50 years ago today an album was released that took pop music, something previously regarded as disposable, into the realm of art, whilst helping enable a vital generation of young people to throw off the shackles and express themselves in ever-ambitious ways – ‘Sgt.Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ soundtracked the fabled ‘summer of love’, which had spilled out into an unsuspecting world via the US West Coast, its psychedelic epicentre being San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighbourhood, where the original hippies had gathered and pondered the meaning of it all, adopting a lateral LSD-laced stance on life that would be a defining feature of the decade.
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I wanted to write in greater personal detail about David Bowie and the depth of impact his music and words had on me during my formative teenage years – this occurring when I was between the ages of 12 and 15. I’d uploaded a blog post once I’d heard about his death, but I’ve found myself needing to revisit what was a magical mystical part of my musical / life initiation, as much for myself as anyone else, both by listening through the records I loved, and still love, whilst getting it all into words somehow. Once I started writing this I couldn’t contain it – it was bursting out of all sides. So please excuse me for the tangents I go off on and the jumping about – there’s no easy coherent way for me to express this. For a period following his 6th July 1972 ‘Starman’ performance on Top Of The Pops, until 1975, when I began to disengage, Bowie ruled ok in my world.
Cynthia Robinson, trumpeter / vocalist with Sly & The Family Stone, died last month aged 71. She was part of a band that truly broke barriers back in the late ’60s / early ’70s, being both multi-racial as well as consisting of male and female members.
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).
Interesting to see that ‘Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead’ stalled at #2 on the chart, unable to knock Duke Dumont off the top spot. Many will no doubt view this through cynical eyes, as it mirrors a similar situation 36 years ago when ‘God Save The Queen’ by the Sex Pistols failed to beat Rod Stewart to the summit, although a large percentage of people within the industry believed sales figures had been manipulated in order to save the royal family embarrassment amidst the Silver Jubilee celebrations.
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:
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).
ARTIST: THE KLF
ALBUM: CHILL OUT
LABEL: KLF COMMUNICATIONS
This Sunday (September 2nd) at 9pm, you’re invited to share a listening session with some likeminded souls, wherever you might be. This can be experienced either alone or communally, and you don’t need to leave the comfort of your own home to participate. If it’s not possible to make the allotted time, hopefully you can join in at your convenience at some point during the following week. See update here:
I feel fully in the throes of festival season following last weekend’s Movement Detroit – it was a great way to make my debut in the city, with a Saturday main stage appearance in an impressive amphitheatre location.
Saw a wonderful documentary on the flight back to the UK the other week called ‘When Amy Came To Dingle’, which captures her appearance in this enchanting Irish outpost. Filmed in 2006 as part of RTÉ TV’s ‘Other Voices’ series (which has also included Florence and the Machine, Ray Davies, Snow Patrol, Sinead O’Connor, Elbow and The XX), the programme combined an intimate live performance, before an audience of just 70 people at St. James Church, with a fascinating interview that highlights the singers’ influences, including Mahalia Jackson, Ray Charles, Thelonious Monk, Sarah Vaughan, Carleen Anderson, Soweto Kinch and The Shangri-la’s.