DOCUMENTATION

MUSIC DOCUMENTARIES

BLITZ CLUB, NEW ROMANTICS

Based on the private collection of the Welcome To The Robots Project. No claim to completeness.

A HOUSE FULL OF MUSIC


Exhibition: Institut Mathildenhöhe Darmstadt 13.5. - 9.9.2012


Before John Cage (1912–1992), there was hardly anyone as consistent as he was in questioning the boundaries of music and its connections to other fields of art and the everyday world. Along with Erik Satie, Marcel Duchamp, Nam June Paik, and Joseph Beuys, Cage is one of the greatest strategists and pioneers of twentieth-century music and art. Starting with these key figures, this publication examines twelve fundamental strategies of art and music since 1900: recording, collage, silence, destruction, calculation, coincidence, feeling, thought, belief, furnishing, repetition, and playing. Interdisciplinary essays by art and music theorists as well as exemplary works and original sources by artists, musicians, and composers are featured alongside visual documentation, showing the impressive diversity of parallel and overlapping activities between music and art from Laurie Anderson and Robert Filliou to Anri Sala and Iannis Xenakis.


Publisher : Hatje Cantz Verlag; 1st edition (30 Aug. 2012)

Language : English

Hardcover : 384 pages

ISBN-10 : 3775733191

ISBN-13 : 978-3775733199

Dimensions : 25 x 4.5 x 31 cm

AT AMAZON UK | AT AMAZON DE

THE SOUL BOYS OF THE WESTERN WORLD


By the time George Hencken’s “Soul Boys of the Western World” finishes, audiences won’t know Spandau Ballet’s favorite breakfast cereals, but that’s about all they won’t know. A vanity production composed entirely of pre-existing footage — producers Steve Dagger and Scott Millaney are the group’s manager and producer, respectively — the documentary traces the usual pop-band trajectory, presenting Spandau Ballet as the most iconic group of the 1980s. Hmm. TV-style and desperately in need of cutting, “Soul Boys” does convincingly position its subjects as key trendsetters, and their most memorable tunes continue to be enjoyable. Unsurprisingly, the film is timed to cash in on reunion concerts, and will be a gift to their fanbase.

The background story will be familiar for those who’ve watched practically any history of U.K. bands from the era. The five members, including brothers Gary and Martin Kemp, were raised in the outlying neighborhoods of central London, imbibing soul music along with David Bowie, Roxy Music and punk trends. They began playing together as teens in the late 1970s under various names, shifting styles while becoming increasingly prominent among the Blitz kids, those trailblazing hipsters whose outre fashions made them rulers of the club scene.

In 1979, when columnist Bob Elms reporting seeing the words “Spandau ballet” scrawled in a Berlin toilet, the band was rechristened, and its self-crafted, painfully cutting-edge sense of style propelled it to the forefront of the in-crowd. At this point, it seems, the musicians’ popularity had more to do with their New Romantic looks than any originality in sound – watch their unfortunate “Musclebound” video from 1981, in which the debt to Bowie is terribly obvious. But they appeared on the hit-making show “Top of the Pops,” and exposure to the world outside the Blitz crowd began.

The docu continues with “True,” the band’s major breakthrough in 1983 (“We really were the darlings of 1983”), then “Gold,” on through the Live Aid concert, and smack into the expected pressures of partying, hordes of screaming fans and the combustible nature of fame — especially volatile when one member, Gary, is a bit of a control freak. The Kemps’ decision to star in the film “The Krays,” just when the band was preparing a new album, didn’t go down well with other members, and the inevitable break-up happened in 1990, followed by legal wrangling when the non-Kemps sued, and lost, for royalty shares. Then, in 2009, they reunited: “Soul Boys of the Western World” ends with five minutes of concert footage from their 2010 Isle of Wight gig.

Was Spandau Ballet really the band of the 1980s? They admit to a rivalry with Duran Duran, and while Spandau began earlier, one could argue that Duran Duran was a bigger phenomenon. In terms of outlandish fashion, the band did cut a thrillingly counter-establishment figure in 1979-83, yet it’s hard, without the contribution of cultural historians, to say they were the era’s defining icons. Certainly in terms of bands that led the shift from punk to New Romanticism in both dress and sound, Adam and the Ants deserve some acknowledgment here (and musically, Visage and Ultravox).

The greatest hole in “Soul Boys,” however, is the lack of any music commentator who could properly place the band in context. Also lacking is an acknowledgment that Tony Hadley’s thrillingly plush voice was a vital component of the band’s success, notwithstanding some very clever songwriting from Gary Kemp. In this way, the decision to use only pre-existing footage serves the group poorly. Director Hencken, a longtime producer on Julien Temple’s docus, overloads the film with unnecessary insertions, so the line “We had all the majors chasing after us” is accompanied by an image of greyhound racing. And is it really necessary to show Steve Norman’s knee arthroscopy? Sound quality is tops.


Text from VARIETY


DVD, 2014, 01:50

THE NEW ROMANTICS: A FINE ROMANCE


Culture Club, Spandau Ballet, Visage, Marilyn, Adam and the Ants, Duran Duran, ABC... At the dawn of the 80s, a whole host of strangely dressed men in make-up burst forth onto the music scene brandishing synthesisers and kicking against the visual ugliness of punk.

They came mainly from the London club scene, led by gender-bending host Steve Strange and pioneering electronic DJ Rusty Egan, and conquered the charts with classic tracks such as Do You Really Want to Hurt Me, To Cut a Long Story Short, Kings of the Wild Frontier, Planet Earth, Fade to Grey, Calling Your Name and Poison Arrow.

Magenta Devine narrates this gay and colourful behind-the-scene documentary of sex and drugs and frocks and hair-rollers, which includes interviews with Boy George, Gary Kemp, Adam Ant, Nick Rhodes, Steve Strange, Rusty Egan, Marilyn, Jonathan Ross, Caryn Franklin, Fiona Bruce and Robert Elms.


BBC4, 2021, 00:45

MIDGE URE & GLENN GREGORY

INTO THE NIGHT


Für einen Abend in der Wiege des Pop bringt „Durch die Nacht mit“ zwei der stilbildenden Musiker der 80er Jahre zusammen: In London treffen sich die Frontmänner von Heaven 17 und Ultravox, Glenn Gregory und Midge Ure.

Die 80er Jahre sind in. Der Appeal der Musik ist nicht mehr „retro“ und pure Nostalgie – im Gegenteil, immer mehr neue Bands beziehen sich auf den Sound der frühen Eighties. Bands wie The Editors, Interpol, White Lies oder Hurts feiern Erfolge mit Songs, die auf einem Mixtape nahtlos hinter die Bands von damals passen könnten.

Die beiden Vollblutmusiker Glenn Gregory und Midge Ure greifen gleich zu Beginn des Abends in Gregorys Haus zu den Gitarren. Das gemeinsame Werk steht dabei ebenso auf dem Programm wie „Lady Stardust“ von David Bowie, um den es an diesem Abend noch häufiger geht. Danach flanieren die zwei über den Camden Market zur angesagten Proud Gallery, wo sie sich gegenseitig stolz ihre Musikvideos vorführen – Relikte aus einer Zeit, als Heaven 17 noch ganze Straßenzüge in London für die Dreharbeiten absperrten und Ultravox als humorlose Stinkstiefel galten. Noch weiter in die Zeit zurück geht es beim Besuch der Überreste des legendären Clubs „Blitz“. Hier wurde Ende der 70er Jahre der Grundstein für die New Wave- und New Romantic-Szene gelegt, und Midge Ure kann sich noch gut an die Nacht erinnern, als David Bowie sich dort die Ehre gab. Gemeinsam schwelgen Gregory und Ure in einer Vergangenheit, als Midge mit seinem Projekt Visage und „Fade To Grey“ einen Welthit hatte und Glenn sich in Sheffield noch mit den Punks rumschlug. Was dann folgt, ist eine Premiere: Zum ersten Mal müssen sich bei „Durch die Nacht“ die Künstler ihr Abendessen selbst zubereiten, was für die zwei Hobbyköche jedoch kein Problem ist – Midge Ure hat es als Teilnehmer der Promi-Kochshow „Masterchef“ sogar ins Finale geschafft. Gemeinsam mit „Propaganda“-Sängerin Claudia Bruecken nehmen die zwei in einem Studio den 80er-Song „When Your Heart Runs Out Of Time“ neu auf und suchen danach am Covent Garden nach den Drehorten des Ultravox-Videos zu „Vienna“.

In den Gesprächen der zwei Freunde geht es nicht nur um Vergangenes, sondern auch um das Musikbusiness der Gegenwart; Midge Ure veröffentlicht mit Ultravox im Mai 2012 das erste Album der Band seit 1986. In einem sind sich beide einig: Sie würden heute nicht noch mal von vorn anfangen wollen. Aber aufhören kommt auch nicht in Frage!


ARTE, 2012, 00:55

POSERS – NEW ROMANTICS IN THE KINGS ROAD


A look at the Kings Road culture in 1981 - at the height of the New Romantics.

Punk was boring. Punk was dead. Punk stopped being interesting when it became chart music. In its place came New Wave—which was really just more of the same played with jangly guitars by bands with a taste for Sixties music. The next really big thing was the utter antithesis of punk. Elitist, pretentious, preening, vain, camp yet utterly inventive.

It was called “the cult with no name”—because nobody knew what to call it. It didn’t fit any easy categorization. There were soul boys, punks, rockabillies, with a taste for dance music and electronica all in the mix. It was the press who eventually pitched up with the tag New Romantics which stuck.

I was never quite sure what was supposed to be romantic about the New Romantics. They weren’t starving in garrets or brokenhearted, writing poetry, indulging in absinthe or committing suicide by the dozen. They were all dolled-up to the nines, flaunting it out on the streets—demanding to be seen.

It had all started with Rusty Egan and Steve Strange running a club night playing Bowie, Roxy Music and Kraftwerk at a venue called Billy’s in 1978.

Egan was a drummer and DJ. He was in a band with ex-Sex Pistol Glen Matlock called Rich Kids which featured Midge Ure on vocals. 

Strange had been inspired to move to London and form a punk band after he saw the Sex Pistols in concert. He moved out of Wales and formed The Moors Murderers. The band included punk icon Soo Catwoman, guitarist Chrissie Hynde and Clash drummer Topper Headon. Together they recorded one notorious single “Free Hindley.”

The same year, Egan, Strange and Ure formed Visage—which was to become a catalyst for the New Romantics in 1980 with their hit single “Fade to Grey.”

1978: Egan and Strange move their club night to a wine bar-cum-restaurant-cum-dance-club called the Blitz. Egan was the DJ. Strange was on the door. Strange has a strict door policy. No one gets in unless they dressed like superstars.

The club nights coincided with a massive stock sale by film and theatrical costumiers Nathan and Berman’s. This was where Adam Ant bought his famous hussars’ jacket—the very one worn by David Hemmings in The Charge of the Light Brigade.

1978: Egan and Strange move their club night to a wine bar-cum-restaurant-cum-dance-club called the Blitz. Egan was the DJ. Strange was on the door. Strange has a strict door policy. No one gets in unless they dressed like superstars.

The club nights coincided with a massive stock sale by film and theatrical costumiers Nathan and Berman’s. This was where Adam Ant bought his famous hussars’ jacket—the very one worn by David Hemmings in The Charge of the Light Brigade.

It was Nathan and Berman’s stock that supplied the New Romantics with their look. A mix of tartan and tweed—Victoriana, 1930s suits, pirate costumes, Napoleonic outfits. These were all snapped up for ridiculously low prices—cheaper than a pair of jeans down the King’s Road. Suddenly, the bright young things were all glamorous and beautiful dancing robotically to Kraftwerk’s “Showroom Dummies.” Oh, the irony.

Egan and Strange started a cultural revolution with Blitz. Pull one thread from all these beautiful gowns and you’ll find a pop culture history of the 1980s—Spandau Ballet, Duran Duran, Boy George, Leigh Bowery and Taboo, to electronica, Ultravox, and eventually on to rave culture and beyond.

Why? and How? did it happen—you may well ask. It was the happy alignment of talent and ambition in the same place at the same time. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? But it needed three things to get it going:

1. Music. Rusty Egan bringing together disparate people with a similar taste in music, fashion and ideas by playing Bowie, Ferry, Kraftwerk and Neu.

Egan was so enamoured with Kraftwerk he traveled to Germany to speak with the band and obtain more of their records.

2. Place. First Billy’s then the Blitz Club. Place can’t be over emphasized. Bring people to one location where it’s their club just for one night. Where they can behave how they like. Talk to other like-minded people. Inspire each other. Share ideas. Blitz brought together artists, musicians, filmmakers and designers. Spandau Ballet were basically the house band. They rubbed shoulders with members of Magazine and Ultravox and Tubeway Army. Barry Adamson. Boy George. Marilyn. John McGeoch. Even Phil Lynott—who was regular. Then designers like John Galiano, Stephen Jones and artists like Grayson Perry. Blitz was a laboratory where the experiments for the eighties began.

3. Catalyst. Steve Strange was the catalyst. He was the man who made it all come together. He had an elitist attitude. Working the door at Blitz he only let in those who looked right. If you didn’t pass muster—he would hold up a mirror and ask “Would you let yourself in looking this?” Strange brought together the best minds. His technique was copied by Leigh Bowery at Taboo. But Strange had a vision—he was creating a salon for the next generation of artists.

That’s how you do it. And that’s how they did it.

Of course—if it was that easy then everyone would be doing it. But the truth is—this was a very special group people and that’s gotta be on the list too.

Back in 1981, at the height of all this New Romaticism—a film crew ventured out on London’s King’s Road to capture a sense of this latest youth movement. They followed youths hanging about shops and parading up and down in their finery. The filmmakers visited markets. Talked to sociologist Ted Polhemus about what he thought. Talked to ex-punk Jordan what she thought. We’re not always any the wiser. Perhaps they just should have just gone straight to Rusty Egan or Steve Strange and found out what they thought.

However, it is a fascinating portrait of the then latest greatest youth movement that spawned a revolution in music, fashion, film, art, and style.


Text from DANGEROUS MINDS


1981, 00:24

THE BLITZ KIDS DOCUMENTARY


Check out this documentary about The Blitz Kids. The legendary Blitz club in London's Covent Garden that set the music charts on fire and made the teenage crowd into superstars. Steve Strange, Marilyn, Boy George, all of the 80's heroes that now lead very different lives post heroin and spotlights.


CHANNEL 4, 2005, 00:49

BOY GEORGE PRESENTS TOP TEN 80s NEW ROMANTICS


Out of the ashes of Punk came the New Romantics, rising like a painted phoenix over London’s club scene. From clubs like Billy’s and Blitz, where Steve Strange and Rusty Egan played Bowie, the Velvets and T.Rex, and Boy George was the coat-check guy, came the New Romantics. Clubbers known as the Blitz Kids, who were made-up and beautiful, and knew imagination was more important than money when it came to having fun. 

The Blitz Kids were Steve Strange (Visage), Rusty Egan (The Rich Kids), Boy George (Culture Club), Tony Hadley, Martin Kemp, Gary Kemp, John Keeble, Steve Norman (Spandau Ballet), Tony James, James Degville (Sigue Sigue Sputnik), Siobhan Fahey (Bananarama), Marilyn, Princess Julia, Isabella Blow, Stephen Jones and Michael Clarke, and together they were the generation of New Romantics.


CHANNEL 4, 2011, 00:44

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