Tag Archives: Kim Bowen

➤ Day Two of Terry Smith’s unseen photos inside the Blitz Club, exclusively at Shapers of the 80s

Nik & Trick Photo Services, Folkestone

“Double, double, toil and trouble” . . . Mandy d’Wit, Judith Frankland and Darla-Jane Gilroy await the casting call in case Mr Bowie drops in at the Blitz

➢ DAY TWO:
CLICK HERE TO VISIT OUR
GALLERY OF TEN MORE FAB IMAGES
OF THE BLITZ IN COLOUR

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A SURPRISING NEW CACHE of photographs of the Blitz Club in colour has been discovered from the spring of 1980 when TIME magazine asked British photographer Terry Smith to turn his lens on the nightlife posers at Covent Garden’s Blitz Club. They were to become feted as the New Romantics.

Tuesdays at the Blitz were all ritual. Everyone supped and danced on the same spot every week according to some invisible floorplan: downstairs near the bar stood the boys in the band (no make-up), their media and management by the stairs, credible punk legends such as Siouxsie Sioux along the bar, suburban wannabes beside the dancefloor.

Deep within the club, around Rusty Egan’s deejay booth, were the dedicated dancing feet, the white-faced shock troops, the fashionista elite – either there or near the cloakroom, ruled first by Julia Fodor (still going strong as deejay Princess Julia) and later by George O’Dowd (known today as ex-jailbird Boy George). Downstairs, the women’s loo was hijacked, naturally, by boys who would be girls. Upstairs on the railway banquettes might be respected alumni from an earlier London: film-maker Derek Jarman, artists Brian Clarke and Kevin Whitney, designers Antony Price and Zandra Rhodes…

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
1980, Just don’t call us New Romantics

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1980 ➤ Unseen photos inside the Blitz Club, exclusively at Shapers of the 80s

Nik & Trick Photo Services, Folkestone

Never before published: Steve Strange, co-founder with deejay Rusty Egan of the legendary Tuesday night at the Blitz in London

➢ DAY ONE:
CLICK HERE TO VISIT OUR
GALLERY OF TEN FAB IMAGES
OF THE BLITZ IN COLOUR

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AN ENORMOUS NEW CACHE of photographs of the Blitz Club in colour has been discovered from the spring of 1980 when the UK media started to take an interest in the Tuesday-night antics of the nightlife posers at Covent Garden’s Blitz Club. They were to become celebrated as the Blitz Kids by some and as New Romantics by others. Until this moment it has been easy to count the number of surviving professional pictures ever taken inside the Blitz during its 20-month life – all of them in black-and-white – and the total doesn’t even approach 100.

Now a call to Shapers of the 80s by the British photographer Terry Smith has unearthed probably 300 more images, commissioned by Time magazine. Many of them are in glorious colour, shedding extra light on the creativity of the night-owls who were in the throes of transforming the fashion and pop landscape of Britain in the Swinging 80s.

Shapers of the 80s today showcases the first of four batches of Terry’s pictures capturing the Blitz in colour, while a selling exhibition of his black-and-white images is preparing to open on 7 June in St Leonards-on-Sea.

➢ Terry Smith/Blitz and Pieces: Unseen Blitz Club Pictures
& 80s Bands runs 7 June–21 July 2018 at Lucy Bell Gallery,
St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex TN38 0EJ.
Preview 7 June, 6-8pm

Nik & Trick Photo Services, Folkestone

Blitz Club 1980: Can you name these early New Romantics in the frilly-shirt posse?

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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.

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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2015 ➤ Original Blitz Kids say farewell to Steve Strange, their host, pivot, style icon, friend

2013, Steve Strange photographed by Tim Whitby

Steve Strange in 2002 photographed by Tim Whitby

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s:
Nowt so Strange as Steven John Harrington,
28 May 1959–12 Feb 2015

1978, when Steve Strange teamed up with Rusty Egan (Photo © Fin Costello/Redferns)

1978, when Steve Strange met Rusty Egan. (Photo © Fin Costello/Redferns)

HOW THE RULES OF 80s NIGHTCLUBBING
WERE REWRITTEN BY STRANGE & EGAN

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RUSTY EGAN REMEMBERS HIS CLUBBING PARTNER
About this week’s Mi-soul radio show, Rusty said: “I’m very, very sad and down tonight because I’ve lost an old friend. We had our disagreements but we did have a decade of the best times that anybody could ever have wished for. We made some amazing music, some amazing parties, clubs and fun and friends. Underneath it all he was a good soul. Steve, I’m so sorry I didn’t get a chance to say I still love you.

Tonight we say Hello and Wave Goodbye to my friend and foe Steve Strange AKA Steve Harrington who convinced me to let him crash at my place for one night. We were flatmates for five years and never had a night in… friends for 25 years and foes for less than five years. Music says everything I could ever want to say… Bryan Ferry, David Bowie, David Ball, Midge Ure, Lou Reed, John Foxx and The Maths, Joy Division say everything I could want to say + EMT, The Magickal, Jeff Appleton, Visage, The Distant Minds. The good times outweigh the bad.

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Steve Strange, Chris Sullivan, Graham Smith, Steve Norman, Blitz Kids, Swinging 80s, London

Chris Sullivan’s 21st birthday, 1981: “me drunk out of my head after a bottle of tequila with the boys in my bedroom in Kentish Town” – the boys being Steve Strange, Graham Smith and Steve Norman (photo © Graham)

CHRIS SULLIVAN, WHO RAN
SOHO’S WAG CLUB

I first met Steve Strange (né Harrington) when I was 14. We were both into Northern Soul and used to meet in Blackwood, South Wales, just a mile or two from his council house home. Then it was funk, Bowie and Roxy. Subsequently, punk, bondage and notoriety. We’d travel to London, Bristol, wherever to satiate our need for nightlife. Thus, London was the only place for Steve so he moved up to work for Vivienne Westwood in 1977. He was 18. I was 17. He became a punk “face” while I finished my A-levels and then went off to San Francisco in search of the Beatnik life (but couldn’t find it) and lost touch with Steve.

Then in October 1978, I bumped into him in Oxford Circus and he invited me to his new Bowie night at Billy’s. Since then we have been inextricably linked. We ran the club Hell together, then he did Club For Heroes and me Le Kilt. He then opened the Camden Palace and me the Wag.

We were both flamboyant club-running Welsh dandies but were never rivals. Steve had too much dignity for that. We were friends and remained so for the rest of his life. And I can say that Steve, despite quite a few hard years, never lost that that spark, humour or joie de vivre, was forever stylish and was always a pleasure to see.

SHAPERS OF THE 80s
extends heartfelt thanks to these key Blitz Kids (as were) for taking the time to contribute these wonderful appreciations of Steve Strange who died yesterday aged 55. We are all in varying degrees of shock, yet it is remarkable how their tributes readily identify the distinct qualities that made Steve a beacon for others to rally round. We hope these words will stand as both epitaph and historic record

I will miss reminiscing about us getting caught shoplifting together, our ferry to Calais as that got stuck in a hurricane going back and forth unable to dock for 13 hours; then hanging out with Grace Jones, Iman and Gaultier and getting spat at by a Parisian old lady who thought we were Nazis (we both had coincidentally brought our leather German trench coats); doing LSD at the Notting Hill Carnival, ecstasy in Ibiza in 1983 and getting lost in New York’s gang infested Alphabet City York at 5am after a night out in 1985 and walking in complete circles till it was light. Adventure after misadventure after misdemeanour. Two working-class Welsh chaps who could not believe their luck sucking the lemon dry.

I spoke to him a lot over his last few years and realised that he, coming from nothing, just threw down the gauntlet and created this being, “Steve Strange”, who was his “art” and, rather like Quentin Crisp and Leigh Bowery, was famous for purely being himself – a rather unique individual, one of a kind and a true maverick who never once towed the party line and always kept you guessing from Telly Tubbies Toys to TV shows. Indeed, our lives ran in tandem for decades and, I can honestly say, that I am proud to have been a friend and associate for 40 years of this great British character. I doubt we will see the likes of him again. Today my melancholia was lifted by one thought. He would have also loved this massive media attention regarding his demise. He would have said “See, I told you I was making a comeback!”

The world is a smaller place without Steve.

Princess Julia, PX, New Romantics

Julia before she was a princess: outside PX in 1980

PRINCESS JULIA, WRITER AND DEEJAY
We piled into his clubs from the late 70s onwards and made things happen. Steve Strange’s notoriety filtered into the mainstream making him a household name, much to his delight. Getting dressed up, going out and getting noticed… Steve was head of a subculture the likes of which perhaps we will never see again. He rode the decades, suffered ups and downs but always retained a vision of creativity, his own and those around him. Encouraging people to follow their dreams, the Blitz was a melting pot of creativity, its ethos a cornerstone to generation after generation who aspired and are aspiring to cast their nets wider.

When I met Steve his style was fearless. He became an entrepreneur in clubland perhaps unwittingly and genuinely enjoyed the ritual of clubbing. On other fronts Visage, initially a studio project, rapidly gained cult status, and he never abandoned performing right up to the present. He had a wicked sense of humour and was ready to tackle challenges even though his decadent years had taken their toll on his health… The stories I could tell you, perhaps I’ll leave that to your imagination!

Kim Bowen

1979, Kim Bowen models for milliner Stephen Jones, assisted by Lee Sheldrick in the Jones boutique

STEPHEN JONES, MILLINER
Steve Strange was a live wire. He made things happen, joined the dots between people. And he was my first customer. I went to his Bowie nights at Billy’s club and then the Blitz as a student at St Martin’s and he asked me to make him a hat out of gold braid. It took me about three weeks and he paid £75, a fortune in those days. Then, he was working at a fashion store called PX in Covent Garden. They had an empty basement, and he asked me if I wanted to set up store in there. So that was my first shop. I owe my start to Steve.

There was a vacuum after punk had gone. Suddenly there were all these kids dressing up in these eclectic, historical, top-to-toe looks we made ourselves from thrift stores. With Steve, it had to be a total look, whether he was wearing a dress, or a slick Antony Price suit. And every look needed a hat.

KIM BOWEN, STYLIST,
ONETIME QUEEN OF THE BLITZ

The hustle, the bustle, the make-up, the clothes, “Julia and I think you should put pencil on that mole of yours, it looks like a spot otherwise” to “I like your hat, do you think Stephen Jones will make one for me?” Rushing enthusiasm, involving everyone, creating insane parties going round and round on the Circle Line. Some truly bad outfits (his not mine.) Shockingly, “Kim, will you be my official girlfriend?” My boyfriend Jeremy Healy was rather outraged at that, sensing a great and grievous social impropriety.

“I know some weird private club in Wandsworth, Lord Longleat will be there, he’s fun, let’s go” . . . “God, look at Mick Jagger, he looks like an axolotl, doesn’t he? – Still, let’s go talk to him” . . . Cramming into the flat on King’s Road that he and Rusty and Julia shared, the height of sophistication as we polished off bottles of Blue Nun.

“ You were the epicentre of a most
particular time and place,
and you did create the stage
on which we all appeared ”
– Kim Bowen, Queen of the Blitz Club

“Will you run a nightclub with me?” became screaming up the stairs at Club For Heroes: “Why are you letting those horrible people in?!” Parties here, parties there, a club here, there and everywhere, places to sit bored and rude, blame him and his shit club, hate the music, be a little bitch, stick your nose up in the air Kim Bowen, and to always, always be asked, to be introduced to David Bailey who photographed me for Ritz magazine, to be implored to be in Bowie’s Ashes video and to refuse, to always be asked to anything fun, anything interesting, daring, mad, silly, stylish by this kind, generous, privately soft and rather vulnerable, funny Welsh guy, who always laughed, until he didn’t and things went dark.

And then they got better again. And then this abrupt goodbye. What a shock. You were the epicentre of a most particular time and place, and you did create the stage on which we all appeared, flourishing our lace cuffs and sharpening our profiles to the footlights. Thank you for that. Because we just came to your clubs, you created them Steve, you and Rusty.

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Above: King and queen of the Blitz: Steve Strange wearing PX and Kim Bowen crowned by Stephen Jones titfer in 1980. Photograph © by Letac / Shapersofthe80s archive

CONTINUED INSIDE
SHAPERS OF THE 80S

➢ Click through to read more of this week’s Blitz Kid
tributes to Steve from:

Peter Ashworth, Ninotchka Bee Bee, Helen Carey, Eve Ferret, Judith Frankland, Boy George, Francesca Von Habsburg Thyssen, Billy Idol, Gary Kemp, Martin Kemp, Simon Le Bon, Stephen Linard, ‪Franceska Luther King‪, Glen Matlock, Mark Moore, Christos Tolera, John Maybury, Steve Norman, Milly Parkinson, Andy Polaris, Stephane Raynor, Graham Smith, Graham K Smith, Midge Ure, Iain R Webb and Mike Leigh, Steve’s agent

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s: At Strange & Egan’s Camden Palace a silly hat and a calculated look might be the best career move you’ve ever made

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➤ Nowt so Strange as Steven John Harrington

Steve Strange, Steven Harrington, Blitz Kids, New  Romantics, nightclubbing, Swinging 80s, London, fashion, pop music, Visage, tributes

Steve Strange: Precocious club host and the face of synth band Visage, he changed British nightlife for ever

RIP Steve Strange
28 May 1959–12 Feb 2015

King of the Posers, Leader of the Blitz Kids,
co-founder of the Blitz Club,
PIED PIPER FOR THE NEW ROMANTICS,
catalyst for London’s fashion and pop
explosion in the 1980s

“ I chose to become famous and I work very hard at promoting myself. For me going out at night is work ”
– Steve Strange,
speaking to the Evening Standard in 1983

Iain R Webb, original Blitz Kid, later fashion editor of The Times and other publications, pays tribute to Steve Strange, who died in Egypt earlier today:

Steve gave us somewhere to go and beyond the crazy costumes and caked on make-up (maybe because of the…) made us each believe we had someone to be. He burned bright and we followed that light like moths to a flame – Billy’s to Blitz to Hell to Club For Heroes to Camden Palace… Oh, how we danced. His maverick spirit will never fade

Kim Bowen, stylist and former Queen of the Blitz Club, says:

“ You did create the stage on which
we all appeared ”

Andy Polaris, original Blitz Kid, and vocalist in Animal Nightlife, says:

It’s always a shock when you hear news that snatches away part of your youth. Steve Strange was not only a colourful character who had always left an impression on my teenage years. He was also a pivotal player in transforming London nightlife, along with deejay Rusty Egan. Their Tuesday nights at Billy’s club gave birth to the Blitz Club that influenced a generation of designers, musicians and artists. It’s remarkable the amount of creative talent that emerged from these clubs. It’s important to acknowledge that without Steve’s input a lot of these creative synergies might have never happened

Midge Ure, synth pioneer with Ultravox and Visage and driving force behind Band Aid, said:

Steve and Rusty created a movement in London. The Blitz and the subsequent Blitz Kids grew into a massive movement in the UK associated with fashion and image and photography. You could stand in the Blitz Club and look around you and there’d be future journalists and film-makers and writers and musicians, and a young Boy George taking coats at the coat check. There was something really vibrant about that, and they were responsible

Above: Steve Strange and three other Blitz Kids handpicked by David Bowie star in his 1980 video for Ashes to Ashes

➢ Read my history of Steve Strange, the Blitz Kids and the birth of the New Romantics at The Observer

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s:
1980, Strange days, strange nights, strange people – my invitation to the party that would last five years

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s:
1982, Strange takes six cutting-edge British fashion designers to show their wares to the French

Steve Strange, Steven Harrington, Blitz Kids, New  Romantics, nightclubbing, Swinging 80s, London, fashion, pop music, Visage, tributes

Steve Strange in 1980: wearing Willy Brown’s Modern Classics, photographed by Derek Ridgers

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s:
1983, Posing with a purpose at the Camden Palace – the ultimate expression of Strange & Egan’s clubbing prowess

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