Into the archive: 1978 self-portrait sketched and signed by Bowie (detail)
❚ AT THE DAVID BOWIE CENTRE for the Study of Performing Arts fans will soon be able to get up-close to Bowie’s creative genius like never before. From 2025 the Victoria & Albert Museum’s East Storehouse in London’s Olympic Park will house more than 80,000 items amassed during the six decades of the performer’s pioneering career. His archive will be made available to the public, from fans to school children and researchers, thanks to the David Bowie Estate and a donation of £10m from the Blavatnik Family Foundation and Warner Music Group.
The archive features handwritten lyrics, letters, sheet music, original costumes, fashion, photography, film, music videos, set designs, Bowie’s own instruments, album artwork and awards. It also includes more intimate writings, thought processes and unrealised projects, the majority of which have never been seen in public before.
V&A East Storehouse will be a new type of museum experience taking visitors behind the scenes of the stored collections. The new Centre will also support the ongoing conservation, research and study of the archive.
Into the archive: notes for Bowie lyrics created by the Burroughs “cut-up” technique
Highlights include stage costumes such as Bowie’s breakthrough Ziggy Stardust ensembles designed by Freddie Burretti (1972), Kansai Yamamoto’s flamboyant creations for the Aladdin Sane tour (1973) and the Union Jack coat designed by Bowie and Alexander McQueen for the Earthling album cover (1997). The archive also includes handwritten lyrics for songs including Fame (1975), “Heroes” (1977) and Ashes to Ashes (1980), as well as examples of the “cut-up” method of generating lyrics introduced to Bowie by the writer William Burroughs. Additionally, the archive holds a series of intimate notebooks from every era of Bowie’s life up to his death in 2016.
Tilda Swinton, one of David Bowie’s friends and collaborators, said: “In 2013, the V&A’s David Bowie Is… exhibition gave us unquestionable evidence that Bowie is a spectacular example of an artist who not only made unique and phenomenal work, but who has an influence and inspiration far beyond that work itself. Ten years later, the regenerative nature of his spirit grows ever further in popular resonance down through younger generations.”
Into the archive: stage costumes from every decade of Bowie’s career
The Band Aid band, Nov 25, 1984: most of the pop stars who performed, plus artist Peter Blake who created the record sleeve for Do They Know It’s Christmas?
◼︎ TODAY WAS THE DAY IN 1984 THEY RECORDED the song that became, for 13 years, the biggest selling UK single of all time. Do They Know It’s Christmas was released four days later, stayed at No 1 for five weeks, sold over three million copies and raised significant funds for famine relief in Africa. The project lead naturally the next year to Live Aid, the biggest globally televised rock concerts ever, viewed by two billion people in 60 countries, who coughed up still more dollars…/ Continued inside
Dave Swindells at Doomed, in front of one of his photos of Taboo in 1985: “It was such an adventure, a crazy night in terms of what happened there, partly because there would be a whole suitcase load of ecstasy” (Photo by Shapersofthe80s)
◼ WE FIRST MET, I VAGUELY RECALL, at the Leadmill in that damp autumn of ’82 when Dave Swindells was still a student at Sheffield Uni. I was the hotshot “Man from The Face” doing a whistle-stop tour of Sheffield clubs for my monthly Nightlife column in Britain’s coolest subcultural magazine, so I was quite used to people standing in front of my camera trying to get into shot. Swindells on the other hand turned his back on me while he lined up his Kodak Box Brownie in a pathetic attempt to capture some new-wave synth band on the barely lit stage. I smiled smugly to myself at his teen gaucheness and leaned in paternally to whisper the advice I’d gleaned from another snapper of the night, Richard Young, himself emerging as the celebrity paparazzo we know and love today: “Give give it f/8 and push the film in the developer.”
The grateful Swindells gushed his thanks and asked: “Please, sir, how do I get into photography for a living?” – “Stick to what you know,” I replied sagely. “Why not photograph what your friends get up to at night?” Ha! I knew full well dark clubs were a nightmare to capture on the slow film of those years before digital, when the trickiest part was having to use flash at close quarters, which reduces faces to a white blotch.
Flyer for the Swindells talk on Tuesday: explain this lot, Dave!
Within two years the little bastard had stabbed me in the back and was toting a very upmarket Pentax as Nightlife Editor of Time Out magazine – a job he then hung onto for the next 23 years!!! His photographs have been featured in i-D, The Face, The Observer etc, while swanning round the world on travel freebies. I’ve been kicking myself ever since.
Next Tuesday 3 May he’ll be telling us all how on earth he got away with it for so long. He’s giving a talk at some achingly on-fleek gallery in Dalston called Doomed, where there’ll be a display of photos and a limited edition Photocopy Club zine to take away. Dave’s title is “Keeping It Real” and he promises “a fascinating insight into the trends, attitudes, and nuances of London’s clubbers. Evocatively shooting the emergence of the rave scene in the late 1980s, Dave follows the journey from the wild attitude of rave to the night-time antics of modern day”.
Frankly, I can’t think of anybody better qualified to tell the tale of the past three decades of hedonism pursued to the hilt as only the Brits know how. Dave’s the one who’s got the proof in pictures, and how.
“ For his 27th studio album, has Bowie gone jazz? On first listens to Blackstar, released on 8 January, Bowie’s 69th birthday, it certainly sounds like rock’s oldest futurist has dusted down his saxophone. They are tooting, parping, wailing and gusting all over the place, occupying rhythmic, atmospheric and lead parts, with guitars and keyboards intermingling in a weave of supporting roles.
Donny McCaslin: Bowie’s new-found friend
The saxophone was Bowie’s first instrument, which he started learning in his pre-teens inspired by a bohemian, jazz-loving elder half-brother, Terry Burns. Bowie once said that, aged 14, he couldn’t decide if he wanted “to be a rock’n’roll singer or John Coltrane”. Even in his rise to rock fame, Bowie remained a creature of the jazz age, at least in the sense of the boundary-crashing freedom that characterises his work.
A new single, Lazarus, released today, may kick off in the vague realm of contemporary music, with spectral guitar and stuttering rhythms calling to mind the young British trio the xx, but it is not long before those saxophones are sighing and the beat is fragmenting. Just about holding it together are the familiar tones of Bowie’s teeth-gritted, tight-chested whisper of a vocal, proclaiming it is This way or no way / You know I’ll be free / Just like that bluebird / Now ain’t that just like me? Sure sounds like jazz to me. . .
What Bowie has created with this hardcore jazz crew, though, is not something any jazz fan would recognise and is all the better for it. At its best, free jazz is amongst the most technically advanced and audacious music ever heard but it can be uncompromisingly difficult to listen to for the non-aficionado. The improvisational elements that make it so gladiatorial and hypnotic live can make it over complex and inaccessible on record. Bowie’s intriguing experiment has been to take this wild, abstract form and try to turn it into songs. Blackstar is an album on which words and melody gradually rise from a sonic swamp to sink their hooks in. It is probably as close as free jazz has ever got to pop. . . ” / Read the full review at Telegraph online
◼ IN AN UNNERVING SIMULATION OF BOWIE’S VOICE, the star of Bowie’s new musical Lazarus, Michael C. Hall, sings its title track for the CBS Late Show (below) the day it is released as a single. The maestro himself is watching the show at home in his armchair. How meta-modern is that?!
➢ Bowie fulfills his jazz dream – Listen to an NPR Music interview with the two main characters who accompany Bowie on this new adventure in music – his longtime friend and producer Tony Visconti and his new-found friend/saxophonist and band leader Donny McCaslin.
LaBeouf, Rönkkö and Turner taking your calls: Click on this pic to open the live stream at touchmysoul.net in a new window
◼ SHIA LABEOUF INVITES YOU TO RING HIM AND TO#TOUCHMYSOUL – the art collective LaBeouf, Rönkkö and Turner are standing by, waiting for your calls as part of a new project at Liverpool’s FACT gallery, 11am–6pm GMT from Dec 10–13. Telephone +44 (0)151 808 0771. Or view the live stream. Or visit the gallery in person.
“ Luke Turner and Nastja Säde Rönkkö, it’s safe to say, don’t quite have the same growly charisma as Shia LaBeouf, a world-famous Hollywood actor turned performance artist. Indeed, they look as if they’ve won a competition to hang out with him. But the unlikely trio are adamant that they are an artistic collective, each on an equal footing. Turner wags a metaphorical finger at journalists who have failed to understand this.
“If it’s a positive article, it’s a work by the art collective,” he says. “If it’s negative, it’s by ‘actor Shia LaBeouf’.” He frowns. “It’s very peculiar to write about a work without saying who it’s by.”
But aren’t they like a band, where people are only interested in the singer? “Well,” says Turner, “you don’t say, ‘John Lennon has released his album.’ It’s the Beatles. I’m not comparing us to the Beatles, by the way.”
Since the beginning of 2014 – when LaBeouf heralded his new career by attending the premiere of Nymphomaniac with a paper bag over his head, scrawled with the words “I am not famous any more” – the three have dreamed up projects that have involved LaBeouf interacting directly with the public. “Why does a goat jump?” asks LaBeouf. “There’s an animalistic urge to express love that I can’t express in film”. . . ” / Continued at Guardian Online
Read transcripts of the live stream:
❏ Luke Turner tells uswhat we’re seeing beneath the live video stream: “It’s the three of us typing the fragments of conversation together as there’s only one phone line, so we’re all on it together. Colours just separate the ideas/threads of thought or conversation.”
➢ For four days from 10 Dec 2015 #TOUCHMYSOUL is being streamed live from FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology), 88 Wood Street, Liverpool L1 4DQ, as part of the group exhibition Follow, open 11 Dec 2015–21 Feb 2016 (admission free)
❏ Except that the performers didn’t revealany such thing. It was an impossible and ambiguous invitation – “Can you touch my soul?” – since some people insist there’s no such thing as the soul, and whatever it is, a soul is intangible or immaterial and cannot be touched anyway. The OED offers three definitions: “1, The spiritual or immaterial part of a human being or animal, regarded as immortal. 2, A person’s moral or emotional nature or sense of identity. 3, Emotional or intellectual energy or intensity, especially as revealed in a work of art or an artistic performance.”
So what counts as a soul being touched? The TMS artists did not specify, neither before the four-day performance, nor after. The trio gave a post-event interview to Dazed Digital in which they still did not answer these questions. They talked about phoning and listening. The words meaningful and connection and rewarding experience recurred. All are intensely subjective, so how can we or they evaluate the outcome?
Luke Turner said that they wanted to “be receptive to whatever feelings might travel down the phone lines to us over those four days”. Do feelings touch a soul?
Nastja Säde Rönkkö said: “Some people moved us with their sweet energy, laughter, singing, silence, life stories, emotions.” Does all this mean touching a soul?
Shia LaBeouf spoke mostly in blank verse, very little of which made sense: “Connection is to be lived / And the internet is not any less alive.” Hm.
A curator said: “It’s about the framework of the show: what do you think is a real experience?” Ah, good old reality. There you go.
The event seemed to conclude with LaBeouf being tattooed with the words: “You. Now. Wow.” We were shown him being touched by the tattooist’s needle.
A project that doesn’t set out its brief beforehand risks missing its mark. It’s hard for callers to know what they’re expected to do or to evaluate any subsequent touching. The result was yards of telephone transcripts which are available to read online at touchmysoul – mainly touchy-feely, hippy-dippy psycho-babble and precious little enlightenment.
18 FEB UPDATE: A SELECTION OF THE 1,089 CALLS
Jerry Springer’s Final Thought:
“I play a crazy talk-show host, but that’s not me. It’s like an actor playing a role.”
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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
➢ 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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