Archive for the ‘MUSIC’ Category

Rebel Girls: the (written) lives of Vita Sackville-West and Viv Albertine

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Vita and Viv: what polar opposites. One born into immense wealth and privilege, blessed with an unhealthy arrogance, unblinkingly forging her own path on her own terms, the other brought up without money or connections, lacking in self-confidence, but equally determined to make her mark on the world and stay true to herself. Both pioneers of their age. Vita could never be her true self in public while Viv lived in boundary-smashing times. The age of punk was also a time of squats, art colleges and student grants, when living on the dole while honing your art or music or simply personal style was a viable, nay commendable, lifestyle choice.

I have to say Viv is the more sympathetic character of the two – Vita reminded me of Vivienne Westwood, who Viv describes as “scary, for the reason any truthful, plain-talking person is scary – she exposes you… She’s uncompromising in every way: what she says, what she stands for, what she expects from you and how she dresses.” That could just as easily have been written about Vita.

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Take my shoes off and throw them in the lake

kate bush ticket

Sitting in my seat admiring the art deco splendour of the Hammersmith Apollo, I really had no idea what to expect from Kate Bush’s return to the stage after 35 years. As she walked onto the stage the emotion in the audience was palpable and she was clearly delighted by it and responded graciously and gratefully. Any worries that she might be nervous or stiff performing were soon dispelled as she launched into an energetic and evocative rendition of Hounds of Love, note-perfect and immediately, amazingly bringing back all sorts of happy emotions from my childhood – a kind of musical muscle memory.

Kate Bush

I found myself wondering, how did she get to be so confident? This woman who was writing songs like The Man With the Child In His Eyes and Wuthering Heights as a teenager and bringing them to life with such fearless vision. Where does that imagination and absolute conviction come from? All the snide comments about how she’s – gasp, clutch skirts – grown older makes my blood boil. No, she isn’t a teenager anymore, she’s a grown woman with a teenage son of her own (who performs with terrifying confidence, he is truly his mother’s son). But you can easily see the ghost of that eerily precocious, creative girl in the woman today – there’s the same strength and sweetness in her face and that haunting, unique voice remains pure and clear as a bell.

kate bush live

**I didn’t break the ‘no photos’ rule btw, this is an official pic!**

It also struck me that Kate Bush is totally, absolutely English and this performance – right down to the ever so slightly am-drammy bits – could only ever happen in England. You could’t imagine Kate Bush shakin’ her booty ‘in da club’ – she’d more likely be striding across bleak grey fells in a stout jersey or hamming it up in a unitard. She’s goofy, eccentric, never cynical or arch and I think that’s part of the reason people are bewitched by the music she makes – her lyrics and those dreamy soundscapes are often challenging, sometimes downright weird, but because she offers them with such honesty, you have to respect her. That and she writes a bloody good pop song.

In that respect she makes me think of other ‘out there’ female artists – the likes of Bjork, Tori Amos, Paloma Faith – they charm their fans because they are unselfconscious, there’s no pretension. They couldn’t care less about being ‘cool’ or ‘sexy’ – and by virtue of that fact (and because they are insanely talented) they are infinitely more attractive than any sad pop puppet. It’s not about age, size or whether someone is or isn’t conventionally attractive – it’s an innate quality, some charisma that you just can’t manufacture or fake.

I can’t really put into words how I felt seeing songs that are such a part of me performed live before my very eyes. Kate Bush has been an icon in the truest sense since I was small, reassuring me that it’s not only ok to be a bit weird and to stand apart from the mainstream, it’s actually something to embrace and celebrate. I will remain forever grateful to her for that knowledge, which I clung to like a lifebelt through choppy youthful waters, and for giving me a truly unique experience to treasure one night in Hammersmith.

Oh and some thoughts on gig-going etiquette:

If you have to go to the toilet three songs into a show maybe don’t drink so many pints?

And if you really need a drink so badly you have go to the bar in the middle of a once in a lifetime show you paid good money to see rather than wait til the intermission then you definitely have problems. FFS.

Also, please don’t ‘sexy dance’ at the Kate Bush concert. Or anywhere for that matter, but definitely not ever at the Kate Bush concert.


REVIEW: Clothes, Music, Boys by Viv Albertine

Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys by Viv Albertine

Note the chant of that title and how long it takes to type: that’s just the beginning of the uncompromising life story that Viv Albertine shares in her new book. Guitarist in The Slits, Laura Ashley model, musician, director, actor, artist, mother – she has had a fascinating fifty-nine years and there’s a lot more to talk about than being a girl in the punk world (but that’s a good place to start).

In CCCMMMBBB (Faber, £14.99) she scrapbooks her vividly recalled memories together and tacks on a helpful appendix at the end detailing the most crucial bits of her biography – what she was wearing, listening to and who she was seeing during each of her eras. Her unconventional path through creative careers, various lovers and finally motherhood makes for compelling reading and her story illuminates some of life’s joyous feminist contradictions.  It’s also worth mentioning that I haven’t read a book which so unashamedly and refreshingly reveals the secrets of the female bedroom since Caitlin Moran’s How to Be a Woman, bedsheets, wardrobe, dressing table and all.

Albertine laments the fact that she had no female role models as a would-be guitarist in the late seventies, but luckily for us with this book she’s shown why she should be a heroine to every music-loving, clothes-obsessed, outsider girl out there.


Review: MADONNA NYC 83 by Richard Corman

On the cover of a magazine (book)

On the cover of a magazine (book)

‘Early in May 1983, I got a call from my mother, Cis Corman. She was casting Scorsese’s new film, The Last Temptation of Christ and she’d just auditioned a woman I really had to photograph. “She’s an original! I’ve never met anyone like her!’ … The woman was Madonna, and the part she’d auditioned for was the Virgin Mary.’ American photographer Richard Corman‘s introduction to Madonna NYC 83, a new (and MDNA-approved) book cataloging his encounter/collaboration with the queen of pop which is published this week.

I will never get tired of looking at old Madonna pix and within a month of her madgesty launching her latest creative/hype/humanitarian project, Art for FreedomMNYC83 is a reminder of why and how she became famous in the first place – her moves, her face, her style and her attitude. Even after 30 years her flirtatious joy, brazen ambition, clutch of cultural references (give Boy George his hat back) and raw NYC nothing-to-lose-ness are still as fresh and as challenging as ever in Corman’s photgraphs. Here are some of my favourites… Read More…


P-P-P-Pussy POWER: on screen + on the page

PR Quad Sml (1) When Pussy Riot broke out on the internet last year, I was obviously going to be obsessed with them. Riot grrrl for the 2010s, dressed in Beyond-Retro-ish frocks and masked in fluro balaclavas, they had a lot to be angry about and were a reminder of the power of youth, music and rebellion when the closest most of us get to a protest is retweeting someone’s disgruntled missive.

The new book Let’s Start a Pussy Riot curated by Emely Neu and edited by Jade French and the HBO documentary Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer have just been released to help contextualise their story and remind us about their cause as two Rioters – Masha and Nadia – remain in prison.

pussy riotPussy Riot might look the same as any other twenty-somethings in Moscow, New York, London or wherever, but that’s where the comparison ends. At the launch for LSAPR at Yoko Ono’s MELTDOWN FESTIVAL last month in front of an audience that included PR-agitator Peaches, two Pussy Riot reps made a surprise appearance that was humbling, inspiring, colourful and greeted with some noisy applause. Their faces masked, their voices vocodered through microphones and then translated into English by an interpreter, they were determined to share their stories and answer questions in spite of the layers obscuring quick communications.

However ‘punk’ and improvised their protests appear, they’re thoroughly planned and their objectives are always clear, the girls explained. Since most of the Rioters come from a (performance) art background, they are concerned with the visual impact of their activities, and, importantly, those balaclavas are not just about hiding their identities – they’re a statement against the 21st century cult of personality and celebrity. Rather than intimidating, they want that balaclava’d-anonymity to encourage like-minded people to join Pussy Riot wherever they are.

And why not join in? The wider PR collective’s inclusive campaigning is how the makers of the Punk Prayer documentary (which follows the trial of the three Rioters last year and meets their families, giving a Russian as well as an outsider’s insight into their arguments and objectives) and blog-turned-book Let’s Start a Pussy Riot (featuring contributions from Antony Hegarty, Robyn, Kim Gordon, Yoko and many more) got made after all.

[Their latest protest video has just been posted at the Guardian. See Yoko talk Pussy Riot for the BBC here, watch the LSAPR launch at the Southbank Centre online here and follow the campaign here.]


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"They’re funny and honest and write about fashion with feminism so I’m obviously all over it." Tavi

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