Hadders in California: flabbergasted while relaxing in the sunshine
◼ WHEN 105.7 SAN DIEGO RADIO ASKED this week for a scoop about his recent split from Spandau Ballet, singer Tony Hadley relaxing by the bay said: “It’s a bit tricky at the moment. I’m about as flabbergasted and shocked as everybody else. It wasn’t my intention to quit the band, but I was put in a position where I really had no option but to formally leave. We’ll be announcing something pretty soon which will clarify exactly why”. . . Meanwhile on his band’s US tour, “We never stop partying. Some bands are really boring and go to bed with a cup of cocoa after the show. Me and the rest of the boys and Lily our percussionist we’re quite happy to have a bit of a laugh.” No cocoa after the show? “No! A glass of vino collapso, I call it.”
Tony Hadley and his band are headlining the Lost 80s Live tour through Aug-Sept 2017. Returning to Portsmouth 12 Sept, Blackburn 29 Sept, Chile 4 Nov, later to top the bill at Wembley’s SSE Arena for the Let’s Rock Christmas Retro Show also starring Kim Wilde, Nik Kershaw, Go West, Nick Heyward, T’Pau and others tbc.
The boy wonder: “Scoop” Simper plugging No1 on Switch, the TV pop show
A rare book is published this month giving a vivid eye-witness account of one of the most creative eras for British pop music, the Swinging 80s. Paul Simper himself says: “It’s the pop life story pop-pickers have been gagging for.”
He should know, having emerged from London clubland to become the leading commentator on the New Pop led by image-conscious young bands when the rock press at large was giving them short shrift. Not only was he genuinely The Friend of The Stars but was one of the few writers who could also give it pure laldy dancing his socks off down Le Beat Route. Pop Stars in My Pantry is his confessional memoir and today Shapers of the 80s reprints an exclusive extract. . . But first, who is the man called Simper?
Wakey-wakey! Spandau Ballet sax player Steve Norman discovers our hero Simper relaxing during a characteristic night out on the town during London’s Swinging 80s
◼ THERE’S NO EXPLAINING PAUL SIMPER except as a life force which is Always On – sometimes as a mouse, sometimes a bunny, often in a skirt or a sequinned tuxedo. Not usually at same time, obvs. He’s obsessive, definitely bonkers, extremely good “in the room” and, oh yes, quite an entertaining showbiz writer.
Now he’s had the nerve to bring out his life story as a book called Pop Stars in My Pantry (PSIMP for short) when you’d think people in the music biz would have learned a lesson from Morrissey’s Pooterish own goal. Luckily Simper seems to have had massively more fun than Moz, actually likes the people he writes about and, oh yes, brings a wicked sense of humour to an industry not noted for knowing how to laugh.
As a singer in Slippry Feet – a marriage of supper-club in a circus ring meets David Lynch in a disco – Simper only ever got as far as being the best group of December 1993. Bar none. Fortunately for this book he has the day job to fall back on and he is SUCH a namedropper. Look at the puffery adorning his book’s back jacket: “Always a joy to hang with” – Siobhan Fahey; “The most trusted person in 80s pop” – Patsy Kensit; “Truly the epitome of the embedded journalist” – Gary Kemp.
Goes with territory when you have become Friend of The Stars, having leapfrogged from Melody Maker within minutes of coming up from the sticks in 1981, onto smart new fan mags like New Sounds New Styles and No 1 which counted clubbing on-the-town as research. There from the off, he was friends with the burgeoning new generation of self-invented nightlife stars who were storming off fashionable dancefloors across the UK and into the singles charts to knock the rock dinosaurs for six. Fellow clubbing names being dropped go from George Michael to Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Bananarama to Boy George. Not to mention Madonna, Prince, Whitney, Elton and Weller. Woohoo!
Early on I nicknamed him “Scoop” Simper because even though I worked for a Deeply Influential Mainstream Newspaper, whenever any big sexy pop star, like, y’know Debbie Harry, flew in from abroad *he* got the exclusive interview even though he “only” worked for one of those pure-pop weeklies full of pinups and lyrics and breathless reviews.
So who’s having the last laugh now?! Well probably Scoop, as usual, since PSIMP proves to be “a right frollicking read for the adults in your family”, while my own book has blurted itself out and into this website for several years, clocking up barely a handful of Wikipedia footnotes to credit. And now His Majesty is entrusting Shapers of the 80s with running an excerpt from one of the best chapters in his book, the story of Sade Adu, the Essex girl who rose via St Martin’s School of Art to become one of the UK’s biggest Grammy-award winning pop exports, described by Robert Sandall in The Sunday Times in 2010 as “the most successful solo British female artist in history”.
Scoop spills the beans: “Sade was very much a part of my early years as a young pop writer living in London. She even used to kindly let me sleep on her sofa.” So here’s a short teaser-taster from PSIMP, but do click through to our inside page for the full extract when Sade’s first band Pride goes in search of Manhattan’s edgy Village scene. . .
“ I owed Sade and Bob Elms plenty. When I first moved to London I couldn’t have been more grateful for the existence of their north London home tucked away in multi-cultural Wood Green on the Noel Park Estate.
Their old sofa didn’t exclusively have my name on it – fresh-down-from-Hull saxophonist Stuart Matthewman was pretty much clothed, housed and fed by them over the same period – but on the occasions I was invited back, I took some shifting. Sade reckoned that a pair of my old socks stuck around even longer than me until she ceremonially buried them, like high-grade plutonium, in the back garden.
I was never so bold as to turn up unannounced, but if Bob suggested a home viewing of an under-the-counter video of Texas Chainsaw Massacre or The Hills Have Eyes that he’d got his mitts on in Soho (I’d discovered in my early days in London there was a black market for everything), then I was more than up for it.
My telly viewing habits were not of primary importance to the residents at No 64 Hewitt Avenue by the spring of 1982, though, when Bob and Lee Barrett started talking up this new band called Pride that “Shard” was in. Stuart Matthewman was also involved, as were fellow Hull lads drummer Paul Cooke and bass player Paul Denman.
Back in Hull, Stuart had been in The Odds, a pop/mod band similar to The Piranhas that had started out doing speeded-up punk versions of 60s hits like The Dave Clark Five’s Glad All Over. He then played sax in a ten-piece Elvis impersonator show called Ravin’ Rupert, which covered the whole spectrum of The King’s career from rockabilly to Vegas delivered by a front man sporting a quiff and wearing Rupert-the-Bear checked trousers. A tad cooler was Paul Cooke and Paul Denman’s prog-rock band, The Posers, which Stuart credits as being the only band in Hull trying to do something new.
As for Sade, her singing career had only begun a few months previous when she sang onstage for the first time as part of another London band, Ariva. Considering Ariva were viewed as a bit of a Blue Rondo rip-off, ironically it was on the way to a Rondo gig on Barry Island that Lee first clocked Sade singing along to the radio and asked her if she could sing. She thought she probably could so said Yes. . . ”
In the BBC 6 Music studio for Lost Clubs: Princess Julia, centre, with deejay Gemma Cairney at front. (BBC)
◼ AT FACEBOOK TODAY original Blitz Kid and club deejay Princess Julia reports: “Jolly afternoon recording a Radio 6 show with presenter Gemma Cairney due to be aired Sunday 1pm. Graeme Park is on as well, we did a live link-up and covered nightlife from over 4 decades! Past, present and future #lostclubs all in the space of an hour!”
➢ Tune in to Julia live on Sunday at 1pm or catch up later at BBC 6 Music online – “As a companion show to Lamacq’s Indie Venue week, Gemma Cairney explores the rich history of clubs like the Blitz, Hacienda, Club NME, and White Trash that are no longer running, and look at how Fabric was saved. Talking to experts and those involved with the clubs, she’ll play tunes that were the soundtrack to a night out. Expect Happy Mondays, New Order, Bowie, Oasis, Spandau Ballet, Visage, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Pulp.” [BBC Online]
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. ”
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.
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.”
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.
Welcome to the Dancefloor
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
Ure: an inspired rewrite job
Huntley: spiritual resonance
Stein: astonishing, contemplative
Porter: gorgeous inflections
Hook: shades of New Order
Hadley: canters with a coltish love song
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.
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.
Rusty Egan: co-producer, co-writer and much else – has created a landmark album in Welcome to the Dancefloor
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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
➢ WELCOME to the Swinging 80s ➢ THE BLOG POSTS on this front page report topical updates ➢ ROLL OVER THE MENU at page top to go deeper into the past ➢ FOR NEWS & MONTH BY MONTH SEARCH scroll down this sidebar
❏ 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”.
SEARCH our 800 posts or ZOOM DOWN TO THE ARCHIVE INDEX
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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