You might remember our recent post on the Twin Peaks-themed clothing line, but I’m way more impressed by Suckers Apparel‘s David Bowie-themed line! They’re super cute, and I could totally do with that Halloween Jack leotard (if I had that kind of scratch).
I really like this remix of David Bowie’s “Love is Lost” from his album The Next Day, which came out earlier this year. It was undertaken by James Murphy, recently of LCD Soundsystem, and it incorporates as the primary bed a recording of Steve Reich’s 1972 “Clapping Music.” In fact it’s called the “Hello Steve Reich Mix.”
“Clapping Music” must be one of Reich’s most popular works. While researching this piece I found a textbook in which the class was told to break up into groups for the purpose of “composing your own ‘Clapping Music.’” Reich wrote it for two people (the video below has ten), and it’s based on a very simple idea. The two clappers clap the same pattern, but one of them adds a slight pause every few bars, which generates interesting and unexpected patterns until it eventually moves back into phase again. Since the notes don’t change in pitch, the notation looks like this:
Here’s Steve Reich’s “Clapping Music” performed by the Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble in 2006:
Cracked Actor is a 1974 BBC television documentary film about David Bowie that first aired in January of 1975. It was kind of a “Holy Grail” for Bowie nuts and over the years I’ve owned a VHS bootleg that was barely watchable, a DVD that was a slight improvement over that, and then I taped it off the air when BBC America aired it about ten years ago. Earlier this year, what with all the Bowie hoopla going on in the UK, the film was re-transferred to HD and trotted out again by the BBC. Now it’s really easy to find. In fact, it’s just a few inches below this very sentence.
Cracked Actor is a fascinatingly odd film. It was directed by a then 27-year-old Alan Yentob, later the Director of Programmes for all of BBC Television, who was promised extraordinary access to the singer by his manager Tony Defries. We meet a sickly, obviously coked-out David Bowie, being shunted between performances, limousines and hotels. He’s pale, stick thin and clearly mentally fragile. The somewhat uncomfortable manner in which he comports himself in film apparently made a big impression on Nicolas Roeg, who promptly cast him as an alien in The Man Who Fell to Earth.
In 1987, Bowie said of watching the film again:
“I was so blocked ... so stoned ... It’s quite a casualty case, isn’t it? I’m amazed I came out of that period, honest. When I see that now I cannot believe I survived it. I was so close to really throwing myself away physically, completely.”
Cracked Actor was mostly shot in Los Angeles and the majority of the concert footage was taken from a show at the Universal Amphitheatre on September 2, 1974. It is one of the sole sources of footage from the Burroughsian dystopia via Busby Berkeley vision of the infamous Diamond Dogs tour. Some of the material comes from D.A. Pennebaker’s Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars film.
Among the numbers performed in the film are “Space Oddity,” “Cracked Actor,” “Sweet Thing/Candidate,” “Moonage Daydream,” “The Width of a Circle,” “Aladdin Sane,” “Time” and “Diamond Dogs.”
It’s clear from some of the other shirts this Etsy user has for sale that this is the work of a morbid and highly twisted prankster, but I have to admit - I laughed. And I kind of want one. Putting a picture of David Bowie on a Lou Reed R.I.P. shirt like that is a pretty great joke.
Kansai Yamamoto was one of the most important “Japanese Contemporary” fashion designers who arrived on the scene in the 1970s, His primary accomplishment as a young designer was to appropriate the traditional Japanese garb of the past—kimonos, samurai armor, and so forth—and from them create enchanting modern variations.
Bowie has said that Yamamoto was “100 per cent responsible for the Ziggy haircut and colour,” saying, according to Peter Doggett’s book The Man Who Sold the World: David Bowie and the 1970s, “He had just unleashed all the Kabuki- and Noh-inspired clothes on London, and one of his models had the Kanuki lion’s mane on her head, this bright red thing.”
According to Cameron Silve’s Decades: A Century of Fashion, Yamamoto said of Bowie, “He has an unusual face, don’t you think? He’s neither man nor woman, if you see what I mean, which suited me as a designer because most of my clothes are for either sex.”
For his Aladdin Sane tour, Bowie sought Yamamoto out for some wacked-out space-age costumery, and Yamamoto produced the following looks:
“This exceptional cine footage was taken by my late father on a trip up to the West End of London totally unaware that David Bowie was the young dude that smiles graciously at the camera.
Even when I showed him what he had filmed he was none the wiser and couldn’t remember why he focussed on this particular chap. The face fleetingly seen behind Bowie is that of my mother. Roughly dated to 1968.”
The Mrs. Tsk* Tumblr blog investigated further and found that the home movie, in fact, dated to 1965, by comparing not only Bowie’s hairstyle at the time, but also from a Davie Jones & The Lower Third handbill which had caricatures of the group members that were actually drawn by Jones/Bowie himself. In this self-portrait, he’s wearing the same-rounded collar he’s seen sporting in the film. Mrs Tsk also figured out what block this was shot on, and surmises that the future rockstar was heading into the La Gioconda cafe.
Somebody in the comments points out that it’s more likely to be 1966 or 1965. I’m able to confirm that this is spring 1965. Bigfoot — I mean Bowie, or rather Davie Jones, as he’s still called at this point — is seen walking in a westerly direction along the south side of Denmark Street, London’s Tin Pan Alley, where in May 1965 he recorded a demo with his new band The Lower Third (Tea-Cup, Death and Les, who resemble the three bowl-headed lads seen walking through the arcade) at Central Sound Studio.
Central Sound Studio was right next to the La Gioconda cafe, famous as the place where Bowie met The Lower Third and also schizo-rocker Vince Taylor, later to serve as the inspiration for Ziggy Stardust. In fact, I’m pretty sure La Gioconda is where Davie, after flashing his charming smile at the unknown cinematographer, is heading.
There’s a fascinating “long read” article on the Moscow News website looking back on the trip through Russia that David Bowie made forty years ago with Geoff MacCormack, his childhood friend and back-up singer/conga player for six major rock tours.
MacCormack was one of The Astronettes along with Bowie’s mistress Ava Cherry and Jason Guess and he appears on Aladdin Sane, Pin-ups, Diamond Dog, David Live and Station to Station (he’s also in the Ziggy concert film). He put it nicely when he described the three decadent, action-packed years he spent touring with Bowie to Goldmine magazine: “Say you’re my friend and I invite you to a party, and the party goes on for three years, and you change costumes, and maybe we go home and say hello to mother — which is important, obviously — and we check with our families and, and we do all that, and we come back to the party and we carry on the theme, or the next theme, or the other theme, or whatever the theme is going to be and that’s kind of what it’s like.”
The travelers were given communist propaganda on their arrival: the book “Marx, Engels and Lenin on Scientific Communism” and various leaflets explaining what they could and couldn’t photograph, as well as a sermon on the evils of Tom and Jerry which said the cartoon was sick, degrading and a threat to children’s development. To back up this argument, the leaflet noted that then British-Prime Minister Edward Heath had staged a private showing of the cartoon at his country home of Chequers.
It was only once they got to Khabarovsk that they realized that they weren’t actually on the Trans-Siberian Express. This fabled train was a bit of a disappointment after the grand old Nakhodka-Khabarovsk train – more Formica than wood paneling, even if they were travelling in first class.
In the rather sweet columns that Bowie wrote for teen magazine Mirabelle, he paints a pleasant, varnished picture of the trip, as if writing to reassure his worried aunts at home.
“I could never have imagined such expanses of unspoilt, natural country without actually seeing it myself, it was like a glimpse into another age, another world, and it made a very strong impression on me. It was strange to be sitting in a train, which is the product of technology – the invention of mankind, and travelling through land so untouched and unspoilt by man and his inventions.”
More realistically, MacCormack told of how he had to run and jump onto the train after it began moving out of the station while he was buying food on a platform. “The very thought of being stuck with no ID in the wastelands of Siberia still fills me with panic, even after all these years.”
The two train attendants in his carriage, Danya and Nadya, were unsmiling and stern (as would you, if you were on a seven-day shift), but they melted once Bowie presented them with a soft toy he had been given in Japan. They also were given the full Bowie charm.
“I used to sing songs to them, often late at night, when they had finished work. They couldn’t understand a word of English, and so that meant they couldn’t understand a word of my songs!” wrote Bowie in Mirabelle, whose readers almost certainly took an instant dislike to these women who had what they had dreamed of and didn’t even know the language, let alone all the words by heart.
“But that didn’t seem to worry them at all. They sat with big smiles on their faces, sometimes for hours on end, listening to my music, and at the end of each song they would applaud and cheer!”
Joining the two in Khabarovsk was Robert Muesel, a veteran reporter with UPI with hangdog looks, and photographer Lee Childers, whose spiked platinum-blond hair and snakeskin platform boots drew plenty of looks, too.
Muzel described what happened when Bowie boarded the train.
“A passenger made an entrance that stopped onlookers in their tracks, as he was destined to do at most of the 91 stops to Moscow. He was tall, slender, young, hawkishly handsome with bright red (dyed) hair and dead white skin. He wore platform-soled boots and a shirt glittering with metallic thread under his blue raincoat. He carried a guitar, but two Canadian girls did not need this identifying symbol of the pop artist.
“‘David Bowie” they screeched ecstatically, “on our train.” Bowie turned their spines to jelly with a smile.”
There was reaction from the Russian side too, as one passenger looked at Bowie askance and said that such a thing could only happen in the decadent West.
Muesel hints that Bowie had a fun time on the train, but without providing any details. Mentioning talk of Bowie’s bisexuality, he wrote, “There was nothing ambiguous about his relationships with some of the prettier girls on board, either. “My wife Angela understands,” he laughed one day.”
Cleveland Ohio’s rock and roll sandwich emporium, “Melt Bar and Grilled,” is known the world over for its gigantic, rock-themed, whole-meal-between-two-buns, culinary masterpieces of excess. The restaurant’s latest sandwich special, created as part of a dinner-and-a-movie promo with a local theater, is like, totally right there in your face for everybody to see.
The overstuffed grinder in question, aptly-named “The Goblin King’s Ultimate Package,” pays loving tribute to “that which lies beneath” David Bowie’s nut-hugging, grey riding pants snugly worn in Jim Henson’s 1986 fantasy dance vehicle, Labyrinth. In it, Bowie plays a teased-hair wizard-type who reigns over a giant multi- square-mile stone maze holding children captive and casting creepy musical spells while dancing around with puppets.
Giving new meaning to the term “Manwich,” Melt’s newest zesty monstrosity features “Bowie’s Spicy Battered Cod-Piece” and “Sir Didymus’s Sweet n’ Spicy Jalapeno Hush Puppies” peaking out from behind a nest of “Hoggle’s Hot Pepper and Pickle Slaw.” Cover it up with “Ludo’s Lip-Smacking Pepper Jack,” pack it all between two pieces of bread, and you’ve got yourself a sandwich that leaves nothing to the imagination.
You would think that someone with the worldwide mega-celebrity that Ricky Gervais has (and deservedly so, I think) would not have any obscurities still left to discover on his IMDB page, but I get the feeling that except for the most devoted Gervais fanboys (obviously I am outing myself here) few people have heard of, or seem to recall, his 1999 one-off for Channel 4’s Comedy Lab series of pilots, “Golden Years.”
In a role, and in a shooting style, that presages both “David Brent” and The Office, Gervais and Stephen Merchant tell the story of Clive Meadows, a middle-aged David Bowie-obsessed video rental chain owner in Reading who wants to impersonate Bowie on a national television show.
Ultimately Clive is a less sympathetic idiot than Brent (who treated women better). It’s probably for the best that Gervais and Merchant’s pilot wasn’t picked up by Channel 4, because obviously once they got sent back to the drawing board, they were able to fully perfect their unique brand of pathetica resulting in one of the crown jewels of BBC comedy, The Office.
Which is not to say that “Golden Years” isn’t hilarious, because it’s absolutely bust-a-gut funny. A gem.
My favorite line is “Do it like Freddie” but that’s not giving anything away.
On March 21, 1976, David Bowie was on his “Isolar” trek around America (aka “The Thin White Duke tour”) and “Golden Years” was high on the US pop singles charts. But when the tour pulled into Rochester, NY for a concert at the War Memorial Arena his golden years could have been derailed when the singer and Iggy Pop were arrested on marijuana charges for an impressive amount of herb, about half a pound. Under the harsh Rockefeller drug laws, that could have resulted in fifteen years in prison, but ultimately resulted in nothing other than a minor inconvenience for Bowie, and one of the very best celeb mug shots of all time.
John Stewart reporting in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle of March 26 1976:
After silently walking through a crush of fans, police and reporters, English rock star David Bowie pleaded innocent to a felony drug charge yesterday in Rochester City Court. Bowie, 28, entered the Public Safety Building through the Plymouth Avenue doorway at 9:25 a.m., just five minutes before court convened, with an entourage of about seven persons, including his attorneys and the three other persons charged with him.
He was ushered into a side corridor by police and was arraigned within 10 minutes, as a crowd of about 200 police, fans and reporters looked on. Bowie and his group ignored reporters’ shouted questions and fans’ yells as he walked in — except for one teenager who got his autograph as he stepped off the escalator.
His biggest greeting was the screams of about a half-dozen suspected prostitutes awaiting arraignment in the rear of the corridor outside the courtroom.
Asked for a plea by City Court Judge Alphonse Cassetti to the charge of fifth-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, Bowie said, “not guilty, sir.” The court used his real name — David Jones. He stood demurely in front of the bench with his attorneys. He wore a gray three-piece leisure suit and a pale brown shirt. He was holding a matching hat. His two companions were arraigned on the same charge. Bowie was represented by Rochester lawyer Anthony F. Leonardo, who also represented his companions, James J. Osterberg, 28 of Ypsilanti, Mich., and Dwain A. Vaughs, 22, of Brooklyn. Osterberg, described as a friend and Vaughs, described as a bodyguard, also pleaded innocent to the drug charge.
Osterberg also is a rock musician and performs under the name of Iggy Stooge. Bowie has produced at least one of Osterberg’s album in the past. Judge Cassetti set April 20 for he preliminary hearing for the three men. He also agreed to set the same date for the Rochester woman charged with the same offence, Chiwah Soo, 20, of 9 Owen St., who was also in the courtroom. Cassetti allowed Bowie to remain free on $2,000 bail, as well as continuing the $2,000 bond on the other three persons charged. Bowie and the other three were arrested by city vice squad detectives and state police Sunday in the Americana Rochester hotel, charged with possession of 182 grams, about half a pound, of marijuana in his room there. Bowie was in Rochester of a concert Saturday night.
Bowie’s arrangement was witnessed by his fans, some of whom had waited two hours to catch a glimpse of him. All remained quiet in the courtroom and scrambled after his arraignment to watch his exit from the building. But fans and reporters were disappointed as city uniformed and plain-clothes police slipped him out unnoticed. Using a maze of elevators and stairwells, police took Bowie and his entourage out a side exit, across the Civic Center Plaza and into Leonardo’s office on the Times Square building’s seventh floor.
Only about 30 fans were on had to yell goodbye as Bowe and his friends left from Leonardo’s office at 12.30pm. Bowie, for the first time, waved to the crowd as his limousine pulled out from a parking space on West Broad Street, made a U-turn and headed for the expressway and the drive back to New York City. The blue-and-black Lincoln Continental limousine had been ticketed for overtime parking, but a plainclothes policeman took the ticket, and put it in his pocket.
Bowie had remained silent throughout the morning but granted a five-minute interview to newspaper reporters in Leonardo’s office. Leonardo, however, wouldn’t allow any questions directly concerning the arrest, saying it was the first criminal charge he’d ever faced. He complimented city police, though, for the protection they provided him yesterday.
“They (city police) were very courteous and very gentle,” Bowie said. “They’ve been just super.” Quiet and reserved, Bowie answered most of the reporters’ questions with short answers, shaking hands with them when they entered and left. Asked if the arrest would sour him on returning to Rochester, Bowie said “certainly not, absolutely not.” He also said he was “very flattered” by the fans who turned out for this arraignment. “I felt very honored,” he said.
Bowie and his entourage arrived in Rochester about 4am after performing a concert in the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island Wednesday night, Leonardo said, he will appear tonight at Madison Square Garden, his final concert of his America tour, Pat Gibbons, said.
The Château d’Hérouville where David Bowie, Marc Bolan, Elton John, The Grateful Dead, The Sweet and Fleetwood Mac recorded is up for sale.
Located near the town of Auvers-sur-Oise, in France, the property is described as a coaching station, built in the 18th century, which includes 30-rooms, and 1,700m ² of living space.
The selling price is 1, 295, 000 Euros.
In 1962, composer Michel Magne purchased the property and developed it into a recording studio. Magne is best known for his Oscar win for Gigot.
The Château was particularly popular with British artists, starting with Elton John, who recorded three albums at the studios, Honky Chateau, Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player and Goodbye Yellowbrick Road. Elton suggested the studio to Marc Bolan where he recorded his 1972 album The Slider; and Bolan recommended it to David Bowie who record Pin-Ups in July 1973, and then Low in 1977.
But the Château wasn’t just known for its considerable musical pedigree. Producer Tony Visconti claimed star-crossed lovers Frederic Chopin and George Sand haunted the building—Chopin had trysted with Sand while living at the mansion. Bowie also noted the studios supernatural feel.
The Riot Squad were a London-based pop group who saw Mitch Mitchell of The Jimi Hendrix Experience, singer Graham Bonney and a young David Bowie come and go from their ranks during their 1964 to 1967 run. Some earlier Bowie biographies have no mention of this brief stage of his career.
Ian Shirley wrote a history of The Riot Squad for Record Collector magazine, here’s an excerpt about the three months that David Bowie fronted the group, via David Bowie.com:
In early March 1967, the band divided, with Gladstone, Crisp and Clifford going off to form soul band Pepper. Evans retained The Riot Squad name, along with Butch and Del. He was quick to recruit Rod Davies (guitar), Croak Prebble (bass) and a new lead singer.
Evans recalls: “I saw David Bowie with The Buzz at the Marquee and thought that he was fantastic. I approached him and he agreed to join.” Though Bowie had a growing reputation in London, like the Riot Squad he lacked a hit record.
Butch was underwhelmed when Evans informed him he’d offered the future Ziggy Stardust the job: “I thought, ‘Oh no, I don’t like him.’ We had supported Bowie months earlier. His presentation was superb, but his material was terrible.” Saying that, when Bowie turned up for their first rehearsal in a Tottenham pub, Butch admits he “fell in love with him because he had such charisma and he looked so cool when he walked in”.
The band had a few days to work up a set-list before their next gig and Bowie took charge in helping to knit together a running order. He even brought in a track from an unreleased LP by a US band called The Velvet Underground, “I’m Waiting For The Man.”
Bowie’s manager Ken Pitt returned from a trip to New York with an acetate of The Velvet Underground & Nico in late 1966 and his young client was immediately infatuated with the album. A song written by Bowie around that same time, “Little Toy Soldier,” quoted an entire chunk of “Venus and Furs.”
Butch recalls that, although The Riot Squad set had pop and soul roots, they were open to diverse material such as the Bowie-penned “Little Toy Soldier.” Bowie also pushed the band to be more theatrical. “He told me, ‘Why don’t you put paint on your face, Butch?’ We became more outrageous. Bob started throwing rags into the audience.
“Bob Evans loved it when Bowie came along,” recalls Butch, “because he was out front with the sax and flute and with tracks like “The Vicar’s Daughter” we got a bit more like The Bonzo Dog Band. When Bowie came in he had great ideas like “Toy Soldier,” where he’d whip Bob on stage. They got on like a house on fire because they were both great front men.”
Bowie led the band for around 20 gigs, between March and May 1967, before handing in his notice to go solo again.
“We were serious with David,” recalls Evans. “His material commanded respect, and while I wasn’t exactly hankering to loon about, “I’m Waiting For The Man” and “Toy Soldier” pointed that way. I can’t remember when we first chucked rags into the audience, that was post-David, but I enjoyed doing that stuff – all of which would develop at a pace soon after.”
Although David Bowie never officially recorded anything with The Riot Squad, rehearsal tapes have survived and were released as The Last Chapter: Mods & Sods in 2012.
Below, what is undoubtedly one of the very earliest Velvet Underground covers, a Bowie-led run-though of “I’m Waiting for the Man”:
Freddie Mercury first met David Bowie in the summer of 1970, when he was trying to sell Bowie a pair of suede boots. Mercury co-managed a stall in Kensington Market, with Roger Taylor, and while Bowie tried on the footwear, Mercury quizzed him about the music business. David was disenchanted and asked Freddie, ‘Why would you want to get into this business?’
Over the next decade, Mercury and Bowie’s paths crossed—Queen hired Mick Rock, the man whose photographs made Bowie an icon, to shoot their equally iconic cover for Queen II—but it would not be until the summer of 1981 that Queen and Bowie worked together.
In his biography of David Bowie, Starman, Paul Trynka described what happened next:
According to Mercury’s personal assistant Peter Freestone,Bowie only realized Queen were in Mountain [recording studios] working on their R&B-flavored album Hot Space by chance. Asked to add backing vocals on the song “Cool Cat,” David stayed for a marathon session in which Queen’s song “Feel Like” was transformed into “Under Pressure.” David contributed the bulk of the lyrics, set over drummer Roger Taylor’s descending chord sequence. By now, Mercury had developed more of an ego than in his market-stall days, and it was Queen’s drummer who was at the heart of the session, interacting with the interloper. ‘Roger and Bowie got on very well,’ according to Freestone, ‘although the lyrics and title idea came from Freddie and David.’
‘It was hard because you had four very precocious boys—and David, who was precocious enough for all of us,’ says Brian May. ’ David took over the song lyrically. |t’s a significant song because of David and its lyrical content—I would have found that hard to admit in the old days—but I can admit now.’ David championed the song, encouraging Freddie, and contributing a classic, swooping melody, as well as one of his own distinctive, reflective middle-eight sections (‘the terror of knowing what this world is all about.’)
Queen were uncertain about the track, even after Bowie and Mercury re-worked their vocals and mixed the recording at The Power Station in New York, a fortnight later—John Deacon’s distinctive bassline was added at the same session, hummed to him by David. Brian was particularly unhappy, recalling the ‘fierce battles around the mix, and his own misgivings about the song’s release as a single; instead it was Queen’s record company, EMI, that pushed the collaboration…
This, of course, is Bowie’s biographer’s take. Queen bassist, John Deacon said in 1984 that the song was primarily Freddie Mercury’s, and developed out of a jam session. Also, the song Trynka quotes as the original “Feel Like,” is a separate track by Roger Taylor. Also, Hot Space was more Disco than R&B.
Yet, it is true that most of the song “Under Pressure” came out of a ‘marathon session,’ which explains Mercury’s incredible, improvised vocals. Open Culture gives a slightly different version of events:
And so began a marathon session of nearly 24-hours–fueled, according to Blake, by wine and cocaine. Built around John Deacon’s distinctive bass line, the song was mostly written by Mercury and Bowie. Blake describes the scene, beginning with the recollections of Queen’s guitarist:
‘We felt our way through a backing track all together as an ensemble,’ recalled Brian May. ‘When the backing track was done, David said, “Okay, let’s each of us go in the vocal booth and sing how we think the melody should go–just off the top of our heads–and we’ll compile a vocal out of that.” And that’s what we did.’ Some of these improvisations, including Mercury’s memorable introductory scatting vocal, would endure on the finished track. Bowie also insisted that he and Mercury shouldn’t hear what the other had sung, swapping verses blind, which helped give the song its cut-and-paste feel.
The ‘fierce arguments’ took place during the mix. Queen’s engineer Reinhold Mack is quoted by Blake as saying ‘It didn’t go well.’:
“We spent all day and Bowie was like, ‘Do this, do that.’ In the end, I called Freddie and said, ‘I need help here,’ so Fred came in as a mediator.”
Mercury and Bowie argued. Then Bowie threatened to block the release of the single. It never happened and “Under Pressure” by Queen and David Bowie was released in September 1981. It was Queen’s second number one, making the top of the UK charts on 21 November. In America, it reached number twenty-nine a few weeks later. It is now recognized as a classic song, though Brian May would still like to re-mix it.
This is the Freddie Mercury’s and David Bowie’s isolated vocals from the recording of “Under Pressure.”