❉ Ange Chan on an evening in conversation with the legendary DJ and founding member of Visage.
This Wednesday (6 December 2017), in the Basement in Holborn, I attended “An Evening with Rusty Egan”, which was skilfully compered by The Electricity Club’s “walking bible of all things synth”, Chi Ming Lai.
The format of the evening was an “in conversation”, and the audience was provided with a selection of subjects from Rusty’s past, with questions garnered from the crowd around a variety of subjects.
The questions from the audience were quite diverse, ranging from “if you were stuck in a hot air balloon with U2, Depeche Mode and Spandau Ballet, who would you kick out?” to questions about drum machines vs physical drumming, to his time in the late ’70s/early ’80s as a club promoter.
Rusty was an exuberant, confident and honest subject, showing a very tender and human side to his personality away from his wide boy image, and although he jumped about a bit conversationally (he was very easily distracted by the wealth of rich anecdotes and memories from his past!) Chi very skilfully managed to steer him back en pointe, so that the conversation subjects flowed more naturally.
In March 1977 until December 1978 Glen Matlock, formerly of the Sex Pistols, founded The Rich Kids featuring Rusty as the drummer. The band was fronted by Midge Ure, and Egan continued working with him when Visage was later formed with Steve Strange. However, Egan did not return to Visage when they reformed with a new line-up in 2004 due to a fall-out in the intervening years. During the evening, Rusty recalled how badly he’d been treated, resulting in the infamous acrimony. You could see from how he was talking about it that it was very painful for him to do so, and that he was absolutely devastated at falling out with his long-term friend. Of course we now know that Steve passed away a couple of years afterwards, sadly leaving a very bitter legacy all around.
Britain in 1980 was a pretty bleak place to be; the country had just come out of the grips of the 3-day working week, poverty and power cuts of the Seventies, into a decade that saw Thatcher take her strangle-hold. At that time, Steve and Rusty came together to form the most infamous club nights in London. They were called “The Blitz Kids” by the press and consisted of like-minded individuals who wanted to max the glamour up to 11 and beyond.
Steve Strange subsequently became the face of that New Romantic movement, supported by Rusty Egan on the decks, playing the über cool tracks of the day.
Steve infamously vetted the club’s clientele, deeming them “peacock perfect” enough (or not) to enter the club. “Would you allow you in, looking like that?” he’d question club goers, whilst holding a boudoir mirror aloft. A complete myth of course, but why let the truth get in the way of a good story?
Once inside, the songs that saturated the airwaves were famously spun by DJ Rusty Egan who ostensibly provided the soundtrack of a generation, which launched the careers of many a musician amongst its club goers, including Hayzee Fantayzee, Boy George and Culture Club, and Spandau Ballet. Famous designers such as milliner Stephen Jones, and other creative media types such as singer/actor Tim Dry, and BBC London Radio DJ Robert Elms who also cut their teeth on the postcard-sized dance floor to Rusty’s tunes. Rusty recalled, “I played anything good I could get my hands on. Of course there was Bowie, Bowie and more Bowie, but also Roxy Music, and “Being Boiled” by The Human League, which inspired a generation.”
That club scene saw the musical entrepreneurs moved into the realms of the music industry via Soho’s famous Trident Studios by making the music, instead of playing it. Cue the birth of Visage, formed out of the essence of New Romanticism. Or did they create it? The arty edges are constantly blurred by this anathema.
These days, Rusty is still a DJ, and his next gig is for Peter Hook at the Roundhouse on Monday 18th December. He’s also now a singer/songwriter, having recently released the album “Welcome to the Dancefloor” featuring long-term friends and collaborators Midge Ure, and Tony Hadley amongst others. The album concept emerged out of a remedy, of sorts. It was always intended that Steve Strange was to sing on the record, going someway to resolve the complicated legal process under which the reformed Visage found themselves, which essentially nudged everybody but Steve out of the equation, including payment of royalties. Sadly Steve died suddenly and unexpectedly whilst holidaying in Egypt and sadly matters were never resolved in the way it was intended.
The whole evening was a great success, so much so that it’s to be repeated in March next year. If you are remotely interested in the synth genre, it’s a “must attend”. Rusty is an entertaining and candid character who surely has many more tales to tell.
Oh, and by the way, Rusty said he would personally jump out of that hot air balloon, because he’s a great friend of all of the aforementioned bands!
❉ Rusty Egan can be found on Twitter and Facebook and Welcome to the Dancefloor can be downloaded from the usual digital retailers including Amazon, iTunes, and Spotify. Physical CD and Vinyl of the album can be bought at Rusty’s personal appearances. For more information about the album read our news post from November 2016.
❉ Ange Chan is a poet and novelist. Her 4th poetry collection “Fame; What’s Your Name?” and her second novel “Baby, Can You Hear Me?” were both published in paperback and Kindle in 2016.
❉ Her latest poetry collection “Songs of Sorrow and Heartbreak” was published in October 2017 and her third novel “Champagne Flutes and Pixie Boots” will be published in 2018.