14 May 2004

Anyone out there who still reads The Printed Word might find the latest issue of Record Collector worth a peek. If you can get past the cover photo of Bob Geldof, this "80's Special" has some quality entertainment value, on account of the heavy emphasis on the New Romantic era.

I sometimes wonder what it is that still attracts me to this essentially ludicrous genre. In his opening essay, Joel McIver suggests that the demograph for appreciation of New romanticism is "people aged between thirty and forty and with a vague interest in fashion and electronics". Well that's me bang-to-rights. My conscience is clear. Lots of stuff on Human League, Flock of Seagulls, Culture Club and even my old faves Blancmange (who I wouldn't consider to be New Romantic in the slightest - their earthy sound and straight image completely at odds with the genre in my view.)

Former Sounds writer Betty Page recounts her early encounters with Spandeau Ballet and Duran Duran. Betty (now known by her real name Beverley Glick) highlights the surprisingly visionary stance of the early Spandeau, who's manager Steve Dagger said at the time: "It's not your Marquees, not your polytechnic gigs, nothing is created there. It happens in the clubs. Left to it's own devices, rock music becomes very boring". extraordinary prescience there...still a valid standpoint even now, in my book. Present day, John Foxx chips in with talk of the era's "total technological takeover" and of "the scene unknowingly headed toward acid and house music". Even Kajagoogoo's Limahl gets in on the act, with his outlandish and slightly improbable claim that his group were "very avant-garde with influences like Robert Fripp and Devo". And then, when discussing their big hit "Too Shy", Limahl's tech-talk of "the warm synth pad with the oscillator envelope thing opening slowly was the whole foundation/basis of the song" had me rummaging through my wife's 'Hit's of The 80s" compilations in order to reassess this seemingly misunderstood masterpiece. The 8-bar intro was quite sexy actually, but I remain dubious about the rest. If there's anyone out there who could convince me of Kajagoogoo's greatness, I'll be very grateful.

However much emphasis you place on New romanticism's role in the history of Dance Culture, one thing is certain. They looked great. One of the few drawbacks of post-acid, post B-boy Culture is the crap, loose-fitting sporty fashion that it spawned. I know it makes sense to wear tracksuit bottoms and trainers when you're dancing all night at a sweaty rave, but the knock-on effect has been over ten years of the most boring-looking people ever. Fashion has only started recovering in the last couple of years, with a gradual return to some good ol' 80s trash-glam action. And I know I'm a total hypocrite, 'cause I'm Mr. Casual and am too fucking cowardly to express myself through my appearance. Perhaps that's why I admire those early-80's fops like Steve Strange so much. They had more balls than I ever will, dressing up like that.