Category Archives: Media

2015 ➤ Weird and wonderful new Bowie – his Blackstar man is set to blow our minds

David Bowie, pop music, video, Blackstar, starman, album, Johan Renck

Blackstar: Bowie being messianic and ghoulish

◼ SET ASIDE 10 MINUTES AND HOLD YOUR BREATH. David Bowie’s first video for his January album is titled in plain English Blackstar, though the album itself is titled ★ following the Princely principle of symbols. The video is ghoulish, disturbing, eerie, messianic, ritualistic, jazzy, baffling – and a little mousey. His tale of a starman’s legacy out there in a faraway galaxy is musically immaculately orchestrated and makes compelling viewing and listening. It will have the geeks mining for references in its overwrought and folksy narrative. A momentarily real-world Bowie actually thumbs his nose at us singing “You’re the flash in the pan/ I’m the great I am!” yet the overall gist seems relentlessly morbid and we’re not helped by not being able to catch crucial lyrics, which for a music video is a drawback.

Directed by the Swedish music video maestro Johan Renck and premiered last night on Palladia TV, it’s unlike anything you’ve seen before. Natch.

➢ Blackstar is also pre-bookable on vinyl

David Bowie, pop music, video, Blackstar, starman, album, Johan Renck

➢ Nov 23: “We were listening to a lot of Kendrick Lamar,” says producer Tony Visconti. “The goal was to avoid rock & roll” – Rolling Stone reveals all about ★ the album

➢ “As a taster for the forthcoming album, it works perfectly” – Alex Petridis reviews the single Blackstar in The Guardian:

The influence of latterday Scott Walker still appears to be making itself felt in the lyrics – they’re elliptical, filled with images of fear and death (“Take your passport and shoes and your sedatives”) and clearly just waiting to be unpicked by the more dedicated Bowiephile – but the music drifts episodically: from an ambient opening to vocals floating mournfully over a jerkily propulsive drum pattern and synthesisers squelching in vaguely acid houseish style to a sax solo to a beautiful, slow middle section with both a lovely melody and electronically-treated backing vocals. . .

David Bowie, pop music, video, Blackstar, starman, album, Johan Renck



2015 ➤ Another three days inside the head of Shia LaBeouf

film, Shia LaBeouf, Rönkkö, Luke Turner , art,#allmymovies , metamodernism

Dozing off: Shia LaBeouf viewing #allmymovies this week in NYC

film, Shia LaBeouf, Rönkkö, Luke Turner , art,#allmymovies , metamodernism

Click pic to watch Shia viewing #allmymovies

◼ ZZZZZZ!!!!! You may have just missed the latest immersive real-time art project from the compelling marriage of Hollywood and bleeding-edge European art, as manifested by the LaBeouf, Rönkkö & Turner collaboration.

Shia LaBeouf, the very #Iamsorry Californian film star with artsy pretensions, has just spent three days in New York City inviting fans to sit with him through #allmymovies – or at least, all those he has made in the past two years with the ex-St Martin’s luminaries Nastja Säde Rönkkö (Finland) and Luke Turner (GB) under the banner of metamodernism. (In May Central Saint Martin’s graduates enjoyed the LRT treatment of this year’s highly metamodern BA degree show with a live stream of #introductions in which Shia declared “Something has happened. Beauty is at work”.)

This week’s live stream from NYC finished last night but you can still catch up with Shia’s ordeal at New Hive or take the easier route by viewing individual projects at the LRT campaign website.

film, Shia LaBeouf, Rönkkö, Luke Turner , art,#allmymovies , metamodernism

Sharing a metamodern joke recently: LaBeouf (centre) with Turner and Rönkkö

➢ Update 17 Nov – Best bits from a remarkably dull interview with the artists afterwards:


Several times in the interview, LaBeouf and his collaborators discuss the elitism of the art world. However, as LaBeouf asserts, it’s an attitude prevalent in the film industry, too. “The movie world is just as elitist. I get emails from people in the movie world, people telling me, ‘You gotta maintain mystery.’ But truth will always find its way out there. Sincerity is the new punk rock.”


“Despite battling with those negative feelings beforehand, afterwards it was clear that the effects of the project were entirely positive. “I walked out loving myself,” he says. “Not in some grandiose, ‘You’re fucking awesome’ way, but like (I was) part of a community. You’re a part of this human thing. You’re in this human thing. I’ve always felt as though, ‘I’m just an animal in this human thing. And I’ll play the human game. I’ll wear the human mask.’ But coming out of there, it’s the first time I’ve actually felt part of this – it was very humanising for me. I walked out loving myself.”

➢ Read a handy overview of last winter’s #Iamsorry performance at Dazed online

➢ Oh, the irony: famous pop star also says #Iamsorry


➤ Princess Julia relives the day when 1980 went Boom!

 Daily Mirror, Blitz Kids, New Romantics

The Daily Mirror, 3 March 1980

◼ IT WAS MARCH 1980 WHEN the term Blitz Kids was first used to describe the “weird” and “whacky” young people making waves with their in-flight haircuts at the Tuesday club-night in London’s Blitz wine bar. The cutting here from the Daily Mirror says it all: in those days the left-wing tabloid sold 3.6million copies daily and was still taken seriously for its news coverage, while the Sun was just overtaking those sales figures with a distinctly down-market approach. Newspapers were a mass medium back then.

Using the lively wide-eyed language of the red-tops, Mirror feature writer Christena Appleyard put her finger on exactly those elements of individualism and waywardness that would later the same year see the Blitz Kids renamed the New Romantics. What she completely omits to mention is that four days later the house band of the Blitz, Spandau Ballet, were playing only their fourth live gig in London, at the trendy Scala cinema. In fact, she doesn’t even mention the band alongside Visage and Yellow Magic Orchestra as part of the club’s “electro diskow” synthesised soundtrack.

Appleyard was a savvy writer hearing only one part of a genesis story, yet her headline put the Blitz Kids on the media map and Boom! – this was lift-off for the careers and reputations of about 50 cool clubbers
in the short term, and a whole new look and sound for UK pop culture generally.

Julia Fodor is part of the founding mythology of the Blitz Kids, and tonight in London she was giving an illustrated “audience” to a select crowd in Hoxton. At The Glory pub she was reliving her teen years as mannequin de vie for PX, the New Romantic clothes shop, and as Blitz Club cloakroom girl, who later became a cultural commentator and international club deejay who at her height was being helicoptered into Paris to play at the posey Queen nightclub on the Champs Elysées.

New Romantics, fashion

PX moves into Endell Street in Feb 1980: New Romantic satin gowns, Fauntleroy collars – and Julia. Photographed © by Martin Brading

And Julia’s rise was the norm for those key Blitz Kids with ambition and attitude in 1980. Before that March you could count the media mentions of Steve Strange’s club night: three in the Evening Standard; a page in Tatler; a feature in New Society, the sociology weekly; and a feature about “chiconomy” in the March issue of 19, the teen magazine.

Then Boom! The Blitz Kids headline triggered a small rash of media outbreaks as two perceptive photographers visited the club to take pictures – Homer Sykes and Derek Ridgers – while student journalist Perry Haines featured his Blitz pals in the Evening Standard fashion pages. What put Spandau Ballet on the map, however, were reports in the Standard, the Daily Star and Record Mirror of their electrifying concert, complete with ornamental Blitz Kids dancing in the aisles to a whole new style of music-making – theatrical, romantic, fashion-conscious and danceable – that resulted in a second Scala concert being scheduled for May.

Reading about the Blitz phenomenon had intrigued a young researcher on Janet Street-Porter’s yoof documentary slot, 20th Century Box, at London Weekend Television which then commissioned the May replay for their cameras. In the meantime one alert talent scout at Chrysalis Records also wanted to hear the band’s music. The next few months saw the Blitz Kids start to gobble up column inches and enliven the odd TV strand, while the two coolest magazines of the decade, The Face and i-D, were launched specifically to report this burgeoning youth culture based on street style.

Spandau landed the first contract for a New Romantic band in October, while Visage released its first album in November after signing to Polydor, and the Romantic band-wagon was under way. By Christmas 1981 the sound of the UK pop charts had been transformed completely from rock guitars to bass and drum.

❏ Tonight and for two more Mondays, An Audience with Princess Julia celebrates London’s glorious counter-culture with extracts from her own memoirs supported by visuals by her friend, deejay and face about the club scene Jeffrey Hinton. Tonight Professor Iain Webb also participates, with bespoke accessoriser Judy Blame on Nov 16 and milliner Stephen Jones OBE on Nov 23 – all at The Glory, London E2 8AS.
➢ Tickets available only in advance via Ticketweb


Blitz Kids, Ryan Lo, fashion, Princess Julia

Julia talks: adorned in a kind of Baby Jane pink ruffled nightie by Ryan Lo, from his SS16 collection, with cap of roses (inset, being snapped by Louie Banks)

Click any pic below to launch slideshow


2015 ➤ Hot revelations from the Flexipop book party

Flexipop, pop music, London, Swinging 80s, books,Barry Cain, Tim Lott, Red Gallery

Flexipop founders: Tim Lott and Barry Cain at Red Gallery last night. (Photographed by © Shapersofthe80s)

◼ THREE DECADES AFTER the maverick monthly music magazine Flexipop closed, guilty names were named during last night’s book launch at Shoreditch’s coolest new venue, the Red Gallery. During a Q&A with the mag’s founders Barry Cain and Tim Lott, they confessed that the three most difficult artists to deal with in those heady days of Britain’s burgeoning pop scene were. . . [X-Factor-style pause] . . . Tears for Fears and . . . Paul Weller and . . . the American new-wave band Blondie! Lott tactlessly remarked that what surprised him most was that singer Debbie Harry had “a huge head out of all proportion with her body” – which clearly means he really had a thing about blondes.

Whinging hosts apart, guests at their party were distinctly more polite. Generating tidal waves of affection was the original 2 Tone rude girl Pauline Black, who was happy to chat about this summer’s new album titled Subculture 36 years after her band The Selecter set out, having survived two splits and reunions, and now poised for a UK tour. . . Exchanging gossip beneath the “Free hugs” notice we found veteran 80s popsters Christos Tolera (Blue Rondo à la Turk) and Phil Bloomberg (Polecats). . . Catching up on the music du jour were the gifted jazzer Mark Reilly (Matt Bianco, still going strong and knocking out albums every few years) and the ubiquitous Andy Polaris (Animal Nightlife, long defunct) who these days injects magic into the windows of the UK’s trendiest Oxfam in Dalston. . .

Click any pic below to launch slideshow

Powering through the crowd was photographer Neil Mackenzie Matthews, eager to push his exhibition of pop-star photos printed on smart Somerset paper and selling at very affordable prices. He produced some flopsy-bunny big ears which apparently was the prop he invited stars of the 80s to wear in front of his camera. We saw immortalised on a poster the playful chanteuse Toyah Willcox, though Neil recalled how, despite having bought the ears as a gift for the precious Ian McCulloch of Echo and The Bunnymen (geddit?), he refused outright to see their entertainment value.

It was Flexipop’s belief that all celebs should be humiliated at every turn. As further proof, souvenirs of the magazine’s heyday were visible everywhere, including a blown-up cartoon strip satirising Marc Almond as a “sex dwarf” and Dave Ball his partner in Soft Cell as a beer-swilling “mega-hunk”. Writs for libel were due to be served at midnight.

Flexipop’s trademark plastic 7-inch discs were being dispensed free, after unsold supplies were recently unearthed in Cain’s mum’s garage – and “still playable”, assuming you have a wind-up gramophone.

Apparently Paul Weller couldn’t get along to the party as he was collecting some award as Modest Mod-father of Them All.

➢ The big public Flexipop! book launch party
for charity starts at 7.30pm tonight 25 Sept at the Red Gallery, London EC2A 3DT – tickets £20 at door


2015 ➤ Brace positions! Flexipop aims to drag us all back in time

Flexipop, pop music, London, Swinging 80s, books, Glen Matlock

80s survivor: Glen Matlock, bass guitarist in the original Sex Pistols line-up, relishes Flexipop-the-book-of-the-mag

◼ THE MOST RAUCOUS OF ALL 80S POP MAGS was Flexipop, dedicated to pricking pomposity and kicking the egos of the jumped-up nobodies shrewd enough to bunk into the UK pop charts for the obligatory two singles – and an album if they had the staying power – such was the state of the geriatric music industry bequeathed by the 70s, the decade of corporate megagroups.

The unashamedly puerile Flexipop was unleashed “like an explosion in a paintball factory” by two ex-Record Mirror journalists, Tim Lott and Barry Cain, designed “by a chimp” so it claimed, and determined to put the larks back into pop, in contrast to the earnest Baudrillard-heavy NME. It ran for three years from Dec 1980 and now it’s back with revengeance as The-Book-of-the-Mag, being launched tomorrow by invitation, and for J Public at a charity bash with bands on Friday.

Flexipop, pop music, London, Swinging 80s, books,

Now The-Book-of-the-Mag

According to the Flexipop manifesto, 35 years ago “a golden future beckoned and our hearts beat to a fusion of punk, soul, Motown, new wave, new romantic, rock’n’roll and reggae”. Its verdict on the 80s was “a haphazard, ludicrous mish mash of genius. Such a moment required a haphazard, ludicrous mish-mash of genius to reflect it all”.

Though the rest of us had rather higher standards and wrote eloquent essays in praise of the new “pure pop” that was creating world-beating British supergroups, Flexipop insisted in dragging us all down into the gutter to enjoy its unique view of the stars.

Its big draws were zany photo stories and a thin plasticky 7-inch flexi-disc featuring an exclusive track from a major chart act taped to the cover of every issue. Many of them are collector’s items today, such as Adam and the Ants doing A.N.T.S. to the tune of YMCA. Guests to the party will receive an original flexi-disc and a copy of the magazine (presumably unsolds stashed in a warehouse for three decades).

Flexipop, pop music, London, Swinging 80s, books,

Madness songwriter Lee Thompson photographed by Neil M Matthews for Flexipop – for sale at the 2015 book launch party

➢ The big public Flexipop! book launch party starts at 7.30pm Friday 25 Sept at the Red Gallery, London EC2A 3DT. The Flexipop! photographer Neil M Matthews exhibits his iconic 80s photos, while three intrepid bands attempt to recreate the hysteria of the 80s. Tickets £20 available online and on door. The event is in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust and the National Foundation for Youth Music.

➢ The first Flexipop! book launch party is an invitation-only event at the Red Gallery on 24 Sept that will include the official launch of the book and a limited edition Flexipop! photo/poster exhibition by Neil Mackenzie Matthews.

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s: When new media meant a bendy Flexipop freebie