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.”
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.