Follow TV Tropes


New Romantic

Go To
A music and fashion scene which became popular with young people in England in the late 1970s and early 1980s, New Romanticism was all about taking the style and ethos of Punk Rock one step further. Flamboyance and androgyny were the order of the day as New Romantic club-goers sought to recapture the original excitement and vibrancy of the early punk scene, which some fans believed had grown stagnant and too political after the breakup of the Sex Pistols.

The New Romantic was mainly associated with then-popular New Wave Music. While everyone was influenced by punk, many performers who fit the New Romantic label were also influenced heavily by Disco, Soul, Funk, Synth-Pop and the simple music and extravagant image of early seventies glam rockers like Mott the Hoople and David Bowie, as well as the art rock exemplified by Roxy Music and Bowie's hugely popular Berlin Trilogy. Furthermore, while many punks shunned new technology and recording techniques, New Romantic bands were almost certain to have a keyboard players and often experimented with what could be done on synths. The first band to be described as New Romantics in the music press was Spandau Ballet, whose high energy synth-funk tune "To Cut A Long Story Short" was also the first New Romantic song to become a significant hit when it reached number five in the UK charts. Expensive concept videos soon became the thing most people remember about a lot of these groups and allowed them to export their sound to America through the new MTV channel.

The main site of the New Romantic scene was the Blitz club in London, where club owner and doorman Steve Strange ruled with an iron fist. He became noted for refusing entry to any potential patron he believed was not dressed extravagantly enough to suit his standards. Boy George worked here as a cloakroom attendant before he joined Culture Club, although he was eventually sacked by Strange for stealing from patrons.

The movement had mostly gone out of style in 1985, by which point many of the original groups had split up or distanced themselves from the New Romantic label, turning to Synthpop. Live Aid turned out to be the movement's peak, after which everyone seemed to burn out; Culture Club broke up, Spandau Ballet released a mediocre AOR album, Duran Duran went on hiatus for a year before putting out a string of polarizing records, and Ultravox went into an on-again, off-again period of activity with a constantly-changing lineup and a cavalcade of records that neither fans nor critics liked. After 1986, music fans were more interested in the likes of Prince, Wham! and Frankie Goes to Hollywood. While there was a brief revival in the form of the "Romo" scene, with some groups like Mansun becoming successful, the chances of a serious revival remain highly remote.

Artists active in the New Romantic scene included:

Artists associated with the scene, but not really New Romantics themselves:

  • David Bowie: His number one single "Ashes To Ashes" was a New Romantic club anthem, and his seventies work (especially Ziggy Stardust and the Berlin Trilogy) was a significant influence on many of the bands mentioned on this page.
  • Depeche Mode
  • Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
  • Roxy Music
  • Soft Cell
  • David Sylvian: The former frontman of Japan, who quickly moved into an avant-pop direction when he went solo but is still considered a key figurehead of the New Romantic movement.
  • Village People: Tried and failed to transition from a disco group to a new romantic group with Renaissance.