Tag Archives: Steve Dagger

1979 ➤ Spandau’s manager Steve Dagger tells of two offers to sign his band at their debut

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Spandau Ballet’s debut beneath festive bunting: Steve Strange in PX frills introduces the new band at the Blitz Christmas party in December 1979… Tony Hadley supercool in collar, tie, waistcoat and overcoat, Martin Kemp in jaunty trilby with Steve Norman beyond

On the 40th anniversary of Spandau Ballet’s debut
performance at London’s Blitz club spearheading
the post-punk new wave, the band’s manager
Steve Dagger publishes his eye-witness account…

❏ On the 5th of December 1979, Spandau Ballet was born. After a year in metamorphosis and following a successful preview show two weeks before at Halligan’s rehearsal studios, when they were named by journalist and broadcaster to be, Robert Elms, Spandau Ballet emerged onto the stage and into the world at the Blitz on the occasion of Steve Strange and Rusty Egan’s Christmas party in 1979.

Much has been written about the Blitz and its extraordinary position as a cultural funnel at the beginning of the 80s. But Spandau Ballet’s two performances there and subsequent meteoric rise to success did much to drive this tiny club and its spectacular clientele into the headlines and its ethos into popular culture and serve as the template to the 80s.

What happened that night?

No band had played before at a Steve Strange/Rusty Egan event, so the audience was not used to seeing live music in this context. Music was normally provided by Rusty Egan’s DJing, an extraordinary montage of epic electronica which seemed to give a tantalizing glimpse of a future we were all going to take part in.

How would “Spandau Ballet” be received? The preview show had gone incredibly well, so a handful of our friends and key faces on the scene had seen the band already, liked them and spread the word. But it was an impossibly cool crowd. Whether they were fashion students, artists, embryonic designers, wannabe writers, film directors or just London’s coolest of the cool night people, they all had an opinion of themselves and everything else.

The usual crowd was supplemented by a sprinkling of older cognoscenti, a Chelsea crowd who had become aware of the Blitz scene. The likes of Keith Wainwright, uber-cool hairdresser of Smile; artist Dougie Fields to name but a few, plus some musicians who had been drawn to the Blitz. Richard Burgess of Landscape (Spandau Ballet producer to be), Midge Ure of Ultravox and Billy Idol, Steve Severin of Siouxsie and the Banshees and Marco Pirroni of Adam & The Ants.

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Spandau Ballet’s second Blitz date, January 1980, most sporting bow ties: Gary Kemp on synth at left, Tony Hadley as vocalist, with Steve Norman and Martin Kemp on guitars held high in their anti-rock stance

So the battle lines were drawn and into the valley death… Actually, the band were much less nervous than they had been for the preview show and also excited about playing in “their” club. When Rusty’s music stopped and they got onto the tiny stage there was a degree of anticipation and curiosity. I think the band realised collectively it was now or never and they seized the moment and started to play confidently and with a bit of swagger. Some of the audience danced, some applauded but almost everyone watched.

Tony sang brilliantly. The set which included most of the songs on “Journeys to Glory” fitted the club. Spandau Ballet fitted the club. “To Cut a Long Story” sounded like a massive hit.

Halfway through the set I was feeling quietly confident and was standing by the mixing desk next to the sound engineer when I became aware of a man standing next to me. He spoke to me.
“Who is this band?”
“It’s Spandau Ballet,” I said.
The new name sounded f*cking great.
“Which record label are they signed to?”
“They aren’t signed.”
“Who is their manager.”
“I am,” I said proudly.
“Well I am Chris Blackwell and I own Island Records, and I would like to sign them.”

First gig as Spandau Ballet… 5-0 up. Another man approached me. He was Danny Goodwin from Peninsula Music Publishing. He wanted to sign them too.

Spandau Ballet, Blitz Club, New Romantics, Steve Strange, London, Heritage award,The band finished their set. I could not wait to go backstage into the tiny dressing room to talk to them. We had all worked very hard for this moment. They were about to become a very important band. The only band that could play in the Blitz. The most important club in the world at that time. Everyone in the Blitz that night was hugely complimentary and positive about them.

We owned the space, we had claimed it. We were about to go through the looking glass and our lives were never going to be the same. The next day, I spoke to Chris Blackwell on the phone and arranged to meet him in a pub. He was softly spoken, charming and very cool. He owned the coolest record label in the world – Bob Marley, Roxy Music, Traffic, Free, Spencer Davis – and he wanted to sign Spandau Ballet. Now. He even gave me a list of lawyers he recommended to act for the band.

It all felt a little strange but somehow like it was all supposed to happen like this. I felt unbelievably relaxed and comfortable, empowered, and the band very confident, entitled energised. Uncrowned Princes of pop culture all of a sudden. We turned him down. But that is another story.

© Steve Dagger
First published today at Spandau Ballet’s website

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
1980, Strange days, strange nights, strange people

Spandau Ballet,Evening Standard, Blitz Club, New Romantics, Steve Strange

Steve Strange’s first interview with the Evening Standard, 24 Jan 1980, telling us of Spandau Ballet’s second performance that day

RARE VIDEO OF THE BLITZ A-BUZZ:


❏ You won’t find much authentic filmed footage inside the Blitz Club because so little exists and many posts claiming to show the Blitz at YouTube do not. The brief but glorious clip we see above captures the visual excess of its dancefloor in Spandau Ballet’s 2014 biopic Soul Boys of the Western World. The interiors come from Lyndall Hobbs’ short doc about London tribes called Steppin’ Out, shot in the summer of 1979. The first half-minute here comes from a TV report showing Blitz Kids gathering outside Sloane Square underground station to celebrate Steve Strange’s 21st birthday on a Circle Line train on 28 May 1980. We hear Martin Kemp voicing the sequence which zooms in on him at 23 seconds. The black-and-white stills collaged into the segment are Shapersofthe80s originals, and the closing seconds are from LWT’s 20th-Century Box.

Spandau Ballet, Blitz Club, New Romantics, Heritage award,

Heritage award from the Performing Rights Society: In September 2014 Spandau Ballet returned to the site of the Blitz Club to see a plaque installed remembering their debut. The club’s original neon sign was also present for the photoshoot

SPANDAU RECALL THE BLITZ IN 2014:

➢ Previously… 1980, The Invisible Hand of Shapersofthe80s
draws a selective timeline for the unprecedented
rise and rise of Spandau Ballet

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➤ Thanks, Steve, for my invitation to the Swinging 80s

Blitz Kids, New Romantics, Observer Music Magazine, Derek Ridgers,Spandau Ballet, Steve Dagger, Steve Strange, Tipping points,London, Media, Politics, Pop music, Swinging 80s,,

The Observer Music Magazine, Oct 4, 2009. Pictures © by Derek Ridgers

MARKING THE FOURTH ANNIVERSARY
OF STEVE STRANGE’S DEATH

WHEN MY PHONE RANG IN JANUARY 1980, little did I realise its message meant: “Put out the cat. You’re coming to the party of your life.” The voice on the other end spoke without pausing: “My name’s Steve Strange and I run a club called the Blitz on Tuesdays and I’m starting a cabaret night on Thursdays with a really great new band…. they combine synthesised dance music for the future with vocals akin to Sinatra, they’re called Spandau Ballet and they’re going to be really big. . .”

➢ Click through to continue reading Yours Truly’s eye-witness account of Spandau Ballet, the Blitz Kids and the birth of the New Romantics at The Observer Music Magazine

➢ Elsewhere at Shapers of the 80s:
The Invisible Hand of Shapersofthe80s draws a selective
timeline for the break-out year of 1980

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2018 ➤ Dad band Spandau preen with pride for Ross their newly adopted son

pop music, media, rebirth, Ross William Wild, Spandau Ballet, concert, spandauballetlive, Subterania,

A confident debut with Spandau Ballet: Ross William Wild at Subterania last night

pop music, media, rebirth, Ross William Wild, Spandau Ballet, concert, spandauballetlive, Subterania,

Ross William Wild’s debut with Spandau Ballet: from left, Martin, Ross, Steve and Gary

AND WHAT TOUR DE FORCE the entire band made of Spandau Ballet’s rebirth last night to showcase their new singer Ross William Wild who effortlessly filled the space onstage vacated by Tony Hadley. At the age of 30 Aberdeen-reared Ross could easily be the son of any of the Spandau dads around him, yet he had infused new energy into them to inspire one of the tightest all-round performances in recent years. He embodies all a lead singer should: energy, confidence, instantly likeability and a strong singing voice that almost never sounds like his predecessor.

Ross was announced by the tabloids as an Elvis Presley impersonator so it was a relief that this is not what we saw or heard: in fact the inflexions in his singing voice do reflect his principal experience in musical theatre, most recently in The Million Dollar Quartet, The Witches of Eastwick, and We Will Rock You. And though in the Noughties he was the lead singer in a nu-metal band called Lethal Dosage, Ross performs with shoulders, arms, hips, feet – in fact, his entire body just as you’d expect in a stage musical.

pop music, media, rebirth, Ross William Wild, Spandau Ballet, concert, spandauballetlive, Subterania,

Spandau’s rebirth set list

From Spandau’s nostalgically involved opening hit Through the Barricades, Ross made each of the set’s 13 hit numbers his own (with almost as many changes of shirt!).

Spotlit on a darkened stage, his first three minutes were a vocal slow-burn alongside a masterly Gary Kemp on solo guitar. It was a daring move to persuade us to listen. By the second line, as he gave vibrato to the lyric, Ross was evidently “feeling strong”, and from here on he introduced us to his voice in gentle stages, slowly raising the temperature, until the pause. . . Then: bam-bam! Keeble’s drums announced the bombast of Barricades proper, and Ross let rip to command centre-stage, amid the familiar Spandau front-line on vocals. They climaxed with a big sound in an intimate clubby space, up close to 500 of their fans. What a statement of intent!

HEAR ROSS’S FIRST VERSE OF ‘BARRICADES’


Ross excelled in another emotional classic Only When You Leave, had the audience eating out of his spiralling hand for Round and Round, pogoing through Lifeline, and by the encore the hot summer’s evening had him stripped down to a vest as he gloriously re-energised To Cut a Long Story Short to sound like a brand-new number. Amazingly, at the bar afterwards, Ross said he was intrigued by its lyrics since he first heard this hit from 1980, but read none of Gary Kemp’s meaning into it or the lyrical quotation it contains. He imagines it is set in the first world war trenches and reflects the strange solitude of the soldier.

➢ Click to hear Rusty Egan’s 2h16m deejay set
recorded live at the Subterania Club before
Spandau Ballet’s rebirth concert

The band’s families and friends turned out along with veteran Blitz Kids and Beat Routers (smashing to see you again, genial doorman Ollie O’Donnell) who could all be seen grooving to Rusty Egan’s unique mixes at the after-party. Sentimental as ever, Martin Kemp had announced from the stage that last night’s venue, Subterania beneath Westway at Portobello Road, was chosen because in its days as Acklam Hall community centre, the original Spandau lineup had played a benefit there under their early name, Gentry, on Saturday 24 February 1979. In the after-bash I recognised the curly-haired photographer Denis O’Regan who was at work with his camera. Spookily I’d just posted one of his seminal band images here at Shapersofthe80s on my own tribute revisit to 1980 when Denis had posed the band in his studio and uplit them to create the dramatic shot of Spandau which became the expressionist motif of their live performance that spring at the Scala Cinema.

Verdicts from the band on their young vocalist are breathless. Gary Kemp said: “Ross’s great talent and passion has given us the confidence to continue.” Drummer John Keeble who drove the show with his usual percussive enthusiasm said: “I bonded with Ross over our mutual love of rock music. He may have come up through the theatres but he loves bands like Tool.” Steve Norman added: “He’s also a right nice bloke. We struck lucky.” [I often wonder whether Steve realises just how richly musical his own sax playing is! Ben Webster will be smiling benignly at this.]

pop music, media, rebirth, Ross William Wild, Spandau Ballet, concert, spandauballetlive, Subterania, Jaco Norman,

At the after-party: Ross William Wild shares song-writing ambitions with Steve Norman’s son Jaco

pop music, media, rebirth, Ross William Wild, Spandau Ballet, concert, spandauballetlive, Subterania, Steve Dagger

Patrolling the audience during Spandau’s rebirth gig: their trusty manager Steve Dagger evidently chuffed to bits at their new singer

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s: The Spandau show must go on and Oh, the Wild voice!

➢ More Spandau Ballet at Twitter where a one-off concert is now booking for Apollo Hammersmith on 29 October

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2018 ➤ Revealed: The secret role of Shapersofthe80s in the rise and rise of Spandau Ballet

Spandau Ballet, 1980,Scala Cinema, performance,

A photograph never before published: sharply styled Spandau Ballet in 1980 playing the dramatically lit Scala Cinema gig that eventually brought the record companies scrambling to sign them. Photograph by Steve Brown

FIRST COMES THIS UNAUTHORISED BOOK that tells the world there were two bands called Spandau Ballet back in 1979 and turns over the whole myth about where their name came from. There are a least two huge marmalade-dropper revelations, plus several dozen eye-openers about the birth of Blitz culture, however well you think you knew the early 80s. The author David Barrat even knows John Keeble’s middle name. In fact he gives us everybody’s middle name, just to prove his overdue diligence. Barrat is also very revealing about the band’s legal falling-out that ended in the high court before an apparently congenial judge who quite liked their music.

Then out of the blue I find there are about 100 shockingly well-informed pages not exactly about me, long before this website existed, but following my every footstep through every month of 1980 as the second SB with the stolen name takes its first tentative steps toward a record deal and the UK charts all within a single year – which was indeed good going for a new band by any standards. Very flatteringly Barrat suggests that I am waving some Invisible Hand behind the scenes to make the Spandau magic happen and actually writes that “their success can be pinned on one Evening Standard journalist”. Talk about blush!

New Romantics Who Never Were: The Untold Story of Spandau Ballet, David Barrat, Orsam Books, pop music, historySo what we’re doing here today is offering a modest extract from Barrat’s book for you to read how he theorises about my ducking and diving as a regular young journalist about town who suddenly fell into five years of rollicking night-clubbing. Then on an inside page you can read my own parallel account of falling under the spell of the real Svengali, Steve Dagger, Spandau’s manager. I blow the gaff on his game called Squeeze the Lemon.

David Barrat says he became “just an ordinary fan of the band” at the age of 16, who two decades later created a cult SB-related MSN group online called Deformation. It focussed on three subjects: 1, origins of the band’s name; 2, whether SB were real “New Romantics” or not, as a friend’s mum claimed; 3, the legal battle that tore the band apart in the late 1990s. He tackles other questions such as “When was Gary Kemp visited at home by a bishop? What was the real story behind Bob Geldof’s idea for the Band Aid Christmas single?” All the while he unnervingly debunks myths put about by celebrities with faulty memories.

He has also dug up a mass of colourful detail about London clubland in the past when the police were as dodgy as the club-owners, the notorious Roxy in particular, which adds quite a bit to the sum of human knowledge.

So tuck into Barrat’s own book in the extract embedded here as a PDF which will open in a new window. Then contrast it with my own account at the link below.

David Barrat

Click on this image to read the David Barrat book extract

WHEN YOU’RE READY FOR MY OWN STORY…

➢ 1980 was one frantic year – Follow my version of Spandau Ballet’s unprecedented rise, penned by the Invisible Hand of Shapersofthe80s

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
Spooky or what? When two bands went by the name of Spandau Ballet – the most amazing revelation made in Barrat’s book

Spandau Ballet , Papagayo Club,pop music, St Tropez

Spandau Ballet on the beach in St Tropez 1980: a fortnight in the sun courtesy of the Papagayo Club before they’d even signed a deal! (Photographer unknown)

➢ Click to buy New Romantics Who Never Were: The Untold Story of Spandau Ballet, by David Barrat, from Orsam Books, 330pp, £16.99

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1968 ➤ Why Ogdens was little Stevie Marriott’s ejector seat out of the Small Faces

Small Faces, pop music, Swinging 60s

Small Faces 1968: Ian McLagan, Steve Marriott, Kenney Jones, Ronnie Lane, plus producer Glyn Johns

➢ As the Small Faces’ Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake
turns 50 today, Ron Hart at Billboard invites stars
to pay tribute – 24 May 2018:

There was one album from 1968 that distilled all the bombast and buffoonery of the singularly themed song cycle in pop music, housed in a round LP jacket miming the vintage tobacco tin it was named after. Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake was the fourth LP by East London’s Small Faces, a mod quartet who set themselves apart not only by their uniformly demure stature among its members — guitarist/vocalist Steve Marriott, bassist/vocalist Ronnie Lane, keyboardist Ian McLagan and drummer Kenney Jones — but their heavy influence on the grittier end of the R&B/soul spectrum that was propelling many of the British Invasion bands.

Small Faces, plaques, pop music, Swinging 60s

Green commemorative plaque to the Small Faces erected in 2007 by Westminster council in Carnaby Street

Under the recording guidance of the great Glyn Johns – who had also spent ’68 already working on a ton of other albums including Beggars Banquet by the Rolling Stones, the second Traffic LP and the debut from The Pentangle – the group pushed their art beyond the pop charts and toward a more adventurous strain of their signature sound. The sense of raggedness exhibited by the band upon their return from an Australian tour opening for The Who is quite palpable in the mix as well. . . / Continued at Billboard online

❏ Stevie went on to join Peter Frampton in Humble Pie – he writes in Billboard: “Ogdens’ was the best Small Faces album for me. It was just after its release that I first met Steve Marriott and Ronnie Lane, and there was talk of me joining the band as the fifth member as well. They were always one of my most favourite bands from Whatcha Gonna Do About It onwards. This album’s great material and concept are what made it their finest work. Its eye-catching round cover made it unique before you even heard the music. Love this record.”

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
Peter Frampton on how Bowie changed my life at Bromley Tech

THE DAY WE MET OUR ICON LITTLE STEVIE

California ,pop music, Steve Marriott , Martin Kemp, John Keeble, Steve Dagger, Sam Brown

Backstage after his San Fernando gig 1983: Steve Marriott at centre of his admiring fans, clockwise, Spandau Ballet’s Martin Kemp, John Keeble, record-company dude David Levy, Steve Dagger, Sam Brown – plus Yours Truly holding the camera

IT WAS MARTIN KEMP WHO’D HAD ENOUGH of the schmoozy dinner laid on by his record label while Spandau Ballet were touring the USA on the back of their chart-topping True in November 1983. They had a package of TV shows and other promos scheduled in Los Angeles which made a trip to join them on the West Coast more fun, but this dinner was yawning a bit. “You won’t guess who’s playing a gig tonight at a country club just up the Valley,” said Martin: “Steve Marriott!” Well you couldn’t have offered any better temptation to those of us with Mod sensibilities than our hero from the Small Faces, who back then had settled in the States and never stopped working the club circuit with his own dedicated band, however humble the venue. Since impresario Don Arden had defaulted on the Small Faces’ unpaid royalties, Stevie had moved to California to escape monstrous tax liabilities in the UK.

Within minutes Martin had inquired how far the venue was and had laid on a limo for all who were keen to zoom off to Stevie’s late-night show. These amounted to the ultimate Mod, Spandau manager Steve Dagger, drummer Johnny Keeble, Sam Brown (providing backing vocals on the tour), plus yours truly and the local record company hand-holder David Levy. The rest of the Spands had made other arrangements so our party of six squeezed into the limo and roared off up the Valley for a truly exceptional bonus to a long day.

The sad truth was that the big-name Reseda Country Club was a yawning cavern containing 1,000 seats, and the Marriott band’s audience numbered literally about 20 people including ourselves. Nevertheless, the minute his quartet hit the stage they made a sound so tight it could have thrilled a stadium, while Stevie the consummate pro delivered that oh-so-fabulous voice, albeit slightly rasping at the ripe age of 36, and brought full value to a good few piquant hits from the Small Faces and Humble Pie, including All Or Nothing.

Martin Kemp ,John Keeble, Steve Marriott, band, pop music, live, Spandau Ballet

Utterly chuffed: Martin Kemp and John Keeble stumbled by chance across this Steve Marriott gig in 1983 – that’s him live onstage here in the San Fernando Valley

I wasn’t going to pass up the chance of going down to the stage to shoot off a sentimental roll of film but the biggest surprise came at the end of easily one of the 10 best sets I’ve heard in my life. Sam Brown said since we were here we really ought to go backstage and say Hi to Stevie – whereupon the Spands all revealed the genuine humility of real fans and mumbled stuff about not dreaming of barging in on him. Whereupon Sam announced she knew Stevie very well through her dad, the 60s legend Joe Brown, who of course knew Marriott of old.

The result you see above: a fab souvenir photo of our chirpy hero who was tickled pink to hear some authentic British vowels while on the road. The pow-wow was a blast all round. Eight years later, little Stevie Marriott, one of the greatest talents in British pop, died in a blaze at his Essex cottage.

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