While interrogating materials for Rethink/Re-Entry – the monograph of artist Derek Boshier I am editing – I’ve come across many delights, including these sketches in the Flowers Gallery archive for one of the most visually striking documents of the post-punk era, CLASH 2nd Songbook.
The last time I saw photographer/manager Leee Black Childers – who has died aged aged 69 – was fleetingly, a year or so ago at the crowded launch of his book and exhibition at London’s The Vinyl Factory.
The first time I saw Childers was at The Speakeasy at a March 1977 concert by his charges The Heartbreakers. The poster for that gig, featuring his London rooftop portrait of the band, hangs behind me as I type.
That night and for the rest of his London stay over the next couple of years this Southern gent could be spotted at such haunts as The Ship in Wardour Street, his presence notable for lacquered pompadour, authentic sharkskin suits and slick black winklepickers, his reputation bolstered by the knowledge that Ian Hunter had dedicated Mott The Hoople’s All The Way From Memphis to Childers – who, in fact, was raised near Louisville, KY – and that he created the apocalyptic collage on the inner gatefold of David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs LP (which now appears spookily prescient of the devastation of 9/11).
Childers appeared awfully frail at the Vinyl Factory launch, so news that he had been rushed to LA’s Cedar Sinai hospital during another bout of book promotion a few weeks back was worrying but not unexpected.
In conversation in 2009 Childers revealed a promotional plan for his book then in preparation: he wanted it to be published after his death so that he could be utterly honest about his extraordinary life and set of acquaintances. The promotion would consist of a series of pre-recorded chat show appearances, all ready for broadcast as soon as he expired. He wondered whether the likes of Jay Leno and David Letterman would be up for it.
Well, it wasn’t to be. The book came out and though unwell he appeared to be enjoying being back in the spotlight.
I am told Childers’ archiving was ramshackle and can find no website dedicated to his photographic work. This is shame because no one was embedded in and simultaneously chronicling the demi-monde of glitter, glam and punk, of Warhol’s Manhattan, Iggy’s LA and McLaren’s London, in the manner of this charismatic soul.
All about Eve this spring: Ferret Up The Arts, Don’t Be So Shellfish and her first-ever album release
Lovely to see the gorgeous Eve Ferret out and about this spring with a series of live dates to celebrate the long-overdue release of her first album.
I fell under Eve’s spell in the summer of 1978, witnessing performances at Covent Garden’s pre-New Romantic Blitz club with her-then partner James “Biddie” Biddlecombe. More recently we connected via the late Tommy Roberts, at whose memorial she sang a version of Rawhide which rocked ‘em in the aisles and nearly blew the roof off St Giles in the Fields.
I’m assembling materials for Rethink/Re-Entry, the long-overdue monograph of the great British artist Derek Boshier I am currently editing.
The book takes its title from the early Boshier painting which inspired rock’s ultimate art-directed star Bryan Ferry to choose the name Remake/Remodel for the first track on Roxy Music’s game-changing debut LP.
Derek Boshier’s diary fit to burst: Imaginary Portraits at the National Portrait Gallery, A Survey Of Work at Boston’s Gallery 360, films at Brooklyn’s Light Industry and inclusion in the Barbican’s huge Pop Art retrospective
Today the National Portrait Gallery unveiled Imaginary Portraits, a selection of works by artist Derek Boshier, who is the subject of a monograph I am editing.
Prominent are two studies of David Bowie; an oil-on-canvas painting executed in New York in 1980 while Bowie was rehearsing for his role in Bernard Pomerance’s play The Elephant Man at the city’s Booth Theatre and a 1981 ink-on-paper drawing which resulted from Boshier’s design for the sleeve for the album Lodger a couple of years earlier.
Joe Stevens’ 70s photograph of a pensive David Bowie merchandise seller is included in British artist Jeremy Deller’s British Pavilion installation English Magic at the Venice Biennale.
I’m making a presentation on Bowie’s visual style and in particular his relationship with clothing designers as part of the V&A’s Sound & Vision event today.
Among those I’m referencing will be the theatrical costume designer Peter J. Hall, who was commissioned to create the stagewear for the 1983 Serious Moonlight tour. I wrote about their fruitful working relationship here.
Tonight I am hosting an event at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum: an ‘in conversation’ with Boy George about the importance and influence of popular culture’s greatest manipulator of visual identity, David Bowie.
Overseen by Nick Logan (with Jann Wenner across the Atlantic, the key figure in the development of the music press) the NME was happily in thrall to The New Journalism, striking alliances with such fellow travellers as Creem’s Lester Bangs and charging through the mid-70s doldrums with a manifesto which contributed to punk’s rhetoric. This was delivered with élan, a drugged-up Dog Days Of Glam sense of style. No one exemplifies this slurred, unsteady on its bony legs, fuck-you stance better than Nick Kent.
Introduction, In Their Own Write, 2001
Photographer Joe Stevens has recently posted on his website a set of reminiscences of working with Nick Kent, whose journalism – along with that of Pete Erskine, Chrissie Hynde, Charles Shaar Murray and Chris Salewicz - for the NME in the early-to-mid-70s helped set me on the path to writing for a living.
Kent backed up his verbals with a striking visual presence which trumped most mainstream pop performers of the period.
As Dylan Jones has recounted, it was to Kent that a waitress in a Chinese restaurant once gravitated for an autograph, not his dining companions Iggy Pop and David Bowie, “because he looked more of a rock star than the other two”.
I interviewed David Bowie a couple of the times in the 90s, having met him via fund-raising idea contributions I made to the music industry’s favoured charity, War Child. In the preceding months he had been an enthusiastic contributor to the art events Little Pieces From Big Stars (1994) and Pagan Fun Wear (1995).
This interview took place in the summer of 1995 when Bowie was promoting 1.Outside, notable in that it marked a return to collaboration with Brian Eno (who I also interviewed at the time for his work on that as well as another collaboration, with Jah Wobble on the ambient project Spinner).
Bowie had emerged from the maligned Glass Spider/Tin Machine period a couple of years earlier with more creditable, if not particularly memorable efforts, including The Buddha Of Suburbia soundtrack. He was also actively ploughing a furrow into the visual arts and already mutating as a musician and performer, soon to become a familiar presence on the international festival circuit and engaging in sorties into jungle manifested in the follow-up album Earthling (for which I also interviewed him).
Ideas crackled off Bowie throughout the conversation; Eno once told me that working with him on a song in the studio was like watching a fast-motion film of a flower blossom.
In our chat, Bowie even flew a kite about producing an album based around a fictional character Nathan Adler every year until 2000 culminating in a Robert Wilson-style epic theatrical production at the Brooklyn Academy Of Music. Of course these never came to fruition.
How did you come to hook up with Brian Eno again?
When Brian came to my wedding in 1992, I had instrumental pieces for what would eventually become a third of Black Tie White Noise – music that I composed to be played in the church and at the party afterwards. He explained he was working in a not dissimilar area and I was starting on The Buddha Of Suburbia, where I pretty much started to survey the territory I wanted to be involved in. After a series of conversations, working with Brian really came together in early March 1994.
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