New Romantic pioneer Steve Strange has died

He was born Steven Harrington in Newbridge, Monmouthshire in 1959 and immediately got into music after seeing the Sex Pistols in concert at the Castle Cinema in Caerphilly in 1976. It spurred him on to arrange gigs for punk bands, including the Stranglers, in his home town.

Steve, who was later dubbed the Peacock Prince, moved to London at the age of 15 and began working for the Sex Pistols’ manager Malcolm McLaren before setting up Blitz club which had many pop stars through its doors including David Bowie who Steve claimed was there because “He had heard how bizarre it was.”

His first foray into bands was in November 1978 when he joined a punk band called The Photons who were originally from Liverpool. The following year, he left, changed his name to Steve Strange and formed Visage with Rusty Egan and Midge Ure, both who had been members of the Rich Kids. The other three members were Dave Formula, Barry Adamson and John McGeoch who were all members of Magazine.

Visage amassed seven hits kicking off with Fade to Grey which entered the chart in December 1980 and hit number eight becoming their biggest hit. They followed it with Mind of a Toy (number 13), Visage (number 21), The Damned don’t Cry (number 11) and Night Train (number 12) which also featured Kim Wilde on backing vocals.

After the demise of Visage, both Strange and Egan went on to front and host various club nights including Club for Heroes in Baker Street and the Camden Palace where I did my first ever DJ of the Year contest in 1983 and came third. There, I was the first person in the world to play New Order’s Blue Monday and got inundated with enquiries about it, so I knew it was going to be a smash. Rumour had it that Steve Strange was there that night, but I never saw, not met him.

In 1989 Strange headed off to Ibiza to DJ and thus became part of the fledgling trance club movement. He also hosted private parties including one for Sylvester Stallone. He even ran him own club over there called the Double Bass.

He was dogged by problems with heroin addiction after trying it whilst modelling at a Jean Paul Gaultier fashion show in Paris in 1985. He later admitted that “It was the worst mistake I ever made in my life.”

In 2002 he returned to the UK where he reformed Visage as Visage Mk II. The same year he was portrayed on stage by Boy George in the musical Taboo.

BBC London DJ Robert Elms, who has known Steve for about 40 years remembered, “Steve wasn’t really a musician; he was a worker of people. He played London like a musical instrument and ran nights, mainly working on the door, like no other. One night David Bowie turned up and there was a stampede like I’ve never seen. He also turned Mick Jagger away one night because Steve thought he was too old and wasn’t dressed well enough.”

When the news broke, Robert rang Gary Kemp who was on stage in Italy to tell him the news and Spandau paid tribute there and then. Gary said, “If it wasn’t for Steve, we would never have been who we are.” Robert added, “That applies to many musicians in around the London area.”

In 2012 he appeared as a guest on the ITV show Loose Women and revealed he was working on a new Visage album under the moniker Visage III and even announced that they were playing a live show at the Citrus Club in Edinburgh that same month.

His former band mate, Midge Ure paid tribute on the Today programme on Radio 4, he said, “The Blitz, and the subsequent Blitz Kids who used to frequent the place, grew into a massive movement in the UK associated with fashion, and image and photography. You could stand in the Blitz club and look round you and thereโ€™d be future journalists and filmmakers and writers and musicians and a young Boy George taking coats at the coat check… There was something really vibrant about it.” Simon Le Bon fondly said, “He was the leading edge of New Romantic.”

He was on holiday in Egypt where he died of a heart attack.

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2 comments for “New Romantic pioneer Steve Strange has died

  1. Dave VanMusicMaster
    February 21, 2015 at 10:56 am

    “Malcolm McClaren” really? – I always thought it was Malcolm McLaren?

    So what’s the correct spelling then?

    I’ve got the 2 most recent albums – both pretty good, the most recent ones are orchestral versions of Visage hits – they work pretty well.

    They were one of the few groups still bothering to release CD singles (2 of the others are Depeche Mode and Erasure) – the most recent one was the orchestral version of Fade To Grey … not quite as good as the original, but still pretty damn good ๐Ÿ˜€

  2. Dave VanMusicMaster
    February 21, 2015 at 11:03 am

    Steve Strange also released an album under the name “Strange Cruise” with at least 1 single coming out from that, there’s also at least 2 solo singles – one of which remains unreleased – a version of “In The Year 2525” on the Palace label – although this may be the same version that gets put on the hits compilations?
    The other is the “Bowie-esque” EP – that one definitely was released as I have a 12″ single of that.

    Such a shame he’s died when the new stuff he was making was still pretty good.

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