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MORE INTERESTING THAN MOST PEOPLE’S FANTASIES — THE SWINGING EIGHTIES 1978-1984They 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
An “invaluable website” — historian Dominic Sandbrook, 2012
A UNIQUE HISTORY➢ WELCOME to the Swinging 80s
➢ THE BLOG POSTS on this front page report topical updates
➢ ROLL OVER THE MENU AT TOP to go deeper into the past
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❏ 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
TOLD FOR THE FIRST TIME
◆ Who was who in Spandau’s break-out year of 1980? The Invisible Hand of Shapersofthe80s draws a selective timeline for The unprecedented rise and rise of Spandau Ballet –– Turn to our inside page
- ➤ A double act is born – Sulls & Elms, take a bow!
- ➤ After his Spandau ordeal, singer Ross shakes off the blues
- ➤ How Nile Rodgers “rearranged” Bowie’s Let’s Dance into a stonking hit single
- ➤ The makings of Scarlett, a perfect muse for the Eighties
- ➤ Ross Wild retunes to Gatsby’s Roaring Twenties
- ➤ New from Prince: Holly Rock single and video, plus album of demos
- ➤ Those ‘things’ Blade Runner’s Hauer had seen…
- ➤ Duran rock NASA’s Rocket Garden, feet firmly on Planet Earth
- 2019 ➤ Lawrie’s Eleven talk candidly of being young black and gay in ways many of us never knew
- 2019 ➤ The nerve of Neil Matthews! Offering bunny ears to those oh-so cool Eighties pop stars
- ➤ Ross leaps out of the Ballet into the cauldron of grunge
- 2019 ➤ This would have been Steve Strange’s 60th birthday
SEARCH our 700 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 new 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
LANDMARK FAREWELLS. . . HIT THE INDEX TAB UP TOP FOR EVERYTHING ELSE
✱ “I’m not a rock star” Bowie often said – No, David, you were a messiah – Obituaries and key videos on the godlike one
Archive — Many publication dates are arbitrary, so click and take pot luck!
Tag Archives: Visage
On the fourth anniversary of Steve Strange’s passing
(not to mention the 40th anniversary of his Tuesday club-night
opening at the Blitz), how better to remember the man who revolutionised London nightclubbing than with the massive collection of tributes assembled here at Shapers of the 80s
from every significant Blitz Kid the day after Steve died…
Brief tasters. . .
Original Blitz Club deejay Rusty Egan said: “I’m very, very sad and down tonight because I’ve lost an old friend. We had our disagreements but we did have a decade of the best times that anybody could ever have wished for. We made some amazing music, some amazing parties, clubs and fun and friends. Underneath it all he was a good soul. Steve, I’m so sorry I didn’t get a chance to say I still love you.”
Chris Sullivan, who ran Soho’s Wag Club: “We were both flamboyant club-running Welsh dandies but were never rivals. Steve had too much dignity for that. We were friends and remained so for the rest of his life. And I can say that Steve, despite quite a few hard years, never lost that that spark, humour or joie de vivre, was forever stylish and was always a pleasure to see.”
Princess Julia, writer and deejay: “Getting dressed up, going out and getting noticed… Steve was head of a subculture the likes of which perhaps we will never see again.”
Kim Bowen, stylist, onetime Queen of The Blitz: “Rushing enthusiasm, involving everyone, creating insane parties going round and round on the Circle Line. Some truly bad outfits (his not mine.) Shockingly, ‘Kim, will you be my official girlfriend?’ ”
And many, many more delicious anecdotes…
◼ EVEN AMONG THE UK ROCK PRESS, few of its music historians have conceded that the New Romantics amounted to an ambitious subculture that changed the rules of the game – largely because the rockists completely missed the boat by idolising guitar idols, never went to nightclubs, and what’s more, couldn’t dance.
The most audible consequence of the clubbing underground was to fundamentally change the rhythm of the pop singles charts within a year – from the rock guitar to the bass-and-drum, namely, to dance music. After 1981 scarcely any significant new rock groups made the singles charts, only the old dinosaurs, if at all. Rock was relegated to the album chart and new dance-music stars such as Madonna and Prince transformed the pop music of the new decade.
The other New Romantics keynote was the central role of image with the dawn of MTV as a platform for music videos. A band became the leaders of fashion, while their style-conscious nightlife followers collaborated in promoting them through the clubbing grapevine. As synth-pop pioneers during 1980 Spandau Ballet pushed a button for the fashion-conscious young. They were signalling that the language of pop called for new styles as much as new sounds.
During the first five years of the decade, more than 100 “image bands” and acts entered the UK charts – most of them new, led in the South-East by Ultravox, Linx, Spandau Ballet, Visage, Landscape, Depeche Mode, Kid Creole, Blue Rondo a la Turk. Many more emerged from clubland across the UK: Duran Duran, Soft Cell, Heaven 17, Altered Images, Imagination, Eurythmics, Thomas Dolby, ABC.
During Spandau’s North American tour in November 1983, alongside their hit True among the Billboard Top 40 singles in the USA, there were 17 other British bands – more than the Swinging 60s ever knew. Insolence and narcissism lit a torch that led a generation of school-leavers through what threatened to be Britain’s dark age of unemployment. As clubs became workplaces and nightlife the essential engine of cultural evolution, they liberated music, design and, especially, ambition for the young.
❏ To which Rusty Egan, Steve’s partner in the Blitz Club and other landmark ventures that helped create the Swinging 80s, replies:
“ For 2 years prior to this unfortunate event Steve and I were embroiled in a public feud. Sadly we did not kiss and make up and I like most people was shocked he left us so young. RIP Steve. I have still got a few things I need to do… will sort that biz out later. ”
◼ HERE IS THE FULL TEXT of the first celebrity eulogy at Steve Strange’s funeral, given by Spandau Ballet sax player, Steve Norman. (An earlier address had been given by ‘Kimbo’, a local friend, who was almost inaudible inside the church.) The audio quality generally was too poor to publish more than the short clip of Steve that you hear in the funeral video, above, created by Shapers of the 80s.
Steve Norman’s voice faltered in the most touching way because he was feeling strong emotions and apparently speaking spontaneously.
NORMSKI’S SPEECH: ‘HE HELPED SHAPE THE 80S’
In full, he said: “A lot has been said since Steve passed about his contribution to the pop culture and how he helped to shape the 80s. We wished a few more people had said it when he was around. Steve needed that affirmation of how much he was loved.
“He was a very generous man, but first and foremost he was my friend. I’ve known Steve since the 70s. He took myself and Martin Kemp under his wing. We didn’t have any money back then and he took us to all the groovy places in London back in the 70s and early 80s when things weren’t really happening at all, but Steve found out what was going on, took us there and paid for everything and our drinks, whatever we wanted, and we had a great time. And that relationship lasted all throughout his life – we were very close to the end.
“The last time I spoke to Steve was before Christmas and he called up and he was a little distraught and we had a mutual friend he’d fallen out massively with, and Steve was worried I might take the other side. I reminded him of the early days and what he did for myself and how he was always there. He would turn up at my parents’ house for a cup of tea and a chat – he loved people and really needed to connect with people.
“I remember saying to him I love you dearly and he said he loved me. And I put the phone down – and he hadn’t put it down properly and I heard him telling somebody ‘Ah, I love Steve and Steve loves me.’ He was so sensitive. It was a great comfort that I could tell him how much I loved him.
“He was a very sensitive, generous, caring, special human being with a massive heart.”
BOY GEORGE’S POEM FOR STEVE STRANGE
❏ Even though the service took place in a high Anglican church, George O’Dowd wore his cap throughout. He adjusted the microphone before declaiming= his eulogy which took the form of a poem, saying: “I’ve known Steve some time so I’ve written a few things. . . you might not have heard in a church before.”
Life asked Death
why do people love you but hate me?
because you are a beautiful lie
and I am a painful truth .
part-time nemesis, rogue, glam rocker, punk rocker,
new romantic, old romantic,
first-class show-off, fellow freak,
beautiful gay man, seminal pop star,
wrecking ball, costume ball, masked ball,
Blitz Kid, blitzkrieg,
Welshman, wild card, weirdo,
sister, sinner, saint,
whirling, swirling, in your warpaint.
If you pray
all your sins are hooked upon the sky.
Pray and the heathen lie will disappear.
Prayers they hide
the saddest view.
(Believing the Steve Strangest thing,
loving the alien)