Steve Strange (born
Steven John Harrington, 28 May 1959, Newbridge, South Wales) is a Welsh pop singer, best known as the lead singer and frontman of the 1980s pop group Visage.
Since the late 1970s, he has also been
a prominent nightclub host and promoter.
was born in Wales but moved with his family to Aldershot, where his father was serving in the army as a
paratrooper. The family moved back to Wales and lived in
Rhyl, where his parents bought a large guest house and opened sea front cafes.
divorced, and he moved with his mother to Newbridge in South
Wales, where he attended Newbridge Grammar School.
It merged with a secondary school to form Newbridge Comprehensive
School a year after he arrived there, and he subsequently lost
interest in all subjects but arts.
After seeing a Sex Pistols
the Stowaway Club in Newport in 1976, Harrington befriended the
bass player Glen Matlock
. He then arranged gigs
for punk bands in his home town and befriended Jean-Jacques Burnel of the Stranglers, before leaving for London where he
worked for Malcolm McLaren and
formed a punk band called The Moors
Murderers with Sue Catwoman.
Further members included future Pretenders
frontwoman Chrissie Hynde
, future Psychedelic Furs
drummer Vince Ely
, future Clash
drummer Nicky Headon
and the Kid
(who was formerly in Adam and the Ants
, as Mark Ryan). They
recorded a song called "Free Hindley". After a number of gigs, the
band split up around early 1978.
1978, Harrington briefly joined the punk/new wave band The Photons (originally from Liverpool) as vocalist and co-songwriter at the behest of
David Littler (ex The Spitfire Boys).
The band were
managed by Punk impresario Andy
Harrington was also the subject of the song "Poseur" by fellow punk
band Combat 84
Shortly after leaving The Photons and now using the alias "Steve
Strange", Harrington formed Visage
members Rusty Egan
. Intended as a studio-based project, they signed to the
small label Radar Records and released their first single "Tar" in
1979. The single was not a success, but the following year, Strange
appeared in the video for David Bowie
no.1 hit Ashes to
, a song which helped to propel the burgeoning New Romantic
movement into the mainstream
(although Bowie himself was never associated with it). Later that
year, Visage signed a new record deal with the major label Polydor
and released their second single, "Fade to Grey
". The single became
a top 10 hit in the UK and topped the charts in several other
countries. Being the public face of the band, Strange
shot to stardom in Britain and other
parts of Europe, and Visage enjoyed a string
of hit singles and two hit albums before later commercial
disappointments led to their breakup in 1985.
After the dissolution of Visage, Strange formed the short-lived
band Strange Cruise
with Wendy Wu
model Leza Cruz, although this
outfit failed to recapture the level of success he had enjoyed in
the early 1980s.
In the late 1970s, prior to their success with Visage, Strange and
Visage partner Rusty Egan
began to make a
name for themselves as a nightclub host and DJ respectively at
"Blitz" in London. Adhering to Strange's strict door policy of
admitting only the weird and wonderful, the club took off and
became an essential location in the rise of what would become the
movement. Following this,
Strange and Egan then ran the Camden Palace nightclub for two years, which became one of the
most famous venues of the era, attracting major celebrities on a
regular basis. However, after conflicts with the financial
backers of the club, Strange and Egan left the Camden Palace and moved on to a new club named "The Playground",
but this venue was not as successful.
the 1980s, Strange went to Ibiza, Spain and became
an integral part of the budding Trance
club movement and hosting exotic parties for celebrities such as
early 1990s he was the host at the Double Bass
Strange has always been somewhat ambiguous about his sexuality,
although he has made it known he has had relationships with both
men and women.
For many years, Strange battled a heroin addiction. In later years
he suffered a nervous breakdown and was also arrested for
shoplifting. In court, he was found guilty and given a three month
suspended sentence as the British media had a field day publicising
the case of a pop star who had fallen on hard times. In many
regards, his personal turmoil and public life closely mirrors that
of the other main androgynous British pop star from the 1980s,
, down to heroin abuse and
mishaps with the law, to bulging up in weight and Ibiza
Strange's autobiography, Blitzed!
, was published in 2002.
In it, he speaks candidly about his heroin addiction and his
nervous breakdown, his sexuality, and the ongoing attempts to get
his life back together. Following this, Strange attempted to revive
his music career and formed a new version of Visage (dubbed
Visage mk II
) with various musicians from modern
electronic bands (none of the other original members were involved
in this new project). With a plan to re-record some of the older,
classic Visage tracks as well as produce some new material, the
project never seemed to fully get off the ground despite some
television appearances. The first Visage Mark II song was called
"Diary of A Madman", which was made available for download in 2007
in return for a donation to the Children In Need
appeal. Prior to this in
2006, Strange had collaborated with electronic music duo Punx
Soundcheck for their 2006 album When Machines Rules The
, co-writing and performing on the track "In the
In 2005, Strange appeared in a Channel 4
documentary called Whatever Happened To The Gender
, which reflected on the advent of the New Romantic
movement of the early 1980s and
the prominent roles that Strange, Boy
within it. In stark contrast to the relative glamour of the
era, interviews with all
three stars in the present day highlighted the sheer devastation
that fame, fortune and drug addiction had taken on each of them
during the past 25 or so years, with Strange and Marilyn in
particular being openly candid about the mental health problems
they now try to cope with every day.
reflected on the New Romantic
scene of the early 1980s in his 2002 stage musical Taboo
which featured actors playing
Steve Strange, Marilyn
, Leigh Bowery
, and other peers from the
In November 2006, Strange took part in, and went on to win, the
reality series for Children in Need Celebrity Scissorhands
(featuring top celebrity hairdresser Lee
). He returned to the show for the subsequent two
series (2007 and 2008) as Assistant Manager/Image Consultant. In
that role, he was in charge of the catwalk, showing all of the best
haircuts of the series and also people dressed in 80's style
clothing and make-up.
Ashes to Ashes
Strange made a brief appearance in episode two of the 1980s-themed
TV series Ashes to Ashes
, which was
aired on 14 February 2008. He played himself performing the
song Fade to Grey
at the "Blitz"
nightclub in which he was once host.
- BBC - South East Wales Showbiz - Steve Strange -
New Romantic pop star from Newbridge
- Guardian | Strange but true