Archive for the ‘david bowie’ Tag

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:

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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

Sound & Vision: 4 of the best from Bowie’s art collection

I had a bit of an art blow-out earlier this week with three thoroughly enjoyable exhibitions in a day:

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View from a beanbag

You Say You Want A Revolution? at the V&A which looks at “records and rebels” from 1966 to 1970 – I went with my friend Kathelin Gray who was present at many of the events showcased and knew many of the people referred to, including Allen Ginsberg who is the person who first brought us together when I was on sabbatical writing in 2013-14. Walking through this excellent display with her certainly added a special, personal dimension. For a while we kicked back on beanbags to watch highlights from the Woodstock movie, including Jimi Hendrix’s era-defining rendition of the Stars & Stripes, perfect for US election day.

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Endless Highway off the beaten track

The Path Beaten at The Halcyon which for the second time in as many years brings together in London a collection of Bob Dylan’s paintings and sculpture. The images which most appealed were ones like ‘Endless Highway’ which seem of a piece with his songs and how they capture the essence of America. Also perfect for an election day when that could easily get lost.

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Sandwiched between was a visit to Bowie / Collector at Sotheby’s, a last viewing of Bowie’s personal collection (minus the stuff of sentimental value) before it went under the auctioneer’s hammer on Thursday 10th and Friday 11th November (yesterday and the day before). I went with my friend Doug to whom I picked out a single painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat as The One. As it turned out that canvas went for £7.1M, the top price at an auction which raised double the expected revenue, in this case more than doubling its top estimate of £3.5M. So I reckon I’ve got a good eye. And what that good eye spied on the day were these…

ONE Lot 22: Jean-Michel Basquiat – Air Power (1984)

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Jean-Michel Basquiat – Air Power (1984)

For all the bullshitWar(se)hol(e)hype around Basquiat, the young man was a really dynamic artist with a beautiful sense of colour. Bowie played Warhol in Julian Schnabel’s biographical movie. The canvas displays Basquiat’s usual mix of lively paint (acrylic) and fat chalky lines (oilstick) looking like the bastard offspring of a blueprint and a Brooklyn wall. The white ladder shape on the chest and body of the main figure reminds me at once of one of those bone breast decorations Red Indians wear and a railway line reaching westwards. In other words JMB seems to really capture that essence of America.

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TWO Lot 4: Peter Lanyon – Trevalgan (1951)

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Peter Lanyon – Trevalgan (1951)

Hot on the heals of the excellent Lanyon exhibition, Soaring Flight, at The Courtauld last Christmas, Bowie/Collector afforded an encounter with another group of Lanyon’s fresh, original landscapes, of which this stood out the most. Trevalgan is a landmark work in Lanyon’s journey of reinvention of landscape painting, tilting it up to become a fusion of map, aerial photo and abstract expressionist take on the Cornwall countryside, the horizon curved around the picture surface on which sea, fields, cliffs and sky are transformed into a gigantic emerald of England.

Peter Lanyon – Picture of the Month

THREE lot 43: Patrick Caulfield – Foyer (1973)

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Patrick Caulfield – Foyer (1973)

I’ve always had a soft spot for Caulfield as one inclined to a very graphic style in my own drawing and painting. This large acrylic captures much about modern life in a bland space of the hotel lobby variety (which is not much variety) – to get to anything of interest or colour you have to penetrate to the bar, a small bejewelled space of coloured glass and decorated alcoves, tucked away small in the background distance of the image.

FOUR Lot 101: David Jones – Crucifixion (c.1922)

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David Jones – Crucifixion (c.1922)

I suspect Bowie bought this one because the artist shares his real name, plus of course Jones was a highly accomplished religious artist in the vein of Eric Gill. This sparse, stripped down pencil and watercolour drawing captures the agony of the Crucifixion, remembering even to bloody the knees, not just the stigmata. He achieves something truly ancient and in touch with the roots of Christianity.

I felt two things as I left the exhibition. (i) There was so much of it. Too much for any one person to own. It made me feel a bit sick being amongst so much. It must have been a relief for Bowie and his family to offload All This Stuff. David Jones #1’s Christ departs with just a delicate blue loin cloth and a crown of thorns. (ii) Having gone to so much trouble assembling some very fine sub-collections among his overall Collection (mainly of the 20th Century British Art I really love) I wonder why he broke it all up again? Why didn’t he donate little groups to museums to keep them together? I suspect his family don’t really need all £33M of the proceeds.

What Bowie did give – from my little perspective – was an introduction to my ideal drawer and one of my favourite artists, Egon Schiele. I heard him talking about this artist (who I, like most people at the time, had never heard of) on Radio 1 around the time of his Lodger record, the last of the Berlin trilogy. From there a life-long love sprouted. If Bowie had any Schiele’s he kept them back from the sale. The nearest is a single Oskar Kokoschka litho and an Eric Heckel woodcut figure with long boney hands. He certainly had a heroic eye for art. (Though he could have gotten arrested by the design police for his taste in furniture.)

 

 

1978 in Music

I wrote about 1971 as the key year in music this time last year and this week David Hepworth has released a book on exactly the same theme. I started thinking about this in 2013 when I had a discussion at BAFTA with Malcolm Garrett, designer of the covers of Another Music in a Different Kitchen and Love Bites (referred to below) – Malcolm argued for 1970. Today my friend & best man Stuart Rubenstein proposed 1978 as an alternative. I don’t really buy it as the most significant year but it was a landmark, dynamic one.

Here are a dozen of the LPs that got my blood racing that pivotal year of my youth and I write this listening to Stuart’s 1978 playlist.

1978 was the year I fully got the punk bug thanks to Buzzcocks who released 2 great LPs during those palpitating 12 months. So in no particular order:

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(1) Give Em Enough Rope – The Clash

I trudged through the snow to Loppylugs in Edgware to buy this. I saw the tour at the Electric Ballroom in Camden Town with Mikey Dread and Joe Ely supporting, one of the greatest gigs of my life.

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(2) The Scream – Siouxsie & the Banshees

Was transfixed by this band, not least the track Switch. Saw them at Hammersmith Odeon and the Music Machine in Mornington Crescent around this time.

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(3) Another Music in a Different Kitchen – Buzzcocks

Got this as a Christmas present (at my own request) from someone I didn’t much like. The single from it (which I got first from Smiths in Chichester), What Do I Get, was what opened me up to Punk. The sleeve design was really striking with its silver and fluorescent orange. It was a kick years later to meet its super-talented designer Malcolm Garrett through work. My copy now bears his signature.

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(4) Easter – Patti Smith

I was transfixed by the hairy armpit in the cover photo by Robert Mapplethorpe.

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(5) Plastic Letters – Blondie

I had a crush on Debbie Harry as Debbie had on Denis. I saw them for my 2nd ever gig at Hammersmith Odeon, as well as outside their record label, Chrysalis, near Bond Street.

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(6) Stage – David Bowie

One of the few things outside of punk to catch my attention.

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(7) Handsworth Revolution – Steel Pulse

Can’t recall how I came across this but it will have been thanks to the Punk-Reggae axis.

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(8) Public Image – Public Image Ltd

How could Johnny Rotten transcend the Pistols? With a single as startling as anything those bad boys did.

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(9) An American Prayer – Jim Morrison & The Doors

I still reckon Jim was a significant and talented poet.

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(10) Here My Dear – Marvin Gaye

As intense as records ever get – I pictured Marvin alone in the studio in the dark, laying his voice over and over itself.

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(11) Moving Targets – Penetration

Something a little exotic from the regions

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(12) Power in the Darkness – Tom Robinson Band

My very first gig at Hammersmith Odeon with PJE. I used the stencil which came with this on my school bag.

A parlour game for Easter

This has flown in from Dan McKevitt in Carlingford (via Facebook). A musical parlour game for the holidays.The emphasis is on records that have meant a lot to you rather than the all-time greatest.

“Here are the rules. Post up 12 albums on to your timeline that have stayed with you for whatever reason. One album per Artist/Band. Tag 12 friends and get them to do likewise, include me so I can see your choices. Don’t overthink it. Enjoy. No Compilations.”

1 Kind of Blue – Miles Davis [how to become tranquil in 5 easy steps/tracks]


2 Jesus Christ Superstar [as a young teen I used to spend hours and hours drawing and colouring to this]


3 What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye [I played it the night my fist born made his appearance]


4 Another Music In a Different Kitchen – Buzzcocks [my route into punk]


5 A Love Supreme – John Coltrane [took me somewhere higher]


6 Hot August Night – Neil Diamond [the first LP I bought myself – helluva jean jacket]


7 Let’s Dance – David Bowie [helped me find the joy in my first year away from home]


8 Glorious Fool – John Martyn [prompted me to recognise that JM was the greatest singer of them all …ever]


9 Give ’em Enough Rope – The Clash [trudging through the snow to get this from Loppylugs the day it came out – there’s never been such anticipation]


10 Moondance – Van Morrison [contains my eponymous wedding dance]


11 The White Album – The Beatles [teen memories of discovering the Fab Four and others with JRT]


12 The Scream – Siouxsie & the Banshees [will life ever get more exciting?]

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By the way, here are the Best Albums ever

And here are some more music lists

‘Heroes’ mystery solved

A few days ago when I was in Berlin I wrote this (in a post called Where Are We Now? about David Bowie):

There are a few panels of the Berlin Wall on display on the north side of the place and then a significant stretch of the banal concrete sections in Niederkirchnerstrasse (on the corner of which was the Blackstar poster above). The bands graffitied on that section indicate how frozen in time it is: Blondie, Madness, Lee Perry all get a painted name check. A few more individual sections stand in the grounds of the apartment blocks adjacent to the Hansa Studio in Köthener Strasse. It all helps get you in the ‘Heroes’ frame of mind. I tried to figure out where Bowie might have seen Visconti and his lover from the studio windows but it’s hard to figure as two walls are blank and there’s no obvious spot where the Wall would have been in sight from the front or back of the Hansa building so the lovers’ kiss remains in the imagination (which is probably where it actually was anyway).

Well I was wrong – the spot where the lovers (Visconti and a backing singer) kissed by the Wall was behind the building. I actually snuck through an archway to investigate that Sunday afternoon. A security guard came out of a concealed door as I got to the end of the short tunnel but he must have thought it was not worth the bother and let it go. I walked around a bit in the back garden and car park in search of the spot so I reckon I must have been pretty much bang on at one point.

The mystery is solved in this fascinating video clip (20 mins) from BBC4 in which Visconti recalls the event (about 11 mins in).

David Bowie at the Berlin Wall, 1987

David Bowie locations in Berlin

[Updated 28/1/16]

As promised in my Where Are We Now? post just below here is a list of David Bowie related locations in Berlin which can easily be visited on foot or by foot and public transport:

David Bowie at the Berlin Wall, 1987

  • David Bowie’s 1st floor apartment (shared with Iggy Pop). Bowie lived in Berlin from late 1976 to 1979. – Hauptstrasse 155, Schöneberg [U-bahn: Kleistpark]
  • David & Iggy’s local (gay) bar, now called Neues Ufer, back then called Anderes Ufer – Hauptstrasse 157, Schöneberg
  • Hansa Tonstudio, recording studios where Low and ‘Heroes’ were recorded (in oak-panelled Tonstudio 2) and produced The Idiot for Iggy Pop – Köthener Strasse 38 [near Potsdamer Platz (which gets a mention in Where Are We Now?) – you can only enter with an official tour like the ones lead by Thilo Schmied]. The ‘Heroes’ spot (where “Standing, by the wall … we kissed, as though nothing could fall”) is just behind the studio building, accessible through an arch albeit on private property. The position of the Wall is marked by a double line of cobblestones.
  • The site of the Dschungel night club (as mentioned in Where Are We Now?) where Bowie, Iggy and Lou Reed shook a leg – Nürnberger Strasse 53 = Ellington Hotel
  • KaDeWe department store (also as mentioned in Where Are We Now?) is round the corner at Tauentzienstraße 21-24
  • Paris Bar arty restaurant in Charlottenburg where Bowie & Iggy went for special occasions to hang out with artist types – Kantstrasse 152 [U & S Zoologischer Garten]
  • Brücke Museum where Bowie went to be inspired by German Expressionist art such as that of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Erich Heckel. Otto Müller’s Lovers Between Garden Waals may be a source for the song ‘Heroes’ – Bussardsteig 9 [bus line 115, Pücklerstraße stop]
  • In front of the Reichstag where Bowie performed to 70,000 Germans in 1987, audible to more over the Wall in the East (two years before the Berliner Mauer fell).

To be added:

  • Filming locations for ‘Just a Gigolo’, the movie Bowie starred in in 1978 (directed by David Hemmings).
  • S036 – music venue in Kreuzberg where Bowie & Iggy hung out
  • Bösebrücke – the only other location mentioned in Where Are We Now? (a bit out of the city centre) where the first wave of 20,000 East Germans crossed over in 1989.
  • Joe’s Beer House – a drinking haunt of Bowie & Iggy
  • Unlimited – another of their nightclub hang-outs
  • Lützower Lampe – where Bowie celebrated his 31st birthday with Iggy and Eno and a bunch of trannies.

 

(I’ll add some of my pictures to this in the next few days)

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