Category Archives: death

1967 ➤ Secret of how Scott Walker achieved a new adult voice as he went solo

Obituaries, tributes, interview, Scott Walker, pop music,

Scott Walker in 1970: still transitioning from pop idol to icon

ONE OF THE MOST RESPECTED singers of our age died on Friday in London aged 76: the US-born Noel Scott Engel, who became a British citizen in 1970.

I interviewed him as Scott Walker in 1967 at the very moment he was transitioning from teen idol into a more serious solo icon with his first album Scott, released in September and featuring the brilliant rendering of Brel’s angsty songs My Death and Amsterdam. For him the last straw had been to appear that April in the Walker Brothers trio on the Sunday-night TV variety show hosted by Bob Monkhouse at the London Palladium, and on viewing it Scott decided to split. Among his solo moves that December he released as his first single the risqué Jackie, from the new album Scott 2 (another Brel co-composition with louche themes that caused the BBC to ban it from airplay). As it headed up the UK pop chart, we met during rehearsals for Scott’s appearance on a TV Christmas special at ABC’s Teddington studios.

He lived in Marylebone at the time, had split from the Brothers (who were not actually blood brothers), gone into a monastery to study Gregorian chants and then set about starting an idiosyncratic solo career. He hated both the idea of being a pinup and his all too evident “pop-star” good looks. His most startling admission to me was that he was drinking “a bottle of wine and a bottle of Scotch a day” – in order to coarsen his baritone voice, he said! Scott recorded four seminal albums, Scott 1 to 4 and then disappeared.

In 1984 came Climate Of Hunter, the first of an experimental and challenging series of albums over many years, with titles such as Tilt 1995, The Drift 2006 and Bish Bosch 2012. All of them broke the rules of regular music and back in the day I listened to each album twice and remain gobsmacked today. (There’s a great video clip, shown above in the 30th Century Man trailer, of a percussionist punching a side of raw pork to achieve the exact kind of thwack Scott sought for the song Clara on The Drift.)

In recent years Scott could often be seen in my local supermarket in west London doing the shopping with his partner Beverly. Older and gaunter, he pulled his baseball cap down over his face but it was quite obvious to perhaps six other shoppers marking him that we knew who he was and as respectful fans we kept our distance. Scott is survived by his daughter, Lee, his granddaughter, Emmi-Lee, and Beverly.

BOWIE 1997: “MY IDOL SINCE I WAS A KID”

➢ Rock enigma Scott Walker dies aged 76 – BBC obituary

➢ Scott Walker, experimental pop hero – Guardian obituary by Ben Beaumont-Thomas

Obituaries, tributes, interview, Scott Walker, pop music, Jarvis Cocker

Scott Walker with Jarvis Cocker in 2017: a rich conversation about Scott’s life and times ensued (BBC)

➢ The Songs of Scott Walker – watch for this programme to become available at BBC iPlayer: Jarvis Cocker welcomes Scott Walker back to the Sunday Service ahead of the late-night BBC Prom celebrating his music, which took place at the Royal Albert Hall on Tuesday 25 July 2017. Includes the moment Walker made David Bowie cry on air.

➢ 30 Century Man (2007), directed by Stephen Kijack: Comprehensive survey of Scott’s life from his early days as a jobbing bass player on the Sunset Strip in which he describes his “lost years” in terms of creativity. Premiered at the 2006 London Film Festival followed by the 2007 Berlin International Film Festival. Available from Amazon on Blue-Ray and DVD.

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s: The on-off brotherly rivalry that drove John and Scott Walker apart

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2018 ➤ Judy Blame dies: cherry-picker of cultural detritus

Judy Blame ,Nicola Tyson,fashion, stylist, photography,

Judy Blame in 1983, photographed by Nicola Tyson

THE VERY DAY THIS WEEK WHEN HM THE QUEEN put a smile on the face of the British fashion industry, by attending London Fashion Week for the first time, also brought the sad news of Judy Blame’s death, aged 58. He (yes, he) was one of those self-taught iconoclasts who was acquiring a luminescent reputation in the electric 1980s when Fashion Week came into being, driven in part by the streetwise youth culture that Shapers of the 80s celebrates.

Blame shared friends with the charismatic Ray Petri whose flair gave kudos to the word “stylist” by injecting attitude and dash into the role of the humble gofer who gathered props and make-up for a photo shoot. This was the generation of creatives who asserted their urban savviness and shifted the word style itself from meaning a suspect and second-rate lure with which marketeers sold their wares. By the end of the decade, style and fashion had become distinct goals in their own right, the first announcing individuality in consumer choice and mainstream media, while fashion confirmed convention.

Blame’s own talents as an image-maker were celebrated in 2016 at an Institute of Contemporary Arts exhibition titled Never Again which displayed his DIY jewellery, objets trouvés, clothing, photomontages, sketchbooks and T-shirts, and gave insights into working with Neneh Cherry and Massive Attack.

➢ Pictures and fulsome tributes to Judy Blame
on our inside page

Born Chris Barnes in 1960, Blame died on 19 February 2018 and the tributes flowed in. Dylan Jones, editor-in-chief of GQ, wrote: “He was an artist, a genuine one, someone who could cherry-pick cultural detritus and then mix it all together to create something new, something lasting.”

Nick Knight, photographer and director of SHOWstudio, wrote: “Always totally unique, always a champion of the underdog, always fiercely anti-fascist and anti-establishment, always inspiring, always so immensely talented and always one hundred % brilliant.”

Scarlett Cannon, Blame’s dearest friend and partner in fronting the Cha-Cha club-night 1981-82, said: “I’m heartbroken but so happy to have had him in my life all these years. He left such a rich heritage of inspiration and touched so many people.”

Judy Blame,Scarlett Cannon, fashion, nightclubbing

Judy Blame with his long-standing friend Scarlett Cannon, and little Maude


➢ So much purpose. So much talent – Tribute by Paul Flynn at Guardian online, 20 Feb 2018

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2018 ➤ Peel on Smith and The Fall: the band by which all others must be judged

The Fall, Mark E Smith, John Peel,post-punk, bands, tributes, songwriter

Songwriter Smith fronting The Fall’s first incarnation in 1977. (Photo © Kevin Cummins)

In tribute to Mark Edward Smith who died today, here’s his biggest fan, the legendary deejay John Peel, who was commissioned to summarise the uniqueness of The Fall in The Sunday Times’s partwork, 1000 Makers of Music, published 25 May 1997:

Nothing in the history of pop has been remotely like the Fall. Mark E Smith is not only the writer of lyrics that often boast more ideas in a verse than most bands contrive for an LP, but is also credited with what is often said about Viz, that it isn’t as funny as it used to be. Fall devotees are accustomed to hearing similar assessments of their favourite band but believe that, through a bewildering number of personnel changes, the Fall remains the band by which all others must be judged. Their dozens of records crawl with anger, insults, waspish poetry and roaring guitar/bass/drums/keyboards-driven music some have styled Manc-a-billy after their home town. We the faithful can argue that anything, from 1979’s Live At the Witch Trials to last year’s The Light User Syndrome, might be the best. Smith’s press interviews – ranting against political correctness and students (the song Hey, Student from the 1994 LP Middle Class Revolt is a Fall classic) – make marvellous reading. (Keywork: Hey, Student.)

➢ Frontman of the post-punk band the Fall notorious for his deadpan black humour – Guardian obituary: “Smith performed with a total of 66 band members on 63 albums”

➢ The Fall’s 12 Essential Tracks – New York Times

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➤ How Bowie threaded blue notes through his final surge of creativity

David Bowie, The Last Five Years,TV,video, Sue,

Bowie as a projected image in the video for Sue (Or in a Season of Crime)

“If you feel safe in the area that you’re working in, you’re not working in the right area. Always go a little further into the water than you feel capable of. Go a little bit out of your depth and when you don’t feel that your feet are quite touching the bottom, you’re just about in the right place to do something exciting” – David Bowie

THE MOST GRIPPING SEQUENCES in the new TV documentary about Bowie’s final surge of creativity are those which assemble every musician in the bands he worked with from 2012 to the end. Each band re-enacts pivotal moments when they rehearsed the music, inspired by his lyrics, and laid down the tracks for the albums The Next Day and Blackstar. Particularly revealing is the session when pure jazz soloists created the nerve-tingling Sue (Or in a Season of Crime), which Bowie added to his 2014 “best-of” collection, Nothing Has Changed.

To mark the first anniversary of the star’s death, this weekend BBC2 screened David Bowie: The Last Five Years, Francis Whately’s sequel to his other superb documentary Five Years broadcast in 2013. The role of jazz in Bowie’s musical temperament seldom gets discussed, though his producer Tony Visconti says the jazz influence had always been there in the music but underneath the surface. As a small child Bowie heard a jazz band and right away said: “I’m going to learn the saxophone. When I grow up, I’m going to play in [this] band. So I persuaded my dad to get me a kind of a plastic saxophone on hire purchase.”

In 2013 in New York he met Maria Schneider, a jazz composer, handed her a demo disc and asked her to extemporise around a tune called Sue. In turn, she told him he had to listen to this sax player Donny McCaslin and without missing a beat Bowie went straight into the studio with his group and Maria and out came possibly the purest jazz number of his career, a discomfiting tale of infidelity. It won Schneider a Best Arrangement Grammy in 2016.

➢ Watch the Donny McCaslin Group working
on Bowie’s Blackstar

Click any pic below to launch slideshow

REVIEWS OF THE LAST FIVE YEARS TV DOC

➢ A thrilling portrait of a late-life renaissance
– Jasper Rees at the Arts Desk

The opening yielded much joyful footage of Bowie goofing around on the Reality tour (2003), seeming much more like one of the boys than he ever managed with Tin Machine. The band still seemed spooked at the memory of his collapse, before he was carted off to retirement in an ambulance.

Maria Schneider was one of many musicians – three complete bands – who re-formed to walk through the creation of the music. Drummer Zachary Alford still looked shocked at the NDA handed him as he showed up to work on The Next Day. “If I said anything about it,” remembered bassist Gail Ann Dorsey, “I would be in big trouble legally.” Nobody was asked if Bowie really would have sued his collaborators for spilling the beans.

The recent collaborators reflected on the extent to which the new music was steeped in the past. But there was also good stuff from the old lags who worked (and sometimes slept) with Bowie in the feather-cut era: Ideally there would be a DVD with extras featuring much more from each of them. Chief keeper of the flame Tony Visconti sat at a console and played excerpts of Bowie’s unaccompanied vocal takes. On Blackstar came the haunting sound of Bowie wheezing like an ancient mariner fighting for every last scrap of breath. . . / Continued online

➢ A treat and a treatise on music’s departed genius
– by James Hall, Daily Telegraph

The Last Five Years wove previously unheard Bowie interview material with on-screen contributions from collaborators including producer Tony Visconti. The access and insights were faultless. Whately’s programme was essentially a treatise on artistic rebirth. And it showed that although Bowie’s musical style constantly changed, the themes that preoccupied him — alienation, escape, the notion of fame — were there until the end.

During his final creative burst, Bowie gradually revealed to collaborators that he was ill. In the most poignant scene, we learned that Bowie only discovered his cancer was terminal three months before he died. This was in October 2015 when he was filming the video for Lazarus, in which he sings the line “Look up here, I’m in heaven”. Bowie worked and cared and joked until the end. Through tears, Visconti said that he was at ‘the top of his game’. . . / Continued online

➢ David Bowie: What have we learned since his death? Some astounding new Bowie facts
have come to light – via The Guardian

70TH BIRTHDAY TRIBUTE CONCERT IN LONDON

tribute ,concert, David Bowie, Steve Norman, London

Brixton tribute concert for Bowie: Gail Ann Dorsey singing Young Americans with Spandau Ballet’s Steve Norman. (Photo: Getty)

❏ On what would have been Bowie’s 70th birthday his friend the actor Gary Oldman gathered at the Brixton Academy a 30-strong all-star lineup of musicians who had collaborated throughout his career, with some glorious orchestral and choral support. The show is the first in a run of gigs around the world taking place in cities that have a strong connection with Bowie and his work.

The London concert featured Mike Garson, Earl Slick, Adrian Belew, Mark Plati, Gerry Leonard, Sterling Campbell, Zachary Alford, Holly Palmer, Catherine Russell, plus such guests as Tony Hadley and Simon Lebon. Special highlights saw Gail Ann Dorsey singing Young Americans with Spandau’s Steve Norman on sax; and an audience singalong to Life on Mars? led by Adrian Belew and gifted vocals from Tom Chaplin from the band Keane. Plenty of live videos at YouTube.



➢ 10 Jan update: Gary Kemp joins his friend Robert Elms on BBC Radio London to discuss David Bowie, one year on. (Catch up on iPlayer for one month: starts at 13mins)

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

➢ 13 Jan: Iggy Pop’s tribute to The Songs of David Bowie on BBC Radio 6 Music and iPlayer for another month

➢ As a confused teenager living in Seventies suburbia, singer Andy Polaris retraces his obsession with Bowie

➢ Commemorating Bowie at the BBC

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➤ The Kemp quartet: a happy family George Michael helped to create

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Happy family 2012: As Martin Kemp sets off for the Celebrity Big Brother house his wife Shirlie, and children Harleymoon and Roman can’t bear to part with him. (Selfie courtesy of Roman)

➢ On 26 December, Howell Davies reported in The Sun:

“ George Michael planned to have a Boxing Day dinner with his ex-Wham! bandmate Shirlie Holliman, husband Martin Kemp and son Roman before tragic death. Late singer’s health did not stop him from organising a festive get-together with Shirlie and his godson.

Michael was discovered dead at his Oxfordshire home on Christmas Day after a long battle against drug and alcohol addition – aged just 53. However, George’s health had not stopped him from organising a festive get-together with Shirlie, 54, one half of pop duo Pepsi and Shirlie, her husband and fellow 80s star Martin Kemp, 55, their daughter Harley, 27, and son Roman, an up-and-coming Capital FM DJ and TV presenter who is also the Faith singer’s godson.

Speaking before George passed away, Roman, 23, said: “We’re going to George’s house on Boxing Day.”

On 26 Dec Roman also tweeted: “To me, you do the Christmas rounds and you see all those people who are big influences on my life. I speak to him quite often. He speaks to my mum every week. He’s just family to me, fame is not a big deal. I know it sounds strange but I’ve known him my whole life. We love you Yog”…

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THE KEMP FAMILY TWEET THEIR OWN TRIBUTES

Martin Kemp, actor, bassist with Spandau Ballet – “My whole family and I are devastated at the loss of our beautiful friend Yog! We will miss him so much! We are all heartbroken!”

Shirlie Kemp, née Shirlie Holliman of Wham! – “Words can not express how sad we all are, only last week I saw him laughing and happy. My heart is broken to lose someone so special.”

Roman Kemp, son of Martin and Shirlie, George’s godson, TV host and radio deejay – “The man who toured the world with my mum; her best friend. / The man who introduced my parents; who forced my mum to call my dad. / The man that took me and Harley around the world; just to see us smile. / The man we all love. / We love you Yog.”

Harleymoon Kemp, daughter of Martin and Shirlie, photographer – “Such a kind, special man who has played such a huge part in our family history and shared with us nothing but love. We are all very sad.”

GEORGE THE MATCHMAKER TELLS ALL:

➢ Elsewhere at Shapersofthe80s:
2016, London’s young guns remember George Michael

➢ Elsewhere at Shapersofthe80s: Thank you, George, says Paul Simper. You left me wanting to dance like you

➢ Elsewhere at Shapersofthe80s: 2011, Wham!’s cunning plan for a Christmas No1 as climax to the 80s revival

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