Category Archives: London

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.”

WHAT THE PRESS ARE SAYING

➢ 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.

REMASTERED UK FOOTAGE, MANCHESTER 1963

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

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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.

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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

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➤ 40 years on, Ridgers casts an honest spotlight on the birth of punk

Derek Ridgers, punk ,Vortex , Clare Thom

“I didn’t make a very good punk,” says photographer Derek Ridgers, here snapped by a passing punk at the Vortex in 1977, with future Blitz Kid Clare Thom at right

◼ THE CLICHES ABOUT PUNK are the rage, the nihilism, the safety pins. In fact, punk dawned in 1976, like all British youth cults, as a fashion statement that trumped those clichés. A new and powerful photo book from Derek Ridgers titled Punk London 1977 shows in 152 pages just how considered were its style leaders who had to invent their own iconoclastic looks before they could be bought off the peg. There were no mohican haircuts at the Roxy club when it opened in December 1976 and for 100 days became the platform for Generation X, the Clash, the Jam, the Heartbreakers, the Boys, Buzzcocks, Siouxsie and the Banshees and a raucous wave of rebel music that spread to Soho’s Vortex and the 100 Club.

Ridgers says: “In ’76 the audience became more interesting than the bands.” As he turned his camera away from the stage, he focused on the unique characters in the audience who were creating a new movement through self-expression. “Most of the early punks didn’t look like punks anyway. They just looked like young people who would alter their clothes: very often it would be school uniform or there would be bin liners, a few safety pins but not very many. The ethos of punk is really ‘Do it yourself’. It’s not dressing up in leather and having a mohican.”

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The book launched last night in Mayfair with a vibrant exhibition of its photos and a swell party hosted by menswear designer Paul Smith and the British Fashion Council. Rightly Vogue.com asked Ridgers yesterday: What did you wear while documenting these kids? He replied: “Often I’d be going to gigs straight from work, so I simply wore what I’d worn there—usually a jacket, open-neck shirt, and jeans. I was not a punk by any means.” There’s a key picture of the Damned playing the Roxy in early 1977 where Ridgers is visible in the top right-hand corner, standing on the stairs, in glasses, open-neck shirt, cardigan, smiling. “I didn’t make a very good punk,” he says. No, just a very perceptive footnote to history!

Dazed Digital probed further and asked: Out of all the scenes you’ve photographed, which have you most felt part of? Ridgers replied: “There must be a part of me that wanted to be part of all of them. I see my photography as a very vicarious thing. I suppose if I didn’t wear glasses and if I’d been a little bit more of a macho type of guy, I would have been a skinhead. I don’t think I could’ve ever been a punk or a new romantic.”

As an observer he carved out his own beat along the labyrinthine path British youth culture took during the exotic 80s and became the go-to lensman for his take on more extreme outsider cults. Ridgers told Dazed: “There were a lot of photographers around but I stuck it out longer. Woody Allen said something about success is 80% just being there. It’s the thing with me – I was there. I can’t make any other claims apart from the fact that I was there. Through everything. On the edge looking in. With a camera I was able to stare with some legitimacy.”

The trash mag Polyesterzine asks Ridgers if he could compare today’s Zeitgeist to any of the eras he had shot. “No, not at all,” he replies. “The late ’70s and early ’80s was a very different, much darker time. The streets of London were a mess. The poor guy [I photographed] who had ‘We are the flowers in your dustbin’ tattooed across his forehead had it exactly right. They did all seem like the flowers in a dustbin. . . Things are very different now because a lot of those little clubs don’t exist. Soho for instance, where nearly half my nightlife photographs were taken, is rapidly changing. There isn’t the same after dark frisson of excitement about the place any more. Gentrification and the need for developers to maximise the profit from every square inch of the place means that there just aren’t any scruffy, little basement clubs left. Those scruffy, little basement clubs were the area’s lifeblood.”

➢ Punk London 1977 is published by Carpet Bombing Culture

Adam Ant, Jordan, Vortex, punk, Derek Ridgers,

Derek Ridgers immortalises the night that the pioneering punk icon Jordan sang with The Ants at the Vortex, and says today: “They played far better music IMHO than when Adam became a big star in the 80s”

A GALAXY OF GALLERIES OF RIDGERS’ PIX

➢ At i-D – light on punk’s incendiary early days

➢ AllAccess Online in the cauldron of youth culture

➢ Dazed Digital pictures Punk London

➢ Accent shoots Brutus SS16 with Derek Ridgers

Captain Sensible , Damned , punk music, Roxy , Derek Ridgers

Captain Sensible fronts the Damned at the Roxy in 1977: spot Ridgers the cameraman top right in glasses and open-neck shirt. Photographed by Erica Echenberg

Don Letts, Andrew Czezowski , punk,Roxy

28 March 1977: deejay Don Letts and club promoter Andrew Czezowski outside the Roxy when it closed, three months after giving birth to punk. Photographed by Erica Echenberg

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2016 ➤ Bid for your own rare photo of David Bowie

David Bowie , exhibition, auction, Labyrinth, Photography,Chalkie Davies

1985: Bowie as Jareth the Goblin King in Labyrinth, photographed during filming by Chalkie Davies who says today that he “only shot this one single frame”

◼ FOR THE NEXT 12 DAYS in central London a free exhibition titled David Bowie: Fame, Fashion, Photography is showing previously unseen archive photographs of the pop icon who died in January. The event is organised by a supporter of Cancer Research UK and curated by the V&A, with the aim of raising money through a silent online auction of 27 lots, of which seven are actual-size contact sheets. All images are signed by their photographers – Chalkie Davies, Tony McGee and Denis O’Regan – who shared working relationships with our hero.

Three pictures in the room command serious attention: Davies’ stunning portrait of Bowie in the film Labyrinth has caught a unique sensual intensity, enhanced by the stylised goblin makeup. At 21 inches square, it is well worth the starting price of £2,500 set by the photographer. Another contribution by Davies groups within one frame nine strong images from Ziggy Stardust’s farewell concert in 1973 showing both Bowie and Mick Ronson live on-stage. Given that each shot measures roughly 10×14 inches, great value at a starting price of £3,000.

One of the largest photographs in the room is by Denis O’Regan: a potent live concert picture of the short-haired Bowie during his 1978 UK tour showcasing Low and “Heroes”. At six-foot square and mounted on aluminium, this black-and-white image is a snip at its £750 starting price.

David Bowie, Chalkie Davies, Tony McGee , Denis O’Regan photography , exhibition, auction, Cancer Research UK, Bidding in the auction continues online until the exhibition closes at 6:30pm on 19 June. While the lots have been framed and printed to museum quality, the auctioneer’s website proved confusing until it was pointed out that it failed both to identify the photographer alongside many photos and to specify what size of print a buyer would receive for opening bids that range between £350 and £3,000!

A limited-edition, numbered catalogue is on sale at the gallery which is in Heddon Street where Bowie was immortalised in 1972 on the album cover of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars. The exhibition space, donated by Regent Street and The Crown Estate, is described by Kevin Cann, author of the definitive guide to Bowie’s early life, Any Day Now, as “one of the natural gravitational points for many fans to pay their respect” after David’s passing.

David Bowie , exhibition, auction, Photography,Chalkie Davies, Denis O’Regan, Ziggy Stardust

Bowie, Fame, Fashion, Photography at The Hub: at left, Denis O’Regan’s wall of images with his 1978 performance picture at centre. On the far wall is Chalkie Davies’s montage of nine Ziggy Stardust stage images from 1973

➢ The exhibition Bowie, Fame, Fashion, Photography runs 7–19 June at The Hub, 10 Heddon Street, W1B 4BX and is free, but a timed-admission ticket is required by registering online at Eventbrite. What a palaver! 7 June update: Just after midday on the show’s first day there were 17 visitors in the gallery. Ten minutes later there were only five.

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2016 ➤ Telling it like it is, Mister Nightlife aka Swindells Junior

Dave Swindells,exhibition, talk, Doomed, nightlife, London

Dave Swindells at Doomed, in front of one of his photos of Taboo in 1985: “It was such an adventure, a crazy night in terms of what happened there, partly because there would be a whole suitcase load of ecstasy” (Photo by Shapersofthe80s)

◼ WE FIRST MET, I VAGUELY RECALL, at the Leadmill in that damp autumn of ’82 when Dave Swindells was still a student at Sheffield Uni. I was the hotshot “Man from The Face” doing a whistle-stop tour of Sheffield clubs for my monthly Nightlife column in Britain’s coolest subcultural magazine, so I was quite used to people standing in front of my camera trying to get into shot. Swindells on the other hand turned his back on me while he lined up his Kodak Box Brownie in a pathetic attempt to capture some new-wave synth band on the barely lit stage. I smiled smugly to myself at his teen gaucheness and leaned in paternally to whisper the advice I’d gleaned from another snapper of the night, Richard Young, himself emerging as the celebrity paparazzo we know and love today: “Give give it f/8 and push the film in the developer.”

The grateful Swindells gushed his thanks and asked: “Please, sir, how do I get into photography for a living?” – “Stick to what you know,” I replied sagely. “Why not photograph what your friends get up to at night?” Ha! I knew full well dark clubs were a nightmare to capture on the slow film of those years before digital, when the trickiest part was having to use flash at close quarters, which reduces faces to a white blotch.

Dave Swindells, Dalston, Doomed Gallery, talks, exhibition,nightlife, photography,

Flyer for the Swindells talk on Tuesday: explain this lot, Dave!

Within two years the little bastard had stabbed me in the back and was toting a very upmarket Pentax as Nightlife Editor of Time Out magazine – a job he then hung onto for the next 23 years!!! His photographs have been featured in i-D, The Face, The Observer etc, while swanning round the world on travel freebies. I’ve been kicking myself ever since.

Next Tuesday 3 May he’ll be telling us all how on earth he got away with it for so long. He’s giving a talk at some achingly on-fleek gallery in Dalston called Doomed, where there’ll be a display of photos and a limited edition Photocopy Club zine to take away. Dave’s title is “Keeping It Real” and he promises “a fascinating insight into the trends, attitudes, and nuances of London’s clubbers. Evocatively shooting the emergence of the rave scene in the late 1980s, Dave follows the journey from the wild attitude of rave to the night-time antics of modern day”.

Frankly, I can’t think of anybody better qualified to tell the tale of the past three decades of hedonism pursued to the hilt as only the Brits know how. Dave’s the one who’s got the proof in pictures, and how.

➢ Swindells keeps it real, 3 May from 6.30pm to 8.30 at Doomed Gallery, 65 Ridley Road, London, E8 2NP

6 May update: Catch Dave’s talk at Vimeo

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