When the New Romantics disembarked in La Movida
Some of the biggest names in the national and international music scene played at this Madrid venue, standard bearer for La Movida2. But, one of the most outstanding performances was, without a shadow of a doubt, Spandau Ballet. Last year was the 40th anniversary of that concert.
They arrived with a bang, as undisputed leaders of the New Romantics, and a number of bands and big cultural movement were emerging in London at the time. Our awakening was a bit slower, but we were getting there by leaps and bounds. We weren´t going to be left behind.
We have tried to re visit the story of a performance that, somehow, was a milestone, nor only for the management and the workers of the venue, but also for many of those in the audience that evening. With that in mind, we have chatted with several people who experienced the event in first person. Putting together a series of facts and anecdotes that uphold what the arrival of the New Romantics to the capital really meant.
‘It was a radio DJ, Mario Armero, who contacted the band. He had studied in England and knew people in the music industry over there. He arranged everything for us’, tells Pepo Perandones.
‘As we were quite a new venue, and totally unknown to them, we were asked to pay the whole fee upfront. I flew myself to London with the cash (375.000 pesetas) on me and put it on their manager´s table. I took the chance to visit some record shops over there and bring back some records that were not available in Spain at the time. That was the first of many of those trips. That was the reason behind Rock-Ola playing the best music in Madrid. We had an impressive record collection.’
I must admit that, though I wasn´t at that concert, I was too young to be allowed to go to a concert, I´m lucky enough to have one of the tickets studs in my collection. That´s why I was surprised to receive a picture of the gig´s poster, as it shows a different date to the one on the ticket.
‘Pepo, something doesn´t quite add up. I assume the poster is the real McCoy, and if that´s so, then somebody has been forging studs and selling them on collectors sites for years’.
‘‘The poster is the real thing. It belongs to Lorenzo Rodriguez, he was the venue´s manager, he has taken the photo for you himself. And the tickets seemed genuine too. I can´t remember the exact date of the concert, it was definitely a Sunday, therefore the poster´s date seems the right one. But let me talk to Lorenzo and I´ll get back to you.’
That´s how Lorenzo recovered a story that had been lying dormant for the last forty years. A story that many of those who were there that evening don´t seem to have noticed.
The concert was originally agreed for Saturday the 11th but, before the contract was even signed, the band asked for it to be changed to Sunday the 12th. They had just received an offer from the legendary KU in Ibiza, and they also wanted them to play on the 11th. Being July, Saturday or Sunday didn´t make a big difference in Madrid, and the venue were really interested in the band playing there, so it wasn´t a big deal to agree to the request.
The graphic designer made the mistake of using the original date on the tickets, and the actual one on the posters and flyers. Nobody noticed it till a good number of tickets had already been sold. Then the venue got in touch with different radio stations and requested alerts to be aired informing of the error. The few who turned up on the Saturday were given the choice to either using it that evening, or coming back the following day. They all decided to return, they wanted to see Spandau Ballet. ‘I honestly can´ t remember if we ever printed tickets with the right date on them, or just kept on selling the ones we had, advising people of the right date.’ adds Lorenzo.
We have tried to find any ticket with the Sunday date on it, among the many who had kept theirs, but we haven´t been able to , there don’t seem to be any. They’re all dated for the Saturday. ‘It was the last time we ever worked with that designer, anyway’, says Pepo. ‘We didn´t like the artwork he did for this gig. A band like Spandau deserved far much better than that. Better quality, it was very boring, really. From that day on, I took over as graphic designer.’
Though the rumor goes that, for the lead singer of the band who played on the Saturday, it was more than just an anecdote. He was convinced that that mistake damaged their ticket sales, and it was the reason they did not sell out. In fact, he was fuming when he witnessed people turning around at the gate. The band was Radio Futura3, and the lead singer, the one and only Santiago Auseron.
Lorenzo´s Rock-Ola posters collection is so large that there had been two exhibitions showing part of it. Also, a number of them, generously donated by him, hang in the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid, in a new room dedicated to popular culture, and very specifically to the 80s cultural movement. He doesn´t only keep posters, also many other pieces of memorabilia and mementos. Among them, his old personal accounting books, showing the numbers for the different concerts that took place there. The page you can see in this article is part of one of them, and it shows the one we´re talking about.
And the day finally came. ‘When they arrived, we all assumed they were from wealthy families, the traditional English dandies. It was their looks, you see. We were surprised to find out they were actually working class kids.’ remembers Pepo. ‘ There was a very tense moment when they first went on stage, and the audience started spitting at them. I thought it all would end badly. Spitting was something quite usual in the beginnings of Rock-Ola. The audience spat to the bands as token of their appreciation. Even some of our house bands would spit back. I guess all that came from the punk scene.’
‘Though, this time, we could see straight away that the band wasn´t happy. And it was very obvious. The audience was also surprised to see they didn´t like it, and didn´t understand why they didn´t appreciate their compliment. That´s when I thought, for just a moment, that everything would end badly. But, after a couple of songs, a kind of symbiosis of the band and the people took place, and from that moment forwards everything was fine. The spitting stopped as they allowed to be surrounded by their music. It really was an incredible concert. One of the best we ever offered, and one that I remember fondly’.
A common theme in how everybody describes the evening is the suffocating heat. A July evening in Madrid, in a venue that, according to the time fashion, had no air conditioning, and was full to the brim. 1,200 tickets were sold, as described in Lorenzo´s notes. Plus all those on the guest list, especially those invited by the record company. Everybody wanted to see the brand new promise of British pop, those everybody was talking about. Everybody who was anybody was there that evening to see Spandau Ballet playing live in Madrid for the first time.
‘The heat was so brutal than the sweat from all those bodies packed close together evaporated and condensed into a big cloud right under the ceiling, mixing up there with the smoke from the many cigarettes’. Smoking was allowed everywhere back then, and people did smoke heavily wherever they went. ‘That same heat, made that cloud rain over everybody’. ‘It was ever so hot!’ ‘We were all sweating like pigs. I remember seeing Alaska4 y Ana Curra5 in the ladies, all covered in sweat and talking about how much they had enjoyed the gig’.
There were many that traveled from other parts of Spain for the event. Quite a trip, that some remember as a great adventure, and something that would change their lives and careers. Quoting Ricardo Texidó (Danza Invisible5): ‘ I was a founder member of the band Danza Invisible. I gave that band its name and I wrote some of the songs during the first years, here is how the link to Spandau Ballet begins. Though I got the name playing around with words taken from the book ‘Black Africa’. Cris, the guitar player and I knew our music had to be danceable like the new stuff arriving from the new romantics. We noticed the ‘ballet’ in Spandau Ballet and thought that Danza (Spanish for Ballet) was a good comparison to use in ours. As soon as Cris and I heard that Spandau would be playing in Spain, and in Rock-Ola, we decided to start planning our trip. And, as we used to do whenever we visited Madrid, taking a demo and trying to promote it around. Living 600km away we weren´t born in La Movida, really, we actually have to create one of our own in Torremolinos and Malaga. Being fans of their first album ‘Journeys to Glory’ (one of the songs in our first album. written by myself, is actually named ‘That was our Journey to Glory’), and also of their second one; we decided to take the bus from Malaga to Madrid. It used to take 8 hours, and the air conditioning wasn´t a fix fixture just yet. Once in Madrid, we stayed in the cheapest place we could find, Hostal Maravillas in calle Manuela Malasaña. We took a shower, put our best outfits and make up on. We took the tube feeling very excited, as we were only 18-19 and on our way to see our idols. We walked into Rock-Ola, where we had the chance to meet many musicians and others that were part of La Movida. Among them Golpes Bajos 7, that had traveled from Galicia that evening for the Spandau Ballet´s concert. The concert simply rocked, and the drummer used roto-toms, like I did. Their sound, rhythm, outfits, attitude was exactly what we needed back then, to be influenced by the new music coming specially from the UK. And well, ‘To Cut a Long Story Short’, we paid great attention to the sounds and synths, the strumming of the guitars, trying to imbue ourselves with everything we saw to make it ours later on, and introduce it to our own music and the songs from the beginning of Danza Invisible. I´m no nostalgic, but, from the distance, I can assure that those were unique times, a once-in – a-lifetime, and I´m proud to have been part of it and contributed in a small way. The atmosphere was amazing, one of the best concerts and one I remember fondly’.
After the live performance, the venue became a night club till the early hours, with Pepo as a DJ. ‘The first song I played that evening, after the show, was ‘Heroes’ by David Bowie. Before the gig, I had a quick chat with the band, and some of the members mentioned being big Bowie fans, and talked about this particular track. So, in their honor, and as my way to say thank you, that was the first record I played’. A perfect grand finale to such a special evening, when they became the heroes.
Then they made their way to a well-known place called ‘Golden’ for the after show party (though named in English, it was best known by his colloquial nickname in Spanish ‘El Bar del Oro’ and as such is featured in one of the 80s Spanish anthems ‘La Fuerza del Destino’ by Mecano8). Alex and Cristina9 would meet there for the first time.
‘‘We were standing at the bar next to Gary Kemp, laughing at his outfit. He was wrapped in what it looked like a blanket. In July in Madrid! In that heat!’, says Alex de la Nuez.
That show, as all the others that took place in the venue, was filmed. Unfortunately, a fire consumed their storeroom in November 84, burning to ashes every film, recording, photos and that incredible record collection that Pepo had so patiently put together trip by trip.
There are only a few photos left, all taken by people in the audience, photos that have, generously, been sent to us to be used for this article. Faith also made possible that parts of the concert were filmed for the TV show ‘La Edad de Oro’10. Though, it was not shown till a couple of years later together with an interview with the band during the rehearsals. Both can be enjoyed on the RTVE.website.
They also took the chance during that trip to Madrid, to record the popular show ‘Aplauso’11, promoting their album ‘Journeys to Glory’, and the track that was already a hit ‘To Cut A Long Story Short’. This performance can also been seeing on the TV site.
That was the visit of the leaders of the New Romantics to La Movida Madrileña, told with the words, always full of affection, of those who lived this moment of the music history.
Our gratitude to everybody who has shared their memories with us. And very specially to two of the members of the band: Tony Hadley and Steve Norman who, not only had corroborated some of those stories, but also, very kindly, had recorded messages for the Rock-Ola gang thanking them for the warm welcome they received all those 40 years ago.
- Rock-Ola. 1981-1985. Live music venue in Madrid, center of La Movida Madrileña. Cradle of some of the biggest names in the Spanish music, art, photography, and films and more.
- La Movida Madrileña was a countercultural movement that took place mainly in Madrid in the early 80s. The movement coincided with economic growth in Spainand a widespread desire for the development of a post- Franco identity. It featured a rise in punk rock and synth-pop music, an openness regarding sexual expression and drug usage, The aesthetic permeated into the city’s street fashion, photography, cartoons, and murals, manifesting itself in bright colors, voluminous hair, unconventional and revealing clothing, and heavy makeup use among all genders. This hedonistic cultural wave started in Madrid before appearing in other Spanish cities. Almodóvar comically reflected the messiness of the freedom of those years in some of his films.
- Radio Futura Spanish pop rock group. They rose to become one of the most popular bands in Spain during the 1980s and early 1990s. In 1989 they were voted the best Spanish act of the 1980s
- Alaska: Lead singer of the Spanish band Alaska y Dinarama, TV presenter.
- Ana Curra: Reference singer, keyboard player and songwriter for La Movida. Also known as the Queen of Spanish punk.
- Danza Invisible . New Wave Spanish band. Considered as part of La Movida, with a number of published albums since 1982, chat-topping singles.
- Golpes Bajos 1980s pop group in Spain, a part of the so-called «Edad de Oro del Pop Español», i.e. «The Golden Age of Spanish Pop Music». They were active in 1982–1986, with a final reunion tour in 1997–1998:
- Mecano Spanish pop band formed in 1981 and active until 1992. Mecano became one of the most successful Spanish pop bands of all time. The band is still the best-selling Spanish band, with over 25 million records worldwide. They were considered by some to be avant-garde for their time and part of la Movida Madrileña countercultural movement.
- Alex y Cristina. Pop Spanish band very popular in the late 80s.
- La Edad de Oro TV program that contributed to spread the aesthetics of the movement to a wider audience.
- Aplauso. Weekly music TV shows run from 1978 to 1983 on Saturday evenings