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January 25, 2017

18 Intimate Vintage Photographs Document London’s Club Scene of the Late 1970s

Before she was one of New York’s best painters, Nicola Tyson was an 18-year-old shutterbug and a student at London’s Chelsea College of Art. On Tuesday nights in the fall of 1978, she snapped pictures at Billy’s, a gay disco in Soho, where Rusty Egan and Steve Strange hosted “Bowie Night,” with a glam-rock soundtrack and habitués decked out in heavy makeup and stylishly outrageous clothes.

“By 1978 a new scene was needed to fill the vacuum left after Punk went mainstream – and “Bowie Night” was a start. Roxy Music and David Bowie had influenced the darkly flamboyant aspects of the London punk scene, and so in opposition to the dumb monochrome cynicism of mainstream Punk, each Tuesday anything went at Billy’s, the more theatrical the better.” — Nicola Tyson

None of this would be remarkable, save the fact that clubgoers included Simon Le Bon (soon to become the lead singer of Duran Duran), Siobhan Fahey (of the future Bananarama), Midge Ure (Ultravox) and an impossibly young Boy George, with a short pompadour and a baggy pink-and-blue plaid jumpsuit. Egan and Strange themselves would form the band Visage. In Tyson’s photos, we see the first stirrings of the new romantics, a short-lived movement that would turn into new wave and have lasting influence on the music and style of the decade to come. What we really witness here is the birth of the 1980s.

Robinson (Marilyn), Julia Fodor (DJ Princess Julia), and George O'Dowd (Boy George), 1978.

Julia Fodor (Princess Julia) and George O'Dowd (Boy George), 1978.

Steve Strange (right).

George O'Dowd (Boy George) Joan, Paul, Andy, and Jane (in yellow), 1978.

Joan, Peter Robinson (Marilyn) and Kate, 1978.

Paul, Jeremy Healy (Haysi Fantayzee), and Andy Polaris (Animal Nightlife).

Steve Strange in PX Store.

Philip Salon.

Philip Salon and Rusty Egan.

Jeremy Healy (Haysi Fantayzee) and Andy Polaris (Animal Nightlife).

Steve Strange (right).

Mel, Steve Strange, and Siobhan Fahey (Bananarama).

Queenie, 1978.

George O'Dowd (Boy George) and Babs, 1978.

Andy and George O'Dowd (Boy George).

Steve Strange (right).

Martin Degville (Sigue Sigue Sputnik), George O'Dowd (Boy George), and Andy.

Martin Degville (Sigue Sigue Sputnik), Andy, and George O'Dowd (Boy George).

Below are some of contact sheets from her work:

(All photos © Nicola Tyson)


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