So, dear readers, this is one of the things I do when I am not busy scribbling and posting here on DM - I am part of a Joy Division tribute act called Joyce D’Vision. As the name would suggest, it’s not just any run-of-the-mill tribute act - it’s a drag queen tribute, fusing those two quintessentially Northern English traits of woe-is-me miserableism and end-of-the-pier transvestitism.
Before you ask, no, I am not Joyce D’Vision herself, but rather Noel Order, keyboard whizz extraordinaire and Bontempi aficionado. Joyce is played by the very talented Joe Spencer, and we are often joined on stage by other queens such as Sheela Blige, Kurt Dirt and Sahara Dolce. Joyce has been lucky enough to share the stage with British queer performance legends like David Hoyle (The Divine David) and Scottee Scottee (Eat Your Heart Out), but those were just warm-ups for what happened last week…
A few months ago Joe took part in a reality competition show May The Best House Win, where Joyce and friends had a cameo near the end. The program was finally broadcast last Tuesday, and seen by the comedian Harry Hill, himself a fan of Joy Division. Harry hosts a show called TV Burp, which looks over the best bits of the last week’s telly, and he invited Joyce and her friends to London to sing live on the show. Joyce performed as the final segment on the final show of the series, which was broadcast right before X Factor. Meaning that this went out on a Saturday evening, just after dinner time when everyone’s getting ready to watch the biggest show of the week. Seriously - that’s prime fucking time.
The reaction since (mostly gauged through Twitter) has been interesting - some people really get it, while others have stated that Ian Curtis would be rolling in his grave. I like to think Curtis would have seen the funny side, as would Tony Wilson I’m sure, and we have heard through the grapevine that there are even Joyce fans in the New Order camp.
Joyce D’Vision is not done out of hatred of the band or the man, but rather from love - and a simple desire to deflate the pomposity that surrounds JD and their legend, as perpetuated by magazines like NME and high street stores like Primark (currently selling an Ian Curtis t-shirt). So while the idea (and sight) of a fat, bearded man in a wig singing a boss nova version of “Love Will Tear Us Apart” is definitely going to rub some people up the wrong way, I’m pretty sure our readers here at DM can handle it:
So take a moment to remember all the gender variant people who have been killed in the past 12 months just for being who they are: Idania Roberta Sevilla Raudales, Luisa Alvarado Hernandez, Lady Oscar Martinez Salgado, Reana ‘Cheo’ Bustamente, Genesis Briget Makaligton, Krissy Bates (pictured), Alice Ferg, Tyra Trent, Priscila Brandao, Marcal Camero Tye, Shakra Harahap, Miss Nate Nate Daivs, Lashal Mclean, Didem, Camila Guzman, Gaby, Gaurav Gopalan, Ramazan Cetin, Shelley Hillard, Jesica Rollon, Astrid Carolina Lopez Cruz, Chassity Nathan Vickers, and the countless more un-named or unidentified murder victims (from the Transgender DOR website).
In their memory, and for all the gender variant people putting up with close-minded shit every single day, here’s Jayne County performing “Are You Man Enough To Be A Woman?” from the Japanese documentary New York Underground:
In memory of the late great Paradise Garage dj here’s a mystery set that has turned up on Soundcloud and is credited to Levan from the early 80s. Uploader R_co hasn’t been able to locate a playlist, but he has found a list of (nearly) every song played during his run as resident at the Garage - that’s quite a lot of music if you care to have a look. The mixing on this set is a bit hit and miss, but the crowd audibly loves it and the drop into Loose Joints’ “Is It All Over My Face” (from an excellent mystery track) at around 6 minutes in is heavenly:
Of course, Levan was more than just a dj - he was a remixer of no small talent, and some of his remixes are guaranteed dance floor fillers more than 30 years after their release (such as the previously mentioned Loose Joints track, one of my desert island discs). As a special bonus, here’s Levan’s first ever remix, which he mixed as a try-out for the Sesame Street disco album project, and which remained unreleased for almost 30 years:
Cookie Monster & The Girls “C Is For Cookie (Larry Levan Special Version Funky Disco Mix)”:
Thanks to Tara McGinley
After the jump more of Larry Levan’s best remixes, including the Joubert Singers, Grace Jones, Gwen Guthrie and more…
The legendary disc jockey, TV presenter and charity fund-raiser, Sir Jimmy Savile has died at the age of 84, at his home in Leeds, England.
Savile who was a major star of British TV and radio, was best known as host of Top of the Pops from the 1960s-2006, and his own highly successful show Jim’ll Fix It, where Savile fixed it for selected viewers to have their dreams come true. At its height the show received over 20,000 letters a week, asking to have their dreams fulfilled.
Savile with his distinct blonde hair, clunky jewelry, track suit and trademark cigar, was a genuine maverick and one-off. Born on 31 October 1926, Savile was widely acknowledged as the world’s first disc jockey, pioneering the use of twin-turntables, and continuous play “discos” during the 1940s and 1950s.
He was a Bevin Boy during the Second World War, conscripted as a coal miner, Savile worked down the pit at the South Kirkby Colliery, West Yorkshire. After the war he continued deejaying, and also took up a career as a wrestler, which, at one point, made him the highest paid wrestler in the world. He later claimed wrestling led to his breaking every bone in his body.
During the 1950s, Savile continued with music and ran several clubs throughout England, bringing rock and pop music to generations of youngsters.
By the 1960s, Savile was the most visible and best known disc jockey on radio and TV, promoting Beat, R’n’B, Motown, Northern Soul, Heavy Metal and Glam Rock over the years.
Apart from music, Savile worked tirelessly for charity, running over 200 marathons, and raising £40 million.
As mainstream radio in the UK gets steadily worse, as exposure opportunities for the genuinely interesting and different quickly disappear, and as lowest common denominator fodder like X Factor begins to limit the power of music in the popular imagination, he is missed now more than ever.
In the absence of one unifying national media platform it’s unlikely that we will ever see his like again, though I feel that through his influence, and the proliferation of music websites and blogs, we are all a bit Peelie now. Proof of the man’s legacy is that the anniversary of his passing has become an annual day of celebration, with gigs, radio shows, record fairs and even specific releases happening in his honor, every 25th of October. And this is a good thing, a very good thing.
So in memoriam, here’s a clip from a 2005 BBC program where various artists and radio djs posthumously rifle through his (typically eclectic) record box:
John Peel’s Record Box
After the jump, John Peel’s ‘Sound of the Suburbs’, Jimi Hendrix playing a Radio 1 jingle for Peel’s show in the late 60s, Peel on the assassination of JFK (which he reported on from Dallas for the Liverpool Echo), and an interview where Peel talks about the influence of punk, how its natural home is in the suburbs, and how scenes get co-opted by a jaded music press…
Scottish folk musician, Bert Jansch, one of the most influential and revered acoustic guitar players in the world, has died from cancer at the age of 67.
Jansch passed away in the early hours of October 5 at a hospice in Hampstead, north London. Though he had been ill for some time, Jansch continued to tour and perform, most recently appearing at Glastonbury earlier this year.
Born in Glasgow in 1943, Jansch was a leading figure in sixties folk music, releasing his first album, the self-titled, Bert Jansch, in 1965, which has been hailed as one of the greatest folk albums ever recorded. Jansch’s influence as a musician has streched across several musical genres and generations, from Paul Simon to Graham Coxon.
The Smiths’ guitarist Johnny Marr has said that “You hear him in Nick Drake, Pete Townshend, Donovan, The Beatles, Jimmy Page and Neil Young.”
While Neil Young called Jansch “As much of a great guitar player as Jimi Hendrix.”
Between 1967 and 1973, Jansch co-founder and guitarist with the legendary folk group Pentangle, playing alongside John Renbourn, Jacqui McShee, Danny Thompson and Terry Cox. Pentangle were known for their innovative mix of folk, rock and jazz, as seen through their seminal albums, The Pentangle, Sweet Child and Basket of Light. Their biggest hit single was “Light Flight”, which was used as the theme to the hit TV series Take Three Girls.
In 2007, Pentangle received a Life-time Achievement Award at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, where producer John Leonard said
“Pentangle were one of the most influential groups of the late 20th century and it would be wrong for the awards not to recognise what an impact they had on the music scene.”
Jansch continued to record, tour (supporting Neil Young in 2010) and producing solo material, which led to a major resurgence in his popularity over the past decade. His most recent album Black Swan was released in 2006, of which All Music said:
For the past ten years Jansch has been undergoing a creative renaissance akin to Bob Dylan’s and people are slowly but surely finding what he has on offer. Black Swan proves that the guitarist and songwriter has a bounty at his disposal. He is writing and recording music that is profound, funny, topical, worldly, and ultimately, necessary.
In 1969, [Calley] became executive vice president in charge of production at Warner Bros.; he became president in 1975.
“Under Calley, Warners became the class act in town,” Peter Biskind wrote in his 1998 book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-And-Rock ‘N’ Roll Generation Saved Hollywood.
“Urbane and witty, he gave the impression that he was somehow above it all, slumming in the Hollywood cesspool,” Biskind wrote. “As one wag put it, he was the blue in the toilet bowl.”
At Warner Bros., Calley created what Biskind called “an atmosphere congenial to ‘60s-going-on ‘70s filmmakers” and was known for relying heavily on his own taste in picking films.
Among Warner’s Calley-era bill of fare: Woodstock, A Clockwork Orange, Mean Streets, The Towering Inferno, “McCabe and Mrs. Miller, The Exorcist, Dog Day Afternoon, Deliverance, Dirty Harry, All the President’s Men, Blazing Saddles, Superman and Chariots of Fire.
As a salute, here’s a brief video resume of that golden era of film-making.
Born in London in 1922, Hamilton was determined to become an artist an early age, he quit school at 15, and studied art at night before entering the Royal Academy at 16. His studies were cut short by the outbreak of the Second World War, during which he worked as a draughtsman with engineers and scientists at EMI. After the war returned to the Royal Academy, but was expelled for “not profiting from the instruction”. He then attended the Slade College of Art for 2 years, from which he started working at the ICA, where he produced posters, leaflets and exhibit work.
In 1951, Hamilton curated his first exhibition, Growth and Form. This was followed in 1955 with the seminal Man, Machine and Motion, which examined human interaction with machine and environment, and how “the need to cope with technology provokes great art.”
It was at this time Hamilton met with Eduardo Paolozzi, who was already working on the collages which are now best associated with Pop Art. Hamilton joined Paolozzi in the loose grouping of artists known as the Independent Group, who gathered around the ICA.
In 1956, the Independent Group mounted This Is Tomorrow, an exhibition that is now seen as one of the most influential of the past sixty years - its resonance is still with us today. This was the show that announced Pop Art to the world - long before Warhol, who was then window dressing. As described by the Daily Telegraph:
This Is Tomorrow, a quasi-anthropological, partly ironic exhibition embracing the imagery of the embryonic mass media. In Hamilton’s words, the idea was to examine “our new visual environment — cinema, the jukebox, Marilyn Monroe, and comics — all these games with sound, optical illusion and imagery”.
His own small, dense, prophetic work Just What Is It That Makes Today’s Homes So Different, So Appealing? not only introduced the word “pop” into art (emblazoned on the muscleman’s phallic lollipop) but also anticipated many of the key images of the genre: the television; the Warner Bros billboard; the comic poster (Lichtenstein); the packaged ham (Rosenquist); the Motel bed (Oldenburg); and the Ford logo — Hamilton’s obsession with car design and engineering culminated in Hommage à Chrysler (1957). This was Pop Art, but not populist art. Hamilton called it “a new landscape of secondary, filtered material” – sophisticated art to be devoured by a mass audience.
The exhibition’s success gained him a teaching post at the Royal College of Art, where he influenced David Hockney and Peter Blake. He produced works such as Hers Is A Lush Situation (1958), in which automotive and female design are commingled; Pin-up (1961), with its mixed idioms, classical, modern, vulgar; and the sketchy, painterly collage-like rapture of $he (1962) – it was, he suggested, “a sieved reflection of the adman’s paraphrase of the consumer’s dream”.
In 1962, Hamilton’s wife, Terry, was tragically killed in a automobile accident. Hamilton quit Britain for the USA, where he became close friends with Marcel Duchamp. The friendship led to Hamilton curating a retrospective of Duchamp’s work at the Tate Gallery, London.
The association with Pop Art, led Hamilton to be hailed the “Father of Pop Art” a title he loathed. The association continued in the mid-sixties after he returned to England, and produced two of his most famous works Swingeing London 67, a portrait of Mick Jagger and Robert Fraser under arrest, which became one of the defining images of the 1960s. The following year Hamilton designed the cover for the Beatles White Album, which became his best known work.
The sixties also saw Hamilton influence another, younger generation of artists and musicians, most famously one of his pupils, Bryan Ferry and his band Roxy Music.
In the the 1970s, Hamilton had retrospectives at the Tate (1970) and the Guggenheim in New York (1973), both exhibitions subsequently toured Europe.
I saw one retrospective of his work during this decade at the Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh, which mixed his famous line drawings for James Joyce’s Ulysses, with his Pop Art, and silk screens. It was highly impressive, but more because of the intelligence on display, rather than any shared emotion inspired by the work. This may explain why Hamilton never really made the cross-over from critical acclaim to populist success.
The seventies saw Hamilton produce some of his most political work:
Hamilton had always been politically engaged, vociferously supporting the CND. In the 1980s he began a “Northern Ireland” trilogy: The Citizen (1981-83) depicted a “dirty protest” prisoner in the Maze; The Subject (1988-89), a self-righteous Orangeman; and The State (1993), a British soldier on patrol. Inevitably such politicised subject matter attracted criticism, though many considered the works merely naive oversimplifications.
Despite his advancing years, Hamilton continued to reinvent himself. In the 1980s he began working with computers: “I initially ventured into working with computers because I didn’t want to get left behind. I was approaching old age and aware of it, and I thought ‘I’m going to keep up with this’ and found out that I was ahead of everybody.” He designed two computers, the OHIO and the Diab DS-101, and increasingly used digital devices to manipulate images and create a dialogue between technique, technology and aesthetics.
The attraction of computers, he claimed, was that “you have the possibility of perfection. I’m after beauty — of composition, colour and tone.” It did not seem ironic that a man in his eighth decade was exploring technology with greater vivacity than almost any other artist: throughout his long career, Hamilton’s work anticipated almost every interpretative cultural theory, from Marshall McLuhan to the “Young British Artists”, and provided the most thorough engagement with mass media and technology this side of the Atlantic. Damien Hirst referred to Hamilton as “the greatest”.
Hamilton was appointed Companion of Honour in 2000; in 2006 he received the Max Beckmann Prize for Painting. A major retrospective of his work is due to travel to tour America and Europe from 2013.
Richard Hamilton married Terry O’Reilly in 1947; they had a son and a daughter. Rita Donagh, whom he married in 1991, survives him with the son of his first marriage.
Bonus clip, Richard Hamilton on Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music, after the jump…