Category Archives: dance music

➤ How Nile Rodgers “rearranged” Bowie’s Let’s Dance into a stonking hit single

David Bowie, Nile Rodgers, Let’s Dance, Meltdown, South Bank Centre, soul music,

Twin geniuses: Bowie and Rodgers photographed by Ebet Roberts

AMONG MANY SENSATIONS during three foot-tapping hours in the company of Nile Rodgers on Saturday night was a rare audio track possibly being played out in public for the first time. Rodgers is not only curating this year’s prestigious South Bank Meltdown festival in London but his own band Chic headlined the opening night with a mighty seamless stream of dance-floor hits. Rodgers preceded the concert with a lengthy talk about his unrivalled career as one of the most influential record producers ever, an icon of black excellence along with Quincy Jones and Stevie Wonder.

He described how he had met David Bowie in the early 80s and as they bonded over their love of jazz, Rodgers says he “realised that David Bowie was the Picasso of rock’n’roll”, meaning his gift for thinking in the abstract. They were soon collaborating over Bowie’s album Let’s Dance, released in April 1983, almost three years after his previous album, Scary Monsters.

More specifically, once Bowie had joked “Is there such a thing as too funky?” Rodgers set about doing what any jazzman does – he was “rearranging” Bowie’s music in their studio sessions. And on Saturday Rodgers told this electrifying yarn by playing us Take One of the slightly protracted Let’s Dance session that started with Bowie in dirge-like mode. Eighties singer Andy Polaris tells it like this in his review of the Meltdown show:

In one extraordinary sequence Rodgers revealed the genesis of his collaboration with David Bowie on Let’s Dance. It was thrilling to listen to a rare recording few people have ever heard as the track was transformed from an almost twee throwaway song into the rhythmic funky stomper that it became. During the first take in the studio, we heard Nile introducing David to his arrangement and Bowie experimenting with melodies and phrasing while Nile carefully coaxed him by explaining the number’s metamorphosis. We listened as David gradually grew more excited, climaxing in obvious satisfaction when he finally “got it” – this, the single that would become his biggest hit! The whole episode provided a revealing insight into how Nile works as both a guitarist and a producer and was a rare treat for Bowie fans in the audience…

David Bowie, Nile Rodgers, Let’s Dance, albums, 1983, soul music,

Let’s Dance: Bowie’s biggest selling album

MORE ON THE BOWIE-RODGERS PARTNERSHIP

➢ “I thought I was going to get fired over my riff to China Girl because it’s so corny. But he heard it and went, That’s amazing!” – Pitchfork 2016:
As a black man in America, there’s not a day that goes by that I’m not reminded of being black. It has nothing to do with me. Some people are just uncomfortable with my presence. It’s never gone away. With Bowie, though, I never felt that at all. He made Let’s Dance with me and guys that he never even met, but he had enough faith to allow me to completely take over. He was like, ‘Nile, take my vision and make it real. You be the impresario.’

The whole album was completed and mixed in 17 days. There’s no four different versions of Let’s Dance, no five versions of Modern Love. That’s just it. Done. End of story. A huge amount of the time he spent sitting in the lounge watching TV and then he would just come in and check and go ‘Wow!’ and then he would leave. And I’m thinking to myself, ‘This is the highest form of respect that anyone has ever given to me’. . .

David Bowie, Nile Rodgers, Let’s Dance, Meltdown, South Bank Centre, soul music,

Evergreen: Bowie and Rodgers photographed by Peter Gabriel

➢ The producer of Let’s Dance, Bowie’s biggest-selling album, asked the singer if he’d made it too funky. ‘Is there such a thing?’ he replied – from the Guardian 2016:
Before we wrote a single piece of music for [Let’s Dance], we did a research project where we played lots of records and talked about what the album wanted to say, how it should sound as a whole. Then one day David said: ‘Nile, this is what I want my album to sound like’ and he showed me a picture of Little Richard in a red suit getting into a red Cadillac convertible. How do you translate that?! But in actual fact I knew exactly what he meant, and that was the point I realised that David Bowie was the Picasso of rock’n’roll. He got uncomfortable with me calling him that but I did it anyway. Because I realised he saw the world in an abstract way, as well as in the way we all see it. And what that picture meant was not that he wanted a retro record, or something based on Little Richard’s music, but that he wanted something that would always look modern. He showed me the future and the past and it was evergreen. The highly designed Cadillac and the red monochromatic suit – that picture was taken in the 1960s but it would still look modern to someone in the year 3000! . . .”

➢ Meltdown 2019, curated by Nile Rodgers, runs at London’s South Bank Centre 3–11 August

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➤ New from Prince: Holly Rock single and video, plus album of demos

Prince, Holly Rock, Originals, Electric Light Studios, releases, video, vinyl

Many faces of Prince… from his new animated video for Holly Rock

THE PRINCE ESTATE HAS RELEASED HOLLY ROCK, an electrifying song from 1985 produced for Sheila E but here rendered by Prince himself in a 3m47s edit and promoted this week with a spicey new animated video created by London-based Electric Light Studios. Holly Rock was recorded for inclusion on the original soundtrack for the 1985 movie Krush Groove.

The new single is the second taken from the album Originals, published last month and featuring 14 previously unreleased demo versions of Prince’s songs from 1981-85 written for his side projects, protégées and other artists. The Guardian said of the album: “(Originals) shows the breadth and brilliance of his compositional talents.”

Prince, Originals, releases, CD, album, vinyl

Prince’s Originals on CD and vinyl

His original versions of tracks include The Glamorous Life, Sex Shooter, Manic Monday, The Time’s Jungle Love and Love…Thy Will Be Done, as well as deep cuts like Vanity 6’s Make-Up and Jill Jones’s Baby, You’re A Trip. The album also features Prince’s original 1984 version of Nothing Compares 2 U, released last year as a standalone single.

Originals is available now from Warner Records via download and streaming partners and physically on CD, 180 gram 2LP, and limited edition Deluxe CD+2LP Purple Vinyl set.

➢ Click to hear the full album of Prince’s Originals

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2018 ➤ Revealed: The secret role of Shapersofthe80s in the rise and rise of Spandau Ballet

Spandau Ballet, 1980,Scala Cinema, performance,

A photograph never before published: sharply styled Spandau Ballet in 1980 playing the dramatically lit Scala Cinema gig that eventually brought the record companies scrambling to sign them. Photograph by Steve Brown

FIRST COMES THIS UNAUTHORISED BOOK that tells the world there were two bands called Spandau Ballet back in 1979 and turns over the whole myth about where their name came from. There are a least two huge marmalade-dropper revelations, plus several dozen eye-openers about the birth of Blitz culture, however well you think you knew the early 80s. The author David Barrat even knows John Keeble’s middle name. In fact he gives us everybody’s middle name, just to prove his overdue diligence. Barrat is also very revealing about the band’s legal falling-out that ended in the high court before an apparently congenial judge who quite liked their music.

Then out of the blue I find there are about 100 shockingly well-informed pages not exactly about me, long before this website existed, but following my every footstep through every month of 1980 as the second SB with the stolen name takes its first tentative steps toward a record deal and the UK charts all within a single year – which was indeed good going for a new band by any standards. Very flatteringly Barrat suggests that I am waving some Invisible Hand behind the scenes to make the Spandau magic happen and actually writes that “their success can be pinned on one Evening Standard journalist”. Talk about blush!

New Romantics Who Never Were: The Untold Story of Spandau Ballet, David Barrat, Orsam Books, pop music, historySo what we’re doing here today is offering a modest extract from Barrat’s book for you to read how he theorises about my ducking and diving as a regular young journalist about town who suddenly fell into five years of rollicking night-clubbing. Then on an inside page you can read my own parallel account of falling under the spell of the real Svengali, Steve Dagger, Spandau’s manager. I blow the gaff on his game called Squeeze the Lemon.

David Barrat says he became “just an ordinary fan of the band” at the age of 16, who two decades later created a cult SB-related MSN group online called Deformation. It focussed on three subjects: 1, origins of the band’s name; 2, whether SB were real “New Romantics” or not, as a friend’s mum claimed; 3, the legal battle that tore the band apart in the late 1990s. He tackles other questions such as “When was Gary Kemp visited at home by a bishop? What was the real story behind Bob Geldof’s idea for the Band Aid Christmas single?” All the while he unnervingly debunks myths put about by celebrities with faulty memories.

He has also dug up a mass of colourful detail about London clubland in the past when the police were as dodgy as the club-owners, the notorious Roxy in particular, which adds quite a bit to the sum of human knowledge.

So tuck into Barrat’s own book in the extract embedded here as a PDF which will open in a new window. Then contrast it with my own account at the link below.

David Barrat

Click on this image to read the David Barrat book extract

WHEN YOU’RE READY FOR MY OWN STORY…

➢ 1980 was one frantic year – Follow my version of Spandau Ballet’s unprecedented rise, penned by the Invisible Hand of Shapersofthe80s

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
Spooky or what? When two bands went by the name of Spandau Ballet – the most amazing revelation made in Barrat’s book

Spandau Ballet , Papagayo Club,pop music, St Tropez

Spandau Ballet on the beach in St Tropez 1980: a fortnight in the sun courtesy of the Papagayo Club before they’d even signed a deal! (Photographer unknown)

➢ Click to buy New Romantics Who Never Were: The Untold Story of Spandau Ballet, by David Barrat, from Orsam Books, 330pp, £16.99

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1980 ➤ Day Four of Terry Smith’s unseen photos inside the Blitz Club – exclusive

Nik & Trick Photo Services, Folkestone

A New Romantics keynote was your invented image: startling make-up and a towering hat complete Blitz superstar Peter Probert’s wicked witch of the west

➢ DAY FOUR:
CLICK HERE TO VISIT OUR
GALLERY OF TEN MORE FAB IMAGES
OF THE BLITZ CLUB IN 1980

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EVEN AMONG THE UK ROCK PRESS, few of its music historians have conceded that the New Romantics amounted to an ambitious subculture that changed the rules of the game – largely because the rockists completely missed the boat by idolising guitar idols, never went to nightclubs, and what’s more, couldn’t dance.

The most audible consequence of the clubbing underground was to fundamentally change the rhythm of the pop singles charts within a year – from the rock guitar to the bass-and-drum, namely, to dance music. After 1981 scarcely any significant new rock groups made the singles charts, only the old dinosaurs, if at all. Rock was relegated to the album chart and new dance-music stars such as Madonna and Prince transformed the pop music of the new decade.

The other New Romantics keynote was the central role of image with the dawn of MTV as a platform for music videos. A band became the leaders of fashion, while their style-conscious nightlife followers collaborated in promoting them through the clubbing grapevine. As synth-pop pioneers during 1980 Spandau Ballet pushed a button for the fashion-conscious young. They were signalling that the language of pop called for new styles as much as new sounds.

During the first five years of the decade, more than 100 “image bands” and acts entered the UK charts – most of them new, led in the South-East by Ultravox, Linx, Spandau Ballet, Visage, Landscape, Depeche Mode, Kid Creole, Blue Rondo a la Turk. Many more emerged from clubland across the UK: Duran Duran, Soft Cell, Heaven 17, Altered Images, Imagination, Eurythmics, Thomas Dolby, ABC.

During Spandau’s North American tour in November 1983, alongside their hit True among the Billboard Top 40 singles in the USA, there were 17 other British bands – more than the Swinging 60s ever knew. Insolence and narcissism lit a torch that led a generation of school-leavers through what threatened to be Britain’s dark age of unemployment. As clubs became workplaces and nightlife the essential engine of cultural evolution, they liberated music, design and, especially, ambition for the young.

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
Spandau Ballet create a new template for pop success

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➤ Day Three of Terry Smith’s unseen photos inside the Blitz Club – exclusive

Nik & Trick Photo Services, Folkestone

The two Welsh soul-boys, one straight, one gay, who shaped the future of 80s clubland: Chris Sullivan went on to run Soho’s Wag club for 19 years… And Steve Strange, whose Blitz legacy landed him and deejay Rusty Egan the mighty Camden Palace in 1982

➢ DAY THREE:
CLICK HERE TO VISIT OUR
GALLERY OF TEN FAB NEW IMAGES
OF THE BLITZ IN 1980

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◼ IN 1980 THE BLITZ CLUB ENTERED its second year: here was your invitation to the Swinging 80s, where daily life would never sound or feel the same again. Paris and New York had taken the cultural lead during the recessionary 70s; now London was to become the creative powerhouse as Britain rode out dark times and its youth culture leapt back into the world spotlight.

In February 1979, the axis of Steve Strange as Tuesday-night greeter and Rusty Egan as deejay had graduated from Billy’s in Soho to the Blitz in Covent Garden. This was a bar decorated with Second World War austerity that was thought to echo the down at heel 70s: bare floorboards, gingham tablecloths, hanging lights with dusty enamel shades, framed pictures of our wartime leader Churchill.

In the post-punk no-wave vacuum, the Blitz’s manager, Brendan Connolly, had been struggling to promote intimate cabaret, and the dressy crowd fostered at Billy’s were cabaret incarnate. Nevertheless it took a full year before the new spirit of optimism expressing itself through fashion caught the attention of the savvy media which in April 1980 included photographer Terry Smith shooting for TIME magazine.

Now in retirement, Terry has exhumed rolls of his film and chosen the best of his colour slides for Shapers of the 80s to publish exclusively. Earlier this week we unveiled 20 of his choice images inside the Blitz and today we showcase a further ten. More to follow on Tuesday.

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
Days 1 & 2 of Terry’s Blitz pix in colour

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