+++ ❚ “THERE’S A GREAT SURGE OF INTEREST in electronic music. I don’t know why that’s happened, but it’s fortunate for me because I did it a long time ago.” After three low-profile yet prolific decades as a graphic artist, photographer and teacher, the elder statesman of electropop John Foxx is curating Short Circuit, a festival of the best of British electronic music at London’s Roundhouse next week. The day-long event will see Foxx playing his original Moogs, an ARP Odyssey, an Elka String Machine and CR-78 drum machine in a 30th anniversary celebration of his debut solo album, Metamatic.
Foxx’s own verdict on Metamatic: “carcrash music tailored by Burtons”
Foxx’s lyrics and vocal style characterised the original band Ultravox! (1974–79), whose 1978 album Systems of Romance, co-produced by Conny Plank, not only introduced the R-word into the post-punk zeitgeist, but set the mould for British electronica.
After going solo, Foxx’s stark and visionary 1980 album Metamatic, rendered on a range of synths and “rhythm machines”, yielded two futuristic chart hits he summarised as “carcrash music tailored by Burtons”. Two new songs Burning Car and Miles Away charted later the same year. As a pathfinder who imagined himself to be “the Marcel Duchamp of electropop”, he has always enjoyed cult status among the emergent new wave of electronic musicians.
A decade ago Foxx embarked on a new lease of life and Short Circuit will reunite him with former Ultravox guitarist Robin Simon to perform songs from Systems of Romance.
❏ Foxx wants his festival of electronica to capture the spirit of a concert he attended in 1967. “It was like a glimpse of the future,” says Foxx, who hitchhiked down from his native Lancashire to attend the 14-hour Technicolor Dream at Alexandra Palace in London. “I watched Pink Floyd with Syd Barrett, Lennon was around, and Brian Jones, and I saw European art movies like Un chien andalou for the first time — so it was really a life-changing event.” With its art displays, video installations and deejay sets, Foxx promises Short Circuit will be “a sort of hallucinogenic musical afternoon”.
❏ Metatronic is a wonderful survey of one man’s post-glam responses to urban dislocation through modernist music that can be as jarring as it is also seductive. Released this month as double CD, plus DVD of relevant promo vids including the early hits Underpass and No-One Driving
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MORE INTERESTING THAN MOST PEOPLE’S FANTASIES — THE SWINGING EIGHTIES 1978-1984
They didn’t call themselves New Romantics, or the Blitz Kids – but other people did.
“I’d find people at the Blitz who were possible only in my imagination. But they were real” — Stephen Jones, hatmaker, 1983. (Illustration courtesy Iain R Webb, 1983)
“The truth about those Blitz club people was more interesting than most people’s fantasies” — Steve Dagger, pop group manager, 1983
“See David Johnson’s fabulously detailed website Shapers of the 80s to which I am hugely indebted” – Political historian Dominic Sandbrook, in his book Who Dares Wins, 2019
“The (velvet) goldmine that is Shapers of the 80s” – Verdict of Chris O’Leary, respected author and blogger who analyses Bowie song by song at Pushing Ahead of the Dame
“The rather brilliant Shapers of the 80s website” – Dylan Jones in his Sweet Dreams paperback, 2021
A UNIQUE HISTORY
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❏ Header artwork by Kat Starchild shows Blitz Kids Darla Jane Gilroy, Elise Brazier, Judi Frankland and Steve Strange, with David Bowie at centre in his 1980 video for Ashes to Ashes
VINCENT ON AIR 2022
✱ Deejay legend Robbie Vincent returned to JazzFM on Sundays 1-3pm in 2021… Catch Robbie’s JazzFM August Bank Holiday 2020 session thanks to AhhhhhSoul with four hours of “nothing but essential rhythms of soul, jazz and funk”.
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UNTOLD BLITZ STORIES
✱ If you thought there was no more to know about the birth of Blitz culture in 1980 then get your hands on a sensational book by an obsessive music fan called David Barrat. It is gripping, original and epic – a spooky tale of coincidence and parallel lives as mind-tingling as a Sherlock Holmes yarn. Titled both New Romantics Who Never Were and The Untold Story of Spandau Ballet! Sample this initial taster here at Shapers of the 80s
CHEWING THE FAT
✱ Jawing at Soho Radio on the 80s clubland revolution (from 32 mins) and on art (@55 mins) is probably the most influential shaper of the 80s, former Wag-club director Chris Sullivan (pictured) with editor of this website David Johnson
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