My co-conspirator here at DM Paul Gallagher covered this last year, but I found a nice new high quality upload of the video in full and thought I should update the article and share it with you all once again. I’m sure our new readers will appreciate it.
Here is David Bowie in the BBC production of Brecht’s play Baal, from 1982. It was directed by Alan Clarke, the talent behind such controversial TV dramas as Scum with a young Ray Winstone, Made in Britain, with Tim Roth, and Elephant.
Baal was Brecht’s first full-length play, written in 1918, and it tells the story of a traveling musician / poet, who seduces and destroys with callous indifference.
Curtain up on a starry night. Comets fire across the sky. Center stage, one star shines more brightly than the rest, its spotlight points towards a globe of the earth as it spins form a thread. Glitter falls, as a white screen rises, the lights glow brighter filling the stage.
Single spot tight on a woman’s face
We are unsure if she is in pain or ecstasy. No movement until, at last, she exhales, then pants quickly, rhythmically. Her face glistens. The spot widens, revealing 2 nurses, dressed in starched whites, symmetrically dabbing her face.
The woman is Mrs. Kemp, and she is about to give birth. 3 mid-wives are guided by house lights through the audience to her bedside. Each carries a different gift: towels, a basin of hot water, and swaddling.
It’s May 3rd 1938, and Lindsay Kemp is about to be born.
Though this maybe a fiction, it is all too believable, for nothing is unbelievable when it comes to Lindsay Kemp.
Lindsay Kemp has agreed to give a telephone interview. He is to be called at his home in Italy, by Paul Gallagher from Dangerous Minds, who is based in Scotland. We never hear the interviewer’s questions, only Kemp’s answers and see his facial expressions as he listens to questions.
Photographs of Kemp’s career appear on screens. We hear a recording of his voice.
I began dancing the same as everybody does, at birth. The only difference was, unlike many other people, I never stopped. In other words, you know, I love movement. Movement gave me such a great pleasure, such a great joy.
Dance is really my life. I’ve always said for me ‘Dance is Life, Dance is Living, Dance is Life and Life is Dance’. I’ve never really differentiated between the two of them. It’s always been a way of life, a kind of celebration of living.
Kemp is an exquisite dancer, a fantastic artist, and a brilliant visual poet. No hyperbole can truly capture the scale of his talents.
In the 1960s and 1970s, his dance group revolutionized theater with its productions of Jean Genet’s The Maids, Flowers and Oscar Wilde’s Salome.
He shocked critics by working with non-dancers. At the Traverse Theater in Edinburgh, he often cast his productions by picking-up good-looking, young men in Princes Street Gardens - good looks, an open mind and passion for life were more important than learned techniques, or a classical training. His most famous collaborator was the blind dancer, Jack Birkett, aka The Great Orlando – perhaps now best known for his role as Borgia Ginz in Derek Jarman’s Jubilee.
Kemp was the catalyst who inspired David Bowie towards cabaret and Ziggy Stardust. He taught him mime, and directed and performed in Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from mars. He also taught Kate Bush, and choreographed her shows.
As an actor, he gave outrageous and scene-stealing performances in Jarman’s Sebastiane, Ken Russell’s Savage Messiah and Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man.
“I’ve never really differentiated between dance and mime and acting and singing. I’ve always loved all aspects of performing, though I still can’t play the trumpet, but I’d like too. Well, it’s never too late to learn.”
He has performed across the world, from department stores in Bradford, through the Edinburgh Festival, the streets and cafes of Italy, to London’s West End and Broadway.
Kemp is a poetic story-teller, and his performances engage and seduce as much as the words that spill from tell such incredible tales. His voice moves from Dame Edith Evans (“A handbag!”) to a lover sharing intimacies under the covers.
A house in Livorno. A desk with a telephone. A chaise longue. A deck chair and assorted items close at hand. Posters and photographs of Kemp in various productions are back-projected onto gauze screens.
Kemp makes his entrance via a trap door.
The phone rings once. Kemp looks at it.
Rings twice. Kemp considers it.
Rings three times. He answers it.
Lindsay Kemp is on the ‘phone.
Hello. (Pause.) Where are you in Scotland?
My grandparents are from Glasgow. I always pretend to be Scottish because I was born accidentally in Liverpool when my Mother was saying bye-bye to my Father, who was a sailor, and he was off to sea from Liverpool’s port, you see.
Well, I don’t quite know where that came from, unless I said it one drunken night, maybe when I chose to be more romantic than Birkenhead, where I was in fact born. I was born in Birkenhead on May the 3rd, 1938, but my family hailed form Scotland, between Glasgow and Edinburgh, and for many years I lived in Edinburgh, when I returned there for the first performance of Flowers, that show that put me on the map, you know.
Lindsay Kemp> debuts his new production Histoire du Soldat (‘A Soldier’s Tale’) by Stravinsky on 5th May, in Bari, Italy. You can buy tickets for the World Premiere here.
Lindsay Kemp – The Last Dance is a film currently being made by Producer / Director Nendie Pinto-Duschinsky – check here for more information.
Bowie Myths has posted what appears to be legit (yet illicitly obtained) excerpts from the upcoming coffee table book, BOWIE: OBJECT, wherein the Thin White Duke rhapsodizes on a few dozen of his favorite thangs.
Exhibit #22, a Minimoog:
Eno gifted this keyboard to me at the end of our sessions for the album that would become Low at the Chateau d’Herouville in the fall of 1976.
The tilting control panel is truly iconic, the wood finish superb, the feel of the dials top-notch, and the 44-key (F to C) keyboard is a delight — it certainly beats any vintage Model D I’ve played for both speed and responsiveness. Though it weighs in at a hefty 18kg, its ergonomics are quite superlative. At its inception, the Minimoog was surprisingly close to being the perfect solo synthesizer; indeed there’s arguably no serious rival for the role even today. Yet soloists demand to express themselves and there the Mini had obvious shortcomings: its keyboard lacks velocity and aftertouch, while the pitch-bender and modulation wheels never felt like the final word in performance control. Nevertheless, without becoming lost in the enigma that is the Minimoog, let’s agree that it must have possessed special qualities to set it apart from the crowd for so long — even from others in the Moog stable.
Moog had constructed his own theremin as early as 1948. Later he illustrated the mechanics of a theremin in the hobbyist magazine ‘Electronics World’ and offered the parts in kit form by mail order which became very successful, albeit of limited value to even the most esoteric composers. The Moog synthesizer, on the other hand, was one of the very first electronic musical instruments to be widely used across many popular genres. I only met Bob Moog on one occasion and we bonded not over music, but over the common mispronunciation of our respective surnames. Bob always pronounced his surname – and that of his eponymous electronic progeny – to rhyme with ‘vogue’.
The motifs for all of the instrumental sequences on Low were mapped out on this Minimoog. My fading memories of those sessions are dominated by images of Eno hunched over the keyboard turning dials by imperceptible fractions, as amazed and delighted by the sonic textures he was producing as were Tony V and myself:
“Do you know it has a logarithmic one volt-per-octave pitch control and a separate pulse-triggering signal?” said Eno, breathlessly.
This is about 11 minutes long and only audio, so it’s only for when you have time ... and IF YOU ARE interested. If you are a super Bowie fan, you might be ... otherwise, forget it ... or pass on the link to anyone you know who may be. It’s me interviewing David in 1973, for my own education, in order to do interviews on his behalf at the time. It’s kind of sweet, because you can hear how young and shy we are, especially me ... sort of afraid he is going to make me feel like a fool any second. I’ve had it all these years, but am just putting it out there now ... like I say, for the super Bowie fans ... and there are a lot of them, it seems. Hard for me to believe it’s from 40 years ago!
David Bowie’s classic 1972 concept album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars will be getting the 40th anniversary box set treatment this summer, getting reissued on CD and a vinyl/DVD package.
In a Feb 1974 issue of Rolling Stone Bowie explained the Ziggy plot-line to author William Burroughs:
Burroughs: Could you explain this Ziggy Stardust image of yours? From what I can see it has to do with the world being on the eve of destruction within five years.
Bowie: The time is five years to go before the end of the earth. It has been announced that the world will end because of lack of natural resources. Ziggy is in a position where all the kids have access to things that they thought they wanted. The older people have lost all touch with reality and the kids are left on their own to plunder anything. Ziggy was in a rock-and-roll band and the kids no longer want rock-and-roll. There’s no electricity to play it. Ziggy’s adviser tells him to collect news and sing it, ‘cause there is no news. So Ziggy does this and there is terrible news. ‘All the young dudes’ is a song about this news. It is no hymn to the youth as people thought. It is completely the opposite.
Burroughs: Where did this Ziggy idea come from, and this five-year idea? Of course, exhaustion of natural resources will not develop the end of the world. It will result in the collapse of civilization. And it will cut down the population by about three-quarters.
Bowie: Exactly. This does not cause the end of the world for Ziggy. The end comes when the infinites arrive. They really are a black hole, but I’ve made them people because it would be very hard to explain a black hole on stage.
Burroughs: Yes, a black hole on stage would be an incredible expense. And it would be a continuing performance, first eating up Shaftesbury Avenue.
Bowie: Ziggy is advised in a dream by the infinites to write the coming of a starman, so he writes ‘Starman’, which is the first news of hope that the people have heard. So they latch on to it immediately. The starmen that he is talking about are called the infinites, and they are black-hole jumpers. Ziggy has been talking about this amazing spaceman who will be coming down to save the earth. They arrive somewhere in Greenwich Village. They don’t have a care in the world and are of no possible use to us. They just happened to stumble into our universe by black-hole jumping. Their whole life is travelling from universe to universe. In the stage show, one of them resembles Brando, another one is a Black New Yorker. I even have one called Queenie the Infinite Fox.
Now Ziggy starts to believe in all this himself and thinks himself a prophet of the future starman. He takes himself up to incredible spiritual heights and is kept alive by his disciples. When the infinites arrive, they take bits of Ziggy to make themselves real because in their original state they are anti-matter and cannot exist in our world. And they tear him to pieces on stage during the song ‘Rock ‘n’ roll suicide’. As soon as Ziggy dies on stage the infinites take his elements and make themselves visible. It is a science fiction fantasy of today and this is what literally blew my head off when I read Nova Express, which was written in 1961. Maybe we are the Rodgers and Hammerstein of the seventies, Bill!
“Ah yes, the old transubstantiation con,” you can almost hear WSB mutter…
The label claims to have some “previously unheard” material from the Ziggy era in store for fans, but considering the sheer amount of bootlegged Bowie recordings that have slipped out over the decades into my collection alone, I can’t imagine what this might be. Also, no word on if the new release will include the little-known 5.1 surround remix of Ziggy Stardust done by Ken Pitt and Paul Hicks at Abbey Road Studios in 2003 and only released as an SACD. To my ears, Ziggy Stardust always sounded really weak and tinny. Compare Bowie’s vocals on the album to any other record of his and his voice sounds shrill and lacking the deep-throated nuances he’s obviously capable of, almost as if he’s straining his vocal cords throughout. The 2003 remix sounded muscular and bold, with the bottom added back into the mix, Mick Ronson’s guitar sounding much, much hairier that it ever has previously and the vocals sweetened nicely with more depth. It actually sounds like a different album and I’d rank it far, far, superior to the original vinyl or subsequent CD releases. It’s THE version to own, hands down, let’s just hope that it get included in this new box set.
Below, David Bowie performs “Starman” on TOTP in 1972, the very moment when the greater British public became very aware of who he was. His grinning confidence here is palpable. The guy knew he was going to be a big, big star and he acted like one.
The platform shoes to-die-for were Frank N. Furter’s in The Rocky Horror Picture Show - those bejeweled white heels made Tim Curry’s first appearance as the sweet transvestite the epitome of glam. And gorgeous he was too.
Elton John may arguably have had the best platform shoes, but his tended to veer into stage props, eventually leading to those sky-high Doctor Marten boots in Ken Russell’s Tommy. And of course, there was David Bowie, Twiggy, and a host of pop stars sashaying around London on pairs of ankle-breakers. Like Oxford bags, bell bottoms, high-waisters, and bomber jackets, the platform shoe epitomized the androgynous nature of seventies fashions. Originally devised as stage shoes in Greek theater, platforms have been in and out of style through the centuries, at various times used by prostitutes to signal their availability and profession (to literally stand out from the crowd), and were popular in the 18th century as shit-steppers, used to avoid effluent on the road. However, their greatest impact was in the 1970s, when they were the boot of choice for seemingly everyone under 30.
I had a pair of 5 inch heels, blue patent leather, divine to walk in, impossible to run in, and not the expected school uniform. This British Pathe featurette takes a look at the trend of platform shoes from 1977.
Early B&W video footage of Bruce Springsteen performing “Growin’ Up” at Max’s Kansas City on August 10, 1972.
David Bowie happened to be there that night and this is what he had to say about the then unknown Boss’s performance:
“So this guy is sitting up there with an acoustic guitar doing a complete Dylan thing. My friend and I were about to leave when he started introducing a band who were joining him on stage.”
“The moment they kicked in he was another performer. All the Dylanesque stuff dropped off him and he rocked. I became a major fan that night and picked up Asbury Park immediately.”
In 1973 Bowie recorded “Growin’ Up” as part of the Pin Ups sessions. The song didn’t make the cut, but it would see Bowie record the very first Bruce Springsteen cover. Two years later, during the Young Americans sessions, Bowie laid down a soul version of Springsteen’s “It’s Hard to be a Saint In The City” with the Boss in attendance for the mixdown at Philadelphia recording studio, Sigma Sound.
Below, another song recorded at Max’s that same night (actually the set’s opening number), “Henry Boy.”
About five or six years ago, at the height of both nu-disco and the Italo revival (and while I was releasing music under the name Trippy Disco), I found myself playing more and more vintage disco records with crashing power-chords and wailing axe solos. Because of the “sell out” accusations that these kind of records attracted at the time (from both camps) it’s a side of disco that’s been neglected, even though I love those sounds. So, I decided to put together an hour’s worth of my favourite disco/rock records, and, lo, the ‘Skool Of Rock’ mix was born.
I decided not to feature anything too “New Wave” or post-punk as the disco influence on those sounds was already very obvious, though I did get to slip in a few acts who would technically be classed as “disco” but who dipped into “rock” now and again (Edwin Starr and Giorgio Moroder, for instance.) And accordingly, there’s also the obligatory disco cash-ins by some of your favourite rock acts (Queen, Bowie, ZZ Top.) Besides that, there are some real gems here, including the Patrick Cowley remix of Tantra’s “Hills Of Katmandu” which is one the most “fuck yeah!” fist-pumping disco anthems of all time.
So, you might love this mix, you might really hate it, but either way here it is:
ELO “Don’t Bring Me Down (Trippy Disco Re-Edit)”
CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL “Fortunate Son”
ROCKETS “On The Road Again”
EDWIN STARR “The Rock”
CHILLY “For Your Love”
KISS “I Was Made For Lovin’ You”
TANTRA “Hills Of Katmandu (Patrick Cowley Megamix / Automan Edit)”
LED ZEPPELIN “Whole Lotta Love (Acapella)”
MATERIAL “Bustin’ Out”
ZZ TOP “Legs (Metal Mix)”
GIORGIO MORODER “Evolution”
MACHO “Not Tonight (Dimitri From Paris Re-Edit)”
SKATT BROS “Walk The Night (Album Version)”
QUEEN “Another One Bites The Dust”
DAVID BOWIE “Stay”
WINGS “Goodnight Tonight (Trippy Disco Re-Edit)”
Age may weary and death may claim, but the ears will not condemn this fine selection of essential listening from Blondie, Joe Strummer, Ian Dury, Sonic Youth, David Bowie, Johnny Cash and Leonard Cohen taken from Later with Jools Holland.
01. Blondie - “Heart of Glass” from 1998
02. Joe Strummer - “London Calling” from 2000
03. Ian Dury - “Sex and Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll” from 1998
04. Sonic Youth- “Sacred Trickster” from 2009
05. David Bowie - “Ashes to Ashes” from 1999
06. Johnny Cash - “Folsom Prison Blues” from 1994
07. Leonard Cohen - “Dance me to the End of Love” from 1993
Empire Magazine held a photoshop contest and asked its readers to mash-up David Bowie with recognizable movie posters. The majority of the submissions were bad photoshop jobs, but some were really funny and quite clever. Here are a few that made me smile.
A couple of weeks ago, I posted a vintage interview with David Bowie from the BBC that included more footage from his Broadway turn in The Elephant Man than I have ever seen elsewhere. This is a follow-up to that, a personality profile from ABC’s 20/20 shot around the same time.
You don’t tend to think of 20/20 as being so cutting edge today, but this story must’ve been quite a startling thing for some Americans to have beamed into their living rooms 30 years ago. I can vividly recall my parents being very perplexed by this piece and why I thought David Bowie was “cool” in the first place. It just didn’t make sense to them.
It’s a cliche when a rock star reaches 65 to mention the time when it didn’t look like they’d make pensionable age, but with David Bowie who marks the milestone on Sunday, it’s almost unavoidable. Look at a picture of him in the mid-70s, when he was ravaged by cocaine, living off a diet of red peppers and milk and so paranoid that he apparently kept his own urine in a fridge lest persons unknown steal it: this is not a man destined to make old bones.
It wasn’t just the drugs: there was something about the intensity with which he worked during that decade - the scarcely-believable ten-year creative streak that begins with the 1970s The Man Who Sold The World and ends with the 1980’s Scary Monsters And Super-Creeps – that suggests an early demise. Someone that burns that brightly probably isn’t going to burn for long.
Under the circumstances, it’s hard to begrudge him his ongoing semi-retirement: he last made an album in 2003, and for the best part of a decade has made only sporadic public appearances, the odd special guest spot here and there. It was precipitated by emergency surgery on a blocked artery, and lurid rumours about the state of his health have abounded ever since.
Ouch. The idea of a world without David Bowie (even if he’s not in the public eye much these days) is something I’ve never really contemplated. Thanks a bunch, Guardian, for ruining my morning!
Sir Tim Rice interviews David Bowie, on the Friday Night, Saturday Morning program in 1980. Bowie, then on Broadway for his critically acclaimed portrayal of “Elephant Man” John (Joseph) Merrick, discusses the role and can be seen here in more of the play than I have ever seen anywhere else.
A friend of mine’s father went to see The Elephant Man on Broadway and for some reason he asked me what he should see—I was 14, what would I know?—and I recommended that he see this play, which he thought was terrific. He brought me back the Playbill from his trip to New York and I still have it.
For those of you who don’t think that David Bowie can act (and there is certainly some evidence for that position!) these extended clips from The Elephant Man will be a revelation. It seems obvious that they must’ve shot the entire play. If so, where the hell is it?