Category Archives: TV

➤ Nutty scientist finds himself out of his depth in the shallows of pop

Trevor Horn, pop music, production, science, TV, documentary

Trevor Horn: sharing his own tried and tested secrets of pop onscreen (© BBC)

RECORD PRODUCER TREVOR HORN – who helped shape the sounds of such 80s acts as ABC, Grace Jones, Pet Shop Boys and Frankie – last night shared five keys to being a successful pop artist. During the repeat of The Secret Science of Pop on BBC4 he said:

1 – Be able to write or have access to the best material.
2 – Have a really great voice, across two octaves.
3 – Have personal charm and charisma.
4 – Be physically and mentally strong.
5 – And, you’ve got to want it.

All of which made a deal more sense than the deluded “scientist” – a professor at London’s Imperial College who doesn’t deserve to be named! – who attempted to analyse success in the pop charts of the past 50 years by deconstructing thousands of hit tunes note by note. Nothing he proposed made any sense at all and after wasting 60 minutes of our time he shamelessly admitted he had “singularly failed” to out-flank Horn.

As compensation, Horn’s production team shared quite a lot of their intuitive magic in perhaps 15 of those minutes. Shame the whole documentary wasn’t about them instead.

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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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2016 ➤ Prince Rogers Nelson: his raunchy earliest videos and his last

Prince Rogers Nelson
(7 June 1958 – 21 April 2016)

1979: I WANNA BE YOUR LOVER (OFFICIAL VIDEO)

1980: MIDNIGHT SPECIAL IN ZEBRA UNDERWEAR

I Wanna Be Your Lover ,Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad, Prince Rogers Nelson , TV, Midnight Special, pop music,

➢ Above: For his first TV performance in January 1980 Prince sports zebra-print underwear, black leggings, stack-heeled boots, and long hair giving us the first two tracks from Prince the album, I Wanna Be Your Lover and Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad. On NBC’s The Midnight Special host Wolfman Jack says: “There’s nothing our next guest can’t do. He arranged, produced, composed, and performed his last album entirely by himself.”

1991: GETT OFF FOR MTV

Prince, Gett Off , New Power Generation, funk, MTV Video Awards,

Prince’s 1991 MTV Video Awards performance of Gett Off with The New Power Generation might be the sexiest thing ever aired on TV. Click on pic to run video in new window

2014: BREAKFAST CAN WAIT (OFFICIAL, almost as sexy)

➢ WATCH 7 OF PRINCE’S BEST TV PERFORMANCES

Beyonce, Grammys 2004, Prince Rogers Nelson , TV, Purple Rain

Grammy Awards 2004, on video: Another killer rendition of Purple Rain with Beyoncé before duetting in Baby I’m a Star

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s:
Prince RIP: ‘A funny cat’ and ‘sole authentic genius’
of the 1980s

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2016 ➤ Van Jones reveals Prince’s humanitarian activities to CNN

➢ American political activist and friend reveals extent of Prince’s philanthropy on CNN – reported at Bring Me The News:

Stories about the Purple One’s generosity are starting to emerge in the days following his death, with his close friend Van Jones lifting the curtain on his humanitarian endeavours in an interview with CNN (which you can watch above).

Prince, YesWeCode

July 2014: Prince at the #YesWeCode Launch, at Essence Music Festival

As a practising Jehovah’s Witness, Jones says, Prince was “not allowed to speak publicly about any of his good acts” but Jones felt that now was the time people knew more about his charitable giving over the years.

Chief among the projects he helped fund is #YesWeCode, an initiative led by Jones aiming to teach 100,000 low-income, urban youths learn how to code to help them get jobs in the tech world. Jones says 15 major technology companies now work with “kids in the hood” to help them break into Silicon Valley through the project.

According to the L.A. Times, Jones said the inspiration for the idea came following the Trayvon Martin verdict, with Prince saying to Jones: “Every time people see a young black man wearing a hoodie, they think, he’s a thug. But if they see a young white guy wearing a hoodie they think, oh that might be Mark Zuckerberg. That might be a dot-com billionaire” . . . / Continued online

➢ Elsewhere at Shapersofthe80s:
Prince ‘A funny cat’ and ‘sole authentic genius’ of the 1980s

➢ Elsewhere at Shapersofthe80s:
Prince’s raunchy earliest videos and his last

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