Towards the end of the relatively short lived Punk Rock era, a number of the Punks decided that they wanted to experiment with a new image which was far removed from the ‘anything goes’ attitude of the Punk scene. Along with other like-minded people, they would not be seen in public without wearing their finest, extravagant, over-the-top and in many cases, weird and outlandish outfits. They were coiffured, self satisfied, vain and obsessed with David Bowie. Coupled with the extremely dramatic make-up they wore and their rather aloof behaviour they gained popularity with other people looking for something different & exciting. Pop stars, actors, fashion designers and other people of note also embraced this new scene and with their numbers growing they needed somewhere to meet and socialise – cue Mr Steve Strange & Mr Rusty Egan!
The early days saw them meet up at an old warehouse called Mayhem where Toyah Wilcox lived. The parties would sometimes last for 3 or 4 days and by all accounts were quite wild… With their numbers growing they looked for a more permanent place to meet regularly and the first club that they found was in the basement of a, shall we say, adult club in the centre of Soho, London.
The club was called Billy’s and they met every Tuesday evening. Many names for the this group of people were put forward including ‘The Peacock Punks’, ‘Cult With No Name’, ‘New Dandies’ and ‘The Blitz Kids’ but the press eventually christened them the ‘New Romantics’ – this however was not a popular choice. Rusty volunteered himself as the house DJ and with his record collection containing tunes from artists such as The Normal, Brian Eno & Kraftwerk the music of choice soon became the electronic sound. Tuesday nights at Billy’s were very well attended but because of the need for larger premises and the greed of the club owners, they moved to a bar called The Blitz. This was a 1940’s Parisian themed Wine bar and it provided the perfect setting for them. The Blitz nights started out as Bowie nights where all of the music that was played was purely Bowie.
After a while a more varied music style began to be played and the electronic theme crept back in. Rusty soon realised however, that his record collection was very limited and he needed new material to play. He embarked on a venture to visit Düsseldorf, Germany and speak to the members of Kraftwerk to see if there was anything else in a similar vein available. He got his wish and met with them. They were surprised at the popularity of their music in the club and told him of a record shop that stocked lots of electronic music. He found the record shop and returned to England with a suitcase full of the electronic music he had been looking for. The Blitz nights became extremely popular and they eventually developed a strict dress code policed by Steve Strange. Only with his blessing were you allowed to enter the club!
The image of the New Romantics was heavily influenced by an historic theatrical custumiers called Bermans & Nathans selling off their entire back catalogue of costumes. This gave them the opportunity to own costumes from dramatically varying styles reflecting their own unique personalities. The members of Spandau Ballet met there and formed the first ‘House Band’ before becoming the successful band we know of today. Rusty and Steve together with Midge Ure formed their own band in order to experiment with and produce electronic music and Visage was born. This band pushed the boundaries of electronic music as well as creating one of the first ever pop videos for their huge hit single ‘Fade To Grey’ – probably one of the first true ‘Synth Pop’ hits.
A strong New Romantic scene quickly developed in Birmingham followed by other large cities across the UK.
Many artists & musicians such as Adam Ant, Duran Duran, Human League, The Cure, Culture Club, Marc Almond, Gary Numan and Siouxsie Sioux were massively influenced by the whole image. They embraced the fact that it gave each of them the freedom to express their own uniqueness and through the music they produced brought a taste of flamboyance and colour to the general public in a time of deep depression.