Saturday, 26 March 2011

New Romantics - so what’s New Romanticism anyway?

New Romantic, Futurist, The Cult With No Name...

The ‘New Romantic’ movement never really existed, of course. It just happened that, towards the beginning of the 1980s, various young people decided they liked dressing up in funny clothes, wearing makeup and going to clubs that played Bowie, Roxy and electronic music rather than (for example) wearing safety pins through their noses, listening to The Sex Pistols and spitting at one another.

Along came groups ranging from the hard-core electro Depeche Mode to the funkier Spandau Ballet. On the face of it, many of these groups had very little in common with one another. But they weren’t punk, they weren’t heavy metal and they weren’t progressive so they must be something new and different and so what the heck were we supposed to call them?

There were various attempts at finding a name: Power Pop, Futurist, The Cult With No Name, New Wave, The Now Crowd, The Blitz Kids and so on. But ‘New Romantic’ was the name that stuck. According to legend, it was Richard James Burgess, the man who produced early Spandau Ballet songs and went on to have a hit with Landscape’s 'Einstein A Go Go' who came up with the term ‘New Romantic’ while producing Spandau’s first album. I really don’t know if that is the case or if there is any way of proving it, but it’s been said often enough that we may as well accept it as, well, moderately possible, at any rate.

On the other hand, I distinctly recall that the terms ‘Neo-Romantic’ and ‘Nouveau Romantic’ were also being bandied about in the early days. In his autobiography (Blitzed, page 54) Steve Strange seems to give the impression that the term ‘New Romantic’ was in use as early as 1979 which would have pre-dated the first Spandau album by over a year. Who knows?

I remember when I interviewed Duran Duran in 1982, they insisted that they weren’t a New Romantic group. Which is curious since the first song I know of in which the term “New Romantic” appears is Duran Duran’s debut single (1981), Planet Earth – and here it is...

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