Category Archives: Tributes

➤ Farewell Kansai the fashion genius who breathed the same colours as Bowie

Fashion, Japan, designer, stage costumes, Kansai Yamamoto, David Bowie,

Yamamoto’s second-best-ever tear-away garment, 1973: A white kimono-inspired floor-length cape, emblazoned with Japanese kanji letters spelling out “David Bowie” phonetically, but also translating to “One who spits out words in a fiery manner”. Bowie was the first Western artist to use a hikinuki quick costume-change by dramatically ripping off the cape to reveal his leotard beneath. (Photography Asahi Shimbun)

The Japanese fashion designer Kansai Yamamoto – known for styling David Bowie and creating some of Ziggy Stardust’s most flamboyant outfits – died last week of leukaemia aged 76. He went on to be a huge influence on a generation of younger talents from Jean Paul Gaultier to Hedi Slimane and also worked with Elton John and Stevie Wonder. Here are extracts from some tributes…

➢ Yamamoto obituary in The Times of London, 28 July 2020:

When Kansai Yamamoto first saw David Bowie descending to the stage on a disco ball, he felt a physical sensation that was like a “chemical reaction”. It was 1973. Because a friend had pleaded with him to stop what he was doing in Tokyo and come to New York, the Japanese designer had taken a 13-hour flight and then rushed from JFK airport to a front-row seat at Radio City Music Hall. When Yamamoto saw Bowie wearing one of his colourful outfits, he thought the long journey had been worth it.

He said: “He was wearing all black and then all of a sudden that disappeared and he was wearing full colour. It was very dramatic and the audience all rose to their feet, so there was a standing ovation right at the beginning. I found David’s aesthetic and interest in transcending gender boundaries shockingly beautiful. It felt like the beginning of a new age.” Yamamoto would go on to play a full part in ushering in this new age… / Continued at Times Online

Fashion, Japan, designer, stage costumes, Kansai Yamamoto, David Bowie

LEFT – A fitting for Bowie in Japan, 1973: The elaborate clash of prints on his asymmetric knitted leotard are derived from the tattoo patterns of yakuza (organised crime syndicates). Kansai Yamamoto himself sports a matching mock turtleneck. Plus doughnut rings for wrists and ankles. (Photography Tajima Kazunal) . . . RIGHT – Space Samurai for Bowie, 1973: The metallic-looking suit in padded satin evokes the split-skirt hakama worn by Japanese samurai as armour. Designed by Kansai Yamamoto for the Aladdin Sane tour. (Bowie Archive)

➢ From the fashion section of The New York Times, 27 July 2020:

Kansai Yamamoto, the unapologetically flamboyant fashion designer whose love of color, unfettered imagination and exploration of genderless dressing caught the eye of David Bowie and helped define the look of his alter ego, Ziggy Stardust, died on July 21 in Japan.

Kansai, as Mr Yamamoto was generally known, was not as well known as some of his more high-profile Japanese fashion contemporaries, including Yohji Yamamoto, Issey Miyake and Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons. But it was Kansai who led the way for a generation of Japanese design talents to make their mark on the Western industry.

In 1971, he was among the first Japanese designers to show in London — a full decade before Ms Kawakubo and the other Mr Yamamoto. His signature aesthetic of sculptural shapes, clashing textures and prints, and eye-popping color combinations attracted industry attention.

Kansai’s debut collection was splashed across the cover of Harpers & Queen magazine with the tagline “Explosion from Tokyo” and his growing profile led to collaborations with the decade’s most important musician showmen, including Elton John and Stevie Wonder in addition to Mr Bowie, with whom he formed a longstanding creative relationship.

“Color is like the oxygen we are both breathing in the same space,” Kansai once said of his work with Mr Bowie… / Continued at NYT online

“When David wore my women’s clothes, people
were very surprised. My clothes were designed
to be worn by women. When I think of it,
it was a bizarre thing for him to do”
– Kansai Yamamoto

➢ From the fashion section of The Guardian, 27 July 2020:

Kansai Yamamoto was known for his singular aesthetic of bold, avant-garde designs, clashing colours and patterns that often incorporated elements from Japanese culture. His long-standing artistic partnership with Bowie would go on to inspire many younger fashion designers, including Jean Paul Gaultier, Hedi Slimane and Raf Simons, and became a major reference for modern gender-defying fashion.

Bowie was attracted to Yamamoto’s ability to design excessive, sculptural pieces which seemed unconstrained by the confines of gender. In turn, Yamamoto was impressed by Bowie’s ability to put this aesthetic in mainstream popular culture. It also helped that Bowie was slim enough to wear sample size. He said: “My clothes were normally made for professional models – this was the first time they had been used for an artist or singer”… / Continued at Guardian online

Fashion, Japan, designer, stage costumes, Kansai Yamamoto, David Bowie,

Yamamoto’s favourite creation for Bowie, 1973: The sculptural Tokyo Pop black vinyl jumpsuit with sequinned stripes and bowed legs is the best tear-away garment ever made. It was inspired by hikinuki, the quick-change technique for kabuki actors to be suddenly revealed wearing a different outfit – in Bowie’s case his flame-red skimpy Woodland Creatures jumpsuit on the Aladdin Sane tour. (Photography Masayoshi Sukita)

“Why was Andy Warhol obsessed with canned food?
Every artist has his own thing going on.
I often use Japanese motifs and sometimes wonder
if I’m choosing them because I’m Japanese”
– Kansai Yamamoto

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2020 ➤ Bowie on Kraftwerk and his tribute to Florian Schneider

Kraftwerk, Florian Schneider, Ralf Hütter, pop music, 1970s

Kraftwerk at Düsseldorf station, 1977: Florian Schneider at left. (Photo, Frähling)

➢ Extracts from some vintage interviews republished
yesterday at David Bowie’s website…

❏ You’ve no doubt heard the sad news regarding the passing of Kraftwerk founder, Florian Schneider, aged 73. A spokesperson said he “passed away from a short cancer disease just a few days after his 73rd birthday”, his birthday being April 7. Schneider formed Kraftwerk with Ralf Hütter in 1970 and remained a member until his departure in 2008. He is pictured bottom left in our photo at Düsseldorf Hbf station with the rest of the band.

In a Kraftwerk feature for MOJO magazine Ralf Hütter responded to the question “How important was David Bowie’s infatuation with you?” thus:

“That was very important for us, because it linked what we were doing with the rock mainstream. Bowie used to tell everyone that we were his favourite group, and in the mid-Seventies the rock press used to hang on every word from his mouth. We met him when he played Düsseldorf (April 8, 1976) on one of his first European tours. He was travelling by Mercedes, listening to nothing but Autobahn all the time.”

In 1978 Bowie recalled the meeting in an interview: “I like them as people very much, Florian in particular. Very dry. When I go to Düsseldorf they take me to cake shops, and we have huge pastries. They wear their suits. A bit like Gilbert and George… When I came over to Europe – because it was the first tour I ever did of Europe (1976), the last time – I got myself a Mercedes to drive myself around in, because I still wasn’t flying at that time, and Florian saw it. He said, “What a wonderful car” and I said, “Yes, it used to belong to some Iranian prince, and he was assassinated and the car went on the market, and I got it for the tour.” And Florian said, “Ja, car always lasts longer.” With him it all has that edge. His whole cold emotion/warm emotion, I responded to that. Folk music of the factories.”

Kraftwerk immortalised the Düsseldorf meeting on the title track of the band’s 1977 album, Trans-Europe Express, in its lyric:

From station to station, back to Düsseldorf City,
Meet Iggy Pop and David Bowie…

David returned the compliment later the same year on the “Heroes” album, when he paid Florian the ultimate tribute by using his name for the title of V-2 Schneider.

❏ Bowie also spoke in some depth about Kraftwerk in an UNCUT interview several years back…

UNCUT: Many reasons have been suggested for moving to Berlin. Can you remember why the city appealed?

DB: Life in LA had left me with an overwhelming sense of foreboding. For many years Berlin had appealed to me as a sort of sanctuary. It was one of the few cities where I could move around in virtual anonymity… Since my teenage years I had obsessed on the angst-ridden, emotional work of the expressionists, both artists and film makers, and Berlin had been their spiritual home. This was the nub of Die Brücke movement, Max Rheinhardt, Brecht and where Metropolis and Caligari had originated. It was an art form that mirrored life not by event but by mood. This was where I felt my work was going. My attention had been swung back to Europe with the release of Kraftwerk’s Autobahn in 1974. The preponderance of electronic instruments convinced me that this was an area that I had to investigate a little further.

Much has been made of Kraftwerk’s influence on our Berlin albums. Most of it lazy analysis, I believe. Kraftwerk’s approach to music had in itself little place in my scheme. Theirs was a controlled, robotic, extremely measured series of compositions, almost a parody of minimalism. One had the feeling that Florian and Ralf were completely in charge of their environment, and that their compositions were well prepared and honed before entering the studio.

David Bowie, Station to Station, album sleeve , pop music

Bowie’s album Station to Station: it preceded Trans-Europe Express by a year

My work tended to expressionist mood pieces, the protagonist (myself) abandoning himself to the zeitgeist (a popular word at the time), with little or no control over his life. The music was spontaneous for the most part and created in the studio.

In substance too, we were poles apart. Kraftwerk’s percussion sound was produced electronically, rigid in tempo, unmoving. Ours was the mangled treatment of a powerfully emotive drummer, Dennis Davis. The tempo not only “moved” but also was expressed in more than “human” fashion. Kraftwerk supported that unyielding machine-like beat with all synthetic sound-generating sources. We used an R&B band. Since Station to Station the hybridization of R&B and electronics had been a goal of mine. Indeed, according to a Seventies interview with Brian Eno, this is what had drawn him to working with me.

One other lazy observation I would like to point up is the assumption that Station to Station was homage to Kraftwerk’s Trans-Europe Express. In reality Station to Station preceded Trans-Europe Express by quite some time, ’76 and ’77 respectively. Btw, the title drives from the Stations of the Cross and not the railway system.

What I WAS passionate about in relation to Kraftwerk was their singular determination to stand apart from stereotypical American chord sequences and their wholehearted embrace of a European sensibility displayed through their music. This was their very important influence on me.

UNCUT: V-2 Schneider – a tribute to Florian?
DB: Of course.

So long Florian.


❏ ABOVE: Kraftwerk playing Autobahn in 1975 on the BBC science strand Tomorrow’s World to demonstrate their “Machinemusik”. This was their first UK appearance on British television.


❏ ABOVE: View the long-haired radicals in Kraftwerk reinventing German music from “Stunde null” in the BBC Four documentary Krautrock: The Rebirth of Germany.

➢ Florian Schneider: the enigma whose codes broke open pop music – Alexis Petridis in The Guardian – “Schneider had kept such a low profile after leaving Kraftwerk that rumours of his death had circulated before, only to be revealed as erroneous.”

➢ How Florian Schneider and Kraftwerk influenced five decades of music – Mark Savage at BBC News

➢ How Kraftwerk’s synth wizard Florian Schneider rewired the world – Rob Sheffield at Rolling Stone – “It’s all electric energy, anyway,” Schneider said, summing up a sonic philosophy that upended the Seventies rock ideal, and influenced everyone from Depeche Mode to Derrick May.

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2019 ➤ Scott Walker: a singular figure in art and ideas

Scott Walker,originality ,obituary, singer, Jake Walters

Scott Walker photographed in October 2012 by Jake Walters

A REVEALING APPRECIATION of Scott Walker appears in today’s Observer obituaries of the decade … Co-director of Artangel Michael Morris recalls the great experimental musician as a witty and charming man who freed himself from the trappings of fame:

He’s a completely singular figure in late 20th-century, early 21st-century art and ideas. Scott’s work doesn’t fit into a cultural compartment: he was interested in all forms of human expression. . . Scott was held in such high regard by so many other artists. David Bowie often acknowledged his influence, as does Brian Eno. I think they also revered his ability to cast off the mantle of celebrity and focus simply on the work.

He was not in any way caught up in the myth of Scott Walker. You just felt that you were working with a very precise, open mind, someone who was completely uninterested in the trappings of image or fame. Bike or the bus were his preferred modes of travel. I think he’d found a way to live and work outside of the public gaze that was much more liberating and creative. . .   / Continued online

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
I interviewed Scott Walker in 1967 at the very moment he was transitioning from teen idol into a more serious solo icon

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➤ 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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➤ Those ‘things’ Blade Runner’s Hauer had seen…

THE DUTCH ACTOR BEST KNOWN for his role in the 1982 film Blade Runner, has died aged 75, CBS News reports today. Rutger Hauer played the murderous replicant Roy Batty on a desperate quest to prolong his artificially shortened life in post-apocalyptic, 21st-century Los Angeles. Only two years ago director Ridley Scott revealed that Hauer himself wrote his anti-hero’s much-quoted “I’ve Seen Things” soliloquy for his dying moments. The rain-soaked Batty looked back over his extraordinary existence, saying: “All those moments will be lost in time. Like tears in rain. Time to die.”
➢ Rutger Hauer, Blade Runner star, dies at 75 – CBS News

➢ Rutger Hauer obituary in Rolling Stone

DIRECTOR SCOTT ON HOW IT CAME ABOUT

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