Category Archives: live music

1991 ➤ Supercool video found of Bowie duetting with Morrissey

❚ MORRISSEY WAS SUPPORTING BOWIE at the L.A. forum in June 1991 when unexpectedly Bowie’s voice suddenly announced his arrival on-stage during Morrissey’s set as he embarked on Cosmic Dancer, written by Marc Bolan. This tear-jerker of a video was exhumed only this month (in 2020) showing the evident affection between the singers. Morrissey himself explains:

We hadn’t rehearsed the song. David called me at my hotel and we tried to duet down the phone, which became very funny because David couldn’t remember the words, but on the night it was me who forgot and David remembered. You can see a slight disapproval from him when I repeat and repeat the wrong lines … His look says ‘You shouldn’t be singing that bit again’. This clip is my 4th favourite memory of David. It’s nice that Ron and Russell [Sparks] are in there too, but Russell looks irked … I expect he was missing the concluding sequel of that night’s Columbo. – Morrissey 30 June 2020

David Bowie, Morrissey,  duet, LA Forum,

Newly discovered video from LA Forum 1991: Bowie catches Moz’s eye in mid-song

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1979 ➤ Ethereal Bowie sets the bar for one of his inadvertent hits

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Click picture to view an immaculate video of Bowie singing The Man Who

HERE’S A RARE CHANCE TO VIEW one of the most inspired renderings of The Man Who Sold the World: David Bowie with the bizarre German punk Klaus Nomi as backing singer during a performance on Saturday Night Live on 15 December 1979. Wearing red on the left we see American performance artist, Joey Arias, who became a regular act at Club 57 in New York’s East Village. Anyone who visited the 2013–2015 touring exhibition, Bowie Is, from the V&A in London will have seen Bowie’s huge tubular costume at first hand…

Luckily, this 8-minute clip also includes brilliant versions of TVC 15 with Bowie in a skirt and heels, plus Boys Keep Swinging where he sports a nude puppet costume with bizarre extremities. Nomi introduces us to his poodle who appears to have swallowed a TV set. A gifted trio of performances.

The Man Who Sold the World – title track of Bowie’s third studio album – was written in 1970 but released on the B-side of a single hence missed the charts in its own right. It did reach No 3 after Lulu covered the track in 1974 and other covers followed, including one by Midge Ure. Critically the song is widely regarded as one of Bowie’s essential best and only in his last couple of decades did he start rendering it in live performances in utterly different and often haunting ways. Nevertheless, the SNL video from 1979 is powered by a cascade of supremely confident operatic flourishes, “Ohhhh-oh-ohhhh, ohhhhhhh-oh!”

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2020 ➤ Steve Dagger recalls Spandau Ballet’s fifth gig and why it detonated their lift-off

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A picture from the archive: sharply styled Spandau Ballet in 1980 playing the dramatically lit Scala cinema concert that eventually brought the record companies scrambling to sign them. (Photograph © by Steve Brown, processed by Shapersofhe80s)

40
YEARS
ON

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Spandau Ballet’s performance at the trendy Scala cinema on 13 May 1980, their manager Steve Dagger recalls how the event propelled his unsigned band towards the charts and to stardom. Prompted by the waves the band had been making, this – only their fifth live concert – was recorded by London Weekend Television and provided lift-off for the band’s ambitions.

Their first shows were always mounted in secrecy and in novel venues such as the Blitz Club in Covent Garden, which was rapidly becoming the focus for the hippest young people in London who had yet to become known as the New Romantics. The story of those sensational early days is extracted here with Steve’s permission from the full version on the band’s website.

Spandau Ballet, 20th Century Box, Scala cinema, pop music

Spandau at the Scala cinema, May 1980: bass-player Martin Kemp surveys the wild dancing by the audience of Blitz Kids captured for TV by 20th Century Box

Steve Dagger writes:

❏ 40 YEARS AGO, on a warm London May evening, at the Scala Cinema, which was then situated on the rather nondescript Tottenham Street, in the heart of what is now Fitzrovia, Spandau Ballet and its previously underground sub-sect of youth culture emerged blinking into the daylight.

Steve Dagger, Spandau Ballet, live concert, pop music

Spandau manager Steve Dagger on the road with the band in 1980

Before the show, the crowd, previously not seen en-masse outside of a nightclub, spilled over the pavement clutching drinks from the nearby pub and eying each other up as they arrived, each dressed in their own highly personalised version of the heightened street fashion/plundering of the history of style/Fritz Lang vision of the future that was going to be dubbed “New Romantic” or “Blitz Kids”. All the stylistic cards were being thrown up in the air in a post-modern reset to prepare for a new decade. The event had been advertised by our version of social media, word of mouth, as were all our early shows.

It had the atmosphere of a bizarre red carpet event before a film premiere. There was a TV crew filming and interviewing the arrivals. There were photographers recording the scene. Spandau Ballet were to play live and the performance and the audience were being filmed by LWT for a Janet Street-Porter documentary as part of a TV series called 20th Century Box. The audience was joined by various journalists, photographers and media people, including Radio 1 DJ and TV presenter Peter Powell, numerous record company execs including impresario Bryan Morrison. It was a potent mix which we could have only dreamed of six months earlier before our Spandau Ballet rebirth and was entirely consistent with our title of “The Next Big Thing” and the hottest unsigned band in the country and the new decade.

Since their first performance as Spandau Ballet at the Blitz five months earlier, the band’s career trajectory had been such that it seemed to have been fired out of some powerful pop culture cannon. A lot had happened! We had exploded from a standing start like Usain Bolt.

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Spandau at the Scala: Blitz Kids arrive in high style to watch the band perform in an auditorium for the first time, captured by 20th Century Box

At that first Blitz show in December 1979, Chris Blackwell, legendary founder and owner of Island Records – the world’s coolest record company – had approached me offering to sign the band “on the spot”. It was a hugely seductive and exciting opportunity but there was a deal to be done.

Accompanied by our newly appointed lawyer, Brian Carr, the band and I went to meet Chris at the Island HQ in London, a large relaxed converted villa on St Peter’s Square in Hammersmith. Posters and gold and platinum discs of Bob Marley, Roxy Music, Stevie Winwood and Grace Jones greeted us. Chris showed us around. He was charming and smart. It all seemed so right. For a while. He introduced us to Nick Stewart, an A&R man who was to be our point person. He had the demeanour of an army officer. I think he was a friend of Chris’s from public school. He listened to our ideas about the band – it seemed very hard to explain the band’s ethos to him. Chris was not a UK resident at the time and had a limited time in the country each year. We would be dealing with Nick day-to-day. Not good. Then they showed us the terms of the deal they were proposing.

We retired for lunch at a local Chinese restaurant with Brian to consider it. I suppose it was an OK deal for a new band, but both Brian and I thought we could do better. We went back to Island HQ after lunch and after a short discussion about the terms, on a pre-arranged cue from Brian, we turned down the deal and ended the meeting abruptly and walked out. It was spectacular! Their jaws dropped. It showed huge confidence on our part. It was a bold effective tactic. It did mean however that we were very shortly in Hammersmith Broadway, on foot, without a record contract.

Although there was a vigorous discussion about the wisdom of this move with the band and myself later that evening, so powerful was our newly acquired self-confidence everyone soon settled down. Shortly afterward Chis left town for Paris or Jamaica and although we kept in contact and he maintained interest, we didn’t sign to them. We were soon to be distracted by other suitors and opportunities.

Spandau Ballet, 20th Century Box, Scala cinema, pop music

Spandau at the Scala: the moment the band began playing, the audience filled the aisles with their dancing, captured by 20th Century Box

Meanwhile, our progress continued apace. Days after the visit to Island the band played their second show as Spandau Ballet at Mayhem Studios Battersea at a multi-media event party organised by a number of our friends and now collaborators from the Blitz. It was in effect the first Warehouse Party Brand that would morph eventually into the ubiquitous rave format. There were art-house and porn films projected onto the ceiling, DJs, alcohol, drugs, Spandau Ballet and hundreds and hundreds of people crammed into a relatively small space. The combined word of mouth powers of Chris Sullivan, Graham Ball, Robert Elms and Graham Smith reached every hip club person in London. Blitz Kids, Soul Boys and Rockabillies. All soon to merge together into “Club Culture”. It was rammed.

Hundreds couldn’t get in. It was bloody chaos. The band performed and were well received, but most people that were there couldn’t see them, it was so crowded. But that wasn’t the point. The value to us was that we were for the second time in as many weeks performing at the epicentre of hipness in the new London. Even if you hadn’t seen the band or even couldn’t get in, everyone knew that Spandau Ballet had played there. It was most certainly an event.

On New Year’s Eve as the 80s started, I remember feeling utterly satisfied with the band’s progress in the last month. We were right in the sweet spot of being the coolest band in the hippest scene in London. The decade seemed to be opening up before us. Great, but what next? . . . / Continued at Spandauballet.com

Spandau Ballet, 20th Century Box, Scala cinema, pop music

Spandau at the Scala: their audience of dancing Blitz Kids confirmed their status as the hottest unsigned band in the land, captured by 20th Century Box

ELSEWHERE AT SHAPERS OF THE 80S:

➢ A selective timeline for the unprecedented rise and rise
of Spandau Ballet

➢ Spooky or what? The amazing revelation that two bands went by the name of Spandau Ballet

➢ Private worlds of the new young setting the town ablaze

➢ Just don’t call us New Romantics, say the stars of the Blitz

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2020 ➤ Steve Norman takes up noodlin’ while Staying At Home… ditto Nick Heyward

Facebook Live, video, chat, pop music, Steve Norman, Sheila Norman,

Live on Facebook: Sheila his mum joins Steve Norman for a guitar duet

■ YOU HAVE TO GIVE STEVE NORMAN a Boy Scout badge for Fun & Games after reaching out to his fans through a live webcast last night, on the day that “Stay At Home” officially became the nation’s motto, thanks to the coronavirus epidemic. Ten minutes after the advertised time of 8pm (so echoing the prime minister’s own slack daily time-keeping!) the Spandau Ballet sax player went Live on Facebook for the best part of an hour, locked down in his Brighton home with his partner and agent Sabrina Winter, and Sheila his lovely old mum (herself a nifty dancer back in the day).

His generally dishevelled look suggested he’d just fallen out of bed (do get that scraggy beard trimmed, Steve – it adds years to you!). He rabbited on in his usual enthusiastic way, name-checking the fans and friends who were leaving their comments and love-hearts down the side of the screen, with Steve blowing kisses and greeting them in Spanish and Italian… Jenny, Cristina, Rita from LA, Michaela, Steve Webster, Gaz de Vere (“my old schoolmate”) and Richard Miller, early Spandau’s second bassist. Other odd celebs looked in, such as Nicholas (aka Nick) Heyward ex-Haircut 100 who readily accepted Steve’s invitation to join him for the next live event (though obvs that cannot happen while we are all Staying At Home).

Facebook Live, video, chat, pop music, Steve Norman, Sabrina Winter, Sheila Norman,

Live on Facebook: a finale from Sabrina, Sheila and Steve Norman

Half the time Steve was embracing his guitar, strumming some blues grooves, a Spandau riff or a Beatles classic. As he put it: “Only noodlin’ really, but the whole point of this is to come together”. He tried a bit of True on sax but switched back to guitar and then had a senior moment with Bowie’s Absolute Beginners when the right chords strangely eluded him. In between, Mum and Sabrina as director popped into shot too.

700 viewers left comments while watching the 54-minute webcast and by this morning 2,000 more had watched on catch-up, which really isn’t bad. What did disappoint was a shonky soundtrack in parts when every other word kept dropping out, but Steve’s effervescence made the whole show a right old laugh. Best of all was Mum coming in to sit on his knee and neatly duetting on the same guitar. Next stop, Top of the Pops, Sheila!

➢ Catch up viewing Steve Norman Live
at Facebook, 23 March 2020

THEN NICK HEYWARD HOPS ON BOARD

Nick Heyward, Facebook Live, pop music, corona, diversion,

Ommmmmmm: Nick Heyward on Facebook Live


■ SO HERE WE ARE TWO DAYS LATER and Nick Heyward is also live on Facebook doing his own thing from Florida where he enjoys the sunshine with Sarah, his partner. Nick, sporting summer shorts, takes an age to find his feet in front of his online audience but once he turns to guitar and piano he gets on with delivering his shamelessly romantic recent tunes. Slight audio variations result from relying on what seems like an autotuned internal mic, but hey! Then, as the setting sun evidently darkens his room, Nick closes his eyes and embarks on a short zen-like meditation – “Ommmmmm” – during which the cheeky Jacqui Ruddock comments: “Never thought I’d get to sleep with Nick Heyward.” Toodle-oo, he replies.

➢ Catch up on Nick Heyward on
Facebook Live, 25 March 2020

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➤ Starman given new life by David McAlmont in concert

 david bowie, David McAlmont, Hideaway, Janette Mason, Sam Obernik, Wall-to-Wall-Bowie, live concert, jazz, review, Andy Polaris,

David McAlmont (centre) live at Hideaway: pictured with Simon Little on bass, vocalist Sam Obernik and Emlyn Francis on guitar


❏ Former singer Andy Polaris joins an annual celebration of David Bowie’s music at Streatham’s Hideaway wine-and-dine venue in south London. Here’s an excerpt from his review at his website apolarisview . . .

We were told Wall to Wall Bowie was a celebration, not a wake, as vocalist and songwriter David McAlmont unleashed a varied selection from Bowie’s back catalogue with an accomplished backing band. Dressed almost low-key in dark shirt and trousers, he opened with Watch That Man and immediately we realised these would be interpretations, not pure Xerox copies, and all the better for it.

Suffragette City followed, then Sweet Thing, one of the first stand-outs of the night from Diamond Dogs, elegantly capturing this favourite moody gem, stripped back to reveal the solemn beauty of the lyrics. Starman dazzled despite McAlmont’s irritation at suffering from a cold. Partner in crime Sam Obernik poured herself into a leopard print rubber dress and joined him for vocal duties on theatrical renditions of Changes and Life on Mars. The jaunty duet of Let’s Dance and an almost louche Turkish-infused lilt to The Man Who Sold The World made me imagine them as the house band for David Lynch’s Twin Peaks…/ Continued at apolarisview

➢ A Wall to Wall Bowie five-track EP featuring McAlmont and Obernik is available via musical director Janette Mason’s shop

BLACKSTAR LIVE AT HIDEAWAY IN 2016

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