Berlin Blondes

Berlin Blondes were a Scottish coldwave/New Romantic band that released a self-titled album on EMI in 1980.

Members: Steven Bonomi (vocals), Robert Farrell (guitar, synthesizer), Jim McKinven [Jim Spender] (keyboards, synthesizer, 1979-80), David Rudden (bass, 1979-80), Nick Clarke (bass, 1980-81), Steve ‘Stevo’ Jones (keyboards, 1981), Alasdair Gowans (bass, 1981), Brian Miller (drums, 1981), David Freeman (vocals, 1981)


The Berlin Blondes were formed in 1978 by Glaswegian enthusiasts of the Berlin School. Their original lineup consisted of singer Steven Bonomi, guitarist/keyboardist Robert Farrell, keyboardist Jim McKinven, and bassist David Rudden. Their inclusion of two members on synthesizer, paired with their use of an electronic beat box in lieu of a drummer, placed them in the pioneering class of UK electro/minimal-wave (The Normal, The Human League).

Berlin Blondes gigged the Glasgow circuit with a mix of originals and select covers, including crowd pleasers by Iggy Pop (“Funtime“) and Kraftwerk (“The Model”). They shared numerous bills with local up-and-comers Simple Minds and soon headlined shows at key venues like the Mars Bar. In a review for Sounds under the pseudonym Maxwell Park, fan and future Positive Noise frontman Ross Middleton likened the Blondes’ stage show to the ’60s children’s sci-fi series Fireball XL5 (the subject of an early XTC demo).

With their made-up faces and Blitz attire, Berlin Blondes were visually similar to Japan and Shock. In the wake of Gary Numan‘s breakthrough chart success, EMI signed the Blondes amid an uptick of electro-pop signings among the majors (The Flying Lizards, M, New Musik, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark).

1980: Singles and Album

In January 1980, the Berlin Blondes recorded their debut album at the Old Smithy Recording Studio in Worcestershire with producer Mike Thorne (Gryphon, Wire, The Shirts, Soft Machine). Just as sessions wrapped, Rudden quite over artistic differences; he later formed Endgames. His initial replacement, Russell Barrie, played a couple live dates and partook in a photo shoot (dressed in pink) for the Blondes’ debut single, “Science” (“Mannequin”), released on January 25th. They subsequently hired bassist Nick Clark.

Their second single, “Framework” (b/w “Zero Song”), appeared later that year as a taster of their withheld album, tentatively titled Building on the Sand but ultimately released as Berlin Blondes in September 1980. It features nine group-written songs, including the aforementioned single sides plus “Trail to Istanbul,” “Romance,” and “Neon Probe.”

Berlin Blondes features drummer Paul Simmons (Roll-Ups, The Force) on all tracks except “Science,” drummed by Danny Frankel of Thorne-produced stateside act the Urban Verbs. Rudden handled all bass parts, despite Clark’s name in the credits. The album was engineered by studio vet George Peckham (Free, Genesis, Jethro Tull, The Stranglers, Buzzcocks, Magazine). The pink and blue cover was illustrated by Dave Dragon, who did earlier covers for Jan Dukes De Grey, Leaf Hound, Shanghai, Wire, and The Cure (Three Imaginary Boys).


In late 1980, the Berlin Blondes parted with EMI. Clark jumped ship to the Cuban Heels and played on their 1981 album Work Our Way to Heaven. The Blondes toured with (later Eternal Triangle) bassist Alasdair Gowans and drummer Brian Miller. In mid-1981, they released the standalone single “Marseille” (b/w “The Poet”) on small-press Scratch Records. McKinven (as Jim Spender) left for rising Scots Altered Images, just in time to play on their 1981 debut album Happy Birthday.

Four years after Berlin Blondes disbanded, Farrell surfaced in The Wedding, which issued the 1985 maxi-single “Tomorrow I Set Sail” on Where Artists Record. In 2018, archivists Strike Force Entertainment issued The Complete Recordings 1980-81, containing all of Berlin Blondes plus remixes, instrumental versions (“Zero Song,” “Manikin”), and the 1981 single.



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