Obituaries For A New Romantic

The death of Visage singer and clubland impresario Steve Strange has drawn numerous plaudits from the UK media, which has paid tribute to his influence on the New Romantic movement.

Photo: AP Photo / PA, Tim Whitby / PA
2002 file photo

Strange, 55, died in hospital in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheik, after reportedly suffering from a heart attack. August Day Recordings, Strange’s record label, has confirmed he died Feb. 12.

Visage had its best-known hit in 1980 with the electronic pop number “Fade To Grey,” but Strange also had a huge influence on London’s nightclub scene. He was co-founder of London’s Blitz club, which became a hangout for followers of the danceable pop and outrageous fashion that became known as New Romantic.

Former Visage member Midge Ure told the BBC that Strange set the tone for the Blitz club “because he wouldn’t let anyone in he didn’t like the look of.”

“So he famously turned away Mick Jagger, because he thought he was too rock ‘n ‘roll,” Ure explained. “But when David Bowie turned up, all these cool kids went into turmoil and meltdown, because the king had appeared.”

Spandau Ballet guitarist Gary Kemp said Strange, whose real name was Steven Harrington, was “a huge influence on the musical and cultural landscape of the Eighties.”

“Without him, we would never have been here,” he said. “A maverick to the end.” Apart from Visage and Spandau Ballet, the New Romantics also included Culture Club, Duran Duran, Japan, and Adam and the Ants, although the latter has denied being part of the movement.

In 1978, he and Rusty Egan – then drummer with the Rich Kids – began holding David Bowie nights on Tuesdays at Billy’s club in Soho, which was a basement situated under a brothel. In ’81, Strange and Egan opened Club for Heroes in Baker Street, then moved to the Camden Palace the following year.

The 2,000-capacity Palace became a mecca for international clubgoers, and established Strange as the pre-eminent name among the new clubland elite. All of this took its toll on Strange, who dabbled in drugs, which reportedly led to a heroin habit that at one point cost him £150 a day. The Daily Telegraph described Strange as “the capital’s most in-demand club host,” while The Independent said he was a “flamboyant figure with a self-destructive streak.”