Category Archives: Culture

2016 ➤ On film: two electrifying hours of The Beatles as they’ve never been seen and heard

The Beatles, Eight Days a Week, Ron Howard, documentary, film, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, John Lennon, George Harrison, Swinging Sixties, live concert, vintage, pop music, Shea Stadium, touring,

Pristine footage: The Beatles play Shea Stadium in August 1965. (Image: SubaFilms)

LAST NIGHT AT A LONDON CINEMA I saw the most exciting live pop concert since the same band played live in the Swinging Sixties. Ron Howard’s new Beatles documentary, Eight Days A Week about the touring years 1963-66, is a sensational feast of long-lost performance footage that confronts us with the Fab Four’s raw onstage energy and pounding tempo – the audio as gorgeously restored as the images. This two-hour celebration of Beatle genius goes behind the clichés of hysteria to give us Access All Areas. It delivers one revelation after another, from Paul’s “Oh-my-God” moment when Ringo joined the band, to the jaw-dropping recording of a top-ten single in 90 minutes of studio time, to their 1964 triumph for civil rights when the band refused to tour in the US until audience segregation was abandoned at their venues.

New interviews from Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney keep dropping gems of insight about this the most commercially successful group in pop history, while vintage footage does as much justice to lippy John Lennon and “quiet” George Harrison who are no longer with us.

Throughout this joyous moptops-into-men odyssey we’re wide-eyed at the sheer cheek of these multimedia superstars, aged between 19 and 22, who created their own interview style by pinging back witty ad-libs to questions from the world’s media. The downside was mass hysteria from teenaged babyboom fans laying siege to hotels and airports where they repeatedly overwhelmed police and security on an often scarifying scale.

Beatle albums sat at No 1 in the charts for 20 to 30 weeks at a time – more No 1 albums than any other musical act. Their 20 No 1 hit singles on the Billboard Hot 100 chart remain unchallenged.

The Beatles, Eight Days a Week, Ron Howard, documentary, film, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, John Lennon, George Harrison, Swinging Sixties, live concert, vintage, pop music, Shea Stadium, touring,

Ron Howard with Paul and Ringo this week: “I love this photo that was taken yesterday at Abbey Road Studios in historic Studio 2 while we were promoting The Beatles: Eight Days a Week”

Everything The Beatles did was without precedent. Among their innovations they launched arena rock and at Shea Stadium Howard’s doc ensures that we hear George’s guitar chords above the screaming audience of 55,000 fans. As a shock reminder of Sixties technology, Vox had built three new amps for the Beatles, each souped up to 100 watts (!!!) specially for touring America, their output being relayed via microphones to feed the stadium’s tinny loudspeaker system!!!

It is a breath-taking source of inspiration to know that during The Beatles’ far from meteoric early years, this Liverpudlian band of brothers had played at least 456 live gigs before signing their recording contract with EMI. Yes, 456 !!! With that amount of practice, it should be no surprise to find that their legacy amounts to 237 original compositions – songs which most people on the planet can hum, while the most radical among them personify the Sixties counterculture. As the best-selling band in history, the Fabs revolutionised all of music for ever.

Howard’s previous reality epics include the wonderful Apollo 13 and the gripping joust, Frost/Nixon. This week he told The Guardian: “I began to think of the Beatles story as like Das Boot: they’re in it together, they have each other, they know what their objective is, but, y’know, it’s a dangerous world out there.”


➢ Ron Howard trashes the idea that there’s nothing new to say about the Beatles – The Guardian:
This is about the Beatles as live phenomenon, and the fact that their music was all the more remarkable because it had to be heard above the scream – that ambient sound of sex, excitement and modernity, mixed in with a thin chirrup of press envy. The scream was an important part of it. . . an almost unbroken four-year, semi-improvised multimedia performance for which there was no pre-existing template – not simply the music but the giant public spectacle and public scrutiny.

➢ 10 Things we learned from Eight Days a Week
– Rolling Stone:

In February 1964, the band and their entourage occupied nearly the entire 12th floor of the Plaza NYC, including the 10-room presidential suite. But despite the space, the four friends retired to smaller quarters. “The four of us ended up in the bathroom just to get a break from the incredible pressure,” Starr says.

➢ “We were force-grown, like rhubarb,” says John Lennon
– Daily Telegraph:

The film shrewdly draws a line between the Beatles’ mischievous sense of humour and their long-time producer George Martin’s earlier life recording alternative comedy. Martin had worked with the Goons, an enormous influence on the band’s growing lyrical eccentricity in that period, as well as their off-the-cuff ribbing of strait-laced reporters.


Previously at Shapers of the 80s:

➢ No wonder The Beatles changed the shape of music after 456 sessions practising in public

➢ 1963, With The Beatles the day Kennedy was shot: “The second house was distinctly more subdued”

➢ 1966, More popular than Jesus: the fascinating Lennon interview in full


2016 ➤ Bowie’s passionate eye for art proves to be not bad at all

Damien Hirst,David Bowie, Sotheby’s, auction, art, furniture

In the Bowie/Collector sale: one of Damien Hirst’s first spin paintings from 1995 with a long-winded title, painted with household gloss. Sotheby’s est £250k-350k.

◼ WHAT A BRACING INSIGHT into David Bowie’s creative mind! Only 30 items are displayed in an exhibition of the musician’s art collection in London, yet, whether or not you share Bowie’s taste, his sharp eye for a strong image is indisputable.

This exquisite mini-show at the auctioneer Sotheby’s provides a taster for the sale of 400 items from Bowie’s collection in November. Sotheby’s chairman describes the musician’s taste as “eclectic, unscripted, understated” and there’s not a dud in sight. What is immediately evident is strong work by artists who changed the future, from an impertinent Marcel Duchamp readymade, through Wyndham Lewis, David Bomberg, Harold Gilman, Henry Moore, Peter Lanyon, Kenneth Armitage and Frank Auerbach. The core is clearly driven by Bowie’s love of 20th-century British art, with international detours to acknowledge Basquiat and others, plus dozens of items of 20th-century furniture.

Sotheby’s Bowie/Collector previews in London from 20 July to 9 August, then tours to LA, NYC, HK and returns to London in the autumn for a ten-day full exhibition from 1 November and an auction in three parts.

Click any pic below to launch slideshow

The only thing I buy addictively is art
– David Bowie

A spokesman for Bowie’s estate said: “David’s art collection was fuelled by personal interest and compiled out of passion. He always sought and encouraged loans from the collection and enjoyed sharing the works in his custody. Though his family are keeping certain pieces of particular personal significance, it is now time to give others the opportunity to appreciate – and acquire – the art and objects he so admired.”

➢ David Bowie’s personal art collection to feature in three sales – at Sotheby’s

➢ Works the late singer quietly collected over the years go on display – feature and gallery at the Guardian
The singer, who died in January, studied art and design at technical college and once confessed to buying art “obsessively and addictively”, but the scale of the addiction had not been realised. His family say they are selling because they have not got the space to keep the collection.

➢ Bowie’s Art and Furniture Collection – New York Times
“. . . his collection of modern and contemporary British art [includes] paintings by John Virtue, Stanley Spencer, Leon Kossoff and Patrick Caulfield, as well as work by contemporary African artists and pieces of outsider art. Mr Bowie also owned pieces by major international figures: Duchamp’s sculpture À bruit secret, two Hirst “spin” paintings and … a 1960s stereo cabinet by Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni.”

➢ Starman in the saleroom – Antiques Trade Gazette
The top lot is expected to be Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Air Power, an acrylic and oilstick on canvas from 1984 that has an estimate of £2.5–3.5million. Prices for the artist have increased dramatically since Bowie bought the 5ft 6in high painting at Christie’s for a premium-inclusive £78,500 in November 1995.

David Bowie, Sotheby’s, auction, art, furniture

In the Bowie/Collector sale: Italian Brionvega Radiophonograph (model RR 126) by the Castiglioni brothers from 1965. Sotheby’s estimate £800-1,200


➤ A sensational portrait of Bowie as the man who shaped our responses to an age of shattered dreams

David Bowie, genius, pop music, obituary, Major Tom, The Economist, alienation, annihilation, 1970s, Space Oddity, music videos, Apollo 11,

1969: “This is Ground Control to Major Tom / You’ve really made the grade / And the papers want to know whose shirts you wear”

➢ Today’s issue of The Economist pulls out the plum – a superb obituary casting David Bowie as a wonderful epitome of alienation who saw a way through the world’s fears of imminent annihilation:

IN JULY 1969 men walked on the moon, a technological leap all but unthinkable 50 years before. Three years later they abandoned it, and have renounced all return ever since. What boosters saw as the great opening act of the space age turned out to be, in effect, its culmination. Within a few years presidential corruption, economic stagnation, military ignominy and imagined catastrophe had warped post-war America’s previously impervious belief in progress, a belief that had resonance across the then free world. After Apollo, the future would never again be what it used to be.

The Economist, Space Oddity, David Bowie,tributes, David Bowie’s greatest years began nine days before Apollo 11 touched down in the Sea of Tranquillity, with the release of his single Space Oddity; they ended 11 years later, with the single Ashes to Ashes. Over that decade he used imagined futures to turn himself into something contradictory and wonderful — an epitome of alienation with whom the alienated flocked to identify. In doing so, he laid bare one of the key cultural shifts of the 1970s: the giving up of past dreams. . . / Continued online

“In Space Oddity Major Tom, floating in a most peculiar way, had been an isolated spaceman;
by Ashes to Ashes his isolation was a junkie’s”
– The Economist

David Bowie, genius, pop music, obituary, Major Tom, The Economist, alienation, annihilation, 1980s, Ashes to Ashes, music videos,

1980: “Ashes to ashes, funk to funky / We know Major Tom’s a junkie / Strung out in heaven’s high / Hitting an all-time low”

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s: “I’m not a rock star” Bowie often said – No, David, you were a messiah


➢ Update on the first Friday of the new era AD (After David), Britain’s first official astronaut Major Tim Peake takes his first walk outside the International Space Station

International Space Station, ESA, NASA, British, astronaut,Union Jack,

2016: The British astronaut Major Tim Peake – sporting the Union Jack on his shoulder – takes his first spacewalk at 2pm today from the International Space Station (via NASA Television)


❏ This is the cover version Bowie called “possibly the most poignant version of the song ever created”, recorded by Commander Chris Hadfield on board the International Space Station in 2013.

Today’s hits on mainstream media!

➢ Tim Peake on live NASA Television

➢ David Bowie Breaks Adele’s Vevo record



➤ David Bowie 8 January 1947 – 10 January 2016

Posted on January 11, 2016
David Bowie, dead, BBC News, breaking news,Duncan Jones, pop music

David Bowie, dead, pop music, genius

All-Bowie search here at Shapers of the 80s


➤ Now David Bowie’s landlady tells her story of the lodger from Mars

David Bowie , Mary Finnigan, book, pop music, biography, Psychedelic Suburbia, 1969, Space Oddity, Beckenham Arts Lab,

David Bowie at home in Beckenham in 1969, where he became the lodger and lover of Mary Finnigan. (Photo by Ray Stevenson/Rex)

◼ AS A STRUGGLING FOLK SINGER David Bowie was 22 years old and living with his parents in south-east London when, by chance, he met journalist Mary Finnigan, eight years his senior, and moved into her flat in Foxgrove Road, Beckenham, where she lived with her two children from an early marriage.

They became lovers and launched a successful folk club which became the iconic Beckenham Arts Lab at The Three Tuns pub (now a Zizzi restaurant) on the High Street. Mary’s new book, Psychedelic Suburbia, offers new insights about Bowie in 1969, the year in which his first single Space Oddity reached the pop charts. Today The Independent runs a fabulously revealing extract:

We do not observe landlady-lodger conventions. I am happy with this arrangement – we share tincture of cannabis and Lucy’s deliveries of high-quality hashish. We share the space, cook and eat together. And a few days after he moves in, David and I sleep together.

The seduction is a work of art and takes me totally by surprise, when I come home one Saturday evening after a shift at The Sunday Times (edited in those days by my friend and journalistic mentor, Harry Evans). Usually I return to a messy kitchen and a sink full of dishes, showing evidence of baked beans, fried egg and tomato ketchup. But on this occasion, interesting cooking smells greet my arrival, the kitchen is clean and tidy, with the table laid for two plus flowers, candles and incense. The kids are fed, washed and tucked up in bed.

After a spliff and a nice dinner, David creates a nest of cushions on the floor of his room. He settles me into it and places speakers close to my ears on each side. Then he plays me a selection of his current favourite musical influences. Some are obscure, others well known – Jacques Brel, for example, and mind-blowing stereo phasing from Jimi Hendrix. . . / Continued at The Independent online

David Bowie , Mary Finnigan, book, pop music, biography, Psychedelic Suburbia, 1969, Space Oddity, Beckenham Arts Lab,

Friend, lover and landlady: Mary Finnigan and her personal new book about living with Bowie

“ Living from hand to mouth, David also does
casual shifts from time to time at Legastat, a copying office in central London ”
– Bowie as a Brook Street temp ?!?!

David Bowie , Mary Finnigan, book, pop music, biography, Psychedelic Suburbia, 1969, Space Oddity, Beckenham Arts Lab,
➢ Psychedelic Suburbia: David Bowie and the Beckenham Arts Lab by Mary Finnigan (£14.95, Jorvik Press) out now

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s: Weird and wonderful new Bowie – his Blackstar man is set to blow our minds, this Thursday