New Romantics - An 80s Music Genre
The New Romantics were a music genre in the 1980s generally considered to be a sub genre of the New Wave movement. Duran Duran were probably the biggest New Romantic band on an international level.
The New Romantic movement began in the UK right at the beginning of the 1980s. Sparked in part by the influence of television and fuelled by the advent of MTV. The New Romantics are synonomous with the 1980s.
Where Did The New Romantics Come From?
There are some differing thoughts as to why the New Romantic movement started, but there is a general consensus that the movement began in the UK. The London New Romantic movement began with the Blitz Kids.
The Blitz Kids
The Blitz Kids as they became known were a group of younsters that were tired of the punk movement. They were working class, but wanted to look more glamorous.
They dressed to make a statement (although alot of their clothes were handmade) and wore excessive amounts of make-up.
Some of them originally met at a London nightclub called Billys, but they soon migrated to The Blitz nightclub where they earnt the name The Blitz Kids.
Five of the Blitz Kids were Tony Hadley, Gary Kemp, Steve Norman, Martin Kemp and John Keeble who formed the pioneering New Romantic band Spandau Ballet. Both Gary Kemp and John Keeble have said in interviews that they were sick of the way the established music press operated. The Blitz Kids decided to do something about it.
The Blitz Kids all knew each other so when they would say "hey we're doing a gig at so and sos" they would all go along to create a buzz. Spandau Ballet decided that they wouldn't invite the Music Press to their concerts, they would invite the National Press. The Blitz Kids all showed up and the invite only gigs proved to be a success which led to Spandau Ballet getting a recording contract.
The Blitz Kids included Steve Strange, Boy George, Marilyn, Princess Julia and Rusty Egan as well as the Spandau boys.
New Romanticism Around the UK
Clubs emulating The Blitz Club started to pop up in different parts of London as well as outside of London. They included The Regency in Chadwell Heath where two other New Romantic bands got their debut gigs - Depeche Mode and Culture Club.
In Sheffield a group called The Human League had been around for a while. Around the beginning of the eighties when the New Romantics started, their sound had evolved. The Human League were now following the New Romantic blueprint.
In Birmingham a band called Duran Duran had been formed in 1978. They had been playing to the club scene around their city and signed their record deal in 1980. With their looks they soon acquired the term "the prettiest boys in rock." As with other New Romantic bands the Duran Duran boys were very aware of their image and had their own inate sense of style.
The 'fab five' as the press referred to them recorded their first album, the self titled Duran Duran in December 1980. Andy Taylor once commented that the whole band found it hard to concentrate after the assassination of John Lennon at the beginning of December.
The album Duran Duran was released in 1981 and reached up to number 3 in the UK album chart. It didn't do very well in the US until it was re-released in 1983.
Their first single Planet Earth was incredibly catchy and reached into the UK's Top 20. The second single was Girls on Film and it was the video that accompanied this single that really caused a stir.
New Romantics - What a Name
The music press did not know how to classify the Blitz Kid's music, the amalgamation of image and synth pop, catchy dance beat and experimental sounds. In some places the term futuristic as given to them and in others they were merely New Wave.
Face Magazine wrote an article about the early New Romantic groups and also included the groups Adam & the Ants and Bow Wow Wow as though they were the same. The article was entitled The Cult With No Name.
Musician and producer Richard James Burgess is credited with coining the phrase New Romantics. It is said to have been used because of the historical frilly costumes that were popular in the Blitz Club at the time. Also the use of wigs and make-up by some of the groups.
After this any early eighties band that produced main-stream pop with synthesizers who wore make-up or dressed glamorously were classified as New Romantic.
Adam & the Ants V Duran Duran & the Blitz Kids
Although they were all classified as New Romantic Adam & the Ants (and the former Ants that made up Bow Wow Wow) had their roots firmly stuck in the Punk movement.
Adam Ant's previous group had actually played support for the Sex Pistols and Adam & the Ants played support for Souixsie & the Banshees.
Adam & the Ants' album Kings of The Wild Frontier transformed them into the realm of New Romantics. Malcolm McLaren's influence got Adam (a natural showman) to look at his image. The black leather trousers and black t shirts went out and a pirate/highwayman look came in.
His look reflected the romantic historical look that the Blitz Kids were wearing at the time. Coupled with this when Spandau Ballet released their first video they were wearing kilts which Adam Ant had already done.
The industry had lumped them together and as much as they hated it they would forever be New Romantics together.
Were the New Romantics New?
There has been debate about whether the New Romantics were a new musical genre in their own right or whether they were merely a natural progression of the punk era. The fact that it is hard to define the differences between New Romantic, New Wave & Synth Pop does not help the debate.
In the punk corner people say that the New Romantics were simply the natural progression that took place as punk became glamorized. They point to bands such as Adam & the Ants to back up their argument.
In the New Romantic corner they claim that the movement was born out of a working class background that was highly influenced by television. Being brought up on television as opposed to radio led to bands wanting to be the whole package looks as well as sound.
Unlike the punk look, New Romantics wanted to look glamorous and to stand out and shout 'look at me' much as the future rappers would wear their bling, the New Romantics wore their heavy make-up and 'outfits.'