Why didn’t The Photos make it? They seemed to have all the ingredients for pop success: catchy New Wave tunes and a sexy lead singer in Wendy Wu. But they never had any hits and their 1980 debut album was the only one they released. They recorded a Tony Visconti-produced follow-up but for some reason the record company shelved it and the band broke up soon after.
Their label hyped them as “the British Blondie” and gave them a big marketing push which helped get that first album to #4 in the charts. I bought it on the strength of that buzz – and the fine-looking Wendy – but while it was a solid enough record it was no Parallel Lines. No crime in that of course, especially considering that was Blondie’s third album, so I don’t know why The Photos weren’t given a shot with their second.
You could say they needed more time to develop. Hahahahaha.
Billy Idol was never taken seriously by music critics in the late 70s who saw him as a dumb pretty boy whose band made cartoon punk records. This is a pretty silly record but it’s a whole lot of rocking fun, and owes as much musically to Glam Rock as it does punk.
Billy was to have the last laugh a few years later of course.
If you like my “Tribes of Britain” posts then you’ll really like the wonderful blog What We Wore which also chronicles British youth style but also has stories from the people in the photos so it’s far more interesting.
You may think this is just a funny song about some bloke buying a new suit but it’s actually one of the most subversive singles of the 1950s: a devastating critique of materialist desire, capitalism, and how the working classes try to achieve status through their clothing. Really.
The differences between the scenes in the North (thumping beats, practical clothes) and the South (slick Jazz-Funk, fashionable gear) seem like cultural cliches of Hard Northerners vs Soft Southern Pooftahs but are actually mostly true in this instance.
The soul scene in the South hasn’t been written about nearly as much as the one oop North — a reversal of the usual media prejudice — but it was just as vital and more modern in outlook so it’s nice to see it given some proper respect in this movie. My earliest clubbing experiences were at the Lyceum in London in the late 70s with soul-scene legends Steve Walsh and Greg Edwards DJ-ing. The place was packed with Soul Boys (and girls) wearing t-shirts emblazoned with the name of their local posses like Streatham Funk Patrol and blowing the whistles that hung around their necks. While the clothes were important — this was the era of Pringle jumpers and Lois jeans — there was no posing going on, everyone was too busy dancing.
Here’s a Brit-Funk classic from those days featuring the amazing bass-slapping fingers of Mr. Mark King.