Co-founded in 1979 by Steve Strange and Rusty Egan, London’s groundbreaking Blitz club stood out right from the off. With a playlist of uber-cool European and electronic sounds, it attracted a flamboyant posse of new romantic poseurs, style-obsessed wannabes and arty scenesters who would go on to become big names in music, culture, fashion and beyond. Our oral history of the fabled nightspot taps into the memories and wild stories – subversiveness, fisticuffs, the night David Bowie turned up – of the Blitz Kids who were there

Dramatis Personae

Richard James Burgess

After co-founding synthpop outfit Landscape – who scored a UK Top 10 hit with ‘Einstein A Go-Go’ in 1981 – Burgess was one of the first producers of note to emerge from the new romantic scene, producing Spandau Ballet’s first two albums plus work by Adam Ant, King, Living In A Box and countless others. 

Billy Currie

Well-known for his work with Ultravox, Gary Numan and Visage, keyboard and violin maestro Billy Currie frequented Billy’s and Blitz from the very beginning. He’s an established solo artist in his own right too, with albums such as 2016’s ‘Doppel’ and 2020’s excellent ‘The Brushwork Oblast’ showcasing his signature synth and piano chops.

Steve Dagger

Influential impresario Steve Dagger masterminded Spandau Ballet’s career right from the start, including the landmark 1979 live performance at the Blitz that set them on their way. He also produced the acclaimed Spandau documentary ‘Soul Boys Of The Western World’ (2014), which entertainingly recounts their meteoric rise and fall.

Rusty Egan

The larger-than-life co-founder – alongside Steve Strange – of both Billy’s and the Blitz, not to mention the Hell, Club For Heroes and Camden Palace ventures that followed, DJ/selector Rusty Egan’s zeitgeist-defining playlists set the agenda for new romantic and electronic music in the 1980s and beyond.

Robert Elms

A distinguished chronicler of the new romantic movement, writer and cultural commentator Robert Elms penned columns for The Face and NME during their 70s and 80s heyday, and his 2006 book ‘The Way We Wore’ has been described as “the ‘Fever Pitch’ of urban street fashion”. He currently presents his own show on BBC Radio London, exploring the city’s “architecture, accents and great music”.

Caryn Franklin MBE

Formerly co-editor at i-D magazine, British fashion and identity commentator Caryn Franklin co-presented the BBC’s primetime ‘The Clothes Show’ programme from 1986 to 1998. She continues to write, present and teach – as well as being visiting professor of diverse selfhood at Kingston School of Art, she hosts classes on fashion psychology at Goldsmiths, University of London.

Princess Julia

A key player of the Billy’s/Blitz era, Julia Fodor (aka Princess Julia) worked alongside Steve Strange at key London fashion boutique PX in the late 1970s and appeared prominently in Visage’s iconic ‘Fade To Grey’ video in 1980. Now a writer and sought-after DJ, she retains her very distinctive sense of style and is still a prominent figure on the nightlife circuit.

Mark Moore

As co-founder and frontman of sample-meisters S’Express, Mark Moore came to prominence in the late 1980s at the peak of acid house and rave. He is also a renowned producer, remixer, and a thrillingly eclectic DJ who has embraced new wave electronica, Chicago house, Detroit techno, alt-pop and more.

Philip Sallon

Emerging from the subculture of punk – he staged Vivienne Westwood’s early catwalk shows – style innovator and outré socialite Philip Sallon has been a colourful, standout fixture at London’s nightspots since the 1970s. As a promoter and host, his most successful venture was the capital’s infamous Mud Club, launched with Malcolm McLaren in 1983.

Chris Sullivan

Ex-frontman of 80s salsa/funk/jazz ensemble Blue Rondo À La Turk, instigator of the hedonistic Wag Club, author, painter, DJ… “godfather of partying” Chris Sullivan has dabbled in a bit of everything. His lavish 2012 book, ‘We Can Be Heroes’, created with Blitz photographer Graham Smith, is a defining tome of London clubland from 1978 to 1984.

Rusty Egan: “The violence of punk didn’t appeal to us – both punk and traditional clubs were extremely homophobic, all very ‘Are you looking at my bird?’. We were punks but we really didn’t like where punk was going and who was in control of it. We loved the Pistols and The Clash but things like Oi!, Garry Bushell, and bands singing about ‘going down the pub’ – these were not our people. We were on a different plane, really. I met Steve Strange on the road in Wales with the Rich Kids, but pretty soon I’d see him out at punk gigs on the King’s Road, and we became friends. Steve started taking me to gay clubs – I was just a kid who didn’t know anything about this stuff – and that changed everything. We’d spend hours working on our looks and our clothes. All of us had that very working-class thing of going down the King’s Road and getting the best clobber we could afford.”

Robert Elms: “I had already been a punk at 15 and dressed in Vivienne Westwood bondage gear. I came from inner London and had been going out to clubs from about the age of 14, so I was very used to the nightlife, the demi-monde of youth culture. In 1978, it all went very quiet. Punk had kind of finished and I thought the whole youth culture game was over. And then a shop called PX opened in Covent Garden, which was a dead zone then – the market had closed and they didn’t even open the underground station at weekends because so few people went there. I went into PX because I’d always been into clothes, and fashion was my thing. I had a big asymmetric fringe, like Phil Oakey from The Human League. Behind the counter at PX was Steve Strange, who I knew a little bit from punk gigs and stuff. He was part of a Welsh contingent in London with a guy called Chris Sullivan, who became my best mate. I bought this ridiculous padded shouldered top with a sash across it. Steve described it as a ‘space Cossack’ top, which tells you how preposterous it was. And I knew Rusty Egan – I’d grown up not very far from him. Steve said, ‘Rusty and I are starting a new night at a place called Billy’s next Tuesday. Come along’. Billy’s was the precursor to the Blitz. I went on the very first night with Steve Dagger and Graham Smith, a mate from art school – he became a photographer and did most of the photos of the Blitz. I loved it. Immediately, I knew my world was about to change.” 

Steve Strange – Photo: Terry Smith

Rusty Egan: “At Billy’s, the playlist wasn’t like anything you’d hear in another club. Because the crowd were really into music, they were interested in what they were hearing. Steadily, one by one, I managed to play everything I wanted. People would come up to me and say, ‘What is that record?’. I’d play stuff like ‘Walk On The Wild Side’ and ‘No GDM’ by Gina X Performance… lyrical content that related directly to people in the club. As a heterosexual man, I was directing the traffic, so to speak. I knew I could put on a track like the long version of ‘Love To Love You Baby’, grab a girl and get my whine and grind on, then end the night with Lou Reed’s ‘Goodnight Ladies’ and just orchestrate the whole evening that way.”

Billy Currie: “My last gig with John Foxx and Ultravox in 1978 was between Christmas and New Year at the Marquee Club on Wardour Street. I was in the dressing room afterwards, wondering what the hell to do. Rusty Egan came in and invited me to Billy’s, which was around the corner. It was a friendly vibe, a new scene. You didn’t have punk music blasting at your head and Rusty played some really interesting stuff.” 

Robert Elms: “Billy’s was beneath a brothel on Meard Street in Soho, called the Go Go Club. It really wasn’t glamorous at all – there was a disco ball, and it had been a place for prostitutes. But it was empty on a Tuesday night, so Steve took it over. There were about 70 people there on that first night. I would say 50 of them went on to be very famous… mostly artists, fashion designers and photographers. Steve was on the door looking fabulous. Rusty was playing Bowie, Roxy, Kraftwerk and Iggy Pop, the sort of records you didn’t really hear in nightclubs. Normally it was American funk, soul, jazz or whatever. But this was different – edgier, harder and a bit older. Boy George and Philip Sallon were there. Almost nobody was over the age of 21. It was a lot of kids who had gone to early punk gigs and been into the Vivienne Westwood side of punk rather than the grimy stuff.”

Billy Currie: “Rusty was quite a character. I didn’t really know him all that well at the time, but he said, ‘Midge Ure is doing the DJing next week – come down and I’ll introduce you’. And almost on the same night, I think, Rusty – not being shy at coming forward – said, ‘We’re thinking about putting a band together around this new scene’. That band would become Visage, which I formed along with Rusty, Steve Strange, Midge and the guys from Magazine, after the John Foxx version of Ultravox came to an end.”

Robert Elms: “I think Billy’s only lasted for about three months. Then Steve and Rusty had a falling out with Vince, the guy who ran it, and that’s when they found the Blitz.”

Rusty Egan: “The only reason we moved was because the owner of Billy’s doubled the price of everything – we were very broke and on the dole. Punk students with no money! So I made myself scarce and went record shopping in Düsseldorf and Berlin, buying Neu!’s ‘Hallogallo’, Gina X Performance, and every record I could find by Nina Hagen, plus German versions of all the Kraftwerk albums, ‘Heroes’ and so forth. And I brought all those records to the Blitz.”

Chris Sullivan: “I went to Blitz before Steve and Rusty took it over, and it was a funky, wartime-inspired wine bar that attracted a nice crowd, with a cabaret evening and soul night on Friday. Both Steve and Julia Fodor – Princess Julia – worked in PX, the hippest shop on the block on nearby Endell Street, in Covent Garden. They toddled up to the wine bar after work – it had World War II-era metal Bovril and Woodbine cigarette posters on the walls – and seeing that it was indeed a good space with a vacant Tuesday, Steve made a deal with the manager, Brendan.”

Robert Elms: “Back in the late 1970s, London was a very violent place. It was also a very difficult place if you looked like Boy George, or looked extravagant, flamboyant or gay. Tuesday night was a quiet night – there were fewer people out who were likely to chase you up the street. Both Billy’s and the Blitz felt like places of safety. You could be whoever you wanted to be. That’s incredibly energising and makes you feel brave and strong, like you’ve got a kind of family… a pretty dysfunctional and very bitchy one, because it was such a small group of kids from all over London. We became our own little tribe, if you like. Yes, it was incredibly elitist trying to get in past Steve but once you were in, everybody was equal.”

Princess Julia: “Steve kept me informed about his plans for a club night, initially at Billy’s in Meard Street, Soho, so we already had a scene going on – but the Blitz seemed to elevate the mood somewhat. I even worked the coat-check for a while before Boy George. Entry was overseen by Steve, and you had to make an effort with a ‘look’. That was very important. Steve was coming up with new looks on a weekly basis.”

Mark Moore: “I had previously been to Steve and Rusty’s Bowie night at Billy’s but by the time Blitz started, I was stuck in North Finchley and it was really hard to get home from anywhere in the West End after 11pm – I was practically exiled from nightlife so I wasn’t clubbing. The Blitz had been open for months by this point and was as far away and as mythical to us as somewhere like Studio 54.”

Caryn Franklin: “I was a graphic design student at Kingston School of Art but I spent a lot of time in the fashion department. The fashion students were way more stylish so I was always hanging around, photographing my fashion friends and making magazines. Some had connections with students at St Martin’s, which was an uber-cool hothouse of creatives, so we heard about Blitz from them. There would also be house parties and I’d see the way that St Martin’s students were dressed – a mix of Bloomsbury Set, gothic/post-punk and a Futurist, Thierry Mugler-inspired pointed shoulder or home-made hat.”

Mark Moore: “In 1979, when the Blitz started, Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister and being an out, proud gay person was tough. They were hard times – many of the core Blitz Kids lived in squats. The whole queer and subversive element of the scene is often overlooked in documentaries, which are rather fluffy and mainly go on about Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran, much as I love them both. Everyone should check out the recent ‘Tramps!’ documentary by Kevin Hegge – the subversive side of that era is finally examined with its queerness intact.”

Chris Sullivan: “Initially it was rather quiet, but after just a few weeks the club went ballistic as word spread throughout the south-east, and Steve’s punk friends such as the Bromley Contingent’s Siouxsie Sioux, Steve Severin and Billy Idol turned up along with the glam, groovy, older-guard artists Duggie Fields, Andrew Logan and Luciana Martinez, next to almost every wayward fashion and art student in the country, from colleges such as St Martins, Ravensbourne, Hornsey and beyond.”

Richard James Burgess: “Rusty called me right when he and Steve started Blitz and told me I had to come down and see it. Rusty and I had been friends for years. He’s like family – I played with his parents’ band and he used to come and see Landscape play live. The Blitz absolutely blew my mind. We had just gone through several years of British punk, which was nihilistic, dark, aggressive – reflecting 1970s Britain – and musically simplistic, then here was what seemed like a complete reversal of everything. It was flamboyant, celebratory, optimistic, hedonistic, and the music was sophisticated and fresh. I felt like this was the future and my future – an incubator for everything 80s.”

Marilyn with Densil WIlliams – Photo: Graham Smith

Robert Elms: “There was a certain self-consciousness about the kids who were in there. We sort of knew that something was going to happen because from very early on, people started talking and writing about it… we became the centre of attention. And within maybe two months of the Blitz opening, there’s queues of people outside trying to get in past Steve Strange.”

Philip Sallon: “If you’ve seen Boy George’s musical ‘Taboo’, you get a rough idea of what the Blitz was like. It was only tiny with a very small dancefloor, but in my memory it feels much bigger than it was. I don’t think there was one person I didn’t speak to.”

Mark Moore: “The first time I went to the Blitz was very exciting. It had become such a talked-about club, mainly by people in the know. A bunch of us all got dressed up and arranged to meet. We knew we should approach Steve on the door in small groups of ones and twos rather than as a mob if we wanted to get in. There was already a big queue outside and people were getting turned away in droves. Slowly but surely all my friends were refused entry, even though they looked great, and they were completely gutted. Then my friend Judy and I tried our luck. We weren’t as flashy as the ones who were turned away, but I had a post-punk look, sporting a leather jacket and with dyed red hair like David Bowie in Nic Roeg’s ‘The Man Who Fell To Earth’. Judy was wearing a big ballgown. We tried to be nonchalant… Steve eyed us up and down then, to our utter surprise, told us the price of entry. Judy and I then got into an argument about who should pay. Steve rolled his eyes and said we needed to sort it out as we were holding up the queue. I paid immediately while trying to regain my composure. I felt really excited that Steve had taken a shine to us and that we actually got in – it boosted my confidence no end.”

Caryn Franklin: “I was desperate to get in. I’d heard that Steve Strange would look you up and down and decide if he liked what he saw. I spent hours getting ready but then you did back in those days – trying on loads of clothes from jumble sales and fashion student friends, spending ages on hair and make-up, wearing uncomfortable things or garments that looked best without a coat, even though it was cold and a long way on the train to get to the club. Later, as I got more and more confident and knew I would get in, even Steve – who seemed like a superstar in his own right – would nod a cool ‘hello’ to our crowd. Well, that was it… we felt we belonged.”

Billy Currie: “Lemmy was there one night on a fruit machine, completely in his own world, but it was more of a posing place, really. People were hanging out, talking at the bar or dancing. I always felt like a bit of an outsider because I was just watching and listening. I glanced across to people who clearly spent time getting dressed, like Boy George. He was wearing a great kimono and looked incredible. George and the others were a bit sniffy with me but they weren’t too sniffy because they knew there was something coming with Visage. I could always get in because of Visage – I was spoiled, really.”

Richard James Burgess: “Considering how tight the door policy was, with established stars like Mick Jagger getting turned away, one would expect it would be snooty or aloof, but I found it to be a very inviting and friendly place. I am naturally pretty introverted but I was comfortable there from the beginning.”

Robert Elms: “That’s completely true about Jagger. Steve said, ‘No, you’re not well-dressed enough, go away’. Steve was maybe 20 at the time. That’s the best bit of publicity that you can possibly have.”

Chris Sullivan: “The Blitz was a real haven for the idiosyncratic. A mad, barking celebration of British recalcitrance, it began in the aftermath of punk as a watering hole where excess was second nature and punk now just too bland. Within the confines of the club there was no prescribed image. The ethic was ‘individuality’. It was not a ‘look’ or about conformity, it was about being ‘you’. Some people mixed and matched second-hand clothing bought from jumble sales while others made their own. Visually, the club resembled the canteen of MGM Studios circa 1953, catering to a motley crew of extroverts – 50s bikers aping Marlon Brando and Lee Marvin in ‘The Wild One’, Little Bo Peep, Elizabeth I, swashbuckling pirates, Robin Hoods, and even the odd Pilgrim Father thrown in for good measure.”

Caryn Franklin: “Inside, there were a huge amount of bodies and artistic posing – people trying to look cool and fit in. I remember Christos Tolera – who would go on to be in Blue Rondo À La Turk – in knee-high leather riding boots, jodhpurs, a leather jerkin with a white shirt and voluminous sleeves. He looked magnificent. There was a theatrical outfitter in Covent Garden that was selling off its stock, so many of us mixed in found garments that may previously have appeared in films like ‘Spartacus’ or ‘Cleopatra’.”

Robert Elms: “The whole place really was incredibly performative. You were primarily there to be seen, to show off and parade. The Blitz was kind of a long, thin club with a tiny little dancefloor at the end – like a catwalk, essentially, with music.”

Princess Julia: “We created our own dance moves… a rigid style-hustle to go with the electronica we were listening to. The Blitz had a reputation as being quite posey and there was definitely an element of that, probably because we were acutely aware of having our photos taken. In reality, we were all gossiping, dancing and drinking. The air was charged with real excitement, anticipating the night ahead – who would turn up, who was wearing what, the latest creations swishing around.” 

Robert Elms: “Most of us were working-class kids who didn’t have any money, and if you didn’t have the 50p entry fee Steve would just let you in. Nothing cost very much – most of the clothes that people wore were from army surplus stores or charity shops. And because so many of the people there were at art schools and doing fashion courses, they were just making their own stuff. I mean, John Galliano made me a shirt – he wasn’t John Galliano then, he was just ‘little John’. At the Blitz, that initial group of about 50 or 60 swelled to maybe 150. When I first wrote about it for The Face, I called it ‘the cult with no name’. I think it was Perry Haines [co-founder/editor of i-D magazine] who came up with ‘new romantics’, and someone else called us the Blitz Kids. It just sort of stuck.”

Philip Sallon: “Blitz was the thing that came after punk. It was a kind of collision of two worlds, with people trying to move on [stylistically]. Vivienne Westwood was still doing all that punky stuff, so some people were wearing that as well. There were the frilly 18th century and Victorian clothes too, which lasted into the early 80s. And the 50s revival that had been there in the 70s – Vivienne did it first, but it all became huge in the 80s.” 

Philip Sallon and Boy George – Photo: Graham Smith

Steve Dagger: “The crowd had a great look, very exotic and postmodern. A mix of young designer clothes from the likes of PX and Willy Brown, lots of retro-futuristic garb and vintage clothes from various thrift shops. Boy George wore a 50s suit – like Elvis – with lots of make-up, and I probably wore pink pegs and a leather coat.”

Chris Sullivan: “I wore an Edwardian three-piece suit with a fob watch and chain, a wing-collar shirt, cravat, spats over black Oxford shoes and a monocle, with my hair greased back like Rudolph Valentino. Stephen Linard had a fab new outfit every week that he made himself. It was always copied by wannabes the week after but by then he’d created something newer… he was the Blitz as much as Strangie.”

Princess Julia: “A lot of thought went into our looks. Many of the regular members at Blitz were studying art, film, fashion or music. They were writing and embarking on careers in the magazine world or beginning their lives as pop stars. During its short life as a club, Blitz set the scene for the 80s. That’s probably why it’s always referenced as a subcultural explosion of creativity – the new romantic look and mood have continually provided inspiration. At PX, designer Helen Robinson created dandified and futuristic ruffled ensembles, and we also displayed an array of archive diamante jewellery and specifically sourced vintage attire. We really upped the romantic factor and introduced exciting new designers like Stephen Jones, who took over the basement with his extraordinary millinery collections.”

Philip Sallon: “I had a frilly shirt I wore at the Blitz, which I bought from PX – that was the shop we all got our clothes from. And I used to wear wedding dresses a lot back then, but I would never have called myself a new romantic. I didn’t want to fit in and be exactly the same as everyone else. I made a men’s dress to wear at Blitz – it was a spaceman T-shirt that went right down to my ankles and was supposed to be a bit space-age. It looked really good!”

Caryn Franklin: “Blitz made me feel that anything was possible, that I had entered an altered state. The era was about seeing ourselves as creative superpowers with something different to say. Whenever I went to Blitz, I felt I had entered a magical land full of exciting people. Everyone in there seemed supercharged with creative intention – to run a designer business, be in a band, be on stage. People projected confidence and belief but it wasn’t a brash energy because there was a reservedness to many, and they seemed almost like works of art. Michele Clapton, now a renowned costume designer, wore some hardcore looks – the gothic nun was one.”

Mark Moore: “It felt very sophisticated and a bit grown-up to my young eyes, especially in comparison to the post-punk gig circuit I usually frequented. There were people I knew from the punk scene who were now ‘new romantics’, but no one ever really used that label. Half the crowd were snotty and pretentious while the other half were affable, didn’t give a damn and were having a ball.”

Caryn Franklin: “The women’s toilets were full of men reapplying make-up. I genuinely believed as a young feminist that these were evolved humans, and that the inequality I had experienced or the repressive and predatory heterosexual behaviours on the street were on their way out. I felt very safe, unlike being outside in civvy street with men leaning out of cars to make leery statements. Of course this would not happen, but at the time I dreamed.”

Robert Elms: “There was no ‘Blitz’ look – you just had to be different, and challenging. One week I might go dressed as Frank Sinatra, the next I might be Yuri Gagarin. Chris Sullivan would dress as Gandhi or Spartacus. It was very theatrical. But you didn’t just do it for the night. The whole thing about being a Blitz Kid was that this was a seven-days-a-week thing, and you had to make a decision: ‘Am I going to fully go for this?’… that’s why lots of us lived communally. There was a big squat on Warren Street where loads of those people lived – Boy George, and Spandau, who did their photography there. It became a kind of hub. Being a Blitz Kid was a lifestyle choice. I think most of us realised this was our ticket to the future. You weren’t just going to Blitz on a Tuesday and then working in a bank on a Wednesday. You were going to be an outsider, but you were going to be good at it.”

Rusty Egan: “I had twice the amount of records that people like us should have had. I’d also absorb things into the playlist from other people’s record collections. I stayed at an apartment in Paris, and of course I’d go through the person’s records – that’s how I started to love French music, Jacques Brel and Jean-Michel Jarre. Before the internet, that’s how you absorbed all these sounds. What started at Billy’s as my little record collection from home suddenly became a soundtrack for a club. Ultravox or Magazine would come down and listen to what we were playing, and you’d hear similar things in their music for the next six months. And then you’d hear Gary Numan had got to Number One – that was when you realised this sound was growing beyond our club and into the mainstream.” 

Billy Currie: “I liked punk music and the whole energy of it but it was starting to weigh you down. In the UK in the 1970s, that was pretty serious, because it was damn depressing as it was. That’s what was great about Billy’s and the Blitz – they were absolutely rammed with all these interesting people who’d decided they’d had enough of punk. We wanted something new and uplifting – we wanted to listen to European music instead of just giving a nod to America all the time. There was a real frantic and almost desperate rush towards electronics and synthesisers – it felt like it was going to burst at any minute. It was quite amazing to hear a band called Telex from Belgium, who I’d never even heard of, triggering a polyphonic keyboard. That blew my mind.”

Steve Dagger: “Rusty’s DJ set was so innovative. His electronic playlist and the look of the crowd gave you the feeling you were in a trailer for tomorrow, which it kind of was. And the film music he played seemed fresh because it was in a different context – a club.”

Robert Elms: “He would also play Marilyn Monroe records or even bits of Frank Sinatra. And there was always a sort of nostalgic 1940s glamour thing going on as well.”

Richard James Burgess: “Rusty had cobbled together an electronic music scene and a definitive playlist before there really was an electronic music scene. Blitz wasn’t remarkable as a physical space, but it was the music, the people and the fashion that really set the place, the city and ultimately the world alight. It was an assault on the senses in a very positive and uplifting way. The night Spandau Ballet played at Blitz for the first time, I knew I was witnessing something very special, although I had no idea then that I would become part of that story [producing Spandau’s first two albums] and they would become an important part of mine.”

Robert Elms: “Spandau Ballet were originally called The Gentry. I saw their first-ever performance and I said, ‘You can’t call yourselves that – it’s a terrible name. You must be called Spandau Ballet’. And they were, from that moment on. A group of us from the Blitz went on a big trip to Berlin in 1979. We’d gone there because it was a hip city to go to, where Bowie recorded those famous albums with Iggy and Eno. I’d been in the toilets with Chris Sullivan, and had seen the words ‘Spandau’ and ‘ballet’ written together. And I said to him, ‘That would be a great name for a band’, because it was sort of Teutonic, pretentious and ridiculous. It didn’t mean anything. There was something about ballet that felt right for the time because some people in the Blitz would wear tutus – male or female – and lots of us wore ballet shoes.”

Rusty Egan: “As we grew in popularity, we made a lot of connections between people who loved the club and had ideas about music. Martin Rushent was working upstairs because he’d been given a job by Radar Records, who reissued the La Düsseldorf LP. He was always listening to what we played, and was becoming very interested in electronic sounds. And we also supported new bands – I’d play demos by Spandau Ballet and put on gigs well before they were signed. But the press just seemed to be interested in mainstream rock – writers like Paul Morley didn’t take us seriously. But because we’d gone up to clubs in Leeds and Manchester when we were on the road, we knew there was a hunger for this kind of music.”

Princess Julia: “The Blitz had a great soundtrack… post-punk, electronica, disco and obviously a bit of Bowie. On other nights we would go to gay discos – Bang, the Sombrero or the Embassy, pubs and bars in Earl’s Court – but nowhere else played music like this. All credit to Rusty, who compulsively searched out the most groundbreaking electronic soundscape for us to dance to. From Yellow Magic Orchestra and The Normal to ‘Moskow Diskow’ by Telex and ‘Chase’ by Giorgio Moroder – so many tracks that I include in my own DJ sets today.”

Rusty Egan: “I was always talking to people. I took everyone’s number and they’d send me their records in the post. Just making those direct connections with PRs and A&R people who would feed you the newest music. By not waiting around for the press to say that a band or a type of music was good, we kept the Blitz playlist fresh with new sounds all the time.” 

Chris Sullivan: “I loved the ‘Captain Scarlet’ theme by The Barry Gray Orchestra and ‘The Model’ by Kraftwerk. I knew pretty much everything Rusty played as it was in the zeitgeist.”

Rusty Egan: “I played until three in the morning. Don’t forget, at that time in the UK people weren’t used to the idea of pacing a club playlist. I’d start with an entire Roxy Music live bootleg or maybe a really long Kraftwerk track, almost like a background soundtrack. At eight or nine in the evening you’d get these people who really didn’t understand what we were trying to do. They’d be asking, ‘Are you going to play the Bee Gees’? And I’d say, ‘Just. Go. AWAY…’.”

Billy Currie: “There was some great Bowie stuff, and they always had to have some Kraftwerk going on – the electronic sounds were just so beautiful. I was really switched on when I heard ‘Warm Leatherette’ by The Normal. And I was amazed that Rusty played stuff from Ultravox’s ‘Systems Of Romance’, like ‘Slow Motion’ and ‘Quiet Men’, and ‘Hiroshima Mon Amour’ from the ‘Ha! Ha! Ha!’ album. That was a nod from him to me, saying, ‘We were listening to what you were doing and appreciated it’.”

Caryn Franklin: “I was definitely introduced to lots of music I’d never heard of before. Strange words and sounds, like Gina X Performance singing about being a ‘red-haired queer’ on ‘No GDM’ – that track is in my bones. We all went out and bought Yellow Magic Orchestra, The Human League, Simple Minds. Buying the music was a way of summoning the glamorous otherworldly vibe back in Kingston where we all lived in grotty bedsits as students.”

Mark Moore: “I loved the music Rusty was playing. I already adored things like early Human League, Throbbing Gristle’s ‘Hot On The Heels Of Love’ and Kraftwerk, but I was now hearing a world of music  I didn’t know about. Tracks like Gina X Performance’s ‘No GDM’ – dedicated to Quentin Crisp – perfectly captured the vibe more than anything else. As a DJ, Rusty was incredibly inspiring, playing a mix of old and new electronics while chucking in Bowie, Roxy Music and a touch of disco. Hearing Yello’s ‘Bostich’, Japan’s ‘Life In Tokyo’, Iggy Pop’s ‘Nightclubbing’ and Yellow Magic Orchestra’s ‘Firecracker’ on a club sound system rather than on your crappy record player at home was mind-blowing. As the months went by, you started hearing the Visage stuff that Steve and Rusty were making, then Spandau Ballet, Ronny, Landscape, Shock… I still think ‘RERB’ by Shock – another Rusty track – is a masterpiece.”

Rusty Egan: “I wasn’t a DJ who would play a set then get in my car and drive home to the suburbs. We lived near the club, and afterwards we’d be back at the flat me and Steve shared, carrying on. Anyone we hung around with would come back to ours. And me and Steve were a team. We saw a lot of talent through that door, people whose careers hadn’t yet taken off – Simple Minds, Billy Mackenzie… they’d be round at the flat listening to records and then we’d start seeing them turning up at the Blitz.”

Philip Sallon: “Boy George was doing the cloakroom – you’ll know all the famous stories about that. One night I was sitting there with him, watching and surveying people come in, all being ‘We’re so cool’ in their grand outfits. I’ll tell you something – the whole act very quickly dropped when David Bowie came in. As he walks up the staircase, everyone is crowded around the bottom of it with their arms outstretched – that really is a lasting memory. Literally, most of the place was on that staircase, waving their arms at him.”

Chris Sullivan: “I remember Steve almost fainted when Bowie arrived…”

Billy Currie: “Steve and other people from the Blitz were in the ‘Ashes To Ashes’ video, of course. I loved Bowie, and they completely worshipped him at the Blitz. That was kind of odd, in a way – here we are starting something new, but still sort of looking back. Yet you didn’t feel like you were looking back because it was Bowie. When he came to the club, it was so rammed that I couldn’t even get to meet him.”

Steve Strange – Photo: Graham Smith

Robert Elms: “Bowie was the guiding light to all of this. Most of us were Bowie fans, and the lesson of Bowie was never ‘look like me’, it was ‘look like yourself’. He was such a chameleon and would look different week to week, so that was what we did too.” 

Caryn Franklin: “Steve stood out in beautiful make-up and styled looks. I’d be in the club and word would go round that Boy George was in the building. There was a buzz. It felt like we had our own culture of celebrity, even though back in those days people were too cool to chase conventional success. There was always that post-punk legacy of not selling out and trying to stay true to yourself.”

Richard James Burgess: “I wasn’t that close with Steve but everyone I knew liked him. He always had the most flamboyant outfits and hair, and of course he was the absolute gatekeeper.” 

Philip Sallon: “Steve was lovely and charming to talk to, and always so grand. I remember he used to show me photographs of all these outrageous people in their make-up and it looked great – all thoroughly pretentious and outrageous.”

Mark Moore: “I’d previously met Boy George at The Scala all-nighters and also at the filming of ‘Breaking Glass’ in 1980, starring Hazel O’Connor – we were extras in the movie. George was so obviously a star waiting to happen. People were mesmerised by his looks, outfits and attitude… he would talk to me when he wanted a cigarette for boys he was chatting up. Princess Julia is someone I always worshipped from afar. She just looked completely gorgeous and glamorous but unapproachable, and I was very shy. We didn’t become firm friends until years later.”

Steve Dagger: “Chris Sullivan was really prominent too. At a time when social media didn’t exist, his energy and contacts were hugely important in knitting us all together and being an unbelievable creative presence.”

Mark Moore: “I was besotted by Marilyn’s amazing looks and beauty. One time, he looked glorious in a tight dress, channelling Marilyn Monroe. I was young and naive and went up to him saying, ‘Excuse me, are you a boy or a girl?’. He affected a husky, deep voice and replied, ‘Sex ch-a-a-a-a-a-nge‘ while holding out his hand for me to kiss. And Jeremy Healy always looked spectacular with his hair shooting up to the sky in a point, his made-up face and red contact lenses. He would occasionally start a punch-up with someone who had completely ripped off his look.”

Princess Julia: “Everyone stood out in their own way. I think that’s why the new romantic scene was so vibrant. Stephen Linard always went to town with his concept dressing… Boy George, Kenny Campbell, Michele Clapton, Kim Bowen, Christos Tolera, John Maybury, Pinkietessa, to name but a few. People from all creative walks of life came through the doors.” 

Robert Elms: “One of the fallacies about the Blitz is that it was some sort of posh, effete, Little Lord Fauntleroy thing, but it was exactly the opposite. Most of the people there were quite tough. Boy George was from a real hard, working-class Irish family and one of the toughest blokes I’ve ever encountered. But if you were like George, you had to be tough. You had to be able to handle yourself, because getting there on the bus was never easy in the clothes we all wore.”

Chris Sullivan: “A band of thugs barged into the club one night to beat up ‘the poofs’. But they did not add the phalanx of ex-punks and rockabillies into the equation, and were badly routed. As the hooligans crawled out on their hands and knees, battered and bloody, you could see the look of sheer bewilderment on their faces. Needless to say, they never came back. I also remember George getting beaten by Bette Bright from Deaf School and her friend Mel from Swanky Modes [boutique] for stealing money out of their handbags in the cloakroom. They gave him a right old bashing. And yet, apart from the odd skirmish, the Blitz was a constant hoot – hilarious and never banal.”

Princess Julia: “There was always some gossip going on, like who got off with who, and who was the most outrageous – things could get bitchy, there’s no doubt about that!” 

Robert Elms: “It was a place where you could try out whatever you wanted – stylistically, sexually, musically. Blitz wasn’t a gay club or a straight club, it was an ‘it-doesn’t-matter’ club. The boys used the girls’ toilets, and the girls used the boys’ toilets. Everyone put on shared make-up, and lots of people had sex with each other. Sometimes it would be with the same sex and sometimes with the other sex. No one cared or batted an eyelid.” 

Chris Sullivan: “There was the Neo Naturist night, when the artists Grayson Perry and Christine Binnie were both painted all over and walked around naked, and the writer Iain R Webb was on a crucifix on stage. Once through the doors, the diet was as much alcohol as one might afford, precipitated by a generous dose of speckled blues, the strychnine-laced amphetamine that could make a carrot skip. The resulting chaos could be described as memorable, if we hadn’t all been too caned to remember it.”

Mark Moore: “The Blitz was essentially young kids with no money but with a lot of creativity, who managed to create their own world and be perceived as something special. Mainstream fashion designers essentially stole and watered down everything that came from there – those clothes, looks and hairstyles became synonymous with the first half of the 80s. The music played at Blitz crystallised all those sounds that swept the world with the advent of UK electropop. Visage, Japan, The Human League, Depeche Mode, Ultravox, Gary Numan – the second Tubeway Army album, ‘Replicas’, what a game-changer! – Spandau Ballet, Duran Duran, Soft Cell, OMD, John Foxx, Eurythmics. Even if they denied being new romantics – most did – they were now easily marketable.”

Robert Elms: “You could also throw in Depeche Mode. They had their own little club in Essex which was a sort of copy of the Blitz. I think they came to the Blitz and didn’t get in, but they so desperately wanted to. And then in Birmingham, there was a club called the Rum Runner, that was Duran Duran’s place. We went there on a night out to watch them, to see what it was like.” 

Rusty Egan: “All of that music we were playing at the Blitz got combined with things like Landscape, Colonel Abrams… these became the electronic beats that great crate diggers like Todd Terry found and put together. They were not listening to American dance music, but instead were looking for this music coming from Europe, from the Blitz. Arthur Baker was playing Kraftwerk and Afrika Bambaataa, and they were playing everything I had been doing – Yellow Magic Orchestra, Giorgio Moroder…”

Princess Julia: “Back then, the idea of hosting and taking over a club and creating your own night was rare, but Blitz created a platform for self-expression, whether that was through music, art, fashion or performance. It really enabled a new style of clubbing to emerge and became a door opener for people to go on and create their own scenes and club nights.”

Chris Sullivan: “Like all great clubs, the Blitz existed like a little bubble outside of society, where the rest of the world’s mores, traditions and rules didn’t apply, and as such it earned its place in history.” 

Princess Julia: “Blitz and the new romantic scene were a creative collective, in essence. It set me on a path that I have devoted myself to and that’s why I love club life so much – that very real sense of community and chosen family, finding a place to belong and be part of. The Blitz will always be special to me. It was somewhere I found part of myself, enabling me to go forward with a creative energy and an enquiring mind.” 

Steve Dagger: “The Blitz was a groundbreaking club that set up the 80s and rippled out into popular culture with incredible speed – its huge influence really cannot be overstated.”

Richard James Burgess: “It was a sea change, an inflection point. It drew a line under the strike-ridden, depressing vibe of the 70s and moved us out of black and white into technicolour, and what we imagined was a brighter, more optimistic future. It touched all aspects of music, culture and style, encouraged self-expression, and had a very broad impact on the world that reached far beyond the people who actively participated in it.” 

Caryn Franklin: “Through appearance, posture and sound design, Blitz successfully created an alternative landscape to kick off the 80s and influence the years ahead. Culture and ideas seemed to telegraph a new way to be, rather than taking our place as cogs in the wheel as our parents had. I was mesmerised. I was the first person in my family to go on to higher education and follow a creative pathway that would lead to so much discovery and fun. I got lucky, inspired by others around me. Thank you, Steve and Rusty.”

Robert Elms: “Up until Billy’s and the Blitz, London was ferociously black and white – censorious, dangerous and smelly. There were strikes everywhere and rubbish wasn’t being collected – imagine floating through it all dressed like Boy George. After that, everything was in colour. It was visual, multimedia, gender fluid… stuff that we now think of as very contemporary. So the modern world sort of began with Billy’s and the Blitz. It was saying, ‘OK, we’re young and everything’s shit, but we’re going to have a great time’.”

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