Rave Art – Book Launch

“This new book collects vintage rave flyers, membership cards and other ephemera. Heaven in other words” – @FACTmag

On Thursday 16th October, we celebrated the launch of Chelsea Louise Berlin’s brilliant book, Rave Art at West End Lane Bookshop, West Hampstead. If you haven’t been there before, it’s a really lovely shop and the staff are so friendly – we recommend!

Rave Art

Rave culture originated in small, sweaty clubs and grew into enormous events with tens of thousands of people. Acid House music and ecstasy were the driving forces behind a global phenomenon that still reverberates today in music, fashion and art. Chelsea was there from the start of the London rave scene, attending many of the now legendary events. Rave Art documents that movement through the flyers, membership cards and promotional material that was handed out freely (often privately) to inform partygoers of the next venue and around 100 of the most significant and rare examples from Chelsea’s huge collection are reproduced in the book.

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Rave Art

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“Through these flyers, Chelsea actually tells the story of a generation who witnessed the birth, the heyday and then the decline of an entire subculture” – It’s Nice That

There was a great turnout for the evening with a real mix of people, including other rave memorabilia collectors, people who were there with Chelsea, partying hard and people who weren’t even born during what is probably the last significant youth culture of modern times. If you were there, wish you had been or are into rave culture now, this is a must-have book.

Chelsea will be speaking at Salon London‘s ‘Acid House’ event on Wednesday 26th November, tickets are £12 and available here.

Rave Art

Rave Art | Published by Carlton Books | 9781780975955

Brian May’s Red Special – The Launch

“My dad and I decided to make an electric guitar. I designed an instrument from scratch, with the intention that it would have a capability beyond anything that was out there, more tunable, with a greater range of pitches and sounds, with a better tremolo, and with a capability of feeding back through the air in a ‘good’ way”  Brian May

In 1963, Brian May and his father Harold, started to hand-build an electric guitar. On Wednesday 1st October, we published a book to celebrate the 50th birthday of this iconic guitar. Brian May © Paul Harmer Written by Brian May and Simon Bradley, Brian May’s Red Special tells the story of this incredible guitar that has been used on every Queen album and played at every live show around the world! In the book, Brian talks about every aspect of this glorious guitar from his original design and sourcing materials around the house to his reasons for wanting a certain type of sound and how he and his father went about creating this extraordinary instrument. Now, it wouldn’t be a launch party for one of the most iconic guitars in the world, owned by own of the world’s greatest guitarists without a demonstration. Brian began by showing us his acoustic guitar, which he was given for his seventh birthday, before explaining why he was inspired to build the Red Special and how they actually went about it. Brian May © Paul Harmer Then he picked up the glorious Red Special, which he described as an extension of himself. I was amazed at all of the bits and pieces that Brian and his father used to make the guitar including buttons, knitting needles, a 100 year-old fireplace and an oak table! We were well and truly spoilt as Brian showed us what the guitar could do! Brian May © Paul Harmer I never had any idea about the complexities of a guitar before but they’re incredible instruments and the Red Special certainly is one of the most iconic in the world. Brian May's Red Special

Brian May’s Red Special | Published by Carlton Books | 978 1 78097 2763 | £19.99

Headline News at Glastonbury

Once a year, in the mystical depths of Somerset, a city rises from the dewy fields. For five hazy days, a sprawling settlement with a population larger than that of York or Portsmouth eats, drinks and lives music. Glastonbury Festival has, over the past fifteen years or so, taken on a life beyond even that of its hedonistic pre-millennial era. Now, the festival is a cultural landmark. It is a point in the year around which many lives are scheduled, and has to some extent been fetishized by the media, who treat it as the most important icon on the musical landscape.

Glasto

So, with all that in mind, it’s perhaps understandable that such attention is paid to the acts who are chosen to headline each festival. This year, the decisions of the Eavis family are attracting the sort of debate unseen since Jay-Z’s booking in 2008 almost bankrupted the festival.

After the all-conquering Arcade Fire and indie rockers Kasabian have topped the bill on Friday and Saturday, the crowd will be treated to a festival-closing set by metal legends Metallica. To say that the reception to the Metallica announcement was cool would be an understatement – this week a survey suggested a massive 80% of punters would have returned their ticket if they could have after finding out about the set. Thankfully for Glastonbury, the festival’s tickets feature each individual’s face so as to discourage touting.

But we shouldn’t take this survey at face-value, if you’ll excuse the pun. For a start, it was undertaken by ticket exchange website ViaGoGo – a place that benefits immensely from precisely the sort of touting Glastonbury’s tickets discourage. Whether the survey results are tinted by bias or not, the message they are sending is clear: they want Glastonbury to allow people to sell on their tickets when an act they don’t like is headlining (and presumably they want those people to sell it on through their website).

Regardless of Viagogo’s message, the idea of selling your Glastonbury ticket because one act doesn’t fit your tastes doesn’t make much sense. The beauty of Glastonbury, above that of any other festival, is its sprawling scope. If the act on one stage doesn’t suit your taste there are literally dozens of other stages to choose from. Beyond the music, there are hectares and hectares of other entertainments. Whether you choose the shambolic crafts of the Greenfields, the fiery schlock of Arcadia or the hidden charms of the legendary Underground Piano Bar, Glastonbury is more than just a Sunday night headliner. It is, as its population suggests, a tented city of eclectic wonders.

Our advice is never to miss out on the controversial choices. Jay-Z, whose headline set in 2008 was maligned before the festival had even began for putting a rapper on top of the bill, is widely regarded as one of Glastonbury’s most iconic moments. Headliners are chosen for a reason, and Glastonbury founder Michael Eavis often opts for the act he knows an audience will enjoy over the one he knows they want. In recent years, Sunday night has seen many of the festival’s most famous sets, with The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Blur and The Who all providing defining moments. Metallica, a incredible act that is unlike anything Sunday night has seen before, are likely to add themselves to this prestigious list. If you ask us, the fuss has been placed upon the wrong headliner – Metallica are a bold choice we won’t be missing. Kasabian? They sound a little less brave a headline choice to us!

Michael Jackson – Five Years On

It seems strange, given that Michael Jackson was, ultimately, a man who sang songs for a living, but we remember exactly where we were when the news broke that he had died. Isn’t that the sort of thing usually reserved for major disasters, horrific events that can change the course of history? Of course, there were dozens of factors that made Jackson’s passing so instantly notable. The lives he had touched with his music. The controversy that had surrounded him in recent years. His relatively young age, and the circumstances in which he had passed away. And, of course, the fifty shows he was due to play at London’s O2 just weeks later.

Michael Jackson_JoffreyMshutterstock_67153027

Five years have now passed since Michael Jackson died, and in tribute to his extraordinary talent, we thought we’d take a new approach: what better way to consider a musician’s legacy than by looking at the musicians he influenced? We’ve put together a playlist of our favourite Michael Jackson covers – you can listen to it here and read about the tracks below:

Got To Be There

One of Michael Jackson’s earliest solo singles, ‘Got To Be There’ came out when he was just thirteen years old. The song has been covered numerous times, but Diana Ross’, released two years later (and already marking Ross’ fourteenth year in the industry!) is our favourite. There’s an eerie similarity between the two artists’ voices, and Ross surrounds herself with lush strings and an easy vibe.

Black or White

There are only two raps that we are capable of doing off by heart. Rather embarrassingly, they’re from Robbie Williams’ ‘Kids’ and Michael Jackson’s ‘Black or White’. We’d go so far as to say that this is Jackson’s best song; an irresistible little number that begs to be danced to. A bossa nova touch makes perfect sense. Joana Duah’s version is summery sweet, and best listened to as the late evening sun sets over a picnic in the park.

Human Nature

There aren’t as many good Michael Jackson covers as you might think – but those that do exist stretch across genres and attract the work of some of the most famous musicians the world has seen. Miles Davis, arguably the coolest man ever to have lived, delivers an ice-cold (and incredibly 80s) take on ‘Human Nature’ here.

She’s Out Of My Life

Here’s another music legend, albeit from a completely different side of the musical tracks. Willie Nelson’s cover of ‘She’s Out Of My Life’ is every bit as a delicate as Jackson’s original, though it somehow picks up a certain similarity to Kermit the Frog’s ‘Rainbow Connection’. Don’t ask us why, it just does.

Man In The Mirror

Given that ‘Man In The Mirror’ took on a whole new level of meaning in the weeks after Jackson’s death, when fans re-christened it as the anthem of the artist’s life and took it to number two in the UK charts, there aren’t very many covers of the song. James ‘Don’t Mistake Me With Blunt’ Morrison recorded the most convincing of the lot, with a satisfying rasp and plenty of reverence for the original track lingering in his acoustic approach.

I Want You Back

The Civil Wars are an underrated act that are to American folk music as The White Stripes were to blues. They clearly love Michael Jackson, too – they’ve also paid tribute to Billie Jean in the past. We’re usually adverse to the trend for soft, almost delicate covers of classic pop hits, but their take on The Jackson 5’s best known single plays out like some sort of audible duvet. A pretty cosy one, too. As songs go, this is 13.5 togs.

Billie Jean

Not enough attention is paid to the origins of ‘Billie Jean’. We all know that the song was supposedly written about a woman who claimed Michael Jackson was the father of her child, but what often is escapes the telling is that ‘Billie Jean’ had two children. Jackson was only accused of paternity for one of the children, which would be fine were the two children not twins. Chris Cornell, best known in the UK for singing the Bond theme for Daniel Craig’s debut ‘Casino Royale’ puts an almost apocalyptic roar into his vocals on this intense, raw cover.

The Way You Make Me Feel

Another cover demonstrating the versatility of Jackson’s back catalogue, Paul Anka delivered this smooth-as-silk swing tune. The album this is from, ‘Rock Swings’ is generally pretty terrible (though never quite as bad as its title), but there’s a simplicity to the lyrics that makes ‘The Way You Make Me Feel’ a natural swing song. Just a shame the drummer was being paid by the decibel.

Beat It

Not so suited to the genre is ‘Beat It’, which lounge artist/comedian Richard Cheese still takes a valiant swing at. With tongue firmly in cheek, Cheese sounds like he might kick off into a camp Spandau Ballet song at any second. When the chorus finally kicks in, it’s so (briefly) catchy that it’s easy to lose any sense of irony.

 Thriller

The Easy Star All-Stars are a collective of musicians that specialise in releasing classic albums entirely reimagined in the reggae genre. Which, we know, sounds about as tempting as Miley Cyrus releasing an album of Nickelback covers. But bear with us – this jaunty new ‘Thriller’ (from an album spelled, distressingly, as ‘Thrilla’) is cool, under-played and enough to almost convince you of the dodgy premise.

I Wanna Be Where You Are

This brief Marvin Gaye song brings our playlist full circle – not only does the original song feature on Jackson’s ‘Got To Be There’ album, but it was co-written by Diana Ross’ little brother. What Gaye’s version lacks in length it more than makes up for in easy soul.

You can hear the mix in full here, and buy Carlton’s book ‘Michael Jackson: The King Of Pop‘ here.

The Official UK Singles Chart vs Arctic Monkey

Arctic Monkeys

Nine years ago, sitting in a student bar in Nottingham, my friends and I considered with some growing excitement the musical state of the nation. Arctic Monkeys were about to top the charts with their debut single ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’ – an incredible feat for an indie-rock outfit, helped no end by the British charts recent inclusion of digital downloads to their count.

It felt like a brave new world for independent music, and it felt like the charts were finally breathing new life into their archaic structures. Structures which had sat by, watching helplessly as sales faltered and illegal downloads grew more and more rampant every week.

Of course, times change. In the nine years since the charts last modernised the music world has moved on once more. iPods have been swapped out for smartphones, meaning people have even more access to music than ever before. Streaming services such as Spotify have made a decisive move against pirated music, and provide us with the means to listen to whatever we want, whenever we want. Often we don’t even have to pay a penny to do this.

The new considerations attached to the UK music charts pay heed to these developments – streamed songs will now count towards an artist’s chart position too (although the relative value of stream to a song in terms of artist’s pay means that a song will have to be heard a hundred times in order to have the same effect on the chart as one purchase).

It’s a move that has both its strengths and its weaknesses. Certainly the decision keeps up with the changing ways of commercial music, and shows a respect for new technology that the industry is often far too slow to adopt. But it also highlights the issues faced by independent musicians trying to break the market in the same way Arctic Monkeys did almost a decade ago.

It’s already incredibly difficult for independent artists to break into the charts – there’s currently less than five in this week’s Top 40. But streaming remains dominated by the push-click votes of mainstream music fans (the only independent artist in Spotify’s 40 most-played tracks last week is, funnily enough, Arctic Monkeys, at number 38). On top of this existing bias, it was announced last week that Youtube, the world’s biggest source of streamed music is threatening to delete the music videos of independent artists unless their labels (usually small and already buckling under financial restraints) accept new, non-negotiable royalties from a new subscription-only service.

A move like this won’t affect the new charts (Youtube is not amongst the sources providing data for chart consideration), but would affect hundreds of small bands – indie rock groups that might be the next Rolling Stones, burgeoning pop acts who could have been their generation’s Madonna or Michael Jackson. And it won’t be just the small, unknown artists that suffer – still signed to the same independent label that discovered them, Arctic Monkeys themselves would disappear from one of their most effective ways of consumer outreach. Though Youtube is out of reach of the official singles charts, this move is telling of the power this new system gives the streaming services.

 

There’s change afoot in the charts, and for the most part it offers a new future that echoes the changing tides in the music industry – but we must keep our eyes on the newest sources of data so that we don’t lose the fresh voices that keep the industry moving forward in the first place.

50 Years of Rock and Roll Photography

Gered Mankowitz 50 Years of RnR-1

2013 marks 50 years of rock and roll photography for Gered Mankowitz, whose lens captured era-defining images of the world’s greatest rock stars including Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, The Eurythmics, Phil Collins, Kate Bush… We caught five minutes with Gered whilst on his busy promotional tour for his new book, Gered Mankowitz: 50 Years of Rock and Roll Photography, to ask him a few questions about his star-studded career, touring with The Stones and just who was responsible for him reaching for the camera in the first place…

  1. What inspired you to take up photography as a career?

Actually it was who rather than what – the great comic actor Peter Sellers was a friend of my father’s and an enormously enthusiastic amateur photographer. On a Sunday lunch visit to our home in the late 50s he brought along a complete Hasselblad camera kit and proceeded to explain all about it in a mad and goonish Swedish type voice, which, being a big Goon Show fan, had me in hysterics and completely hooked on the idea of being a photographer!

  1. What was the first photograph you ever took?

The first serious photographs I took were on a school holiday to Delft in Holland with a camera my granny had given me for my 14th birthday, where I took some photos of the famous cathedral, which were seen by Tom Blau who offered me an apprenticeship at his agency Camera Press.

  1. Were there ever times when you considered an alternative career to music photography?

In the last couple of years at school I was very keen on acting and took several roles in school productions, but my Dad talked me out of taking it up professionally. Throughout my career as a photographer I worked in different genres including editorial and advertising but music photography was always a constant across the 50 years.

  1. You toured America with the Rolling Stones in 1965 what was that like? Do you have any stories you can share? 

Actually it was everything a 19-year-old North London boy could imagine plus a lot of hard work! There were moments of complete insanity – setting fire to my room at the Lincoln Square Motor Inn in New York during the infamous East Coast power blackout was one highlight! There were some amazing concerts and being on stage with the band every night was exhilarating and touring would never be the same again for me. There were brief moments of pretty wild sex and a few drugs, but generally it was a grueling experience and after 48 cities I was pleased to get home.

  1. You’re particularly famous for your work on the Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix, but what is your favourite portrait?

After 50 years it is almost impossible to select just one but working with the Stones and Hendrix were obvious highlights and I loved working with Kate Bush, Annie Lennox, Marianne Faithfull and many others as well. If I had to choose just one I suppose it would have to be my Classic portrait of Jimi in his military jacket as it has become such a global icon and has a life all of its own!

  1. Were there any artists that you photographed in your career that surprised you or were not what you expected? 

Bing Crosby was unexpectedly grumpy and unhelpful, George Harrison was remarkably normal and supportive, Elton John was less confident than I expected, Annie Lennox looked wonderful whatever she did…………………………

  1. 7.     What’s the most unusual location you’ve ever shot in? 

Photographing the supposed supergroup Thieves in a brothel in the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico was pretty weird!

  1. Who do you regret not shooting for a portrait?

So many people – the young Elvis Presley, Bob Marley, Bob Dylan, Ry Cooder and many more.

  1. Do you listen to music whilst you photograph? 

I had a pretty insane sound system in my studio – four, huge, round Grundig speakers hanging in each corner of the room and music was always playing, usually pretty loudly as well!

10. Do you have a top five favourite tracks of all time? 

I couldn’t begin to limit myself – but the Stones, Dylan, Marley, Cooder, Motown, soul & blues would all be in there somewhere!

11. What are your thoughts on social sites such as Instagram that make it easy for people to upload and share their photos quickly? Is this devaluing professional photography in any way?

Digital technology has been chipping away at the profession for many years now and the ease with which people today can take and share their images has compounded the problem. I am greatly relieved that my career is over and I am no longer competing in the business anymore, because it is really tough out there!

12. Why did you decide to publish this book at this time?

50 years in the business seemed like a pretty good reason to celebrate with a beautiful book and I couldn’t be more delighted with the result.

Les Miserables: From Stage to Screen

It’s played to millions worldwide, on both stage and screen, since it began in 1985. The film has now won 3 Golden Globes, 4 BAFTAs and 3 Oscars. But what makes Les Misérables quite so special? The Times theatre critic Benedict Nightingale is one of the co-authors of Les Misérables: From Stage to Screen, and gives us his behind-the-scenes take on the first (critically panned) production, the members of the cast he interviewed and the thrill of writing the book. And reveals whether he still prefers the stage production to the film…

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“The original reviews may mostly have been awful – “Victor Hugo On the Garbage Dump” was the Observer’s headline – but I knew that Les Misérables would be a great success simply by glancing at the stranger sitting on my right at the musical’s first night at the Barbican in October 1985. She looked the way the earthling did in Close Encounters of The Third Kind when they encountered an alien spaceship. She was gaping in wonder and so, I realised, was I. Has there been a more gripping, more moving, more uplifting stage show than the one that Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg created from Hugo’s majestic novel? Not in my book.

Well, now I’ve had the opportunity to expand what I originally wrote in The New Statesman and The New York Timesinto the actual book Carlton has just published. It comes with illustrations galore, pockets filled with Les Mismementos and an illuminating section on the film adaptation by Martyn Palmer, as well as with my own account of the show’s theatrical history. That was demanding, as I had to research and write it in a short time, but was also fun and fulfilling, as it allowed me to interview many men and women who had helped to make the musical the multi-award-winning world record breaker that it is.

No empty chairs…

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I spoke four times to the impresario Cameron Mackintosh, without whose extraordinary courage in defying those offputting reviews Les Mis would certainly not now be able to boast of having played to over 60 million people in 42 countries and, after over 11,000 performances in London alone, still to be attracting sell-out audiences to Shaftesbury Avenue. I spoke to many of the original cast – Alun Armstrong to Michael Ball to the American diva Patti LuPone – and to those who have followed them onto the stage and into the recording studio. Susan Boyle told me how her own dreams had come true when her rendering of Fantine’s I Dreamed a Dream made her a household name. Men who had played the redeemed felon Jean Valjean told me of the uplift the role gave them, others of the darkness they felt while performing his relentless pursuer, Inspector Javert.

Since writing of their memories – Colm Wilkinson, the first Valjean, talked of sometimes having an out-of-body experience when he sang the beautiful prayer Bring Him Home – I’ve seen the Les Mis film. It left me with mixed feelings, since I’m a theatre critic. I deeply believe that both Trevor Nunn and John Caird’s original production and Lawrence Connor and James Powell’s reinvention of the show in 2009 had a stirring immediacy and made demands on an audience’s imagination impossible in the cinema. Yet the screen allows close-ups impossible in the theatre: which is why Anne Hathaway’s distraught, mottled face as she sang I Dreamed a Dream brought Fantine’s sufferings unforgettably alive – and won her a richly deserved Oscar.

 They Dreamed a Dream

 les mis performance

So why such huge success for a musical that (as Trevor Nunn said when Les Miscelebrated its 21st anniversary) has a doleful title, involves 19th-century French history, contains 29 onstage deaths and has no big stars, no sequins, no fishnets, no tap, no singing cowboys, chimney sweeps or witches? I asked all my interviewees this, and most talked of the fascination of the story and the drive of Schonberg’s gorgeous music. Myself, I think it also has to do with its hard-won optimism. It tells a cynical generation that people can change for the better, goodness can triumph, selfless love does exist and, even if you don’t believe, there is a potential for godliness, spiritual beauty, in a pretty godless and spiritually empty world. That, I think, is what has reduced me to tears every time I’ve seen Les Mis, whether on stage or screen.”

If you’re a fan of the show or the film, then the full, astonishing story of Les Misérables, complete with interviews, stage designs, costume sketches and facsimile memorabilia, in the fantastic Les Misérables: From Stage to Screen will tell you everything you ever wanted to know. Fully authorized by Cameron Mackintosh, it’s this year’s must-have book.