For those of us outside of the UK who are too lazy to torrent it, some kind soul has uploaded quite a nice copy of director/producer Francis Whately’s new film about the radical changes in David Bowie’s work from 1971 to 1983. (The “five years” aren’t consecutive, you see. I’d have done 72-77 myself, but hey, it’s not my documentary.)
Similar stylistically to Martin Scorsese’s docs on Bob Dylan and George Harrison (which I thought sucked, frankly, they were aimless and formless films) Whately was able to uncover loads of previously unseen footage for this 90-minute film. Probably the best of the recent spate of Bowie TV hagiographies.
At the time of her greatest notoriety in the 1960s and 70s, Julliard-trained blues singer Tally Brown was a zaftig bohemian cabaret artist associated with NY’s underground art scene, Warhol’s Factory and a performer at Reno Sweeny’s and the Continental Baths. Brown’s social circle included the Living Theatre, Holly Woodlawn, Taylor Mead, Grace Jones and Diane Arbus.
Her obituary in the New York Times described her as:
“A short, stout singer with wild black hair, Ms. Brown was known for her intense, dramatic renditions of songs by Kurt Weill, the Rolling Stones and David Bowie.”
Intense and dramatic she certainly was! Tally Brown was also good friends with Divine and often mistaken for the infamous drag queen/actor.
If it wasn’t for her appearances in a few of Warhol’s films, the 1974 cult classic schlockfest, Silent Night, Bloody Night and German director Rosa von Praunheim’s 1979 documentary Tally Brown, New York she would probably be long forgotten, but in fact, since her death in 1989 (mostly due to the von Praunheim film) she’s become a bit of an LGBT cult figure. (Another obscure film that Brown was in, Wynn Chamberlain’s Brand X has been getting a second life in recent years)
Above, Mick Ronson behind Tally Brown as David Bowie looks on from left.
In the clip below, from the opening of Tally Brown, New York, the aging diva sings Bowie’s “Heroes” as the camera very, very slowly creeps up close enough to see her face. This gets pretty amazing, so stay with it. Are these not the very best Bowie covers you have ever heard???
It’s surprising that one of the most cherished of all of David Bowie’s American TV performances hasn’t been posted to YouTube in better quality—pristine digitally-sourced bootlegs are easy to find that even include outtakes as DVD extras—but this truncated version (which cuts off the dancers forming the show’s title and omits most of the guests) for now, is as good as it gets. (It’s also surprising that Bowie himself hasn’t seen fit to release it on DVD, but apparently he doesn’t really like it that much.)
Taped in the tiny Marquee Club on Wardour Street over the course of three days in October of 1973, the idea was to do a sort of artsy/futuristic variety show with Bowie’s first performance since “retiring” onstage at the Hammersmith Odeon earlier that year. The 1980 Floor Show featured guests Marianne Faithfull (junked out of her skull and dressed as a nun dueting with the Dame on “I Got You Babe), The Troggs and Spanish flamenco glam act—yes, you read that correctly—Carmen. Amanda Lear introduced some numbers and Bowie serenaded her with a magnificent version of “Sorrow” in one of the show’s highlights.
The 1980 Floor Show was originally aired on The Midnight Special on November 16, 1973. I didn’t see it the first time it ran—I was but seven years old then, so being up that late was not much of an option for me—but by the time it was repeated the following year, I was already a budding Bowie fan and owned the 45rpm of “Space Oddity” and the “Rebel Rebel” single (the ultra loud US-only alt version that was quickly withdrawn).
To say that The 1980 Floor Show totally blew my young mind would be an understatement. I simply could not believe what I was seeing. It all seemed so glamorous, so smart and so cool. And this Amanda Lear character, she was really pretty, but what was she?
Yes, indeed, 1974 was an excellent year to discover David Bowie. I was able to consume Diamond Dogs shortly after it came out, the back catalog up to that point (The Man Who Sold the World was probably the second album I got my hands on) and then came the steady parade of towering artistic genius that was Young Americans, Station to Station, Low, Heroes and Lodger. During the 1970s, Bowie was touched by the gods. Like The Beatles, Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones had in the previous decade, it was like he was holding live wires in his hands, his body channeling the electricity of his age and creating a cultural feedback loop that he also benefited from artistically. Bowie’s influence cannot be overstated. It’s only fitting that his life’s work is now the subject of a major museum retrospective. It’s a justly deserved honor.
In my never so humble opinion, David Bowie was perhaps the single most important cultural avatar of that entire era. The man could simply do no wrong… well, at least up to Let’s Dance...but on to the The 1980 Floor Show, shall we?
Eagle-eyed redditor collectwin recently re-watched Labyrinth and spotted David Bowie’s well-placed, but camouflaged face in a few scenes. I’ve seen this film numerous times and have never noticed these wonderful details before. I guess that’s the difference between VHS and Blu-ray, eh?
Christiane F. - Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo (“Christiane F. – We Children from Bahnhof Zoo” in English) is a 1981 German film based on the autobiographical recordings of a young heroin addict and prostitute in West Berlin. It was one of the most successful German films of that year, going on to become a worldwide cult hit, but one that stirred up a lot of (I think justifiable) controversy.
Vera Christiane Felscherinow
Two journalists from Stern magazine, Kai Herrmann and Horst Rieck, met the girl, Vera Christiane Felscherinow (born May 20, 1962) in 1978 when she was a witness against a john who paid underage prostitutes with heroin. The reporters were shocked to the extent of the escalating teenage drug problem and spent over two months interviewing Christiane and other young junkies and prostitutes (of both genders) who congregated near the Berlin Zoo. They ran several articles and a book Christiane F. – Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo, covering four years (ages 12-15) of her life on the streets, was published in 1979.
Christiane lived with her mother in a bleak West Berlin neighborhood full of the sort of postwar high-rise apartment blocks that were often hives of social problems. She became fascinated by a discothèque that she had read about called “Sound” and although she was only 11-years-old, too young to be admitted, she was able to get into the club. There she fell in with a fast crowd who were experimenting with various drugs and by the time she was only 14, she was turning tricks to feed her habit in the Bahnhof Zoo train station.
When the film—directed by Oscar-winner Uli Edel—was released in 1981 it was a huge hit in Germany, and elsewhere, turning Christiane into somewhat of a celebrity in Europe, a real-life “Go Ask Alice” who had great fashion sense and cool hair. And this was the problem: Although the film does not intend in any way to glamorize the life of a heroin-addicted teenage prostitute, it inadvertently does. The fact that the actress who played Christiane F. in the film, Natja Brunckhorst, was so beautiful didn’t help matters. Soon teenage girls were emulating both the cinematic “Christiane” and the real-life Christiane’s hair style and clothes. The Bahnhof Zoo station even became somewhat of a Japanese tourist destination, for a while.
Actress Natja Brunckhorst and David Bowie
I saw this film when it came out, when I was a teenager myself, and I can recall thinking that a) Natja Brunckhorst was super hot and that b) doing some drugs with such a cute girl and going to a David Bowie concert (he’s seen in the film performing and provided the soundtrack music) seemed like a really good time to me. I can certainly understand why why German youth advocates were concerned at the time by the way impressionable young girls saw Christiane F. as a role model.
Thirty-some years after it was released, the film still has that undiminished heroin chic quality going for it. This comment was left on YouTube just one week ago:
Amazing film. Amazing book. She was so beautiful. So clever. Such a shame she ruined her life. But she’s a hero. And maybe I’m the only one who thinks this, but it looks to me kinda attractive,you know. I mean,seventies, Berlin, David Bowie, freedom,it all looks so great! Today it’s awful.. Like everything.
The couple also appeared in the 1983 German film Decoder, along with Neubaten’s F.M. Enheit, William Burroughs and Genesis P-Orridge (you can read about the film at The End of Being) (I suppose this is as good a place as any to tell you that I once answered the phone at a German friend’s apartment. I had to take a message and when the caller said “Tell her Christiane F. called” I just HAD to ask if she was THE Christiane F. and she said yeah and seemed really annoyed with me!)
Although she has been able to support herself from author’s royalties for many years, Christiane F.‘s life has been anything but easy, She’s been on and off drugs since her teens and at one point a few years ago, she lost custody of her young son. In 2011 she was caught up in a drugs sweep when police searched her bag at the Berlin train station, Moritzplatz, a known haven for junkies, but no narcotics were found on her person. As you might expect, every couple of years the German media check in with her to “see how she is doing.”
Below, Sentimentale Jugend, live (with Christiane F. on guitar) in Berlin, 1981.
Hand-painted sneakers featuring Nick Cave and Bowie as Aladdin Sane by Finland-based artist, Erika Works.
It looks like she does custom orders, too. Someone in the comments inquired about a pair of Leonard Cohen shoes, and Erika Works said it would cost them around 40€ for the art (that does not include the price of the shoes, tho).
At some point in 1984, when I was 18, I was approached by a woman who identified herself as a casting agent, near the American Embassy on London’s Grosvenor Square.
Would you be interested in doing a screen test for the new Stanley Kubrick project?
Why, yes, of course, I would most certainly be interested in that!
Would you be willing to get all of your hair chopped off? Like in an military buzz-cut?
That I was considerably less enthusiastic about. I had long hair then and I was… rather attached to it.
Obviously, in retrospect, she was casting for long-haired young guys willing to have their heads shorn for Full Metal Jacket. I took her card but never went for the screen test.
I’ll bet David Bowie wishes he’d had made a similar decision before losing his locks for a blink and you’ll miss ‘im cameo in 1969’s The Virgin Soldiers. Aside from a two-second cameo as a falling down drunk soldier in the background of a bar scene, the rest of Bowie’s performance ended up on the cutting room floor.
New York City-based artist E.V. Svetova (aka Katyok on deviantART), designs these oddly-beautiful David Bowie dolls. According to her page, she does “all of the customization and painting, as well as most of the garment design and construction.”
Some of these shots are based on iconic Mick Rock portraits of Bowie. Extra points for the mini Kansai Yamamoto knock-offs!
Unfortunately none of the dolls are for sale. My husband was crushed by this news.
When his debut album flopped in 1967, David Bowie thought his pop career was over. The years of practice and ambition had sadly delivered nothing but the indifference of the public (who preferred The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s) and the bewilderment of critics, who could not quite understand this young singer (who sounded like Anthony Newley) and delivered such diverse and original songs. Bowie had discovered the width of his talent, but not its depth. Understandably, disheartened, Bowie considered packing it all in and becoming a Buddhist monk at the Samye Ling Monastery in Scotland, but fate played a hand and he soon found himself under the influence of a charismatic fan - the brilliant dancer, performer and choreographer Lindsay Kemp.
Kemp loved Bowie’s first album, and used one its tracks “When I Live My Dream” for one of his shows. Kemp offered Bowie a new career - as dancer, actor and member of Kemp’s dance troupe
On 28 December 1967, David Bowie made his theatrical debut in Kemp’s mime Pierrot in Turquoise or, The Looking Glass Murders at the New Theater in Oxford. Bowie wrote and performed the music, and co-starred as Cloud, alongside Kemp’s Pierrot, Jack Birkett’s Harlequin, and Annie Stainer’s Columbine.
The production was still in rehearsal when it played for its one night at the New Theater, which perhaps explains why the Oxford Mail described the show as “something of a pot-pourri,” though it highlighted Bowie’s contribution for praise:
David Bowie has composed some haunting songs, which he sings in a superb, dreamlike voice. But beguilingly as he plays Cloud, and vigorously as Jack Birkett mimes Harlequin, the pantomime isn’t a completely satisfactory framework for some of the items from his repertoire that Mr Kemp, who plays Pierrot, chooses to present….
...No doubt these are shortcomings Mr. Kemp will attend to before he presents Pierrot in Turquoise at the Prague Festival at the invitation of Marceau and Fialka next summer. No mean honour for an English mime troupe.
The mime told the story of Pierrot and his attempts to win the love of his life, Columbine. Of course things are never simple, and Columbine falls for Harlequin, and is then killed by Pierrot.
After a few tweaks, Pierrot in Turquoise or The Looking Glass Murders opened at the Rosehill Theater, Whitehaven, before its proper run at the Mercury Theater, and Intimate Theater, both London, in March 1968….
More on Bowie & Kemp in ‘The Looking Glass Murders’, after the jump…
By the time she was just 25, irrepressible Scottish songstress Lulu was already a firmly established member of the British “light entertainment” pantheon, having come to fame in the early 60s with her cover of “Shout!” and presenting many a “family friendly” TV variety series.
A 1974 chance meeting with David Bowie—then the most “far out” rock star the world had ever seen—at a party in Paris saw her take the (for her) unusual step of recording two of his songs for a single, the tunes being “The Man Who Sold The World” and for the flip-side, “Watch That Man.” The idea was to sort of update her cozy image for a new decade, and who better to employ for this task than David Bowie, who told her he wanted to record a “motherfucker” of a song for her (They also had a brief fling, as recounted in her book).
The numbers were produced by Bowie and Mick Ronson, and Bowie played guitar and sax as well as doing backing vocals. “The Man Who Sold The World” was re-imagined as a cold, sleazy cabaret vamp. Bowie had Lulu smoke cigarette after cigarette to get her voice sounding as scratchy as possible. Bolstered by several Top of the Pops appearances, the single went top 10 hit in Britain—her first in five years—and was a hit in several other European countries in 1974.