Monday 16 October 2023

New Romantics: From Billy's to the People's Palace - New Limited Edition Book of Photography by Sheila Rock with Text by Dylan Jones Published by Moonboy Books

Moonboy Books will publish an impressive looking limited edition book featuring a collection of photos by Sheila Rock of the early New Romantic Club scene on November 1st with pre-orders now available direct from the publisher here. The book compiles many rare and unseen photographs taken by Sheila at venues such as the Blitz Club, Billy's and the People's Palace of many of the flamboyant Club-goers and influential characters who were there at the time. Sheila Rock came to London from the US at the start of the 70's and became one of the first photographers to document the emerging Punk and New Romantic scenes in London. She was introduced to the music scene by David Bowie when she accompanied her then husband Mick Rock on Bowie's first US tour. She went on to photograph some of the world's most famous bands and performers. Sheila explains in the press release of her involvement in the burgeoning scene. "When I first came to Britain from America, London life was dreary and grey, but then came Glam Rock and after that Punk, which was dark yet flamboyant in a different way. By the early 1980's, there was still no money around but there was a feeling of can-do optimism and freedom. The people at the Blitz, the club in Covent Garden, were the movers and shakers of the New Romantic era and I was fascinated by them. At the time, street fashion was at its peak, the pavements and night-clubs were literally like catwalks, and it was the beginning of gender experimentation and a sexual revolution that's still resonating today. Inside the club, you had a cast of characters from Boy George to Steve Strange. Everyone was dressing up, you could be whatever you wanted, once you discover glitter, it's hard to go back to bland. It was like a dream, a fantasy land". 

Renowned journalist and author, Dylan Jones has written the foreword and supplied commentary for this uniquely insightful visual documentary. Currently Editor-In-Chief at the Evening Standard, Jones studied at St. Martin's School of Art before a career which included editorial roles at i-D, The Face, Arena, The Observer, The Sunday Times and GQ. The Blitz was the first nightclub he ever went to. "The antecedents of the New Romantic movement gave the cult something of a pejorative pall. After all, if you had been originally inspired by the likes of Bryan Ferry and David Bowie, and if the pivots of your teenage expression were the Sex Pistols on one hand, and proto-Disco on the other, surely all you could ever aspire to was going to suffer by comparison. However, the movement itself was further complicated by the fact that in 1976 there were already people in Essex night-clubs who dressed exactly like Johnny Rotten. These complications ultimately underscored the importance of the gender-bending movement, while its obsession with self-expression as a platform for identity foreshadowed much of what passes for culture today. This period in London - which for the benefit of future Pop sociologists, broadly stretches from 1978-1985 - was the harbinger of one of the most creative, most fertile times in British Popular culture, a time when youth cults weren't so much on the margins of the news, as the news itself". 
- The Face Paint War by Dylan Jones, June 2023. 

"New Romantics" is published as a limited edition of 800 numbered copies with a soft back cover and 176 pages with 138 photos (102 in black and white and 36 in colour) and comes with 2 posters. A set of five A5 photos from the book and 2 bookmarks are available only for orders direct from Moonboy Books here. Moonboy is an independent publishing company with offices in London and Paris. They specialise in official, high quality, limited edition photo books on bands, performers and creative cultural movements, past and present. They work directly with photographers and, in most cases, the performers/bands themselves to create a unique insight with rare, previously unseen or unpublished photos. Moonboy's first publication was The Cure "Stills" with Robert Smith and photographer Paul Cox. 

For more information on Sheila Rock's books, news and photographs please check out her official web-site here. You can also check out our feature on her excellent book "Punk+" in the Retro Man Blog archive here. All photos copyright Sheila Rock, reprinted here courtesy of Moonboy Books. With thanks to Ritchie Franklin.

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