IDOL FRIDAY: 10 things about Debbie

1. Blondie`s video for their hit song “Rapture” featured a cameo appearance New York artist/Andy Warhol disciple Jean Michel Basquiat, whose life was portrayed in the Basquiat (1996).

2. As of 1989, she dropped using Debbie as a stage name and returned to using Deborah.

3. Deborah was considered for the role of Pris in Blade Runner (1982) but Daryl Hannah was chosen instead

4. Debbie was one of the artists to perform in the 2006 closing night at New York`s legendary punk club, CBGB`s.

5. Blondie was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame on March 13, 2006.

6. Dyed her hair red for her role as James Woods’s masochistic girlfriend in David Cronenberg’s Videodrome (1983)

7. Eat To The Beat, released in 1979, is an early video collection by Blondie. The late model Gia Carangi appears in the eighth video, “Atomic”.

8. Was up for the female lead roles in the movies Raging Bull (1980) and TRON (1982)

9. Debbie was a member of The Stilettos in the early 70s. Debbie met Chris Stein, who was the guitarist, and when the Stilettos disbanded in the mid-70s, Harry and Stein formed Blondie.

10. Worked in New York City’s very first Head Shop, a shop specializing in drug paraphernalia used for consumption of cannabis and other recreational drugs.

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IDOL FRIDAY: Blonde Ambition-era Madonna

Like any self-respecting child of the 80s, I had it big for Madonna, and many of her earlier incarnations resonated hugely with myself and my peers. I didn’t know anyone I grew up with that didn’t shadow her moves in the Vogue clip or flounce around in overzealous eyeliner, slashed tank tops and teased hair ala her ‘Like  a Virgin’ years.

There’s something about Blond Ambition-era Madonna that struck a chord with me and has continued to have an influence and impact throughout my adult years (and many others, I don’t doubt).  In my case, probably something to do with the timing, as the greatest incarnation of Madge there ever was conveniently exploded into the public sphere right around the time I was reaching the tender ages of adolescence.

The Blond Ambition tour was launched in support of her fourth studio album, ‘Like a Prayer’, and engendered a huge amount of controversy, mainly for its juxtaposition of Catholic iconography and sexuality. It was an “elaborately choreographed, sexually provocative extravaganza” with the fierce, ripped, sexually liberated Madonna at the centre of the storm. While the Who’s That Girl tour established Madonna as the leading female artist of the Eighties, Blond Ambition enabled her to reach a new level of stardom in the most complete way, with that mix of adoration and extreme criticism that only true idols attract.

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Strutting her toned, lithe self around Madonna was a shocking, fierce and glamorous force de jour. Decked in S &M inspired Gaultier costumed (including the infamous coned-bra corsets so sharp they could point an unsuspecting eye out) she sung of liberation, sexuality, and not being afraid of telling men what you want.  Sticking a firm middle finger up to patriarchy, she did everything good girls don’t (and more), right when 2nd wave women’s lib and femme liberation was about to reach its searing point.

Take a look at my gallery below and cast your mind back to a time when Ms Ciccone caused trouble wherever she went…From the famous Letterman interviews when she opened her mouth and told it like it was, to the hugely controversial coffee table tome SEX that was banned in like a zillion countries and subsequently became a collector’s item, she knew how to shock, and did so with her own brand of sass and humour.

And revel in the amazing fashions of the one and only Gaultier! I am equally enamoured by his initial designs and feel that his costuming together with Madonna’s stage show were a completely perfect melding of two creative minds.

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Jean Paul Gaultier initially prepared almost fifteen hundred sketches to help Madonna define the various looks of the show.

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“She knew what she wanted: a pinstripe suit, the feminine corsetry. Madonna likes my clothes because they combine the masculine and the feminine.” Jean Paul Gaultier

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With those rock hard thighs wrapped in fishnet, that famous mane of platinum hair, teamed with high performance art aesthetics, cabaret, and plenty of bondage and kink, Madonna circa 1991 was a force to be reckoned with and a woman at the top of her game.

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Maclean’s said the show “unfolds like a kaleidoscope of sexual decadence. The references range from Berlin cabarets to New York leather bars.”

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The third segment of the Blond Ambition show was a cabaret inspired by the 1990 film Dick Tracy, in which Madonna starred as “Breathless Mahoney”. During this segment, Madonna was wearing a green and white striped showgirl outfit.

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The fourth segment of the show was inspired by 1930s Hollywood films using the work of artist Tamara de Lempicka and an Art Deco set design. Madonna performs “Cherish” in a fur-trimmed robe,  simulating playing the harp backed by three male dancers dressed as mer-men.

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The fifth and final segment includes one of two encores – “Keep It Together”, inspired by the work of Bob Fosse, with Madonna dressed in bowler hat and performing chair-juggling. The “Keep It Together” routine was also inspired by the film A Clockwork Orange and found Madonna speaking with a cockney accent.

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Choreographer Vincent Patterson recalls that Madonna wanted to “break every rule we can … She wanted to make statements about sexuality, cross sexuality, the church … But the biggest thing we tried to do is change the shape of concerts. Instead of just presenting songs, we wanted to combine fashion, Broadway, rock and the performance arts.” And in the words of author, and good friend Matthew Rettenmund, “They succeeded”.

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Wearing the famous gold conical bra corset designed by Gaultier.

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Not many pop imitators have really come close to the shock waves of hysteria, awe, adoration and fear she inspired in girls and boys alike at the time.

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Letting off steam with her dancers at a Herb Ritts party.

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From an iconic shoot with famous shooter Steven Meisel in 1991.

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Madonna to Be Inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

The Japan and North American shows featured Madonna in her trademark blonde ponytail hair extensions. However, because the hairpiece kept getting caught in her headset microphone and was pulling her real hair out by the root, she switched to short blonde curls for the European leg of the tour.

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“My show is not a conventional rock show, but a theatrical presentation of my music. And like theater, it asks questions, provokes thoughts and takes you on an emotional journey, portraying good and bad, light and dark, joy and sorrow, redemption and salvation. I do not endorse a way of life, but describe one, and the audience is left to make its own decisions and judgements. This is what I consider freedom of speech, freedom of expression and freedom of thought. Every night, before I go on stage, I say a prayer, not only that my show will go well, but that the audience will watch it with an open heart and an open mind, and see it as a celebration of love, life and humanity.” (From Truth or Dare)

xDS

IDOL FRIDAY: Chelsea Wolfe

Chelsea Wolfe. Experimental, reclusive artist from sunny California who believes darkness comes after light.

Haunting, prophetic and intense, she’s been described as a ‘forlorn temptress’ who creates music that weaves otherworldly tales of past turmoil and dark days.  She is known for her brand of “drone-metal-art-folk”.

Chelsea Wolfe’s vocals rise vapour-like from her  mystical and intoxicating tapestries of sound, merging hymnal choruses and progressive rhythms.  Her music evokes sensations which feel intangible and indistinguishable.  Exploring deeper territories, her wistful noise seems designed to raise hairs rather than any notions of ‘popularity’ or ‘cool’.

The quick lowdown :

– Hails from Sacramento, California. Currently operates out of Los Angeles.

– Immersed in music from an early age and began recording herself at age nine. By the time she was in fourth grade, she knew she wanted to be a singer.

– However, it wasn’t until 2009, when she returned from a three-month tour with a performance artist friend, that she began making music for others to hear.

– Wolfe released debut album The Grime & The Glow in 2010, recorded with her friends on a portable eight-track, and has subsequently crept onto the music industry’s peripheries.

– On a journey of self-discovery, Wolfe crafts witch-like spells in sonic form; self-described “spiritual realm funeral songs with a hint of Estonian industrial”.

– Seems keen on exploring artistic sensibilities, and veers towards art and fashion as avenues of expression.

– Adores designer Iris van Herpen (one of our favourite designers also!)

–  Wolfe covered Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds’ “I Let Love In” on her 2011 LP, Ἀποκάλυψις (pronounced “apokalypsis”, Greek for both “apocalypse” and “revelation”)

This mistress of doom-drenched electric folk is as unique in appearance as she is in sound.  And thats a good thing.

We love you, Chelsea Wolfe.

Photo: WDRKMR (Alexander Iezzi & Jordan Robin)

“I’m one of those wear-on-the-outside-what-you-feel-on-the-inside sort of people, so getting dressed or dressed up has a lot to do with what’s on my mind or heart any given day.”

Photo: WDRKMR (Alexander Iezzi & Jordan Robin)

“I don’t really think personally I’m a dark person, but I’m definitely moody and interested in revealing the truth and the reality of things and not just sugarcoating things.”

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“I’ve always been a musical outcast– I don’t mean that in a negative way– but I don’t really think about being underground or not underground. Whatever’s available to me– a large or small audience– I’m there with them.”

” Even though it’s not the same sound, I can relate to something that’s inside of black metal music, and I think others pick up on that similar feel.”

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“I’m always trying to create an atmosphere and a film screen within each song. I want something bigger than sound.”

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Photo: Chelsea Wolfe Facebook

Photo: Chelsea Wolfe Facebook

“I approach music in a way that has privacy and integrity and is influenced more by film, visual art, books, than by other music.”

“(I have) an affinity for toughness, warriors, nordic folk and white trash… and something elegant mixed in. Kind of black metal in a less blatant way.”

“it took me a really long time to feel comfortable as a performer and not just someone who records and stays hidden. I’m naturally a pretty hermitic person”.

Photography by WDRKMR (Alexander Iezzi & Jordan Robin)

“Sometimes inspiration hits me out of nowhere, like a crush, you know? And I just become obsessed with something without really knowing much about it, or him, or her, and I follow that inspiration wherever it leads.”

Photography by WDRKMR (Alexander Iezzi & Jordan Robin)

Wolfe is a maestro at being convincingly haunting. From the whited-out eyes on the cover of her sophomore album, to its terrifying assault of an opening track, she wallows in her darkest impulses like an obsessed horror movie director. The tension in her music and the grime that covers her vocals hints at a complete eschewing of the comfortable and safe confines of music and melody.

Completely enamored are we of the darkness she conjures; this is one talented, individual lass carving her very unique niche. We’ll be keeping our ‘lectric eye on you, Miss Wolfe.

For your vleasure, Chelsea Wolfe’s “Mer” from Ἀποκάλυψις, Directed by Zev Deans.

* Wolfe’s quotes above are drawn from interviews Chelsea did with Dossier and Pitchfork

xDS

IDOL FRIDAY : Chan Marshall AKA Cat Power

Ahhhhhhh Chan Marshall, how I love thee! Such an enchanting, mysterious, soulful, aware and FEELING woman of the world.

A honey-voiced soul crooner with an amazing, ethereal, tortured-soul-sensibility to her brilliant songwriting. Emotionally intense is how she’s often described, and it’s a term that fits both her person and her sad, dark, confused nightmarish music, as gorgeous as it is unsettling.

2013 sees Marshall triumphant, riding on the wave of her latest release Sun, her ninth album in 17 years. Rightfully so. The record’s upbeat, often jubilant vibe (not words often associated with Marshall’s music) and the slew of critical acclaim that has followed have seen her rise to new heights.

The artist who records and performs under the moniker of Cat Power had been flying a little under the radar for a couple years, since the 2008 covers record Jukebox. To my absolute delight she resurfaced late last year with this blazing, pop-minded, pixie-cut release.  The anticipation for Sun had been high, and the album, blessedly, lived up to them. And then some.

The album’s name comes from second track, Sun, a swoony piece of electronica that acts almost as a mission statement: “Here is the day/ We are free, you and me, and we can finally run”.  Sun is truly moving and full of head trips. We see synths taking the place of guitars in a lot of places, yet it still brims with that Cat Power aesthetic in the form of 80s sounding reverby guitars, rawness, relapses and Chan’s signature powerful emotions beaming through. There’s even a duet with fellow rock icon and survivor Iggy, called ‘Nothin But Time’. On it, Chan mutters a sentiment that seems to run through the heart of Sun : “its up to you”.  Also pulsing through it’s veins is an affirmative “I want to live my way of living” attitude.

Sun sees Marshall counterpointing her usual darkness with some unusually bright, snappy sounds to great effect – the whole while exorcising the emotional demons of a recent relationship meltdown and the fears of facing bankruptcy.  Chan has lived to fight another day, she’s evidently on the road to sobriety and emotional recovery. And this album is clearly her rebirth.

On Sun, there was “much less shaking hands with the dark side” says Chan.

“As Cat Power, Marshall’s music seems to rise from nowhere, envelop the room, then vanish; listeners know they’ve been hit by something but they’re not quite sure what”.

“I’m just going where the wine takes me. I got more guts than brains, and that’s my problem. My gut taught me a lot, so I know a little bit. Does that answer the question?”

“I was always the outsider. You know, the new kid who doesn’t have friends.”

“I used to want to be a war photographer, and I used to want to be a ballerina and a comedian. I used to want to be a writer. I invalidated myself, it’s a mistake for me. I have learned through my friendships and through people that I’ve met who survived. There’s just a lot of stuff that really moves me, and I don’t know how to express it, and I just want to try to do the best I can and surround myself with good people who don’t invalidate me.”

“So much of the time it’s just like, I really don’t want to be here. The basketball game is on. I just want to buy a bag of Oreos and get into bed. When I start writing, it’s like you have a hammer in one hand and a homing device in the other, and then it’s like, Now what do I do?”

“Besides humiliation, degradation and invalidation, actually not knowing who you are when you’re trapped in a room — not actually knowing your name, what you look like, how old you are, where you come from — is the worst feeling.”

“I’m convinced none of us are really from here.”

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Marshall is a survivor, she’s real and raw and a beautiful, soulful storyteller who’s not afraid to tackle the hard emotional stuff in her art. Her colourful and textured life is full of the kind of heartbreaks, crossroads, epiphanies and meltdowns that endear her to her ardent fans,  all the more for having lived through it all. She’s come out the other side, wiser, triumphant and more at peace.  Listening to Sun, you can hear it coursing through every note. Triumph over adversity. That’s why we love her so.

All hail Ms Marshall.

xDS

IDOL FRIDAY: Rebel Rebel

Ever since the David Bowie star exploded into the world of rock music, fans and critics have been captivated by his unique presence, unpredictabilty of style, and confrontational lifestyle. David Bowie as a textual site is fascinating. Throughout the span of his career he has strived to thrill, shock, and cause a commotion in the rigid world of rock and roll. He has done this through a cleverly executed combination of appearance, image and musical scope. In all three areas he has excelled in experimenting with his identity and testing the boundaries of his surrounding culture. Bowie’s appearance has always been the focal point of his reincarnations and revivals.

David Bowie had more personas in the 70s than a Multiple Personality Disorder patient. Ziggy Stardust, Halloween Jack, The Thin White Duke, they all influenced his music and his actions.  In 1971, on the cover of his second album, Diamond dogs, David was seen casually draped on a lounge, his long blond hair flowing over the shoulders of the dress he was wearing. The controversy that surrounded this bold move was about to magnify, when, in 1972, Bowie’s most famous persona was born, Ziggy Stardust.

Ziggy played guitar, jamming good with weird and gilly, and the Spiders from Mars.  He was an alien human hybrid who came down to earth during the end times to act as its saviour through Rock and Roll, and ended up being consumed by his drug and sex habits and by his rabid fans.  So basically, he was a rock and roll alien/God, who was consumed by the turmoil of Rock and Roll. Ziggy Stardust wrote songs in which he claimed to be an alligator, a space invader, and a rock n’ rollin’ bitch who wanted his fans to shoot him in the face with rayguns.

The birth of Ziggy was the result of a long process for Bowie, the culmination of everything that he found fascinating about rock and roll, and a further extension of futuristic styles he had begun to explore, via ‘Space Oddity’. His short, red, spiky hair, reed thin body, skilfully applied make-up and frocks that would rival the most extensive drag queen’s wardrobe, were a signifier of sexual liberation, baby.

“Here came Ziggy Stardust. In a silver lurex catsuit, skin-tight and bulging below, and artfully padded above….the shimmering garment ended at the cheeks in outsize earrings that looked like diamonds…his distinctive hair, cropped short at the crown but caressing his shoulders, was vivid red….he flounced on stage, shook his hips, and counted out time with his knee- length red plastic boots. The ad hoc style brought gasps as loud as the percussive assault of the music”

Bowie’s sexually liberated demeanour helped to shape a generation who were more open-minded towards sexuality and the roles of women and men within society. His camp, androgynous appearance and outrageous antics, on and off stage, earned him the tag ‘decadent’, and gave rise to the genre, glam rock. The fashion was high glamour; the objective was to shock and induce fascination in the spectacle. His influence was rife, an explosion colour and quiffed hair, and almost instant. To anyone vaguely frustrated, or looking for a way to transform themselves, he was a godsend. New styles began to emerge, drawing entirely from the Ziggy character, that made their victims look like “brightly painted tapeworms”.

Aladdin Sane, his next album (after Ziggy stardust) is less unified, more groping and confused . Here Bowie tries to play himself, the insane lad who brings a vision to the world. On the cover we see Bowie with lightning streaking across his thin face, eyes closed over his paralysed pupil. In Aladdin Sane, he is searching again for a new self, a new mythology, and a new sound….

Although Ziggy and Aladdin Sane-era Bowie catapulted him into the high realms of an international star, he wasn’t content to continue to churn out glitter rock.  By the mid-’70s, after recording the all-covers Pin-Ups with the Spiders from Mars, he unexpectedly announced the band’s breakup, as well as his retirement from live performances, during the group’s final show that year. He retreated from the spotlight to work on a musical adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984, but once he was denied the rights to the novel, he transformed the work into Diamond Dogs. The album generated the hit single “Rebel Rebel,” and he supported the album with an elaborate and expensive American tour.

As the tour progressed, Bowie became fascinated with soul music, and he began to develop an effete, sophisticated version of Philly soul that he dubbed “plastic soul,”  eventually redesigning the entire show to reflect his new sound.  Bowie refashioned his group into a Philly soul band and recostumed himself in sophisticated, stylish fashions.

Young Americans, released in 1975, was the culmination of Bowie’s soul obsession, and it became his first major crossover hit, peaking in the American Top Ten and generating his first U.S. number one hit in “Fame,” a song he co-wrote with John Lennon and Alomar.  Bowie relocated to Los Angeles, where he earned his first movie role in Nicolas Roeg’s The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976). While in L.A., he recorded the eerie avant-pop record, 1976’s Station to Station, which took the plastic soul of Young Americans into darker, avant-garde-tinged directions. The album inaugurated Bowie’s persona of the elegant “Thin White Duke,” a soulless, insane, authoritarian, amoral aristocrat who sang romantic songs with a hollow, cold heart. He was fueled by “red peppers, cocaine, and milk”. During interviews he said that “Britain could benefit from an authoritarian leader” and was once stopped at the Russian-Polish border for possessing Nazi paraphernalia. He was increasingly paranoid, and dangerous as hell, a result of a cocaine-fueled downward spiral.

Soon, he decided Los Angeles was too boring and returned to England; shortly after arriving back in London, he gave the awaiting crowd a Nazi salute, a signal of his growing, drug-addled detachment from reality. The incident caused enormous controversy, and Bowie left the country to settle in Berlin, where he lived and worked with Brian Eno. Here he sobered up and began painting, as well as studying art. With Eno he recorded three experimental electronic albums, one of which, Low (1977) was a startling mixture of electronics, pop, and avant-garde technique.

Its follow-up, Heroes, which followed that year, proved to be one of the most influential albums of the late ’70s.  Bowie returned to the stage in 1978, launching an international tour that was captured on the double-album Stage. During 1979, Bowie and Eno recorded Lodger in New York, Switzerland, and Berlin, releasing the album at the end of the year.

Lodger was supported with several innovative videos, as was 1980’s Scary Monsters, and these videos — “DJ,” “Fashion,” “Ashes to Ashes” — became staples on early MTV. At the dawn of the ’80s, his many incarnations, hairstyles and fashions were proving imperative in creating the excitement and vivacity of the styles that predominated the new Romantic look.

Bowie was still at the height of his powers, and released dance-pop album Let’s Dance in 1983, where he went all-American pop with bleached blond hair and lots of pastels. He recruited Chic guitarist Nile Rodgers to produce the album, giving the record a sleek, funky foundation, and hired the unknown Stevie Ray Vaughan as lead guitarist. Let’s Dance became his most successful record, thanks to stylish, innovative videos for “Let’s Dance” and “China Girl,” which turned both songs into Top Ten hits.

He decided to replicate Let’s Dance with 1984’s Tonight, producing the Top Ten hit “Blue Jean,” but ultimately proving a commercial disappointment.  He stalled in 1985, recording a duet of Martha & the Vandellas’ “Dancing in the Street” with Mick Jagger for Live Aid.  Bowie returned to recording in 1987 with the widely panned Never Let Me Down, supporting the album with the Glass Spider tour, which also received mixed reviews. In 1989, he remastered his RCA catalog with Rykodisc for CD release, kicking off the series with the three-disc box Sound + Vision. Bowie supported the discs with an accompanying tour of the same name, claming that he was retiring all of his older characters from performance following the tour. Sound + Vision was successful, and Ziggy Stardust re-charted amidst the hoopla.

Bowie’s music, and his constant reinvention, has spawned many new musical movements that possibly would not exist without his helping hand- each one of his phases in the ’70s sparked a number of subgenres, including punk, new wave, goth rock, the new romantics, and electronica.  His far-reaching and influential body of work explores concepts of alienation, wisdom through distancing oneself from the mundane routine of industrialised society, and have celebrated glamour and excess in a repressive society.

Mr. Bowie was a pioneer. He rose during an age of rock where The Beatles were beginning to crumble, and the dominant forces at work were The Rolling Stones, disco, and eventually other soulful renditions of rock n’ roll. Bowie jumped head-first into the sexpot and brought taboo out as a weapon. He created a cult of both devout listeners and personality with each new rendition of himself. In addition, he detached himself from each persona; Bowie was separate from Ziggy was separate from Duke from Jack. Like a metamorphosing butterfly that kept on gaining new bodies and wings, Bowie continually refreshed pop AND rock as we know it today.

All hail BOWIE, our space lord, cosmic king, chameleon sex god!

xDS