I Know This Much: From Soho to Spandau

I Know This Much: From Soho to Spandau (2009)
Gary Kemp

After seeing the documentary on Spandau Ballet, Soul Boys of the Western World, I was struck by a wave of Spandau obsession. I’d always been a Duranie, though Spandau’s presence was inescapable, of course, as “True” was a huge hit at the same time Duran Duran fever had a hold on me. What Soul Boys of the Western World did for me, though, is to show me the depth and artistry of Spandau’s career that went far beyond “True”. I was really struck by the emphasis on their working class origins and their participation in the New Romantic movement inspired me to look more deeply into a subculture that many don’t know even existed.

spandau new york
Spandau Ballet during their first trip to NYC, 1981

If you are a fan of Spandau, are English, or frequent British based music sites, you might be aware that after reuniting in 2009, Spandau went through a tumultuous period that resulted in Tony Hadley leaving the band (before the reunion, the band had last played together in 1990 and were only to meet in a courtroom in a battle over residuals by the end of that decade). Spandau now has a new singer and recently played a couple of sold out shows in London. The response from hardcore Spandau fans has been … mixed. Some have readily accepted Ross William Wild as the new singer, or are at least willing to give him a chance. Some have declared that the band is nothing without Tony’s voice. Some blame guitarist/songwriter Gary Kemp for destroying the band. Some think Tony let Spandau and the fans down. I lurk in several Spandau fan groups on Facebook and the arguments continue as to who is at fault and if the band is renewed or doomed. Hardcore fans are very, very upset about the whole thing.

In his autobiography, Kemp reflects on what began to go wrong within a band that had been formed through genuine friendships and artistic desire:

Where did the end start? Certainly it would have gone unnoticed in 1986, so much good stuff was happening. We were famously ‘five mates’, ‘the Angel Boys’, closer than any other band, drinking pals on a permanent world bender and having the time of our lives. But at some time, something must have started imperceptibly to alter things, a mutation of a single cell, unnoticed at first, but with our fate contained within it. Where can I find the first fissure, the first footfall of the trouble that was to arrive? (243)

Kemp sees the beginning of the end as accepting the starring role – along with his brother Martin – in the 1990 movie, The Krays. In truth, though, his autobiography as a whole is an examination of the many little cuts that led to the death of the band.

krays

Death is the organizing force of the book as Kemp begins his story as a ghost looking back at his own life and ends with the death of his parents. In between there is the death of class divisions, of the band’s names and musical genres, of Spandau Ballet itself, and in the court case which finally severs Kemp’s songwriting from the rest of the band, of friendships that had lasted 20 years. It is a book largely about loss, though it isn’t joyless or without humor. Kemp is, however, interested in dissecting/illustrating the ins and outs of band life but also the role his own attitudes played in the decisions Spandau Ballet made along the way.

Kemp repeatedly returns to class and the role it played in his life and career. He prides himself on coming from a working class family but recognizes the complications of continuing to identify as working class when one becomes a successful musician. Before success in Spandau, however, Kemp and the others who made up the band – brother and bassist Martin Kemp, saxophonist and percussionist Steve Norman, singer Tony Hadley, and drummer John Keeble – would all use their working class backgrounds to their advantage in the emerging club scene in London in the late 70s and early 80s.

Kemp’s discussion of the Blitz club, fashion, working class politics and identity was my favorite part of the book. Unlike Hadley who seemed a bit embarrassed and bemused about his fashion from the time, Kemp embraces it, really seeing it as a political statement as much as an artistic one. He also discusses the scene which lead to the New Romantic moniker with great detail:

Blitz was a wine bar in Great Queen Street decorated with thirties memorabilia. It suited our theme of dancing while Rome burned. [Steve] Strange wore his hair and heels high, and tottered at the door with a silver-topped cane, while hundreds, desperate to burn brightly in these dark times, block the street outside. (93)

Kemp goes on to name Stephen Jones, Stephen Linard, Melissa Caplan, Fiona Dealey, Sade, John Galliano, Boy George, Princess Julia, Jeremy Healy, Marilyn, Rusty Egan, and Mige Ure among many others as Blitz regulars who all went on to find fame in fashion, film, and music. The New Romantic scene relied heavily on the creativity of young people who wanted to look incredible but had no funds to make it happen. The Kemp brothers were fortunate to have a mother who was willing to make her hot-on-the-club-scene sons a couple of zoot suits, while the others found would they could at Oxfam or stores with lax security measures. This working class ingenuity resulted in a glorious mix of fashion from a huge range of time periods and styles. These inventive fashions allowed the kids wearing them to transcend time and place, but most importantly they transcended class as well. Kemp and others like him became fantastical peacocks, indeterminate of gender, class strata, and any other social or cultural markers. They were inspired by punk but were most interested in surpassing it in terms of social disruption. What better way to stealthily bomb the mainstream than to infiltrate them with style and pop music? Kemp and his band of gorgeous outsiders were determined to become the soundtrack to this movement.

spandau ballet 2
An example of Spandau’s adventurous fashion in the early days of the band

Spandau didn’t immediately infiltrate the Top 40. Kemp traces the many permutations of sound and style of the band but the book is most concentrated on Spandau’s glory years which naturally reflect the excesses of top-earning rock stars. Kemp thoughtfully unravels the complex tapestry that is class and money when he discusses the band first making big money. Moving into his own place, he muses:

It was more than a physical move away from home. Those aspirational yearnings that I’d been nurturing […] all those years before were now fully fledged and allowed free flight. But as I placed art and books on the wall, church candles and interior magazines on the black enameled coffee table, I felt a strong sense of denying everything my family was. I sat on my William Morris chair – designed by the esteemed architect Philip Webb, I hasten to add – and, with a glass of claret in my hand and something light and choral on the stereo, I realised I’d become middle class […] My desire for higher things left me appearing like a snob. Or maybe I just was. Waves of pride and shame would alternately crash against me, especially when Martin and I parked our matching Porsches side by side outside our parents’ home in a street full of rusting Fords. Were the locals proud of their prodigal sons or were we rubbing salt (Malvern, of course) into the wounds of a beleaguered working-class neighbourhood? Money left me a mass of neurotic contradictions, and, as much as I wanted a more cultured lifestyle and aspired to the other side of the Essex Road, I was still riven with guilt about it and the fear that I might be deserting my roots. (178-179)

Although class issues have come up a lot in the books I’ve read so far, Kemp writes about his conflicted feelings in a touching and profound way. As an American, I don’t relate to class in the same way as the English do (or at least English musicians do). Though the American press is quick to latch onto success stories that include a performer coming up from a humble background, there isn’t as much emphasis on the loss of culture and self once that class status has changed. Most American celebrities, including musicians, don’t speak a great deal about the meaning class has had in their lives, unless it is a discussion of “authenticity” as it pertains to a performance of toughness or street credibility. But class is an issue for English musicians (and a continuing one at that – for example, check out this article in Pop Matters) and Kemp writes about it in what seems to me an honest and complicated way.

Class intersects with band’s stylization of itself, too, as Spandau left behind the more experimental clothing of their past to embrace a more traditional “pop star” look including Anthony Price suits just like Duran Duran wore. They pursued hits and reflected a sense of success in their upscale looks as well as in their slickly produced singles, their most famous of which, “True”, made them seem like romantic softies instead of the arty upstarts they were originally. The movement from their earlier songs like “To Cut A Long Story Short” to the more polished sounds of “I’ll Fly For You” felt to the band like they were moving into more serious (and radio friendly) territory, but the press was more concentrated on who the band played to and how they looked while doing it:

During our fall from grace with Diamond the common judgement from the serious rock press was that we were fashion-obsessed dandies who couldn’t play and that we’d had our run on the fickle train of youth culture and been swiftly forced to alight. There was a certain amount of glee and told-you-so in their statements. Now they saw our new, successful, smiling version as irrefutable evidence that we were interested only in financial rewards and not musical credibility. (188)

Not being thought of as serious musicians is a recurring theme in the autobiographies of 80s pop stars I’ve read so far. Though each musician/singer embraced their teen appeal with degrees of bemusement, they all also felt the hard graft they’d put into their musicianship or songwriting was being overlooked. This idea of respectability is something I want to delve into in the journal article I am planning on writing on what I’m (tentatively) calling “New Wave masculinity”. What hinders getting the respect of the press is primarily the band’s fanbase, not the actual musical product. And that fan base? Teen girls. They are the kiss of death. A recent article in Pitchfork clarifies:

When fame is girded by a swelling teenage, female fanbase immediately, that celebrity becomes false, temporary, and unearned. We’re always grappling for a reason to disregard the value of a popular—and populist—product because blindly embracing it means the market research and Simon Cowell-eque figures behind it have duped us again. The presence of teen girls offers up a handy barometer: if they like something you can be rest assured it’s not worth a serious listener’s ear [,,,] female fans are seen as less legitimate, so their adoration is an instant credibility-killer. The crux of teen-girl illegitimacy is the assumption that they are incapable of the critical thinking their older, male counterparts display when it comes to their favourite bands.

Even Kemp describes an encounter with teen girl fans as having witnessed a flock of “Hitchcockian birds” as the girls screamed, cried, and threw themselves against a plate glass door while watching the band walking into a radio station.

spandau fans
Are there any other kind? 

Spandau, of course, soldiered on in their career, making more albums while the in-fighting between them increased. Kemp writes a great deal about how controlling he was, from writing all of the songs to dictating how Tony Hadley should sing a particular line. This control is what lead to the court case Hadley, Keeble, and Norman brought against Gary in the 1990s. Kemp characterizes it as a decision to have his personal publishing company to stop contributing to the costs of running the band (since he was the lone songwriter in the band). He says that long-time manager Steve Dagger “told the others” and that “there was no confrontation about it, but it was a decision that would have a very slow-burning fuse indeed, and more destructive firepower than anything [he] could possibly imagine” (259). Well, yeah! It seems a little naïve to say that you couldn’t know that making a decision to stop sharing monies with the band would result in such anger. I think the court case, though, wasn’t just about the money but about the idea that somehow Kemp was the only important member of the band.  But as Kemp says, by the time Heart Like a Sky was being recorded, it was obvious the band was falling apart. He wanted to hurt the band for taking him for granted and to prove to them that he was the real center of Spandau Ballet.

spandau sporty
In photos, however, Tony was usually posed as the center of the band because he was the tallest (sorry, Gary!)

Kemp concludes the book with the band’s reunion a decade after the court case in which he was triumphant. The story of their getting back together is interwoven with the story of his parents’ death. Kemp’s father practically died right in front of him and he along with his brother Martin was tasked with telling their mother of her husband’s death while she was hospitalized during a battle with cancer. After they’d told her, Kemp says that, “the second or third thing my mother said through her tears after she’d hear what had happened was this: ‘And he was so looking forward to [the reunion of] Spandau Ballet’ (310). Four days later she, too, died. These profound deaths make the whole “let’s get the band together!” ending of the book pretty melancholy to read. Knowing that the band wouldn’t stay together in their original form also makes this ending a bit sad. But it’s an excellent book in which Kemp is honest about his flaws and he’s willing to laugh at himself in the process of exposing them. There’s also stuff about his acting career, his love life, and lots of tales of excess while on the road. An overall good read, whether you are a fan or not.

In terms of my New Romantic research, this book is indispensable. I really admire Kemp and I’m grateful for his continuing triumphing of the importance of New Romanticism. (He also also liked a few of my tweets which was, like, the greatest thing ever!)

Please enjoy a few of the following selections from the Spandau Ballet oeuvre:

 

Like Punk Never Happened

Like Punk Never Happened: Culture Club and the New Pop (1985)
Dave Rimmer

This book has a provocative title, one that I read for the first time in an article I’d come across by a former professor, Neil Nehring. The phrase “like punk never happened” was used as a jab against Duran Duran and how their existence belied the disruptive presence of punk just a few years before. What was the point of punk if it begat Duran Duran or Spandau Ballet? While making this point, Nehring cited Dave Rimmer’s book. I knew I had to track it down, particularly because I took the charge against Duran Duran and Spandau very, very seriously!

Like Punk Never Happened was published in 1985 and is a mash up of Rimmer tracing the development of the genre known as New Pop and a tour diary written while he was in Japan with Culture Club during their 1984 tour.  Rimmer’s bio on the back of the book notes that he was a “freelance writer” for Smash Hits magazine and he thanks Neil Tennant (yes, from the Pet Shop Boys) for being his “agent, editor, and collaborator” on this book. A the editor of Smash Hits, Tennant undoubtedly has a ton of amazing pre-Pet Shop Boys stories and thus I declare that he needs to write his autobiography!

As I discussed in my post on Adam Ant’s autobiography, Rimmer traces the beginning of New Pop to Ant, declaring him a “monomaniacal success robot” with some affection, actually (11). Rimmer stresses that the point of the book is to explore New Pop, not to judge it, and so he writes about Adam’s arc toward stardom with an anthropological curiosity, using Ant as the ur-popstar on which all other 80s popstars are built. Adam’s roots were in punk and as most people already know, he was mentored by and then stolen from by Malcom McClaren (who lured Adam’s original Ants away to form Bow Wow Wow), a figure Rimmer sees as another harbinger of New Pop. McClaren always wanted to be a success and he always wanted the Sex Pistols to be famous. Their look and attitude was punk but McClaren’s desire was pure “imaginative entrepreneur” who wanted “to make the most of an easily manipulable music industry” (14).  Rimmer, like Simon Reynolds, sees punk as germinating from pop music, destroying the boundary between the radio friendly hit and the sneering, tuneless punk song. Both pop and punk are used as delineating lines between those “in” and those “out”, and once punk blew itself up, pop merely shuffled back in to fill in the void. Rimmer argues:

The irony of the situation is this: to those who cling on to the spirit of punk, everything about the New Pop is utterly abhorrent and devoid of heir precious ‘credibility’. The New Pop isn’t rebellious. It embraces the star system. It conflates art, business and entertainment. It cares more about sales and royalties and the strength of the dollar than anything else and to make matters worse, it isn’t the least bit guilty about it. (13)

Beyond Adam Ant, Rimmer sees the New Romantics as ushering in the age of New Pop. He says in the first chapter of the book that Culture Club “were the perfect New Pop” group: “Colour by Numbers was the nearest thing to a perfect pop album the decade has produced. ‘Karma Chameleon” was the nearest thing to a perfect pop single: pretty and sickly, complex and singalong, meaningless and meaningful all at the same time” (5). After he theorizes about the transformation of punk into New Pop, Rimmer spends the rest of the book detailing Culture Club’s 1984 tour. The tour tales are interesting, though they mostly focus on Boy George and Jon Moss constantly fighting, breaking up, and making back up. Boy George discusses their relationship in his autobiography if you’re interested in the details of their volatile love affair. It’s quite a story!

culture club

Something I found really helpful in Rimmer’s book is his discussion of money and New Popstars’ desire for success. Money and success comes up frequently when writers attempt to define what New Pop was. The music that came after punk was a lot of things: Postpunk, New Wave, New Romantic, and New Pop. It’s difficult to define what exactly makes each one of those categories because there are overlaps, slips, splits, and fissures among all of them. In a 2005 Pitchfork article, “Now That’s What I Call New Pop” by Jess Harvell provides a useful definition of New Pop which focuses both on sound and desire:

New pop, the UK post-post-punk movement, is too porous to be rigidly defined. It contains everything from ABC’s Arcadian soul-disco, to Orange Juice’s Byrds/Buzzcocks jangle, to the Human League’s supersonic Abba update. Much of it could also be called post-punk or synth-pop or leftover glam. There was no shared manifesto; many of the bands couldn’t be more different.

If anything defined it, it was a strange mix of DIY (spurred by punk) and ambition– to make the charts, make TV appearances, make newspaper headlines. Sometimes this was for money; sometimes just to see if it could be done; sometimes simply to reach as many people as possible. But clearly, for many bands, merely selling a few 7″s was no longer an option.

Rimmer reflects Harvell’s emphasis on ambition when he critiques the charge that New Pop was “Thatcherite” or “Falklands Pop”. He continues, “In some was that’s a profoundly stupid description. Culture Club aside, the consensus among today’s pop musicians is broadly left of centre. Even Andy Taylor of Duran Duran – the group most usually lumbered with the ‘Thatcherite’ tag – was recently heard remarking that it made him ‘sick to watch what she’s doing to the country.’” In other ways, however, Rimmer confirms the connection between New Pop and Thatcher in that New Pop’s orientation toward success mirrors “the Thatcherite ideal of how to revitalize the economy” (76). The connection to Thatcher always sits uncomfortably with me, particularly given the working class background of almost all of the New Romantics as well as a large swath of New Popstars. I loved this quote from Jon Moss in the book: “Duran Duran reflect what people can’t have in life. We reflect what they can have” (121). What can they have, though? Not Culture Club’s money but perhaps an audience could have their multicultural, gender bending approach to life? Along with how to define New Pop via success, Rimmer clarifies New Pop’s connection to Black dance music and he investigates the issue of sex, seemingly important because of Boy George’s (at times unexpressed) sexuality.

Like Punk Never Happened ends with Rimmer arguing that 1985 is year New Pop’s bubble burst. With increased fame, New Popstars had steadily increased the space between themselves and their fans. Additionally, fame obliterated the original philosophy that underpinned bands like Spandau Ballet or Culture Club. Along with Band Aid and general chart success, Rimmer also pins the blame on Wham! who “aimed to be nothing more than they seemed to be: two nice middle-class boys busy making a fortune. After their first couple of singles, their songs didn’t even seem to spring from their own experiences. It was all just George Michael playing with imaginary emotions and situations. Scratch the suburban surface of Wham! and you’d find nothing beneath but nagging delusion” (185).  Poor Wham!! I do remember, though, in Graham Smith’s book on the New Romantics, We Can Be Heroes, that several New Romantics lamented that Wham! stole their fashion (seen in “Wham Rap”, “Young Guns” and “Bad Boys”) from the “Hard Times” look (as the New Romantics called it) after visiting the Blitz one night and seeing patrons sporting rolled jeans and greased-up pompadours. It seems even in a movement that eventually jettisoned credibility, the illusion of cred was still important!

Boy George hated the video for “Karma Chameleon” so I decided to post a live version of it (complete with a dig at Siouxsie Sioux at the beginning!)

Here’s Wham in all of their stolen Hard Times glory:

Coal Black Mornings

Coal Black Mornings (2018)
Brett Anderson

Though this blog is primarily dedicated to the reading I’m doing to satisfy my post-punk itch, I do have other musical obsessions: mainly Britpop and Cool Cymru which are two sides of the same 1990s coin. My devotion to the Manic Street Preachers not only lead me to read every book published about them (more on those in another post) but to also read about Super Furry Animals (Ric Rawlins’ excellent bio) as well as Gruff Rhys’ American Interior, and assorted other books on the Welsh music scene commonly called Cool Cymru (there aren’t really any directly on Cool Cymru but there is one book called ‘Blerwytirhwng?’ The Place of Welsh Pop Music by Sarah Hill that covers a vast amount of bands included in the movement and there is an excellent chapter about the scene in Wales Since 1939 by Martin Johnes). Once I’d exhausted the Welsh scene, I turned to Britpop and books on Blur, Oasis, the genre in general (Britpop!: Cool Britannia And The Spectacular Demise Of English Rock by John Harris is a great one), and Suede (fabulous bio by David Barnett). I was thrilled, then, to discover that Suede’s lead singer, Brett Anderson, has recently undertaken the task of writing his autobiography. The story of Suede’s place in Britpop is fascinating, especially since they are often attributed with starting the scene in the first place although as with most declarations about who started what in music, that declaration is also keenly argued about. It was, however, Suede who made it to the cover of the NME before Blur and they made it before they’d officially released their first single!

brett
Anderson looking a bit moody in front of his Bowie poster

Coal Black Mornings wasn’t quite what I expected it to be. In the Foreword, Anderson clarifies that “the last thing I wanted to write was the usual ‘coke and gold discs’ memoir” and so he “limited [the book] strictly to the early years, before anyone really knew or really cared” about the band. He did this in order to “achieve [a] sense of tone […] to stray beyond [the early days of Suede] and to keep my voice fresh and void of cliché would have been impossible, and right now I have no desire to rake over those days again” (ix-x). Anderson dubs the book a “prehistory” and indeed, most of the book is about his childhood and college days with the book ending just as Suede gelled as band, creating a ruckus in London and in the music press. He discusses his relationship with Elastica’s Justine Frischmann and he is very complimentary to her. Though he notes that their relationship eventually ended because she became involved with another man, he never says it’s Blur frontman Damon Albarn. For a truly juicy going-over of that love triangle, I recommend Barnett’s authorized biography of Suede. There are tons of good stories about how much Brett and Damon hated each other. One can only surmise that Anderson continues to hate Albarn given the digs he makes at Britpop bands who sing in false accents about lives they know nothing about (ahem, “Parklife”).

Anderson’s lyrics betray an obvious interest in class, in elevating the unseen experiences of the working class and the marginalized to art. His autobiography does the same as he carefully and poetically evokes a vision of his childhood that is pocked with disappointment, poverty, and an angry father but also punctuated by that same father’s love of classical music and a mother who supported her artistic children. Unlike a lot of biographies and autobiographies, I found the portion of the book about Anderson’s childhood to be fascinating reading. He is an excellent writer with a good sense of how to season brutality and sadness with humor.

The part about becoming Suede is lighter and captures the humor, vanity, and earnestness involved in starting a band. There are a lot of great stories about playing to empty rooms and wry digs at the clothes the band initially wore on stage. Importantly, Anderson discusses what emerged as one the press’s repeated critiques of Anderson’s lyrics and onstage persona: that it was all a put-on. Over the years, music writers have opined that Anderson “played gay” to garner attention for the band, that his coy ducking of questions about his own sexuality was designed to fuel gossip. Anderson speaks somewhat to this charge while discussing the writing of the song, “My Insatiable One” after breaking up with Frischmann (link to song at end of essay):

Like everything I was writing at that time it was massively coloured by heartbreak, but this time I was writing about myself in the third person and from Justine’s point of view; fictionalising a situation where she was regretting her choices and where the ‘he’ in the lyrics was actually me. I found this shift in perspective really thrilling as a writer and it suddenly opened up enormous vistas, which I began to explore through other songs in that early period, looking at the world through the eyes of housewives and gay men and lonely dads […] Sadly, a year or so later, when we had become shrouded in notoriety and success, some would choose to see it as a social tourism. Given the levels of real, cynical, social tourism during that decade, when groups of patronising middle-class boys were making money by aping the accents and culture of the working classes, the irony was exquisite. (191)

Suede’s early songs always felt exploratory to me. Anderson was merely tiptoeing in and out of viewpoints in order to expose the panorama of British life to his listeners. Of course Suede often sounds pompous and bombastic! When one is trying to hew a portrait of a nation to compete with the cheerful tunes of Blur and Oasis, one errs on the side of going big.  This book feels to be both honest and crafted, as if Anderson is taking on another persona: that of a man named Brett Anderson who is writing an autobiography. I mean that as a compliment, actually. The refrain of “coal black mornings” that recurs through the book could feel gimmicky but in Anderson’s hands, the recurrence feels natural and necessary. It elevates the grubby struggle of his early life to something worthy of art. The whole book feels self-consciously shaped but necessarily so as Anderson is trying not only through his stories, but also through the writing itself to evoke a mood or tone that enraptures the reader. He wants you to feel this story, not to merely read it.

The book is quite short at only 209 pages but the length felt right. A sort of short, sharp shock to the system before Anderson recedes into the shadows again.

Dancing With Myself

Dancing With Myself (2014)
Billy Idol

The Bromley Contingent continued to make the scene with a series of wild parties, including one memorable bash at Bertie Berlin’s house, with Siouxsie, Steve Severin, Simon Barker, a bunch of workers from Malcom’s Sex shop, and Johnny Rotten. Those were the fun times. We were fine young cannibals, ready to conquer the universe, poised to become stars in our own right. (54)

I read this book primarily  because of Idol’s involvement in the “Bromley Contingent” which was a group of punks who were basically Sex Pistols fans. Aside from Idol, the Bromley Contingent included punk luminaries like Siouxsie Sioux and Jordan (more on Jordan when I get to Adam Ant’s autobiography)  and they were known for their risky fashion choices – enabled by their relationship to Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood – as much as they were for their disruptive behavior at Pistol shows and TV appearances. Idol was also famous in the burgeoning New Romantic clubs in 1979/1980 for being a great beauty who drew admirers like Boy George to him, even if the New Romantics had declared those still wearing punk clothes to be dirty and unfashionable. Sometimes a great face can conquer one’s aversion to torn t-shirts and tattered jeans! Idol had, in fact, lived in a squat with Steve Strange (singer of Visage and owner of The Blitz club, among many other important New Romantic clubs of the time) when both were in the early days of the punk scene. The punk section of this book is rich with information and filled with Idol’s encounters with heavy hitters like The Clash.

The book loses some of its punch once he becomes famous, though there is a great story about him appearing on the TV show Solid Gold to perform “Mony Mony” in 1981. I’ll let Billy tell it:

I was asked to do some promotion, and I agreed to go to L.A. to perform on Solid Gold, the U.S. chart TV show hosted by Marilyn McCoo and Andy Gibb […] We flew out for the show, on which I was to lip-synch the words to the recorded track. After doing so much TV in the UK, I was up for it.

When we arrived for the rehearsal, a choreographer had worked out all of these ‘60s steps for me to perform with the Solid Gold Dancers, but I told him, ‘I sing, they dance,’ so he got them to perform their routine around me. My long, hard stare into the future at the end of my performance let everyone know, ‘I’m a punk rock ‘n’ roller’” (147).

There truly is nothing more punk than acting tough on Solid Gold. Good for you, Billy! I  believe the camera didn’t actually capture that long, hard stare but you can look for it here:

There are the usual stories of excess here and one explicit encounter with a fan that is the first thing I think of when I tell people I’ve read Billy Idol’s autobiography. If you’re interested, pick up the book and leaf through it. I guarantee you’ll know which fan encounter I’m talking about when you find it.

In terms of postpunk research, this book provides a glimpse into how punk became 80s and then finally became New Pop.  Good stuff about the early punk scene. Idol is a real name-dropper and I mean that as a compliment!