Click pic to open the Wham Rap! video in another window … “Man or mouse” Andrew Ridgeley establishes his group’s clubbing credentials in the opening shots of the Wham video by reading my cover story on Club Culture first published in The Face in 1983 and in recent years the No 1 read at Shapers of the 80s!
❚ OVER THE PAST 14 YEARS Shapers of the 80s has received 2.2 million views, according to year-ending stats measured by our host, WordPress. Our 850+ published items total half-a-million words, which is several times more than most books, so it pays to explore the various navigation buttons. Here are the half dozen posts which remained among the most popular with readers during 2022…
“No one does small-hours heartbreak quite like Sade”: The singer photographed in 1990 by David Graves
From aching soul to minimalist funk, Sade and her band don’t make many records but their quality has never waned. As a career box set is released, in today’s Guardian critic Alexis Petridis ranks their 20 best songs…
No 1: By Your Side (2000)
There’s a compelling argument that Lovers Rock is Sade’s masterpiece, a collection of deeply affecting meditations on parenthood, loss and race on which they simultaneously pared down and broadened out their sound: its tracks subtly encompass everything from hip-hop to reggae to singer-songwriter folksiness. And, in By Your Side, it has Sade’s greatest song: its hushed atmosphere not a million miles removed from Bob Marley’s No Woman No Cry, its melody so perfectly formed it feels instantly familiar, its lyrics simple but moving. How it isn’t the kind of modern standard that gets regularly murdered on The X Factor is an enduring mystery, although the 1975’s Auto-Tune-heavy cover is nice enough.
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. . . ”
Click pic to open the Wham Rap! video in another window … “Man or mouse” Andrew Ridgeley establishes his clubbing credentials – along with sidekick George Michael – in the opening shots of the Wham! video by reading this very Face cover story on Club Culture that you’re about to read!
THE MOST READ FEATURE ARTICLE AMONG 890,000 VIEWS SINCE THE LAUNCH OF SHAPERS OF THE 80s
➢ Spandau Ballet, the Blitz Kids and the birth of the New Romantics — This much-recycled account originally penned by Shapers of the 80s tells who did what to make stars out of a club houseband, change the rhythm of the UK charts — and ultimately rejuvenate the British media. The obsessive fashionistas behind one small club in London in 1980 went on to dominate the international landscape of pop and fashion, while putting more British acts into the US Billboard charts than the 1960s ever achieved. Spandau Ballet songwriter Gary Kemp responded: “A superb piece. It will be referred to historically.”
➢ Three key men in Boy George’s life – In 2010 the BBC turned the pop star’s teens ’n’ twenties into a 90-minute drama of foot-stamping, chair-throwing, cry-baby tantrums over his self-confessed “dysfunctional romances”, all of which he had documented in his eye-wateringly frank 1995 autobiography, Take It Like a Man. Shapers of the 80s summarises George O’Dowd’s stormy lovelife.
At home in Kentish Town Chris Sullivan chooses the right zootsuit for today’s mood: his wardrobe is legendary, his taste impeccable, and his influence immeasurable. Shapersofthe80s shot this for his first Evening Standard interview in June 1981
◼ SHAPERS OF THE 80S TELLS THE DEFINITIVE STORY of a subcultural revolution in British music and style 30 years ago. Its detonator was a youthful blast of impossible trendiness and its stars didn’t call themselves New Romantics, or the Blitz Kids – but other people did. This site gathers together the eye-witness journalism and photography of one observer who knew a good time when he saw one and was published in the coolest titles of the day.
Now in its fifth year, this site has attracted a total of 722,500 views since its launch, according to year-ending WordPress stats. The figures also identify the 20 most widely read items out of more than 600 posted here. Most of these pieces were first published back in the day, but seven of the Top 20 items reflect the continuing interest expressed through the recent 80s revival. In many ways, London is again displaying all the symptoms of being the world’s most swinging city, as it was in the 60s and the 80s, when there were a galaxy of reasons to hit the town every single night of the week.
The difference seven months made: In May 1980 The Face launched with Jerry Dammers of the Specials on its cover. By November the new direction was Bowie plus a feature on The Cult With No Name, as the New Romantics were first known
Left, real Blitz Kids – right, the TV version… George’s boyfriend Wilf and fashion student Stephen Linard in 1979 (picture, Andy Rosen)… Daniel Wallace as a Linard lookalike and Douglas Booth as Boy George in Worried About the Boy, 2010 (BBC)
Seminal spread in i-D issue one: the straight-up style of photography is established with, at left, one then unknown New Romantic and, right, one punkette. Photographed on the King’s Road by Steve Johnston
➢ Choose “View full site” – then in the blue bar atop your mobile page, click the three horizontal lines linking to many blue themed pages with background articles.
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
LANDMARK FAREWELLS. . . HIT THE INDEX TAB UP TOP FOR EVERYTHING ELSE
We respect copyright, and are happy to give credit to a photographer’s work and try to seek permission first. If you own images published here and wish them to be removed, simply ask.
Reblogging is theft, so whenever you recycle any picture for your own use, please credit the photographer or artist (living or dead), and seek permission to reproduce it. Their livelihoods (and those of their families) often depend on fair dealing