Category Archives: Culture

➤ Nutty scientist finds himself out of his depth in the shallows of pop

Trevor Horn, pop music, production, science, TV, documentary

Trevor Horn: sharing his own tried and tested secrets of pop onscreen (© BBC)

RECORD PRODUCER TREVOR HORN – who helped shape the sounds of such 80s acts as ABC, Grace Jones, Pet Shop Boys and Frankie – last night shared five keys to being a successful pop artist. During the repeat of The Secret Science of Pop on BBC4 he said:

1 – Be able to write or have access to the best material.
2 – Have a really great voice, across two octaves.
3 – Have personal charm and charisma.
4 – Be physically and mentally strong.
5 – And, you’ve got to want it.

All of which made a deal more sense than the deluded “scientist” – a professor at London’s Imperial College who doesn’t deserve to be named! – who attempted to analyse success in the pop charts of the past 50 years by deconstructing thousands of hit tunes note by note. Nothing he proposed made any sense at all and after wasting 60 minutes of our time he shamelessly admitted he had “singularly failed” to out-flank Horn.

As compensation, Horn’s production team shared quite a lot of their intuitive magic in perhaps 15 of those minutes. Shame the whole documentary wasn’t about them instead.

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➤ Maxine and Marr: heard the deeply serious tale about the actress and the rock star?

Johnny Marr, rock, theatre, film, Maxine Peake, Guardian, interview, homelessness, Royal Exchange ,working class , Manchester

Maxine Peake and Johnny Marr: “You can’t avoid homelessness in Manchester. It touched us both”

Marr: “There are so many things about being working class that never leave you entirely. A certain gratitude. A kind of humility, whether it’s forced on you or not. You could even call it guilt, I guess: working-class guilt.”

“There is a guilt, yeah,” says Peake. “A friend said to me, ‘Are you sure you’re not a Catholic? ’Cos you’re riddled with guilt.’ It’s tied up with a work ethic. You’ve got to be seen to be grafting for what you’re doing. You know what I mean? Constantly.”

➢ Today’s Guardian interview by John Harris delves into the serious stuff behind a blossoming showbiz friendship:

When the musician Johnny Marr met and the actor Maxine Peake in 2014, they “clicked straight away”, bonding over a mission to bring back socially conscious art. The first fruits of their partnership are now about to be released: a five-minute piece entitled The Priest, which has been turned into a short film, co-directed by Marr, set in the centre of Manchester, as a vivid first-person account of homelessness. Here they talk about shamanic rock stars, working-class guilt and how their spoken-word album about homelessness strives to be a modern Cathy Come Home. . .

Marr says of Peake at one point: “I’ve actually met someone who probably works even more than me, if that’s possible,” and Peake’s résumé suggests he’s not wrong. Next year will see the release of Funny Cow, in which she stars as a female standup trying to push her way through the grimness of 70s Britain, as well as the staging at the Royal Exchange of Queens of the Coal Age, the play Peake has written about the true story of four women resisting the closure of a Yorkshire coalmine. . .

PLUS MARR ON THE M-WORD

Marr says he was “crushed and heartbroken” by the vote for Brexit, whereas his former creative partner Morrissey seemed to rejoice in it. Though Marr has remained firmly on the political left, Morrissey now seems to champion the reactionary right. “I’ve stayed the same. I’ve never changed. But … people tend to forget that it was 30 years ago that we were in a band together. Stop and think about it: 30 years. It’s a long time. So I honestly don’t care very much. . . / Continued at The Guardian online

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1983 ➤ When The Face led the cultural agenda

art schools, The Face, magazine, fashion, style, music, nightclubbing, cuttings, subcultures, analysis, history, Swinging 80s, London

London,Chris Sullivan, Dirt Box, Mud Club,Wag club,Dencil williams, Phil Gray , Ollie O’Donnell,White Trash,Philip Sallon,Nightlife, Rob Milton, The Face,Swinging 80s, clubbing

The Face No 39, July 1983 © Nick Logan/The Face Archive

◼ 1983 PROVED TUMULTUOUS for British youth culture. By December, London’s leading club deejay Jay Strongman declared “This was the year of Go For It”, after 17 new British pop groups lorded it in the US top 40 chart that autumn, while our spirited fashionistas were making waves around the world, with Princess Diana playing ambassador for the classic designers, and Boy George pushing the wilder extremes of street style. Among major features I wrote for The Face was February’s cover story The Making of Club Culture, and in the Evening Standard Posing with a purpose at the Camden Palace, a centre spread on the runaway megaclub hosted by Strange and Egan.

Nightlife was a burgeoning story as black beats took over dancefloors everywhere and Manchester’s tearaway megaclub was the Hacienda, despite the oppressive clean-up being imposed by the city’s infamous Chief Constable. Clubbers from across the nation swarmed in to create a grand coalition of all the cults – “your complete i-D line-up, minus the Worlds End spendthrifts”. In my January report for The Face one inmate bemoaned Hacienda music as  “too funk-based” though another, a flat-top lad called Johnny Maher, revealed his secret, despite having launched some new indie rock band minutes earlier. “I schlepp to funk,” he said.

The Face, journalism, RCA, government, cuts, costs, education, fine art, painting, printmaking, film-making, music schools, fashion, Henry Moore,

© Nick Logan/The Face Archive

In July The Face published a major piece of reportage, Art on the Run, prompted by numerous friends in fine-art education, and billed it as a “shock report” on the Conservative government’s debilitating squeeze on the art schools. Ironically in the same issue my regular Nightlife column identified the four hottest clubland teams as a Who’s Who in the New London Weekend: “Not since the Swinging Sixties had London nightlife reverberated to such a boom.” These clubs were the unofficial job centres that kept a generation in freelance employment and introduced the verb to vop into the language (derivation: “What are you up to these days?” – “Oh, a Variety Of Projects”). Some of that effort was fuelling the rise of computer games which in the June issue Virgin assured me was “the new pop industry”!

 Oliver Peyton , Brighton, nightclubs, The Can, The Face, reviews

Brighton hotspot 1983: Ian, Oliver Peyton and Kate hosting The Can (Photo Shapersofthe80s)

My Nightlife column in The Face’s October issue featured Brighton’s trendiest hotspot (seconds before the very word trendy passed its sell-by outside the Greater London stockade). The Can was presided over by a young Oliver Peyton with Andy Hale as the deejay breaking funk there. Years later Oliver thanked me for this exposure and said he would never have come up to London and started opening restaurants without The Face’s prompt! (One of the few people who have ever thanked me for writing about them! Cheers, Oliver.)

Jay Strongman , DJ, The Face, magazine, interview

Jay Strongman in 1983: ruling London’s three hottest turntables

By this fertile year’s end I had FIVE indicative pieces of reportage published in the December issue of The Face including a detailed rundown on the new dance music by club deejay Jay Strongman, plus news of the imminent Westwood/ McLaren break-up which I’d scented from body language backstage at their Paris runway show.

The launch of the first London Fashion Week that same October confirmed that British street style was being feted in the international spotlight, yet it begged the question how on earth had this suddenly come about? Click through to our inside page to read the feature investigation that set out to answer such questions, by asking decision-makers in the industry to identify the best of Britain’s young designer talent under the headline Eight for ’84. . .

The Face, magazine, fashion, style, music, Eight for 1984, cuttings, subcultures, analysis, history, Swinging 80s, London

From The Face No 44, Dec 1983 © Nick Logan/The Face Archive

First published in the Evening Standard, Nov 4, 1983

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2017 ➤ His name is Prince and his London tribute is downright spunky

Prince Rogers Nelson, exhibition, The O2, London, music videos, My Name Is Prince, pop music,costumes, guitars

Prince exhibition: chain-hat to conceal his identity in The New Power Generation and lyrics for We Want 2 Let the Funk Unwind (Getty)

Hold your breath! An exhibition that could so easily have been a lightweight commercial ripoff about the myth of Prince Rogers Nelson proves to be a surprisingly affecting tribute. Scores of artefacts have been loaned out for the first time direct from Paisley Park, Prince’s lush Minnesota estate, in a dazzling rush of bling and sentiment for My Name is Prince, his official exhibition which runs in London for the next ten weeks.

It seems a strange idea to visit seven galleries packed with video screens and to stand clad in earphones watching them play out the most vibrant highlights from the American pop icon’s uniquely anarchic imagination. Yet the very impact of so many screens disseminating so much talent only magnifies the intensity of the moment.

This one-man band’s genius is all too evident in every direction you look. In turns, you’re gasping at the audacity of Dirty Mind, smiling at the ingenuity of Sign ‘o’ the Times and shedding tears of envy for his sheer virtuosity in While My Guitar Gently Weeps.

Above all, the entire immersive experience is very, very lovesexy. The attention Prince lavished on his many lubricious costumes is revealing: so many apparently plush brocade garments are woven on light see-through black mesh that reveal the sinewy muscles of his tiny but taut 5ft frame within.

Prince the dandy also took any opportunity to shed his garments and flash his intimate zones, including his bare buttocks in orgiastic videos such as Gett Off, shot amid scantily clad girls and boys (“23 positions in a one-night stand”) at the 1991 MTV awards. Indeed one of the exhibition’s biggest draws is the video for Thieves in the Temple, from the 1990 Graffiti Bridge album, in which cutaway jeans reveal his bum and thighs and bouncing crotch capped with a glittering gold lamé jockstrap, in some of the most frenetic team dancing ever in high heels. The choreography is shamelessly horny.

The sheer range of Prince’s musical gifts during a 40-year career is well recognised – 70 albums, 2,000? songs, an Oscar, a Golden Globe, eight Grammies, 100 million records sold, and a ranking at No 28 among Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. But to assemble in a three-dimensional venue 200 tangible examples of his workaholic creativity as an all-round showman results in an affectionate multi-media tribute. For us to devour the close-up detail in his guitars, his hand-written notes and drawings, and his jewelled accessories becomes a truly moving privilege. And for a fan, the power of his achievements is reaffirmed as you bask in his subversive glow.

➢ The official exhibition My Name Is Prince runs from October 27 until January 7, 2018 at London’s O2

Prince Rogers Nelson, exhibition, The O2, London, music videos, My Name Is Prince, pop music,costumes, guitars

Prince exhibition: stage costumes from his Purple Rain tour (Getty)

Prince Rogers Nelson, exhibition, The O2, London, music videos, My Name Is Prince, pop music,costumes, guitars

Prince exhibition: bass guitar that inspired his trademark Cloud and diamond-studded cane from 2015

PRINCE’S PURPLE REIGN STILL EXERTS
ITS PULLING POWER

London’s Eighties pop star Andy Polaris visits the Prince exhibition to assess the enduring impact of the black performer who in his day challenged the norms of sexuality and race. . .

➢ Visit Andy’s own website Apolarisview for his full review
– here’s a brief taster:

The first time Prince triggered my radar was a review in the music press of his concert at the Lyceum in London 1981, part of his Dirty Mind tour. He was featured in the accompanying review wearing a trench coat covering a lithe brown body and wearing black briefs and leggings, topped by his mop of black hair and pretty face. I was miffed to have missed his only show but before the internet niche events could slip by easily without social media to flag them up.

It was obvious from the start that this was a black artist who, despite the flamboyance of disco/funk stage-wear and album covers, was taking it a little bit extra with some sexual ambiguity. The lyrics of the funky album track Controversy (a bass-driven early dance-floor favourite) set the tone:

I just can’t believe all the things people say
Controversy
Am I black or white? Am I straight or gay?
Controversy

I was fascinated to see the parade of Prince’s petite outfits complete with matching coloured heeled boots that covered Purple Rain, his purple metallic frock coat through to a crystal-encrusted cane and Balmain waistcoat he wore for W magazine. The materials are colourful, sheer and shimmering and in some cases boldly designed. He wasn’t interested in the toxic masculinity that permeates so many black artistes, one of the reasons he flew the freak flag for those who were not interested in paying £50 to see artists dressed in denim and T-shirts. . . / Continued at Andy’s own website


➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s – Prince RIP: ‘A funny cat’ and ‘sole authentic genius’ of the 1980s

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➤ Double drama of the 60s pop dream by Ray Connolly

film, Ray Connolly, Swinging Sixties ,Radio 4, drama, That’ll Be the Day, David Essex , Ringo Starr

Now a radio drama: Poster for the 1973 film

HERE ARE TWO RADIO 4 DRAMA TREATS this Saturday 23 Sept and next at 2.30pm – first an adaptation by former Evening Standard pop columnist Ray Connolly of his 1973 film, That’ll Be the Day (which starred David Essex and Ringo Starr with cameos from Billy Fury and Keith Moon). It’s a very British coming-of-age story that keenly captures the vicissitudes of postwar austerity prevailing in the provinces as the Swinging Sixties dawned.

BBC sell: “It’s 1959 and young Jim Maclaine seems to have it all. He’s good looking and destined to go to a good university. But he’s haunted by the father who abandoned him and his mother when he was small. Is he ready for the normal life mapped out for him? Or is he restless like his old man?”

➢ That’ll Be the Day at R4 – catch up online at the iPlayer for a month

Jim’s story is followed through on Saturday 30th with Stardust. Sell: “Show me a boy who never wanted to be a rock star and I’ll show you a liar. In this sequel to That’ll Be the Day, it’s the early 1960s and Jim Maclaine is now an aspiring pop musician. He seeks out his old mate Mike, because every pop star needs a road manager. Performing to bored audiences in seedy clubs, the Stray Cats live on dreams of becoming as famous as the Beatles…” Based on the film of the same name which featured David Essex, Adam Faith, Larry Hagman and Keith Moon.

➢ Stardust at R4 – also online for a month

ALSO AVAILABLE AS PAPERBACKS

Ray Connolly, books, films

Ray Connolly’s books as spin-offs from their films

➢ Buy That’ll Be the Day as a Fontana paperback

➢ Buy Stardust as a Fontana paperback

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