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Various: Music For New Romantics (Cherry Red Records)
3CD | DL

Release Date: 11th November 2022
With an intended title of Music For Blitz Kids, this 3CD boxset housed in a clamshell case courtesy of Cherry Red Records aims (according to the PR blurb) to ‘celebrate the music played at legendary late 70s and early 80s clubs such as The Wag in London, Pips in Manchester and the Rum Runner in Birmingham – a night-time culture centred around fashion-obsessed individuals, which inspired a youth movement, the new romantics’. The fact that The Blitz Club isn’t mentioned initially seems somewhat remiss, it might explain the finished title, but also indicates that a level of friction may exist between Cherry Red and the owners of the Blitz name. Recent online chatter endorses that, and the realisation that Blitz co-founder Rusty Egan is currently compiling a Blitz Club boxset due for release in 2023.
But, enough of the intrigue, what do you get for your New Romantics money? Well, clearly you can’t please everybody, such is the difficulty of compiling compilations, the compiler – in this case Wag Club founder, and Blue Rondo A La Turk member Chris Sullivan, who, has no doubt battled through various licencing issues to gather together 59 tracks across a 3CD box alongside an accompanying 40-page booklet. To be fair Sullivan has neatly encapsulated both the roots of and the New Romantic movement.
Disc One opens with Mott The Hoople – All The Young Dudes, written and produced by David Bowie, and released back in 1972 before reaching #3 in the UK Singles Chart; the track is rightly regarded as a glam rock anthem, and glam enabled punks disaffected to arc back before catapulting themselves forward, similarly with I’m Eighteen which Alice Cooper released a year earlier – Cooper was always a guilty secret to many of the punk generation; hence the reason Lydon auditioned for the Sex Pistols to the track. I’m Eighteen has that distorted guitar riff, the rough vocals that subsequently filtered through into punk rock. New York Dolls – musically Personality Crisis predated both glam and punk rock, and the bands heavily made up, cross-dressing night walkers was a key point for the future new romantics. Iggy Pop is often cited as the Godfather of punk, featured here with 1977’s Nightclubbing, a track which became a staple of the early new romantic dancefloors. Roxy Music originally released Do The Strand in 1973 – I’d argue no other band had greater influence on the subsequent new romantics, the track (produced by Chris Thomas (Bollocks)) soundtracked the glam era, punk and beyond, its lyric pertaining to the glamour of classic high art, and the sophistication of the Charleston. Lou Reed included here with Vicious entitled his 1973 album Berlin; the city has always held an alure for musicians, Wayne County was one such who released the single Berlin in 1979, County was an outrageous former Warhol Superstar who moved to the UK as punk rock broke; the track itself references both the interest in the city of Berlin and the nascent electronic music emerging at the time. La Dusseldorf formed from the ashes of Krautrock pioneers Neu, Viva allowed clubbers to dance, pogoing was out – and people certainly danced to The Crunch courtesy of The Rah Band as founder Richard Anthony Hewson took this quirky instrumental into the UK Top 10 in 1977. Its good to see The Warlord included with The Ultimate Warlord, a rarely heard 1978 track of proto electronica which was arguably as much an influence on disco as Donna Summer who contributes Love To Love You Baby – one of the earliest 12” singles; a format utterly adopted by the new romantic bands, Summer was produced by Giorgio Moroder who contributes Chase which is the perfect amalgamation between disco and electro, and signposted the future, a key for new romantics.
Disc Two includes Tubeway Army’s Down In The Park, the track was Numan’s first entirely keyboard written piece, it wasn’t a hit, yet its dystopian lyric referencing machmen and rape machines who provide entertainment for diners at the Zom Zom restaurant was influenced by writers such as J G Ballard, and Phillip K Dick again reached to the future. The Human League contribute Being Boiled which remains one of the best early UK electronic releases, the song was a huge underground hit to the point that you couldn’t avoid it if you went to the right nightclubs – and later paved the way towards the multi-million selling Dare.
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Writer J. G Ballard also heavily influenced future Mute Records boss Daniel Miller aka The Normal who was obsessing over Ballard’s novel Crash. Miller had tried to write a screenplay, but subsequently wrapped up the book within Warm Leatherette this sub three-minute masterpiece. He formed Mute to release the single, which sold more than 30,000 copies (yet still wasn’t a hit), this and its B-Side T.V.O.D was a staple tune at the likes of Billy’s, Pip’s in Manchester, Birmingham’s Rum Runner etc. Equally popular was Electricity from Wirral based Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark, initially released via Factory Records, before being picked up by DinDisc, who took it into the upper reaches of the charts. Oi! / Street punk writer Garry Bushell hated the track – which was all the motivation the new romantics needed to dance to its pulsating beats! Visage have to be included on any new romantic compilation, its been suggested that Steve Strange felt compelled to form the band to soundtrack his own nightclub – here with their namesake track and its “New styles, new shapes, New modes, that’s the role my passion takes” lyric which goes some way to explain the entire movement. Other noteworthy inclusions come from Telex with Moskow Diskow, Life in Tokyo from Japan, and Bostich courtesy of Yello, the bizarre Swiss duo who perfectly combined performance, dance and art, alongside Throbbing Gristle who released Hot On The Heels Of Love in 1979, the track complete with Cosey’s ultra-erotic vocal that harks back to Donna Summers Love To Love Me baby and I Feel Love; equally blatant in its sexual references was Nightmares In Wax offering Black Leather “I like it on the back of a motorbike” chants both punk and new romantic pioneer Pete Burns who tragically passed away in 2016 aged just 56.
Music For New Romantics: Various Artists –  review – ALBUM OF THE WEEK!
Disc Three doesn’t let up, contributions come from The Associates, the vehicle for extraordinary vocalist Billy McKenzie and guitarist Alan Rankine; here with Club Country which reached #13 on the UK Top Twenty (look up the Top Of The Pops performance online), M offer M Factor instead of the A-side hit Pop Muzik which brought some aggressive funk to the dancefloors. Chris Sullivan’s own Blue Rondo A La Turk offer the oddly named Klactoveesedstein, which for my own tastes was drawing too heavily upon funky Latin vibes. Released a couple of years prior was Shack Up from A Certain Ratio which brought the funk to punk but due to its raw almost primitive vibe remains the better track, label mates and close friends New Order contribute the majestic Everything’s Gone Green which these days is referenced as an early example of techno, and acid house – genre names that were still to be dreamt up when this came out via Factory in December 1981.
Music For New Romantics: Various Artists –  review – ALBUM OF THE WEEK!
Gina Kikoine performed under the moniker Gina X Performance, her heavily accented voice on No G.D.M signposted the believed alure of Europe, the band was essentially Kikoine and producer Zeus B Held who went on to produce the likes of Dead Or Alive, Transvision Vamp, Fashion and Nina Hagen. No G.D.M was ahead of the curve, bringing together the emotion of disco and the cold Teutonic beats of synthesizers. Lipps Inc. are possibly responsible for one of the most recognisable motifs ever, Funky Town reached #1 in 28-countries selling countless millions – that said I don’t recall hearing it any of Liverpool’s new romantic clubs; same can’t be said for Captain Scarlet courtesy of the Barry Gray Orchestra; don’t forget this one was covered by The Banshees in 1978!
As I alluded to at the start, no compilation can include every artist, that said Chris Sullivan has carefully gathered together the bands and artists that were the catalyst for the new romantics, as well as some of the material that sits under the genre umbrella; there is certainly enough here for those looking to discover what all the fuss was about and there are more than enough signposts should you wish to delve deeper.
More writing by Phil can be found at his Louder Than War Author’s Archive
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