Tag Archives: Andy Polaris

➤ Bowie TV trilogy triumphs thanks to candour and a few tears

David Bowie,pop music, TV documentary, review,

Bowie’s search for identity: the hippy look for the Hunky Dory sleeve 1971 and red-haired alien for Space Oddity 1972. (Photos by Brian Ward and Mick Rock)

WHAT AN EYE-OPENER! Nine failed bands in eleven years of struggle before David Bowie emerged as a star. “He was no Marcel Marceau,” said his mentor and lover Lindsay Kemp of David’s attempts at mime. Saturday’s TV doc Bowie Finding Fame directed by Francis Whately was chock-full of jaw-droppingly frank evaluations by all his pals and workmates from his earliest days in music. Among the kindest was his girlfriend in 1968 Hermione Farthingale who said: “He was actually 21 and looked about eight. . . He wasn’t lost, but he wasn’t found either”. For 90 minutes Bowie’s own voiceover was disarmingly full of insight too and this episode proved probably the‬ most moving of the three.

And today comes a thorough and informative appreciation of this the latest landmark documentary about Bowie’s early life in a review published by Andy Polaris, Eighties singer with Animal Nightlife, at his website APolarisView. As a fan utterly in thrall at a formative age to Bowie’s charisma, Andy brings personal insights to the final doc in Whately’s consummate trilogy for the BBC, following on from David Bowie: Five Years (2013) and The Last Five Years (2017), both being repeated live tonight from 11.15pm (despite the confusion in newspaper listings guides), and subsequently viewable on iPlayer.

Andy also adds further essential points of reference to the Bowie story omitted from the new biopic, possibly because, as its series consultant and Bowie chronicler Kevin Cann has explained this week, the production team ultimately had to exclude masses because of time limitations: “Sadly there are a few fabulous interviews we made that we couldn’t fit in – all important in their own way. . . At one point we had close on a three-hour edit. We were basically overwhelmed with options at times – and that’s exactly why future generations, I’m sure, will never be bored of this man’s immense talent. He will never cease to impress.” Another gem they discovered was the complete Russell Harty TV interview from 1973: “. . . the whole Bowie section, interview and song performances. Even though ITV erased their original master a year or two after original broadcast, the recording we have still belongs to them, so its immediate future is yet to be decided.”

➢ Meanwhile here’s an excerpt from Andy’s blog
APolarisView where he reviews Saturday’s superb doc,
Finding Fame, which starts in the mid-Sixties:

Swinging 80s, Andy Polaris,TV review, David Bowie Finding Fame,,singer,pop music,

Polaris: surprised

I came away admiring Bowie more as an artist due to his single-minded pursuit to achieve his goal and establish a career in the arts. Eleven years (which brought massive cultural changes generally) and nine different bands failed to launch his career. With such limited rewards most people would have fallen at the second or third hurdle and contemplated a different choice of career. A lot of the bands I had heard of, but the film surprised me by exhuming the music of Riot Squad (a name sounding more like a later oi/skinhead band) where he spent eight weeks as their singer in 1967.

Bowie learned quickly to jettison anyone or thing that stood in the way of his mission and made sure that he was front and centre of the action. Early associates talk of how he was the driving force behind stage performances, style and presentation and how to stand out from the crowd.

Whately’s biopic marks the first time I can remember hearing about the inspiration for Letter to Hermione (a beautiful song on Space Oddity) in a filmed interview where his former girlfriend talks candidly about their love affair and the aftermath of their break-up. In a rare moment of personal confession it reveals the crushing effect it had on David at the time and he wanted her to forever realise the hurt. . . / Continued at APolarisView

➢ Bonus clips at the BBC’s programme website:
Of the surplus footage researched for Finding Fame, Kevin Cann reports that My Death survives in full, as does the whole interview. As also does probably 90% of the 1970 Glastonbury set. “Just in case you haven’t seen them, here are some of the brief edits that came out along the way. There are many more and I hope, over time, more is made available.”

WHAT THE TV CRITICS SAID OF FINDING FAME

➢ “Whately arguably does get closer to who the flesh and blood David Jones really was than anyone has previously, largely thanks to securing interviews with an elusive cousin and a just as elusive first love” – The Arts Desk

➢ “Still think of Bowie as the last word in cool? You’ve obviously forgotten his novelty single about gnomes, his dire mime days… and his cover of Chim Chim Cher-ee” – Guardian TV review

➢ “The BBC’s ‘talent selection group’ had dismissed Bowie as ‘devoid of personality’ (ah, the irony). Yet Bowie doubled down and worked harder” – The Times review

➢ “One of the most miraculous things about Bowie is that he didn’t wind up as a drama teacher in Bromley” – Sunday Times Culture

➢ “Fascinating insight into the young singer’s quest for fame and his evolutionary struggle to burst out of suburbia” – The Telegraph review

➢ View David Bowie: Five Years (2013) at the iPlayer

➢ View David Bowie: The Last Five Years (2017) at the iPlayer

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➤ Truly a once in a lifetime evening of pure joy with David Byrne

Q MAGAZINE’S REVIEW SAID: “This unprecedented mindmeld of modern dance, avant-garde theatre, art installation, soul revue and carnival parade makes the conventional rock show seem as old-fashioned as music hall. Most artists don’t get to reinvent the pop concert once in a lifetime. Byrne has done it twice.” Here’s a brief taste of David Byrne’s sensational American Utopia world tour which during 2018 has played 13 dates in the UK (London, Brighton, Nottingham and Manchester this week) and moves on through Europe to Australia. These innovative concerts have won unprecedented rave reviews from critics on national newspapers and music press: “mind-blowingly meticulous and awe-inspiring”, “arguably the most acclaimed live shows of the year”, “the best live show of all time”. All true IMHO. Byrne’s 22 numbers were drawn from this year’s critically acclaimed album American Utopia, as well as classics from his solo career and the 1970s with the mould-breaking Talking Heads. All were choreographed to create a continuous visual and musical river of rhythm.

We’re happy to borrow the video above, shot by Cazza Gee close-up to the stage at London’s Eventim Apollo in Hammersmith (20.6.18) to convey the joyous free-form energy of the staging by Byrne and his 11-strong band.

'American Utopia', UK tour, dance, David Byrne, live concert, musicians, Talking Heads, rock music, social commentary

American Utopia: David Byrne with his nimble barefooted 11-strong band, heavily biased towards percussion. Photo by Andrew Whitton

➢ Former Blitz Kid and singer Andy Polaris reviews Byrne’s show in full at his own website, but here are his highlights. . .

The glowing five-star international reviews for David Byrne’s ‘American Utopia’ tour 2018 meant there was genuine and palpable anticipation surging through the 4,000-strong audience packed into the Brighton Centre this week.

The set opened with a vast empty stage, only a small table and chair with a grey-haired casually suited Byrne seated and singing to a plastic brain which he held aloft. He looked like the coolest science teacher explaining its merits, albeit barefoot and to a much more appreciative adult-education class. He was joined onstage by similarly attired backing vocalists Chris Giarmo and Tendayi Kuumba who we quickly realised, along with the rest of the 11-piece band, were agile in their dual role as musicians and dancers. It was the realisation that with Annie-B Parson’s sophisticated and at times elaborate choreography (especially for the backing vocalists) this was far from standard fare. I then remembered the work Byrne did with dancer Twyla Tharp in the 1980s, and realised this show has become a logical next step in the imaginative presentation of his eclectic catalogue. . .

The standouts were many but the surreal when released ‘Once In A Lifetime’ crackled with almost evangelical zeal as Byrne flung himself around on-stage… Against giant dancing shadows like a Busby Berkeley musical number, ‘Blind’ was given brassy punch and brought energetic solos from its talented percussionist pool… The opening guitar chords of ‘Burning Down the House’ did exactly what it said on the label… ‘Everybody’s Coming To My House’ exuded an inclusive party feel which Byrne explained was also matched by his band’s origins from all around the world. Personally I loved ‘Born Under Punches’ and ‘The Great Curve’ because ‘Remain in Light’ is one of my favourite albums. . . / Continued at apolarisview

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American Utopia: David Byrne’s troupe cast dancing shadows during the Talking Heads song Blind. Photo by Andrew Whitton


➢ Dorian Lynskey for Q magazine joins the tour in Paris and talks to the former Talking Heads singer about its genesis

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2017 ➤ His name is Prince and his London tribute is downright spunky

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Prince exhibition: chain-hat to conceal his identity in The New Power Generation and lyrics for We Want 2 Let the Funk Unwind (Getty)

Hold your breath! An exhibition that could so easily have been a lightweight commercial ripoff about the myth of Prince Rogers Nelson proves to be a surprisingly affecting tribute. Scores of artefacts have been loaned out for the first time direct from Paisley Park, Prince’s lush Minnesota estate, in a dazzling rush of bling and sentiment for My Name is Prince, his official exhibition which runs in London for the next ten weeks.

It seems a strange idea to visit seven galleries packed with video screens and to stand clad in earphones watching them play out the most vibrant highlights from the American pop icon’s uniquely anarchic imagination. Yet the very impact of so many screens disseminating so much talent only magnifies the intensity of the moment.

This one-man band’s genius is all too evident in every direction you look. In turns, you’re gasping at the audacity of Dirty Mind, smiling at the ingenuity of Sign ‘o’ the Times and shedding tears of envy for his sheer virtuosity in While My Guitar Gently Weeps.

Above all, the entire immersive experience is very, very lovesexy. The attention Prince lavished on his many lubricious costumes is revealing: so many apparently plush brocade garments are woven on light see-through black mesh that reveal the sinewy muscles of his tiny but taut 5ft frame within.

Prince the dandy also took any opportunity to shed his garments and flash his intimate zones, including his bare buttocks in orgiastic videos such as Gett Off, shot amid scantily clad girls and boys (“23 positions in a one-night stand”) at the 1991 MTV awards. Indeed one of the exhibition’s biggest draws is the video for Thieves in the Temple, from the 1990 Graffiti Bridge album, in which cutaway jeans reveal his bum and thighs and bouncing crotch capped with a glittering gold lamé jockstrap, in some of the most frenetic team dancing ever in high heels. The choreography is shamelessly horny.

The sheer range of Prince’s musical gifts during a 40-year career is well recognised – 70 albums, 2,000? songs, an Oscar, a Golden Globe, eight Grammies, 100 million records sold, and a ranking at No 28 among Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. But to assemble in a three-dimensional venue 200 tangible examples of his workaholic creativity as an all-round showman results in an affectionate multi-media tribute. For us to devour the close-up detail in his guitars, his hand-written notes and drawings, and his jewelled accessories becomes a truly moving privilege. And for a fan, the power of his achievements is reaffirmed as you bask in his subversive glow.

➢ The official exhibition My Name Is Prince runs from October 27 until January 7, 2018 at London’s O2

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Prince exhibition: stage costumes from his Purple Rain tour (Getty)

Prince Rogers Nelson, exhibition, The O2, London, music videos, My Name Is Prince, pop music,costumes, guitars

Prince exhibition: bass guitar that inspired his trademark Cloud and diamond-studded cane from 2015

PRINCE’S PURPLE REIGN STILL EXERTS
ITS PULLING POWER

London’s Eighties pop star Andy Polaris visits the Prince exhibition to assess the enduring impact of the black performer who in his day challenged the norms of sexuality and race. . .

➢ Visit Andy’s own website Apolarisview for his full review
– here’s a brief taster:

The first time Prince triggered my radar was a review in the music press of his concert at the Lyceum in London 1981, part of his Dirty Mind tour. He was featured in the accompanying review wearing a trench coat covering a lithe brown body and wearing black briefs and leggings, topped by his mop of black hair and pretty face. I was miffed to have missed his only show but before the internet niche events could slip by easily without social media to flag them up.

It was obvious from the start that this was a black artist who, despite the flamboyance of disco/funk stage-wear and album covers, was taking it a little bit extra with some sexual ambiguity. The lyrics of the funky album track Controversy (a bass-driven early dance-floor favourite) set the tone:

I just can’t believe all the things people say
Controversy
Am I black or white? Am I straight or gay?
Controversy

I was fascinated to see the parade of Prince’s petite outfits complete with matching coloured heeled boots that covered Purple Rain, his purple metallic frock coat through to a crystal-encrusted cane and Balmain waistcoat he wore for W magazine. The materials are colourful, sheer and shimmering and in some cases boldly designed. He wasn’t interested in the toxic masculinity that permeates so many black artistes, one of the reasons he flew the freak flag for those who were not interested in paying £50 to see artists dressed in denim and T-shirts. . . / Continued at Andy’s own website


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

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2017 ➤ Nightlife’s Polaris comes out as fan of the hot girl bands of the 70s

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Buddies who found fame in the Swinging 80s: deejay Gary Crowley with singer Andy Polaris at BBC Radio London today

WOOOH! JUST COMING DOWN from a breathless hour of lunchtime radio today as Andy Polaris very nearly talked the hind leg off deejay Gary Crowley – which is quite a feat! The BBC Radio London host was inviting former Animal Nightlife singer Andy to reminisce about his life in the metropolis and to pick six landmark tunes that still matter to him. Of course his teen years were dominated by pop, but apart from the obvious gods such as Bowie, Andy surprised us by bigging up those feisty strong female bands of the late 70s who were muscling in after punk imploded. Andy spent weeks following Siouxsie and the Banshees round the country to catch her gigs.

He says: “The women singers like Poly Styrene, the Slits and Siouxsie were way ahead of the guys. The guys were doing more clichéd macho stuff. The women were doing more arty things.

Siouxsie, Banshees, Vortex

Siouxsie Sioux at the Vortex in October 1977. (Photo: Romany WG)

“Siouxsie you would see at a Bowie concert, and at a Roxy concert. The Slits you’d see at reggae concerts. Their music was fantastic: those albums Cut and The Scream and the X-Ray Spex first album – they’ve stood the test of time.

“Imagewise as well they were way ahead of everybody else – I loved that stuff to do with cinema, Poly Styrene with The Day the World Turned Day-Glo, and talking about recycling. She was well ahead of her time.”

ANDY’S SIX KEY TRACKS

Dr Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band – I’ll Play The Fool, 1976
David Bowie – Golden Years, 1975
Siouxsie and the Banshees – Hong Kong Garden, 1978
Sylvester – You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real), 1978
Grace Jones – I’ve Seen That Face Before (Libertango), 1981
Michael Kiwanuka – Black Man In A White World, 2016

➢ Listen to My London again at 9pm today on BBC Radio London then on the iPlayer

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s: Escape to the Nightlifers’ Shangri-la just in time for Christmas

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➤ Escape to the Nightlifers’ Shangri-la just in time for Christmas

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Cool-hunters 1985: the Animal Nightlife lineup who charted with their album Shangri-la. . . Billy Chapman, Paul Waller, Andy Polaris, Leonardo Chignoli and Steve Brown

REMEMBER SNAKE-HIPPED ANDY POLARIS, frontman for Animal Nightlife, the soul/jazz/pop socialist collective who emerged from London’s cool clubbing scene and charted with Native Boy in 1983? This week their debut album Shangri-la is re-issued in a deluxe two-CD edition, having charted in summer 1985 only on vinyl.

Andy says: “It comes with a bonus disc of remixes and a great booklet with retro photos of the band in its two phases. Just in time for Christmas. The vinyl album has long been deleted and since then a very poor compilation of songs was released. The re-issue’s  tracks consist of the album in its original form and a second CD containing other singles and extended remixes that were only available on 12-inch before.” Lois Wilson supplies some nicely informed sleeve notes identifying Animal Nightlife’s role as innovators when the UK’s thriving underground changed the face of nightclubbing.

“Just listen to the Pink Panther style
saxophone of instrumental Basic Ingredients
and try not to lose yourself momentarily
in another world, a better world even”
First review (7/10) by Loz Etheridge

Managed by Steve Lewis, London’s coolest club deejay in the Beat Route’s heyday, Nightlife’s swing sound with an electronic twist enjoyed its moment as the hippest trend in music while Polaris penned his own brand of torch song and the band wore head-to-foot styles from Bolshevik bolshieness to Johnson’s jazz-age retro. Rabid clubbers must remember how Nightlife’s crazy animalettes and animalads went through about 35 line-up changes during their eight years on the scene, sadly scoring only four chart singles. For some band members, good times tended to take precedence over naked ambition in those highly competitive years when British acts were storming international pop charts.

“The must have re-issue CD of 2016.
A perfect Xmas stocking filler”
– deejay Mark Moore

By 1985 the band had slimmed down to the five-piece pictured on the CD cover. They consisted of Andy Polaris (vocals), Leonardo Chignoli (bass), Paul Waller (drums), Steve Brown (guitar) and Billy Chapman (playing a thrilling saxophone). After switching from the finger-snappy Innervision label to supercool Island Records, they were all packed off to Philadelphia where the first album was recorded at the legendary home of Philly World Records.

“The label wanted a bit more discipline from us,” Andy says, “and they sent us to America to get us out of our element and into the hands of those seasoned veterans who’d created the fabled Philly sound. We five working-class boys from London were wide-eyed and just did everything they told us. It paid off, because after our sojourn at Philly World our urban jazzy feel translated into a more sophisticated British club sound.”

❑ Standout track on the second Shangri-la CD of lost mixes is reggae producer Dennis Bovell’s version of Native Boy. Whoever’s on vibes – “mm, nice”.

➢ Shangri-la is cheaper direct from Cherry Red records (plus quick delivery)

➢ Polaris recalls his impressions of recording with the Philadelphia greats

➢ Definitive yet unofficial Animal Nightlife band history created online by Mike Albiston, a fan who remembers their last gig and senses something’s afoot that might require a web update

➢ Catch Andy Polaris’s reminiscences in the recent BBC doc Boy George’s 1970s: Save Me From Suburbia

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s: Animal Nightlife as part of the UK’s second wave of 80s image bands

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