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We Can Be Heroes

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

This book is published, but you can still pledge for rewards!

We Can Be Heroes cover

The Synopsis

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

'Fascinating and definitive' - Daily Express

'A gorgeous history of 80s London clubland' Guardian

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.

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.’

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.

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.

The Excerpt


The Reviews

This book has 3 reviews with an average rating of 5 stars.

What an excellent review of life in London clubs during the late 70's and early 80's by Graham and Chris.

I was there and it brought back fantastic memories.

If you weren't there it'll show you exactly what you missed out on.

Buy It Now !!!

This book is wonderful. There are few books on this subject (thought plenty of other stuff), and I'm trying to get together a little archive on the genre. Every page is a delight both to look at and to read, and for me is a constant source of enjoyable memories of the time. The whole book in content... (read more)

Love this book ... Would love it even more once the ebook is available. Any idea when please?

The Author

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

Questions & Answers

Eleni Tzaros Eleni Tzaros asked:

Greetings from Melbourne, Australia!

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


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:


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,


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:

Best wishes,

Caitlin - Community Manager

The Rewards

This book is now published. You can still pledge, but you won't get listed as a supporter in the back.

Special Edition

A beautiful cloth bound 325 page, 4-colour first edition hardback.

Sold out
Boxed Deluxe edition
One of only 50 individually signed, dedicated and numbered copies of the book, presented in a black linen printed box, along with two of Graham's signed limited edition prints (280mm x 235mm)
Sold out
  • Format: Hard Back
  • ISBN: 978-1-908717-04-7
  • Published: 11/2012
  • Format: Hard Back
  • ISBN: 978-1-908717-04-7
  • Published: 11/2012
  • Format: Hard Back
  • ISBN: 978-1-908717-65-8
  • Published: 11/2012
  • Format: Hard Back
  • ISBN: 978-1-908717-65-8
  • Published: 11/2012
  • Format: hardback
  • ISBN: 978-1-908717-04-7