It’s been, what, two-three days since our last Bowie-related post? Well fear not, here’s another…
The gorgeous Ava Cherry was David Bowie’s mistress and lover during the mid-70s. She was one of his back-up singers, the Astronettes, along with the late Luther Vandross. In the clip below, you can see her steal the show when Bowie was performing “Footstompin’” (which later got reworked into “Fame” with John Lennon) on The Dick Cavett Show in 1974. (Is it possible to be any hotter than this woman???) This is pretty much the moment where the Diamond Dogs tour gave way to his Young Americans Philly Soul obsession
In late 1973, an Ava Cherry album was planned and partially recorded with Bowie producing, but due to lawsuits with his-then manager Tony DeFries, the album was shelved for 22 years. The tapes that existed had some Bowie originals along with some oddly chosen covers from the Beach Boys, Frank Zappa and Bruce Springsteen. What appears to be a semi-official release came out in 1996 as People From Bad Homes. The material was released again in 2009 as The Astronettes Sessions.
In truth, it’s not that great. I wish I could tell you it was some undiscovered gem of what Bowie called his “plastic soul” phase but it’s, at best, a curiosity for intense Bowie freaks. Her voice, sadly, is no match for her looks and fashion sense. The most memorable track is probably “I Am A Laser” which was later re-worked into “Scream Like A Baby” on Bowie’s Scary Monsters album in 1980. In this rehearsal recording, you can hear Bowie in the background leading the band and calling chord changes.
Note the rap and the line about her “golden showers.” (I wonder if “Golden Years” has a meaning that has hitherto escaped us?)
Has Banksy struck again, in honor of the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations?
Sure looks like he might have been the author of this piece depicting Her Majesty as Aladdin Sane—and the painting appeared on Upper Maudlin Street, in Banksy’s hometown of Bristol—but it might actually be by an artist named Incwell.
No one seems to know just yet. Doesn’t matter, it’s amusing whoever painted it.
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.”