A few years ago I wanted to show a friend Tracey Emin’s 1995 short film, ‘Why I Never Became A Dancer’, but couldn’t find it anywhere online. The last time I’d seen it was perhaps a decade earlier, at The Tate Gallery in Liverpool, so I surmised that, given it’s part of the Tate Collection, it would only be possible to view in an arts space, and not on the internet. I looked to see if I could buy a copy, but no luck there either. Anyhow, it came up in conversation again a few nights ago so I had another look online and, lo and behold, there it was on Vimeo, in all of its grainy Super 8 splendour. It was Emin’s first film, and for me it was a major key to understanding where she was coming from, both as an artist and a person (for her confessional art is, by nature, informed by her personal experience – her approach often brutally honest).
I finally got around to watching the US TV series ‘Breaking Bad’ – a bit late, I know, but better late than never. My son had been constantly raving about it since picking up on it via Netflix – he’d stumbled across it, given it a go, and, just like the programme’s subject matter, it had him hooked in no time. Having quickly caught up with the then ongoing series, along with millions of others, he was glued right through to the concluding episode last September.
David Frost, who died of a heart attack last Saturday, aged 74, first made his name as the host of one of the most influential TV shows of the ’60s, ‘That Was The Week That Was’ (aka ‘TW3’). With the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech from 50 years ago also in the news, this clip, which was broadcast on ‘TW3’ the same year (and features the programme’s resident singer, Millicent Martin) provides a cutting critique on both the racism of America’s Deep South, and a British culture that embraced the Black & White Minstrels (a troupe of blacked-up white performers singing songs of the ‘good ol’ south’), who were major TV stars at the time (and, remarkably, remained on prime-time BBC for another 15 years, until 1978).
Last weekend, just before I set off to the airport, and back to the UK, following my tour dates in Australia and on the US West Coast, I spent a highly enjoyable lazy Sunday afternoon sat in the home of Abe Alvarez-Tostado & Sarah Nocktonick, friends of my Los Angeles promoter, Leonard ‘Mozza’ Donjuan, passing the time in interesting and insightful conversation before I headed homewards.
Exactly 30 years ago today, on 25th February 1983, I appeared on Channel 4’s influential music show, ‘The Tube’, demonstrating mixing for the first time on live TV in the UK – just my luck that the very point I was encapsulated in a cultural moment, it coincided with a brief phase where I looked like an extra from the Hair Bear Bunch, but that’s the way the mop flops. The footage is nowadays fondly regarded as part of British dance heritage, illustrating how the New York innovation of mixing was finally finding favour on this side of the Atlantic, where the microphone was still a key component of the DJs approach. For a full account of how UK DJs gradually put down the microphone and embraced mixing, check out ‘How The Talking Stopped’, an in-depth step by step account of its British evolution:
Just over 12 months ago, on October 29th 2011, the TV and radio personality Sir Jimmy Savile died 2 days before his 85th birthday (he was born on Halloween 1926). He was regarded as one of the great British eccentrics, but there were always rumours about deviant behaviour, although nothing proven. Apart from his contribution to broadcasting, Savile was also said to be the first DJ, not only in Britain, but the World, to use twin-turntables, back in the 1940s, making him an unlikely icon to DJs of the modern era. Here’s the blog post I wrote at the time of his death:
Double Trouble / Rammellzee & Shockdell / Rock Steady Crew / Grandmixer D.ST
From ‘Wild Style’ 1982
Judy Garland ‘The Trolley Song’
From ‘Meet Me In St Louis’ 1944
And also CBS TV Special 1962
Last month I was over in Chicago chilling out in my hotel room ahead of my first gig in the city, at Smart Bar, a venue with a rich tradition, which opened back in 1982. Chicago is, of course, along with Detroit, Philadelphia and New York, revered as a key US city when it comes to the evolution of dance culture (and, indeed, black culture, with, way before House, a deep heritage in Rhythm & Blues, Blues and Jazz, dating right back to the ‘great migration’ of black workers from the southern states, beginning just over 100 years ago).
John Robb, my old friend and musical ally (I produced a couple of tracks for his band of the time, Sensuround, back in the early ’90s), blogged his views at Louder Than War a few days ago regarding Paul McCartney’s stuttering appearance at the Olympic opening ceremony last week. Like myself, John holds The Beatles in the highest regard, so I was interested to hear his take on things. He’d formulated his article as ‘An Open Letter To Paul McCartney And The Elder Statesmen Of Pop’: