Steve Strange

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Steve Strange
Steve Strange at Harrachov World Ski Championships.jpg
Strange before performing at the closing ceremony of the 2014 Ski Flying World Championships, Harrachov, Czech Republic
Background information
Birth nameStephen John Harrington
Born(1959-05-28)28 May 1959
Newbridge, Caerphilly, Wales
Died12 February 2015(2015-02-12) (aged 55)
Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt
Genres
Years active1977–1986, 2004–2015
Labels
Associated acts
Website Steve Strange on Myspace

Stephen John Harrington (28 May 1959 – 12 February 2015), better known by his stage name Steve Strange, was a Welsh pop singer. From the late 1970s he was a nightclub host and promoter. He became famous as the leader of the New Wave Synth-pop group Visage, best known for their single "Fade to Grey", and was one of the most influential figures behind the New Romantic movement of the early 1980s. [1] [2]

Welsh people nation and ethnic group native to Wales

The Welsh are a Celtic nation and ethnic group native to, or otherwise associated with, Wales, Welsh culture, Welsh history and the Welsh language. Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom, and the majority of people living in Wales are British citizens.

Synth-pop is a subgenre of new wave music that first became prominent in the late 1970s and features the synthesizer as the dominant musical instrument. It was prefigured in the 1960s and early 1970s by the use of synthesizers in progressive rock, electronic, art rock, disco, and particularly the "Krautrock" of bands like Kraftwerk. It arose as a distinct genre in Japan and the United Kingdom in the post-punk era as part of the new wave movement of the late 1970s to the mid-1980s.

Visage were a British synthpop band, formed in London in 1978. The band became closely linked to the burgeoning New Romantic fashion movement of the early 1980s, and are best known for their hit "Fade to Grey" which was released in late 1980. In the UK, the band achieved two Top 20 albums and five Top 30 singles before the commercial failure of their third album led to their break-up in 1985.

Contents

Early life

Harrington was born in Newbridge, Caerphilly, Wales. His grandfather moved with his family to Aldershot, Hampshire, where his father was serving in the British Army as a paratrooper. The family moved back to Wales and lived in Rhyl on the north coast, where his parents bought a large guest house and opened sea front cafes. They then divorced and he moved with his mother back to Newbridge in South Wales where he attended Newbridge Grammar School. It merged with a secondary school to form Newbridge Comprehensive School a year after he arrived there, and he subsequently lost interest in all subjects but art. [3]

Newbridge, Caerphilly town in Wales

Newbridge is a town and community in the county borough of Caerphilly, south Wales. It lies within the historic boundaries of the county of Monmouthshire.

Aldershot town in Hampshire, UK

Aldershot is a town in the Rushmoor district of Hampshire, England. It lies on heathland in the extreme northeast corner of the county, about 31.8 mi (51.2 km) southwest of London. The area is administered by Rushmoor Borough Council. The town has a population of 36,321, while the Aldershot Urban Area, a loose conurbation has a population of 243,344, making it the thirtieth-largest urban area in the UK.

Hampshire County of England

Hampshire is a county on the southern coast of England. The county town is the city of Winchester. Its two largest cities, Southampton and Portsmouth, are administered separately as unitary authorities; the rest of the county is governed by Hampshire County Council.

Career

Punk era

After attending a Sex Pistols concert at the Castle Cinema in Caerphilly in 1976, Harrington befriended the bass player Glen Matlock. He then arranged gigs for punk bands in his home town and befriended Jean-Jacques Burnel of The Stranglers before leaving for London where he worked for Malcolm McLaren [3] and formed a punk band called The Moors Murderers with Soo Catwoman. Additional members included future Pretenders frontwoman Chrissie Hynde, future Psychedelic Furs drummer Vince Ely, future Clash drummer Topper Headon and The Kid (who was formerly in Adam and the Ants, as Mark Ryan). They recorded a song called "Free Hindley". [4] After several gigs, the band split up around early 1978. [5]

Sex Pistols British punk rock band

The Sex Pistols were an English punk rock band that formed in London in 1975. They were responsible for initiating the punk movement in the United Kingdom and inspiring many later punk and alternative rock musicians. Although their initial career lasted just two and a half years and produced only four singles and one studio album, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols, they are regarded as one of the most influential acts in the history of popular music.

Glen Matlock English musician

Glen Matlock is an English musician best known for being the bass guitarist in the original line-up of the punk rock band the Sex Pistols. He is credited as a co-author on 10 of the 12 songs on Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols, although he had left the band while the album was being recorded. He left the band in 1977 over creative differences with the other band members.

Jean-Jacques Burnel English singer and bassist

Jean-Jacques "JJ" Burnel is a Franco-English musician, producer and songwriter, best known as the bass guitarist with the English rock band the Stranglers.

Later in 1978, Harrington briefly joined the punk/new wave band The Photons (originally from Liverpool) as vocalist and co-songwriter at the behest of David Littler (ex The Spitfire Boys). The band were managed by punk impresario Andy Czezowski.

The Photons was a punk/new wave band active between 1977 and 1978. They are most notable for their vocalist Steve Strange, who went on to form Visage. Two of Visage's early singles, Tar and Mind of a Toy, were originally Photons' songs.

Liverpool City and metropolitan borough in England

Liverpool is a city and metropolitan borough in North West England, with an estimated population of 491,500. Its metropolitan area is the fifth-largest in the UK, with a population of 2.24 million in 2011. The local authority is Liverpool City Council, the most populous local government district in the metropolitan county of Merseyside and the largest in the Liverpool City Region.

The Spitfire Boys were the first Liverpool punk band to release a single. The Spitfire Boys were mainly notable for including in their line-up Peter Clarke, who went on to drum for The Slits and later Siouxsie and the Banshees and the Creatures as Budgie, and Paul Rutherford, later better known for being a member of 1980s pop band Frankie Goes to Hollywood. Jones went on to join The Photons, which also included Steve Strange (Visage) and Vince Ely.

Visage

Shortly after leaving the Photons, and using the alias Steve Strange, Harrington formed the supergroup Visage, with Rusty Egan and Midge Ure from Rich Kids, Billy Currie from Ultravox, and Barry Adamson, John McGeoch and Dave Formula from Magazine. Intended as a studio-based side project, they signed to the small label Radar Records and released their first single "Tar" in 1979. The single was not a success, but the following year, Strange appeared in the video for David Bowie's no.1 hit "Ashes to Ashes", a song which helped to propel the burgeoning New Romantic fashion movement into the mainstream (although Bowie himself was never directly associated with it). Later that year, Visage signed a new record deal with the major label Polydor and released their second single, "Fade to Grey". The single became a top 10 hit in the UK and several other European countries, reaching number one in Germany and Switzerland. As the public face of the band, Strange shot to stardom in Britain and other parts of Europe. Visage enjoyed a string of hit singles and two hit albums before later commercial disappointments led to their break-up in 1985.

A supergroup is a musical performing group whose members have successful solo careers, are members of other groups, or are well known in other musical professions. The term is usually used in the context of rock and pop music, but it has occasionally been applied to other musical genres. For example, The Three Tenors—composed of opera superstars José Carreras, Plácido Domingo, and Luciano Pavarotti—or Rainbow have been called a supergroup.

Rusty Egan is the former drummer for the British new wave band Rich Kids. They were founded by former Sex Pistol Glen Matlock, with Steve New and fronted by Midge Ure, from their inception in March 1977 to their disbanding in December 1978. He continued working with Ure, and later collaborated with The Misfits, Skids, Shock, and Visage. However, Egan did not return to Visage when they reformed with a new line-up in 2004.

Midge Ure Scottish guitarist, singer, keyboard player, and songwriter

James "Midge" Ure is a Scottish musician, singer-songwriter and producer. His stage name, Midge, is a phonetic reversal of Jim, the diminutive form of his given name.

After the dissolution of Visage, Strange formed the short-lived band Strange Cruise with Wendy Wu (formerly of The Photos). The group signed with EMI Records and released two singles and an album in 1986, though failed to gain any chart success.

Strange Cruise was a short-lived 1980s British pop rock group, fronted by former Visage singer Steve Strange and Wendy Cruise. The band released only one, self-titled album in 1986.

The Photos

The Photos were a British new wave band fronted by Wendy Wu, who had a top 5 album in the UK in 1980.

EMI Records record label founded by the EMI company

EMI Records Limited was a British record label founded by the music company of the same name in 1972 as its flagship label, and launched in January 1973 as the successor to its Columbia and Parlophone record labels. The label was later launched worldwide. It has a branch in India called "EMI Records India", run by director Mohit Suri.

Club host

In 1978, before their success with Visage, Strange and Visage partner Rusty Egan began to make a name for themselves as a nightclub host and DJ respectively. They began organising "Bowie nights" on Tuesdays at Billy's club in Soho, before taking over Tuesdays at the Blitz wine bar in London's Covent Garden in 1979. [6] Adhering to Strange's strict door policy of admitting only "the weird and wonderful", the club took off and became an essential location in the rise of what would become the New Romantic movement. Strange's door policy was so strict that he famously once refused admittance to Mick Jagger, though Strange would later claim this was because the club was filled to capacity on the night in question and they had already been warned about breaching fire regulations. Following the Blitz, Strange and Egan then fronted the "Club for Heroes" in London's Baker Street on Tuesdays and Thursdays in 1981, before moving to the Camden Palace nightclub in 1982 for two years, which became one of the most famous venues of the era, attracting major celebrities on a regular basis. Their next club venture, "The Playground" in 1984, was less successful.

Later in the 1980s, Strange went to Ibiza, Spain, and became an integral part of the budding trance club movement and hosting parties for celebrities such as Sylvester Stallone. In the early 1990s he was the host at the "Double Bass" club in Ibiza.

Steve at the opening of Dj Tallulah's Circus Circus club, London, in 1983 (Tallulah (left) Steve Strange (right) Circus Circus opening 1983 (Tallulah (left) Steve Strange (right).jpg
Steve at the opening of Dj Tallulah's Circus Circus club, London, in 1983 (Tallulah (left) Steve Strange (right)

Visage Mk II

In 2002, Strange took part in the Here and Now Tour, which featured a revival of various 80s pop acts. In 2004, he then formed a new version of Visage, dubbed Visage Mk II, with various musicians from modern electronic bands. None of the other original members were involved in the project. With a plan to re-record some of the older, classic Visage tracks as well as produce some new material, the project never seemed to fully get off the ground despite some television appearances. The first Visage Mk II song was called "Diary of A Madman", which was made available for download in 2007 in return for a donation to the Children In Need appeal. However, after this, no further material from this version of the band surfaced.

In 2006, Strange collaborated with electronic music duo Punx Soundcheck for their album When Machines Rules The World, co-writing and performing on the track "In The Dark".

The Detroit Starrzz and Visage (Mk III)

In February 2012, Strange was a guest on the ITV chat show Loose Women . He said he was still working on a new Visage album and that nine tracks had been completed. [7] In early 2013, Strange announced another new version of Visage featuring himself and former member Steve Barnacle, along with former Ultravox guitarist Robin Simon and vocalist Lauren Duvall. A new album, Hearts and Knives , was released in May 2013 (the first new Visage album in 29 years). In support of the album, the band made several live appearances in the UK and Europe in 2013.

Parallel to recording new Visage material, Strange was also involved in another music project, the Detroit Starrzz. The group, which consisted of Strange and various DJ/remixers, released their first single, "Halo", in 2011. While appearing on the chat show Loose Women in February 2012, Strange stated he had recorded a full album with the group, with another single, "Aiming For Gold", to be released later in 2012. [7] The group played at the Citrus Club in Edinburgh on 3 February 2012. [8]

Later years

Strange was portrayed in Boy George's 2002 stage musical Taboo which reflected on the New Romantic scene of the early 1980s.

During the mid nineties Strange promoted nights at the Emporium nightclub in Soho, London

In 2005 Strange appeared in a Channel 4 documentary called Whatever Happened to the Gender Benders?, which reflected on the advent of the New Romantic movement of the early 1980s and the prominent roles that Strange, Boy George and Marilyn each played within it.

In November 2006 Strange took part in, and went on to win, the BBC reality series for Children in Need Celebrity Scissorhands . He returned to the show in 2007 and 2008 [9] as Assistant Manager/Image Consultant. In that role, he was in charge of the catwalk, showing all of the best haircuts of the series and also people dressed in 80s style clothing and make-up.

In 2008 Strange (and Visage II keyboardist Sandrine Gouriou) made an appearance in the BBC drama series Ashes to Ashes which is set in 1981. In it, they performed the song "Fade to Grey" in a scene set in the "Blitz" nightclub.

In 2009, Strange and Rusty Egan appeared in Living TV's Pop Goes the Band, [10] a series in which pop stars from the 1980s are given a complete makeover in return for a one-off performance. The Visage episode aired on 16 March 2009, and was the first time that the two men had spoken in over 20 years. The episode focused (like others in the series) more on getting them fit in the gym than on the current state of their relationship, though they appeared to get on well enough. At the culmination of the episode, they performed "Fade to Grey".

In 2010 Strange was portrayed by actor Marc Warren in the BBC programme Worried About the Boy , a dramatisation of Boy George's rise to fame. Although the programme was set in the early 1980s, when Strange was in his early 20s, Warren was 43 at the time of production.

In January 2011 Strange and Rusty Egan reopened the "Blitz" Club for one night, with performances from Roman Kemp's band Paradise Point and electro punk artist Quilla Constance plus DJ sets from Egan himself.

In January 2013 Strange appeared on the Channel 4 News discussing the forthcoming release of David Bowie's album The Next Day .

In his final years he lived with his family in the South Wales seaside town of Porthcawl.

Personal life

He revealed he was bisexual as he had relationships with both men and women [1] [11]

For many years, Strange was addicted to heroin. In later years he suffered a nervous breakdown, and in November 1999 he was arrested for shoplifting—he was caught stealing a Teletubbies doll for his nephew. In court, he was found guilty and given a three-month suspended sentence. The British media publicised the case of a pop star who had fallen on hard times. [11]

In 2002, Strange published his autobiography, Blitzed!, [12] in which he speaks openly about his career, his heroin addiction, his nervous breakdown, his sexuality and his ongoing attempts to get his life back together.

Death

On 12 February 2015 Strange suffered a heart attack, at the age of 55, whilst in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt; he died later that day in hospital. [13] [14] [15] [16]

Spandau Ballet (who also started their musical career in the Blitz Club founded by Strange) dedicated their performance at the Sanremo Music Festival later that night to Strange. [17] The family held a high-profile funeral in Porthcawl which was attended by many prominent figures from the entertainment industry. [18] His coffin was carried by Boy George and Spandau Ballet brothers Martin and Gary Kemp; the funeral concluded with a burial at Jubilee Gardens Cemetery. [19] In December 2015 a heart-shaped gravestone, paid for by the Steve Strange Collective, was unveiled. [20]

Related Research Articles

New Romantic

The New Romantic movement was a pop culture movement that originated in the United Kingdom in the late 1970s. The movement emerged from the nightclub scene in London and Birmingham at venues such as Billy's and The Blitz. The New Romantic movement was characterized by flamboyant, eccentric fashion inspired by fashion boutiques such as Kahn and Bell in Birmingham and PX in London. Early adherents of the movement were often referred to by the press by such names as Blitz Kids, New Dandies and Romantic Rebels.

The Blitz Kids were a group of people who frequented the Tuesday club-night at Blitz in Covent Garden, London in 1979-80, and are credited with launching the New Romantic subcultural movement. Steve Strange and Rusty Egan co-hosted these exclusive nights without giving them a name, according to Strange's autobiography, and publicised them solely by word of mouth. An emphasis on style was ensured by enforcing a strict dress code at the door. Crucially, the Blitz lay between two art colleges and it became a testbed for student fashion designers who set London ablaze during the 1980s. These included Stephen Jones, Kim Bowen, Fiona Dealey, Stephen Linard, David Holah, Stevie Stewart, John Galliano, Darla Jane Gilroy and more. The Blitz began making headlines thanks to its outrageous styles of clothes and make-up for both sexes, subsequently documented by Gary Kemp in his 2009 first-person book, I Know This Much, and by Graham Smith and Chris Sullivan in their 2011 book We Can Be Heroes: London Clubland 1976-1984.

The Damned Dont Cry (song) 1982 single by Visage

"The Damned Don't Cry" is a song by British pop group Visage, released as a single by Polydor Records in 1982.

Shock (troupe) music/mime/dance/pop group

Shock were a music/mime/dance/pop group that was notable in the early 1980s for supporting English new wave groups such as Gary Numan, Adam and the Ants, Depeche Mode and Famous Names, led by Steve Fairnie.

<i>The Anvil</i> (album) 1982 studio album by Visage

The Anvil is the second studio album by the British rock/pop band Visage, released in March 1982 by Polydor Records. The album reached No. 6 in the UK and was certified "Silver" by the British Phonographic Industry in April 1982. The album's name and concept came from the legendary NYC Gay after-hours club The Anvil. Famed Danceteria DJ Bill Bahlman curated the "New Wave Nights At The Anvil".

<i>Visage</i> (Visage album) 1980 studio album by Visage

Visage is the debut studio album by the British new wave band Visage. It was recorded at Genetic Sound Studios in Reading, Berkshire and released on 10 November 1980 by Polydor Records.

Fade to Grey (Visage song) single

"Fade to Grey" is the second single by the British new wave band Visage, released on Polydor Records in 1980.

Mind of a Toy 1981 single by Visage

"Mind of a Toy" is the third single by the British pop group Visage, released on Polydor Records in March 1981. It was taken from the band's eponymous debut album, following up their international hit "Fade to Grey".

Tar (song) song

"Tar" is the debut single by the British pop group Visage, released in 1979.

Night Train (Visage song) song by Visage

"Night Train" is the sixth single by the British pop group Visage, released by Polydor Records in June 1982.

Visage (song) 1981 single by Visage

"Visage" is the fourth single by the British pop group Visage, released by Polydor Records on 29 June 1981. It is the title track from Visage's eponymous debut album. The single peaked at no.21 in the UK Singles Chart.

Pleasure Boys 1982 single by Visage

"Pleasure Boys" is a single by the British pop group Visage, released on Polydor Records in October 1982.

Love Glove 1984 single by Visage

"Love Glove" is a single by the British pop group Visage, released on Polydor Records in August 1984. It was the first single to be released from Visage's third album, Beat Boy, and peaked at #54 on the UK Singles Chart.

<i>The Damned Dont Cry</i> (album) 2000 compilation album by Visage

The Damned Don't Cry is a compilation album by the British synthpop group Visage released in 2000.

<i>Master Series</i> (Visage album) 1997 compilation album by Visage

Master Series is a compilation album by the British synthpop band Visage released in 1997.

Dave Rimmer is a music journalist and critic who has written books and articles about a number of pop and rock artists. He wrote for Smash Hits and The Face in the 1980s, and wrote a book about 1980s pop entitled Like Punk Never Happened. His second book Once Upon a Time in the East, is about Eastern Europe under Communism. His third book is about the New Romantic era in 1980s pop, "from the moment Steve Strange and Rusty Egan began their legendary Bowie Nights at Billy's in Soho, through the move to Blitz, and the growth of the Birmingham scene."

<i>Hearts and Knives</i> 2013 studio album by Visage

Hearts and Knives is the fourth studio album by the British rock/pop band Visage. It was released on 20 May 2013 and was the band's first album of new material in 29 years.

Philip Sallon born in (1951) in London, England is a British, club promoter, event organiser, socialite, style innovator, impresario, and clothing designer. He is particularly known for being a prominent member of the Punk sub-cultural and New Romantic pop cultural movements during the 1970s and 1980s.

References

  1. 1 2 Sweeting, Adam (13 February 2015). "Steve Strange obituary". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 3 October 2015.
  2. Johnson, David (4 October 2009). "The Blitz kids and the birth of the New Romantics". The Observer.
  3. 1 2 Steve Strange (2002). Blitzed! The autobiography of Steve Strange. Orion Books. ISBN   0-7528-4720-1.
  4. "Chrissie Hynde talks about 'Free Hindley' - legendarily obscure punk single". YouTube. 25 June 2011.
  5. "The Moors Murderers - Infamous UK Punk Rock band". punk77.co.uk.
  6. Johnson, David (4 October 2009). "The Blitz kids and the birth of the New Romantics". The Observer.
  7. 1 2 Loose Women (2 February 2012). ITV Studios. Dir: Jo Johns. Prod: Natasha Neeson. (2012)
  8. Neil Cooper (8 February 2012). "Steve Strange and the Detroit Starrzz – Citrus Club, Edinburgh, Fri 3 Feb 2012". list.co.uk. Retrieved 25 August 2012.
  9. "'Scissorhands' contestants unveiled – TV News". Digital Spy. 29 September 2008. Retrieved 7 January 2012.
  10. Pop Goes the Band
  11. 1 2 "Guardian – Strange but true". The Guardian. London.
  12. "Steve Strange: Lead singer with Visage and club owner who became the leading light of the 1980s New Romantic movement". Independent. Retrieved 31 May 2016.
  13. "BBC News - Steve Strange, Visage lead singer, dies aged 55". BBC News.
  14. Dominic Smith. "New Romantic pioneer Steve Strange dies". the Guardian.
  15. "Steve Strange, Visage Singer Who Had Hit With 'Fade to Grey,' Dies at 55". Variety.
  16. "New Romantic pioneer Steve Strange dies aged 55". ITV News.
  17. "Sanremo: gli Spandau Ballet annunciano la morte di Steve Strange, voce di Fade to Grey (Visage)" [Sanremo, Spandau Ballet announce the death of Steve Strange, the voice of Fade to Grey by Visage]. Radiomusik musica e programmi radio live.
  18. "Steve Strange: the funeral video by Shapersofthe80s, 2015". Shapersofthe80s. 17 March 2015. Retrieved 3 April 2019.
  19. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-south-east-wales-31837532
  20. https://www.walesonline.co.uk/whats-on/music-nightlife-news/heart-shaped-gravestone-new-romantic-10625751