David Bowie: Finding Fame

For DAVID BOWIE, the ’60s were a searching period of knock-backs and artistic U-turns.

His early work has rarely been shown the love it deserves. This all looks set to change in 2019.

The Radio Times has a sharp 1968 Bowie as its cover star this week (nice cover, guys. Seen that somewhere before….). A new limited 7” box set of previously unreleased late ’60s demos entitled Spying Through A Keyhole is due for release in April – but first, BBC Two will air the much-anticipated David Bowie – Finding Fame next Saturday. The conclusion of film-maker Francis Whately’s acclaimed trilogy of documentary films on Bowie, it focuses on his early years. Shindig! has been lucky enough to watch a preview copy. MARTIN RUDDOCK digs everything

It’s only February, but when those inevitable end of year ‘Best Of 2019’ clip shows roll around – it’ll be a crime if they don’t include longtime David Bowie sideman Carlos Alomar dissecting his old bosses infamous 1967 novelty single ‘The Laughing Gnome’. Alomar, the man who lit up Bowie’s soul and Berlin eras with understated funk is an unlikely cheerleader for the much-maligned ‘Gnome’ – but watching him gleefully run through it with guitar in hand makes for excellent telly.

 The ‘Gnome’ sequence of Francis Whately’s new film on Bowie’s formative era Finding Fame is just one of many highlights. Cleverly cutting the song to clips of Anthony Newley from The Strange World Of Gurney Slade, Whately gives it the sort of insights that would generally be glossed over by many critics in favour of the umpteenth deep dive into ‘Heroes’. And it’s great fun. Alomar points out the unlikely similarities to the Velvets ‘Waiting For The Man’, while slowed down out-takes of the infamous sped-up gnome speech include an unmistakeable bark of “FARK ORF!” from Bowie.

This is basically Bowie’s origin story, how he pulled at all manner of threads until his songwriting cohered. As with his previous Bowie films, Whateley leaves the talking heads to do the heavy lifting and really delivers with his choices. Friends and collaborators Tony Visconti, Rick Wakeman, Woody Woodmansey and Geoff McCormack offer plenty of interview candy for Bowie fans. There’s also Dana Gillespie, John ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson (who also appeared on BBC One’s The One Show to plug the film this week), and members of The Lower Third and Riot Squad. Wakeman pulls those icy ‘Space Oddity’ chords out on a mellotron, while mid-60s producer Tony Hatch endearingly plonks through a snatch of ‘Can’t Help Thinking About Me’ on piano. A clearly unwell, but still acerbic Lindsay Kemp also appears in his final TV interview. In a major coup for Whateley there are the first ever onscreen interviews with Bowie’s cousin Kristina Amadeus, and most strikingly former lover and muse Hermione Farthingale. Both are good value, but Farthingale’s tender but candid recollections of her year with Bowie give what’s perhaps a better account of the artist as a young man than any amount of hoary old stories about Bowie’s Tony Newley obsession or Tony Visconti’s cape.

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Of course the real voice of the film is Bowie himself. Almost always off-screen, his own running commentary (drawn from innumerable interviews) is wry, funny and often very touching. Skipping back and forward in time, Whateley also draws out how much of Bowie’s early music is informed by his relationship with his cold mother and loving, but distant father. The wealth of material the Bowie Estate has allowed for use is also quite something. Nuggets include the ’65 Lower Third demo ‘That’s A Promise’, a solo ‘Conversation Piece’ and the early version of ‘Space Oddity’ with Hutch soon to feature on Spying Through A Keyhole. There’s also a tantalising snippet of ‘The Supermen’ live with the Hype in those glam-superhero costumes, but frustratingly it’s all but obscured by voiceovers.

Finding Fame isn’t quite perfect. There’s a lot of voices to fit in here, and Whately does well to give as much airtime as he does to so many – but it is a shame that the significant role played by ’60s manager-mentor Ken Pitt in Bowie’s development is largely overlooked. Then again, with so many facets to try and cover – as Bowie himself found in the ’60s you can’t please everyone.

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At the time of writing, the “Holy Grail” discovery of Bowie and the Spiders’ legendary long-lost performance of ‘Starman’ on Lift-Off With Ayeshea isn’t included in the preview copy we were very kindly allowed to view by the BBC. Whateley is apparently still waiting to see if the ancient tape is salvageable. Hopefully it will make it into the final film, but this is still essential viewing for Bowie fans. Also, where else can you see Carlos Alomar happily strumming through ‘The Laughing Gnome’?

 If you’re a fan of David Bowie’s ’60s work, you might also enjoy Shindig! Issue 78, which is available here 


Shindig! Broadcast #32 – Radio Show

JON ‘MOJO’ MILLS and PAUL OSBORNE look back across 2016 with over two hours of stellar music


Air ‘Roger Song’
David Bowie ‘In The Heat Of The Morning’
Hawkwind ‘Lost Johnny’
The Freaks Of Nature ‘People Let’s Freak Out’
Doves ‘Smokey Time Springtime’
The End ‘Mistress Bean’
The Hollies ‘Wings’
Ella Fitzgerald ‘Savoy Truffle’
Betty Davis ‘Down Home Girl’
Little Richard ‘Mockingbird Sally’
Thee Jezebels ‘Mover & A Groover’
Little Barrie ‘I.5.C.A’
Roy Harper ‘Hells Angels’
Rainbow Family ‘Travelling Lady’
Hareton Salvanini ‘Salamandras’
Michael Vickers ‘Dracula AD 1972’
José Mauro ‘Apocalipse’
Peter Stringer-Hey ‘When My Eyes Are Closed’
Johnny Winter ‘Bird Can’t Row Boats’
The Charlatans ‘I Saw Her’
Big Star ‘Blue Moon’
The Lemon Twigs ‘How Lucky Am I?’
Clear Light ‘A Child’s Smile’
The Electric Prunes ‘World Of Darkness’
Le Papyvore ‘Le Papyvore’
Gloria ‘Beam Me Up’
Wolf People ‘Not Me Sir’
Ryley Walker ‘Sullen Mind’
Last Of The Easy Riders ‘Sunshine Healing’
Damien Jurado ‘Exit 353’



‘Electricity’ – The Influence Of Krautrock On The UK’s Next Generation

IMOGEN HARRISON chats with OMD’s ANDY McCLUSKEY about the impact Germany’s musical agitators had on a new breed of English pop stars

It’s West Berlin, it’s 1968, and in a large rented back room in a building along the North bank of the Landwehr Canal, the future is unfolding.

More specifically, this building is the notoriously short-lived Zodiak Free Arts Lab (or Zodiak Club), which is, by day, home to politically-minded theatre group Shaubühne am Halleschen Ufer. It is at night, however, that the majority of the drama takes place – when it becomes an experimental underground live music venue, home to pioneers of psychedelic Krautrock such as Human Being, The Agitation, and, most notably, Tangerine Dream. Painted only in black and white, and littered with new-fangled instruments, speakers and amplifiers that allowed musicians to turn their hand to anything from avant-garde jazz to electronic rock, the audience frequenting the club is a fairly small one, but their belief that “conventional” music is something to be frowned upon means that this isn’t important. What is important is that this “anti-convention” audience is growing, and fast, as musicians such as Conrad Schnitzler, Hans-Joachim Roedelius, Dieter Moebius (the three of whom co-found the club, and later go on to form experimental rock group Kluster), Boris Schaak and Edgar Froese sowed the seeds for a completely new and innovative type of music – known today as Krautrock. It would not only blow their audiences’ open minds with its characteristic improvisation and hypnotic, minimalistic rhythms, but also go on to become highly influential on many genres of music that exist today.

However, although the audience for this new type of music was growing, the majority of Kraut – listeners in the late ’60s were those who had taken part in the ’68 student riots (that had stormed their way across Germany, France and Italy) and who were now looking for fields in which they could indulge in their new-found collective awareness, and even shake off the post-war shame of Hitler and his Nazis. Innovative German rock critic Rolf Ulrich Kaiser had been watching and listening to this new scene unfolding, and was heavily in favour of popularising the genre. Nevertheless, he also realised that without greater mass exposure, it was never going to get off the ground – it would remain labelled as a passing fad, perhaps, or simply as an extension of Anglo-American psychedelia. And that is exactly what this music was not. Whilst American and British rock was generally a development of the blues scale and of the music the slaves had brought with them from Africa in the previous century, Kaiser knew that these songs were innovative, because they were completely different to anything that had come before.

Read more ‘Electricity’ – The Influence Of Krautrock On The UK’s Next Generation


David Bowie Deep Cuts

Shindig! was saddened beyond words by the unexpected, and in hindsight “laid out in song” death of DAVID BOWIE

A career spanning over 50 years offered many Bowies (and, at first, a Jones). He flirted with, and routinely pioneered, R&B, pop-art, folk, hard-rock, prog, glam, singer-songwriter, soul, avant-garde, theatrical and jazz… the list goes on… with a magpie eye and a uniquely surreal articulacy.
Everyone has their favourite Bowie: a cool minority only stick with the ’60s, others the golden ’69-80 period and a select few his mid-90s rebirth – here was a man that would not milk one idea or, later in his life, allow age to bracket him as a heritage act. It’s not hard to love it all – Bowie was rarely any less than interesting.
He was undeniably so much more than a rock music icon.
Allow us to take you on a journey through the great man’s recorded legacy via the scenic route and a couple of unplanned detours. Watch the videos here and read our writer’s personal takes on these songs in issue #54.

Read more David Bowie Deep Cuts


Shindig! Broadcast #22

Jon, Paul and Andy flick through the contents of issue #54 and pull out some incredible tunes… and they chat too

Shindig! Broadcast #22 by Jon Mojo Mills on Mixcloud