Kilted leaders of the New Romantics in 1980: Spandau Ballet plus their entourage of Blitz Kids travelled to Birmingham’s Botanic Gardens to play their eighth live date. (Photograph by Shapersofthe80s)
[Updated Feb 12]
❚ WITH A TITLE AS ZEALOUS AS any of their New Romantic songs from 1980, Soul Boys of the Western World is the documentary movie about the time Spandau Ballet became the musical leaders of London’s underground clubland. For two years they were the trendiest creatures on the planet as they reshaped British music and fashion, believe it. The 102-minute biopic is to be premiered on March 12 in the 24 Beats Section of the prestige new-media conference SXSW in Austin, Texas, running March 7–16. To complete the first reunion of the whole band since their 2010 tour ended, singer Tony Hadley will be flying out to join Gary, Martin, John and Steve at the screening.
Fans who imagine they can gate-crash, however, will be seriously stymied by the price of registration for the film programme which increases to $650 the later you book. Before travelling to Austin, Spandau fans are advised to ensure they have secured a ticket. Hints from the Spandau team suggest there may be more news soon.
The film contains no present-day pontificating from the band’s famously garrulous entourage of talking heads, only through vintage film footage telling their story as it unfolds. Steve Dagger, Spandau’s manager and its sixth member since the band was created and now the film’s co-producer, is impressed and excited by the extensive research which has been fanatically pursued for the past three years. Initiated by archive producer Kate Griffith, this has turned up many true gems of previously unseen footage even of the landmark “First Blitz invasion of America” with the Axiom fashion collective in 1981 which was located in only the past three months. Offcuts from footage of the band’s followers shot in Le Kilt club for BBC Newsnight were also discovered in a box that remained unopened for 30 years. There are also clips from the band’s home movies.
Songwriter Gary Kemp is over the moon at the painstaking finesse of the production led by Scott Millaney, one of the iconic producers of 80s pop videos. Kemp said last week: “People should be really knocked out by some of the material we’ve discovered.”
Director George Hencken aims to takes audiences through the cultural, political and personal landscapes of Britain as the Swinging 80s burst from the recessionary gloom of the 70s. Soul Boys Of The Western World explores life inside the bubble of global superstardom when British pop music ruled the world. Spandau Ballet themselves believe the film to be “a brutally honest story of how friendships can be won, lost and ultimately regained”.
Nomad warriors on the streets of north London, 1981: Spandau Ballet dressed for their Musclebound video. Martin Kemp called his the Mad Monk outfit. (Promotional pic for the documentary film, Soul Boys of the Western World)
❚ SONGWRITER GARY KEMP recalls the 2009-10 Reformation Tour by his pioneering New Romantic band Spandau Ballet, to be screened as a 2 hours 30 mins broadcast on Sky Arts this weekend:
“ The Reformation Tour was a coming back together I never thought would happen. After years of fighting, this tour taught us that being Spandau Ballet is a thing to be proud of. It turned out to be the best and most successful tour we ever did. If there’s one piece of evidence I’d like to leave for posterity it would be this film. ”
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Steve Norman snapped by Neil Matthews for Flexipop! The location is Parliament Hill lido in north London in 1981. In the caption fit Steve Norman reports: “I love scuba diving. Funnily enough, I’ve never caught one yet.”
❚ A GREAT MUSICAL PARTNERSHIP lands on the Mediterranean island of Ibiza tomorrow. Fresh from their pop-up jam sessions at the Cannes film fest, two former 80s Blitz Kids – Spandau Ballet’s sax-percussionist Steve Norman plus Visage drummer and club deejay Rusty Egan – continue their working holiday in the sun. Getaway hedonists can catch their storming double act at the Nassau Beach Club on Playa D’en Bossa, fortnightly on Mondays until September.
It’s a trick they’ve been pulling at smart parties and corporate events ever since Spandau asked Egan to introduce their Reformation reunion tour performances at London’s O2 in 2009. There, as a warm-up before the show, the deejay reminded audiences of the synth soundtrack to the New Romantic era – electronic Blitz Club classics by The Normal, Gina X, Kraftwerk and the like. The chemistry was apt: Egan was co-founder of the original 80s Blitz club-night, while Spandau Ballet emerged from its members in 1979 as the house band who put the rhythms of the new decade into the charts.
After the Reformation tour, Norman and Egan teamed up to develop a deejay-led set enhanced with live saxophone, percussion and any other instruments the versatile Steve laid his hands on.
May 28 update: no sign of first-night nerves as Steve makes friends at Nassau Beach Club. Photograph from Kitita Pastrana (centre)
On the phone from Cannes this week Steve said: “We’re playing soulful deep house, four on the floor. With me vibing on top of Rusty’s music, it gives an audience something to focus on. It’s always nice to see somebody hit hell out of the bongos!”
For Steve this kind of bongo-bashing started in 1988. “My mate Deuce Barter said I should come down to his Passion club in Maidenhead and meet Joe Becket. We went head to head in a battle of the bongos playing live over house music and we hit it off. On the strength of that battle I asked Joe if he would like to join Spandau Ballet on the 1989-90 tour. He was gobsmacked.” Later, Joe Bongo was to become the regular percussionist in Steve’s band Cloudfish after Spandau split.
In 1993 Steve made his home in Ibiza and during 12 years there he introduced his idea of improvising live with the deejay at a club residency in San Antonio. “It was an extension of my antics with Spandau. I’m the one who moved around the stage. I’d climb up on a speaker with my sax, flying by seat of my pants, feeling very exposed up there, so I’d pull out all the stops.”
These days, though billing themselves as Electronic Beach Club, Steve insists the musical collaboration with Egan is “definitely not to be lumped in with the retro movement”. EBC have moved on from 80s sounds to contemporary club music, interspersed with current mixes of classic tracks.
He says: “I do play Spandau mixes. In an uptempo version of True by Deep Mind I just lay down the sax and Rusty drops in the Oakenfold mix and I switch to heavy percussion. We also do Fade to Grey mixed up with Magic Fly. That’s his little nod to the original Visage.”
Last autumn, Steve scoped out the Nassau Beach Club during his first visit to Ibiza in four years and he’s basing himself there with Rusty for the summer. “It’s my second home, where I left a little piece of me. It’s where my son Jack was brought up and daughter Lara was born and I struggle to accept I’m not still there. I’m trying to convince Mrs Preston Norman to come out and drag herself away from the dog and cat at our cottage in Hampshire.
Nassau Beach Club
“What’s new on Ibiza is this idea of beach clubs. I remember when the Blue Marlin was just a few tables and chairs on the sand, now it’s become a nightclub on the beach. These places are springing up all over the island. After chilling out by day, people are ready to go for it by night. At the Nassau Club there’s a stage area on the beach where Rusty plays a set 5-8pm, with me raising the tempo.”
Creatively, the Norman-Egan team want to make more music together. Steve says: “I’ve done a sax track on Rusty’s album project and we still hope to do a track together.” On July 18 Steve will be a “gun for hire” joining an all-star supergroup called Holy Holy at the massive Latitude Festival in Suffolk, when London’s ICA presents Bowiefest, a celebration of the Ziggy/Aladdin year of 1973. The line-up so far features Clem Burke of Blondie, James Stevenson of Generation X, Gary Stondage of Big Audio Dynamite, Traci Hunter and Maggi Ronson on BVs.
Speculation grows around another reunion by Spandau Ballet. What can be confirmed is the epic documentary film by Scott Millaney, Soul Boys of the Western World, due out next spring. Steve promises his own exclusive discovery. “I found an old home movie from 1977 made by my dad on Standard 8. You see us pre-Spandau all performing up the road from Tony’s for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee celebrations – at a street party.” Busking, obviously!
THIS SUMMER’S SUN-AND-SEA SOUNDS
Rusty Egan in action with his Traktor Scratch Pro
❏ Hot from Rusty Egan on his Lilo: “I’m playing chilled beach mixes and remixes of classic tracks like True by Deep Mind, and electro pop such as Kate Bush’s This Woman’s Work (Echoes Remix), some cool house with Grass Is Greener’s Start Again, and Lewis Lastella’s remixes of Depeche Mode’s Enjoy The Silence and New Order’s Blue Monday.”
Kate Bush remixed above, Depeche Mode remixed below
+++ ➢ Footnote to the top pic – In Dec 1980 Flexipop! was launched as a plastic 7-inch disc with an overexcitable magazine attached. It was invented by music journalists Tim Lott and his business partner at the time, Barry Cain. It made the career of “Smudger” Neil Matthews, one-third of the official New Romantic photography contingent (along with Graham Smith and Shapersofthe80s), and his pix were exhumed late last year in archive form at a Flexipop Facebook page.
❚ BEING REVEALED currently on Facebook, two major Spandau Ballet announcements. First the biography of the band, a superior coffee-table photobook, Spandau the True Story, which records the entire career of the Angel Boys from Islingon, penned by their longtime shadow Paul “Scoop” Simper and published by the prestige celebrity publisher Genesis. It features unseen pictures taken not only by clubland mate Graham “Heroes” Smith, but also by Shapersofthe80s – the team who were there from the start of the New Romantic story.
A second announcement tonight heralds the movie Soul Boys of The Western World, a feature-length documentary containing much unseen vintage footage, produced by Grammy Award-winner Scott Millaney who was a founding member of the promo video company MGMM in the 80s just as the British music industry boomed. His company produced over 1,000 pop promos including Video Killed the Radio Star, Vienna, Dancing in the Street and Rio.
“Scoop” Simper, today an executive celebrity writer at The Sun who wrote the film’s treatment, said tonight: “There is wonderful footage of the Spandau mums and dads when they were all still with us. And never-before-seen footage from Los Angeles and Australia when the band were in their pop pomp. All the band have contributed voiceovers.”
Spandau manager Steve Dagger reveals that a case full of early film footage of the band has been discovered recently. This includes offcuts not used in a prominent TV item just before release of the band’s third single Musclebound in March 1981, and aired on the BBC teatime news magazine Nationwide. Just as the phrase New Romantics was coming into wider use by both media and an emerging generation of UK image bands, including Duran Duran, the BBC cameras capture what Dagger calls “priceless cavortings” within Soho’s heaving Beat Route club.
There’s also a whole film sequence in Jon “Mole” Baker’s shop off Carnaby Street, where Spandau members are seen trying on a variety of outfits by the Axiom collective of designers, which were to be shown in a New York runway show two months later, in what became the “First Blitz invasion” of the US, organised by both the band and the former Blitz Kid fashionistas. These Axiom collections received another runway show at Steve Strange’s Club for Heroes in London in the autumn of ’81, by which time the charts were ablaze with new slipstream bands and British street style began to explode.
❏ On tonight’sJonathan Ross Show Gary and Martin Kemp (pictured below) were talking about their new TV series Gangs of Britain, due to air on the Crime & Investigation Network (Sky 553 and Virgin 237) on Sundays from April 21 at 9pm BST. It’s three years since Spandau Ballet played live together so the killer question is whether they might reunite for another tour? Gary told Ross: “I pretty much guarantee we’ll do it again next year.” Martin added: “I hope so. I’ve never laughed as much as that year [on the Reformation Tour]. Just to have that year of getting your best friends back together was so lovely. I would say it was the best year of my life.”
❏ Tomorrow night, if you’re viewing the 1990 British movie The Krays on ITV4 at 9pm BST, Martin and Gary Kemp will be tweeting along with the film. Viewers can take part by using the hashtag #KraysLive while watching the brothers recreating the villainy of the English gangsters Ronald and Reginald Kray who led organised crime in the East End of London during the 1950s and 1960s. ➢ Follow Martin @ Twitter ➢ Follow Gary @ Twitter
EXCLUSIVE PRINTS OF TRUE ARTWORK
❏ New on sale at theSpandau store is a limited edition 20 x 20-inch lithographic print embossed onto the highest quality 270gsm uncoated paper of the True album artwork by Spandau friend David Band, a Scottish artist who also designed sleeves for Altered Images and Aztec Camera and sadly died in Australia in 2011. Reproduced to celebrate Spandau’s 30th anniversary of their No 1 hit, each print is hand-signed (not reproduction signatures) by all members of Spandau Ballet, and hand-numbered by a professional scribe in a run of only 500 prints.
➢ 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”.
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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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