Stardust

Stardust is an American popular song composed in 1927 by Hoagy Carmichael with lyrics added in 1929 by Mitchell Parish. Carmichael first recorded the song, originally titled “Star Dust”, at the Gennett Records studio in Richmond, Indiana. It is “a song about a song about love”, and it’s played in an idiosyncratic melody in medium tempo. It became an American standard, and is one of the most recorded songs of the 20th century, with over 1,500 total recordings.

According to Carmichael, the inspiration for Stardust came to him while he was on the campus of his alma mater, Indiana University, in Bloomington, Indiana. He began whistling the tune then rushed to the Book Nook, a popular student hangout, and started composing. He worked to refine the melody over the course of the next several months, likely in Bloomington or Indianapolis (sources cite various locations, and Carmichael himself liked to embellish the facts about the song’s origins).

Isham Jones‘s recording became the first of many hit versions of the tune. Young baritone sensation Bing Crosby released a version in 1931, and by the following year, over two dozen bands had recorded Stardust. It was then covered by almost every prominent band of that era. Versions have been recorded by Artie Shaw, Billy Butterfield, Louis Armstrong, Dave Brubeck, (on the 1956 album Dave Brubeck Quartet) Tommy Dorsey, Tex Beneke with The Glenn Miller Orchestra, Frank Sinatra, Doris Day, Jan Garber, Fumio Nanri, Dizzy Gillespie, Nat King Cole (considered by many to be the best), Mel Tormé, Connie Francis, Jean Sablon, Keely Smith, Terumasa Hino, Harry Connick Jr, Hank Crawford, Ella Fitzgerald, Olavi Virta, The Peanuts, Django Reinhardt, Barry Manilow, Art Tatum, John Coltrane, Earl Grant, Willie Nelson, Billy Ward and His Dominoes, George Benson, Mina, Ken Hirai, Al Hirt, and many others.

 
 

Stardust, Jean-Michel Basquiat, 1983

 
 

Sometimes I wonder why I spend
The lonely nights dreaming of a song
The melody haunts my reverie
And I am once again with you

When our love was new
And each kiss an inspiration
Ah but that was long ago
Now my consolation is in the stardust of a song

Beside the garden wall
When stars are bright, you are in my arms
The nightingale tells his fairy tale
Of paradise where roses grew

Though I dream in vain
In my heart it will remain
My stardust melody
The memory of love’s refrain

 

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To The Rhythm of Jazz

Bebop en Cave Vieux Colombier, photo by Robert Doisneau, Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Paris, 1951.
After the Second World War, this Parisian neighborhood became the center of intellectuals and philosophers, actors and musicians. Existentialism co-existed with jazz in the cellars on the rue de Rennes.

 
 

Bebop or bop is a style of jazz characterized by a fast tempo, instrumental virtuosity, and improvisation based on the combination of harmonic structure and sometimes references to the melody. It was developed in the early and mid-1940s. This style of jazz ultimately became synonymous with modern jazz, as either category reached a certain final maturity in the 1960s.

As the Beat movement was getting underway, bebop was already going strong, especially in New York City, where 52nd Street was bustling with activity in jazz clubs up and down its length. Bebop was an innovative style of jazz which saw its heyday in the ’40s, characterized by smaller combos as opposed to big bands and a larger focus on virtuosity. Bebop’s renaissance came about in the heart of New York City, where musicians like Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, Max Roach and Miles Davis were ushering in a new era for jazz music.

Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and friends spent much of their time in New York clubs such as the Red Drum, Minton’s, the Open Door and other hangouts, shooting the breeze and digging the music. Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis rapidly became what Allen Ginsberg dubbed “Secret Heroes” to this group of aesthetes.

Why did jazz suddenly become such a driving force behind the writings of the Beat authors? What similarities can we find between jazz musicians and the Beats? Perhaps the most obvious comparison we can make is indicated by the very word “beat.”

“The word ‘beat’ was primarily in use after World War II by jazz musicians and hustlers as a slang term meaning down and out, or poor and exhausted”. Kerouac went on to twist the meaning of the term “beat” to serve his own purposes, explaining that it meant “beatitude, not beat up. You feel this. You feel it in a beat, in jazz real cool jazz”.

The Beat authors borrowed many other terms from the jazz/hipster slang of the ’40s, peppering their works with words such as “square,” “cats,” “nowhere,” and “dig.” But jazz meant much more than just a vocabulary to the Beat writers. To them, jazz was a way of life, a completely different way to approach the creative process. In his book Venice West, John Arthur Maynard writes:

 

Jazz served as the ultimate point of reference, even though, or perhaps even because, few among them played it. From it they adopted the mythos of the brooding, tortured, solitary artist, performing with others but always alone. They talked the talk of jazz, built communal rites around using the jazzman’s drugs, and worshipped the dead jazz musicians most fervently. The musician whose music was fatal represented pure spontaneity.

 

Thus, without the Beats, the jazz movement would probably have rolled right along. But, as we have seen, the Beat movement relied heavily upon the genius of great such as Charlie Parker and Miles Davis for the inspiration that produced such valuable works like Kerouac’s On the Road and Ginsberg’s Howl. How fortunate that the two movements coincided at just the right time.

The Last Massive Hit of the Disco Genre

Artwork by Scott Jones

 
 

Mouth to Mouth is the debut album by disco act Lipps Inc with Cynthia Johnson on lead vocals. Lipps Inc was formed in Minneapolis, Minnesota and was most known for the Double-Platinum-selling 1980 chart-topping hit Funkytown, which hit #1 in 28 different countries around the world. It consisted of a changing lineup of session musicians, including guitarist David Rivkin, guitarist Tom Riopelle and bassist Terry Grant. Steven Greenberg, the creator of the act, wrote and produced most of the group’s music.Lipps Inc.’s first release was a 1979 single, Rock It, on Greenberg’s own Flight imprint.

Funkytown, the second single from Mouth to Mouth, is often considered to be one of the last massive hits of the disco genre. This single held a unique record for reaching number one in 28 countries, more than any other single release until Madonna‘s Hung Up hit number one in 41 countries in 2005. Hung Up prominently features a sample of pop group ABBA‘s hit single Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight), for which Madonna personally sought permission from ABBA songwriters Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus.

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Perfectly Satisfactory

Hunky Dory gave me a fabulous groundswell. I guess it provided me, for the first time in my life, with an actual audience – I mean, people actually coming up to me and saying, ‘Good album, good songs.’ That hadn’t happened to me before. It was like, ‘Ah, I’m getting it, I’m finding my feet. I’m starting to communicate what I want to do. Now: what is it I want to do?’ There was always a double whammy there.”

David Bowie

 
 

Hunky Dory is the fourth album by English singer-songwriter David Bowie, released by RCA Records in 1971. It was his first release through RCA, which would be his label for the next decade. Hunky Dory has been described by Allmusic’s Stephen Thomas Erlewine as having “a kaleidoscopic array of pop styles, tied together only by Bowie’s sense of vision: a sweeping, cinematic mélange of high and low art, ambiguous sexuality, kitsch, and class.” The slang hunky dory (of uncertain origin), would mean perfectly satisfactory, about as well as one could wish or expect; fine

 
 

The style of the album cover was influenced by a Marlene Dietrich photo book that Bowie brought with him to the photo session, which was taken by Brian Ward. Terry Pastor achieved the silk-screen printing appearance in the manner of Andy Warhol, using an airbrush. However,  the album’s sleeve would bear the credit “Produced by Ken Scott (assisted by the actor)”. The “actor” was Bowie himself, whose “pet conceit”, in the words of NME critics Roy Carr and Charles Shaar Murray, was “to think of himself as an actor”. George Underwood was also involved in the creative process of the album cover design.

 
 

The opening track, Changes, focused on the compulsive nature of artistic reinvention (“Strange fascination, fascinating me/Changes are taking the pace I’m going through”) and distancing oneself from the rock mainstream (“Look out, you rock ‘n’ rollers”). However, the composer also took time to pay tribute to his influences with the tracks Song for Bob Dylan, Andy Warhol and the Velvet Underground inspired Queen Bitch.

Following the hard rock of Bowie’s previous album The Man Who Sold the World, Hunky Dory saw the partial return of the fey pop singer of Space Oddity, with light fare such as Kooks (dedicated to his young son, known to the world as Zowie Bowie but legally named Duncan Zowie Haywood Jones) and the cover “Fill Your Heart” sitting alongside heavier material like the occult-tinged Quicksand and the semi-autobiographical The Bewlay Brothers. Between the two extremes was Oh! You Pretty Things, whose pop tune hid lyrics, inspired by Friedrich Nietzsche, predicting the imminent replacement of modern man by “the Homo Superior”, and which has been cited as a direct precursor to Starman from Bowie’s next album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.

Looks Like a Scream

“Like to take a cement fix
Be a standing cinema
Dress my friends up
just for show
See them as they really are
Put a peephole in my brain
Two New Pence to have a go
I’d like to be a gallery
Put you all inside my show

Andy Warhol looks a scream
Hang him on my wall
Andy Warhol, Silver Screen
Can’t tell them apart at all

Andy walking, Andy tired
Andy take a little snooze
Tie him up when he’s fast asleep
Send him on a pleasant cruise
When he wakes up on the sea
Be sure to think of me and you
He’ll think about paint
and he’ll think about glue
What a jolly boring thing to do”

 
 

David Bowie as Andy Warhol. Promotional picture for Basquiat (Julian Schnabel, 1996)

 
 

Andy Warhol is a song written by David Bowie in 1971 for the album Hunky Dory. This is an acoustic song about one of Bowie’s greatest inspirations, the American pop artist Andy Warhol. The song starts with some studio chat where Bowie explains to producer Ken Scott, who has just been heard to mispronounce Warhol’s name when introducing the take, the right way to say it. Scott solemnly reintroduces the take with the correct pronunciation. There follows several seconds of silence before Bowie asks if the tape is rolling. Upon realizing they are indeed recording, Bowie bursts into laughter and begins playing. The song is memorable for its distinctive, flamenco-sounding opening riff on the acoustic guitar that continues through the song.

Bowie later played the song to Andy Warhol, who reportedly disliked it as he thought the lyrics made fun of his physical appearance. When the song had finished playing, Warhol and Bowie reportedly just stared at each other for a while until Warhol said “I like your shoes” and the pair then had a conversation about shoes.

 
 

David Bowie and Dana Gillespie. Photo: Brian Ward

 
 

Originally the song was written for Dana Gillespie in 1971, but her version of the song was not released until 1973 on her album Weren’t Born a Man. This version features Mick Ronson on guitar.

Child Is The Father Of The Man

“Human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but … life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.”

Gabriel García Márquez

 
 

Popeye and Friends (1911),  Photograph by Lewis Wickes Hine

 
 

Kate Moss with children. Photos by Bruce Weber

 
 

Drew Barrymore as scout by Mark Seliger

 
 

French kids imitate Dizzy Gillespie’s cheeks in Nice (France) by Milt Hinton, 1981

 
 

Bob Dylan and kids,  Liverpool, England, 1966. Barry Feinstein

 
 

Donovan. Photo credit: Chris Walter, circa 1965

 
 

Frank Zappa and Mothers of Invention. Art Kane, circa 1968

 
 

For this Life magazine session, Art Kane wanted to portray the musical group as a family and took the idea of mothers — and their babies — as a theme.  He gathered some of the musicians’ infants, then booked about thirty more from a modeling agency.  As soon as they began to shoot, one of the babies urinated, which inspired the others to do so as well, creating in Kane’s words, “the fountains of Rome.”

 
 

Brotherhood, Art Kane

 
 

Norman Rockwell at Oak Mountain School (Georgia)