Archive for the ‘david bowie’ Tag

Story Snippet – Trondheim train

I find myself sitting next to Sissel on the six-hour train journey from Trondheim to Oslo. She is an elegant elderly lady with a wicked laugh. A native of Trondheim, she used to be the projectionist at the Cinemateket where I delivered my lecture on Thursday. She is on her way to Oslo airport heading for Berlin, her first visit there since 1977. The last time she went she tried to call David Bowie and Iggy Pop. She found the phone number of their flat under James Osterberg (Iggy’s non-stage name) in the phone book. She rang but a woman answered and said they were out.

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Quote of the Day: Bowie

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I’m a born librarian with a sex drive

David Bowie

For the record

A relative in Ireland recently sent me one of those chain postings in Facebook – I don’t go for passing those on but since I did the thinking – about what my favourite records are – I’ll plop them in here for posterity.

Talking Heads Remain in the Light record album cover design music

marvin gaye whats going on record album cover design music

kind of blue miles davis record album cover design music

My funeral record (last track)

solid air john martyn record album cover design music

blood on the tracks bob dylan record album cover design music

the clash london calling record album cover design music

garveys ghost burning spear record album cover design music

van morrison a night in san francisco record album cover design music

songs for swingin lovers frank sinatra record album cover design music

john coltrane a love supreme record album cover design music

My other funeral record (first track)

David-Bowie-Station-To-Station record album cover design music

 

Triple Coincidence No. 416 – Egon Schiele

Egon Schiele painting Sitting Woman with Legs Drawn Up, 1917

The picture on our bedroom wall – Schiele’s wife, Edith (1917)

I’m in Vienna for the first time in over 30 years for Doc Campus documentary workshop at ORF (Austrian TV). The last time I was here was on a scholarship from Girton College, Cambridge for research on the Austrian painter Egon Schiele.

I’d first heard about Schiele in a radio interview of David Bowie. At the time (mid-late 70s) Schiele was not well known outside of the Euro art cognoscenti. His description caught my imagination and I became a teen devotee, having always favoured a graphic approach to figurative art. At school I used to deliver drawings of, say, a glass of water that looked more like cut diamond.

So today I decided to go on a Schiele pilgrimage either to the site of his studio (Neulengbach, just outside of Vienna, where I had a memorable visit in around 1984) or his birthplace (Tulln). I’m writing this on an S-bahn to Tulln.

As I was reading Schiele stuff online this morning in my pension room near Schwedenplatz I noticed for the first time ever that he shares a birthday with my wife. (Along with Anne Frank and Robert Elms.) There is a reproduction of a painting by Schiele in the corner of our bedroom which my wife bought me years ago: it is inscribed “thanks for always bringing pictures”.

I left the room to go to the hotel for the workshop. As the taxi ride dragged on I felt irritated by how far out of the city centre the hotel they had chosen was, out near Schloss Schönbrunn at Hietzing. Never heard of the place. Not much zing. Burbs.

I dumped my stuff and got on the U-bahn to go to to Franz Josef station for the train to Tulln.

I have just set foot in Tulln, sitting on the platform to finish this. Schiele’s father was an official at this station.

On the underground to the train station I was reading the Wikipedia entry on Schiele. Lo & behold there is a mention of sleepy old Hietzing! Schiele had a studio at 101 of the Hauptstrasse I just walked down. (I’ll go check out the site later.) It is here he met his wife Edith Harms, who lived opposite and features in many of his later paintings. She died three days before him in the Spanish flu epidemic in the wake of WW1. He was just 28 but had brought a new modern expressionist vision to painting.

Update, 5pm:

On the way back from Tulln I’m reading my book on the train – The Travelling Hornplayer by Barbara Trapido, a novel with nothing to do with painters – at least it hadn’t had until I got to the shores of the Danube at Tulln where, as I was reading, one of the main characters meets a student painter at college in Edinburgh. On the train back I got to a passage where this student painter’s style is described: “Stella thinks they [the student painter’s paintings] are maybe just a bit like Auerbach; maybe just slightly like Auerbach crossed with Egon Schiele.”

Atomic Blonde full soundtrack

It seems to be pretty difficult to find the full soundtrack of ‘Atomic Blonde’ online i.e.a list of all the tracks in the right order. I’m not sure this is 100% it but it’s pretty close – a small international public service from Simple Pleasures part 4.

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The official soundtrack doesn’t really help as it’s a pale reflection of what’s in the movie. That’s probably because the whole thing was quite a feat of music clearance.

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As far as I can tell the only missing tracks are: Drinking Song by Alfred Kluten and Fastidious Horses by Vladamir Vysotsky. Whatever they are.

Anyway, bottom line, as movie soundtracks go, it’s a bit of a cracker, especially when you hear it on a good sound system in conjunction with the pictures in all their cinematic glory.

Atomic Blonde full soundtrack on Spotify

Nature Boy

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This is my favourite couplet from any song – and how come my philosophy on life is derived from George Benson.

I first came across the song ‘Nature Boy’ on the record ‘In Flight’ by jazz guitarist Benson. In time it emerged that it was a cover of Nat King Cole. In more time I became aware that it was written by someone called Eden Ahbez (who I’d never heard of). He turned out to be a proto-hippy and a very interesting character whose extraordinary story gave rise to this fascinating photo:

eden ahbez and nat king cole

The dapper Cole and the Jesus-like Ahbez came to coincide in the wake of Ahbez pushing a dirty, rolled-up manuscript onto Mort Ruby, Cole’s manager, backstage at the Lincoln Theater, LA. On it was a tune and these words:

There was a boy
A very strange enchanted boy
They say he wandered very far, very far
Over land and sea
A little shy and sad of eye
But very wise was he

And then one day
A magic day he passed my way
And while we spoke of many things
Fools and kings
This he said to me
The greatest thing you’ll ever learn
Is just to love and be loved in return

The greatest thing you’ll ever learn
Is just to love and be loved in return

Beautiful simplicity – as has that fantastic closing couplet.

This happened shortly after World War Two, in 1947. Ahbez at the time was of no fixed abode and unemployed. Cole liked the song and began playing it live to audiences. In 1948 he recorded it but before the recording could be released Ruby needed to track down its writer to secure the rights.

Ahbez was eventually discovered living just below the first L of the Hollywood sign with his family. They slept under the night sky. Ahbez ate vegetables, fruits and nuts. He had shoulder-length hair and a beard, wore sandals and white robes. He studied Eastern mysticism and claimed to live on $3 a week.

‘Nature Boy’ became a No. 1 hit in the US Billboard charts for eight consecutive weeks during the summer of 1948. That same year RKO Radio Pictures paid Ahbez $10,000 for the rights to the song to use it as the theme tune for the movie ‘The Boy With Green Hair’.

Meanwhile he lived a proto-hippy life under the big L of Hollywood. Letters were significant for him. He actually called himself eden ahbez rather than Eden Ahbez as he reckoned only the words “God” and “Infinity” merited capitalisation.

eden ahbez songwriter

During the 30s he lived in Kansas City and worked as a pianist and dance band leader. In 1941 he moved to LA where he got a gig playing piano in Eutropheon, a health food shop and raw food cafe on Laurel Canyon Boulevard, owned by John and Vera Richter. The Richters lived by a philosophy based on ‘Lebensreform’ (Life Reform) and the notion of the ‘Naturmensch’ (Nature Man) which was derived from the ‘Wandervogel’ (Wandering Bird) back-to-nature movement in Germany.

ahbez became part of a California-based group known as the ‘Nature Boys’, prominent among whom was Gypsy Boots (Robert Bootzin). Bootzin is another fascinating character, a hippy decades ahead of the 60s counterculture, with shared elements of ahbez’s background.

Bootzin was born in San Francisco to Russian Jewish immigrant parents. His father was a broom salesman. His mother brought him and his four siblings up as vegetarian. She led the family on hikes in the Californian hills and fed the homeless with her black bread. In the wake of his older brother’s premature death from TB, Bootzin resolved to pursue a healthy, natural lifestyle. He grew his hair long. By 1933 he had dropped out of high school and left home to wander the wilds of California with a group of fellow vagabonds. In the 40s he lived off the land with a dozen other Nature Boys in Tahquitz Canyon near Palm Springs, CA. They slept in caves and trees, and bathed in waterfalls. Long hair and beards were the order of the day.

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Hence ahbez’s Jesus hair and beard, and diet of raw fruits and vegetables. It was at this juncture that he adopted the name ‘eden ahbez’ (ahbe to his friends). He was actually born George Alexander Aberle on 15th April 1908. On subsequent adoption (1917) he became George McGrew. Then George became eden.

ahbez was originally of the East Coast not West. He was born in Brooklyn to a Jewish father and a Scottish-English mother but spent his early years in the Brooklyn Hebrew Orphan Asylum. He was then adopted at the age of 9 by the McGrew family of Chanute, Kansas.

How much of the life of eden ahbez is self-mythologising is difficult to gauge. He claimed to have crossed the U.S.A. on foot eight times by the time he was 35. He settled in L.A., married Anna Jacobsen, with whom he slept in a sleeping bag in Griffith Park. They had a son, Tatha. The family continued living out under the stars, with just a pushbike, sleeping bags and a juicer. ahbez was to be seen on Hollywood  street corners sharing gems of Eastern mysticism.

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eden anna tatha/zoma – January 1948

Having been handed the scruffy  ‘Nature Boy’ manuscript via Ruby, Cole recognised the underlying melody in the song as Yiddish. He decided to add it to his repertoire because he wanted a Jewish song for his act (presumably good for capturing that particular constituency). Cole recorded ‘Nature Boy’ on 22nd August 1947 with an arrangement by Frank DeVol and a piano part written by Cole played by Buddy Cole (Edwin LeMar Cole, no relation).

nat king cole eden ahbez

Despite Capitol releasing ‘Nature Boy’ as a B side, its quality overcame record company cluelessness to quickly hit the #1 spot. Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughan and others rushed out cover versions and it remains a much covered song, from David Bowie to John Coltrane, from Ella Fitzgerald to Bobby Darin.

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Frank and eden

ahbez’s relationship to the greenback seems to have been an awkward one. Once ‘Nature Boy’ became a hit, the publishers and composer (Herman Yablokoff) of the Yiddish song ‘Schwieg Mein Hertz’ (‘Shvayg Mayn Harts’/ ‘Be Still My Heart’) claimed that the melody of ‘Nature Boy’ came from their song and sued, subsequently settling out of court with ahbez for a whopping $25,000. ahbez said he had “heard the tune in the mist of the California mountains.” Prior to this, when Ruby and Cole had eventually tracked him down under the L, it turned out that ahbez had given various people different shares of the publishing rights so he ended up with pretty much big fat zero. The happy ending though is that after Nat ‘King’ Cole died in 1965, his wife eventually gave all the rights back to its creator ahbez.

ahbe anna zoma

ahbe anna zoma 1961

In the  wake of ‘Nature Boy’ ahbez continued to write songs for  Cole, including ‘Land of Love’ (covered by Doris Day and The Ink Spots). In the mid 50s he supplied songs to Eartha Kitt, Frankie Laine and others. His composition ‘Lonely Island’ was recorded by Sam Cooke in 1957, his second and final tune to make the Top 40.

He collaborated with jazz singer-songwriter Herb Jeffries, in 1954 releasing the LP ‘The Singing Prophet’ including ahbez’s 4-part ‘Nature Boy Suite’.  In 1959 he started recording his own distinctive brand of instrumental music. He could be seen in beatnik coffeehouses around LA performing on bongos and flute as accompaniment to beat poetry.

eden-at-health-hut

outside Health Hut, LA

In 1960 (thanks to the prompting of Bob Keane, boss of Del-Fi Records) he cut his only solo record, ‘Eden’s Island’ – “the first ever psychedelic pop classic” according to my pal Doug, and he knows his shit. It combines beat poetry with off-beat jungle exotica arrangements. ahbez promoted the LP by making personal appearances on a coast-to-coast walking tour. (He recorded another similar album, ‘Echoes from Nature Boy’, again containing his poems set to music, which was released posthumously.)

He pops up in various places during the actual Hippy era. Grace Slick, later of Jefferson Airplane, then of The Great Society, covered ‘Nature Boy’ in 1966. Early the next year ahbez was photographed in the studio with Brian Wilson during one of the ‘Smile’ sessions. Later in ’67 Britain’s very own psychedelic pioneer Donovan tracked down ahbez in Palm Springs and the two like-minds communed.

ahbez had his fair share of personal tragedy. His wife Anna died relatively young (47)  of leukemia (in 1963). His son, Zoma (originally named tatha om ahbez) drowned as a 22 year old (in 1971). He himself met an ironically unnatural death at the sharp metallic end of an automobile, succumbing to the injuries sustained in the accident in LA on 4th March 1995. He was 86. The fruit and veg had agreed with him.

On the subject of fruit, ahbez said he once told a cop who was hassling him for his shaggy appearance:  “I look crazy but I’m not. And the funny thing is that other people don’t look crazy but they are.”

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April 1948

 

The Next Day: fragments of Bowie

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Outside 155 Hauptstrasse Schoeneberg Berlin – Bowie’s apartment – 17 Jan 2016

So today is The Next Day – the day after Bowie’s birthday, after the anniversary of the release of Blackstar, the day before the anniversary of his death, the middle day, the limbo day.

As promised in yesterday’s birthday post, The Man Who Rose from Earth, in this one I’m going to gather some of the Bowie posts from across the years of Simple Pleasures part 4. As a blog about Creativity and the quest for Happiness through the Simple Pleasures of life Bowie was always bound to feature as a great creator, an outstanding innovator and a man who worked hard to know himself and find Peace.

So adding to the photo album of my Bowie’s Berlin trip last January and my post on hearing of his death (Blackstar Rising) from yesterday’s post are:

Bowie: The Next Day [11 January, 2016] My reflections on his death

The Berlin Trilogy 1 [16 January, 2016] the first day oy my trip to Berlin in the days after his death

The Berlin Trilogy 2: Where Are We Now? [17 January, 2016]

The Berlin Trilogy 3: Goodbye to Berlin  [19 January, 2016]

Heroes Mystery Solved [27 January, 2016]

David Bowie locations in Berlin [22 January, 2016] a ready-made tour

Heddonism [11 April, 2012] a first-hand account of the unveiling of his plaque in Heddon St.

A Bowie Moment [13 January, 2016] Ziggy Stardust plaque unveiling video

4 for 66 (Happy Birthday David Bowie) [9 January, 2013] 4 of his best songs

Sound & Vision [12 November, 2016] the best of Bowie’s art collection

Cut up by Bowie’s Black-out [20 January, 2016] a Bowie-style cut-up

Where Are We Now? [11 January, 2016] an animation

100 Greatest Songs [12 January, 2008]

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Outside 155 Hauptstrasse Schoeneberg Berlin – Bowie’s apartment – 17 Jan 2016

Celebrated The Big Man’s birthday yesterday evening by watching David Bowie: The Last Five Years, a new BBC feature documentary commissioned by my friend and former Channel 4 colleague Jan Younghusband. It is an excellent watch, breaking new ground with its focus on his last half decade and last two LPs in an intelligent and insightful way. It was directed by Francis Whately. There are various clips here.

The Man Who Rose From Earth

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Front door of 155 Hauptstrasse Schoeneberg – Bowie’s apartment in Berlin – 17th January 2016

I fell asleep with the radio on…

…when I woke just before 4am, death hour, David Bowie was playing and the listeners to Up All Night on Radio 5 had selected Sound and Vision as the song that best captures Bowie, and one caller was arguing for Station to Station as the best LP, which was my view too in the wake of his death on 10th January last year. Sound and Vision was the track on my first directorial showreel (of which a poor digitisation is to be found here, though I think it may have been blocked by YouTube during the last year because of the copyright track (I can still see it but sorry, you may not be able to)) – cutting that reel is why it is burnt into my consciousness, hard wired from the edit suite.

Update 8.i.17 21:30 – I managed to find a badly encoded/pixellated copy of my Sound & Vision reel from which you can get the general idea

So it’s 04:40 now on Bowie’s birthday – one year on. We’re all going to be bombarded with Bowie The Next Days of course but it’s worth asking “Where are we now?” like the image I saw on the Big Man’s front door at 155 Hauptstrasse in Schoeneberg, Berlin on 17th January 2016. I was due to work in Berlin by chance, at Documentary Campus, six days after I first heard the news of Bowie’s ascension early one morning on the radio. I decided to make it something of a tribute trip. Here’s the photo album.

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Berlin, 16th January 2016 – 8 days after Blackstar release

Where Are We Now? The world looks quite different from 10th January 2016.

That set of photos is the first fragment as I start over the next couple of anniversary days to pull together a picture of where we are now Bowie- & Other-wise.

My initial reaction at this point one year on is that his death cast a shadow over the whole year which is extraordinary for someone I didn’t know and never talked to. I saw him in the flesh a couple of times but I feel less about his passing emotionally than that of John Martyn, however his music is woven into my life, like that of many other people of the Bowie era (a long one by popular music standards) and that I reckon is one of the main reasons his passing prompted such widespread, strong and unique reaction.

The second fragment is this – written 15 minutes after hearing the surprise black news 363 days ago, another occasion I have been woken early by Bowie.

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My 1977 vintage badge which dropped off my lapel in Berlin, January 2016 – from Carnaby Street to a mysterious final resting place

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Reflections on 2016 with a right Charlie

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A right Charlie wrote this, which seems to say something about the year we’ve just gone through:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way

The Charlie in question was Dickens, written in 1859 about 1775 in A Tale of Two Cities.

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Charles Dickens

I read A Tale of Two Cities between May 1989 and January 1990. Much though I loved it, I can be a slow reader. The story is set in the run up to and during the French Revolution. During the 9 months it took me to read the novel a number of actual revolutions broke out across Europe from Poland to Turkmenistan, Hungary to East Germany. The book sits on my Shelf of Honour:

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Part of the Shelf of Honour

Best of 2016

Updated 1.1.17 & 7.1.17 – put to bed 10.1.17

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American Honey

Film:
Manchester by the Sea
American Honey

Sing Street
American Pastoral
The Accountant
Allied
The Nice Guys

Male Lead:
Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea

Ben Affleck – The Accountant
Tom Hanks – Sully
Shia LaBeouf – American Honey
Chris Pine – Hell or High Water
Brad Pitt – Allied
Ryan Gosling – The Nice Guys

Female Lead:
Sasha Lane – American Honey

Rebecca Hall – Christine
Marion Cotillard – Allied
Dakota Fanning – American Pastoral
Meryl Streep – Florence Foster Jenkins
Amy Adams – Arrival

Male Support:
Jack Reynor – Sing Street

Hugh Grant – Florence Foster Jenkins
Aaron Taylor-Johnson – Nocturnal Animals
Tom Wilkinson – Denial
Jeff Bridges – Hell or High Water

Female Support:
Michelle Williams – Manchester by the Sea

Hayley Squires – I, Daniel Blake
Jennifer Connelly – American Pastoral
Riley Keough – American Honey
Margot Robbie – Suicide Squad

Director:
Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester by the Sea

Andrea Arnold – American Honey
Ewan McGregor – American Pastoral
John Carney – Sing Street
Tom Ford – Nocturnal Animals
Woody Allen – Cafe Society

Writer:
Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester by the Sea

John Carney – Sing Street
Andrea Arnold – American Honey
Tom Ford – Nocturnal Animals
Eric Heisserer – Arrival

Editing:
Joe Walker – Arrival
Jennifer Lame – Manchester by the Sea

Cinematography:
Vittorio Storaro – Cafe Society
Rodrigo Prieto – Silence

Film Music:
Sing Street

Single/Song:
In Tiburon – Van Morrison

Album:
Blackstar – David Bowie
Keep Me Singing – Van Morrison

Gig:

Imagining Ireland – Friday 29 April 2016 at Festival Hall
Bruce Springsteen – Wembley stadium

Fela Kuti tribute – Bukky Leo & Black Egypt (Jazz Cafe)
Carole King – Tapestry (Hyde Park)

Play:
Jesus Christ Superstar (Regent’s Park)

Things I Know to be True – Andrew Bovell (Lyric, Hammersmith)
How the Other Half Loves – Alan Aykborn (Haymarket)

Art Exhibition:
You Say You Want a Revolution? (V&A)
Georgia O’Keeffe (Tate Modern)

opening day of the Design Museum, Kensington
Russell-Cotes gallery, Bournemouth
Graves gallery, Sheffield
Neue Pinakothek, Munich

Book:
The Sellout – Paul Beatty
Judas – Amos Oz

Read This Year:
All Fall Down – James Leo Herlihy

TV:
Ambulance
Humans 2.0
The Night Manager
Long Lost Family

Sport:
Ireland beating New Zealand at rugby in Chicago
Jack Laugher and Chris Mears winning diving gold at Rio Olympics

Event:

Commemorating the Easter Rising at the GPO in Dublin (100 years to the minute after, right on the spot)

David Bowie trip to Berlin with Noah

Dearly departed:

  • David Bowie
  • Muhammad Ali
  • Gene Wilder
  • Leonard Cohen
  • George Michael
  • Bobby Wellins
  • Terry Wogan
  • Ronnie Corbett
  • Johan Cruyff
  • Robert Vaughn
  • Peter Vaughan
  • Maurice White
  • Frank Finlay
  • George Martin
  • Sylvia Anderson
  • Arnold Wesker

bowieessential

Best of 2015

Best of 2014

Best of 2013

Best of 2012

Best of 2011

Best of 2010

Best of 2009

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