A humanoid alien comes to Earth with a mission… What a spooky coincidence that David Bowie played the alien Thomas Jerome Newton in the 1976 film The Man Who Fell to Earth
Today’s Times: the masks and the man behind them
◼ ALL 10 BRITISH NATIONAL NEWSPAPERS filled their front pages today with the death of David Bowie at 69 – and so did scores of newspapers overseas. The last pop star whose death justified such deification was Jacko in 2009; and the last British pop star to do likewise was John Lennon, in 1980. The Times of London dedicated 18 pages including an outer broadsheet wrapper to honouring Bowie, plus an editorial comment as blessing. The Guardian topped that with 20 pages, plus the most enlightened editorial comment of them all. Not only did this misfit megastar and cultural icon radiate consummate flair as a performer but he displayed “an instinctive affinity with his times”. He had a “way with the zeitgeist”.
All media, notably social media, captured the dominant sentiment of generations of fans suddenly plunged into mourning. Again and again they claimed: He changed my life. . . He taught me how to be myself. . . David was my inspiration. . . David was my tutor. And most could quote their own favourite song lyric expressing their faith: Oh no, love – you’re not alone. . . Don’t tell them to grow up and out of it. . . It’s only for ever, not long at all. . . All you’ve got to do is win. . . We can be heroes just for one day.
Blanket coverage: Bowie on all UK front pages… Image updated 14 Jan to include news magazines
Seven Webster and Pete Bailey: Face to face interview about a life in music
❚ STRICTLY SPEAKING we don’t allow “rockists” onto this blog, since our idea of 80s yoof culture was defined by the dance music and fashion-forward styles emanating from UK clubland. And what 80s pure pop did was to banish 80s rock from the singles charts. But Shapers of the 80s is very happy to make one big exception for probably the nicest guy on the entire UK music scene even though he does all his business down at the denim-clad, can’t-dance, beer-belly end of the music spectrum. His parents with the surname Webster gave him the unforgettable first name of Seven, and in the 30 years since he spouted one hilarious soundbite after another when we met in a posey little Numanoid London club, he has learned the ropes as musician and manager and built his own influential company into a thriving business.
Tomorrow, his outfit 7pm Management launches a new annual rock music conference at Rich Mix Cultural Foundation in Shoreditch. RockComm London describes itself as “the first UK-based international rock music conference aimed at bringing together all sectors of the community for positive discussion aimed at stimulating business and growth”. It hopes to unite everyone from labels, publishers, managers, distributors, agents, promoters, manufacturers, digital aggregators, the lot.
Seven says: “With so many great rock music based companies from across the world wanting to be involved, we’ve extended the event to give everyone time to network, which is the conference’s primary objective.”
“ There are people actively signing rock music
at moment: it’s a very buoyant time for rock ”
RockComm launches with a full day of networking which will showcase some of rock’s tastiest new bands. “The emphasis will be on quality over quantity.” The conference itself occupies Tuesday 9 June, as an appetiser for the UK’s biggest rock music event, Download Festival, and leading up to both the Kerrang and Golden Gods award ceremonies.
It is more than ironic that Seven is attempting to reconcile the many differences that define the music industry within a week of one of the most influential managers from the 1960s, Simon Napier-Bell (Yardbirds, Bolan, George Michael), partying in Soho to promote the paperback edition of his latest book, Ta-Ra-Ra-Boom-De-Ay. In this painstaking slice of history through the past 200 years of popular music he decides that nothing has changed in a business based on “greed, corruption, self-interest and fun”. Today recorded music remains in tricky balance between art and marketing where traditional record companies are squeezing a dying revenue stream and the US government still prosecutes them for payola offences running into millions of dollars.
Seven is one of a seemingly small band of brothers who is determined to assert his creative ideals. He draws on a lifelong love of music – “it’s my heart and soul” – and believes rock music is in a very buoyant state today, with people actively signing rock acts and wielding what he believes is “a cumulative fist”. His own reputation is as an international rock festival booker (Hard Rock Hell and Hammerfest) and worldwide artist manager of Skindred. His partner in 7pm and in RockComm is Steve Wolfe, a former Universal Records director of A&R.
As a taster of his ideology, Seven gave this hands-up interview to Pete Bailey at TeamRock national DAB and online radio. He talks about being the manager of Skindred, The Qemists and Dido, his brother-in-Law Mick Wayne (RIP) and former guitarist with David Bowie and the Pink Fairies, new bands and brands making waves and monetising their social media…
During this half-hour stroll through his life-story, Seven reminds us of when he played guitar live at the Lyceum during the Batcave era in a goth band called Geschlechts-Akt (German for Sex Act). “We weren’t great,” he says. Make up your own mind here by sampling their track Libido Twist from the Foreplay 12-incher (Criminal Damage Records, 1984) at YouTube.
Seven’s next band One actually signed to Chrysalis for £65k. Seven took his turn, as you did in the 80s, fronting a clubnight called Pigeon-Toed Orange Peel, then edited a magazine, as you did in the 80s, called The Buzz to help launch other bands, as you did in the 80s, which led into management and promoting new acts at the Marquee. So not too much standing still, then. Seven’s advice for the ambitious newcomer? “Don’t emulate, innovate. Take your time and put a good team around you.”
Just to make him squirm a bit, here’s the snap of Seven propping up a fruit machine the night we met in 1983 at a post-Romantic clubnight in Mayfair called the Padded Cell. Though it was fronted by a couple of wannabe 70s Numanoids, he quipped about the exceedingly time-warped crowd that night: “So many people here have stepped straight out of their nappies into bondage gear.” Not him, of course. So what was he doing among this bunch of late arrivals on the synth scene? “I just hate staying in,” he said. “I’ll go to ice-cream and jelly parties, anything.” Which was enough to get him into my nightlife review in The Face. The rest is history.
A quiet master of the telling quip: Seven Webster at the Padded Cell in 1983. Photograph by Shapersofthe80s
❚ THAT’S THE WAY TALENT CONTESTS CRUMBLE. One minute you’re flavour of the week. The next, you’re out. That’s the way Saturday primetime TV crumbles too. The show is called The Voice. It’s not called The Star. So although glam-rocker Jamie Lovatt radiated tons more charisma than the awkward bloke from the pub, Chris Royal, who was wearing his Auntie Mabel’s pinafore under his jacket, the bloke won this week’s vocalists face-off because apparently, according to coach Ricky Wilson, you “can’t learn the kind of emotion he can portray in a song”. (Even while wearing a pinafore and a twat-Kevin baseball cap back to front. In 2014! Per-lease!)
The pair were billed as Emotion vs Power and powerhouse Jamie was sent packing back to his band Romance, whose bookings have suddenly sky-rocketed thanks to his TV appearances, so that can’t be bad. Pop goddess Kylie did bid him goodbye saying: “Everybody’s going to fall in love with you. You already have it all. Run with it.” Fact is, Jamie has all the attitude to be the next Adam Lambert and a better rock voice than the falsetto bloke from the pub, so long as he chooses better rock songs by real rock writers than the Adele number he nobly had to get his vocal cords round on Saturday night.
The fan: Kylie the coach who could have recruited Jamie, but didn’t
The coach Ricky Wilson: the man who drowns kittens parts company with Jamie
The exit: Will.i.am, Kylie and Sir Tom Jones are fascinated to the last
After Ricky the coach had passed verdict on which of his two protégés was staying in the contest, he totally bottled out of making eye contact with Jamie in their kissy-huggy moment of parting, and mumbled one of those reality-show platitudes: “Life is made of big decisions. You made a really big decision. I had to make one too.” He did look choked, to be fair for one second, but he did also look like the man who drowns kittens in a sack, and turned away utterly shame-faced. The best bit was Jamie’s flouncy exit during which the other three judges beamed benignly behind him and couldn’t take their eyes off his defiant strut.
Today, Jamie posted this equally defiant new cover of Paul Weller’s Brand New Start, videoed beneath chintz lampshades while perched on a cushion. Two fingers up to suburbia.
Take me to the moon: Marr with his new Signature Jaguar
❚ YES, THIS IS ONE MASSIVE product plug but, wow, Johnny makes it also sound like a mighty love affair. From his fame with The Smiths, Johnny Marr is indisputably the maestro of the UK rock guitar sound of the 80s. Today on his blog he introduces his own bespoke guitar, the Johnny Marr Signature Jaguar, which he has spent years developing with Fender, the Arizona instrument maker.
This 14-minute video amounts to a low-key masterclass by one of the all-time greats in his field. In a play-through of all the Jag’s functions and switches, Johnny details what goes into customising a guitar to meet the individual musician’s needs. He has dealt with each little niggle that has irritated him over the years, the biggest being the jazz switch, he says, which was prone to being thrown at the wrong moment.
Johnny concludes: “For someone who’s grown up from being a little boy thinking that guitars are the greatest object in the world bar none, to have designed your own is a little bit like designing the spaceship that went to the moon.”
His verdict: “It sounds like I’m supposed to sound, I think.”
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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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