Tag Archives: documentary

➤ 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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2016 ➤ On film: two electrifying hours of The Beatles as they’ve never been seen and heard

The Beatles, Eight Days a Week, Ron Howard, documentary, film, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, John Lennon, George Harrison, Swinging Sixties, live concert, vintage, pop music, Shea Stadium, touring,

Pristine footage: The Beatles play Shea Stadium in August 1965. (Image: SubaFilms)

LAST NIGHT AT A LONDON CINEMA I saw the most exciting live pop concert since the same band played live in the Swinging Sixties. Ron Howard’s new Beatles documentary, Eight Days A Week about the touring years 1963-66, is a sensational feast of long-lost performance footage that confronts us with the Fab Four’s raw onstage energy and pounding tempo – the audio as gorgeously restored as the images. This two-hour celebration of Beatle genius goes behind the clichés of hysteria to give us Access All Areas. It delivers one revelation after another, from Paul’s “Oh-my-God” moment when Ringo joined the band, to the jaw-dropping recording of a top-ten single in 90 minutes of studio time, to their 1964 triumph for civil rights when the band refused to tour in the US until audience segregation was abandoned at their venues.

New interviews from Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney keep dropping gems of insight about this the most commercially successful group in pop history, while vintage footage does as much justice to lippy John Lennon and “quiet” George Harrison who are no longer with us.

Throughout this joyous moptops-into-men odyssey we’re wide-eyed at the sheer cheek of these multimedia superstars, aged between 19 and 22, who created their own interview style by pinging back witty ad-libs to questions from the world’s media. The downside was mass hysteria from teenaged babyboom fans laying siege to hotels and airports where they repeatedly overwhelmed police and security on an often scarifying scale.

Beatle albums sat at No 1 in the charts for 20 to 30 weeks at a time – more No 1 albums than any other musical act. Their 20 No 1 hit singles on the Billboard Hot 100 chart remain unchallenged.

The Beatles, Eight Days a Week, Ron Howard, documentary, film, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, John Lennon, George Harrison, Swinging Sixties, live concert, vintage, pop music, Shea Stadium, touring,

Ron Howard with Paul and Ringo this week: “I love this photo that was taken yesterday at Abbey Road Studios in historic Studio 2 while we were promoting The Beatles: Eight Days a Week”

Everything The Beatles did was without precedent. Among their innovations they launched arena rock and at Shea Stadium Howard’s doc ensures that we hear George’s guitar chords above the screaming audience of 55,000 fans. As a shock reminder of Sixties technology, Vox had built three new amps for the Beatles, each souped up to 100 watts (!!!) specially for touring America, their output being relayed via microphones to feed the stadium’s tinny loudspeaker system!!!

It is a breath-taking source of inspiration to know that during The Beatles’ far from meteoric early years, this Liverpudlian band of brothers had played at least 456 live gigs before signing their recording contract with EMI. Yes, 456 !!! With that amount of practice, it should be no surprise to find that their legacy amounts to 237 original compositions – songs which most people on the planet can hum, while the most radical among them personify the Sixties counterculture. As the best-selling band in history, the Fabs revolutionised all of music for ever.

Howard’s previous reality epics include the wonderful Apollo 13 and the gripping joust, Frost/Nixon. This week he told The Guardian: “I began to think of the Beatles story as like Das Boot: they’re in it together, they have each other, they know what their objective is, but, y’know, it’s a dangerous world out there.”

WHAT THE PRESS ARE SAYING

➢ Ron Howard trashes the idea that there’s nothing new to say about the Beatles – The Guardian:
This is about the Beatles as live phenomenon, and the fact that their music was all the more remarkable because it had to be heard above the scream – that ambient sound of sex, excitement and modernity, mixed in with a thin chirrup of press envy. The scream was an important part of it. . . an almost unbroken four-year, semi-improvised multimedia performance for which there was no pre-existing template – not simply the music but the giant public spectacle and public scrutiny.

➢ 10 Things we learned from Eight Days a Week
– Rolling Stone:

In February 1964, the band and their entourage occupied nearly the entire 12th floor of the Plaza NYC, including the 10-room presidential suite. But despite the space, the four friends retired to smaller quarters. “The four of us ended up in the bathroom just to get a break from the incredible pressure,” Starr says.

➢ “We were force-grown, like rhubarb,” says John Lennon
– Daily Telegraph:

The film shrewdly draws a line between the Beatles’ mischievous sense of humour and their long-time producer George Martin’s earlier life recording alternative comedy. Martin had worked with the Goons, an enormous influence on the band’s growing lyrical eccentricity in that period, as well as their off-the-cuff ribbing of strait-laced reporters.

REMASTERED UK FOOTAGE, MANCHESTER 1963

Previously at Shapers of the 80s:

➢ No wonder The Beatles changed the shape of music after 456 sessions practising in public

➢ 1963, With The Beatles the day Kennedy was shot: “The second house was distinctly more subdued”

➢ 1966, More popular than Jesus: the fascinating Lennon interview in full

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➤ Burretti movie adds an epic and essential chapter to the Bowie story

Starman, Freddie Burretti, film, biopic, Lee Scriven, David Bowie, Man Who Sewed The World, glam rock, fashion

Connected by “otherness”: In a scoop for the film Starman, Bowie himself gave this unseen 1973 picture of Freddie Burretti wearing his own design for a lush crimson suit to launch the Aladdin Sane album. Both photographs by Masayoshi Sukita

Click to zoom down to Andy Polaris’s film review

◼ BETWEEN 1970 AND 1974 FREDDIE BURRETTI not only became David Bowie’s teenage lover but gave visual expression to the singer’s pop ambition. When they met Bowie was 23 and married to Angie while former Mod face Freddie, with his 28-inch waist and voluptuous long-hair, was as sexy as many another 19-year-old in that moment when David Johansen, Marc Bolan and Bowie were creating what became known as glam rock. But Freddie and David clicked instinctively in what Bowie calls their “otherness”, much of which derived from their sexuality. His career rebirth as an alien on Planet Earth was a masterstroke of pop invention and it was Burretti who created the exotic and brazenly sexual one-piece style of costuming in lush fabrics that we associate with Ziggy Stardust.

A new documentary biopic was previewed in London last night and not only breathes fresh life into familiar Bowie music but pieces together a unique chapter about his personal relationships against the austere climate of Britain in the 70s. Director Lee Scriven captures on film a score of eye-witness accounts, chief among them Freddie’s brother Stephen, his special friend and flatmate Wendy Kirby, his younger It-girl protégée Daniella Parmar, and biographer Kevin Cann.

Freddie Burretti , David Bowie, fashion,

Burretti stripes 1973: Bowie photographed on the Aberdeen express by Mick Rock

Titled Starman: Freddie Burretti – The Man Who Sewed The World, the biopic’s impact is cumulative. Burretti described himself as “just a dress designer” – raised in Hackney, transplanted at 14 to Bletchley in the home counties, then escaping at 18 back to London to live the life – yet by the time the on-screen talking heads arrive at GQ editor Dylan Jones, it becomes clear that a body of opinion today ranks Burretti alongside giants such as Zandra Rhodes, Vivienne Westwood and even Alexander McQueen, whose design talent blossomed more than a decade later.

Indeed, Burretti’s “stylish, yet slightly whimsical approach to tailoring” and the enduring influence of his adventurous cutting in several suits of the moment during 1973–74 is thoroughly acknowledged in the V&A catalogue to its touring exhibition, David Bowie Is. The singer’s blurring of the line between stage wear and day wear persuades an impressive list of high-fashion designers to admit their debt to him, including Riccardo Tisci at Givenchy whose SS2010 show opened with a black-and-white striped blazer in a blatant tribute to the one Bowie was famously photographed wearing on an intercity train in May 1973.

Bowie told Fan magazine in 1974: “Freddie is extremely patient. He just listens to my ideas and has this sort of telepathy, because whatever I think of in my mind he produces for real. I just hope he’ll continue to design incredible clothes for me.”

❏ Up until now very few pictures of Freddie Burretti were known to the public – even the cover of the sex education magazine Curious shown below surfaced in only 2010 with Cann’s chronology of Bowie’s early life, Any Day Now. As the gay liberation movement was gathering momentum in Britain, we see Bowie wearing a floral “man-dress” designed by Savile Row tailor Mr Fish, known for putting Mick Jagger in a frock for the Stones’ 1969 Hyde Park concert. Bowie had two Mr Fish dresses which he wore in 1970 in cover photographs for the album The Man Who Sold the World.

With Starman, Scriven’s company LJS films has scored a major coup. The publicity photo you see up top has never been published before and was given to the project by Bowie himself, showing off Freddie’s good looks, with grey highlights in the hair. Today you’ll come across very few pictures of the gorgeous suit in rich crimson-and-blue velvet with flared crimson trousers created for the launch of the Aladdin Sane album. Its first outing was Bowie’s interview on the Russell Harty TV chat show recorded on 17 January 1973, and in an associated live clip singing Drive-In Saturday.

Uniquely, what Starman has done is to collage together Burretti and Bowie in the crimson suit to simulate a sumptuous set of photos taken that February by Masayoshi Sukita against the glistening art deco interior of Radio City Music Hall in New York. Scriven said: “I have been told Freddie would arrive at studio shoots in advance with the clothes and help the photographer by standing in as a model so he or she could set up the lighting etc ready for Mr Bowie.” Some of the shots play with his mirrored reflection and the collage cleverly echoes the originals.

In the UK an NME headline revealed the new persona, “Goodbye Ziggy, Big Hello to Aladdin”, while at Radio City on 14–15 February Bowie and the Spiders were launching their US tour. One poor black-and-white photograph suggests he might well have been wearing the crimson suit as he helicoptered onto the Music Hall stage. In this 90-minute show Bowie transitioned through the hit songs of Ziggy Stardust to introduce Aladdin Sane and all but one track from the new album – all this, remember, before his official and unexpected “retirement of Ziggy” announcement in London that July. Included in Freddie’s £1,000 invoice for costumes supplied to the tour, Cann’s meticulous book records “Red Check Suit 40 guineas” (about £500 today).

The tragedy is that the Burretti-Bowie partnership ended the next year, over a “financial disagreement”, according to Cann’s book. Immediately, Burretti slipped out of the public eye.

THE NIGHT DAVID MET FREDDIE

, Freddie Burretti, David Bowie, glam rock, man-dress,gay issues,

Curious magazine, 1971: Bowie wears his Michael Fish “man-dress” and plans to create a band called The Arnold Corns to showcase Freddie as “the next Mick Jagger”. In the studio, it turned out that Freddie couldn’t sing

❏ Their affair had begun in 1970 in Kensington’s fashionable gay disco Yours Or Mine beneath the Sombrero restaurant. The Bowies were regulars, and one night David spotted Freddie cutting a dash on the up-lit dancefloor. Angie Bowie crossed the room to ask him and Wendy to join them for a drink.

In an interview with 5years.com Angie said in 2000: “You have no idea how handsome this man was. Freddie was wearing white Spandex hotpants with a navy blue sailors trim and a sailor shirt with short sleeves out of the same white Spandex edged in navy on the collar and sleeves. He looked totally Scandinavian with high cheek-bones and lots of blond hair, but he was tall and had big hands and feet speaking of his artistry and physical stamina. Every night he made new clothes to wear. He was so brilliant.”

At last night’s screening flatmate Wendy also remembered that day: “Angie approached us and asked us to have a drink. We hesitated and that’s what’s missing from the film – our sheer arrogance. We nearly said no!” She added: “Watching the film was quite strange. No one imagines their youth will be portrayed on screen and it was a little unsettling. I think the film was an affectionate glimpse of a time long gone. I didn’t appreciate at the time how talented Freddie really was. Lee’s film brought home how exceptional his work was. I’m proud to have known the man who was ‘just Freddie’ to me.”

Was Bowie’s gay phase in truth a marketing stance, as some argue? In his 2011 biography Starman, Paul Trynka reports American actor Tony Zanetta saying: “He was bisexual, but what he really was, was a narcissist – boys or girls, it was all the same. He was attracted to the gay subculture because he loved its flamboyance. Sometimes it was just an expression of communication – sometimes it was a way of. . . assimilating someone.” Bowie knew exactly what he was doing.

❏ Read on for a review of the film by Andy Polaris, ex-Blitz Kid and 80s pop singer who regards Bowie as one of rock’s serious gods.

➢ Starman director Lee Scriven’s website

“man-dress” , Wendy Kirby, Freddie Burretti, David Bowie, fashion,

Angie and David at home to Freddie: the host wears his Michael Fish designed “man-dress” that was banned from his American album cover for The Man Who Sold the World

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s: 2011, I danced in Bowie’s lost Jean Genie video, by Wendy Kirby

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s: 2010, A feast of Bowie-ana served in waffeur-thin slices by Kevin Cann

Last night’s preview: click any pic below to launch slideshow

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s:
1970, Where to draw a line between glitter and glam

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ANDY POLARIS REVIEWS STARMAN THE MOVIE

Freddie Burretti, Daniella Parmar, fashion,Ziggy Stardust

Bowie’s designer Freddie and It-girl Daniella in about 1971: striking a pose that David and Angie came to emulate

Andy Polaris, singer

Andy Polaris

❏ Starman: The Man Who Sewed The World gives a fascinating insight into the relatively unknown life of fashion future legend Freddie Burretti. This working-class lad had a creative mind able to absorb everything he loved about Mod fashion, having taught himself to make his own clothes at an early age. With enough dedication and focus to learn tailoring as well as the youthful dynamics of the dancefloor, he was obviously adept at observing styles and reworking looks to his own vision.

A chance meeting at the disco lead to the serendipitous collaboration with Bowie and the singer’s as yet not fully realised Ziggy Stardust wardrobe. These bold textured prints and coloured jumpsuits were, and are, extraordinary for capturing Bowie’s otherness at that time. Aladdin Sane prints that looked like Liberty worn by the androgynous male rock star blew our tiny minds back then.

What I loved about the movie was seeing the genesis of Freddie’s glamour vision in a mundanely drab landscape played out with the innocence of his mainly, it appears, female friends notably Wendy bf and Daniella protégée. Wonderful to hear their counterpoint stories of that inner ciricle involved in Bowie’s creation of Ziggy with Freddie’s ascendant talent and confidence.

The pairing of Freddie and Daniella wearing his clothes is groundbreaking. Looking at those photos we see the androgynous beauty of Freddie (like a still from James Bidgood’s 1971 cult movie Pink Narcissus) teamed with Daniella’s Asian complexion and short spiky blonde crop. They had already created David and Angie’s classic image before the rest of the world saw it!

fashion, David Johansen, David Bowie

Coordination of styles, 1973: which came first, Johansen of New York Dolls or Bowie in Burretti suit?

In fact, Daniella also anticipates Ava Cherry singing with Bowie in Young Americans several years later when we note the similar styling – how did that happen?

From my own black perspective, a brown or black face was something I would immediately zone in on, seeing someone like you up there on a stage and hanging out with the stars. Marc Bolan having the black Gloria Jones as his wife was a big bloody deal to some black kids, for sure.

Freddie’s whole look seems to have been adopted wholesale by David Johansen of the New York Dolls, so the influence of this young British designer can today be recognised rippling out into the wider pop culture although it probably wasn’t acknowledged at the time. Maybe a parallel could be drawn between Freddie and Alexander McQueen – both gay and from working-class backgrounds – though McQueen came to work with Bowie as an established star, whereas Freddie created an image that made Bowie a star. Today it is unreal to imagine any designer could achieve such pivotal pop success without a massive team behind them.

➢ Video: Andy Polaris sings Mr Solitaire on Top of the Pops

➢ Follow Andy’s blog APolarisView: one man’s adventures in display and other obsessions

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2015 ➤ TV doc pits Boy George versus the rest in Culture Club reunion

Boy George, Mikey Craig, Roy Hay, Jon Moss, Culture Club, documentary, TV, Mike Nicholls, reunion, album, New Romantics

Culture Club 2015 style: fractious and bickering, as ever

◼ IN THE EARLY 1980s, Culture Club fronted by the gender-bending Boy George was one of the six British supergroups which dominated pop charts around the world. They won a Brit Award and a Grammy, notched up ten top 40 hits and sold 50 million records before they disbanded in 1986 after George fell victim to drug addiction. A brief reunion around the millennium yielded a tour and an album that didn’t even make the top 40.

Since then temperamental George invested time as a club deejay and in 2009 served time as a jailbird for “falsely imprisoning” and beating a male escort with a metal chain. Other attempted band reunions proved abortive, until the past year when a new album titled Tribes was written though it seemingly cannot be released until funds have been raised through a crowd-sourcing website. This year the deadline for pre-orders was extended to the end of March. And you thought George was millionaire pop royalty living on his royalty stream! Buddy, can you spare a dime?

Meanwhile, 21 putative tour dates for Culture Club in the UK and US had been cancelled because, according to George, a polyp was found on one of his vocal chords. No mention was made of the state of advance ticket sales. So far so bad.

On Friday 6 March BBC4 is scheduled to screen a documentary titled Boy George and Culture Club: Karma to Calamity. Director Mike Nicholls was given unique access and witnessed a fractious band reunion in George’s London home to write new material. From then on, all is chaos (and parental guidance is advised throughout). Under George’s headstrong leadership, tensions from their past emerged and faultlines developed further when the band spent two weeks together in Spain. Relations became even more strained when George and the band signed to separate managers. If these business partners pitched for Dragons’ Den using this film, they’d be sent back to busking on the streets.

George O'Dowd, culture Club, pop music

George quoted at the Culture Club website

BBC publicity says the hour-long film turns over “the band’s troubled past, examining the themes of success, fame and ego”, which means this is likely to be one for diehard fans only. OK, and voyeurs who want the inside track on the always frought love affair between George and drummer Jon Moss, who today is happily married. In one revealing scene online, Jon himself says: “I fell I love with him, he happened to be a man. We were instantly attracted to each other. It was very exciting.” Guitarist Roy Hay adds the reality check: “I just wanted to be in a band and have fun. I ended up in a ******* homosexual drama. The fighting was the problem.” So much for the glamour of life in pop’s fast lane.

❏ After an hour of tedious on-screen bickering, the closing captions read:
The tour needs to be rescheduled but the different managers can’t reach an agreement. Since the cancellation of the tour, George and the band are no longer speaking to each other. [Apart from George] the other band members have declined to be interviewed. The album release is on hold.

➢ View the Culture Club documentary on BBC iPlayer for the next week; or a selection of clips. (Parental guidance advised)

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Romance blossoms: Drummer Jon Moss gives George a peck at Planets club in July 1981 way before Culture Club existed. Photographed © by Shapersofthe80s

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s:
2010, Ex-jailbird George takes his first trancey steps on the path to sainthood

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s:
2010, Three key men in Boy George’s life, but why has TV changed some of the names?

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s:
2013, George still in denial over past misdeeds

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2014 ➤ Spandau together again as their ‘surprise’ movie is slated for Texas premiere

Spandau Ballet, Botanic Gardens, New Romantics, Blitz Kids, Birmingham.

Kilted leaders of the New Romantics in 1980: Spandau Ballet plus their entourage of Blitz Kids travelled to Birmingham’s Botanic Gardens to play their eighth live date. (Photograph by Shapersofthe80s)

[Updated Feb 12]

❚ WITH A TITLE AS ZEALOUS AS any of their New Romantic songs from 1980, Soul Boys of the Western World is the documentary movie about the time Spandau Ballet became the musical leaders of London’s underground clubland. For two years they were the trendiest creatures on the planet as they reshaped British music and fashion, believe it. The 102-minute biopic is to be premiered on March 12 in the 24 Beats Section of the prestige new-media conference SXSW in Austin, Texas, running March 7–16. To complete the first reunion of the whole band since their 2010 tour ended, singer Tony Hadley will be flying out to join Gary, Martin, John and Steve at the screening.

Fans who imagine they can gate-crash, however, will be seriously stymied by the price of registration for the film programme which increases to $650 the later you book. Before travelling to Austin, Spandau fans are advised to ensure they have secured a ticket. Hints from the Spandau team suggest there may be more news soon.

Spandau Ballet, New York, Underground club, 1981

1981 footage found: Spandau’s first New York performance recovered after this cameraman was traced. Photographed by © Shapersofthe80s

The film contains no present-day pontificating from the band’s famously garrulous entourage of talking heads, only through vintage film footage telling their story as it unfolds. Steve Dagger, Spandau’s manager and its sixth member since the band was created and now the film’s co-producer, is impressed and excited by the extensive research which has been fanatically pursued for the past three years. Initiated by archive producer Kate Griffith, this has turned up many true gems of previously unseen footage even of the landmark “First Blitz invasion of America” with the Axiom fashion collective in 1981 which was located in only the past three months. Offcuts from footage of the band’s followers shot in Le Kilt club for BBC Newsnight were also discovered in a box that remained unopened for 30 years. There are also clips from the band’s home movies.

Songwriter Gary Kemp is over the moon at the painstaking finesse of the production led by Scott Millaney, one of the iconic producers of 80s pop videos. Kemp said last week: “People should be really knocked out by some of the material we’ve discovered.”

Director George Hencken aims to takes audiences through the cultural, political and personal landscapes of Britain as the Swinging 80s burst from the recessionary gloom of the 70s. Soul Boys Of The Western World explores life inside the bubble of global superstardom when British pop music ruled the world. Spandau Ballet themselves believe the film to be “a brutally honest story of how friendships can be won, lost and ultimately regained”.

documentary, film, Soul Boys of the Western World, Spandau Ballet, SXSW, Texas, premiere, pop music, Swinging 80s, London, fashion, nightclubbing, New Romantics, Blitz Kids,

Nomad warriors on the streets of north London, 1981: Spandau Ballet dressed for their Musclebound video. Martin Kemp called his the Mad Monk outfit. (Promotional pic for the documentary film, Soul Boys of the Western World)

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