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David Bowie and Jeff Beck together as NOT seen in the ‘Ziggy Stardust’ movie
11:19 am


David Bowie
D.A. Pennebaker
Jeff Beck


“I know what kind of welcome you’re gonna give to JEFF BECK!”

Although it’s widely known—or at least widely known among David Bowie fanatics, MOJO subscribers and guitar otakus—that Jeff Beck was the “special guest” at Ziggy and the Spiders’ send-off show at the Hammersmith Odeon on July 3rd, 1973, Beck’s cameo appearance was cut from D.A Pennebaker’s documentary film of the event, Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Beck joined Bowie onstage for a blistering two song encore consisting of “The Jean Genie” and a cover of the Chuck Berry number “Around and Around.” There have been several home video releases of the film over the decades and yet none of them have ever restored the Beck footage or even had it as a DVD extra.

It’s not 100% clear why Beck insisted that his footage be edited out of the film, but it’s most likely to do with him not liking what he was wearing onstage that night. Apparently no one had informed the guitarist that the show was being filmed. Even Mick Ronson, no slouch at the time in the goofy clothes department said of Beck’s outfit:

“I was too busy looking at his flares. Even by our standards, those trousers were excessive!”

By the guitar god’s own admission, though, it might’ve been his shoes. In a 2009 interview with The Sunday Times, Beck revealed that it wasn’t his massive flares, but rather his footwear (“the most disgusting pair of dirty-white stack-heeled shoes you’ve ever seen”) that was the reason. He wouldn’t relent:

“Bowie rang me about 10 times and said, “Look, man, I understand about the shoes, ‘cos I didn’t like what I was wearing either.”

Keep reading after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
1970s glam rockers Cuddly Toys cover ‘Madman’ a song written by David Bowie & Marc Bolan
09:39 am


David Bowie
Marc Bolan
Cuddly Toys

The Japanese 7” for Cuddly Toys’ cover of ‘Madman.’ A song written by David Bowie and Marc Bolan.

We always had ideas above our station, and wanted to be a bit more interesting than the rest of the punk groups who only wanted to sing about being poor and ugly, even though we were poor and ugly.

—Faebhean Kwest, Cuddly Toys guitarist

I know that many of you die-hard glam rockers out there will probably already own the stellar album Guillotine Theatre by Cuddly Toys (which was originally released in Japan in 1979 then remixed and released in the UK a year later). However, if you do not, then I’d highly advise you that you add this fantastic record to your collection as soon as possible.

Originally known by the not-so-catchy name of “Raped”—the title of their first EP was also a cringer called Pretty Paedophiles, yikes!—the band’s guitarist Faebhean Kwest, claims that he was once asked by Malcolm McLaren to audition for the Sex Pistols, but turned the offer down. Early in 1979, the band changed their name to the less aggressive sounding Cuddly Toys at the suggestion of none other than legendary Radio One DJ, John Peel. Influenced by bands like Richard Hell and the Voidoids and (naturally) the New York Dolls and the Sex Pistols, the Toys boys were soon rubbing shoulders with many of their idols like Sid Vicious and Generation X.

Shortly before Marc Bolan’s untimely death in 1977, he co-wrote the song, “Madman” with David Bowie. Recordings and rough demos of the sessions in which “Madman” was birthed exist. The Cuddly Toys covered the song and released the track as their very first single. To help promote the song Cuddly Toys played a gig at The Music Machine in London. According to an interview with the band, the show was attended by a few famous admirers such as David Bowie, Iggy Pop and Paul McCartney—not too shabby of a start for the up-and-coming glam rockers who would call it quits in the early 80s.

Keep reading after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
‘Shame’: Just what you needed, a Christian ‘parody’ of David Bowie’s ‘Fame’
01:22 pm


David Bowie

The YouTube account with the handle TheParodyQueen is dedicated to Christian parodies of popular songs. As the Queen describes herself, she’s “a wacky blonde who loves writing parodies of all genres with Christian lyrics.”

In fairness, the covers aren’t bad at all and she certainly doesn’t seem very censorious or forbidding about any of it. It’s evident that the Parody Queen and her guitarist know David Bowie’s “Fame” inside and out and even seem to be grooving to it.

Here’s a sample of the lyrics:

Keeps a man from the mirror
Steals hope from tomorrow
Makes you weep and brings you sorrow
A ball and chain through your veins is entertained by bringing you ...


Is it any wonder
It infects and hurts?
Is it any wonder
How Jesus took the curse?

The curious are welcome to peruse the account, which has Christian parodies of songs by Led Zeppelin, the Bee Gees, Gloria Gaynor, CCR, and so on.

via Christian Nightmares

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Fanny: The Great Lost Female Rock Group of the 1970s
01:40 pm


David Bowie

Years before the Runaways or the Go-Go’s, there was pioneering “chick rock” band, Fanny. Fanny was formed in 1969 by teenaged guitarist-singer June Millington, with her sister Jean and drummer Alice de Buhr, as “Wild Honey.” When Nickey Barclay, a keyboard player who toured with Joe Cocker’s infamous “Mad Dogs and Englishmen” group joined them, the band was renamed “Fanny.” In the UK, where the word means “vagina” and not “butt” like it does in the USA, Fanny were thought to be quite outrageous by radio programmers. More outrageous than I think they intended.

Along with Suzi Quatro’s early band, The Pleasure Seekers and before them, Genya Ravan’s girl group Goldie & the Gingerbreads, Fanny was among the very first real female rock groups signed to a major label (Reprise Records, the artists first label started by Frank Sinatra, who was the “Chairman of the Board”). They worked with famed producer Richard Perry (Carly Simon, Ringo Starr, Harry Nilsson, etc) and later Todd Rundgren. They recorded at the Beatles’ Apple Studios and backed Barbra Streisand on her Barbra Joan Streisand album. They toured opening up for huge 70s acts like Slade, Jethro Tull and Humble Pie, but sadly, they are little more than a gender pioneer footnote today.

Fanny were nothing short of incredible, as you will hear, but they never made it as big as they should have. It’s unfair.

David Bowie, in a 1999 Rolling Stone interview, said of the group:

“One of the most important female bands in American rock has been buried without a trace. And that is Fanny. They were one of the finest… rock bands of their time, in about 1973. They were extraordinary: They wrote everything, they played like motherfuckers, they were just colossal and wonderful. They’re as important as anybody else who’s ever been, ever; it just wasn’t their time. Revivify Fanny. And I will feel that my work is done”

More Fanny after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
David Bowie’s stunning (and epic) hippie anthem ‘Memory of a Free Festival’
12:25 pm


David Bowie

Illustration by Bowie’s childhood friend, George Underwood, who once famously punched him, causing one of Bowie’s blue eyes to turn brown.

David Bowie’s eponymous 1969 release David Bowie (in America it was titled Man of Words/Man of Music and then Space Oddity) is an album that includes some of my favorite “underdog” deep catalog cuts from Bowie’s discography, namely “Cygnet Committee,” “Janine.” “Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud” and the epic seven-minute-long hippie anthem “Memory of a Free Festival.” I think of it as Bowie’s “Hey Jude” knock-off. It isn’t, exactly, but that there is an obvious similarity few would deny.

“Memory of a Free Festival” is a ghostly-sounding evocation of what seems to be some mind-blowing Hair-like manifestation from long ago and far away, but the actual event it celebrates (the Beckenham Free Festival of August 16, 1969, organized by Bowie and Mary Finnigan) was only about three weeks in the rearview mirror when the song was written and recorded (and it took place in dreary old Croydon, not exactly the fairy wonderland implied by the song’s blissed-out chant.) It could be thought of as a British variation on the same themes of transcendant longhaired communal spirituality as explored in Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock.”

“Memory of a Free Festival” is essentially two separate songs: the long, slow build-up, with Bowie accompanying himself on a cheap Rosedale Electric Chord Organ, and then the long drawn out chorus/chant fade: “The Sun Machine is coming down and we’re gonna have a party,” a line that is repeated 27 times. Marc Bolan, Radio 1’s “Whispering” Bob Harris, his wife Sue, and future SONY bigwig Tony Woollcott were among those recording the overdubbed background vocals and crowd noises. The two songs were connected by the sound of a cymbal being struck by a small rubber mallet and then slowed and manipulated on tape.

At the request of the American label, Mercury Records, the song was re-recorded as a harder-rocking “electric” version—and split into an A and B side of a 45rpm single—by a pre-Spiders from Mars band that included Mick Ronson (his first session with Bowie), drummer Mick Woodmansey and producer Tony Visconti, who played bass. This version also has a Moog synthesizer played by classical music producer Ralph Mace, who would play the electronic instrument again on The Man Who Sold the World soon afterwards.

The US single was a huge flop, selling but a few hundred copies, which probably shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise considering that the really, really catchy bit doesn’t even start until around the three-minute mark, and thus the B-side.

Continue reading after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Street art homages to Frank Zappa, Lemmy, David Bowie, Bon Scott, Ian Curtis & more

Frank Zappa street art mural under a bridge in London by James Mayle and Leigh Drummond
A massive mural of Frank Zappa under a bridge in London by artists James Mayle and Leigh Drummond.

I recently came across images of some beautiful street murals of both the sadly recently departed Lemmy Kilmister and David Bowie—which is what got me cooking up this post chock full of graffiti and street art homages to notable musicians and rock stars who are no longer with us.

Of the many public pieces, photographed at places all around the globe, I’m especially fond of the Lemmy/Bowie hybrid that popped up on a utility box in front of a restaurant in Denver, Colorado shortly after Bowie passed on January 10th, 2016, as well as a haunting image of Joe Strummer that was painted on the side of a rusted old van.
Lemmy/Bowie street art mashup in Denver, Colorado
Lemmy/Bowie street art mashup in Denver, Colorado.
Joe Strummer mural painted on the side of a van by French artist, Jef Aerosol
Joe Strummer mural painted on the side of a van by French artist, Jef Aerosol.
Inspired street art dedicated to everyone from Joy Division’s Ian Curtis to James Brown, after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
Starring David Bowie as Abraham Lincoln (???)
12:54 pm


David Bowie
Abraham Lincoln
Robert Wilson

Today’s remarkable bit of David Bowie information comes from a somewhat unlikely source: the May 1984 issue of Star Hits, a fan magazine for teenagers that achieved the difficult feat of covering the Clash and Menudo on the same page.

Tucked between an announcement for a contest to win a “video six pack” featuring footage from Kajagoogoo and DEVO and a report on the Lords of the New Church the reader will find a monthly feature called “Get Smart,” an avowedly pre-internet page dedicated to answering music questions sent in from readers.

As you can see above, Sarah Williams of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania wanted to know this: “I heard David Bowie was going to be in a play called The Civil Wars as Abe Lincoln. I was wondering exactly when and where this is going to take place?”

The reigning matron of the “Get Smart” page, known as “Jackie,” provided this answer:

David has shelved plans to appear as Honest Abe in Robert Wilson’s marathon theater piece The Civil War, scheduled to be presented at the Los Angeles Olympics. The play does have music by Talking Head David Byrne. It would have been Bowie’s second big trip to the boards, though: he got rave reviews as The Elephant Man on Broadway in 1980.

Intriguing! I can’t improve on the reaction penned by the unnamed contributor to Retronaut (where I first saw this): “David Bowie was going to play Abe Lincoln… in a play with music by David Byrne… to be performed at the Los Angeles Olympics?.... What?”

“What?” indeed. Yes, it’s all true. In 1984 the Olympics were held in Los Angeles, and for reasons that aren’t too clear the experimental theater director Robert Wilson decided that an international collection of decathletes and volleyball players was the perfect occasion for a sprawling, challenging, 8-hour work called the CIVIL warS: a tree is best measured when it is down, to take place in six different world capitals. Wilson had already become renowned for his production of Philip Glass’ Einstein on the Beach and some years later would direct The Black Rider, Tom Waits and William S. Burroughs’ adaptation of a German folktale called “Der Freischütz.”

Here’s Wikipedia on the massive undertaking:

The Civil Wars was conceived as a single daylong piece of music theatre to accompany the 1984 Summer Olympics. Six different composers from six different countries were to compose sections of Wilson’s text inspired by the American Civil War. After initial premieres in their countries of origin, the six parts were to be fused in one epic performance in Los Angeles during the games, a parallel to the internationalist ideals of the Olympic movement.

The premiere of the full work was cancelled when funding failed to materialize (despite the Olympic Committee’s offer of matching funds) and deadlines were not met. But four of the six sections had full productions under Wilson’s direction in Minneapolis, Rome, Rotterdam and Cologne, with workshop productions of the other two sections in Tokyo and Marseille.

History professor Thomas J. Brown, in his book Remixing the Civil War: Meditations on the Sesquicentennial, notes that “plans for rock star David Bowie to deliver the Gettysburg Address in Japanese particularly troubled potential sponsors.” (Given any knowledge of Wilson’s previous work or the fact that the title of the thing was going to be styled the CIVIL warS in the first place, why exactly would Bowie reading the Gettysburg Address in Japanese trouble anyone?)

Robert Wilson
Interestingly, it does not appear that Lincoln reading the Gettysburg Address actually happened in the final work. The character of Lincoln did appear in one of the final works, that being the Rome section, which had its premiere in March 1984 at the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, conducted by Marcello Panni. Lincoln was played not by Bowie but by Franco Sioli. Opera magazine published the following account of the piece’s action at the time—we’re just showing the Lincoln parts here:

The first scene presents Garibaldi in a box looking at the stage where a Snow Owl (Seta Del Grande) is seated; to the right a gigantic Abraham Lincoln (Franco Sioli) and at the centre Earth Mother (Ruby Hinds). ... The background to this episode depends on the vain efforts of Lincoln to enrole [sic] Garibaldi in the Federal army in 1862. The third scene is in a desert landscape: in the background is a spaceship and through a porthole we see a man floating in the absence of gravity: the man is Robert Lee, Confederate commander in chief. A mourning Mrs Lincoln (Ruby Hinds) enters followed by eight black-clothed figures (octet): the scene is conceived as a homage to the negro spiritual.

[Later] From a spaceship, Mrs Lincoln as a young girl recites an infantile speech announcing the end of the war. A human-sized Lincoln descends from the sky and reiterates the text sung in the first scene.

Human-sized Lincolns are my very favorite kind of Lincolns!

Keep reading after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Incredible auction featuring handwritten Bowie lyrics, Dylan paintings, signed Stones posters, more


Brixton Pound, A3 print of B£10 “David Bowie” note
Estimate: $1,000-$1,500

The Paddle8 auction website has an incredible auction right now featuring a huge amount of remarkable memorabilia from the greatest musical acts of the 20th century, including David Bowie, the Beatles, the Stones, Bob Dylan, and the Notorious B.I.G., just to name a few.

Unfortunately, the auction, going by the title “Legendary,” ends at 1 p.m. today Eastern time, right around when this post is set to appear live on our website. Presumably DM readers are more interested in viewing the auctions than they are in actually buying the (very expensive) stuff.

David Bowie, “Fashions” Mobile Display
Estimate: $400-$600

Some of the bigger-ticket items include signed items from the Beatles and the Stones, original handwritten lyric sheets from Bob Dylan and David Bowie, original painted canvases by Bob Dylan, rejected cover art for David Bowie’s album Station to Station, and a jacket worn by the Notorious B.I.G. The auction casts a wide net, including items from the Clash, the Cramps, the Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix,
Motörhead, the Sex Pistols, the Slits, X-Ray Spex, and Led Zeppelin.

As always, the details of the items only increases one’s interest in them. The paintings by Dylan are known as the “Drawn Blank Series,” watercolors and gouaches depicting “hotel room and apartment interiors, land- and cityscapes, views of sidewalk cafes, train tracks, and wandering rivers.” Dylan’s handwritten lyric sheet for “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall” actually dates from 2013, with “the 31 lines written out by Bob Dylan in black ink on a page of Holmenkollen Park Hotel Rica, Oslo stationary.” The full-color proof of the Station to Station album art was rejected by Bowie because he “felt that the sky looked artificial.”

Biggie’s jacket “features an embroidered logo reading ‘Flip Squad’ on its front and an applique ‘Funkmaster Flex’ logo on its back,” while the large Decca poster of the Stones was signed by Brian Jones, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, and Charlie Watts on Monday, October 19, 1964 “at the Locomotive nightclub in Paris during a press event in advance of their concert at the Olympia theatre the following day.”

Excuse me, I have to see my bank representative about a loan…..

Here are some images of the items to be auctioned; click on any image for a larger view.

The Beatles, Autographed “Meet The Beatles” Album
Estimate: $100,000-$150,000

More incredible items to be auctioned after the jump…..

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
David Bowie, Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, & Thin Lizzy songs reimagined as comic books

Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars fake comic
“Ziggy Stardust” as a vintage comic
Chris Sims of the website, Comics Alliance came up with the idea to mashup some old comic book covers with popular songs by David Bowie, The Flaming Lips, Beastie Boys and Public Enemy, just to name a few.
Beastie Boys' single
Beastie Boys’ 1986 anthem, “Brass Monkey”
Public Enemy's S1W's get the comic book treatment
Public Enemy’s “S1W’s”
The Flaming Lips 2002 single
The Flaming Lips’ “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots.”
Doctor Funkenstein!
Parliament’s “Dr. Funkenstein.”
More after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
Sky-high boots and platform shoes worn by David Bowie, Marvin Gaye, AC/DC, Keith Moon & more
09:09 am


David Bowie
Marvin Gaye

Marvin Gaye's signature silver platform boots, 1970s
Marvin Gaye’s signature silver platform boots made by Gaye’s wife, Janis, 1970s
As I’m sure many of the more academic readers of DM are aware, the history of guys strutting around in big heels goes all the way back to the Baroque period when it was considered to the calling card of a truly “masculine” kind of man. Oh yes. Wearing heels made you taller and being taller made one appear more menacing. And for men in positions of power or prestige, being intimidating was helpful with ensuring that you maintained your position in society. Aristocrats and elites like Charles II of England were often depicted in paintings wearing high-heeled footwear. 
An early version of AC/DC with vocalist Dave Evans looking very glam (far left) with Angus and Malcom Young
An early version of AC/DC with vocalist Dave Evans looking very glam (far left) with Angus (the only one not wearing heels) and Malcolm Young.
David Bowie, 1970s
David Bowie, 1970s
Johnny Thunders and David Johansen of the New York Dolls, 1973
Johnny Thunders and David Johansen of the New York Dolls, 1973
Plenty more platforms and manly man masculine high-heels after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
Intergalactic pimp: Donny Osmond dresses as ‘David Bowie’ and covers ‘Fame’ in 1976

Donny Osmond and David Bowie
I grew up watching the Donny & Marie show back in the 70s. I never missed a episode. Sadly, I was too young to have possibly appreciated Donny Osmond covering David Bowie’s “Fame” (from Bowie’s 1975 record Young Americans) on a show that aired during the first season of Donny & Marie in 1976. And guess what? It’s actually pretty good. Mind blown!
Donny Osmond dressed as
Donny dressed in his finest “David Bowie” drag perhaps, or is he trying to be an intergalactic pimp?
I’m not really sure, but it appears that the costume department for Donny & Marie must’ve thought “Bowie-esque” meant a sort of showy, Liberace-meets Elton John-meets-Superfly type getup. Once you look past that (if in fact you can look past Osmond’s ridiculous costume), it’s hard not to appreciate his 90-second little Bowie cover. This beautiful and bizarre bit of pop culture goodness that I had no idea existed before today (and can’t stop watching), is posted below. The full episode (which stars the great Ruth Buzzi) can be seen, here.
H/T: Kitsch Bitsch on Facebook

Donny Osmond gets down, gets funky

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
Young David Bowie seen in newly discovered 1967 NBC News clip
05:40 pm


David Bowie

Blink and you’ll miss him: A fashionable young David Bowie can be seen here—for but a split second—in this 1967 footage shot in one of London’s swinging “mod” Carnaby Street boutiques for an NBC News report. The topic seems to be a furrowed-brow examination of the problem of decadent and “licentious” British youth spending all their money on frivolous things, like clothes and having a good time. How dare they!

As goofy as such an attitude might seem now, in 1967 the older generation were truly perplexed and dismayed by the way young people acted and this news report is a memento of that befuddlement on the part of the establishment. Conservative British columnist Christopher Booker wrote an entire book about it called The Neophiliacs: A Study of the Revolution in English life in the Fifties and Sixties. It’s one of the great (largely) forgotten books of the 1970s, although it’s gone in and out of print over the years.

Private Eye magazine co-founder Booker, now an angry old man railing against the global warming “conspiracy,” but then still an angry young one, wrote of what he describes as a “psychic epidemic” which struck British popular culture. His central point in The Neophiliacs is a startling one: During the swinging Sixties a cadre of influential London media darlings (e.g., The Beatles, Stones, Marianne Faithfull, David Hemmings, David Bailey, etc.) exhibited–and were rewarded for–outlandish behaviors, exhibitionist clothing and general attitudes that would have seemed daft at best or completely insane at worst to the previous generation. The widespread veneration of these immature neurotics by working and middle class youth is—according to his thesis—the exact inflection point when society and culture took a radical detour into frivolity and meaninglessness. One quick look at the E! network or YouTube, of course, proves Mr. Booker’s point in spades.

The Neophiliacs is a truly great book, but I’m digressing aren’t I?

Bowie’s cameo is so brief that they even warn you ahead of time. It cuts out as the reporter—for some reason—mentions philosopher John Locke… I do wish I could see the rest of this clip.

Thank you kindly Spencer Kansa!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Watch what was probably David Bowie’s most bizarre interview, ever

In October 1999, David Bowie guested on the Channel 4 music show TFI Friday. It was a coup for the programme to hook Bowie in for an interview and two live performances—but probably not too unexpected as Channel 4 owned Friday night British TV during during the eighties, nineties and noughties.

This was the channel that served up such original, controversial and utterly unforgettable music shows as The Tube—the benchmark for this kinda thing with a roster of bands that read like a who’s who of the eighties’ greatest acts; The Word—which often seemed like some mad for it ravers got their paws on some TV cameras for an evening; and The Girlie Show which unfortunately was never quite as outrageous or as good as it thought it was. TFI Friday followed in a similar fashion with a mix of music, interviews, pranks and alike, all expertly managed by host Chris Evans.

All of these shows were broadcast live and were often very chaotic. Understandably therefore, each had its own memorable moments—just the quality of live bands on The Tube is ‘nuff said;  Iggy Pop’s see-thru pants, a pissed-up Oliver Reed or the grungy L7 dropping jeans and enjoying a guitar solo on The Word; and er, well, I can’t honestly think of anything too memorable from The Girlie Show other than it made #80 on Channel 4’s 100 Greatest TV Moments from Hell, which kinda tells you all you need to know…

Anyhow…back to Chris Evans who truly excelled as a host on TFI Friday. He skilfully mixed cheeky banter with a self-deprecating bonhomie. Evans was like a well-trained party host who kept the chat flowing, the music up and the beers nicely chilled. His show featured some of the stand-out live performances of the 1990s—enough to mention Pulp, Suede, Black Grape, Napalm Death, Slipknot, etc. etc… (There’s a lot more to be written about this show and its predecessors, but for now it’s back to David Bowie…)

I watched Bowie’s appearance on TFI Friday as was broadcast and thought (in my best Derek & Clive), “Hello, he’s either jet-lagged or has been dabbling in the sherbets...” Bowie arrived for his interview with Evans in a retina-scalding combination of neon pink shirt and fluorescent yellow T-shirt. From the off, he was buzzing with adrenaline—at least I think that’s what it was—and began telling various stories which by turn were funny, surreal and utterly bizarre. His opener was the “helluva time” he had getting to the studio because of traffic congestion on Hammersmith bridge, before segueing into a long tale about a one-legged man and his donkey from Indonesia and a recent debilitating bout of gastroenteritis after eating “monkey breast and parrot beak.”

More after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Watch David Bowie’s Japanese TV commercial for sake from 1980
08:56 am


David Bowie

David Bowie ad
For decades, American and British celebrities have appeared in television advertisements that air exclusively in foreign markets. Though popular opinion has swayed in recent years, there was a time when a star—especially from the film or music industry—was considered a has-been or a sell-out if seen in an ad. If nothing else, it was considered tacky behavior for an A-lister or a rock star. But there’s big money to be made in non-English speaking countries like Japan, and with contracts specifying the spot only air in that country, for many it’s too good of an offer to pass up—especially those fading from the spotlight or hard-up for cash. This type of arrangement was famously fictionalized by writer/director Sofia Coppola in her 2003 film, Lost in Translation, in which Bill Murray’s character—down on his luck American actor Bob Harris—goes to Japan to shoot a series of commercials for Suntory brand whiskey. Sofia Coppola’s father, director Francis Ford Coppola, partially inspired the premise, as he had shown up in Suntory ads with Akira Kurosawa in 1980. That same year, David Bowie—who, like Coppola, was far from washed up—was seen in his own Japanese television commercials promoting an alcoholic beverage.
Crystal Japan
Bowie’s 1980 sake ads for Crystal Jun Rock were the first TV commercials he ever appeared in (not counting this pre-fame clip or those touting whatever his latest album happened to be). The spots feature his eerie synthesizer instrumental, “Crystal Japan,” recorded during the sessions for Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps).

At the time, Bowie gave an interview explaining why he did the ads:

There are three reasons. The first one being that no one has ever asked me to do it before. And the money is a very useful thing. And the third, I think it’s very effective that my music is on television twenty times a day. I think my music isn’t for radio.

He also provided details regarding the music, noting that it differed from all his previous works:

I didn’t use bass or drums so it’s very different from anything I have done before. It will be included in my next album.

Ultimately, “Crystal Japan” was left off of Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) (in the original running order it was meant to be the last track), though the song was released as the A-side of a 45 in Japan. A promotional version of the single included inserts related to the ad campaign.
inserts montage
In other countries, “Crystal Japan” was the B-side of “Up the Hill Backwards”, and was included on the Bowie Rare compilation in 1982, as well as Rykodisc’s reissue of Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps), though those releases are now out of print. The song is currently available on the Bowie collection of instrumentals, All Saints.
Crystal Japan 45
One of the commercials Bowie did for Crystal Jun Rock can be seen below. The ad is dramatic and mysterious—what else would you expect?

Posted by Bart Bealmear | Leave a comment
David Bowie’s first-ever movie performance, in the creepy ‘The Image’ from 1967
08:07 am


David Bowie

In the February 26, 1966, edition of Melody Maker, David Bowie is quoted as saying, “I want to act. ... I’d like to do character parts. I think it takes a lot to become somebody else. It takes a lot of doing.” In hindsight we know that Bowie not only achieved his goal of acting in movies and on the stage, but ended up becoming one of the most distinctive presences you could include in a movie from the 1970s to the 2000s, from Just a Gigolo and Into the Night to Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence and The Prestige....

But it all had to start somewhere. Bowie’s ambitions started to be realized very quickly; already in 1967 he appeared in his first movie, a fourteen-minute short called The Image, written and directed by Michael Armstrong, who would later direct Mark of the Devil.

Michael Byrne, the other actor in the movie, apparently played Nazis all the time, most memorably in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, but to me he’ll always be the actor who played young Peter Guillam in the 1980 BBC version of Smiley’s People, replacing Michael Jayston, who had embodied the role in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

According to Cinebeats (now defunct), The Image ran into some censorship issues:

The Image was shot in just three days and completed in 1967, but it didn’t have its official screen debut until 1969. Due to the violent content of the film it became one of the first shorts to receive an ‘X’ certificate from Britain’s notoriously restrictive film rating’s board.

The artsiness is a bit dated to be sure, but otherwise the movie reminds me of Edgar Allan Poe by way of The Twilight Zone, which isn’t a bad place to be.
Continues after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
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