❚ LADY GAGA WAS OFFICIALLY the most played artist on UK radio last year. Bad Romance, the first single from her album The Fame Monster, topped the annual airplay chart compiled by music licensing company PPL, with Alejandro at number three. The previous year’s chart was topped by Lily Allen, who has since retired from the music business.
1 — Lady Gaga: Bad Romance
2 — Alicia Keys: Empire State of Mind
3 — Lady Gaga: Alejandro
4 — Plan B: She Said
5 — Kylie Minogue: All the Lovers
6 — Olly Murs: Please Don’t Let Me Go
7 — Ke$ha: Tik Tok
8 — Florence and the Machine: Rabbit Heart
9 — Train: Hey, Soul Sister
10 — Kings of Leon: Sex on Fire
❚ SHOT ON TOUR somewhere in Europe last year for Jonny Kline’s video tour diary. Spandau Ballet’s bass player Martin Kemp clamped a camera to his guitar to grab this down-the-neck lesson in fingerwork… ➢ VIEW ♫ Kemp’s nine-minute clip recently posted at Vimeo
Somewhere in the background Tony Hadley’s unmistakable voice is giving us Fight For Ourselves. In the opening shots Steve Norman introduces the band members — and yes, that’s his saxophone trying to steal the limelight later.
Kemp’s instrument of choice is a British Wal bass and it’s surprising to recall that right from the start he maintained: “I learnt to play bass in order to get into the group, not because I liked music.” These days, as he grooves away onstage Martin steers his bass fondly like an old jalopy, nicely improvising and developing themes of his own, where many bassists think all they have to do is underline a thumping beat.
Back in the early 80s he said: “I hate bass players — most of them just blend in and don’t add anything. I’m a showman. Some bass lines I’ve written are really catchy: I’m proud of Lifeline because you hear people humming it, not the hookline! The essence of the Spandau sound is melody, Tony’s voice obviously, Steve’s sax lines, Gary’s top line, my bass lines. We all think in terms of melodies.”
❚ DAVID BOWIE HAS BEEN THE SINGLE MOST INFLUENTIAL FORCE IN POPULAR MUSIC SINCE [Fill in the benchmark of your choice, eg:] Mozart/ Schubert/ Marie Lloyd/ Gershwin/ Little Richard/ Sondheim/ Spinal Tap. In which case, this Christmas there can be no better present for anybody with the slightest interest in the godlike creator of Ziggy Stardust than Kevin Cann’s new photobook Any Day Now, The London Years 1947-1974 (Adelita, £25).
It is impossible adequately to acknowledge the trainspotterish, yet deeply rewarding scope of this sheer labour of love that has amassed 850 pictures — friends, lovers, costumes, contracts, doodles, laundry bills, performances, candid snaps — on 336 pages. Why, it even has a backstage photo I’ve never seen of the day I met Bowie at the London Palladium when he sang Space Oddity for charity (and met the cult ukulele player Tiny Tim, going on to record one of his B-sides, Fill Your Heart, on Hunky Dory).
This book is a feast of Bowie-ana served up like La Grande Bouffe, in ever more tempting waffeur-thin slices. Cann is a veteran chronicler of the pop star’s work and here neither attempts a long-form biography, nor detracts from Nicholas Pegg’s much more musically appreciative survey, The Complete David Bowie, last updated in 2006. Any Day Now is more a chronology that feels as if it has an entry for every day in the star’s first three decades, running to 140,000 words (original interviews, press reports, eye-witness accounts), all diced and dispersed through the calendar. Contributions include a foreword by Kenneth Pitt, Bowie’s gifted manager 1967-1970.
Early cover designs for Any Day Now, publicised during the past year. At centre, the Palladium performance of Space Oddity
A typical spread [see below] might contain six images and as many short items, some of which are set in a font so small as to demand a magnifying glass for reading. An efficient index helps you to pick your topic and start panning for gold.
So for example, the “seminal” filmed version of Space Oddity, Bowie’s biggest hit, that has been exhumed then forgotten four times in the past 40 years, is finally accounted for in all its charmingly improvised glory. Since 2005, we have been able nonchalantly to click on YouTube to view this paradigm of all pop videos dating from before the word was invented. Yet originally it was a mere segment in a half-hour TV film about Bowie titled Love You Till Tuesday (LYTT) and directed by Malcolm Thomson.
While America was testing its first unmanned Apollo Lunar Module in 1968, the Space Oddity segment was of course inspired by that year’s visionary 70mm movie release, Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 A Space Odyssey. Cann’s chronology documents Thomson filming what Bowie evidently intended as a tongue-in-cheek spoof from its conception in Oct ’68 to wrap in Feb ’69. Bowie wrote the song itself, a forelorn meditation on love and fame, as his own love-life was falling apart and after viewing the Kubrick film “while stoned” (allegedly) that January, six months before the first Moon landing.
Ultimately in a studio in Greenwich, Bowie dons a barely-plausible zip-up silver space suit, blue visored helmet and Major Tom breast-plate while Samantha Bond and Suzanne Mercer as Barbarella-esque astro angels (more ’68 iconography), flaunting ludicrous blonde wigs and diaphanous gowns, simulate weightlessness among inflatable plastic furniture. It’s a modest little dig at Swinging 60s ephemera to set beside Barbarella, Blow-up and the incomparable Modesty Blaise.
Despite the single spending 14 weeks in the charts in 1969 and reaching No 5, Cann reports, TV networks showed “no interest” in the film, LYTT, containing this musical jewel, so it did not have its first public airing until 1972, on the BBC’s Old Grey Whistle Test. It then vanished until 1975 and the re-issue of Space Oddity when the clip was supplied as a promo to broadcasters, which doubtless helped the song’s progress to No 1 in the charts. Even then, the film clip did not receive a release until an album of same name, LYTT, came along in 1984. We then had an even longer wait until a DVD release in 2005 delivered the remastered version we enjoy today.
❏ Not many people know this, 1 – In the same month, Feb 1969, Bowie auditioned for the hippy stage musical Hair! Twice! [Any Day Now, page 146]
❏ Not many people know this, 2 – The book’s timeline ends in 1974 because Bowie left the UK on March 29 that year, aged 27, and has never resumed residency here since. Sob! Onboard the SS France bound for New York, the harmonica legend and Gershwin protege Larry Adler gives a recital. When the crew hear that Bowie is not going to do likewise while aboard and express their disappointment, Bowie gives them an impromptu performance in the canteen: 10 songs including Space Oddity. A few crew members took instruments and they played with him. What a jam session that must have been!
Spread from Any Day Now, the new book about Bowie’s formative years: here seen in his David Jones era when he formed his first band the Kon-rads at the age of 15
Another spread from Any Day Now, designed by Melissa Alaverdy: Bowie learning white-faced mime under Lindsay Kemp
Another spread from Any Day Now, designed by Melissa Alaverdy: Bowie is seen here with Yellow Submarine-era Beatles
➢ Why there will never be another David Bowie— Caspar Llewellyn-Smith says Lady Gaga has got it wrong if she thinks the Thin White Duke’s brilliance comes down merely to striking a decent pose (from The Observer, Oct 10, 2010)
❚ IN THE SPACE OF TWO MONTHSThe Only Way Is Essex has become “totally must-watch TV”, an addiction and an education for anybody who does not live in Essex. The huge county lies along the north bank of the Thames estuary, stretching from the east of London to the coast, and socially it might as well be another nation. “I compare Essex to LA — we live the same lifestyle, we’ve got as much money and got the same tans,” says hunky reality-star and club promoter Mark Wright, 23.
“The boobs may be fake” say the opening titles but the cast of 20-somethings are “real people” thrust into to this enhanced reality show that is the jaw-dropping hit of the season. They’ve given the English language new buzzwords spoken in their unique variant on Estuary English: “jel”, “vajazzle”, “shu’ up”, and “whatta we like?” Get up to speed with YouTube’s clips ahead of series two, plus the fight-back from authentic East-End Londoners.
The 10-episode series was filmed mainly in the towns of Brentwood where the The Sugar Hut bar is located, Gants Hill, Chigwell, Buckhurst Hill, and The Manor House nightclub in Woodford Bridge. It was shot only days before being broadcast, presumably so cast members had little chance to object to the odd scene where they might have felt like prize twerps. Unsurprisingly, ITV2 has received plenty of complaints for the show’s “negative representation of Essex”. Surprisingly, the first series was such minority cult viewing on ITV2 between Oct 10 and Nov 10 that its biggest single audience was only 1.2m viewers.
The tabloid press was unusually slow in conceding that the show made compelling viewing. Series two faces one mighty hurdle that may well stymie the innocent charm of the original format — key members of the cast are being snapped up by pushy big-hitting agents who will no doubt insist on contracts that guarantee more respec’ for the talent.
A Christmas special called The Only Way Is Essexmas to due air at 9pm on Christmas Eve.
❏ XMAS UPDATE — The paradox of such a calculated TV format is how quickly it backfires. The Christmas special was as joyless as the format is heartless. In the end, these non-professional, often tongue-tied actors are simply pushed from one pedestrian stunt to another daft costume party set-up, where they are humiliated on camera and in front of their friends as their relationships crumble and their social ineptitude is laid bare. The two or three fun boys and girls in the cast have been reduced to polyfilla between the slimebags whose mums and dads really ought to tell them what prats they are making of themselves. The pet “micro-pig” as Christmas present proved to be a cringemaking booby-trap, just like Arg’s party singalong, while the two-timing antics of lothario Mark and his female sidekicks were blatantly egged on by the TV professionals. The crude splicing to turn shots into scenes indicates how desperately short of plausible footage the producers are. The Essexmas special stank of shameless exploitation by all at Lime Pictures.
❏ ESSEX IS OF COURSE the county which has created almost every British subculture since World War 2, from Mods to Soulboys-and-girls to Vajazzlers ! Essex Man and Essex Girl are pejorative terms that have been colloquial currency for 30 years. Essex Man was rated as a serious political force in the 1979, 1983 and 1987 elections which put Margaret Thatcher in power and kept the Conservative Party there. The stereotypical Essex Girl can be heard before you see her coming, she wears white stiletto heels, peroxide blonde hair, an orange tan, and is famed for being free with her sexual favours. Essex Girl jokes reached mania levels in the 90s when the classic of its kind went like this. Q — What’s the difference between an Essex Girl and a supermarket trolley? A — A supermarket trolley has a mind of its own.
Lola, the Essex girl group: Lauren, Jess, Amba & Linzi being groomed for pop success, though by the Christmas special Linzi had dropped out
The hatmaker’s Blue Peter moment: Stephen Jones conducts a masterclass online today at ShowStudio.com
❚ HERE IS BRITAIN’S LEADING MILLINER, captured within his first hour online creating a unique piece for the ShowStudio shop’s latest exhibition, Florist. The live stream for two hours today amounted to a millinery masterclass by following Stephen Jones’s creative process through to conclusion. The finished hat will be exhibited and available for sale.
Wielding a wooden poupée head, he reveals: “The main thing about millinery is that you’re trying to make a 2D fabric 3D. So you’re moulding it over a form like a wooden block… and stretching it and it’s staying in that shape. Hat blocks are the same thing as shoe lasts and you can get them from lots of different places.”
On his theme of Glamour on a Budget, Jones has been offering handy hints and taking questions through the Livestudio web page where he informed us that the patron saint of millinery is St Catherine (martyred c AD305 on the notorious breaking wheel, known since as the Catherine wheel, from which of course we derive the firework of that name). Next stop: Blue Peter?
Princess Julia was in the studio and playing: ♫ Doing the Lambeth Walk, oi! ♫
The result: Jones with the first of today’s hats on his theme of Glamour on a Budget at ShowStudio.com
Second Jones creation today: a beret festooned with fresh flowers, thistles and seasonal fruit. Video captured from ShowStudio.com
➢ Choose “View full site” – then in the blue bar atop your mobile page, click the three horizontal lines linking to many blue themed pages with background articles.
MORE INTERESTING THAN MOST PEOPLE’S FANTASIES — THE SWINGING EIGHTIES 1978-1984
They didn’t call themselves New Romantics, or the Blitz Kids – but other people did.
“I’d find people at the Blitz who were possible only in my imagination. But they were real” — Stephen Jones, hatmaker, 1983. (Illustration courtesy Iain R Webb, 1983)
“The truth about those Blitz club people was more interesting than most people’s fantasies” — Steve Dagger, pop group manager, 1983
“See David Johnson’s fabulously detailed website Shapers of the 80s to which I am hugely indebted” – Political historian Dominic Sandbrook, in his book Who Dares Wins, 2019
“The (velvet) goldmine that is Shapers of the 80s” – Verdict of Chris O’Leary, respected author and blogger who analyses Bowie song by song at Pushing Ahead of the Dame
“The rather brilliant Shapers of the 80s website” – Dylan Jones in his Sweet Dreams paperback, 2021
A UNIQUE HISTORY
➢ WELCOME to the Swinging 80s ➢ THE BLOG POSTS on this front page report topical updates ➢ ROLL OVER THE MENU at page top to go deeper into the past ➢ FOR NEWS & MONTH BY MONTH SEARCH scroll down this sidebar
❏ Header artwork by Kat Starchild shows Blitz Kids Darla Jane Gilroy, Elise Brazier, Judi Frankland and Steve Strange, with David Bowie at centre in his 1980 video for Ashes to Ashes
VINCENT ON AIR 2022
✱ Deejay legend Robbie Vincent returned to JazzFM on Sundays 1-3pm in 2021… Catch Robbie’s JazzFM August Bank Holiday 2020 session thanks to AhhhhhSoul with four hours of “nothing but essential rhythms of soul, jazz and funk”.
SEARCH our 800 posts or ZOOM DOWN TO THE ARCHIVE INDEX
UNTOLD BLITZ STORIES
✱ If you thought there was no more to know about the birth of Blitz culture in 1980 then get your hands on a sensational book by an obsessive music fan called David Barrat. It is gripping, original and epic – a spooky tale of coincidence and parallel lives as mind-tingling as a Sherlock Holmes yarn. Titled both New Romantics Who Never Were and The Untold Story of Spandau Ballet! Sample this initial taster here at Shapers of the 80s
CHEWING THE FAT
✱ Jawing at Soho Radio on the 80s clubland revolution (from 32 mins) and on art (@55 mins) is probably the most influential shaper of the 80s, former Wag-club director Chris Sullivan (pictured) with editor of this website David Johnson
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