Tuesday, June 4, 2019

the truth of pop (domination)

"From the outside — and even for some inside Britney Spears's world — the restrictions surrounding the pop star are startling. This is a celebrity who has toured the world, racked up a string of No. 1 hits and platinum albums and starred in a popular four-year Las Vegas residency. Yet under the rules of the conservatorship, her father controls her finances and personal and business decisions. This reality is difficult to reconcile with her confident, swaggering performances in so many iconic pop culture moments..."

(from Washington Post).

".... Spears exists in a carefully protected bubble, handlers shielding her from negative influences or hangers-on. She doesn’t have an email address, and her father has the right to sign her tax forms, revoke all powers of attorneys and “pursue opportunities related to professional commitments and activities including but not limited to performing, recording, videos, tours, TV shows and other similar activities as long as they are approved by Ms. Spears’s medical team...”

"[In late 2018] she was preparing to launch her second Las Vegas residency. Highly distracted and struggling to adjust to a new combination of medications, she started missing rehearsals. Eventually, she told her team she didn’t think she could be ready for the scheduled opening in February....  Spears announced the news on her website in early January. “This is so tough for me to say,” she wrote. “I will not be performing my new show ‘Domination.’"

Domination - that is a truth of pop.

Domination of audiences and fans, by performers and their razzle-dazzling shows

Domination of performers and artists, by their owners and exploiters

Fans also use and exploit performers, too.

It's all fairly unwholesome stuff really.

Imagining trying to balance your child's mental health against their fiscal health

Child-as-being versus child-as-brand

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

rockers go glam (1 of ??)

(an occasional series inspecting rock/pop artists who took on glamglitter style in an attempt to 'go' with the times)

from 1975, lagging behind the times

make-up and styling by Pierre LaRoche, who was Bowie's cosmetologist

Daryl Hall apparently later commented that on this album cover he "looked like "the girl I always wanted to go out with"

Thursday, May 23, 2019


One of the things I didn’t actually discuss in the book but was in an early draft, was how Top of the Pops had certain visual special effects – I think one of them was called howlround - things that probably now look really cheap but at the time looked mind-blowing. For instance, the whole screen would go this metallic purple, and Marc Bolan would become this sort of purple haze figure. They would use these effects a lot, specifically on glam groups. They seemed to know it wouldn’t really work on the Brotherhood of Man or Tony Orlando – the MOR groups would be filmed flat, but T-Rex and The Sweet would get all these plastic-fantastic effects on them where suddenly the screen would go all trippy. That had a pretty big impression on me as a child. It seemed like a really suitable effect to use on these bands, with it being very psychedelic but also plastic and artificial-looking, with a cheap sci-fi feel. They would also use it on people like Gary Glitter to fit their sort of trashy, bubblegum sound. That’s really the main thing I remember from that era, seeing these bands swathed with those special effects on Top of the Pops.

from an interview with David Lichfield 

unusual (at least as far as i recall) post-glamglitter use of the howlround or whatever it's called effect - on X-Ray Spex "The Day World Turned Dayglo"

perhaps strengthening my contention that there is a glam aspect (inverted-subverted) to X-Ray Spex as contended in the aftershocks section of S+A

Well! - and here's another use of the effect, and this time as as late as 1981 - and again, on a glam influenced group

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

impressions of glam

Here's a discussion about glam and 1970s politics I did with the history podcast Impressions of America.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

sound and vision

An answer to a question on the relation between music and the visual arts (from an interview with me for the website of the Corcoran School of Arts in Washington, D.C.)

"Again, books have been written, etc. A very good one is Simon Frith and Howard Horne’s Art Into Pop, which is all about the British art school tradition of forming bands. And I explore the same kind of connections in my own books like Rip It Up and Start Again, about postpunk, where so many of those groups, in the UK and in America, were formed by art school graduates. Ian Dury is a great example of this—a pupil of Peter Blake (of Sgt. Pepper’s cover fame), Dury did art teaching himself in his pre-fame days.

"However I would flip the question and argue that music—or at least pop music—is a visual art in itself. The instances of popular youth music that are purely about the music are quite rare instances—even Deadhead culture, which would seem to be not very style oriented, has a lot to do with light shows and trippy colors (not forgetting the whole tie-dye thing). But specifically in terms of capital A “Art,” pop music has always been as much about clothes, stage moves, theatricality, spectacle… about packaging, album covers, posters, T-shirts, logos, promotional campaigns … about videos and films too.

"Pop is a messy hybrid of music, visuals, lyrics, business, discourse. In the early decades of pop and rock, pop stars usually had teams of experts providing these elements: a group would have favorite photographers, or fashion designers they worked with, promo directors, graphic artists doing the logo and the album covers. Groups that took a very active and informed direct involvement in directing all of that were quite unusual—the David Bowies and Roxy Musics and Talking Heads. However as the years have gone by it’s more and more the case that bands involve themselves intensely in all the para-musical aspects of the band. Look at a group like Vampire Weekend, who design their own record covers and clearly have firm opinions about typography and such like. The new DIY artists in underground music often create the whole package themselves—the music, but also the record covers and the little abstract or weird promos they put on YouTube. I guess the software used in all these processes is not only affordable, but the skills required are transferable."

the truth of pop (domination)

"From the outside — and even for some inside Britney Spears's world — the restrictions surrounding the pop star are startling. This...