Beat Godfather Meets Glitter Mainman

By Craig Copetas

 

David Bowie and William S. Burroughs. Photographs by Terry O’Neill, 1974

 

Terry O’Neill’s photograph hand-colored by Bowie

 

William Seward Burroughs is not a talkative man. Once at a dinner he gazed down into a pair of stereo microphones trained to pick up his every munch and said, “I don’t like talk and I don’t like talkers. Like Ma Barker. You remember Ma Barker? Well, that’s what she always said, ‘Ma Barker doesn’t like talk and she doesn’t like talkers.’ She just sat there with her gun.”

This was on my mind as much as the mysterious personality of David Bowie when an Irish cabbie drove Burroughs and me to Bowie’s London home on November 17th (“Strange blokes down this part o’ London, mate”). I had spent the last several weeks arranging this two-way interview. I had brought Bowie all of Burroughs’ novels: Naked Lunch, Nova Express. The Ticket That Exploded and the rest. He’d only had time to read Nova Express. Burroughs for his part had only heard two Bowie songs, Five Years and Star Man, though he had read all of Bowie’s lyrics. Still they had expressed interest in meeting each other.

Bowie’s house is decorated in a science-fiction mode: A gigantic painting, by an artist whose style fell midway between Salvador Dali and Norman Rockwell, hung over a plastic sofa. Quite a contrast to Burroughs’ humble two-room Piccadilly flat, decorated with photos of Brion Gysin – modest quarters for such a successful writer, more like the Beat Hotel in Paris than anything else.

Soon Bowie entered, wearing three-tone NASA jodhpurs. He jumped right into a detailed description of the painting and its surrealistic qualities. Burroughs nodded, and the interview/conversation began. The three of us sat in the room for two hours, talking and taking lunch: a Jamaican fish dish, prepared by a Jamaican in the Bowie entourage, with avocados stuffed with shrimp and a beaujolais nouveau, served by two interstellar Bowieites.

There was immediate liking and respect between the two. In fact, a few days after the conversation Bowie asked Burroughs for a favor: A production of The Maids staged by Lindsey Kemp, Bowie’s old mime teacher, had been closed down in London by playwright Jean Genet’s London publisher. Bowie wanted to bring the matter to Genet’s attention personally. Burroughs was impressed by Bowie’s description of the production and promised to help. A few weeks later Bowie went to Paris in search of Genet, following leads from Burroughs.

Who knows? Perhaps a collaboration has begun; perhaps, as Bowie says, they may be the Rogers and Hammerstein of the Seventies.

Burroughs: Do you do all your designs yourself?

Bowie: Yes, I have to take total control myself. I can’t let anybody else do anything, for I find that I can do things better for me. I don’t want to get other people playing with what they think that I’m trying to do. I don’t like to read things that people write about me. I’d rather read what kids have to say about me, because it’s not their profession to do that.

People look to me to see what the spirit of the Seventies is, at least 50% of them do. Critics I don’t understand. They get too intellectual. They’re not very well-versed in street talk; it takes them longer to say it. So they have to do it in dictionaries and they take longer to say it.

I went to a middle-class school, but my background is working class. I got the best of both worlds, I saw both classes, so I have a pretty fair idea of how people live and why they do it. I can’t articulate it too well, but I have a feeling about it. But not the upper class. I want to meet the Queen and then I’ll know. How do you take the picture that people paint of you?

Burroughs: They try to categorize you. They want to see their picture of you and if they don’t see their picture of you they’re very upset. Writing is seeing how close you can come to make it happen, that’s the object of all art. What else do they think man really wants, a whiskey priest on a mission he doesn’t believe in? I think the most important thing in the world is that the artists should take over this planet because they’re the only ones who can make anything happen. Why should we let these fucking newspaper politicians take over from us?

Bowie: I change my mind a lot. I usually don’t agree with what I say very much. I’m an awful liar.

Burroughs: I am too.

Bowie: I’m not sure whether it is me changing my mind, or whether I lie a lot. It’s somewhere between the two. I don’t exactly lie, I change my mind all the time. People are always throwing things at me that I’ve said and I say that I didn’t mean anything. You can’t stand still on one point for your entire life.

Burroughs: Only politicians lay down what they think and that is it. Take a man like Hitler, he never changed his mind.

Bowie: Nova Express really reminded me of Ziggy Stardust, which I am going to be putting into a theatrical performance. Forty scenes are in it and it would be nice if the characters and actors learned the scenes and we all shuffled them around in a hat the afternoon of the performance and just performed it as the scenes come out. I got this all from you, Bill… so it would change every night.

Burroughs: That’s a very good idea, visual cut-up in a different sequence.

Bowie: I get bored very quickly and that would give it some new energy. I’m rather kind of old school, thinking that when an artist does his work it’s no longer his…. I just see what people make of it. That is why the TV production of Ziggy will have to exceed people’s expectations of what they thought Ziggy was.

Burroughs: Could you explain this Ziggy Stardust image of yours? From what I can see it has to do with the world being on the eve of destruction within five years.

Bowie: The time is five years to go before the end of the earth. It has been announced that the world will end because of lack of natural resources. [The album was released three years ago.] Ziggy is in a position where all the kids have access to things that they thought they wanted. The older people have lost all touch with reality and the kids are left on their own to plunder anything. Ziggy was in a rock & roll band and the kids no longer want rock & roll. There’s no electricity to play it. Ziggy’s adviser tells him to collect news and sing it, ’cause there is no news. So Ziggy does this and there is terrible news. All the Young Dudes is a song about this news. It is no hymn to the youth as people thought. It is completely the opposite.

Burroughs: Where did this Ziggy idea come from, and this five-year idea? Of course, exhaustion of natural resources will not develop the end of the world. It will result in the collapse of civilization. And it will cut down the population by about three-quarters.

Bowie: Exactly. This does not cause the end of the world for Ziggy. The end comes when the infinites arrive. They really are a black hole, but I’ve made them people because it would be very hard to explain a black hole onstage.

Burroughs: Yes, a black hole onstage would be an incredible expense. And it would be a continuing performance, first eating up Shaftesbury Avenue.

Bowie: Ziggy is advised in a dream by the infinites to write the coming of a starman, so he writes Starman, which is the first news of hope that the people have heard. So they latch onto it immediately. The starmen that he is talking about are called the infinites, and they are black-hole jumpers. Ziggy has been talking about this amazing spaceman who will be coming down to save the earth. They arrive somewhere in Greenwich Village. They don’t have a care in the world and are of no possible use to us. They just happened to stumble into our universe by black-hole jumping. Their whole life is traveling from universe to universe. In the stage show, one of them resembles Brando, another one is a black New Yorker. I even have one called Queenie the Infinite Fox.

Now Ziggy starts to believe in all this himself and thinks himself a prophet of the future starman. He takes himself up to incredible spiritual heights and is kept alive by his disciples. When the infinites arrive, they take bits of Ziggy to make themselves real because in their original state they are anti-matter and cannot exist on our world. And they tear him to pieces onstage during the song Rock and Roll Suicide. As soon as Ziggy dies onstage the infinites take his elements and make themselves visible. It is a science-fiction fantasy of today and this is what literally blew my head off when I read Nova Express, which was written in 1961. Maybe we are the Rogers and Hammerstein of the Seventies, Bill!

Burroughs: Yes, I can believe that. The parallels are definitely there, and it sounds good.

Bowie: I must have the total image of a stage show. It has to be total with me. I’m just not content writing songs, I want to make it three-dimensional. Songwriting as an art is a bit archaic now. Just writing a song is not good enough.

Burroughs: It’s the whole performance. It’s not like somebody sitting down at the piano and just playing a piece.

Bowie: A song has to take on character, shape, body and influence people to an extent that they use it for their own devices. It must affect them not just as a song, but as a lifestyle. The rock stars have assimilated all kinds of philosophies, styles, histories, writings, and they throw out what they have gleaned from that.

Burroughs: The revolution will come from ignoring the others out of existence.

Bowie: Really. Now we have people who are making it happen on a level faster than ever. People who are into groups like Alice Cooper, the New York Dolls and Iggy Pop, who are denying totally and irrevocably the existence of people who are into the Stones and the Beatles. The gap has decreased from 20 years to ten years.

Burroughs: The escalating rate of change. The media are really responsible for most of this. Which produces an incalculable effect.

Bowie: Once upon a time, even when I was 13 or 14, for me it was between 14 and 40 that you were old. Basically. But now it is 18-year-olds and 26-year-olds – there can be incredible discrepancies, which is really quite alarming. We are not trying to bring people together, but to wonder how much longer we’ve got. It would be positively boring if minds were in tune. I’m more interested in whether the planet is going to survive.

Burroughs: Actually, the contrary is happening; people are getting further and further apart.

Bowie: The idea of getting minds together smacks of the Flower Power period to me. The coming together of people I find obscene as a principle. It is not human. It is not a natural thing as some people would have us believe.

Copetas: What about love?

Burroughs: Ugh.

Bowie: I’m not at ease with the word “love.”

Burroughs: I’m not either.

Bowie: I was told that it was cool to fall in love, and that period was nothing like that to me. I gave too much of my time and energy to another person and they did the same to me and we started burning out against each other. And that is what is termed love… that we decide to put all our values on another person. It’s like two pedestals, each wanting to be the other pedestal.

Burroughs: I don’t think that “love” is a useful word. It is predicated on a separation of a thing called sex and a thing called love and that they are separate. Like the primitive expressions in the old South when the woman is on a pedestal, and the man worshipped his wife and then went out and fucked a whore. It is primarily a Western concept and then it extended to the whole Flower Power thing of loving everybody. Well, you can’t do that because the interests are not the same.

Bowie: The word is wrong, I’m sure. It is the way you understand love. The love that you see, among people who say, “We’re in love,” it’s nice to look at… but wanting not to be alone, wanting to have a person there that they relate to for a few years is not often the love that carries on throughout the lives of those people. There is another word. I’m not sure whether it is a word. Love is every type of relationship that you think of… I’m sure it means relationship, every type of relationship that you can think of.

Copetas: What of sexuality, where is it going?

Bowie: Sexuality and where it is going is an extraordinary question, for I don’t see it going anywhere. It is with me, and that’s it. It’s not coming out as a new advertising campaign next year. It’s just there. Everything you can think about sexuality is just there. Maybe there are different kinds of sexuality, maybe they’ll be brought into play more. Like one time it was impossible to be homosexual as far as the public were concerned. Now it is accepted. Sexuality will never change, for people have been fucking their own particular ways since time began and will continue to do it. Just more of those ways will be coming to light. It might even reach a puritan state.

Burroughs: There are certain indications that it might be going that way in the future, real backlash.

Bowie: Oh yes, look at the rock business. Poor old Clive Davis. He was found to be absconding with money and there were also drug things tied up with it. And that has started a whole clean-up campaign among record companies; they’re starting to ditch some of their artists.

I’m regarded quite asexually by a lot of people. And the people that understand me the best are nearer to what I understand about me. Which is not very much, for I’m still searching. I don’t know, the people who are coming anywhere close to where I think I’m at regard me more as an erogenous kind of thing. But the people who don’t know so much about me regard me more sexually.

But there again, maybe it’s the disinterest with sex after a certain age, because the people who do kind of get nearer to me are generally older. And the ones who regard me as more of a sexual thing are generally younger. The younger people get into the lyrics in a different way; there’s much more of a tactile understanding, which is the way I prefer it. ‘Cause that’s the way I get off on writing, especially William’s. I can’t say that I analyze it all and that’s exactly what you’re saying, but from a feeling way I got what you meant. It’s there, a whole wonderhouse of strange shapes and colors, tastes, feelings.

I must confess that up until now I haven’t been an avid reader of William’s work. I really did not get past Kerouac to be honest. But when I started looking at your work I really couldn’t believe it. Especially after reading Nova Express. I really related to that. My ego obviously put me on to the Pay Color chapter, then I started dragging out lines from the rest of the book.

Burroughs: Your lyrics are quite perceptive.

Bowie: They’re a bit middle class, but that’s all right, ’cause I’m middle class.

Burroughs: It is rather surprising that they are such complicated lyrics, that can go down with a mass audience. The content of most pop lyrics is practically zero, like Power to the People.

Bowie: I’m quite certain that the audience that I’ve got for my stuff don’t listen to the lyrics.

Burroughs: That’s what I’m interested in hearing about… do they understand them?

Bowie: Well, it comes over more as a media thing and it’s only after they sit down and bother to look. On what level they are reading them, they do understand them, because they will send me back their own kind of write-ups of what I’m talking about, which is great for me because sometimes I don’t know. There have been times when I’ve written something and it goes out and it comes back in a letter from some kid as to what they think about it and I’ve taken their analysis to heart so much that I have taken up his thing. Writing what my audience is telling me to write.

Lou Reed is the most important definitive writer in modern rock. Not because of the stuff that he does, but the direction that he will take it. Half the new bands would not be around if it were not for Lou. The movement that Lou’s stuff has created is amazing. New York City is Lou Reed. Lou writes in the street-gut level and the English tend to intellectualize more.

Burroughs: What is your inspiration for writing, is it literary?

Bowie: I don’t think so.

Burroughs: Well, I read this eight-line poem of yours and it is very reminiscent of T.S. Eliot.

Bowie: Never read him.

Burroughs: [Laughs] It is very reminiscent of Waste Land. Do you get any of your ideas from dreams?

Bowie: Frequently.

Burroughs: I get 70% of mine from dreams.

Bowie: There’s a thing that just as you go to sleep, if you keep your elbows elevated that you will never go below the dream stage. And I’ve used that quite a lot and it keeps me dreaming much longer than if I just relaxed.

Burroughs: I dream a great deal, and then because I am a light sleeper, I will wake up and jot down just a few words and they will always bring the whole idea back to me.

Bowie: I keep a tape recorder by the bed and then if anything comes I just say it into the tape recorder. As for my inspiration, I haven’t changed my views much since I was about 12, really, I’ve just got a 12-year-old mentality. When I was in school I had a brother who was into Kerouac and he gave me On The Road to read when I was 12 years old. That’s still been a big influence.

Copetas: The images both of you transpire are very graphic, almost comic-booky in nature.

Bowie: Well, yes, I find it easier to write in these little vignettes; if I try to get any more heavy, I find myself out of my league. I couldn’t contain myself in what I say. Besides if you are really heavier there isn’t that much more time to read that much, or listen to that much. There’s not much point in getting any heavier… there’s too many things to read and look at. If people read three hours of what you’ve done, then they’ll analyze it for seven hours and come out with seven hours of their own thinking… where if you give them 30 seconds of your own stuff they usually still come out with seven hours of their own thinking. They take hook images of what you do. And they pontificate on the hooks. The sense of the immediacy of the image. Things have to hit for the moment. That’s one of the reasons I’m into video; the image has to hit immediately. I adore video and the whole cutting up of it.

What are your projects at the moment?

Burroughs: At the moment I’m trying to set up an institute of advanced studies somewhere in Scotland. Its aim will be to extend awareness and alter consciousness in the direction of greater range, flexibility and effectiveness at a time when traditional disciplines have failed to come up with viable solutions. You see, the advent of the space age and the possibility of exploring galaxies and contacting alien life forms poses an urgent necessity for radically new solutions. We will be considering only non-chemical methods with the emphasis placed on combination, synthesis, interaction and rotation of methods now being used in the East and West, together with methods that are not at present being used to extend awareness or increase human potentials.

We know exactly what we intend to do and how to go about doing it. As I said, no drug experiments are planned and no drugs other than alcohol, tobacco and personal medications obtained on prescription will be permitted in the center. Basically, the experiments we propose are inexpensive and easy to carry out. Things such as yoga-style meditation and exercises, communication, sound, light and film experiments, experiments with sensory deprivation chambers, pyramids, psychotronic generators and Reich’s orgone accumulators, experiments with infra-sound, experiments with dream and sleep.

Bowie: That sounds fascinating. Are you basically interested in energy forces?

Burroughs: Expansion of awareness, eventually leading to mutations. Did you read Journey Out of the Body? Not the usual book on astral projection. This American businessman found he was having these experiences of getting out of the body – never used any hallucinogenic drugs. He’s now setting up this astral air force. This psychic thing is really a rave in the States now. Did you experience it much when you were there?

Bowie: No, I really hid from it purposely. I was studying Tibetan Buddhism when I was quite young, again influenced by Kerouac. The Tibetan Buddhist Institute was available so I trotted down there to have a look. Lo and behold there’s a guy down in the basement who’s the head man in setting up a place in Scotland for the refugees, and I got involved purely on a sociological level – because I wanted to help get the refugees out of India, for they were really having a shitty time of it down there, dropping like flies due to the change of atmosphere from the Himalayas.

Scotland was a pretty good place to put them, and then more and more I was drawn to their way of thinking, or non thinking, and for a while got quite heavily involved in it. I got to the point where I wanted to become a novice monk and about two weeks before I was actually going to take those steps, I broke up and went out on the streets and got drunk and never looked back.

Burroughs: Just like Kerouac.

Bowie: Go to the States much?

Burroughs: Not since ’71.

Bowie: It has changed, I can tell you, since then.

Burroughs: When were you last back?

Bowie: About a year ago.

Burroughs: Did you see any of the porn films in New York?

Bowie: Yes, quite a few.

Burroughs: When I was last back, I saw about 30 of them. I was going to be a judge at the erotic film festival.

Bowie: The best ones were the German ones; they were really incredible.

Burroughs: I thought that the American ones were still the best. I really like film…. I understand that you may play Valentine Michael Smith in the film version of Stranger in a Strange Land.

Bowie: No, I don’t like the book much. In fact, I think it is terrible. It was suggested to me that I make it into a movie, then I got around to reading it. It seemed a bit too Flower-Powery and that made me a bit wary.

Burroughs: I’m not that happy with the book either. You know, science fiction has not been very successful. It was supposed to start a whole new trend and nothing happened. For the special effects in some of the movies, like 2001, it was great. But it all ended there.

Bowie: I feel the same way. Now I’m doing Orwell’s 1984 on television; that’s a political thesis and an impression of the way in another country. Something of that nature will have more impact on television. I don’t believe in proper cinema; it doesn’t have the strength of television. People having to go out to the cinema is really archaic. I’d much rather sit at home.

Burroughs: Do you mean the whole concept of the audience?

Bowie: Yes, it is ancient. No sense of immediacy.

Burroughs: Exactly, it all relates back to image and the way in which it is used.

Bowie: Right. I’d like to start a TV station.

Burroughs: There are hardly any programs worth anything any more. The British TV is a little better than American. The best thing the British do is natural history. There was one last week with sea lions eating penguins, incredible. There is no reason for dull programs, people get very bored with housing projects and coal strikes.

Bowie: They all have an interest level of about three seconds. Enough time to get into the commentator’s next sentence. And that is the premise it works on. I’m going to put together all the bands that I think are of great value in the States and England, then make an hour-long program about them. Probably a majority of people have never heard of these bands. They are doing and saying things in a way other bands aren’t. Things like the Puerto Rican music at the Cheetah Club in New York. I want people to hear musicians like Joe Cuba. He has done things to whole masses of Puerto Rican people. The music is fantastic and important. I also want to start getting Andy Warhol films on TV.

Burroughs: Have you ever met Warhol?

Bowie: Yes, about two years ago I was invited up to The Factory. We got in the lift and went up and when it opened there was a brick wall in front of us. We rapped on the wall and they didn’t believe who we were. So we went back down and back up again till finally they opened the wall and everybody was peering around at each other. That was shortly after the gun incident. I met this man who was the living dead. Yellow in complexion, a wig on that was the wrong color, little glasses. I extended my hand and the guy retired, so I thought, “The guy doesn’t like flesh, obviously he’s reptilian.” He produced a camera and took a picture of me. And I tried to make small talk with him, and it wasn’t getting anywhere.

But then he saw my shoes. I was wearing a pair of gold-and-yellow shoes, and he says, “I adore those shoes, tell me where you got those shoes.” He then started a whole rap about shoe design and that broke the ice. My yellow shoes broke the ice with Andy Warhol.

I adore what he was doing. I think his importance was very heavy, it’s become a big thing to like him now. But Warhol wanted to be cliche, he wanted to be available in Woolworth’s, and be talked about in that glib type of manner. I hear he wants to make real films now which is very sad because the films he was making were the things that should be happening. I left knowing as little about him as a person as when I went in.

Burroughs: I don’t think that there is any person there. It’s a very alien thing, completely and totally unemotional. He’s really a science-fiction character. He’s got a strange green color.

Bowie: That’s what struck me. He’s the wrong color, this man is the wrong color to be a human being. Especially under the stark neon lighting that is in The Factory. Apparently it is a real experience to behold him in the daylight.

Burroughs: I’ve seen him in all light and still have no idea as to what is going on, except that it is something quite purposeful. It’s not energetic, but quite insidious, completely asexual. His films will be the late-night movies of the future.

Bowie: Exactly. Remember Pork? I want to get that onto TV. TV has eaten up everything else, and Warhol films are all that are left, which is fabulous. Pork could become the next I Love Lucy, the great American domestic comedy. It’s about how people really live, not like Lucy, who never touched dishwater. It’s about people living and hustling to survive.

That’s what Pork is all about. A smashing of the spectacle. Although I’d like to do my own version of Sindbad The Sailor. I think that is an all-time classic. But it would have to be done on an extraordinary level. It would be incredibly indulgent and expensive. It would have to utilize lasers and all the things that are going to happen in a true fantasy.

Even the use of holograms. Holograms are important. Videotape is next, then it will be holograms. Holograms will come into use in about seven years. Libraries of video cassettes should be developed to their fullest during the interim. You can’t video enough good material from your own TV. I want to have my own choice of programs. There has to be the necessary software available.

Burroughs: I audio-record everything I can.

Bowie: The media is either our salvation or our death. I’d like to think it’s our salvation. My particular thing is discovering what can be done with media and how it can be used. You can’t draw people together like one big huge family, people don’t want that. They want isolation or a tribal thing. A group of 18 kids would much rather stick together and hate the next 18 kids down the block. You are not going to get two or three blocks joining up and loving each other. There are just too many people.

Burroughs: Too many people. We’re in an overpopulated situation, but the less people you have does not include the fact that they are still heterogeneous. They are just not the same. All this talk about a world family is a lot of bunk. It worked with the Chinese because they are very similar.

Bowie: And now one man in four in China has a bicycle and that is pretty heavy considering what they didn’t have before. And that’s the miracle as far as they’re concerned. It’s like all of us having a jet plane over here.

Burroughs: It’s because they are the personification of one character that they can live together without any friction. We quite evidently are not.

Bowie: It is why they don’t need rock & roll. British rock & roll stars played in China, played a dirty great field and they were treated like a sideshow. Old women, young children, some teenagers, you name it, everybody came along, walked past them and looked at them on the stand. It didn’t mean a thing. Certain countries don’t need rock & roll because they were so drawn together as a family unit. China has its mother-father figure – I’ve never made my mind up which – it fluctuates between the two. For the West, Jagger is most certainly a mother figure and he’s a mother hen to the whole thing. He’s not a cockadoodledoo; he’s much more like a brothel keeper or a madame.

Burroughs: Oh, very much so.

Bowie: He’s incredibly sexy and very virile. I also find him incredibly motherly and maternal clutched into his bosom of ethnic blues. He’s a white boy from Dagenham trying his damnedest to be ethnic. You see, trying to tart the rock business up a bit is getting nearer to what the kids themselves are like, because what I find, if you want to talk in the terms of rock, a lot depends on sensationalism and the kids are a lot more sensational than the stars themselves. The rock business is a pale shadow of what the kids lives are usually like. The admiration comes from the other side. It’s all a reversal, especially in recent years. Walk down Christopher Street and then you wonder exactly what went wrong. People are not like James Taylor; they may be molded on the outside, but inside their heads it is something completely different.

Burroughs: Politics of sound.

Bowie: Yes. We have kind of got that now. It has very loosely shaped itself into the politics of sound. The fact that you can now subdivide rock into different categories was something that you couldn’t do ten years ago. But now I can reel off at least ten sounds that represent a kind of person rather than a type of music. The critics don’t like to say that, because critics like being critics, and most of them wish they were rock & roll stars. But when they classify they are talking about people not music. It’s a whole political thing.

Burroughs: Like infrasound, the sound below the level of hearing. Below 16 Mertz. Turned up full blast it can knock down walls for 30 miles. You can walk into the French patent office and buy the patent for 40p. The machine itself can be made very cheaply from things you could find in a junk yard.

Bowie: Like black noise. I wonder if there is a sound that can put things back together. There was a band experimenting with stuff like that; they reckon they could make a whole audience shake.

Burroughs: They have riot-control noise based on these soundwaves now. But you could have music with infrasound, you wouldn’t necessarily have to kill the audience.

Bowie: Just maim them.

Burroughs: The weapon of the Wild Boys is a bowie knife, an 18-inch bowie knife, did you know that?

Bowie: An 18-inch bowie knife … you don’t do things by halves, do you. No, I didn’t know that was their weapon. The name Bowie just appealed to me when I was younger. I was into a kind of heavy philosophy thing when I was 16 years old, and I wanted a truism about cutting through the lies and all that.

Burroughs: Well, it cuts both ways, you know, double-edged on the end.

Bowie: I didn’t see it cutting both ways till now.

 

This story is from the February 28th, 1974 issue of Rolling Stone.

Advertisements

Living in The Material World

“I’m living in the material world
Living in the material world

can’t say what I’m doing here
But I hope to see much clearer,
After living in the material world

I got born into the material world
Getting worn out in the material world
Use my body like a car,
Taking me both near and far
Met my friends all in the material world

Met them all there in the material world
John and Paul here in the material world
Though we started out quite poor
We got ‘Richie’ on a tour
Got caught up in the material world

From the Spiritual Sky,
Such sweet memories have I
To the Spiritual Sky
How I pray
Yes I pray
That I won’t get lost
Or go astray

As I’m fated for the material world
Get frustrated in the material world
Senses never gratified
Only swelling like a tide
That could drown me in the
Material world

From the Spiritual Sky,
Such sweet memories have I
To the Spiritual Sky
How I pray
Yes I pray
That I won’t get lost
Or go astray

While I’m living in the material world
Not much ‘giving’ in the material world
Got a lot of work to do
Try to get a message through
And get back out of this material world

I’m living in the material world
Living in the material world
I hope to get out of this place
By the LORD SRI KRSNA’S GRACE
My salvation from the material world
Big Ending”

George Harrison

1973

 
 

Photograph of George Harrison chosen for the publicity posters (and for the front cover of the accompanying book) of Living In The Material World. it was taken during the filming for the Beatles movie Help! (Richard Lester, 1965).

In 2007 Martin Scorsese wrote a short cinematographic appreciation of Help! for the book that comes with both the standard and the deluxe DVD box set re-issue of the mentioned film .

 
 

George Harrison: Living in the Material World (Martin Scorsese, 2011) is a documentary film based on the life of Beatles member George Harrison. It earned six nominations at the 64th Primetime Emmy Awards, winning two Emmy Awards for Outstanding Nonfiction Special and Outstanding Directing for Nonfiction Programming.

 
 

The film follows music legend George Harrison’s story from his early life in Liverpool, the Beatlemania phenomenon, his travels to India, the influence of Indian culture in his music, and his relevance and importance as a member of The Beatles. It consists of previously unseen footage and interviews with Olivia and Dhani Harrison, friends, and many others.

After Harrison’s death in 2001, various production companies approached his widow Olivia about producing a film about her late husband’s life. She declined because he had wanted to tell his own life story through his video archive. Upon meeting Scorsese, she gave her blessings and signed on to the film project as a producer.

According to Scorsese, he was attracted to the project because “That subject matter has never left me…The more you’re in the material world, the more there is a tendency for a search for serenity and a need to not be distracted by physical elements that are around you. His music is very important to me, so I was interested in the journey that he took as an artist. The film is an exploration. We don’t know. We’re just feeling our way through.”

Throughout 2008 and 2009, Scorsese alternated working between Shutter Island and the documentary.

To watch the trailer, please, take a gander at The Genealogy of Style‘s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Genealogy-of-Style/597542157001228?ref=hl

Lennon and The Psychedelic Experience

Come Together, drawing by John Lennon

 
 

The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on The Tibetan Book of the Dead (commonly referred to as The Psychedelic Experience) is an instruction manual intended for use during sessions involving psychedelic drugs. The book is dedicated to Aldous Huxley and includes a short introductory citation from Huxley’s book The Doors of Perception. Part of this text was used by The Beatles in the song Tomorrow Never Knows (1966).

 
 

Recording Give Peace a Chance. Left to right: Rosemary Leary (face not visible), Tommy Smothers (with back to camera), John Lennon, Timothy Leary, Yoko Ono, Judy Marcioni and Paul Williams

 
 

Timothy Leary once recruited Lennon to write a theme song for his California gubernatorial campaign against Ronald Reagan (which was interrupted by his prison sentence due to cannabis possession), inspiring Lennon to come up with Come Together (1969), based on Leary’s theme and catchphrase for the campaign. Leary was also present when Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono, recorded Give Peace a Chance (1969) during one of their bed-ins in Montreal, and is mentioned in the lyrics of the song.

The original last verse of the song refers to: “John and Yoko, Timmy Leary, Rosemary, Tommy Smothers, Bobby Dylan, Tommy Cooper, Derek Taylor, Norman Mailer, Allen Ginsberg, and Hare Krishna”. In the performance of Give Peace a Chance included on the Live Peace in Toronto 1969 album, Lennon openly stated that he could not remember all of the words and improvised with the names of the band members sharing the stage with him and anything that came to mind: “John and Yoko, Eric Clapton, Klaus Voormann, Penny Lane, Roosevelt, Nixon, Tommy Jones and Tommy Cooper, and somebody.” The third verse contains a reference to masturbation, but Lennon changed this to “mastication” on the official lyric sheet. He later admitted this was a “cop out” but wanted to avoid unnecessary controversy.

To watch the music video, please take a gander at The Genealogy of Style’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Genealogy-of-Style/597542157001228?ref=hl

In Music I Trust

James Joseph Marshall

 
 

“I love all the musicians – they’re like family. Looking back I realize I was there at the beginning of something special, I’m like a historian. There’s an honesty about this work that I’m proud of. It feels good to think, my God, I really captured something amazing.”

 

Jim Marshall (1936-2010) was born in Chicago and moved to San Francisco with his family when he was only two years old. There in the City by the Bay he remained during his lifetime. A Brownie camera was one of his first toys. Later he bought a Leica when he was in high school. After coming back from the serving in the Air Force, Marshall met John Coltrane. One day, while he was photographing backstage at the Jazz Workshop in San Francisco in 1960, Coltrane asked him for directions to Berkeley. “He asked me for directions to a club,” Marshall said later. “I told him I’d pick him up and take him there if he’d let me take his picture.” This way the visual linkage between Marshall and the best jazz and rock performers was strengthened.

 
 

John Coltrane

 
 

Thelonious Monk & Allen Gingsberg

 
 

Ray Charles

 
 

Miles Davis

 
 

63 marshall

Miles Davies & Steve McQueen

 
 

The Beatles

 
 

The Rolling Stones

 
 

Jimi Hendrix

 
 

Janis Joplin

 
 

Grace Slick

 
 

Jefferson Airplane

 
 

Jim Morrison

 
 

Led Zeppelin

 
 

Alice Cooper

 
 

The Who

 
 

Bob Dylan

 
 

Johnny Cash & June Carter

 
 

John Lennon

A Different Set of Jaws

 
 

The film starts with the screen fading to black and over-sized, disembodied female lips (inspired by the surreal Man Ray painting A l’heure de l’observatoire, les Amoureux) appear overdubbed with a male voice, creating the androgynous theme to be repeated as the film unfolds. The opening scene and song, Science Fiction, Double Feature consists of the lips of Patricia Quinn (who appears in the film later as the character Magenta), but has the vocals of actor and Rocky Horror creator, Richard O’Brien (who appears as Magenta’s brother Riff Raff). The lyrics reference science fiction and horror films of the past and list several film titles from the 1930s to the 1970s, including The Day the Earth Stood Still, Flash Gordon, The Invisible Man, King Kong, It Came from Outer Space, Doctor X, Forbidden Planet, Tarantula, The Day of the Triffids, Curse of the Demon, When Worlds Collide and The Bride of Frankenstein. The disembodied lips are featured on posters and other merchandise for the film, with the tag line “A Different Set of Jaws”, a spoof of the poster for the film Jaws, which was also produced in 1975.

As stated before, the song is made up of fragments from sub-genre horror and science fiction films and likened to that of avant-garde artist Tristan Tzara by author Vera Dika in her book, Recycled Culture in Contemporary Art and Film. Tzara would construct poems by taking snippets of words from newspapers and placing them into a bag to randomly draw from and arrange. Instead, the words in Science Fiction Double Feature are purposely made to rhyme with a set structure and set with phrases that create cohesion.

The original concept of the song for the feature film as indicated in the original script was to have film clips of each movie shown with a scratched aged effect overlay during the song and opening credits. The idea was dropped when it became apparent that the cost of acquiring the rights to these clips in 1974 was far too prohibitive.

 
 

FILMS REFERENCED IN THE LYRICS :

“Michael Rennie was ill the day the earth stood still, but he told us where we stand” (The Day the Earth Stood Still, Robert Wise, 1951)

“And Flash Gordon was there in silver underwear” (Flash Gordon, Frederick Stephani, 1936)

“Claude Rains was the invisible man” (The Invisible Man, James Whale, 1933)

“Then something went wrong for Fay Wray and King Kong, they got caught in a celluloid jam” (King Kong, Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack, 1933)

“Then at a deadly pace it came from outer space” (It Came from Outer Space, Jack Arnold, 1953)

“Doctor X will build a creature” (Doctor X, Michael Curtiz, 1932)

“Anne Francis stars in Forbidden Planet” (Forbidden Planet, Fred M. Wilcox, 1956)

“I knew Leo G. Carroll was over a barrel when Tarantula took to the hills” (Tarantula, Jack Arnold, 1955)

“And I really got hot when I saw Janette Scott fight a Triffid that spits poison and kills” (The Day of the Triffids, John Wyndham, 1962)

“Dana Andrews said prunes gave him the runes, and passing them used lots of skills” (Night of the Demon, Jacques Tourneur, 1957)

“But when worlds collide, said George Pal to his bride, I’m gonna give you some terrible thrills” (When Worlds Collide, Rudolph Maté, 1951)

 

To watch the movie clip, please check out The Genealogy of Style‘s Facebook page:https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Genealogy-of-Style/597542157001228

The Rolling Stones’ Tour of The Americas

“And yet, despite the ultimate and monumental success of the tour, things did not always go smoothly. The trouble was not so much from within the group (though there were instances of stress and friction, granted) but from the outsiders: tourist-types, music-lovers, hero-worshippers, souvenir-hunters, run-away-teenies, young ill-informed musicians hoping to replace guitarist Mick Taylor who had recently left the group, and quite unaware, of course, that inside the house, at that very moment, the great Ron Wood was picking a line that would have set Bo Didddley’s top a ‘tappin’!”

Terry Southern

 
 

This was The Rolling Stones‘ first tour with new guitarist Ronnie Wood, after Mick Taylor had left the band. (A 14 April announcement merely said he would be playing on the tour; he was not officially named a Rolling Stone until 19 December 1975). Long time sidemen Bobby Keys and Jim Price on brass were not featured on this tour, being replaced by Billy Preston on keyboards and Ollie E. Brown on percussion. Bobby Keys made a guest appearance on You Can’t Always Get What You Want and Brown Sugar at the Los Angeles shows.

The Tour of the Americas ’75 was not tied to support of any newly released material, as it began more than seven months after the release of their last studio album at the time, It’s Only Rock’n Roll; therefore the compilation album Made in the Shade was released to capitalise on the tour’s publicity.

The mid-1970s were the era of extravagant stage shows, from the likes of Elton John, Alice Cooper, Kiss, and Queen—a new format for the Stones, with their usual act freshly aided by theatrical stage props and gimmicks, including a giant inflatable phallus (nicknamed ‘Tired Grandfather’ by the band, since it sometimes malfunctioned) and, at some shows, an unfolding lotus flower-shaped stage that Charlie Watts had conceived.

 
 

The Rolling Stones’ Tour of The Americas, 1975. Pictures by Annie Leibovitz and Christopher Simon Sykes

A Novelty Cover

Their Satanic Majesties Request is the sixth British and eighth American studio album by The Rolling Stones, released on 8 December 1967 by Decca Records in the United Kingdom and the following day in the United States by London Records. Its title is a play on the “Her Britannic Majesty requests and requires…” text that appears inside a British passport. Their Satanic Majesties Request was the Stones’ only self-produced album, which Mick Jagger admitted was not for the best.

There’s a lot of rubbish on Satanic Majesties. Just too much time on our hands, too many drugs, no producer to tell us, “Enough already, thank you very much, now can we get just get on with this song?” Anyone let loose in the studio will produce stuff like that. There was simply too much hanging around. It’s like believing everything you do is great and not having any editing.

The working title of the album was Cosmic Christmas. In the hidden coda titled “Cosmic Christmas” (following “Sing This All Together (See What Happens)”), Wyman tells “it’s slowed-down: ‘We wish you a merry Christmas, we wish you a merry Christmas, and a happy New Year!'” Some of the album’s songs were also recorded under various working titles, some appearing rather non sequitur and radically different from the final titles. These working titles include: Acid in the Grass (In Another Land), I Want People to Know (2000 Man), Flowers in Your Bonnet (She’s a Rainbow), Fly My Kite (The Lantern), Toffee Apple (2000 Light Years from Home), and Surprise Me (On with the Show).

 
 

 
 

One proposed cover-a photograph of Mick Jagger naked on a cross-was scrapped by the record company for being “in bad taste”. Initial releases of the album featured a three-dimensional picture of the band on the cover by photographer Michael Cooper. When viewed in a certain way, the lenticular image shows the band members’ faces turning towards each other with the exception of Jagger, whose hands appear crossed in front of him.

 

 
 

Looking closely on its cover, one can see the faces of each of the four Beatles, reportedly a response to the Beatles’ inclusion of a doll wearing a “Welcome the Rolling Stones” sweater on the cover of Sgt. Pepper. Later editions replaced the glued-on three-dimensional image with a photograph, due to high production costs. A limited edition LP version in the 1980s reprinted the original 3D cover design; immediately following the reissue, the master materials for reprinting the 3D cover were intentionally destroyed. The 3D album cover was featured, although shrunk down, for the Japanese SHM-CD release in 2010.

The original cover design called for the lenticular image to take up the entire front cover, but finding this to be prohibitively expensive it was decided to reduce the size of the photo and surround it with the blue-and-white graphic design.

 
 

 
 

The entire cover design is elaborate, with a dense photo collage filling most of the inside cover (along with a maze) designed by Michael Cooper, and a painting by Tony Meevilwiffen on the back cover depicting the four elements (Earth, Water, Fire, and Air). In some editions the blue-and-white wisps on the front cover are used in a red-and-white version on the paper inner sleeve. The inner-cover collage has dozens of images, taken from reproductions of old master paintings (Ingres, Poussin, DaVinci, among others), Indian mandalas and portraits, astronomy (including a large image of the planet Saturn), flowers, world maps, etc.

It was the first of four Stones albums to feature a novelty cover (the others were the zipper on Sticky Fingers, the cut-out faces on Some Girls, and the stickers on Undercover). The maze on the inside cover of the UK and US releases cannot be completed: a wall at about a half radius in from the lower left corner means one can never arrive at the “It’s Here” in the centre of the maze.

The Brit Pack

From left: Stella Tennant in Stella McCartney, Cecilia Chancellor in Luella Bartley, Erin O’Connor in John Galliano, Jacquetta Wheeler in Nicole Farhi, Naomi Campbell in Julien Macdonald, Liberty Ross in Clements Ribeiro, Kate Moss in Hussein Chalayan, Elizabeth Jagger in Russell Sage and Philip Treacy, Jade Parfitt in Paul Smith, Rosemary Ferguson in Markus Lupfer, Jasmine Guinness in Boyd, Lisa Ratcliffe in Sophia Kokosalaki, Karen Elson in Betty Jackson, Georgina Cooper in Antonio Berardi, Alek Wek in Belville Sassoon by Lorcan Mullany, Sophie Dahl in Matthew Williamson, Vivien Solari in Robert Cary-Williams and Jodie Kidd in Vivienne Westwood. Photo by Mario Testino for Vogue, January 2002

Not Quite Single

A Single Man is the twelfth studio album by Elton John, released in 1978. This is the first album where John would collaborate with Gary Osborne, who wrote the lyrics. The photographs for the cover art were taken by Terry O’Neill in the Long Walk, which is part of Windsor Great Park in Berkshire.

 
 

It is the first of Elton John‘s albums to not feature longtime collaborators Bernie Taupin (lyricist) and Gus Dudgeon (producer). As Gary Osborne was an unknown at the time, many people misinterpreted the album’s title to imply that John wrote the entire album himself. The only returning members of his band are percussionist Ray Cooper and guitarist Davey Johnstone; the latter only played on one song on the album. Paul Buckmaster would not appear on another Elton John album until Made in England.

Millers and Montands

Let’s Make Love  (George Cukor, 1960) is a musical comedy film made by 20th Century Fox. It was produced by Jerry Wald from a screenplay by Norman Krasna, Hal Kanter and Arthur Miller. It starred Marilyn Monroe, Yves Montand and Tony Randall. It would be Monroe’s last musical film performance.

Norman Krasna was inspired to write the script after seeing Burt Lancaster do a dance at a Writers Guild award ceremony and receiving a loud applause. He came up with the idea of a story about a very wealthy playboy like Jock Whitney who hears about a company putting on a show that made fun of him and becomes enamoured of the theatre and a girl in the play.

Krasna felt that only three actors were suitable to play the male lead — Gary Cooper, James Stewart and Gregory Peck — because all were so obviously not musical performers, making it funny if they sung and danced. Peck agreed to play the lead, and then Marilyn Monroe was signed opposite him, even though Krasna would have preferred Cyd Charisse.

Arthur Miller revised the script so that more emphasis was given to Monroe, his wife. This led to Peck dropping out.  Rock Hudson was considered an ideal replacement based on his ability to play comedy, but Universal would not release him.  So, Montand was cast instead after starring in The Crucible (Raymond Rouleau, 1957), based on a play also written by Miller. That pleased Monroe, who wanted Montand for the part. Krasna felt he was miscast because he could actually sing and dance, and so ruined the joke, but Monroe was enthusiastic about Montand. The two stars wound up having an affair during the making of the film.

 
 

Marilyn Monroe, Yves Montand at a press conference for their film Let’s Make Love ( in French : Le Milliardaire), together with Simone Signoret and Arthur Miller their respective spouses.

 
 

A picture is worth a thousand words

 
 

Marilyn Monroe and Yves Montand at the press conference for their forthcoming film.

 
 

Simone Signoret and Yves Montand relax in the bungalow of their Beverly Hills Hotel, where they were staying while he was filming Let’s make Love with Marilyn Monroe.

 
 

Miller and Montand

 
 

Marilyn Monroe and Simone Signoret

 
 

Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller give a private dinner for Yves Montand

 
 

Yves Montand, Simone Signoret and Marilyn Monroe in Montand’s Beverly Hills Hotel apartment

 
 

Montand and Signoret

 
 

Signoret, Montand and Monroe at a Beverly Hills Hotel

 
 

Yves Montand, Simone Signoret, Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller

 
 

Signoret and Monroe at a private dinner party during the making of Let’s Make Love

 
 

Photo series by Bruce Davidson, 1960

Must Be Santa

Mick Jagger

 
 

John Lennon and Yoko Ono

 
 

Jimi Hendrix

 
 

Kurt Cobain and Chris Novaselic

 
 

Alice Cooper

 
 

Iggy Pop. Galleries Lafayette ad campaign

 
 

Ronnie Vannucci Jr.

 
 

Brandon Flowers

 
 

Bruce Springsteen and Clarence Clemons

 
 

Flea

 
 

Bette Midler

 
 

Katy Perry

 
 

Cee Lo Green

 
 

Mariah Carey

 
 

Destiny’s Child

 
 

Elvis Presley

 
 

Bono

 
 

Ian Anderson (lead vocalist of Jethro Tull)

 
 

Bob Dylan. Must Be Santa (Nash Edgerton, 2009)

 
 

Based on a German drinking song, Must Be Santa is structured as a call and response, with the lead singer posing the question of who has a certain feature, with a chorus responding that Santa Claus has said feature. After every other verse, the list of features mentioned up to that point is reiterated, followed by the chorus of “must be Santa” repeated three times and ending with “Santa Claus.”

In November 2009, Bob Dylan covered Brave Combo‘s version of the song in a polka style for his Christmas album, Christmas in the Heart. The New York Daily News described Dylan’s version as such: “It’s sort of unclear if Dylan (…) was aiming to celebrate the holiday, or gently poke fun at the music’s Norman Rockwell-esque simplicity.”

Entropic Universes

Hugh Syme is a Canadian Juno Award-winning graphic artist (5 wins and 18 nominations) who is best known for his artwork and cover concepts for rock and metal bands.

The most remarkable quality of his art designs are the themes he links into the album concepts: oneiric or surreal landscapes; typefaces integrated into the background of the cover art; Kafkaesque events in which absurdity is accepted with resignation or even celebrated. His artwork can be seen as a collection of entropic universes that seems to keep leading to a bigger disarray or randomness of a closed system. The standstill movement of the scenes is what causes that impression of systematic chaos. In fact, the duality of that phrase is a fitting description of the word Entropy  (from Greek ἐντροπία, evolution, transformation). So, it is precisely a measure of the number of specific ways in which a system may be arranged, often taken to be a measure of disorder. In the domain of sociology, entropy is used as a metaphor for chaos, disorder or dissipation of energy.

 
 

(1983)

Note: The album is named after Chilean poet Pablo Neruda.

 
 

(1985)

 
 

(1988)

 
 

(1990)

 
 

(1993)

 
 

(1993)

 
 

Youthanasia (1994)

 
 

(1997)

 
 

(1997)

 
 

(1997)

 
 

Arena, The Visitor (1998)

 
 

(2005)

 
 

(2006)

 
 

(2007)

 
 

(2011)

McQueen and the Dancer

Flights of Fancy. Caroline Trentini wearing Alexander McQueen outfits from 2008 Fall/Winter collection. Photo: Arthur Elgort

 
 

 
 

Billy Elliot‘s (Stephen Daldry, 2000) original title was Dancer, but when they took the film to the Cannes Film Festival, there was another film called Dancer in the Dark (Lars von Trier, 2000), which won the Palmes D’Or, prompting confusion; indeed, Universal Studios called the directors, producers and writer up and congratulated them. They then realized they had to change the name and settled (‘rather lamely’, joked the writer) on ‘Billy Elliot‘.

 

“Younger Billy (Jamie Bell) and Mrs. Wilkinson (Julie Walters) are crossing a river. Billy plays a tape and they listen to the finale of Tchaikovski’s Swan Lake. This music has a yearning quality that suits Billy’s quest to move into the world. A policeman sits behind them as Mrs. Wilkinson tells the story of Swan Lake. The policeman is a reminder that the wide-spread concern of Billy’s community is still in the background and has yet to actively impact his move into a new world. The story of Swan Lake is a tale of the less powerful person being subject to stronger forces. The “heroes” of Swan Lake do manage to escape the forces that strive to overpower them, which suggests that Billy will do the same. The music reaches a crescendo as Billy looks up to the powerful frame overhead.”

 

The final scene of the film Billy Elliot shows the lead character, Billy, played by Adam Cooper, as an adult about to perform in Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake as the lead Swan.

 
 

Matthew Bourne’s Swan Ballet (1995). The plot of the ballet revolves around a young crown prince, his distant mother, and his desire for freedom, characterized by a beautiful swan. This scenario is an unofficial interpretation as Matthew Bourne does not believe in scenarios for his productions and prefers the audience to interpret the story for themselves.The ballet is based loosely on the Russian romantic ballet Swan Lake, from which it takes the music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky is taken along with the broad outline of the plot. Stylistic inspiration also came from the Alfred Hitchcock film The Birds. The ballet is particularly known for having the parts of the swans danced by men rather than women. According to Bourne, “The idea of a male swan makes complete sense to me. The strength, the beauty, the enormous wingspan of these creatures suggests to the musculature of a male dancer more readily than a ballerina in her white tutu.”

Keep Your Pants On

Braces may have been employed since the end of the eighteen century to hold up men’s buckskin breeches but in the 1990s we no longer boast buck on our bums and we no longer use the word braces. Its mere utterance conjures up those pimply days of puberty and all of its embarrassments: corn kernels wedged in tinsel teeth, locked lips on a first kiss, rubber bands that smacked your valentine right between her eyes. The British say “braces”. Americans say “suspenders”.
 
Ok, we have learned what they’re called, so now we should learn what to avoid wearing. Beware of elaborately floral, shocking pink or insignia-imprinted designs. Because suspenders are most often worn with ties, the potential for clashing is high. Solid and subtly patterned suspenders are easier to match. Even for a punk or a hipster.
 
However, because fashion now is about being democratic, if you opt for a patterned pair, make sure the pattern is woven into the fabric and not ironed (or silk-screened) on. It’s classier.
 
Considering wearing a belt with your suspenders? Please, don’t.
 
Once upon a time, before the steamy factory days driven by mass production, a man could have his braces custom-made. Brass levers (as they were never anything but brassy) would rest comfortably in the personal hollow of a man’s chest. If they were set too high (above the bottom half of the chest), the levers’ double layer of material would pad the chest and the buckles would sneak up toward the face. In today’s world suspenders are a one-size-fits-all-deal. And so, as the bias stands, if you are going to brace yourself you’d better be tall. A kind tailor might customize a pair for you. A kind shoe repairman might as well.
 
A word on placement: The front buttons should be sewn securely inside the waistband and aligned with that clean pleat closest to the bone. This prevents our pants from fanning when we stand; it also defines the trouser’s creases and weights their depth. A button set too far to the side of the trousers relaxes the tension on the strap, permitting it to slip, like a woman’s bra might, coquettishly from the shoulder. Not flirty. Not sexy. Not cute.
 
Suspenders date to the French court of Louis XVI, when aristocrats began to use strips of ribbon to support their trousers. Long considered underwear — exposing them was against the law on Long Island as recently as 1938.
 
Here are few more historical facts about suspenders:
 
It’s been said that Benjamin Franklin invented them.
Claude Debussy wore floral ones.
Napoleon Bonaparte flaunted his bee insignia on his.
Victorian sweethearts would woo their suitors with hand-embroidered ones.

 
 

Clark Gable

 
 

Gary Cooper

 
 

Marlon Brando

 
 

Joseph Gordon-Levitt

 
 

Jude Law. Still from Cold Mountain (Anthony Minghella, 2003)

 
 

Leonardo Di Caprio in Titanic (James Cameron, 1997)

 
 

Maxwell

 
 

Raoul Bova accompanied by Monica Belluci

 
 

David Bowie

 
 

Suspenders. Photography by Leon Levinstein, 1955

 
 

Joe Strummer

 
 

Haircut 100

 
 

A Clockwork Orange (Stanley Kubrick, 1971)

 
 

Alexander McQueen Menswear

 
 

Diesel ad campaign

 
 

Fun. Carry On music video (Anthony Mandler, 2012)

 
 

Nicole Kidman photographed by Craig Mcdean

 
 

Charlotte Rampling in a promotional picture for Il Portiere di Notte / The Night Porter (Liliana Cavani, 1974)

 
 

Madonna. Erotica music video (Fabien Baron, 1992)

 
 

Jeffrey Costello & Robert Tagliapietra

 
 

Several kind of suspenders had been shown in Ralph Lauren collections whether for women or for men and for children as well

Flapped Their Wings and Took Flight

Violet Romer in flapper dress (Circa between 1910 and 1915)

 

Lady Diana Cooper, circa 1916

 

Still from The Flapper (Alan Crosland, 1920)

 

Frances Marion, a journalist and author from San Francisco, wrote the screenplay which was responsible for bringing the term flapper, which had been a slang term for many years, into popular use in the United States

 

Portrait of Olive Thomas by Peruvian Illustrator Alberto Vargas. Thomas played a teenage schoolgirl who yearns for excitement outside of her small Florida town in The Flapper

 

Zelda Fitzgerald

 

“The Flapper awoke from her lethargy of sub-deb-ism, bobbed her hair, put on her choicest pair of earrings and a great deal of audacity and rouge and went into the battle. She flirted because it was fun to flirt and wore a one-piece bathing suit because she had a good figure … she was conscious that the things she did were the things she had always wanted to do. Mothers disapproved of their sons taking the Flapper to dances, to teas, to swim and most of all to heart.”

Zelda Fitzgerald

 

Anita Loos wearing a Mainbocher suit

 

Gwili Andre by Cecil Beaton

 

Louise Brooks

 

Clara Bow

 

Norma Shearer

 

Josephine Baker

 

Alice Joyce

 


Norma Talmadge

 

Teresa de la Parra

 

Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel

 

Joan Crawford

 

Virginia Woolf

 

“Flapper” was a popular term, in use mainly during the Jazz Age, describing mischievous and flirtatious women. The use of the term has its origins in the 1600s. However, by 1920, the term had taken on the full meaning of the flapper generation style and attitudes and behavior which changed several deeply planted social beliefs and norms. Flappers changed women’s sexuality, fashion, and thinking. Some of them expressed their free will displaying their sex-appeal; wearing short skirts, bobbing their hair, dancing to jazz or doing the Charleston, and for not caring about what someone would think about their loose behavior. There were other types of flappers, though: the intellectual flappers who fostered fashions of that time yet were more concerned about women’s rights (Women’s Suffrage, for instance). These women created more than a “frivolution” in the Western world.

The slang word flapper, describing a young woman, is sometimes supposed to refer to a young bird flapping its wings while learning to fly. However, it may derive from an earlier use in northern England to mean teenage girl, referring to one whose hair is not yet put up and whose plaited pigtail flapped on her back.

By November 1910, the word was popular enough for the author A. E. James to begin a series of stories in the London Magazine featuring the misadventures of a pretty fifteen-year-old girl and titled Her Majesty the Flapper.

The word appeared in print in the United Kingdom as early as 1903 and United States 1904, when novelist Desmond Coke used it in his college story of Oxford life, Sandford of Merton: “There’s a stunning flapper”. In 1907 English actor explained it to Americans as theatrical slang for acrobatic young female stage performers. By 1908, newspapers as serious as The Times used it, although with careful explanation: “A ‘flapper’, we may explain, is a young lady who has not yet been promoted to long frocks and the wearing of her hair ‘up'”.