Tag Archives: Graham Smith

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.

Click any pic below to view complete images

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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2012 ➤ Soho’s nightowls revisit the club that sifted the Artex monkeys from Bowie’s Heroes

Cultural observer Peter York: eager for the Sullivan autograph on the new edition

❚ THE 80s BLITZ KIDS turned out in force last night. As Kitten Kouturist Franceska Luther King remarks today: “an elegant crowd, older, but still the same spirit.” Those clubbing compulsives who defined the sounds and styles of Soho 30 years ago, swarmed into the tiny steaming Artex-lined cellars of the St Moritz restaurant, the fit all the tighter thanks to a fair few middle-aged paunches. For three months in 1980 this was the site of their milestone one-nighter which signalled the first faction to break away from the futurists at Steve Strange and Rusty Egan’s pioneering electro-diskow, The Blitz. In host Chris Sullivan’s words, this was “the more alert end of the Blitz crowd” – in other words, the hardcore fashionistas.

Initially St Moritz’s music evoked interwar Berlin cabaret but the effect of Charles Fox, the theatrical costumiers, staging its closing-down sale in Covent Garden injected a huge Hollywood movie wardrobe. Sullivan notes:  “You could be a gangster, a geisha, or Geronimo.” The New Romantics had been born – just like that!

“No single shop sale ever had such an influence on street fashion before or since,” Sullivan writes in the fabulous photo-book, We Can Be Heroes. This ribald account of the dawn of UK clubbing in the 80s, led by the eye-popping photographs of Graham Smith, was the reason for last night’s beano. Soul-music diehards Smith and Sullivan graduated from The Blitz to become two of the St Moritz deejays (along with Robert Elms and Steve Mahoney) and half a lifetime on they were hosting yet another launch party. The book’s revised and amended second edition of 2,500 copies is released this week through regular retail outlets. Copies of last year’s limited edition are still available from the fund-it-yourself publisher Unbound.

St Moritz 1980: Chris Sullivan and Michele Clapton – from Smith’s book We Can Be Heroes

Back in the day, the St Moritz posse distinguished themselves from The Blitz by playing retro lounge-lizard tunes from Lotte Lenya or Nat King Cole. In today’s arts pages of The Times Sullivan recaps how, in their efforts to avoid the present, he and his cohort helped create the future: “We decided to oppose Blitz futurism and turn the clock back with music from Marlene Dietrich, Monroe, Sinatra and soundtracks from A Clockwork Orange, Last Tango in Paris and Cabaret. It was an alarming success.”

Rob Milton: Shooting the Pump in the deejay booth

♫ Click to hear Shoot the Pump in a new window

Fashions in music moved apace. Within a year successive London club-nights at Hell, Le Kilt and Le Beat Route were stirring into the club mix not only familiar 70s soul but the edgy new urban sounds of North America.

Choosing the soundtrack last night at St Moritz were the were the astute ears of David Hawkes, Christos Tolera and Sullivan himself, plus Dirt Box co-founder Rob Milton, who raked the dancefloor early in the evening with the crazed beats of Shoot the Pump. This intoxicating debut single from 1981 was a state-of-the-art fusion of emergent street sounds – rap, hip-hop and funk with a hint of mutant disco – from the “playin’ brown rapper” and graffiti artist J Walter Negro & the Loose Jointz (on Zoo York Records via Island). J Walter is urging his crew of Zoo Yorkers to spray docile citizens with the water from a fire hydrant: “You make like a monkey with monkey wrench, cos you feel a little funky, got a thirst to quench.” In 1980–81, something similar was pumping the adrenalin in London.

CLICK ANY PIC TO LAUNCH CAROUSEL:

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➤ Another knees-up while Amazon discounts We Can Be Heroes second edition

The reviewers said: “A gorgeous history of 80s London clubland” (Alex Petredis, Guardian) … “fascinating and definitive” (Robert Spellman, Sunday Express)

Graham Smith,Chris Sullivan, books,photography, youth culture, We Can Be Heroes , Swinging 80s, clubbing❚ TOMORROW SEES ANOTHER launch party, this time at 1980’s breakaway New Romantics nightspot St Moritz in Soho to celebrate publication of the second (unlimited) edition of the 320-page coffee-table photobook that chronicles the creation of 80s clubbing through Graham Smith’s eye-witness photography, and racy commentary from Wag club host Chris Sullivan. Read the full background to the characters behind the book We Can Be Heroes at Shapersofthe80s. On sale for £35 from its publisher Unbound, or discounted to £25.50 at Amazon (an even cheaper pre-publication offer has finished).

➢ View Shapersofthe80s’ videos of Chris Sullivan telling his “Ribald tales of excess” from the Blitz era

➢ More 80s yarns on video from Robert Elms

➢ Catch-up list of links to all last year’s publicity shenanigans

Making up the rules of 80s clubbing: Robert Elms, Phil Dirtbox and Chris Sullivan at last year’s exhibition of Graham Smith’s nightlife pictures. Photograph by Shapersofthe80s

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2012 ➤ If David Jones hadn’t become Bowie what would have become of the rest of us?

What, me, pensioner? David Bowie and his wife the supermodel Iman attend the DKMS Annual Gala in New York City last April. (Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty)

David Bowie, 65th birthday, New Romantics, Ziggy Stardust, glam-rock
❚ HAPPY BIRTHDAY MR BOWIE. And thanks for the boggling, inspirational, poptastic ride so far —140 million albums sold and the rules of rock rewritten. You will be the genie waiting at the end of time. Boy George has this to say in his foreword to Graham Smith’s new book on 80s clubland, named after David Bowie’s song We Can Be Heroes: “Of the New Romantic moment I have always said, It was all Bowie’s fault.” What he refers to is the Bowie bequest to the teen generations he entertains. As a cultural lightning rod he has bequeathed insights into the realm of the imagination. As a performer he has delivered a repertoire of life-skills through a cast of mythical personalities invented for himself as a popstar, from the self-destructive Ziggy Stardust and the amoral Thin White Duke, to his romanticised “Heroes” (his own quote marks added to emphasise self-awareness). Through their formative years, Bowie invited his acolytes:

✰ to explore identity, androgyny, the primacy of the visual.

✰ to adopt stances: individualism, alienation, decadence, transgression.

✰ to follow his principles for living amusing lives: disposable identities, portable events, looks not uniforms, tastelessness “on purpose”.

David Bowie, Heroes,His signature tune, “Heroes”, still echoes today as a heart-stirring anthem because he was passionate and optimistic and musically this number is brimming with awe. He sang about intimacy and love triumphing over the horrors of the outside world. Finding joy in simple pleasures could make heroes of us all, “just for one day”. As a creed to live by, it has underpinned his own life. “I’m an instant star,” he said. “Just add water and stir.”

Were he still living in the UK, today’s birthday would designate him, in the idiom, “an old-age pensioner”, and the state would pay him slightly more than the five shillings a week handed over when the scheme began 100 years ago. He can’t be 65, you’re saying as you inspect the picture of him and his wife Iman [above] at a leukemia charity gala in New York last year. He looks too good for 65. “Waddayamean?” he’d be bound to snap, flinging back the old feminist line, “This is how 65 looks in the 21st century.”

True, if you start young, break the rules and push yourself to the max, as all geniuses do. While in short trousers, the little suburban Londoner David Jones was nothing if not prolific. At 11 he was playing a skiffle bass, buying and collecting the NME for future reference, learning the sax at 13 and soon moving up through a succession of bands: Konrads, Hookers, King Bees, Manish Boys, Lower Third, Buzz, and Riot Squad.

At school he fell under the spell of an art teacher, Owen Frampton, whose own son Peter went on to musical fame. Bowie has said: “I went to one of the first art-oriented high schools in England, where one could take an art course from the age of 12. Three-fourths of our class actually did go on to art school.”

Everybody knows how this liberal education shaped his outsider stance, how he redefined glam-rock, and how his incarnation as Ziggy Stardust made him an international star and one of the most iconoclastic forces in 70s music. How much more fun though to celebrate a grand milestone by looking back to the earliest expressions of that genius and to wonder aloud how else might the talents of the young David Jones have developed? Today, we find whole chapters of his formative experiments on video online, from mime artist and music-hall hoofer, to actor and fin-de-siècle soothsayer. In all the springboard moments pictured in the slideshow above, Bowie is no older than 24. At any moment the fickle finger of fate could as easily have pointed in any number of directions…

➢ VIEW a dozen video turning points
in David Bowie’s early career 1965–1974

INSTEAD, THIS IS WHAT HAPPENED

In 1969 Bowie’s manager Kenneth Pitt proposed to showcase his talents by producing a half-hour film called Love You Till Tuesday. The compilation showcased tracks from his 1967 debut album, plus a spanking new song, Space Oddity, which introduced Major Tom and became his first hit. Cleverly anticipating the first Nasa Moonwalk in 1969, the filming for this number pastiches Stanley Kubrick’s cine-epic premiered the previous year. It effectively proposed what today we call the promo video which, as Kevin Cann reveals in his exhaustive 2010 Bowie biography Any Day Now, remained substantially unseen by the public until its release as a clip in 1984. The whole half-hour showreel went online for the first time only yesterday…

THEN HE MET WILLIAM BURROUGHS

David Bowie , William Burroughs

1973: Bowie is interviewed for Rolling Stone with novelist Wiliam Burroughs and photographed by Terry O’Neill

THEN HE MET LIZ TAYLOR

David Bowie , Liz Taylor, Terry O'Neill

1975: Bowie meets Hollywood legend Liz Taylor. Photographed by Terry O’Neill

THEN HE WROTE A SONG WITH JOHN LENNON

David Bowie , Yoko Ono, John Lennon, Grammys

1975: At the Grammys, Bowie upstages Yoko Ono and John Lennon — one day he gets jamming with David in a studio and turns a lick into the song Fame

AND THE REST IS, WELL, BOWIE…

➢ Radio 2’s clips from Inspirational Bowie at iPlayer — Marc Almond: “I climbed over the orchestra pit and David Bowie took my hand. He sang Give me your hand in Rock ’n’ Roll Suicide and it was an epiphany”

➢ Happy 65th Birthday Bowie: BBC 6Music audience curates a playlist of favourite tracks, on iPlayer until Jan 13

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➤ Smith & Sullivan sign off We Can Be Heroes with a sigh

We Can Be Heroes,Unbound publishing, books,Graham Smith,Chris Sullivan,Blitz Kids, New Romantics, Boy George,nightclubbing, Swinging 80s, photography,

Graham Smith: signing advance copies of We Can Be Heroes between coffee and cake today at Soho’s Society Club. Photographed by Shapersofthe80s

❚ THE BOOK OF THE DECADE has arrived and early buyers of the 2,000-copy first edition had it in their hands today. The photo-story of 80s clubland, We Can Be Heroes, felt reassuringly hefty to the touch and we finally discovered the page size to be generous at 235 x 280mm. The five-colour printing gives intensity especially to the black-and-white photography on the high-gloss paper and author Graham Smith’s verdict on the quality was simple: “Stunning.” Collaborator and 80s club-host Chris Sullivan breathed a sigh: “We got there in the end.”

The 320 pages of story-telling and voxpops from perhaps 100 contributors will raise plenty of smiles when the postman delivers the book during the next week. Even if you’ve read Shapersofthe80s from top to bottom, you’ll find as many more quotes and insights from the original Blitz Kids themselves. Deejay Jeffrey Hinton reminds us in the book: “People think this was a premeditated scene but it was not. It was childlike, thrown together. We didn’t do it for the money, we were innocent. It’s all so marketed today.”

We Can Be Heroes,Unbound publishing, books,Graham Smith,Chris Sullivan,Blitz Kids, New Romantics, Boy George,nightclubbing, Swinging 80s, photography,

Ringleaders who shaped the style of the 80s celebrated in We Can Be Heroes: Chris Sullivan, Fiona Dealey, Lee Sheldrick, Stephen Linard and Kim Bowen — the rebels within St Martin’s School of Art, all photographed by Graham Smith

We Can Be Heroes,Unbound publishing, books,Graham Smith,Chris Sullivan,Blitz Kids, New Romantics, Boy George,nightclubbing, Swinging 80s, photography,

Bournemouth was the destination on bank holidays: good-natured hijinks brought London clubbers to the south-coast resort, and Smith has included many of their snaps in We Can Be Heroes

While the main images reveal just how small in number was the coterie who initiated the sounds and styles of the 80s, Smith has supplemented his own portfolio of pictures with many snaps from clubland wags themselves whose ambitions were liberated by the spirit of collaboration inspired in 1980. Nevertheless, designer Fiona Dealey makes a valid point in the book: “When anyone has written about the Blitz it has been by the same few blokes giving the same old soundbites with never a mention of what the women were up to. The Blitz was our youth club and I feel they hijacked it.”

Today John Mitchinson, the book’s publisher, said he was reasonably confident that a commercial edition of Heroes might follow in the autumn of 2012. In the meantime a limited number of copies of the first edition are still available only from Unbound Publishing.

➢ 1976–1984, Creative clubbing ended with the 80s — we profile three of the bright sparks behind We Can Be Heroes and how they shaped the decade

➢ View Shapersofthe80s video — Chris Sullivan telling his “ribald tales of excess” from the Blitz era at a launch party for We Can Be Heroes… with Graham Smith and Robert Elms on video too

We Can Be Heroes,Unbound publishing, books,Graham Smith,Chris Sullivan,Blitz Kids, New Romantics, Boy George,nightclubbing, Swinging 80s, photography,

Chris Sullivan signing today: “Now people can see the book itself we might shift a few more copies.” Photographed by Shapersofthe80s

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