Old faces, new photo: Culture Club’s Mikey Craig, Boy George, Jon Moss and Roy Hay stage their comeback at Edinburgh Castle on Saturday
❚ NOBODY HAS YET SAID whether we can expect to hear a track from Culture Club’s new album at this Saturday’s live concert on BBC1. The newly reformed 80s supergroup kick off their comeback among a dozen acts giving a spectacular two-hour concert, Live at Edinburgh Castle, before 8,000 people ahead of the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
The One Show’s Alex Jones will present a line-up of international acts, including Jessie J, Kaiser Chiefs, Culture Club, Smokey Robinson, Rizzle Kicks, Paloma Faith, Katherine Jenkins, Il Divo, One Republic, Alfie Boe, Ella Henderson, Pumeza and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra – plus comedy from Bill Bailey.
This will be the first time the original members of Culture Club have performed together in 15 years. They are Boy George (lead vocals), Mikey Craig (bass guitar), Roy Hay (guitar and keyboards) and Jon Moss (drums and percussion). Time for three numbers is allotted, but not a dickybird yet has leaked out about what the band will play. The past couple of months have been spent in the studio rehearsing new tunes for their 11-date tour with Alison Moyet in December.
Hello again, Alison Moyet: three-times Brit winner and Grammy nominee
➢ PJ’s verdict today: “Completely amazing in the 2010s – What we have before us in The Changeling is an extraordinary, very modern-sounding and effortlessly stylish comeback tune that teases Moyet’s first album in six years. You will note that her voice sounds completely sensational but that’s to be expected really isn’t it? The smart, decadent production is the work of Guy Sigsworth…”
➢ Utterly free download of Changeling, the first track to be premiered from a new album by 80s icon Alison Moyet – The Minutes is Alison’s first artist album since 2007 and was produced by Guy Sigsworth, known for his work with Robyn, Björk, Goldie and Madonna. The singer says: “I avoided listening to anything during the process of writing and recording this album, choosing instead to be lead by my own melodic voice, the one I now find myself with 30-years-in. Guy Sigsworth returns me to a programmer’s world and marries it with perfect musicality. I have been waiting for him. We have made an album mindless of industry mores that apply to middle-aged women and have shunned all talk of audiences, demographics and advert jazz covers. This has easily been my happiest studio experience.”
+++ ❚ SURPRISE WAS THE SECRET WEAPON. Even the star’s longtime London publicists were told only on Friday. For months there must have been “sudden death” clauses in his 35 collaborators’ contracts to deter them from breathing a word about the 14 songs on his first album in a decade, or about yesterday’s haunting new single, realised in a resourcefully resonant music video that navigates those fertile but often fraught landmarks from Berlin in the 70s as if in Google Street View… every one a turning point… ghosts from the tragic city’s Cold-War hinterland as well as the singer’s own.
Driven by piano and synth, the song is a bittersweet elegy. Its poignant title asks Where Are We Now? and is rendered with suitable despair, while the accompanying images reinforce the singer’s seemingly mournful contemplations on “walking the dead”. Yet all comes clearer with repeated viewing when the self-deprecating humour brightens your moist eyes. The old fella’s tremulous voice, eroded half an octave lower than we remember, is courageously confessing with dignity and relief what all buddhists seek in the journey through life – enlightenment. There may be melancholy in his acceptance of mortality but it is unsentimental. “As long as there’s sun / As long as there’s rain” and crucially “As long as there’s fire”, then “You know, you know”.
The news broke at 5am in the UK (midnight in New York) on his 66th birthday, and the world’s media suddenly received the good news like a shot in the arm. No, Bowie had not retired, laid low after heart surgery in 2004, but was back with a bang. By breakfast-time BBC Radio’s flagship current affairs show Today rushed a critic into the studio to enthuse about the new ballad as legacy from Bowie’s so-called Berlin Trilogy of albums, 1976-79, produced by Tony Visconti, as is the new album. The veteran anchor John Humphrys empathised with a “weariness” he detected in the voice.
By 3pm the single was topping the British iTunes chart and by midnight the next day’s national press were trumpeting their finest prose stylists in spreads devoted to the last of the godlike popstars who define their era. This is the sizzle The Thin White Duke still generates. If Mr Humphrys thinks Bowie was sounding his age, in The Times Caitlin Moran thinks the song shows every year of Bowie’s age beautifully…
➢ Poet Alan Jenkins blogs at The Times Literary Supp and shares his elation at the arrival of a masterpiece “Almost from the first and unfailingly ever since, Bowie has been a byword for musical boldness and invention. His instinctive power as a lyricist has perhaps been somewhat overlooked – his characteristic note a combination of the shy and portentous, of confessional detail and unembarrassed declamation, of raw truthfulness and authentically barmy allegorizing. Where…? takes us haltingly into personal history and personal mortality, distilling from its simple, beautiful progressions an atmosphere of bewildered sorrow that is not entirely dispelled by the tender-stoical declarations of the final moments.”
➢ Neil McCormick in the Telegraph declares the perfect comeback “Lush, stately, beautifully strange, weaving resonant piano chords, decaying synths and echoing drums around a simple chord progression and a weary, tenderly understated, quietly defiant vocal, the ageing Starman reminisces about days in Berlin… It is to the slightly wonky, retro-futuristic ambience of late Seventies rock electronica that Where Are We Now? returns … It was a musical style influenced by one-time collaborator Brian Eno and once heralded for its icy futurism, but now it sounds familiar enough to be instantly accessible yet oddly contemporary. Retro synths are all the rage once again, early electronica deemed to have a quality of human warmth often absent in hi-tech digital pop.”
THE SELF PROMOTER
➢ Alexis Petridis in The Guardian on an object lesson in record promotion “The main reason it’s created such a fuss is simply because no one knew. It’s incredible that, in an era of gossip websites and messageboard rumours, one of the biggest stars in the world, presumed retired, can spend two years making a new album without the merest whisper of it reaching the public. But somehow he did it… Whatever The Next Day sounds like [the album due on March 11], he’s turned it into the biggest release of 2013 by the simple expedient of doing absolutely nothing other than make an album. Furthermore, he’s managed to maintain the myth and mystique that was always central to his stardom and his art in a world where rock and pop music has almost no myth or mystique left.”
THE WHISPERING SAGE
➢ At the Quietus Chris Roberts asks: After a decade of artlessness Bowie is back. So why are so many clowns complaining? “The delicately-sung single, Where Are We Now?, is not “instant”, or flash. It is not a sad by-numbers attempt to recapture old glories. It is very much Bowie, but it is a quivering ghost of a Bowie song, the imprint of his fabulous past gently laid over a forlorn, elegiac yet life-affirming drape of meditations and reveries about missing the old Europe and, possibly, youth. It is becoming of the man, and of the star. And it is becoming obvious that, after all this time, he wouldn’t have let it out of the house if he didn’t believe it would add to his body of work and polish his mythology. It is spectral, frail, yearning without chest-beating, candid in its few, clipped phrases and sighs concerning the heart’s filthy lessons. The crooning peacock is now a whispering sage.”
“The archetypal Berlin art studio-cum-squat: This is a modern cliche of the German capital. Bowie, in his enigmatic slogan T-shirt, looks like any other foreign immigrant who has come to Berlin to “do my art” (read: go to Berghain and get an asymmetric haircut). Like many of the city’s young pretenders, he is carrying a notebook and no doubt tells people at squat parties he is a writer.”
ECHOES OF EXTRAS?
+++ ❏ And in lighter vein…More than one fan has noticed that parts of the new melody bear a resemblance to Pathetic Little Fat Man, Bowie’s improvised tribute to Ricky Gervais in his BBC sitcom Extras in 2006 (above)
Banjo-man! Exclusive birthday photograph (Jimmy King )
➢ 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
LANDMARK FAREWELLS. . . HIT THE INDEX TAB UP TOP FOR EVERYTHING ELSE
We respect copyright, and are happy to give credit to a photographer’s work and try to seek permission first. If you own images published here and wish them to be removed, simply ask.
Reblogging is theft, so whenever you recycle any picture for your own use, please credit the photographer or artist (living or dead), and seek permission to reproduce it. Their livelihoods (and those of their families) often depend on fair dealing