Thursday, 25 September 2008

London's Heroes (that's Antigone and Neil Tennant to you and me)

To celebrate 40 years as THE London magazine, Time Out mag has gathered together 40 men and women who shape and are shaped by (in my *ahem* humble opinion) the greatest city in the world. And like the city itself, there's no dead wood. No spent forces or of-their-ages. They're all still DOING it like the Ever Ready Bunny of pop, Neil Tennant. In this interview, he reminds everyone that as well as the references in tons of other Pet Shop Boys songs, their biggest hit, West End Girls is directly inspired by London. Maybe it's time spent in and around Flood Street in Chelsea (listen to The Ghost of Myself) that helped create his very English habit "of looking in people’s windows at dusk".

For his own London hero, he looks to the past in choosing Noel Coward for defining "an idea of a smart, society London". But looking to the future, it's street urchin Lily Allen who gets his imperial nod: "The great thing about London is the potential for creative anarchy. So at the moment London is a stage for Lily Allen, whether she likes it or not... I was at the Groucho Club and there was a swarm of paparazzi outside. I said, “Why are you all here?” and they said, “Lily Allen’s in here, innit, Neil.” It’s a stage. It was a stage for Oscar Wilde."

And the creative anarchy goes on and on in the city. Baton after baton is passed, new upon new of ideas light up like flames and then... there's Antigone. Like most Londoners, she ain't from London. But she's picked up on the point of it all. She has created something special right here in London. And it's not just the music. The buzz from blog to blog, the ever-growing live audiences and the general good feeling around her are foundations for a future London hero, or, number 41...

Why London to launch yourself? Is there something particular (or peculiar) that attracted you?

Having already tried and failed twice to live in London, I thought I might get lucky third time round. First time I was three years old and not quite in a position to immigrate myself; second time I ran out of money and so had my partner in rhyme before even trying to leave Australia; third stint started Spring 2004 and I'm still here. I'm a Sydney girl and I outgrew it. London was big, intimidating, competitive and important enough to provide just the challenge I was looking for to escalate my music career"

How did you first arrive and what was your first glimpse of the big smoke?

I remember stuff from when I was three: a black friend called Ebony at preschool whom I called my cat after back home; dressing up in armour with the dirty boys next door. Second time I was flying in from Delhi after a stint studying Indian vocals in Mumbai for three months. It was night, dreary, drizzling weather, and the woman beside me was telling me she'd loathed London for a year before falling in love. This time I scarcely saw it at all because I was collected and driven west to stay with family at 120 miles an hour... I remember thinking: I've flown this far to die in a crash on the M4?!"

How does London compare to your home city Sydney?

It's really quite different. If London's the internet, maybe Sydney's more of an intranet. What I mean is that I find London incredibly decentralised, whereas Sydney is easier to navigate because it is very strongly defined by its (beautiful) geography. London is choose your own adventure - it's not obvious - you have to investigate to find your niche. People always ask me why I would live in London when I could be in Sydney but they just think of the weather, whereas I'm thinking about incredible culture, being a global citizen and living in a city that takes my industry seriously. But the one thing they have in common is they're both fucking expensive!"

Robyn picked up on the fact that London is actually a load of small towns knitted together (she's not far off, most of London is made up of ancient villages and parishes). So which are your favourite 'small towns' of London?

There's probably one area I love more than any other that I don't even know yet! Depends what I'm after. For mere electricity it's Sunday 'round Brick Lane [read my take on it here]. Broadway Market or Stoke Newington Church Street for mellow grooviness. For buzzy urban village vibes you can't beat Soho, but then for seriously scenic chilling it's the heath or where I live, on Highbury Fields."

What are your favourite landmarks? Have you done the tourist thing?

I've done the touristy thing, but for me the best landmark is just the air of London's overwhelming history pretty much wherever you turn. When I catch apathy, I read a chapter in Peter Ackroyd's London: The Biography and remind myself I am but a blackhead on her butt. Love the juxtaposition of Tate Modern and St Paul's though: brilliant mash-up."

Everyone has their favourite 'spot' in London. For me it's being able to view the city as the vibrant monster it is: on top of Parliament Hill, from Waterloo Bridge, from the top floor of the Park Lane Hilton and the corner of Old Compton St and Frith St in the middle of Soho.

It's hard to get a vantage point in London though isn't it? It's quite flat and there aren't that many skyscrapers, well not that I've been in. But I kind of like that. It's like the opposite of Manhattan. You know you're in the thick of this massive fuck-off metropolis but you can't see it and you feel like you're in a big village: brilliant! But I reckon mine would be somewhere like Dray Walk in the Truman Brewery off Brick Lane on a busy day. It's just always so buzzing with manic creative energy and I love the sense of style the kids who frequent it have."

How long do you forsee yourself being here?

As long as it takes baby!"

More Man Than Man
is still available here and this week's special Time Out issue is available here. Black Truffle is a gorgeous little boutique on Broadway Market, which Antigone mentioned as one of her favourite places to hang out. Go see the cute site here. I'm biased, it belongs to a friend.

For my previous Antigone interview where she describes her Top 5 Disco Foxes, go here.

And a BIG thank you to Tricky Richard for the London images!

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

P.C. Cole on Jonathan Ross (and Simon, Dannii and Louie)

'Ello, 'ello, 'ello, what do we 'ave 'ere then? Well it's none other than the ever so lovely Cheryl Cole who in the first few seconds of this clip from the Jonathan Ross show, sounds like a copper giving evidence: "You proceeded to tell us about your dog, Jonathan. Called Mr Pickles, I believe?" But don't ever mess with this slight-looking Geordie - witness the end of the interview where she looks as hard as nails and says how her Ashley knew he was "in the SHIT!" for the naff affair. Part 2 of the interview is here.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

The stars come out for Christmas

In some industries, Christmas is over before it's begun, for instance, in mags, Christmas is happening right now and will be 'til November. For those in the record industry, it's over and dusted. Out the door. They're thinking 2009 now. For an insight into major record label shenanigans in the run-up to Christmas, with their biggest stars getting a leg-on, head over to Shang-a-lang where Ultrabaz (nee Bengobaz, aka Chelsea Kelsey) describes all. The label had a mass listen of their output for Chrimbo and Manastacia rocked up all smiles, hair and hilarity. It's nice to hear about stars being good company - mind you, when you're in a room full of your record label's workers, you'd hardly be snippy. He describes meeting Jason Donovan last week: "It’s always, always the way – the artists you don’t care much for turn out to be the nicest human beings. Last week, I met Jason Donovan, who we’ve also just signed, and he was so charming and funny – a right dirty bastard, too." Jason has got that look about him though, the look that says 'I'm going to rip your clothes off, stuff a bottle of poppers up your nose and pork you right here and now'.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Manastacia's amenesia

After getting back off me hols yesterday, and flicking 'round today I found this brilliantly entertaining piece in The Guardian. Headed I'm not a charade - I'm a keep-it-real girl Manastacia, sorry, Anastacia goes on to explain how she 'lost' six (!) years off her age. Apparently, just before her noo recurd, she remembered, she's 40, not 34! And with that sudden realisation, she whizzed right on down to the botox shop: "I think it's great, it's cool. When I originally had it, I couldn't have been any smoother. I was, like, wow! I don't top up all the time, but once I start to look a bit tired, I have a dose. I'm doing teeny steps [yeah, right, judging from the alabaster complexion and cat's eyes above], so the frown lines aren't so intense, and if the creases become too crazy I'll have filler. It can work wonders."

Bless her for being truthful etc. She's obviously doing a complete about face ('scuse the pun) and going for the oldies market, something Hard Mandy and Mariah are allergic to. And bless her too for giving up the 'cracking America' slog. It's amazing to learn that she's sold 20 million units and only 500,000 were in her home country. But whatever, the diva's still there. A friend of mine did a shoot with her and she was carried around by her, then bodyguard, now husband. If she had to actually walk, her hand would be held daintily aloft by said bloke as she tippy-toed in her six-inch heels.

Friday, 5 September 2008

80s pop dumper oddities

I'm off to sunny Mallorca for a few days, which will be very weird after being in rain-deluged Northumberland today. From wellies to flip flops in the space of 24 hours.

For the minute, though, I shall leave you with these oddities from the 80s: singles I found in the pop dumper. No one bought them, hence the flog-off in the bargain bin, but I loved them and hugged them and called them my own.

Ash in Drag - Mystery Girls (zShare) 1984
Just. Weird. Sounding like a throwback from a decade earlier and being TOO drag for the record-buying public made me love them even more. For Robert Farrar, the lead singer, it was all performance art, as he explains here. And this is the only recorded performance on BBC'sOld Grey Whistle Test.

Serious Japanese - Melon (zShare) 1985
It was the dayglo Keith Haring make-up on the sleeve that made me buy this single. I didn't have a clue what it was about, but it seemed like The Face magazine on vinyl to me: a hotchpotch of fashion, art and music. And nonsense. Judging from this video here, their stage shows were light years (literally) ahead of their time.

Every Inch a King - The Linkmen (zShare) 1984
This was the Linkmen's second single on Kitchenware records (the first being a 12 inch EP with the same title, confusingly). I'd had my copied nicked and was most upset. Weirdly, two weeks later I found this in Volume Record shop's 50p singles box. All the divvies used to slam dance to this. I just nodded my head. Vigorously.

The Real Thing - Jellybean ft Steven Dante (zShare) 1987
Jellybean is 50! Unlike Madonna, his image for most people was frozen twenty years ago - although he doesn't look much different these days. His singles tickled the top twenty in the UK, but I seem to be the only one who remembers this one.

And this is where I'm trolling off to. Ta ta for now!

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Oh Goody, Boy George does a Jade

Following in the illustrious footsteps of Jade Goody, Boy George has allowed cameras to follow him around in the form of the reality show Living With Boy George. Over at Media Guardian it reported that Living TV's director of programmes, Claudia Rosencrantz, called the programme a "guilty pleasure". One of many suchlike shows being launched this autumn. Those of you who saw his own, self-directed videos on YouTube (under the pseudonym GeorgieGirl_15) will know that we're in for a treat. The Boy is an intelligent, erudite and entertaining performer. If there's a story to be told, trust George to do it with DRAMA. Over at XO's Middle Eight he heads a post on the comeback single with "This time must be different" and starts with "Boy George is back in a big way". Let's hope so and thank bloody heavens!

Also back, but not in a good way, less reality and most definitely car crash are Bucks Fizz, Cleopatra, 911, Shakatak, Visage and these two, Dollar...

Pop Goes the Band (!), also on Living TV this autumn, will reunite, reinvigorate and, in some cases, like the luvverly Mr Van Day above, resculpt with plastic surgery (!!) to restore them to their former glories. (!!!) The picture above is taken from the 'reveal' concert filmed in July. Go here for more shots including some onstage. Mediamonkey has seen the finished results in the flesh, so to speak, and posts about it here.

Well, it beats flipping burgers for the lot of 'em I suppose. Can't wait for this little doozey!

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Pet Shop Boys in Pop on pop

I don't know. Not a peep for over a week and then a post consisting of someone else's witterings, copied wholesale? But seeing as it's the Pet Shop Boys in the new edition of fashion mag Pop, I care not a jot.

Pop reinvents itself every issue, and this time around it's become The Face 1987 in an homage extraordinaire. The PSB and Grace Jones shoots are acutely observed. Turning the pages of this brand new September issue felt deluxe, like reading a magazine should be.

Neil and Chris were supposed to talk to Pop about new bands which emulate 80s bands, but neither were interested enough. Very PSB. Instead they talked about themselves. Even more PSB. On having a stylist work their image in the beginning, Chris was aghast: "I don't see why they should have all the fun! Pay someone to do our shopping?"

On their favourite labels in the 80s: (Neil) "It's funny, in 1983 there was nothing I wanted more than a Nike kagoul and basball cap 'cos that looked really hip hop."
(Chris) "My favourite look was 'casual', Diadora trainers, Fiorucci jeans, Pringle".

On Top of the Pops: (Neil) "I miss TOTP! If you're Duffy, you've still not had that moment where they say 'It's Number One! It's Top of the Pops!' It was a weekly coronation"
(Chris) "You'll never get that pivotal moment when Boy George first appeared on TOTP"

Here's legs eleven herself, Grace Jones. Can you believe this woman is 60?

In keeping with the late 80s vibe, here's a band, Eighth Wonder, who the boys would go on to produce, annointing singer/model/actress Patsy Kensit with her biggest pop success, I'm Not Scared. This was the flop beforehand, but a hit in my teenage ears...

Will You Remember? - Eighth Wonder (zShare)