Released today in 1981: Planet Earth

EMI EMI5137

EMI EMI5137

“I heard you making patterns rhyme/Like some New Romantic looking for the TV sound,” sings Simon Le Bon on this single, released 34 years ago today. In his “dictionary of rock terms” Rockspeak!, Tom Hibbert describes a New Romantic as “a member of a British youth sub-group of the early 1980s. New Romantics sport exotic clothing and facial cosmetic applications, have hair that is lavishly and expensively ‘coiffed’ and show off their style by affecting an air of poise whilst standing around without smiling as Futurist music or Funk is played in some hygienic disco club.”

The ‘hygienic disco club’ where it all started was The Blitz, frequented by many of the faces who would soon make it on to the cover of Smash Hits: Boy George, Pete Burns, Marilyn, Tony James and Martin Degville of Sigue Sigue Sputnik, and the group that became an unofficial ‘house band’ for the club, Spandau Ballet. The striking image of the so-called Blitz Kids described by Hibbert above was due in part to the building’s address in Covent Garden, located as it was very close to a couple of London art colleges: students who would go on to make names for themselves later in the Eighties such as Stephen Jones and John Galliano experimented with their early fashion statements at the venue’s club nights. The avant-garde design and clothing favoured at The Blitz had also been influenced by the visual stylings of David Bowie throughout the Seventies. Several early members of the crowd had attended the ‘Bowie Nights’ at Billy’s in Dean Street, and when Bowie himself needed extras to appear in the video for 1980’s Ashes To Ashes he returned the favour by selecting Steve Strange and other regulars from the Blitz Kids. This promotional clip was not just marketing for Bowie’s single, it brought what was still a fairly underground phenomenon for those ‘in the know’ into popular culture.

New Romanticism had emerged at exactly the same time Nick Logan was creating Smash Hits, and the eye-catching outfits and eccentric haircuts were crying out to be photographed and put on the cover of a trendy new magazine keen to demonstrate it was in touch with the zeitgeist. But it was another of Logan’s magazines, The Face – launched in the spring of 1980 – that would be the first to align itself with this new genre. Smash Hits gave preference to Post-Punk and New Wave artists as cover stars at the time The Face was launched, and would continue to do so until mid-1981. Nonetheless, Spandau Ballet’s Martin Kemp made the cover in December 1980, followed the next month by fellow Blitz Kid Steve Strange (by then fronting Visage), and then in February by Duran Duran. As the latter came from Birmingham they were not associated with the Blitz Kids themselves but visually and musically they fitted the scene perfectly, enabling the trend to spread beyond London. Duran made their debut (with Planet Earth) neatly between those of The Blitz’s Spandau Ballet (first single, 1980) and Boy George (whose Culture Club made their earliest release in 1982). Along with the synth-heavy Ashes To Ashes, the music of these groups helped to kick-start the popularity Synth-pop, associated with the likes of Eurythmics and Depeche Mode. The latter were one of a number of acts (including Japan and Adam Ant, whose look identified them as possible Blitz Kids) to disassociate themselves from movement, telling Sounds in 1981: “We never had anything to do with [them]. They all looked the same…But call us what you like. Ultra-pop, Futurist, Disco, anything – as long it’s not New Romantic.”

NEW SINGLES on sale from Feb. 2
1981
DURAN DURAN Planet Earth (EMI EMI5137)
1987
BANANARAMA Trick Of The Night (London NANA12)
SIMPLY RED (Mick Hucknall) The Right Thing (WEA YZ103)
SPANDAU BALLET How Many Lies (Reformation SPANDS2)
SPLODGENESSABOUNDS Phut Phut Splodgenik (Neat MADO3)
T’PAU (Carol Decker) Heart And Soul (Siren SRN41)

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