❚ THERE’S A BREATHLESS FOUR-PARAGRAPH teaser online at Rolling Stone magazine’s website in an attempt to sell the February 2 issue. It’s headlined How David Bowie Changed The World. Yet it promises nothing we haven’t read a million times before. Instead, try our own tribute on Bowie’s 65th birthday, linked further down this post.
“ He phoned Angela in London, asking for her help: witches intended for him to impregnate one during Walpurgis Night. He later said Satan was living in his indoor swimming pool. David needed an exorcism (“I really walked into other worlds,” he later said), and Angela got him one – though it was by way of a long-distance phone call. “David was never insane,” Angela wrote. “The really crazy stuff coincided precisely with his ingestion of enormous amounts of cocaine, alcohol and whatever other drugs.” In any event, the rite may have helped break Bowie’s fear of a fiend possessing him. “It was time to get out of this terrible lifestyle I’d put myself into, and get healthy,” he later said. “It was time to pull myself together ” … / Continued online at Rolling Stone
❏ Update Feb 8: Now this Bowie issue has reached the UK, Mikal Gilmore’s account of the Ziggy phenomenon proves a workmanlike retelling of the familiar, but is oh-so relentlessly downbeat. He even cites an alleged quotation from 1998: Bowie is supposed to have said that, “Without Iman, I’d have put my head in the oven by now”. It’s a cheap shot because the quote has never been attributed, so counts for nothing more than hearsay. Rolling Stone claims a circulation of 1.45m.
“ As a cultural lightning rod Bowie has bequeathed insights into the realm of the imagination. As a performer he has delivered a repertoire of life-skills through a cast of mythical personalities invented for himself as a popstar, from the self-destructive Ziggy Stardust and the amoral Thin White Duke, to his romanticised “Heroes” (his own quote marks added to emphasise self-awareness). Through their formative years, Bowie invited his acolytes to do A…. and B…. and C…. ” / Read on to discover what
What, me, pensioner? David Bowie and his wife the supermodel Iman attend the DKMS Annual Gala in New York City last April. (Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty)
❚ HAPPY BIRTHDAY MR BOWIE. And thanks for the boggling, inspirational, poptastic ride so far —140 million albums sold and the rules of rock rewritten. You will be the genie waiting at the end of time. Boy George has this to say in his foreword to Graham Smith’s new book on 80s clubland, named after David Bowie’s song We Can Be Heroes: “Of the New Romantic moment I have always said, It was all Bowie’s fault.” What he refers to is the Bowie bequest to the teen generations he entertains. As a cultural lightning rod he has bequeathed insights into the realm of the imagination. As a performer he has delivered a repertoire of life-skills through a cast of mythical personalities invented for himself as a popstar, from the self-destructive Ziggy Stardust and the amoral Thin White Duke, to his romanticised “Heroes” (his own quote marks added to emphasise self-awareness). Through their formative years, Bowie invited his acolytes:
✰ to explore identity, androgyny, the primacy of the visual.
✰ to adopt stances: individualism, alienation, decadence, transgression.
✰ to follow his principles for living amusing lives: disposable identities, portable events, looks not uniforms, tastelessness “on purpose”.
His signature tune, “Heroes”, still echoes today as a heart-stirring anthem because he was passionate and optimistic and musically this number is brimming with awe. He sang about intimacy and love triumphing over the horrors of the outside world. Finding joy in simple pleasures could make heroes of us all, “just for one day”. As a creed to live by, it has underpinned his own life. “I’m an instant star,” he said. “Just add water and stir.”
Were he still living in the UK, today’s birthday would designate him, in the idiom, “an old-age pensioner”, and the state would pay him slightly more than the five shillings a week handed over when the scheme began 100 years ago. He can’t be 65, you’re saying as you inspect the picture of him and his wife Iman [above] at a leukemia charity gala in New York last year. He looks too good for 65. “Waddayamean?” he’d be bound to snap, flinging back the old feminist line, “This is how 65 looks in the 21st century.”
True, if you start young, break the rules and push yourself to the max, as all geniuses do. While in short trousers, the little suburban Londoner David Jones was nothing if not prolific. At 11 he was playing a skiffle bass, buying and collecting the NME for future reference, learning the sax at 13 and soon moving up through a succession of bands: Konrads, Hookers, King Bees, Manish Boys, Lower Third, Buzz, and Riot Squad.
At school he fell under the spell of an art teacher, Owen Frampton, whose own son Peter went on to musical fame. Bowie has said: “I went to one of the first art-oriented high schools in England, where one could take an art course from the age of 12. Three-fourths of our class actually did go on to art school.”
Everybody knows how this liberal education shaped his outsider stance, how he redefined glam-rock, and how his incarnation as Ziggy Stardust made him an international star and one of the most iconoclastic forces in 70s music. How much more fun though to celebrate a grand milestone by looking back to the earliest expressions of that genius and to wonder aloud how else might the talents of the young David Jones have developed? Today, we find whole chapters of his formative experiments on video online, from mime artist and music-hall hoofer, to actor and fin-de-siècle soothsayer. In all the springboard moments pictured in the slideshow above, Bowie is no older than 24. At any moment the fickle finger of fate could as easily have pointed in any number of directions…
In 1969 Bowie’s manager Kenneth Pitt proposed to showcase his talents by producing a half-hour film called Love You Till Tuesday. The compilation showcased tracks from his 1967 debut album, plus a spanking new song, Space Oddity, which introduced Major Tom and became his first hit. Cleverly anticipating the first Nasa Moonwalk in 1969, the filming for this number pastiches Stanley Kubrick’s cine-epic premiered the previous year. It effectively proposed what today we call the promo video which, as Kevin Cann reveals in his exhaustive 2010 Bowie biographyAny Day Now, remained substantially unseen by the public until its release as a clip in 1984. The whole half-hour showreel went online for the first time only yesterday…
THEN HE MET WILLIAM BURROUGHS
1973: Bowie is interviewed for Rolling Stone with novelist Wiliam Burroughs and photographed by Terry O’Neill
THEN HE MET LIZ TAYLOR
1975: Bowie meets Hollywood legend Liz Taylor. Photographed by Terry O’Neill
THEN HE WROTE A SONG WITH JOHN LENNON
1975: At the Grammys, Bowie upstages Yoko Ono and John Lennon — one day he gets jamming with David in a studio and turns a lick into the song Fame
❚ HOT NEWS OF A CHRISTMAS TREAT for Bowie fans. They have waited for almost 40 years to see his only Top of the Pops performance of The Jean Genie with The Spiders from Mars in January 1973 — shirtless, though clad in an open satin jacket. The tape was long thought to have been wiped or lost.
However a former BBC cameraman recently discovered that he possessed the only broadcast-quality copy in pristine condition, and today Bowie Wonderworld announced that entertainment boss Mark Cooper has arranged to have it included in this Wednesday’s 90-minute collection of classic Christmas hits (TOTP2, 7.30pm). The intention had been to unveil the clip in the BBC4 documentary Tales of Television Centre in the New Year, but enthusiastic fans persuaded him to bring forward its screening, even though you won’t see the track listed in the online billings.
As executive producer of Top Of The Pops 2, Cooper said: “I can’t imagine what other piece of TOTP from the early 70s would be as extraordinary a find.”
Bowie’s performance of The Jean Genie was recorded on Jan 3, 1973 and transmitted the following day for the first and only time. The “lost” recording — copy on 2-inch broadcast videotape — was screened last week at the NFT’s Missing Believed Wiped event. BowieNet’s news editor enthused: “A shirtless David looks amazing as he shakes maracas and blows on the harmonica. It’s clear David and the Spiders were at their peak when this video footage was shot, just a few days before David’s 26th birthday.”
Andy Barding, another privileged witness, added: “The first screening of the newly rediscovered clip of Bowie, Ronson, Woodmansey and Bolder performing The Jean Genie on Top of the Pops saw a packed National Film Theatre struck agog at the majesty of Ziggy in action: in pristine, full-colour TV quality. David, with deep-red hair, shaved brows and bafflingly wide trousers, looked every inch the epitome of what we recall as glam.”
The Jean Genie single had been released in November 1972, and the January 4 transmission on the BBC’s flagship pop show boosted it to peak at Number 2 in the UK singles chart. The track was remixed for Bowie’s sixth album Aladdin Sane in April 1973 which divided critics over his genius. The Jean Genie surfed in on the inspirational wave caused by the arrival of Ziggy Stardust and the Starman in July 1972, when Bowie’s Top of the Pops appearance years later passed into legend as the glam-rock moment that shaped the imaginations of a teen generation who were to become the popstars of the 80s.
❏ The retired cameramanJohn Henshall, now 69, has been speaking of how he came to own the footage of David Bowie’s Jean Genie which was thought to be lost. In the early 70s, long before the days of digital effects, Henshall ran a company called Telefex which made star filters, multi-image prisms, fish-eye lens attachments, kaleidotubes and picture rotators. Encouraged by TOTP producer Johnnie Stewart, he used the fish-eye to create the optical effects seen in the Bowie recording.
Afterwards he asked Stewart for a personal copy on 2-inch tape to include in his company’s showreel.
Today he is an expert in digital imaging, who pioneered the now ubiquitous lightweight television camera mounted on a long boom arm that we see sweeping above artist and audience at concerts. He also directed photography on hundreds of early music videos for artists including Paul McCartney, Kate Bush, Blondie and Elton John.
Henshall only discovered how “rarer than rare” the clip was when he mentioned it in a radio interview. He said: “I couldn’t believe that I was the only one with it. I thought you wouldn’t be mad enough to wipe a tape like that. They’d been looking for it for years.”
➢ Click picture to run video in new window — Today at Guardian online Adam Ant gives a video interview in the strand: How I wrote … Stand and Deliver, his chart-topping hit from May 1981. When he starts strumming the tune, why not try cueing up the video below by Marco Pirroni, his onetime lead guitarist in the Ants and songwriting partner, then compare the results? Adam and Marco shared an Ivor Novello Award for this number
❏ Adam explains the song’s mix of images… “I very much like the 18th century, and the traditional sayings that everyone knows like ‘Stand and deliver’ and ‘Drop your drawers and ten bob’s yours’.” Adam says he wove together various other themes in the song: a touch of Tommy Steele’s Where’s Jack? based loosely on DickTurpin, plus Native American Indians and a bit of piracy. Result: “The lyric wrote itself. It was really a manifesto of what was to come… I knew I’d cracked it when the window cleaner round my house was singing it and changing the lyrics and didn’t know it was my flat… I was very flattered by that.”
❏ As Adam’s songwriting partner in the Ants, Marco co-wrote five number-one singles, a further four top tens with him, their two number-one albums, plus many more songs during 20 years together. When Marcella Puppini asked about his songwriting with Adam, Marco said: “I don’t think it’s something I really want to talk about at the present time.” Of his input into the music, he said: “I don’t write lyrics generally. I work with riffs and you keep playing. You have a moment when you think I really like playing this and the person you’re working goes: ‘It’s really good’. There are no rules. John Lennon’s tragic death kept us off No 1 [in Dec 1980], then I remember doing Stand and Deliver and thinking that’s going to happen. We weren’t going to be No 1 with just anything. I thought that’s catchy, that’s going to work.”
THE ANTS Mk3 ‘WON’T INCLUDE MARCO’
Early 80s: Adam and Marco in happier days
➢ Adam Ant: back from the brink— in today’s Daily Telegraph Andrew Perry listens to Adam like a respectful fan while interviewing Stuart Goddard with the care of a concerned parent…
“ After numerous tribulations, he’s to make a dramatic comeback to music next month, with his first full tour in more than 15 years. A couple of years ago, Goddard gradually withdrew from antidepressants, and the songwriting came back… He’s recorded a double album, which he plans to release himself in January 2012, entitled ‘Adam Ant is the Blueblack Hussar in: Marrying the Gunner’s Daughter’.
Goddard, now 56… talks of fronting an association for misdiagnosed bipolar sufferers, and of an album he’s writing for a third version of Adam and the Ants, which won’t include Pirroni. (“He did something to me which I won’t forgive him for. I’ll never go on stage with him again in my life.”) It’s equally difficult not to worry that all this hare-brained scheming is merely a manifestation of the old “manic” self. Now he’s off the medication, can he cope with those desperate mood swings? … He says: “You’ve got to be crazy to be a rock-and-roll singer”. ”
➢ Tour dates for Adam Ant & the Good, the Mad and the Lovely Posse — 25 stages in a stately, historic progress from Nov 10 at the 850-capacity Cheese & Grain (the 19th-century Market Hall) in Frome, Somerset… to Jan 22 at the 900-capacity former Art Deco cinema, “The Tiv” nightclub in Buckley (once famed for its brickmaking), Flintshire… while taking in on Nov 20 the 2,661-capacity Grade II listed Troxy (view online the virtual tour of this fabulously renovated Art Deco cinema, designed by George Coles) in East London… Somebody has been thinking about these things.
‘ZIGGY PAVED THE WAY FOR JOHNNY ROTTEN’
Siouxsie and the Banshees debut at the 100 Club punk festival, 1976: with Steven Severin, Marco Pirroni and John Ritchie (later Sid Vicious) on drums. Photograph by Ray Stevenson
❏ A lynchpin of the UK punk scene, Marco Pirroni became an integral part of Adam and the Ants in 1980 as lead guitarist and co-songwriter, until they went their own ways 20 years later. Today he is a songwriter, producer and guitarist in a rock-and-roll garage band called The Wolfmen, along with another ex-Ant, Chris Constantinou, making a sound described by Mojo magazine as “exuberant filth — Chris and Marco do growing old disgracefully with style”.
“ Q: So it would have been stuff like Roxy Music that inspired you to play guitar?
A: Yeah, Roxy and Mick Ronson. Aladdin Sane made me want to play. Q: How important would you say glam-rock was to the advent of punk?
A: It was really really important. The glam thing laid the ground rules and maybe the foundations. I know there are lots of punk fans out there that say it’s nothing to do with it, but you can see direct parallels between Ziggy Stardust and Johnny Rotten. ”
❚ LAST NIGHT BRITISH PARTY PROMOTER Chris Sullivan sat in a new London gallery cafe to ask Leee Black Childers about his formative years leaving Kentucky for New York City and getting drawn into Andy Warhol’s Factory crowd of the late 60s and 70s. For more than an hour at The Society Club in Soho, Childers confessed all about his formative years when Warhol encouraged him to “say” he was a photographer, after which he snapped many informal early pix of David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Debbie Harry, Lou Reed, New York Dolls, Patti Smith, Jayne County. All the photographs on display are on sale for the next week.
Our two videos catch a few ribald moments verbatim. Other landmarks included Danny Fields and Andy Warhol taking him to see this “terrific new band”. Using the camera his brother had given him on his 17th birthday, Leee produced sensational pix of the young misfit Iggy Pop at the Stooges’ first New York concert. Leee lived for a year with Iggy. “You should know that he had a really great mind. He would talk about Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, and kept me awake talking about philosophy all night. He was also a very kind person and had one of the best penises I’ve seen.”
Lee attributes the birth of the glitter phenomenon in 1970 to Theatre of the Ridiculous director John Vaccaro’s production of Heaven Grand in Amber Orbit which was set in a circus, to which he brought “giant, huge barrels of glitter and he said, Put it everywhere, and everyone onstage was covered in glitter”.
Linda Clark, Leee, Nancy Spungen, Sid Vicious, Dee Dee Ramone. (Photo by Danny Fields)
In 1971 Leee visited London when Andy Warhol’s ground-breaking show Pork took over the Roundhouse with nude scenes that revelled in the recent abolition of theatre censorship in the UK. During this trip he met David Bowie performing at the Country Cousins nightspot in Fulham: “I’d never heard of him but I went because they said he wore a dress, but he wasn’t wearing a dress. We also met Angie Bowie who was not wearing a dress either. That show was pretty lame.” Yet when Bowie later came to play in New York, Leee was asked to be the vice-president of his US company. He subsequently travelled with Bowie through Russia in 1973 and was tour manager for Johnny Thunders and The Heartbreakers when they supported the Sex Pistols on their 1976 Anarchy tour across the UK.
Leee hung out with the Sex Pistols in both London and New York. Asked from the floor “Who killed Nancy?”, Leee replied: “Nancy killed Nancy. She created the situation where it was impossible to go on” — referring to her fractious relationship with Sid Vicious. Though Vicious was charged with her murder in 1978, Leee says: “We all know it was not Sid.”
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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
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❏ 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”.
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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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