Tag Archives: New Romantics

➤ Farewell George Michael: London’s young guns remember their pal from 80s clubland

George Michael

A bearded George Michael before Wham! came along: Captured on 20 February 1981 with his eye on the Nationwide TV camera, among many familiar faces at Soho’s Friday night Beat Route – where the Caribbean beach decor was to inspire his song Club Tropicana. (Photo BBC)

THIS ENTIRE WEBSITE CELEBRATES the Swinging 80s when UK subcultures were uniquely re-shaped by the youngest generation since the 60s to create new sounds and new styles in music, fashion and media. George Michael, who died this week, was one among hundreds of inveterate Soho clubbers, except that in his own mind he was a global superstar. Yet before the teenaged George and his schoolmate Andrew Ridgeley signed to Innervision as Wham!, there were several false starts to their career, not least being turned away from the Friday-night Beat Route during its coolest-club-in-town heyday when gatekeeper Ollie O’Donnell decided the boys from Bushey looked just too suburban. The Soho elite of 20-somethings who ran the new club-nights and managed the cool new image bands were very protective of their post-Romantic projects. George was however fly enough to use his contacts behind the bar to ensure he was on the dancefloor during the BBC Nationwide filming for a Spandau Ballet package in February ’81, when he clearly had the camera in his sights.

The irony was that by the next year Wham! were pushing a glossy brand of unashamedly “pure pop” that was so new, the debut single Wham Rap! failed to chart when released that June – the BBC declined to playlist the number partly because of its “anti-social” lyrics. After a touch of retuning, four months later Wham! released Young Guns (Go For It!)  and this time their hedonistic attitude – mixing humour with social conscience – clicked with the clubland audiences that were growing all over Britain.


A lucky break got them onto Top of the Pops in November when the group came as a shock to the eyeballs. The vocal foursome were immaculately rehearsed. Chinese-slippered George held himself like a star, bare-chested and sporting a leather waistcoat while Andrew and backing singers Shirlie Holliman and Dee C Lee stepped out with panache, all fully choreographed down to their finger-points and slippered toe-points. Then whoosh. Wham! rocketed to No 3 in the UK singles chart in December, the next three singles all made the Top 10, and the Bushey boys graduated to the international A-Team of British superstars. The next four years turned out 25 million albums and 15 million singles and scored four US number one hit singles.

It was evidently an advantage that all four members of Wham! had emerged as faces among London’s clubland soul tribes, the dance-crazy cognoscenti who banished rock from the singles charts during 1980-81 and provided an eager audience for new music. Some of them can be seen in the music video for Young Guns shot by Tim Pope at the glitzy Churchill’s club in Piccadilly.


Pop journalist about town Paul “Scoop” Simper recalls first meeting Wham! in autumn 1982 while working for Melody Maker. In his forthcoming autobiography, Pop Stars in My Pantry, he writes:

George told me: “I loved dancing at Le Beat Route. Nobody gave a fuck who I was so you could throw yourself around. If Shirlie was with me we’d really do that pair dancing. It was cool. We’d always make a bit of space and really show off.”

There’s footage from a BBC Nationwide report on the club which appears in Spandau Ballet’s Soul Boys of the Western World movie showing a bearded, curly-haired George in an alarmingly orange suit slap bang in the middle of the dancefloor [pictured at top] from a time when he was still in a ska band called The Executive, before Le Beat Route’s playlist helped transform them into Wham!

“Andrew and I were at Le Beat Route when Andrew started going ‘Wham! Bam! I am a man!’’ and doing this terrible rap,” said George. “It was supposed to be funny. But that’s where he had the idea.

➢ Read Simper’s full chapter on George at Unbound, the publisher’s website, and pre-order your copy of PSIMP

It was the Beat Route itself – actually, its Caribbean beach decor – which was to inspire George’s song Club Tropicana and for more than two years O’Donnell’s Friday-nighter set the benchmark for the coolest sounds anywhere in Soho with 22-year-old deejay Steve Lewis ruling the turntables.

➢ INSIDE: CONTINUE READING MORE CLUBLAND
TRIBUTES FOR GEORGE MICHAEL

On an inside page, Soho’s young guns remember their pals in Wham! – led by…

Paul McKee, admin for Soul Boys Soul Girls at Facebook – “RIP George Michael – A regular at our clubs Le Beat Route, Wag, Bogarts and many others. Easy to forget now the impact Wham Rap! Had. It was not out of place at the time in 1983 when the likes of Funkapolitan, Spandau Ballet, Culture Club, who all came from our clubs, began producing great club records, as the Soul Boys and Soul Girls sound and styles began to change. When Wham! performed Young Guns on TOTP with that dance routine, we all noted some of those little moves he used, we’d witness at a club at any given weekend. Without doubt one of the greatest soul voices and songwriters this country has ever produced. He liked to club like the rest of us, George was one of us.”


➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s:
Britain stunned by sudden death of George Michael, our biggest pop superstar of the 80s

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➤ Ex-Blitz Kid Rusty Egan and friends dress 80s electro-pop in brilliant new clothes

Welcome to the Dancefloor, Rusty Egan, electro-pop, Blitz Kids, New Romantic, EDM, synthesisers,

Egan deejaying at Tramp this week: a nightclub launch for Welcome to the Dancefloor

AFTER FIVE YEARS OF BLAGGING, and five years of feuding with former collaborators, 80s Blitz Club deejay Rusty Egan’s own “electro-diskow” album, Welcome to the Dancefloor, amounts to a superb sonic landmark. He and his guest performers engage an impressive range of emotions by dramatically humanising the potential starkness many associate with electronica.

ALBUM REVIEW
Welcome to the Dancefloor
Rusty Egan

Spookily, their energy rockets us immediately into that vast clean stereo soundscape that uniquely defined the new music of 1980. Here synthesiser chords are stretched and layered and cracked like a whip, as if by an invisible hand in another time and space, which of course was precisely the sound of London clubland when its youth culture erupted as a volcano of creativity. The album’s pacey opening track finds ex-New Order’s Peter Hook on The Other Side spinning through the Milky Way, his thin 80s vocal style querulous and wistful, yet poppily optimistic.

That era did after all abandon the overpowering noise of the rock stadium and the punk nihilists to celebrate a return to melodious singing voices and to arch lyrics meant for listening, while synthesisers defined a fresh musical ambience. Inexperienced young artists unsure about their singing ability half shouted, half vocodered their limited vocal range to re-imagine their teenage dreams on a different planet.

Egan’s collaborators: click any pic below to launch slideshow

While Egan has carefully selected 13 tracks reflecting the wide spectrum of synth possibilities, half are love songs in the spirit of the 80s generation who were dubbed by the press New Romantics. Nevertheless he has created a consummate showcase for electronic music, co-produced by Nick Bitzenis (aka Nikonn). He has had a hand in writing a majority of the songs, many co-written with Chris Payne (of Fade to Grey fame), these being subsequently endorsed and expressed by a handful of starry friends such as Midge Ure and Tony Hadley on tracks of their own.

Despite its title, this is not dance music that the funk nation would groove to. Laying down a dominant 4-4 beat is not conducive to free-form movement unless you think you’re Tik or Tok. Exceptions include Egan’s own pulsating title track with robo vocals as if by Stephen Hawking and knowing breaks parodying Tenek and the Human League; also the nippy number Hero, which gains spiritual resonance from Andy Huntley’s richly textured delivery.

➢ Listen online to Welcome to the Dancefloor
track by track

The stand-out track is Midge Ure’s transformation of an Egan/Payne song titled Glorious. He rewrote lyrics and melody so as to construct one magnificent crescendo filled with space and tension reminiscent of “Ohhhhh, Vienna!” A close second for reconjuring the authentic 80s is Egan’s own Wunderwerke, driven by his Trans-Europe vocals through classic synth sweeps, hypnotic repeats and bass stabs. Third comes Erik Stein on the astonishingly contemplative Ballet Dancer, basking in a wonderful waterfall of synths.

Like Brexit, Tony Hadley *is* Tony Hadley and here (without the Ballet) on the coltish lovesong Lonely Highway he canters to the top of a whole new hill as a crooner. What distinguishes this album is that it’s awash with affecting lyrics and fine voices to listen to in the name of electro pop – among the gentlest are Be The Man featuring the gorgeous inflections of Kira Porter; Nicole Clarke’s ethereal contribution to Love Can Conquer All; and Love Is Coming My Way, a second number from the silken-voiced Stein.

And just wait for the Chariots of Fire finale: Egan’s intensely personal track, Thank You, which unleashes a shock of the best kind. To describe more would be to spoil a gifted idea. It is emotional and all too evidently sincere. Thank you, Rusty.

Welcome to the Dancefloor, Rusty Egan, electro-pop, Blitz Kids, New Romantics, EDM, synthesisers,

Rusty Egan: co-producer, co-writer and much else – has created a landmark album in Welcome to the Dancefloor

➢ Pre-order Welcome To The Dancefloor as 180g vinyl LP and CD variants, plus bonus mixes, at Pledge Music. – All pledges immediately receive MP3 downloads of the album, with the physical products promised by Rusty Egan “once we reach a target” (unspecified). At worst, PledgeMusic clearly says it “will refund you if the Artist doesn’t reach their target”.

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s:
1980, First sighting of the Blitz Kids

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➤ Remembering Steve Strange: Today’s tweet from Midge Ure

Midge Ure, Rusty Egan, Steve Strange,,anniversary, death, Visage, pop music, Blitz Kids, New Romantics

Click to view original Tweet

❏ To which Rusty Egan, Steve’s partner in the Blitz Club and other landmark ventures that helped create the Swinging 80s, replies:

For 2 years prior to this unfortunate event Steve and I were embroiled in a public feud. Sadly we did not kiss and make up and I like most people was shocked he left us so young. RIP Steve. I have still got a few things I need to do… will sort that biz out later.

Visage, Swinging 80s, pop music, Blitz Kids, New Romantics,Midge Ure, Rusty Egan, Steve Strange, Dave Formula , Billy Currie

Visage 1980, left to right: Midge Ure, Rusty Egan, Steve Strange, Dave Formula and Billy Currie. (Photo © Denis O’Regan)

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s:
2015, Original Blitz Kids say farewell to Steve Strange – read exclusive tributes to the King of the Posers

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s:
1980, One week in the private worlds of the new young

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s:
Catch up on New Romantic landmarks reported here at Shapers of the 80s

➢ Read the story of Spandau Ballet, the Blitz Kids and the birth of the New Romantics at The Observer, by Yours Truly

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➤ Steve Strange remembered by Martin Kemp

Steve Strange, tribute, Martin Kemp, New Romantics. Blitz Kids,Swinging 80s, London, nightlife

Steve Strange, right, and Martin Kemp at Tokyo Joe’s in London in 1981. Photograph by Robert Rosen/Rex

➢ Spandau Ballet bassist Martin Kemp recalls the Visage frontman, nightclub host and New Romantic pioneer who kickstarted his band’s career – in today’s Observer:

It’s lovely being asked to talk about Steve now, because I couldn’t right after he died. I’d start, but then I’d just burst into tears. He was one of my best friends and he created a big part of my personality. He showed me how exciting life could be, but how you could be a decent person with it. I also genuinely believe that everything that the 80s was, he started it. What people wore, how they did their hair, the decade of excess – that was all him. . .

Steve Strange, pop music, gravestone

Steve Strange’s gravestone erected 18 December in Porthcawl, South Wales

We were both working-class boys who had always wanted to do something else and here he was, doing it brilliantly. I looked up to him. He’d set up punk gigs back home in Wales, came up to London to work for Malcolm McLaren, and now he was carving out his own path away from punk. . . He succeeded because he was smothered in charisma. It drew everyone to him – the working class and the middle class loved him, but even the most upper-class people were immediately in the palm of his hand.

London made Steve, but it wasn’t good for him. He was a very intelligent man, but he got scrambled and crossed the line with drugs. . . The saddest thing is that I could see the end of Steve’s story long before it had been told. I’d waited for the phone call for years, so it wasn’t a shock. But to go to his funeral in Wales… it was incredibly sad. . . / Read the full tribute at the Observer online

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s:
Original Blitz Kids say farewell to Steve Strange – read exclusive tributes to the King of the Posers

➢ Read the story of Spandau Ballet, the Blitz Kids and the birth of the New Romantics at The Observer, by Yours Truly

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➤ Spicy new survey from Derek Ridgers celebrates the wild hours between dusk and sunrise

books, Carpet Bombing Culture,photography, nightlife, London, UK, youth culture, street style, Dark Carnival, Derek Ridgers

Clubbers at the Astoria in 2000 photographed by Derek Ridgers


◼ HERE’S A PROMO VIDEO FEATURING some preposterous talking heads who include photographer Yasmine Akim and dancer Constantine Flowerz, describing a new large-format book of spicy photographs from Derek Ridgers’ travels through London clubland… The Dark Carnival: Portraits from the Endless Night is being published next week by Carpet Bombing Culture.

books, Carpet Bombing Culture,photography, nightlife,London, UK, youth culture, street style, Dark Carnival, Derek Ridgers, If you’re in it, you’ll be on the list for the launch party on Friday 27th from 5pm at the Lights of Soho gallery, followed on by a free Soho Swag night from 9.30pm at the 68 and Boston bar at the top end of Greek Street, hosted by 80s shapers Christos Tolera and Chris Sullivan.

The Dark Carnival is Derek’s second book published this month. He modestly calls it “my 40-year wander through nightclubs” but this delicous cornucopia selected by Derek himself proves much more of an adult shocker where anything goes on the themes of sexuality, seduction and shame (lack of), with eye-poppers shot at Anarchy, Smack, Submission, Wacko, Wicked, Rubber Ball and coming right up to date at Torture Garden.

➢ Buy The Dark Carnival direct from Carpet Bombing Culture, 216 huge pages for £30

photography, nightlife, London, UK, youth culture, books, Carpet Bombing Culture,street style, Dark Carnival, Derek Ridgers

Anonymous clubber in Brixton 2011 photographed by Derek Ridgers

AUDIO UPDATE: ROBERT ELMS INTERVIEWS DEREK ON BBC RADIO LONDON 9 dec 2015

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Q: Does this kind of nightlife still exist?

“Yes it does. It’s not quite so focussed today and readily categorisable. Hardly any of the little basement clubs are left in Soho. I think the St Moritz is the only one” – Derek Ridgers on BBC Radio London

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