Remember the New Romantics?
Nicky Charlish wonders why the New Romantics lack a literary recognition @ 3 a.m. Magazine. This January saw a small but select gathering in London’s Covent Garden- the Blitz Club reunion. This wasn’t war veterans reminiscing about the London Blitz when the city was pounded by Nazi bombers night after night during the Second World War but the celebration of a club which played a leading part in the New Romantic scene of 30 years ago. Remember the New Romantics?
Blind with mascara and dumb with lipstick, their leaders - singers like Boy George and Adam Ant, bands like Duran Duran and the Human League - cavorted across the nation’s television screens to the accompaniment of ethereal electro music and tedious tabloid shock-horror (’is it a boy or a girl?’). That night, the dance-floor heaved to old New Romantics - and young Neo-Romantics who weren’t even alive the first time around - bopping to tribal favourites like Bowie’s ‘Ashes to Ashes’, Visage’s ‘Fade to Grey’ and Kraftwerk’s ‘The Model’. Onlookers wondered whether all this heralded the return of decadent glamour to the capital’s nightlife.
But this event raises another question. Almost every youth cult has its novels by which it’s defined, remembered. The Bright Young Things of the 1920s had Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies and Michael Arlen’s The Green Hat. A decade later, Soho’s young criminals had The Gilt Kid by James Curtis. The youth of the Forties didn’t have novels - they’d be remembered by history books and war memorials. The early Mods of the 1950s hadAbsolute Beginners by Colin Maclnnes, whilst the Chelsea Set wide-boys of the Sixties had The Crust on Its Uppers by Robin Cook (later to reinvent himself as crime writer Derek Raymond). The 1970s skinheads would have the Skinhead series of novels by Richard Allen. Given their impact on youth culture - more of this in a moment - you might expect the New Romantics to have been similarly commemorated. But it remains the one cult conspicuous by its absence from literary recognition.