Tag Archives: Tipping points

➤ The Blitz Kids WATN? No 28, Stephen Linard

drakes-london,Stephen Linard,British tailoring, haberdashery,Drake’s,Michael Hill,luxury shops, Clifford Street , London

Former Blitz Kid and St Martin’s fashion graduate Stephen Linard: today he is a designer with Drake’s, the gentlemen’s haberdasher, seen here at a staff preview for the opening of its first shop just off Savile Row. Photographed © by Shapersofthe80s

❚ WACKIEST AMONG THE 80s BLITZ KID RACERS was Stephen Linard, the Essex boy who nevertheless graduated from St Martin’s art school with a first-class degree in menswear 30 years ago this summer. Modelled by six of his hunky clubland pals, his collection titled Reluctant Emigrés featured swishy draped greatcoats, pinstripe trousers and city shirts that all evinced an Edwardian air of immaculate tailoring while declaring edgy details with organza and contrast patches. Amid the women’s outfits shown by most of the other fashion graduates, Linard’s chic street-savvy lads had a gasp-out-loud impact, as commentator Suzy Menkes noted after the show. The influential South Molton Street shop Browns immediately wanted to develop the range, but Stephen decided instead to sell his original garments to a short-lived synthpop band called Animal Magnet. “I needed the money,” he says now in a shocking confession of short-termism.

A hugely original and resourceful talent, Stephen was feted by the fashion press upon graduation. His high-visibility fashion leads were key among the 15 sharpest Blitz Kids who shaped the New Romantics silhouette from Covent Garden’s Blitz club — Stephen Jones, Kim Bowen, Lee Sheldrick, Helen Robinson, Melissa Caplan, Fiona Dealey, Judi Frankland, Michele Clapton, David Holah, Stevie Stewart, Julia Fodor, Dinny Hall, Simon Withers and über-wag Chris Sullivan were the others. Most significantly, Linard advertised his bizarre imagination by changing his appearance on an almost daily basis, from his foppish Fauntleroy dandy, to the Endangered Species outfit made from animal skins, to the Bonnie Prince Charlie tartans copied for his character in Worried About the Boy, last year’s TV biodrama on Boy George, who became a soulmate the moment Stephen walked into Billy’s club, where the Swinging 80s were hatched in 1978.

Click any pic below to enlarge Linard’s degree collection 1981:

So… where is he now, the dignified Stephen Linard pictured this month sporting a three-button, three-piece linen suit in a faded shade of indigo, and handmade in Venice? Well, since 1989 Stephen has been on the design team at Drake’s, the respected men’s haberdasher which has just opened its first shop at No 3 Clifford Street, just off Savile Row, the global epicentre of serious tailoring. Those with fond memories of Bowring Arundel & Co — for whom Stephen’s late father once supplied handmade leather goods — have welcomed the arrival of the new shop.  Though Drake’s was founded in 1977, the firm has never had its own retail outlet.

Michael Drake, a former head of design at Aquascutum, was its co-founder (and incidentally, “my grandmother’s nephew,” Stephen said). He began making the finest accessories, from cashmere scarves and printed silk handkerchiefs to knitwear, shirts and the elegant neckwear that has made Drake’s the largest independent producer of handmade ties in England. It enjoys a prodigious export market, by designing collections for international luxury shops and collaborating with such style-leaders as the Japanese fashion label Commes des Garçons.

drakes-london,British tailoring, Clifford Street,London, Michael Drake, handmade ties, haberdashery,Adam Dant

The young Linard by artist Adam Dant: lining this antique vitrine at Drake’s new shop is a busy tableau of life at the firm’s Clerkenwell factory. At lower left we see a youthful portrait of the designer alongside some of the handmade ties in fine Shantung silk Drake’s is renowned for. Photographed © by Shapersofthe80s

Today the creative director Michael Hill encourages his designers to refresh the seasonal ranges with new textiles, both for readymade production and for bespoke handcrafting at Drake’s workrooms in the artisan quarter of Georgian Clerkenwell. A revival of bespoke suit-making has seen a new appetite for accessories in raw shantung and Indian tussah silk — its slubbed texture playing well with both formal suits and casual jackets — as well as traditional madder silk from Macclesfield in Cheshire, where Stephen is a frequent visitor ensuring that exacting standards are met.

A stylish touch to Drake’s new strategy has been to recruit the impish graphic artist Adam Dant, whose witty drawings adorn the shop and the stylishly written Drake’s website. In particular it commissioned him to create one of the Hogarthian “mockuments” which won him the Jerwood Prize. Rather like flowcharts, these reveal the inner workings of an institution and its people, and Dant’s depiction of Drake’s Clerkenwell factory provides the lining to one antique vitrine, formerly property of the Victoria and Albert museum and now in Clifford Street, displaying shantung ties and enormously long (in the Italian style) knee-socks.

Included among Dant’s portraits of colleagues who are said to have influenced Michael Drake is Stephen Linard’s and it echoes an emblematic photograph published in i-D magazine in which he wears a Yohji jacket and jaunty Confederate Army leather cap, “bought in Anchorage airport in the days when I was rich — bathtubs filled with champagne”. This is a reminder of the period 1983–86 when he lived in Tokyo designing for Jun Co, the fashion giant, on a salary which, he liked to boast, exceeded the prime minister Margaret Thatcher’s. In the mid-80s, to be an English designer brought you popstar status in Japan, as those fellow Blitz Kids Stephen Jones and Lee Sheldrick also discovered.

drakes-london,British tailoring, Clifford Street,London, Michael Drake, handmade ties, haberdashery,Adam Dant

Close-up of the portrait: Linard is one of many talents associated with Drake’s who have been captured by the artist Adam Dant. His reference was a photograph dating from 1983 — note the ornamental bath tap. Courtesy of Adam Dant and Drake’s

The 1983 look that inspired the portrait: Stephen Linard sports a leather Confederate Army cap $15 from Alaska, and Yohji Yamamoto jacket £250, over giant-collared Yohji shirt £120. Artfully placed on his left lapel is a silvered bathroom tap £60 and faucet brooch £40, both from a jewellery collection for Chloe, Paris. Seen here with Lee Sheldrick (rear) and Steve Strange at the Worlds End fashion show in Paris that October. Photographed © by Shapersofthe80s

Long before he joined the “Japanese invasion” effected by Britain’s emergent new wave of streetwise fashionistas, Stephen had gained the admiration of the international fashion glossies. With 1983 came his collection Angels With Dirty Faces, inspired by the Bogart-Cagney gangster movie set in the 30s depression. It was both pretty and poignant and it sold worldwide. That year, the snappiest magazine of the day, New York, headlined a special fashion section The British Are Here, and selected as the UK’s five leading lights Jean Muir, Zandra Rhodes, Katharine Hamnett, Vivienne Westwood — and Stephen Linard, “one of the most creative of the young designers”.

Linard designs from his heyday: bias-cut tea dress, $100 in Bloomingdale’s, from his 1983 Angels With Dirty Faces collection, here photographed by Tony McGee for New York magazine. Right, Neil Tennant wears a Reluctant Emigrés topcoat by Linard in the Pet Shop Boys video for West End Girls (Parlophone 1984)

Stephen’s clothes had always been sought after by his popstar contemporaries from Spandau Ballet, Boy George and The Slits, to U2, Womack & Womack, even Cliff Richard and Johnny Mathis, and ultimately to the great god David Bowie himself. (Stephen had to turn down the invitation to go on location to appear in the Ashes to Ashes video in 1980 “because I was on a disciplinary warning at St Martin’s over attendance”!) His Reluctant Emigrés collection enjoyed a curiously long life and in 1984 we see Neil Tennant lording it in one of the black linen topcoats in the Pet Shop Boys video for West End Girls, their first single which went to No 1 in the UK and US.

Many Linard looks have been coveted by the fashionistas but, as with so many gifted designers, let’s say a head for business came second to his eye for fashion. The timing of funds hit the rocks in more than one of Stephen’s creatively successful ventures, and decades ago he complained loudly that the St Martin’s fashion department didn’t do enough to equip graduates with basic business skills. (This, we are assured, has since been addressed by the college.) In the end it wasn’t surprising that he accepted the offer to join the Drake’s family, which seems to have dealt him a lucky hand.

One tip for wearing the perfect handmade tie? “Never tuck the smaller blade through the ‘keeper’— the loop on the back of the large blade. Much more stylish to let it flap free. Like undoing the button-cuff on your jacket, to show you don’t care.”

drakes-london,British tailoring, Clifford Street,London,Augustin Vidor, Michael Drake, handmade ties, haberdashery,Stephen Linard

The new shop in Clifford Street: Linard joined the Drake’s design team in 1989 whereas sales assistant Augustin Vidor is currently an intern. Photographed © by Shapersofthe80s


1904 ➤ The day Nora made a man of Joyce

James Joyce Tower, Martello, Sandycove

Bloomsday celebrations: James Joyce Tower and Museum is a Martello tower in Sandycove near Dublin. Joyce’s stay here is said to have inspired the opening of his novel Ulysses

❚ “THE GREATEST ENGLISH PROSE STYLIST”, Irish-born James Joyce, met his partner for life Nora Barnacle “sauntering” along a Dublin street on June 10, 1904. The chance encounter is described in Finnegans Wake:

If he’s plane she’s purty, if he’s fane, she’s flirty, with her auburnt streams, and her coy cajoleries, and her dabblin drolleries, for to rouse his rudderup, or to drench his dreams

James Joyce , Nora Barnacle

James Joyce and Nora Barnacle in 1904, the year they met

In those days, romantics young and old didn’t “date”. He asked if he could meet her again and on the chosen day she blew him out, so he sent her a note and then they agreed to take a walk.

On the evening of June 16 Nora, a 20-year-old chambermaid, and James, the 22-year-old writer, went walking to the village of Ringsend. Several aspects of Joyce’s life converged on this day and he was to tell Nora later “You made me a man”. Years on, the author who gave the word “epiphany” its special meaning chose this sacred date for the setting of Ulysses, a modern re-telling of Homer’s Odyssey, in which all the action takes place on the same day in Dublin in 1904. The date was to become Bloomsday, derived from Leopold Bloom, the 38-year-old protagonist of his yarn.

The book was published by the American ex-pat Sylvia Beach who ran the bookshop Shakespeare and Company in Paris in 1922 — the same year as T S Eliot’s The Waste Land, both works resonating to the cultural incoherence thrown up by the First World War. Ulysses furnished a touchstone for the whole 20th-century modernist movement in literature, as well as being spiced with racy humour deemed too “obscene” to publish in England until 1936 (and indeed banned in Ireland until the 1970s). Joyce personalised the chaotic stream-of-consciousness technique — writing as if thinking aloud — by employing a rich lexicon of 30,000 words, greater than Shakespeare’s and most everyday speakers of English, since many words were Joyce’s own musical inventions. About the book’s size, Joyce joked: “I spent seven years writing it. People could at least spend seven years reading it.” Samuel Beckett said of Joyce’s prose: “It is not to be read. It is to be looked at and listened to.”

Leopold Bloom, James Joyce

Leopold Bloom drawn by Joyce

For the past 50 years Bloomsday has been commemorated annually in Dublin as fans dress in Edwardian costume to enjoy readings and merriment as they retrace Bloom’s footsteps through and around the city, taking in landmarks such as the site of Leopold and Molly Bloom’s home in Eccles Street, Davy Byrne’s pub and the old brothel quarter. Tradition has it (though the biographer Richard Ellmann disagrees) that the day before Ulysses begins, Joyce had spent a week in the Martello tower in Sandycove, eight miles south of Dublin on the coast road, where a university friend fired a gun at him, to be immortalised as “Stately, plump Buck Mulligan” in the novel’s opening. Today the tower houses a museum of mementoes and is well worth the metro ride.

The paradox is that not a word of Ulysses was written in the city on the Liffey, because Joyce chose to spend his adult life in exile, variously in Trieste, Paris and Zurich. When he died there in 1940, Nora Barnacle was asked which living writers she liked, and her reply was: “Sure, if you’ve been married to the greatest writer in the world, you don’t remember all the little fellows.” Nora lived on in loneliness and also died in Zurich in 1951, where she shares his grave in a wooded cemetery to this day.

Gordon Bowker, James Joyce A Biography, ➢ As the current book of the week being serialised on BBC Radio 4, Gordon Bowker’s James Joyce A Biography (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, May 2011) paints a wonderfully detailed portrait of the eccentric author in 15-minute segments

➢ The James Joyce Centre at North Great George’s Street in Dublin

James Joyce, Nora Barnacle

Joyce and Nora in later years ... Ulysses ends with Molly Bloom’s words: “I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes”


2011 ➤ Boy George hits the big Five-0 and he now says, yes, he has ‘lots of regrets’

Boy George , 50th birthday,interview, Here And Now 2011,

Boy George at home: 50-up but when will he stop pouting?

❚ ON TUESDAY JUNE 14 George O’Dowd celebrates his 50th birthday with a few select friends at the Vauxhall nightspot, The Lightbox. Yesterday an interview in the Daily Mail reunited him with Spencer Bright, the co-writer of his 1995 autobiography Take It Like A Man, which proved more cringingly honest and fuller of nasty settlings of scores than any popstar in their right mind should attempt. For that reason it was — and remains — a compulsively readable milestone in the endurance course that is Boy George’s life.

In recent years, interviews have been marred by self-serving psychobabble and improbable mysticism, but yesterday’s talk with Spencer Bright finds George momentarily on a more even keel. Finally, finally, Spencer elicits an astonishing confession from him: “Now, I can actually say that I do have lots of regrets.”

Boy George, 1987, Gabor Scott

“Junkie George”: Gabor Scott’s © 1987 photograph

George had always been among the more highly visible of London’s style-setting Blitz Kids. By the mid-80s he had become one of the biggest popstars of the decade and his “blue-eyed reggae” band Culture Club was among Britain’s half-dozen New Romantic supergroups dominating world pop charts during the second British invasion of the US. Culture Club’s first two singles Do You Really Want to Hurt Me? and Karma Chameleon reached No 1 in several countries during 1982–83, and the band won a Grammy Award in 1984.

After four albums, songwriting had made George a millionaire several times over but he had also fallen prey to heavy drugs and at the age of 25 his band dumped him. He began squandering his life away, as outlined in Ex-jailbird George here at Shapersofthe80s, and fully documented at Wikipedia. A much sanitised account of his teen years was broadcast last year as the TV drama Worried About The Boy, after which ex-Blitz Kids gave their verdicts at Shapersofthe80s.


At one point it didn’t seem as if Boy George would make it much past his 25th birthday. Yet here he is, about to celebrate his 50th next Tuesday, and the transformation from the boy popstar to man seems astonishing. No one could be more pleased than me. George and I have a long history, from the days when, as a newspaper reporter, I used to follow him on the club and music scenes. In the early 1990s I helped him write his autobiography Take It Like A Man. We’ve been through a lot together. The book took four-and-a-half years, with much shouting and screaming, mostly from him at me, and moments where he’d crack me up so much I could hardly stand up.


People know me recently for lots of drama. For being arrested and going to prison. I’ve got my work cut out to remind them what I actually do.

The Mail interview airs various optimistic hopes which, for somebody with George’s track record, are a hostage to fortune. After claiming to have kicked many of his vices, we’re told he gave up smoking cigarettes six weeks ago — but ask any smoker how many times that gets said in a lifetime! “There are hopes of soon working with top producer Mark Ronson on a record with a reunited Culture Club, and an arena world tour next year.” But no mention of how his criminal records will bar entry into a significant number of countries.


I’ve never been a bad person and always had quite good morals. I cherish the moderate life now: I don’t want drama or complication.

➢ Read the full Daily Mail interview with Boy George dated June 9

➢ George performs with other 80s stars in the 2011 Here And Now summer tour from June 17. The single Sunshine Into My Life by Funkysober featuring Sharlene Hector, written and produced by Boy George, is out now on his own label, VG Records


➤ Martin Rushent — the man who made stars of the Human League — is dead

Martin Rushent , electronic music, British pop, swinging 80s,

Martin Rushent with Korg Super Section programmable sequencer (1985)

❚ A TRUE SHAPER OF THE 80s DIED YESTERDAY. Martin Rushent, the mould-breaking UK music producer, was 63 when he suffered a heart attack at his home in Berkshire. What he stamped on 80s electronica was a rhythmic template of synths and drum machines that came to characterise much mainstream pop, notably The Human League’s breakthrough album Dare in 1981, which spent 71 weeks in the UK chart, and became a worldwide smash. Rushent was known as a hard taskmaster. He insisted on bringing the Sheffield-based band south to escape the “unhealthy atmosphere” of Monumental Studios oop north, and his influence was not immediately welcomed by the League’s leader Phil Oakey, following the early band’s split and reconfiguration in 1980.

Dare, The Human League,album, pop music, Martin RushentIt began with their first single The Sound of the Crowd [see video below] which peaked at No 12. Rushent was a pioneer of the remix, who decided to improve on the League’s original version of Dare by creating 1982’s Love And Dancing, a complete makeover of the original album. It went to No 3 in the LP chart and is today regarded as his game-changing calling card. As with the Stranglers earlier, Rushent achieves a razor-sharp clarity for each instrument, here dominated by the electronics he so believed in. The Scottish pop group Altered Images also enjoyed chart hits thanks to Rushent’s production. He was named Best British producer in the 1982 BRIT Awards.

The Stranglers,rock music,No More HeroesMany also regard Rushent as the best new-wave producer of the late 70s through his work with The Stranglers, Britain’s longest-surviving rock band from that post-punk era (he produced their first three albums which would become both commercial and classic, Rattus Norvegicus, No More Heroes and Black and White), as well as Gen X, Buzzcocks, XTC, 999 and Hazel O’Connor. Other acts he engineered earlier in the 70s were T.Rex, David Essex, Fleetwood Mac, Yes and Shirley Bassey.

Rushent custom-built a £250,000 high-tech recording studio at his home near Reading where, he said, “The air-conditioning alone cost me £35,000”. Here ex-Buzzcock Pete Shelley made his debut album Homosapien (1981) as a solo artist for Rushent’s record label Genetic. This had its London office a couple of floors up from the legendary Blitz club where Rusty Egan and Steve Strange ushered in the New Romantics movement in 1979. Egan says that Rushent facilitated two Visage tracks, Tar and Frequency 7 (“recorded in his garage in 1979”).

His 37-year-old first son Tim says his father hated playing by any accepted rules of the game and brought irreverence to the production process. His musical signature was to add a sophisticated mix of vibrance and colour, so beefing up the musical temperature higher than a band managed to achieve for themselves. He cites The Human League’s first No 1 hit Don’t You Want Me, and Fascination (as well as Altered Images’ Happy Birthday album track). Dad’s tactic had been to bring into The Human League punk rocker Jo Callis from the Rezillos to act as a co-writer and catalyst.

Human League, Phil Oakey, Joanne Catherall ,Susan Sulley

The Human League, 1981: Phil Oakey and the girls he immortalised in that lyric, Joanne Catherall and Susan Sulley

BBC journalist Linda Serck recalls how Rushent made clear who was boss when he met The Human League: “They were under the impression that I was going to work on what they’d done so far and improve that and carry on. I said, ‘No I’m not doing that, we’re starting again’, which was a bit of a shock for Phil [Oakey]. He argued about that but I said, ‘No, if I’m going to produce you, you’re going to do what I tell you to do’. This is my attitude to everybody I produce, it’s a sort of democratic dictatorship!”

Tragically for producer and band, the end came abruptly after three years’ hard work. In a moment of pique, backing singer Susan Sulley (famously discovered while at school dancing “in a cocktail bar”) asked the perfectionist Rushent, who was old enough to be her father: “What do you know about what young people want?” In any normal workplace this would be grounds for her dismissal. In this case, the insult detonated the end of a lucrative, million-selling business partnership.

Today, Rushent leaves his wife, Ceri, and four children from two marriages.

➢ “When producer Martin Rushent took the Human League’s leaden new song and turned it into pop gold, the band hated it” — A revealing interview with Sound On Sound, 2010

♫ Peaches by The Stranglers — “Bass sound?! I asked him one time how he got that bass sound, he said: I turned everything up” — James Rushent, his second son, a musician.

♫ Three days ago Martin Rushent listened to two of his own tracks at his MySpace page: In Your Arms Again (from 2007) and Itchy Hips (2006).



Hugh Cornwell , The Stranglers,Hugh Cornwell (left), vocalist and guitarist with The Stranglers: “ It is with great sadness that I hear of Martin Rushent’s passing. He was a vibrant and gifted individual who was able to extract the essence of what The Stranglers began with, and translate it into something that could be played on radios across the UK. It was obviously no one-off success, as he was later to show with The Human League. I remember him fondly.

Midge Ure of Ultravox “ He saw the potential in synthesisers and a future in electronic music. Sad loss for all music.

Visage drummer Rusty Egan: “ Martin, Midge Ure, Barry Adamson, Billy Currie, Dave Formula, John McGeogh, myself and Steve Strange all hanging in your house in summer of 1979 recording our debut album VISAGE … Because YOU believed … THANK YOU … You were a total genius, and like all geniuses before you, you had a crazy life but an amazing body of work … I am welling up remembering your kindness and love for music…
➢ Listen to Rusty Egan’s set of Martin Rushent re-mixes from the 80s dancefloor newly uploaded to Soundcloud

Altered Images drummer ‘Tich’ Anderson: “ I’ll remember all those hours in Genetic studios fondly. Sorry for crashing your Jaguar. xxxxxx You were a genius Martin.

Visage vocalist Steve Strange: “ Martin one was not only a genius but as a 17-year-old making his first record, he was a true role model, inspiration and guiding figure. He signed our first record Tar to his record label and for us, started the ball rolling. We owe him so much. Thank you.

Tim Rushent, son and sound producer: “ As many of you know I had a VERY fractious relationship with my Dad. But I never doubted his work as a producer, friend and raconteur. Feeling even more proud of him professionally today than I have done for 37 years.

➢ Pay your own tribute at the Facebook page Martin Rushent Memories

Prof Ben Rosamond, Uni of Copenhagen: “ Just under 36 minutes of music, but thousands of hours in the making. According to Simon Reynolds in Rip it Up, Love and Dancing consisted of 2,200 main edits and a further 400 small edits. There were so many splices that the mastertape was close to disintegration. The work of a genius. Others have said this, but it’s true for me as well. Martin, you fashioned the soundtrack of my teenage years and so many of the melodies and musical phrases that pop in and out of my adult consciousness are yours. Thank you. Rest in peace.

Heather Priestley, anaesthetic ODP, London: “ Martin you were a much loved legend, RIP. I haven’t felt this sad since losing John Peel, like you, part of my youth and the music that made me who I am today.

➢ Telegraph obituary: “Rushent forged a new way of sequencing and programming synthesiser-based music — in the process pioneering the technique of sampling”


2011 ➤ What happens when retromania exhausts our pop past

Annie Lennox ,La Roux, 80s pop music

Spot the difference: Annie Lennox in 1983 and La Roux in 2009. Photograph: WireImage/Redferns, Guardian composite

From synth pop to Hollywood remakes to collecting manual typewriters, we’re busy plundering the past. But why the fatal attraction? Today’s Guardian runs an extract from a new book by music writer Simon Reynolds. Here’s a taste…

❚ “THERE’S NO SINGLE THING that made me suddenly think, Hey, there’s a book to be written about pop culture’s chronic addiction to its own past… But if I could point to just one release that tipped me over the edge into bemused fascination with retromania, it would be 2006’s Love, the Beatles remix project. Executed by George Martin and his son Giles to accompany the Cirque du Soleil spectacular in Las Vegas, the album’s 26 songs incorporated elements from 130 individual recordings, both releases and demos, by the Fab Four.

Simon Reynolds,books, Retromania“Hyped as a radical reworking, Love was way more interesting to think about than to listen to (the album mostly just sounds off, similar to the way restored paintings look too bright and sharp). Love raised all kinds of questions about our compulsion to relive and reconsume pop history, about the ways we use digital technology to rearrange the past and create effects of novelty. And like Scorsese’s Dylan documentary No Direction Home, Love was yet more proof of the long shadow cast by the 60s, that decade where everything seemed brand-new and ever-changing. We’re unable to escape the era’s reproaches (why aren’t things moving as fast as they did back then?) even as the music’s adventurousness and innocence make it so tempting to revisit and replicate.”

➢ Continue reading the extract from Retromania at Guardian online

➢ Retromania: Pop Culture’s Addiction to Its Own Past, by Simon Reynolds (496 pages, £10.79 at Waterstone’s online)