Tag Archives: Blue Rondo a la Turk

➤ My own Rondo moment immortalised by Sullivan, the grand Wag of Soho

portrait painting,

Immortalised on canvas: Chris Sullivan’s portrait of the face behind Shapersofthe80s

ONE OF THE BRAVEST things I’ve ever done – apart from disagree with a newspaper editor – was to pose for my portrait, as mine is the kind of family who can’t boast even one ancestor committed to oil on canvas. So when Eighties uber-Wag Chris Sullivan offered to paint me in the style of one of his Latin band Blue Rondo’s wittily cubistic 12-inch record sleeves, I jumped at the chance to look like any of those cool guys on Me And Mr Sanchez in 1981.

So here I am [up top] and the result is strangely hypnotic, if not actually cubistic – “More vorticist than anything else,” says Chris, though we agreed perhaps closer to the audacious David Bomberg’s later work and that suits me down to the ground, a rebel 20th-century style that veers towards abstract and also hints at dynamism. Chris posted the portrait at Facebook and amazing numbers of people said he’d caught the eyes very well, and going by this photo that he took when he handed the canvas over to me last week, I am bound to agree!

Blue Rondo à la Turk, Chris Sullivan, artwork, sleeve,

The Sullivan style on a Blue Rondo sleeve from 1981, itself a convincing echo of Picasso’s Tres Musicos of 1921

How it came about was through his new book Rebel Rebel which comes out in May (after a gestation lasting about four years!). He invited friends to crowd-fund the project through Unbound Books and when I saw that the prize offered for the topmost pledge was a Rondo-esque portrait, I snapped it up (never forget Sullivan switched from fashion onto the fine-art course while at St Martin’s and turned out a lot of visual material right through the 1990s, quite apart from designing the dreamworld interior of his Wag Club in Soho).

We discussed all this and more when he asked me onto his Soho Radio show last month for nearly an hour and a half. Somewhere between Bowie’s TVC15 and Was Not Was’s Wheel Me Out, I dared to ask whether the approaching deadline for his book being published and finishing this portrait had provided a trigger for his recent return to painting and drawing. We’ve seen a sudden outpouring of witty caricatures of his friends in a mix of paint and pencil and ink flying around on the web. He almost agreed, saying: “It certainly got my chops together, put it that way. . . I’m not trying to be Rothko or Caravaggio, but I’ve always been a big fan of George Grosz and even Picasso did some caricatures.”

My A3-sized portrait is much more fully worked up in acrylic and crayon on canvas than Sullivan’s fun drawings on paper and even though he started chortling sarcastically when I said I’d wanted him to paint me not out of vanity but for love of Rondo, the fact is I’m chuffed to bits to own an image that makes a substantial statement about his talent. It certainly raises an eyebrow when friends come visiting.


Chris Sullivan, Sullivan’s Suits, Soho Radio, interview, DJ,

Chris Sullivan: spinning the discs on his show Sullivan’s Suits at Soho Radio while interviewing me on January 30. (Photo by Shapersofthe80s)

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s: Sullivan the wag changes hats at the touch of his paintbrush


➤ Sullivan the wag changes hats at the touch of his paintbrush

Chris Sullivan, Swinging Eighties, Carioca, Blue Rondo a la Turk, Wag Club

Carioca then and now: left, the cover for Chris Sullivan’s band’s 1982 single Carioca and, right, his new upfront reworking for 2019

Chris Sullivan,Leah Seresin, caricature,

Leah Seresin and mum Deirdre, newly painted by Sullivan

WHO IS CHRIS SULLIVAN THIS WEEK? That all-round creative dynamo who drove much of the Swinging Eighties and ran the influential Wag club for 19 years epitomised that New Romantic era by declaring “One look lasts a day”. Suddenly he is enjoying another creative spurt. Fans will have noticed a series of bold and comic painted caricatures of his friends appearing on Facebook this month. As affectionate portraits they speak for themselves. But then last week he posted one called Carioca, inspired directly by the 12-inch single sleeve for his band Blue Rondo a la Turk. It was included in their album Chewing The Fat which dates from 1982.

Fans will also recall that Sullivan as vocalist not only put the band together as a septet of crazy soul-jazz-Latin musicians on a 0-to-10 sliding scale of eccentricity – where all of them scored at least an 11 – that won them a £500k contract with Virgin. He also painted every one of their vinyl record sleeves in his own playful version of cubism. So here above we can now compare his restrained vamp Carioca from 1982 with her current rather more in-your-face madame for 2019. So what’s this all about, Chris?

Bear in mind Sullivan was one of that gang of St Martin’s heroes who put London clubs such as the Blitz, Beat Route and the Wag on the map from 1980 on, and had studied first on the college’s fashion course, then switched to fine art. I am off to Soho to find out and will be reporting back. . .

Chris Sullivan,caricature, Soho, beats, art,

Sullivan caricatures: A pair of what the painter calls Beat Peeps from Eighties New York


➢ Elsewhere at Shapers of the 80s:
Yours truly writes the first magazine feature about Blue Rondo a la Turk as they created a new buzz with Latin sounds and an extreme suited dude look – from New Sounds New Styles in August 1981

➢ Razzmatazz, the weekly pop show beamed out to 6 million ITV viewers from Tyne Tees TV in Newcastle


1983 ➤ Video gem unearthed from the Blue Rondo vaults

◼ AIRED TODAY AT YOUTUBE: A long-lost live performance by London’s Latin jazz-soul band Blue Rondo à la Turk on German TV in 1983 complete with classic dance breaks from Moses and Sullivan in Aubrey Beardsley hair-do. The line-up dates from about 1982–3: Chris Sullivan and Christos Tolera (vocals), Moses Mount Bassie (sax), Art Collins (sax), Peter Tsegona (trumpet), Geraldo Darbilly (percussion), Greg Parker (guitar), Robin Jones (congas/percussion), Kito Poncioni (bass) and Daniel White (keyboards).

At this time Sullivan says: “Mark Reilly had left to form Matt Bianco. Kito carried on for a few months as he needed the money.” Then he and Daniel White left to join Matt Bianco which enjoyed several UK hits. By the time Blue Rondo released its second album album, Bees Knees and Chicken Elbows in 1984, the band had sadly disintegrated. Their first album Chewing the Fat was easily the best new album of 1981 in terms of musicality and attitude. Sullivan of course went on to run Soho’s Wag Club for 19 years and make it a legendary showbiz rendezvous.


➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s: How Blue Rondo à la Turk created a buzz in clubland

Blue Rondo à la Turk ,Chris Sullivan ,Chewing the Fat ,jazz,soul,double-CD ,Cherry Red Records,Swinging 80s,Christos Tolera ,
➢ In June 2014 a double-CD entitled Chewing the Fat was issued by Cherry Red Records (CDBRED621) – They include 29 tracks, which are all of the group’s recordings on the original album, and various bonus tracks, 7in and 12in specials, plus remixes.


➤ Blue Rondo’s fat has been a long time a-chewing but May is now the month

Blue Rondo à la Turk,Chris Sullivan,remix, ,British, Latin-funk,1980s, dance music,

Me and Mr Sanchez: 1981’s debut chart hit for Blue Rondo à la Turk with cover art by former Wag club host Chris Sullivan

❚ PROMISES! PROMISES! All-round clubbing maestro Chris Sullivan has been faffing away for a year since he got his hands on the original master-tapes of his stand-out Latin-funk dance-band of 1982, Blue Rondo à la Turk. Going public on Facebook today, he dares to promise a re-release of their first album Chewing The Fat this spring (having originally mooted it for last spring), meanwhile posting online a punchy fresh mix of their debut chart single, Me and Mr Sanchez.

Sullivan said: “This is a remix we’ve done for our forthcoming bonus remix CD to accompany the first ever CD release of Blue Rondo’s first album Chewing The Fat on May 5.” Then comes the killer punch: “We’re looking to license it to a TV company for the World Cup… any ideas? It’s a no brainer and the original was used in Brazil by Globo TV for the 1982 World Cup but this is a better mix.”

A year ago he was downloading the whole Rondo catalogue fresh off the original tapes, saying: “First time anyone will have heard them digitally – other than disc dubs, of course. Looking back and listening to the tunes (especially the Heavens are Crying mix) what astonishes me is the f***-you-we’ll-do-our-thing approach.”

Since then Sullivan has released a handful of mixes from the putative new album, including an earlier mix of Mr Sanchez about which he acknowledged that the dean of swing, ex-Rondo guitarist Mark Reilly, “did the lion’s share”.

➢ Blue Rondo breathe fresh life into Mr Sanchez

➢ A brighter Bluer Rondo for the 20-tweens

➢ Sullivan and his hinterland 1982–2012


2012 ➤ A brighter Bluer Rondo for the 20-tweens

Chewing the Fat, vinyl, Blue Rondo à la Turk, 1982, albums,pop music, Latin funk,Wag club, Chris Sullivan, Change, Club Mix,

Picture sleeve painted by vocalist Chris Sullivan, 1982

❚ TWO VINTAGE MUSICAL GEMS appeared online this week, casting a fresh magic spell. They are two tracks from Chewing the Fat, the debut album by the image dance-band of 80s clubland, Blue Rondo à la Turk. In the view of Shapersofthe80s, the 9-track stereo vinyl LP was then and remains now the standout pop album of 1982 for sheer verve and originality. Chris Sullivan, the band’s driving force who went on to run Soho’s Wag club for 19 years, has been remixing the Diable Noir masters which became available only a few months ago.
This week we heard the sparkling Change Club Mix 2, an original Poncioni-Sullivan composition tagged as “Afro-Latino funk”, and only released previously on the album. Sullivan says we can download the remix as a 58MB Wav file from Soundcloud so it plays right away through iTunes. “We’ll leave it up for downloads for a week,” he said. “Blue Rondo recorded this over 30 years ago and remixed it this year… Still shakes it.” At Facebook, Rondo fan Michael Feasey agrees: “Good stuff Chris – love that samba percussion coming up to 4:00 and the gritty sax. Hell, it’s all good.”

vinyl, Blue Rondo à la Turk, 1982, albums,pop music, Latin funk,Wag club, Chris Sullivan, Klacto Vee Sedstein,Oxford Road Show,TV,

Picture sleeve painted by vocalist Chris Sullivan,1982

The band’s second chart single was the witty Klacto Vee Sedstein. (“It’s got to mean something, it can’t be a dream” – Well, the title was inspired by Charlie Parker’s 1947 number, if not the tune itself.) Rondo’s track enlivened the top 100 for nearly six months, and its “mutant funk” has now emerged from the glitz of Godley & Creme’s 80s production. As Sullivan says: “This is how we’d have liked to have done the song initially but all we’ve done is clean it up a bit and take it back to the original idea… This was recorded 31 years ago.” Verdict at Mixcloud from Mark Huxley: “Lovely stripped down mix!”

Best revelation from Sullivan also came this week: “Expect a digital re-release of our album Chewing The Fat in the spring. I’m quite shocked by how well it’s aged.” He’s not wrong there.

♫ Listen to Klacto Vee Sedstein 2012, as it was meant to sound

Live Performance on Oxford Road Show

➢ 2012, Blue Rondo breathe fresh life into Mr Sanchez – “Mark Reilly did the lion’s share,” says Sullivan, referring to Rondo’s guitarist

New Sounds New Styles, 1981

First published in New Sounds New Styles, August 1981

➢ 1981, Blue Rondo create a new buzz with Latin sounds – unveiled in New Sounds New Styles by Shapersofthe80s


Michel Esteban, Michael Zilkha, ZE Records,

Michael Zilkha and Michel Esteban: label founders combined their initials into ZE

♫ Sullivan also offered an hour-long Mutant Disco mix for a recent Mark Jones show on BBC 6Music – The party kicks off with Contort Yourself (August Darnell remix from the 1979 US 12-incher) by No Wave pioneer James White & The Blacks on ZE Records, the boutique label based in Paris and New York which recharged the disco genre with edge and credibility while Manhattanites pursued dance-oriented rock and Euro-disco wandered its own byways, both folkloric and electronic.

No Wave, Mutant Disco, dance music, James White & The Blacks, ZE Records
Launched in 1978 by British-born old Oxonian and Mothercare heir Michael Zilkha, and French graphic artist Michel Esteban, ZE selected style-leading eccentrics of the day to redefine upfront New York disco. The Sullivan mix includes ZE artists such as Lizzy Mercier Descloux, Kid Creole & The Coconuts, Was (Not Was), Coati Mundi, Material, though alas no Cristina. The title of ZE’s witty vinyl cocktail of acts tagged “A Subtle Discolation of the Norm” put the term Mutant Disco into the language in 1981, and acted as soundtrack to the first Blitz invasion of the US that spring.

Sullivan explains, Dec 3: “Here’s a live mix straight off the decks I did for Mark Jones Back to the Phuture show on BBC 6Music. Kinda all that early 80s electro Ze records stuff we loved and still do … They’ve edited some of the mixes but still it’s a bit of a gas … With a few exceptions this is what I played at Hell” [the Blitz crowd’s breakaway club of 1980].