When I was 13 I read this strange article in an issue of The Face magazine about a squad of London Media Men, taking lavish lunches in “clubs”, crafting media slogans and slinging instant trends, all the while armored in sleek Saville Row suits. Didn't quite make heads or tails of it then but it deposited in my head, a new idea of glamour that was not Bowie or Miles.
It was to be a beautifully dressed brigand, speaking beautifully, the esperanto of marketing and winning big. Media/fashion, advertising/PR, it promised to fast track you onto the fast lane. That was the summer of my English loves when I had returned to Kingston for holidays armed with every totem of cool London had to offer that season. A Katherine Hamnet T-shirt (CHOOSE LIFE!), a half dozen issues of the NME, and the spanking new 45 of Heaven 17's "(We Don't Need) This Fascist Groove Thang. I idolized diarist Julie Burchill and tingled for her bitch wit as if she were Dorothy Parker come back with a mohawk. Burchill wrote an infamous column in The Face, in defense of Thatcher and I think it gave me my first real love for tough girls. The proto-Mods of England had had Colin MacInnes, but my heroes, The New Romantics were represented by Mr. Robert Elms, the visionary who invented that brilliant misnomer "Spandau Ballet". I ached to one day be Robert Elms because he fetishized and thus fathered the fakest Jazz Revival ever known to London and then went on to date Sade, thus clinching my resolve to fetishize someday, something for all it was worth. Finally there was Paul Morley, half responsible for the Greater Rock N Roll Swindle that was Frankie Goes To Hollywood. Greater because it sold more T-shirts. How could you not fuck up a 13 year old for life after exposing him to Holly Johnson exhorting him to “Relax” . By the time it got to NY Stephen Saban in his Details magazine column had dismissed the song as “a 3 minute instruction by one man to his sphncister” Didn't get it but it sounded deep breath adult.
That a music journalist could co-found a record company with the real talent, the producer Trevor Horn and not only shape all of its marketing, but stand on the pedestal as its spokesperson was the most modern thing I could have imagined. And that this label was dubbed Zang Tumb Tuum, in honor the sound poem of the same name by Italian Futurist Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, broke the world open for me in ways no schoolbooks on Italian Futurism, or the Great War that provoked it , ever could.
Art Of Noise, translated from the original Italian title L’arte Dei Rumori (Rumori that resembles rumor but denotes noise..how right! ) had just released Close To The Edit with Camilla Pilkington-Smyth's of the Pilkington glass family , chanting, "To be in England, in the summer-time, with my lover/ Close to the Edit…. " There was more noise, Propaganda, where the lead singer , Claudia Brücken, who could not sing, (well, not according to convention,) yelling her lyrics as if reciting rumors… I had no inkling as to how Fascist fetish all that ZTT had to offer really was.
It was why I owed so much to the English for smoothing the path of the hustle . In Jamaica I had gotten the very last wave of the English colonial headmasters, the ones who birch rodded you to make you more English than the English even it meant wool blazers in 96 Farenheit weather and the cement paste taste of Horlick's every morning for breakfast. Despite their imperial instruction it was decon'd and reassembled, hi-lo bricolaged, poly-tech England that fired up my imagination. Hustle was what America taught me and blag is what I picked up from the English, but it was to do it in modulated tones and an added value vocabulary and then the secret doors of the magazine industry swung open for you. In those days England has freshly colonized the entire New York publishing industry and all the brightest English sparks were now cosily ensconced in every blue chip Conde Nast crevice in sight. (The pandemonium when the Sykes sisters walked in hot boîtes ! ) . Code switch to a crisp, indeterminate modulation and showrooms sent clothes over, right that instant. Polish your politesse and publicists for R&B celebrities accepted your call while English photographer's wives went instantly conspiratorial in their conversations with you at Tea and Sympathy. The sun, in that sense, had not yet set..