-STAR FRIENDS OF STEVE STRANGE turned out this week for a unique event at the V&A, the UK’s premier museum of art and design. The weekly Lunchtime Lecture was titled Steve Strange: From Blitz Club to Top of the Pops, and was delivered by Keith Lodwick, curator of theatre and performance, to an audience that included singer Clare Grogan, ABC’s Martin Fry and his wife Julie, Jennie Matthias from The Belle Stars and Fifi Russell from Yip Yip Coyote. Steve’s mother Gillian Harrington and his sister Tanya had travelled from Wales with PR Amanda Lloyd to attend the occasion with other family members.

The talk traced Strange’s flamboyant life from Wigan Casino, through glam-rock and punk, to hosting a landmark club-night at Billy’s jointly with deejay Rusty Egan, then another at the Blitz in 1979–80. This was the club-night that Band Aid organiser Midge Ure has described as “the beating heart of the electronic dance music that led the 1980s.”

Strange said of his strict admissions policy on the door: “I wanted creative-minded pioneers who looked like a walking piece of art.” Indeed, the club became Strange’s own catwalk for sporting outrageous outfits by both the leading designers of the day and London’s budding fashion students. Lodwick said: “He once told a journalist ‘I am on stage 24 hours a day’. Steve, who died in 2015, remains one of the enduring figures of the New Romantic period.”

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Lodwick reminded us of the pop pantheon Strange was joining at the museum when he extended “a huge thank-you to Gill, Tanya and Amanda for being a link in the chain that enabled the V&A to acquire Steve’s archive and costumes two years ago. The family donated mainly clothes from the 2000s – including designs by Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen. Steve’s costumes join those worn by Sandie Shaw, the Beatles, Mick Jagger, Marc Bolan, Jimmy Page, Elton John and Adam Ant.”

We watched two video clips which underlined Strange’s obsession with image-making: the music video for his band Visage’s hit Fade to Grey in which he is transformed into a snake; and a documentary in which milliner Stephen Jones suggests that berets he made for both Strange and for the Princess of Wales coupled them “as a fashion force together”.

Lodwick concluded: “Steve’s legacy will live on for being central to re-energising the club scene in London – pushing forward electronic music, fashion, photography and pop.”

➢ Elsewhere at Shapersofthe80s: 1980, Strange days, strange nights – first report on the Blitz from Yours Truly

➢ Elsewhere at Shapersofthe80s:
2015, Original Blitz Kids say farewell to Steve Strange – read exclusive tributes to the King of the Posers

➢ Read the story of Spandau Ballet, the Blitz Kids and the birth of the New Romantics at The Observer, by Yours Truly

Blitz Kids, New Romantics, fashion, pop music, Swinging 80s, archive, nightlife, Steve Strange, Keith Lodwick, lunchtime lecture, V&A museum,

At this week’s V&A talk: Some of the women in Steve Strange’s life. . . From the left, sister Tanya Harrington, Monica Towner, Rachelle Boyle, Eve Ferrett, Kimbo at centre next to Steve’s mum Gill, Jennie (Belle Stars) Matthias (almost hidden at back), Wendy Tiger, Alison Graham, Amanda Lloyd far right

➢ Talks, lectures, conversations and pop-up events at the V&A

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2018 ➤ Spooky or what? When two bands went by the name of Spandau Ballet

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Above: Two bands who played in London as Spandau Ballet…
SBv1 originated the name and here play their final gig at the
Hope & Anchor in 1979 with singer Mark Robinson, drummer
Gordon Bowman, bass guitarist David Wardill, (guitarist Mick Austin
off-camera) . . . SBv2, here in their previous incarnation as Gentry,
playing Camden School for Girls in December 1978, with Tony Hadley
on vocals and the chart-topping True five years in the future

DID YOU KNOW LONDON HAD TWO POP GROUPS called Spandau Ballet in 1979? The one who became famous adopted their name from the one who didn’t. A jaw-dropping new history of the New Romantics scene, unauthorised and meticulously researched by David Barrat, a long-time music fan, is published this week titled New Romantics Who Never Were: The Untold Story of Spandau Ballet.

Barrat has gathered a mind-boggling compilation of spooky coincidences and things we never knew before in his 117,000-word paperback, self-published today on his own imprint Orsam Books. Here is no mere fan, but an obsessive one who has made himself the Mastermind champion in the two themes identified in his tongue-twisting title: Who exactly were the New Romantics of the early 1980s, who many of us believe drove one of the most transformational youth cultures of Britain’s postwar years? Barrat discusses how this term came to characterise the style-leaders of British clubland when they unanimously rejected it themselves.

His second theme is the true genesis story of the Spandau Ballet five-piece from Islington who set out with a cunning plan to weave a tapestry of fictions around their launch as electro-synth popsters in 1979. At the outset the band were coolly vague about their origins and you’d have to be a fan with Barrat’s persistence to piece together spasmodic revelations during the succeeding decades. Spandau subsequently became global superstars in that momentous decade when image-conscious new British bands invaded the American pop charts, then quarrelled as pop groups do and arrived in the High Court in 1996 rowing over royalty payments. Individual members remained belligerent for years.

➢ Buy David Barrat’s
New Romantics book here

Whether or not you care for Spandau and the 80s music scene, Barrat’s forensic approach to reassessing this creative landscape is utterly hypnotic and unlike anything you’ve read by the hacks of the rock press. He has spent years in deep Holmesian research delving into official records, newspaper cuttings, TV interviews and first-hand interviews. The result is gripping, original and epic. For instance: revealing all about another band sharing exactly the same distinctive name a matter of months before Tony Hadley stepped onto the stage at the Blitz Club! Here is a well-informed juggernaut delivering into our laps mighty fact upon tiny fact, laid out for inspection and challenge. Barrat’s intent is resolute: to convince us he knows his stuff, and has purged the popular version of events of mutability.

David Barrat contacted me a few years back in order to check dates and events against my own detailed diaries and his aggregation of facts and assumptions is mostly hard to fault. His book now pays extraordinary and generous tribute to this website, Shapers of the 80s, and to myself as a former features editor of the Evening Standard who helped others recognise the potency of the youthquake erupting in 1980.

SO WHO WERE THE OTHER BAND?

❑ The musicians originally called Spandau Ballet (hereafter called SBv1) were four lads who met in 1978 during their teens in Bedfordshire: guitarist Mick Austin, singer Mark Robinson, drummer Michael Harvey and punky bass guitarist David Wardill. They agonised for ages over a band name and Austin remembers a “eureka” moment using the Dadaist method of juggling words on random scraps of paper. They arrived at the darkly Germanic first word (originally with an incorrect umlaut over the U in Spandaü) and paired it with “the softer, romantic” word Ballet. The package was deemed “nicely decadent”, a debut gig was planned for 30 August 1978 and accordingly Robinson designed a poster for it, which we see below. Wardill declared his ambition: “We were going to go to London and become rock stars.”

So how on earth did their oddball band name transfer itself to a five-piece from Islington? The reader’s mind boggles at the number of spooky coincidences that Barrat’s book uncovers. Wardill had fallen in love with journalism graduate Deanne Pearson who rented a flat at 32 Sibley Grove in East Ham so in October 1978 he moved in and members of SBv1 often came to crash on the floor. Coincidentally – this flat was shared with the yet-to-become seminal Blitz Kids – while freshers at St Martin’s School of Art – Kim Bowen, Lee Sheldrick and others, who migrated in the spring to Battersea’s Ralph West student hostel, along with graphics student Graham Smith and future Wag club director Chris Sullivan.

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In her forthcoming autobiography Kim relates how, in mid-1979, accompanied by “a trio of self-described Nelly Queens”, she penetrated an empty Georgian house in Fitzrovia to establish the legendary squat in Warren Street, a leisurely walk away from St Martin’s. “Within weeks the creme de la creme of young London was living there,” Kim writes, and her bold manuscript spares no detail. This stylish property became the hub of social life for the Blitz Kids who were meeting every Tuesday at the Covent Garden Blitz Club since Steve Strange’s Neon Nights had begun that February. As milliner Stephen Jones’s mannequin de vie, the wild and startlingly elegant Kim elevated herself to Queen of the Blitz. Many of the Kids’ high-style antics were documented by Graham Smith while he – coincidentally – became the official photographer of the second Spandau Ballet (SBv2) who announced their name only for their first public concert on 5 December that year. (Smith’s lavish photo-book We Can Be Heroes was published in 2011 and remains an unbeatable record of both style and excess).

In October 1978, the Beds boys SBv1 had started working as busboys as well as rehearsing at The Venue, Virgin’s new club in Victoria where they immortalised their band’s name by spraying it in green paint on the toilet walls and on other public walls elsewhere in central London. Amid all the ancient myths about where SBv2 found their name, the band’s early propagandist and future broadcaster Bob Elms has said he first spotted the phrase Spandau Ballet as graffiti variously on prison walls or toilet walls in the Spandau district during a soulboy group trip to Berlin in summer 1979.

Coincidentally – however, during an interview way back in 1984 one prominent Blitz Kid told me the graffiti had been very visible on the toilet wall of The Hope, a favourite pub in Tottenham Street, not far from the Warren Street squat. “Some boys from north-east London were using that name in a school-type band.” Also coincidentally – along the same block as The Hope stood the trendy new Scala cinema, whose programmer then was 22-year-old Stephen Woolley (today a major player in the British film industry), who was a contemporary of SBv2 manager Steve Dagger and their stage designer Simon Withers, all of whom attended Dame Alice Owen’s school in Islington and grew up there with the other members of SBv2 – Gary and Martin Kemp, Tony Hadley, John Keeble and Steve Norman.

This fabulous cascade of coincidences throws up at least SIX PRIME SUSPECTS in The Ballet Great Mystery: Who really fed the name Spandau Ballet through to the Islington band SBv2, who through 1978–79 were known as the power-pop combo, Gentry? Barrat’s new book draws its own conclusion.

PS: EVEN MORE SPOOKILY ON MY DOORSTEP. . .

pop music,

David Wardill: bass guitarist who joined The Passions in 1980

❑ Scroll forward a few years from the birth of SBv2. . . After my day-jobs in journalism, I taught an adult evening class in Creative Writing for 16 years in west London, after which it was traditional for the more entertaining students to continue the evening at a nearby pub. Among several who became long-standing friends was – coincidentally – the same David Wardill of SBv1 (also visible in the video below). His musical background meant we had lots to discuss in 1989, including his earlier life in East Ham with Kim Bowen and Lee Sheldrick.

David and I drifted apart but had a sudden email reunion while I was building this website in 2009. He told me that soon after completing the writing class he sent a story to the BBC which turned up two years later as a film from BBC Birmingham. These days he was a father and teaching art in a secondary school.

As for SBv2, he admitted: “I never really cared much that they had borrowed our band’s name, as I didn’t see much chance of us wanting it back.” SBv1 ground to a standstill in May 1979 and David soon joined another band called The Passions who enjoyed airplay by Radio 1’s influential deejay John Peel and eventually made it to Top of The Pops in 1981 with their song on Polydor, I’m in Love with a German Film Star, which reached No 25. (CoincidentallySBv2 arrived at No 17 with Musclebound in the same edition of TOTP and are announced at the end of the clip below. Oo, er.)

David added: “The Passions reunited recently for a day at a studio in Shepherd’s Bush. That laid a lot of ghosts to rest. Our main song has been covered by the Foo Fighters and Pet Shop Boys. Strange how the past hangs around, although I find the continued interest gratifying, as well as financially useful.” Spoken like a star.

❑ And here today we still have not given away the truly spookiest coincidence among those that Barrat reveals about SBv1 & v2 when their paths almost crossed – it’s a goose-pimples moment that stops you in your tracks. More reflections on this vital addition to our bookshelves will follow here at Shapers of the 80s as we read on…

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s: Just don’t call us New Romantics
➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s: Who’s Who in the Pits – Harry Cool’s Guide to the New Glitterati

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2017 ➤ So who can fill Tony Hadley’s big Ballet shoes?

Spandau Ballet , pop music,Gary Kemp, Martin Kemp, John Keeble, Steve Norman

Face wanted in the Spandau Ballet lineup: from left, Gary Kemp, Martin Kemp, John Keeble, Steve Norman. Might the new singer even be female?

AFTER YEARS OF HINTING that his career as Spandau Ballet’s frontman was over, both during and after two world tours – all of his bombshells reported here at Shapersofthe80s – today Tony Hadley finally quit with a single tweet. Immediately, the Spandau management declared that the other four resting band members will rise like Lazarus to “move on as a band”. Er, well, perhaps, but Big Tone’s suave 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m) frame leaves not only a physical hole in the five-piece line-up, none of them especially noted for their singing voices, but an inevitable audible gap too. The four Spandau remainers provide the complementary blue-eyed soul music to a big balladeering voice, albeit described as a “dramatic warble” by Dan LeRoy at AllMusic, or that of a “top crooner” by somebody at BBC Somerset.

➢ Earlier at Shapersofthe80s:
Today’s Hadley bombshell

So who’s in the frame for the key job without which Spandau’s legacy will remain all behind them? It has to be either a dead ringer who plays to fans’ expectations, or a radical candidate who will set a new direction. One obvious contender is Paul Young as a singer who built a strong reputation for vocal interpretation during the same renaissance of British pop music that made Spandau an international supergroup. His covers of Marvyn Gaye and Jimmy Ruffin well qualify him at 61 to become the big brother of the Spandau dad-band.

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Less obvious but no less talented is Brandon Flowers, 36, former frontman of the Killers with whom he helped repopularise the sounds of the 80s in the noughties. His charismatic presence and fashion sense would sit comfortably with the Spandau heritage.

Amazingly, Will Young has reached the ripe old age of 38 in minutes seemingly, but as a respected vocalist and former Pop Idol winner he can claim four UK number-one albums and two Brit awards, while his recently acclaimed stage experience in Cabaret might bring a fresh note of theatre to Spandau performances.

Olly Alexander, pop music,

Olly Alexander at Glastonbury (Getty)

But if Spandau really want to inject some millennial youth into their daddy line-up they could consider the chirpy presence of actor-vocalist Olly Alexander, 26, whose sheer energy would trigger a mighty refresh. Olly describes himself as a “real left-winger” which should sit well with the millionaire Spands whose working-class roots reach back to Islington.

Of course, they could just as easily invite on-board one of those Hadley impersonators who wowed viewers of the Saturday night talent show Stars in Their Eyes – such as Martin Lewis who sang Gold brilliantly in 1997 or Steven Houghton who sang the same number in 1998.

NOW NOMINATE SPANDAU’S NEW VOCALIST

❏ Who would you like to see as the next vocalist with Spandau Ballet? Many fans today have been wailing how irreplaceable Big Tone is, while others have condemned him harshly for robbing his former schoolmates of their pensions. Clearly the band believe they have one more album and tour ahead of them, but who will lead them on through the barricades? Please leave your comment below.

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2017 ➤ Tony Hadley pulls the plug on Spandau Ballet – but the band will rise from the dead

pop music, New Romantics, Blitz Kids, Gary Kemp, Spandau Ballet, Tony Hadley, split, reunion, Steve Norman, John Keeble, Martin Kemp,

Spandau Ballet in happier days, their 2014 reunion: John Keeble, Steve Norman, Tony Hadley, Gary Kemp, Martin Kemp. (Photography Scarlet Page)

pop music, New Romantics, Blitz Kids, Gary Kemp, Spandau Ballet, Tony Hadley, split, reunion, Steve Norman, John Keeble, Martin Kemp,

BREAKING NEWS TODAY IN TWO WAVES: At midday 57-year-old singer Tony Hadley suddenly tweeted that he was “no longer a member of Spandau Ballet”, the London band who pioneered the New Romantic movement in the 1980s. Two hours after the star quit the band, its official website announced a Lazarus-style miracle: that the remaining four musicians “have now made the decision to move on as a band” without Big Tone. If they can indeed rise from the dead, who can possibly replace his signature bel canto baritone which has been central to the supergroup’s musical signature for almost 40 years?

When Spandau’s Soul Boys Atonement Tour ended in 2015, Hadley immediately returned to touring his solo act, is currently playing summer festivals as a solo artist with his own supporting band and touring the USA during August. Each member of the band has also looked to his own projects. Then in August 2016 Martin Kemp told ITV in a very relaxed way that another Spandau get-together was unlikely. When asked: “You’ve not fallen out again, have you?” Martin said: “We fall out when you come back off the tour and you pick up your case at Heathrow Airport and then we walk away, say ‘See you a bit later then’. We fall out, that’s how it works.”

Speculation about a successor is rife. Watch this space for further news.

➢ Vote here at Shapersofthe80s
for Tony’s successor

pop music, New Romantics, Blitz Kids, Gary Kemp, Spandau Ballet, Tony Hadley, split, reunion, Steve Norman, John Keeble, Martin Kemp,

THE MIRROR HAS THE BEST INSIDE STORY:
WAS HE PUSHED OR DID HE JUMP?

➢ Tony Hadley quit Spandau Ballet ‘amid bitter spat with band’ and they only found out on Twitter – Ashleigh Rainbird reports a source claiming:

The band were offered a string of lucrative opportunities that Tony didn’t want to be involved with. There was talk of a new album and tours including a huge US headline tour – the UK’s biggest festivals had offers on the table, too. But Tony opted to focus on his solo career, meaning everyone missed out.

Tony has been billed as being ‘formerly of’ Spandau Ballet on several tour posters. There had been tensions brewing between Tony and the rest of the group for almost two years, since he decided he did not want to perform with them. This was the final straw, and Tony had an ultimatum – take part in Spandau or quit entirely.

Things have festered over the past year or so and relations have been at an all-time low. By declining Spandau’s opportunities, Tony was pulling the strings for the entire group. But now he is no longer a member they can continue without him.

WE ALL SAW THIS COMING: REMEMBER
THOSE EARLIER HADLEY BOMBSHELLS

➢ May 2017, “We got back together, of course, but we’ve done that now and are getting on with our own solo careers. Great band, great legacy.”

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s: 2015, bombshell from Hadley

➢ 2012, future of Spandau doubtful

➢ 2011, Another bombshell for Spandau

➢ 2011, Bombshell for fans as Hadley unwinds

➢ 2011, Hadley tosses out interview squibs

➢ MESSAGE FROM STEVE NORMAN
ON HIS OWN WEBSITE, 7 JULY

Steve Norman, Spandau Ballet, split, Tony Hadley, pop music, 2017,

THOSE SPANDAU BOYS:
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

Sonya Keating, Paul Brough , Tony Hadley, Spandau Ballet,TV, wedding

Hadley: serenading newly weds Paul Brough and Sonya Keating in a live TV broadcast from the Shard for This Morning viewers last week. (Photo: Rex)

Spandau Ballet, Gary Kemp, TV, documentary, Mick Ronson

Gary Kemp: culture vulture and broadcaster fronting his April TV documentary for Sky Arts titled Passions: Mick Ronson, directed by Paul Bernays

Martin Kemp, Spandau Ballet, touring

Martin Kemp: is touring the UK all year with his Q&A event, An Audience with himself

John Keeble, Spandau Ballet, Soul Boys, tour

John Keeble: here bidding farewell to Perth in May 2015 as the last Spandau tour ended. He had missed a handful of dates because of fatigue. (Photo: Matt Glover)

Steve Norman, Spandau Ballet, live, festivals, saxophonist

Steve Norman: has curated the odd summer festival and pursues a vigorous programme of live appearances, here billed for Milan this week

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➤ When the Blitz Kids blessed Abba and conferred their cult status

◼ ON THE 20TH ANNIVERSARY of The Sunday Times publishing its encyclopedic Abba-to-Zappa partwork, 1000 Makers of Music, let’s recall the first pop biography in its 1,000. The Swedish four-piece Abba won the Eurovision contest in 1974 with their Waterloo wall of sound, not to mention instant celebrity for their self-selected kitsch costumes from the age before stylists had been invented. We’ve dug out from the vaults the ST assessment of Abba to remind us how these deeply embarrassing Scandinavians went on to transform their reputation from cheesemakers to the most ironic definition of Pure-Popsters!

In the UK Abba were utterly rehabilitated within a decade by London’s subcultural opinion formers. Most memorably, Shapersofthe80s witnessed (sadly without a camera to hand) an immaculate recreation of Abba’s Dancing Queen video by clubland’s coolest Blitz Kids cutting the rug at designer Fiona Dealey’s 1983 birthday party. Spontaneously, movers and shapers such as Dylan Jones not only fell into dance formation but knew all the words, plus Agnetha and Anni-Frid’s hand moves too! It was, in that frozen moment of time, a shockingly unbelievable sight. It marked the birth of a much-loved cult.

Abba, pop music, Eurovision

1000 Makers of Music: six-week partwork from The Sunday Times

FROM 1000 MAKERS OF MUSIC, MAY 1997:

Abba – Swedish, 1973-82, vocal group

As cheesy now as when they won the 1974 Eurovision song contest singing Waterloo, Abba embody a perennial contradiction: you may make the quintessential pop music of the decade but you must remain for ever a bad joke if that era proves as tasteless as the 1970s. Abba’s lovingly coupled foursome – the acme of glitz in their satins and flares – were derided because Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, as journeymen songsmiths, wrote singalong melodies epitomising Europe’s dreaded folkloric tradition. Worse, their sentimental lyrics about love and money – in English – nauseated purists who preferred Anglo-American guitar heroes who mouthed youthful dissent.

Yet Abba scored eight consecutive No 1 albums in Britain and 25 Top 40 singles so catchy that everybody can hum one. In 1992 Abba’s hits were revived ironically by Erasure and ingenuously by a tribute band called Björn Again. Today Abba enjoy cult status in Britain as new generations, numbed by the joylessness of techno and talent contests, recycle yesteryear’s kitsch to discover ecstasy in pure pop.

❏ Keywork: Knowing Me, Knowing You (1977)

MORE PURE-POP AT SHAPERS OF THE 80S:

➢ Kylie dazzles London with laser-love
➢ Wise words for Only The Young from PJ (he’s The Daddy)
➢ My pantry, my memoir – ‘Scoop’ Simper relives the flamboyant decadent 80s

➢ 1000 Makers of Music; Steve Dagger on Duran Duran
➢ 1000 Makers of Music: Robert Craft on Stravinsky
➢ 1000 Makers of Music: John Peel on Smith and The Fall

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