Friday, 14 January 2022

low

The first of three collaborations known as the Berlin Trilogy with Brian Eno and producer Tony Visconti, David Bowie’s eleventh studio album was released by RCA on this day in 1977 and is an exploration of ambient and electronica, influenced by experimental and progressive German bands, like Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream. A departure from the artist’s usual music-the project started when Bowie and Iggy Pop moved to the French countryside to get away from the temptation of drugs in Los Angeles and sober up and recorded the first tracks at Chรขteau d'Hรฉrouville before relocating to West Berlin-reception was initially divided but the album was a commercial and critical success and is credited with giving rise to the post-punk style with groups like Joy Division, Human League and Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark in that musical genre. The lyric “Don't look at the carpet-I drew something awful on it” is in refenence of Bowie’s habit of drawing the Tree of Life diagram on the studio floor during breaks into between sessions, having cultivated an interest in Qabalah and Thelema during that period.

Tuesday, 27 July 2021

we go undercover, wait out the sun

Rare and unseen, we are enjoying this preview of a retrospective exhibit of the portrait photographer Masayoshi Sukita going on display at Tokyo’s Blitz Gallery that includes a collection of previously uncirculated pictures of David Bowie, whom the artist first encountered in 1972 to see what all the fuss was about and remaining friends until the singer’s death in 2016. An iconic image (see also) with significantly more exposure, Sukita took the image that became the cover art for Bowie’s 1977 Heroes album. More at Wallpaper at the link up top.

Saturday, 27 March 2021

tenerife airport disaster

Prompting strict enforcement of standardised instructions, safety protocols and English as a common-working language for air traffic controllers and flight crews, the deadliest accident in aviation history occurred on this day in 1977 when two Boeing 747 passenger jets collided on the runway in foggy conditions on the Spanish island. Five hundred eighty-three people were killed. Members of the Canary Islands Independence Movement had planted a bomb at the larger Gran Canaria airport and called in the threat, this terrorist incident causing planes to be diverted to the smaller regional Los Rodeos airport in the northern part of Tenerife, causing the taxiway to become congested and arriving and departing planes sharing the single runway had to wait their turn in deteriorating weather conditions. A mutual misunderstanding tragically caused the KLM and Pan Am flights to start at the same time.

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

out on the wiley, windy moors

Initially inspired to create her rhapsodic tone poem at age eighteen after viewing a decade old made-for-television adaptation of the author Emily Brontรซ’s sole novel and then compelled to refine her vision for the song and choreography after reading Wuthering Heights and learning that she, Kate Bush (see previously), and Brontรซ shared the same birthday (today 1818/1958), the eponymous song about the requited but unconsummated love affair between Catherine Earnshaw and the tortured Heathcliff, whom Earnshaw returns to haunt in the second part of the novel was recorded in the summer of 1977 but it release was delayed until the end of January 1978. Despite this postponement and calculated competition, however, it rose quickly in the charts (Bush was the first female performer in the UK to reach this ranking with a self-written piece) and became an instant—though sometimes divisive—cult classic. A subsequent music video has inspired fans to hold annually “The Most Wuthering Heights Day Ever” events (usually held in mid-July) across the globe with crowds cos-playing as Bush the artist in a gauzy red dress and perform the dance moves from the video in unison. 

Thursday, 7 May 2020

spy-in-the-sky

Having disappeared seven days prior whilst presumably over Soviet airspace and the US government issuing a detailed cover story to the press about a missing NASA research aircraft lost in northern Turkey with the possibility that the auto-pilot had kicked in and led the plane further afield, Nikita Khrushchev made the surprise announcement (previously) on this day in 1960 that CIA espionage operative Francis Gary Powers (*1929 – †1977) had been intercepted and was in Soviet custody, embarrassing the Eisenhower administration who faced a dilemma in either owning up to the act or denying responsibility and blaming inscrutable bureaucracy in the intelligence agencies—both alibis potentially endangering a settlement at the upcoming Paris Peace Summit.
In the summer of 1958, the US government negotiated with Pakistan to establish a base of operations to run secret intelligence-gathering sorties over the USSR, using U-2 spyplanes to photograph missile silos and other infrastructure—aloft in the upper stratosphere and out of range of Soviet countermeasures, or so it was believed. The captured agent and photographic evidence was impossible to deny and Powers acceded his actions. Caught in a lie, the US disclosed the full nature of the U-2 missions and the involvement of the Central Intelligence Agency—which was in itself another surprising revelation. Powers, though sentenced to three years in prison with seven additional years of hard labour, was treated very well by his captors and spent most of the time with handicrafts, was freed after two years in a prisoner exchange on the Glienicker Brรผcke (the Bridge of Spies that connected West Berlin with East German Potsdam) for KGB officer and Soviet spy Rudolf Ivanovich Abel (*1903 - †1971). After being repatriated, Powers retiring from the CIA and took a job as a helicopter pilot for a television station in Los Angeles, dying in a crash whilst filming footage of wildfires, reportedly wilfully diverting his descent to avoid children playing near his intended landing spot.

Saturday, 11 April 2020

sesamstraรŸe


H and I shared a cross-cultural moment the other day, him remarking that my hair, already in need of a cut before the lockdown, was getting pretty shaggy and I would look like Tiffy soon. I didn’t get the reference and he explained, “Tiffy, you know the Muppet from Sesame Street?”
I wasn’t familiar and vaguely knew that there were different nationally syndicated versions of the show with different characters and looking up an image, I thought she presents as a Mokey Fraggle and possibly a later addition to the cast. More research, however, showed me what a different and parallel world there was between the Children’s Television Workshop and the studios of Norddeutscher Runkfrunk. They that you call Big Bird and Mister Snuffleupagus we call Tiffy und Samson, a friendly bear with a security blanket called Schnuffeltuch.  Same energy.
Tiffy and her friend were portraying the psychological ages of six- and five-year olds respectively and were with the show since it’s debut in 1977. In late December of 1993, there was a sort of Muppet Monster New Year’s Eve special called Sesame Street Stays Up Late, anchored by Elmo as sort of a CNN style reporter showcasing celebrations by time-zones and featured introductions and interviews with international cast and crew, including Tiffy, Samson and company. I am rocking that Tiffy hairdo.