Archive for the ‘New Romantic’ Category

Ah, the New Romantics – the big hair, the makeup, the frilly clothes – and that was just the men. With my love of new wave music, I’m not sure why it took me so long to stumble upon the Blitz Kids, who originated the New Romantic movement. Those familiar with the Blitz Kids know how influential they were in this movement, and ‘80s culture in general. It was while researching the New Romantics that I became acquainted with this group of musicians, art students, and “unruly” teens who were so instrumental in shaping what ended up being the most dominant genre of music and fashion in the early ‘80s. Members of this prestigious set included Boy George, Marilyn, Steve Strange, members of Bananarama, and John Galliano, just to name a few.

Origins and Fashion

It all started in 1978 in London, where a club called Billy’s held regular Bowie nights. The themed night drew kids disillusioned with the punk scene, and art and fashion students from local colleges. After a few months the group moved on to the Blitz wine bar for regular Tuesday night gatherings. The crowds donned looks from the English Romantic period, Berlin Cabaret, to retro Hollywood, and androgyny ruled the day. The extravagant fashion was a rejection of the stripped down look of punk. Steve Strange (later of Visage) manned the door with an iron fist, and if you did not live up to his creative standards you were not getting through the door. If you were able to get in, you would get the chance to mingle with the likes of Siouxsie Sioux, Midge Ure, and Billy Idol. Below are photos that capture the fashion and attitude of those Tuesday nights.

A shot outside the Blitz

Blitz Club

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Steve Strange (middle) and Boy George (right)

Steve and George

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marilyn (left), DJ Princess Julia (Julia Fodor), Boy George (right)

Marilyn and George and Julia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Martin Degville, pre- Sigue Sigue Sputnik

Martin 2

The Music

But it wasn’t all about the fashion. It all started with the music. And the music at the Blitz was described as “electro-diskow.” This consisted of European disco (think Giorgio Moroder), German bands such as Kraftwerk, glam rock bands like Roxy Music and, of course, David Bowie. A favorite dance move saw partners hold hands, lift their knees up to their waist, and spin and hop in a new kind of jive, as seen in the video for Duran Duran’s “Planet Earth” (see the 2:53 mark). Duran Duran actually recruited some of their Blitz Kid friends for the shoot. David Bowie also had some Blitz Kids appear in the video for “Ashes to Ashes.” It wasn’t long before bands started to emerge from the scene. The most notable were Spandau Ballet, who got their start playing cabaret nights at The Blitz, and Visage. The heavy synth and electropop sound would dominate the airwaves well into the decade.

Legacy and Influence

Although nights at the Blitz only lasted a couple of years, the influence of the Blitz Kids and the New Romantic movement on music, club culture, and fashion could be felt for decades to come. Designers such as Vivienne Westwood based their whole collections on the New Romantic look, and the clothes were worn by such acts as Adam and the Ants and Bow Wow Wow. Bands such as Duran Duran, Depeche Mode, Heaven 17, Human League, and ABC, who were all heavily influenced by this movement, found regular rotation on MTV and helped shape ‘80s synthpop music. Steve Strange and his group also revitalized the London nightlife and created the idea of theme nights that have become a staple of club culture to this day. Oh, to be able to have just a peek at what went on inside the Blitz during those years. On second thought, I probably would have never made it through the door.

For more on the Blitz Kids, here’s a documentary from 2005.

 

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I recently went to see the Duran Duran concert film, Duran Duran: Unstaged. The film was released on September 10th, showing for one night only at over 300 theaters across the U.S. Directed by David Lynch, it captures the band in concert at the Mayan Theatre in Los Angeles in 2011. In light of this event, I’ve decided to highlight Duran Duran’s “Planet Earth” as the first in a series of classic videos.

“Planet Earth,” released in 1981, was the band’s first single and quickly became a hit in the UK and Australia. It was included on their self-titled album released later that year. This was the first collaboration with director Russell Mulcahy, who would go on to direct several more videos for the group. The band is costumed in full “New Romantic” frilly fashion. The video also features some of their club friends prancing around barefoot in some pretty outrageous outfits. This is one of my favorites from the group and still has heavy rotation on my playlists.