Tag Archives: theblitzclub

➤ Visage: out of the 80s frying pan into the 21st-century fire

Steve Strange, Visage,Shameless Fashion

The face of Visage today: Steve Strange behaving shamelessly. Peter Ashworth Photography. Makeup by Lara Himpelmann

Visage 1979: Rusty Egan, John McGeoch, Barry Adamson, Dave Formula, Billy Currie, Steve Strange, Midge Ure. Photographed © by Sheila Rock

Visage 1979: Rusty Egan, John McGeoch, Barry Adamson, Dave Formula, Billy Currie, Steve Strange, Midge Ure. Photographed © by Sheila Rock

❚ THE STUDIO BAND VISAGE were central to defining the electropop sounds of 1980 thanks to the musical nous of Midge Ure, who had bought his first synthesiser in 1978 because he felt synths “embodied a kind of nostalgia for the future”. He’d been faffing around with Glen Matlock, Steve New and drummer Rusty Egan in the 60s-flavoured one-hit power pop group Rich Kids, and sensed an appetite in the zeitgeist for a more soulful version of Kraftwerk plus a return to melody. Intent on making vibrant dance music for the “visa age”, Ure dreamed up the name Visage, complete with simplified face as its logo,  for an new experimental band. Initially Ure rehearsed updating In The Year 2525, using up some spare Rich Kids time booked in an EMI studio. There he played around on synth and drum machine, then asked Egan to take over the drums.

They co-opted Rusty’s flamboyant Welsh pal Steve Strange as face-painted frontman to give visual expression to a range of what were being called “moderne” fashions. Dressing up in the face of a grinding economic recession was the destiny that Bowie’s children were to fulfil. Visage’s songs captured the sidelong humour and knowing irony that came to characterise the 80s, while their explosive backbeats, electronic fills and synth riffs changed the vocabulary of British chart pop. This TV generation dreamed in both sound and vision.

Supercool in ’78: Egan, Strange and Ure establish Visage

What Strange lacked in vocal proficiency he made up for in promotional value, since he soon became a walking advertisement for the cooler-than-cool clothes shop PX in Covent Garden where he was an assistant. Run by Stephane Raynor and Helen Robinson, they more than any other designers in 1980 set the template for New Romantics fashion, favouring oversized chemises, medieval doublets, breeches and frilly lace. The shop’s followers were soon dubbed posers, and the Pose Age was born. Disposable identities, portable events, looks not uniforms – for his disciples, Bowie’s imperatives became the norm.

As a studio project the original Visage lineup never played live, and was probably a case of too many cooks. In 1979 it took in four more musicians (Billy Currie, John McGeoch, Dave Formula, Barry Adamson), all of whom had loyalties to existing bands, while the creative drive came from Ure and Currie. Even so, Currie was persuading the restless Ure to help resurrect the synth band Ultravox following John Foxx’s departure. By 1982, when Ure quit Visage in favour of Ultravox, Visage had enjoyed four top-20 singles hits in the UK, two top-twenty albums with Visage and The Anvil, and a smattering of international hits with Fade to Grey.

As we now know, Ure went on to mastermind the Band Aid fundraising hit single in 1984, then the worldwide Live Aid charity concert with Bob Geldof, and duly earned himself an OBE.

Visage, Fade to Grey,albumsIn 1984 a Visage lineup comprising Strange and Egan along with newer members Andy Barnett, Steve and Gary Barnacle put out a so-so third album, but when it flopped they soon called it a day. The truth was that Visage failed to invest single-mindedly in themselves as a musical enterprise: their progress simmered rather than blazed as individuals pursued their own favoured goals. Occasional tracks sizzled on the dancefloor – In the Year 2525, Fade to Grey, Mind of a Toy, Night Train – but the band lacked unity and commitment.

❚ NOBODY CAN DENY STRANGE’S FIZZ and chutzpah which in 1979 coralled a disparate group of post-punk no-wavers and outcast fashionistas when he co-hosted the agenda-setting Neon Night at the Blitz Club in Covent Garden. It lit up London in an explosion of inventive fashion, gender-bending and ridiculous hair. As the club’s stand-out stars suddenly became media celebrities, these exponents of modern dance and stance began forcing the pace of change across the creative industries. Rusty Egan proved to be a mould-breaking deejay who often added his own Syndrum accompaniment at the turntable, and his live mixing did much to change the sound of clubland music. During the early 80s the pair went on to reshape London nightlife at two notable venues, Club for Heroes in Baker Street and the Camden Palace. At the end of the decade, dance music as we knew it was swept aside by the craze for E’s and rave. Egan then set out to make a fine reputation deejaying on London’s boutique nightclub circuit, while Strange can claim a ghosted autobiography as full of fantasy and foggy memories as you’d expect from an arch-poser who’d been out on the town every night for 20 years.

Roll forward to 2010. John Pitcher, who fronts a music services provider called MRC, established a Blitz Club record label and an associated website, and Strange and Egan launched it in January 2011 by throwing a Return to the Blitz party at the site of the former club. The event raised a few media ripples but little groundswell and only three remixes have been released in as many years. With 80s band revivals making waves all around them, that old Blitz magic had lost its charm. Egan said this week: “Pitcher registered everything for us, so he owns everything, including the website and the Visage brand.” Growing personal differences hindered collaboration between the three. These worsened last year when Egan made allegations that Strange had squandered a substantial sum of accrued Visage royalties paid via Strange and that he failed to share them among the original band lineup. This week Egan said: “Try telling John McGeoch’s daughter her dad’s [share] was spent by Strange.”

Visage, Steve Barnacle, Steve Strange, Lauren Duvall , Robin Simon

Visage 2013: Steve Barnacle, the inimitable Steve Strange, Lauren Duvall and Robin Simon. Photography © by David Levine

When Strange proposed reviving the band name of Visage after almost 30 years, neither Ure nor Egan could see the point and they disputed Strange’s right to do so. Ure told an American newspaper in January: “Visage was always something Rusty Egan and I created and controlled. The idea of doing a Visage 2 was never appealing to me so I wasn’t interested. I walked away from Visage when it got ridiculous and supremely hedonistic and I will probably leave it that way.” In response to Strange’s claim on German TV last November that Ure was collaborating on a new album together, Ure tweeted: “He is deluded if he thinks that. He knows that isn’t happening.”


➢ 2013, A couple of slaps in the Visage
as Strange and Egan squabble

Rusty Egan remains aggrieved that Strange has not resolved recent differences. He is angry that Strange should make any claim to creative input into Visage’s lyrics and music, and maintained this week: “Strange had nothing to do with the music in The Blitz or Visage.” In January Egan said: “There has never been a Visage album without me. It’s my group and Strange is a singer. He is not Visage.”

Yet for all this, and Strange’s sad personal saga of ill-health, the vocalist has doggedly set about persuading a new circle of supporters to bring Visage back to life. In the face of widespread disbelief – the garrulous Strange’s little weakness, after all, has always been for exaggeration and melodrama – last year he announced a new “Visage” lineup, with a gorgeous singer called Lauren Duvall, plus Steve Barnacle (fretless bass) and Robin Simon (guitar). Keyboardist Mick MacNeil, from Simple Minds, was enlisted to contribute on a range of vintage analogue synthesisers which include an early Moog Source.

At last, what is being called a fourth “Visage” album titled Hearts and Knives is due to be released on May 27.

“It has been 29 years since the last Visage album and during that period it often seems like we have all lived through several lifetimes,” says Strange. Indeed, “bruised and wounded” declare the rueful lyrics of Shameless Fashion, the new group’s first single, available this week. It isn’t clear whether this refers to the very many contributors we see jostling for credits on the new “Visage” packaging. The Visage 2013 camp is probably keeping fingers crossed.

➢ A free download of the new single Shameless Fashion is available from today at the Visage website

➢ 1980 at the Blitz, Strange days, strange nights, strange people


2012 ➤ Shapersofthe80s clocks up half a million page views

❚ YESTERDAY THIS BLITZ KIDS WEBSITE hit a total of 500,537 page views since we launched in autumn 2009. Last year visitor numbers doubled. See what were the hottest topics at Shapersofthe80s during 2011.


❏ In 1980 Spandau Ballet were the houseband of the Blitz Kids, whose New Romantic manifesto insisted that style was as important as their new synthesised brand of dance music. When London’s Blitz club hosts Steve Strange and Rusty Egan invented the notion of the once-a-week clubnight, they changed British nightlife habits for ever. Spandau’s music made no less a dramatic gear-change by placing the bass guitar and the bass drum at the front of the sound, as a driving rhythm for dancefloor movers. Within a year of their first hit, To Cut a Long Story Short, the rhythm of the UK pop charts shifted from the lead guitar to the 4:4 dance beat of the bass drum.

New Romantics, Blitz Kids,Spandau Ballet, John Keeble, 1980

Spandau at Heaven 1980: Keeble on drums. Pictured by © Shapersofthe80s

Spandau songwriter Gary Kemp claimed at the time: “RnB was the backbone of pop music from 1962 to 1980. And since then, funk. Dance rhythms are the musical basis for all rock bands now. Really, you can’t say ‘rock band’ any more because the music isn’t rhythm-and-blues.”

John Keeble (left): “It’s the difference between listening to funk instead of the RnB they all played in the Sixties.”+++ +++

➢ Keeble: what changed the rhythm of the pop charts


2012 ➤ Adam Ant: sex, subversion, style, humour but don’t nobble me as a New Romantic

Adam Ant, interview, New Romantics,Proud Camden, photography, live concert

Adam Ant: intensely serious. (Photograph newly posted at Facebook)

➢ Adam Ant, Dandy in the Underworld is a retrospective photographic exhibition at Proud Galleries in London, being launched with a charity performance by Adam and band on March 6, 2012. Hence a superbly considered interview with Decca Aitkenhead in today’s Guardian about surviving stardom, dealing with bipolar disorder and stuff…

Ant still gets annoyed when anyone muddles him up with the early 80s New Romantic scene: “Cos New Romantic was nothing to do with Adam and the Ants. The Ants was a punk band, or a post-punk band if anything, and so historically it’s inaccurate. New Romantic was basically, in my mind, clubbers with too much makeup on with stupid clothes. I never set foot in any of their clubs, so I find it quite distressing to be nobbled into New Romantic, cos it was just a load of guys who looked like they’d had a row with their girlfriends’ makeup. There was nothing tough about it, nothing dangerous about it, it was soft electro stuff and it just looked a bit wet. And I didn’t like being associated with it.”

A man of 58 who still cares this much should probably come across as faintly ridiculous, but the intense seriousness with which Ant deconstructs these arcane distinctions conveys an impression of almost heartbreaking vulnerability… / continued online

“ I never set foot in the f***ing Blitz [club]

Adam Ant drawing his line in the sand with
the New Romantics
(Clink magazine, 23 March 2011)


➢ 1981, How Adam stomped his way across the charts with six records in the same month to thwart the nascent New Romantics:

Adam Ant, Jordan, Jubilee, 1977

Instinctive punks, 1977: Adam and Jordan at the premiere for Jubilee

Shapersofthe80s has always drawn a clear distinction between Adam Ant and the New Romantics. As does Marco Pirroni, the Ants guitarist and co-writer of many of their hits. “Adam is glam-punk,” he told me emphatically at the bar of the Wag when Ant’s first solo single Puss ’n Boots was storming the chart in Oct 1983. “Americans don’t understand he was never a New Romantic.”

As if proof were needed, just gawp at the way Adam goes hoppity-skippiting through the video to Antmusic. The rent-a-crowd extras must have been the least stylish Londoners within earshot of the Blitz club. Gawp again at how these kids can’t dance either!

Yes of course Kings of the Wild Frontier went on to become one of the great slapstick albums of its time. No dispute. And with characters like Prince Charming and Puss ’n Boots, Adam treated us to year-round pantomime.

➢ Adam and Marco in battle of the bands — How I wrote Stand and Deliver, plus the early days of Ant music, plus all about Marco


➤ Smith & Sullivan sign off We Can Be Heroes with a sigh

We Can Be Heroes,Unbound publishing, books,Graham Smith,Chris Sullivan,Blitz Kids, New Romantics, Boy George,nightclubbing, Swinging 80s, photography,

Graham Smith: signing advance copies of We Can Be Heroes between coffee and cake today at Soho’s Society Club. Photographed by Shapersofthe80s

❚ THE BOOK OF THE DECADE has arrived and early buyers of the 2,000-copy first edition had it in their hands today. The photo-story of 80s clubland, We Can Be Heroes, felt reassuringly hefty to the touch and we finally discovered the page size to be generous at 235 x 280mm. The five-colour printing gives intensity especially to the black-and-white photography on the high-gloss paper and author Graham Smith’s verdict on the quality was simple: “Stunning.” Collaborator and 80s club-host Chris Sullivan breathed a sigh: “We got there in the end.”

The 320 pages of story-telling and voxpops from perhaps 100 contributors will raise plenty of smiles when the postman delivers the book during the next week. Even if you’ve read Shapersofthe80s from top to bottom, you’ll find as many more quotes and insights from the original Blitz Kids themselves. Deejay Jeffrey Hinton reminds us in the book: “People think this was a premeditated scene but it was not. It was childlike, thrown together. We didn’t do it for the money, we were innocent. It’s all so marketed today.”

We Can Be Heroes,Unbound publishing, books,Graham Smith,Chris Sullivan,Blitz Kids, New Romantics, Boy George,nightclubbing, Swinging 80s, photography,

Ringleaders who shaped the style of the 80s celebrated in We Can Be Heroes: Chris Sullivan, Fiona Dealey, Lee Sheldrick, Stephen Linard and Kim Bowen — the rebels within St Martin’s School of Art, all photographed by Graham Smith

We Can Be Heroes,Unbound publishing, books,Graham Smith,Chris Sullivan,Blitz Kids, New Romantics, Boy George,nightclubbing, Swinging 80s, photography,

Bournemouth was the destination on bank holidays: good-natured hijinks brought London clubbers to the south-coast resort, and Smith has included many of their snaps in We Can Be Heroes

While the main images reveal just how small in number was the coterie who initiated the sounds and styles of the 80s, Smith has supplemented his own portfolio of pictures with many snaps from clubland wags themselves whose ambitions were liberated by the spirit of collaboration inspired in 1980. Nevertheless, designer Fiona Dealey makes a valid point in the book: “When anyone has written about the Blitz it has been by the same few blokes giving the same old soundbites with never a mention of what the women were up to. The Blitz was our youth club and I feel they hijacked it.”

Today John Mitchinson, the book’s publisher, said he was reasonably confident that a commercial edition of Heroes might follow in the autumn of 2012. In the meantime a limited number of copies of the first edition are still available only from Unbound Publishing.

➢ 1976–1984, Creative clubbing ended with the 80s — we profile three of the bright sparks behind We Can Be Heroes and how they shaped the decade

➢ View Shapersofthe80s video — Chris Sullivan telling his “ribald tales of excess” from the Blitz era at a launch party for We Can Be Heroes… with Graham Smith and Robert Elms on video too

We Can Be Heroes,Unbound publishing, books,Graham Smith,Chris Sullivan,Blitz Kids, New Romantics, Boy George,nightclubbing, Swinging 80s, photography,

Chris Sullivan signing today: “Now people can see the book itself we might shift a few more copies.” Photographed by Shapersofthe80s


➤ Join Rusty Egan & Steve Norman for music and a pint to help the kids at GOSH

Rusty Egan, Great Ormond Street Hospital ,Frequency 7, Vintage 80s, dnace music,theblitzclub,

❚ CHRISTMAS APPEAL FROM RUSTY EGAN — The ex-Rich Kids and Visage drummer, and musical co-host at the original Blitz Club in Covent Garden in 1979 now enjoys an international reputation as a society deejay.

Steve Norman, Rusty Egan, theblitzclub, Great Ormond Street, fund-raiserOn Sunday December 11, he and Spandau Ballet’s Steve Norman are inviting readers of Shapersofthe80s to help raise money for charity. Rusty says: “Please support our Vintage 80s night in a nice Mayfair pub this Xmas and join me and friends. I will DJ and I hope some friends from the 80s will show up for a pint or a cuppa. Please buy a ticket even if you are unable to attend.”

The two 80s popstars have reunited in a unique nightclub double act where deejay Rusty spins the discs while Steve improvises on sax. Proud of their clubbing credentials which reach back to the landmark Blitz Club, Steve and Rusty perform a live deejay set of the coolest tunes from the swinging decade. Every performance is unique and reminds us of their own bands’ legacies and of the abundance of new sounds the 80s bequeathed.

➢ Vintage 80s night anchored by DJ Rusty Egan — from 18:00, The King’s Arms, at the east end of Shepherd Market, W1J 7QB … The evening is a fund-raiser to buy vital equipment to treat children in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit at Great Ormond Street Hospital — and the publican Art Bennett even has a letter from the charity to prove it!

WHAT RUSTY and steve are ALSO UP TO…

➢ View video: Who is Rusty Egan? — Below, we see Egan “Deejay By Appointment” to the future king and queen, Wills and Kate.

Rusty Egan, Prince William, Kate Middleton, deejay,clubbing➢ Join the group DJ Rusty Egan at Facebook for upcoming dates.

➢ Electronic sounds only at Rusty’s new clubnight
Frequency 7
which is held on the first Friday of the month at The Purple Turtle, Camden NW1 1TN, with Jo The Waiter playing dark electro and industrial, plus quality electro bands live and vintage New Romantic visuals, till very late.

♫ Listen to Rusty’s latest mix 2011-11-17 at Soundcloud — a new one-hour mix of reworked classics and new electro which include a True rap… Also, his Chilled Electro Mix Sep 2011.

➢ New Year’s Eve party in Knightsbridge with Rusty deejaying — table reservations only

➢ For news updates about Rusty’s musical ventures visit his official website for The Blitz Club, named after the pioneering 80s London club-night. It also represents the record label, Blitz Club Records, and you can download R.E.R.B. and other releases there.

✉ E-mail bookings contact for Steve Norman — Chills’n’Thrills and Cloudfish

♫ Listen to Cloudfish’s latest track, Star