Steve Strange was the leading light of the New Romantic movement and along with Rusty Egan, was one of the creators of a look, a scene and a sound through his musical vehicle Visage. The band boasted John McGeoch and Dave Formula from Magazine, Billy Currie from Ultravox and Egan’s band mate from Rich Kids and John Foxx’s replacement in Ultravox, Midge Ure. The band wrote and played the songs and Strange looked after the look and the vocals. His legendary club, Blitz only let in ‘the weird and the wonderful’ those with a detailed decadent elegance. A man of many talents, he was a promoter, a DJ, a fashion afficionado – and also a singer.
As the seventies drew to a close and a new decade yearned for a Post Punk change, the media latched onto these new bands with a new look (as well as some old ones that liked the idea of dressing up). Their synth riffs were a crash between Kraftwerk and Donna Summer crushed under the wheels of Gary Numan’s dodgem car, reinventing the synthesizer with a found sequencer dressed up in New Romantic clothing. There was Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, Classix Nouveau, Depeche Mode, Midge Ure period Ultravox, the second incarnation of Human League, Adam Ant even Robert Smith with a smear of lipstick and anyone else that liked make-up and extravagance were able to cash in on this ephemeral movement.
Inspired by Bowie and organising Bowie nights, Strange’s dream finally came true when he got to work with his hero on the Ashes To Ashes film clip:
This from Wikipedia:
The music video for “Ashes to Ashes” was one of the most iconic of the 1980s. Costing £250,000, it was at the time the most expensive music video ever made. It incorporated scenes both in solarised colour and in stark black-and-white, featuring Bowie in the gaudy Pierrot costume that became the dominant visual representation of his Scary Monsters phase. Also appearing were Steve Strange and other members of the London Blitzscene, including Judith Frankland who had designed clothes for Strange’s Visage videos and Darla Jane Gilroy, forerunners of (later participants in) the New Romantic movement that was heavily influenced by Bowie’s music and image.
Bowie described the shot of himself and the Blitz Kids marching towards the camera in front of a bulldozer as symbolising “oncoming violence”. Although it appears that two of the Blitz Kids bow at intervals, they were actually trying to pull their gowns away from the bulldozer in an effort to avoid them getting caught. Scenes of the singer in a space suit—that suggested a hospital life-support system—and others showing him locked in what appeared to be a padded room, made reference to both Major Tom and to Bowie’s new, rueful interpretation of him. Contrary to popular belief, the elderly woman lecturing Bowie at the end of the clip was not his real mother.
Record Mirror readers voted “Ashes to Ashes” and Bowie’s next single, “Fashion”, the best music videos of 1980.
Meanwhile back on Earth, it’s November 1980 and Visage’s Fade To Grey is No.8 in the British charts. The album is No.1 in Germany, No2 in France and No.13 in the the UK – Steve Strange has arrived! Unfortunately it wasn’t to last. Boy George exploded instead (so to speak) and although the second Visage album, The Anvil made No.6 in the album chart in 1982 and despite a Top Ten single with The Damned Don’t Cry the hype was fading, the make-up was running, the soft lace was tearing and the third album, Beat Boy released in 1984 was a critical and commercial failure signalling the end of the band. It was nearly thirty years before Visage appeared again releasing Hearts And Knives in 2013 and Orchestral in December 2014. The last album was hits with an orchestra and with a new found energy – Steve Strange was back as 2015 arrived.
It had been a fascinating journey for Steven John Harrinton from Caerphilly, a small town in Wales more popular for cheese than music, to a hospital in Egypt where he died of a heart attack. But for a short while Strange owned the front pages of the newspapers and delivered some engaging Synth Pop that secured a dedicated following – and bags and bags of free make-up.
RIP Steve Strange, condolences to friends and family.
Tar was the first single from the debut album, it failed to chart but the image, the Blitz and the scene were ready.
Fade To Grey was the song the world (and Steve Strange) had been waiting for.
The third single from the debut album was Mind Of A Toy directed by Godley and Creme based on an idea by Steve Strange and banned from Top Of The Pop because it was “too frightening for children”. Still, it managed to make No.13 on the UK chart.
The Damned Don’t Cry was the first single from the second Visage album, The Anvil reaching No.11 on the UK chart. At this point the songwriting seemed lacking and the whole thing was held together by lipstick and powder. The end was most definitely nigh.