❚ “GET IN THE BACK OF THE VAN,” I was told on this day 30 years ago. “You’re coming for a ride.” Graham Ball was a club host empowered to open the trendiest of doors in Soho, so “No thanks” was not an option. “I’ve got a new band to show you. And you’re not quite going to believe what you’ll hear and see.” He was, apparently, now also a manager. We arrived in blisteringly hot sunshine at a characterless modern pub in Chelmsford, Essex, well away from Soho clubland, and there of course were the rest of The Firm — the handful of sharp young dudes at least half the age of the grunters who dominated the pop industry, all being groomed by Spandau’s 23-year-old Steve Dagger to inherit the mysteries of management for a new generation of bands.
Assembling an assortment of instruments onstage were five, six, no, seven of the most variegated musicians you felt might belong in a special institution for their own safety. I had been invited to write the first piece about the craziest combo inspired by London’s Blitz Club, which had closed the previous autumn, and by this summer they were but one among the slipstream of bands erupting on London’s burgeoning nightlife scene. From their opening vocals — “Oo-oo, aa-aa, mm-mm ah!” — Blue Rondo à la Turk were sensational, and my review appeared in the second issue of New Sounds New Styles. It took only three months before Rondo signed a deal and charted in November.
This was the summer of New Romance
ON THIS DAY in 1981 the UK charts were bursting with the new generation of image-conscious British groups who whose linking of soul and electro-pop were to change the style and the rhythm of pop charts for ever. . .
❏ Ultravox were enjoying their fifth hit single All Stood Still.
❏ Linx were enjoying their third hit Throw Away the Key.
❏ Spandau Ballet were enjoying their double-sided third hit single, Muscle Bound/Glow. At Easter they had also signalled their new funky direction by introducing Chant No 1, which would become London’s clubbing anthem and reach No 2 later this summer.
❏ Duran Duran were enjoying their second hit Careless Memories.
❏ Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark were enjoying their second hit Messages.
❏ Japan were charting with The Art of Parties.
❏ Landscape were charting with Norman Bates.
❏ Shalamar (with honorary Brit and body-popping pioneer Jeffrey Daniel) were charting with A Night to Remember.
❏ Light of the World were charting with I’m So Happy.
❏ Imagination were charting with their debut Body Talk.
❏ The Human League entered the charts on this day with Empire State Human.
❏ Depeche Mode’s second single New Life was soaring towards No 11.
❏ Visage’s second hit single had just fallen out of the chart.
❏ Likewise Heaven 17’s debut Fascist Groove Thang.
❏ Likewise Altered Images’ debut Dead Pop Stars.
❏ Likewise Level 42 with their second hit, Love Games.
❏ And the honorary Brit, Kid Creole, was heading into the charts with his Coconuts and their debut single, Me No Pop I — a compulsively danceable new sound on Antilles introduced to London last year by i-D co-editor Perry Haines.
Oh, and two nights earlier at Le Beat Route I’d snapped the new boy in George O’Dowd’s life enjoying their first date. Nobody dreamt that George and Jon Moss would one day be putting their own band together.