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Cover of We Can Be Heroes

The definitive insider history of London clubland in the early 80s

Graham Smith (photography & interviews) & Chris Sullivan (text)

'Fascinating and definitive' - Daily Express

'A gorgeous history of 80s London clubland' Guardian

HOW DID IT START?
The story begins more than thirty years ago. I was 18, having grown up in Edgware at the dull end of the Northern Line. With my cocky ginger school mate Robert Elms, I entered a grotty Soho dive bar named Billy’s. A camp Welsh cossack posed by the entrance as the electronic beats of Kraftwerk pounded from the speakers. Several androgynous couples danced a robotic jive and someone else was wearing an iron as a hat. The look was retro but it definitely felt like tomorrow. So the following week I went back...

Nightclubbing became our life: Billy's, the Blitz, Le Beat Route, the Mud Club, the Dirt Box and the Wag to name but a few. The press initially dubbed us the New Romantics, but we paid no attention. We were too busy enjoying ourselves.

WHY A BOOK?
As a teenager seeing The Clash and The Sex Pistols changed my life. Punks empowering message of 'Get up off your arse and do something creative' struck home. Most picked up guitars; my weapon of choice was a camera. I wanted to photograph bands… so, I did. Then I shot the emerging London clubbing scene that rose from Punk’s ashes.

I’ve had the negatives stashed away in the attic for all these years, the majority never printed, let alone published. Two years ago the old Punk spirit reared its head again as I suddenly had the urge to dust them down and produce this book. ?

The first thing I did was to ask Chris Sullivan, the centre of so much of the action, to write the text. It’s hard to overestimate Chris’s importance to club culture in London. Not only was he the front man of the best and wildest band of the period, Blue Rondo a la Turk, the one-nighters we ran together (he hosted; I played the records) - St Moritz, and Le Kilt - were legendary while his club, Hell, plunged the scene to new depths of depravity. In 1983 he opened the Wag Club in Wardour Street and ran it for the next 18 years: DJ-ing, designing the flyers and interiors, booking the bands and almost killing himself. In Chris’s words: ‘A textbook case of excess in all areas except sleep.’

WHAT'S IN IT?
As well as my 500 photos and Chris’s 30,000 words of text, there's an introduction from Robert Elms, memoirs by Boy George, Gary Kemp and Steve Strange and 500 pithy quotes from more than fifty of the main faces on the scene, plus playlists for each of the clubs. It's a beautifully designed piece of social history told by those that created the scene: an amazing gift for anyone who was there and I hope, an inspiration for those who weren’t.

HOW CAN I BUY A COPY?
We succeeded! The book was fully funded and released just before Christmas (Thank you subscribers!). You can read some of the comments from happy customers here and reviews here And you can still buy the book exclusively from Unbound, either as a limited Special Edition hardback, or as a numbered Deluxe edition, in an elegant box with two signed prints. Just head to the buy button at the top of this page.

Graham Smith
I was never a professional photographer: I had no training but I loved the process of developing and printing films myself, which I would do in a large cupboard at home.

The creative energy of those times also inspired me into graphic design. When mates from the scene formed a band I offered to design flyers and posters. They eventually became Spandau Ballet and I designed their first two album covers. I did the same for Sade a couple of years later. Then, in 1984, I simply stopped taking photographs.

Now I'm a freelance magazine art director and live in Bushey, Hertfordshire with my wife Lorraine. We have two grown children Carla and Dexter. I still like a dance.

Chris Sullivan
My first foray into youth culture was as a young ska-loving moon-stomping suede head in Merthyr Tydfil. In the mid seventies I experienced both the funk and punk explosions first hand after which I attended art school in London. That’s where I met Graham and we became Billy’s and Blitz regulars. Our one-nighters followed and in 1981 I became the singer, songwriter; cover artist, clothes designer and promoter for Blue Rondo a la Turk. We released two albums and had a no 1 in Brazil for 12 months. Then came the Wag and after that my third career as a writer.

I’ve written for pretty much every UK style magazine and broadsheet ever published, starting with The Face in 1981 and culminating in a stint as GQ Style Editor from 1997 till 2000. In 2001 I wrote a bestselling illustrated history of Punk that the Pistols say is the best book on the subject ever penned. Now I busy myself with film and lifestyle journalism for the likes of Esquire, L’Uomo Vogue and the Big Issue while simultaneously carving a nice little niche as a DJ playing all over the world.  I live in West London with my good lady Leah, our 6-year-old son Finbar and a cat called Nancy who eats more than I do. Life is good.

'This book brings back so many wondrous memories and for once it has been put together by someone on the scene' BOY GEORGE

'Graham was at the centre of this vortex that spun out of Soho during those heady days' GARY KEMP

Reviews

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Here's Alex Petridis in the Guardian:

Sunday 15 January 2012

We Can Be Heroes and Felt: The Book – what happens when fans take over

When music fans are empowered to choose which books they want to see published, they can make bold moves no mainstream publisher would have dared

It can’t have failed to escape your attention that we’re in the middle of a recession, and that a recession disinclines…

What people have said about the book

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Gary Kemp:

Just got it and it’s AMAZING! Beautifully thorough and, unsurprisingly, stylishly constructed. It’s now my desert-island book! Well done and thank you, Graham and Chris. Gx

Martin Kemp:

What a wonderful book, so many congratulations to you, I have never seen anything that has or I’m sure will, capture those early days in those clubs. It brought back so many fantastic memories, I could…

We Can Be Heroes FaceBook Group

Sunday, 2 October 2011

I have started a 'We Can Be Heroes' FaceBook Group. Feel free to get involved –I am amazed how many people are going all nostalgic and posting their old clubbing photos and memories up!

Enjoy

Eleni Tzaros
Eleni Tzaros asked:

Greetings from Melbourne, Australia!

How do I go about ordering two x Special Edition of your fab book please?!

Cheers,
E.

Unbound
Unbound replied:

Hi Eleni,

Thanks for getting in touch. We've still got stock so just hit 'buy' on the green button above.

Best wishes,

Caitlin - Unbound Community Coordinator

Anton Ingham
Anton Ingham asked:

Hi,

I'm trying to order a couple of volume of this book ( it looks amazing) but all I can see is the 'sold out' button and everything else greyed out. A bit frustrating, is it still possible to buy 1 or 2 copies?

Thanks in advance,

Anton

Unbound
Unbound replied:

Hi Anton,

We're afraid that we're out of stock of this title, which is why you can't purchase it from our site. Sorry about that. You can buy the trade edition from Waterstones here though: https://www.waterstones.com/book/we-can-be-heroes/graham-smith/chris-sullivan/9781908717658.

Best wishes,

Caitlin - Community Manager

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