Caterpillar Changes

It was a poster for Caterpillar Changes. Printed in red on yellow paper. Typographically designed in the shape of a butterfly with psychedelic-style lettering

 
 

Barbara Rubin (1945-1980) was a filmmaker who was highly active in the New York avant-garde cinema scene in the early to mid 1960s. Her 1963 film Christmas on Earth has become a cult classic and important document. She was heavily involved with Jonas Mekas and his Filmmakers’ Cooperative and was a key figure in counter-cultural circles: she introduced The Velvet Underground to Andy Warhol and Bob Dylan to Allen Ginsberg.

 
 

Gordon Balls’ intimate recollection of a fascinating time in American history allows a vicarious experience for those unwilling or unable (due to age) to participate.

 
 

In 1967 Rubin mounted a two-week multimedia production entitled Caterpillar Changes, one of the first showings of films in a fragmented installation setting. In his memoir ’66 Frames Gordon Ball discusses the production and the poster they created: “among filmmakers lending their work were Harry Smith, Andy Warhol, Jonas Mekas, D.A. Pennebaker, Jack Smith, John Cavanaugh, Stan Vanderbeek, Robert Breer, and Bobbie Neuwirth; among the musicians scheduled to perform were Gato Barbieri, the Free Spirits, Angus MacLise, and the Velvet Underground.

Cracked Actor Meditating Upon a Skull

David Bowie snarling and holding a skull with a rose between its teeth

 
 

Photo by Michael Tweed

 
 

David Bowie sings in concert during his Serious Moonlight Tour in 1983. The skull is a reference to the “Alas, poor Yorick” scene of Hamlet. Photo by Neal Preston

 
 

Cracked Actor is a song written by David Bowie, originally released on the album Aladdin Sane in April 1973.

One of the album’s hard rockers, the song is about an aging Hollywood star in an encounter with a prostitute, the chorus including various allusions to sex and drugs:

“Crack, baby, crack, show me you’re real
Smack, baby, smack, is that all that you feel
Suck, baby, suck, give me your head
Before you start professing that you’re knocking me dead…”

Rolling Stone suggested that Bowie’s goal was “to strip the subject of his validity, as he has done with the rocker, as a step towards a re-definition of these roles and his own inhabiting of them”. However NME writers Roy Carr and Charles Shaar Murray considered that the song “reveals little else except that Bowie’s capabilities with a mouth-harp are decidedly limited”.

Cracked Actor became a centerpiece of Bowie’s 1974 North American tour when he would perform the song wearing sunglasses and holding a skull (à la Hamlet), which he would then proceed to French kiss.

 
 

 
 

The track also gave its name to Alan Yentob‘s documentary of the tour. In 1983 Bowie revived the song and the sunglasses-and-skull routine for his Serious Moonlight Tour. The documentary depicts Bowie on tour in Los Angeles, using a mixture of documentary sequences filmed in limousines and hotels, and concert footage. Most of the concert footage was taken from a show at the Los Angeles Universal Amphitheatre on 2 September 1974. There were also excerpts from D.A. Pennebaker‘s concert film Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, which had been shot at London’s Hammersmith Odeon on 3 July 1973, as well as a few other performances from the tour. Cracked Actor is notable for being a source for footage of Bowie’s ambitious Diamond Dogs Tour. The title of the documentary was originally to be The Collector, after a comment that Bowie had made to interviewer Russell Harty the previous year, whereby he described himself as “a collector of accents”.

 
 

The documentary can be seen in The Genealogy of Style’s Facebook page

Bowie’s Last Supper

Following the “Retirement Gig” on 3 July 1973, Bowie and a handful of friends held a small post-concert party at the Inn On the Park.

The next evening (4th July 1973) Bowie’s retirement party (now known as “The Last Supper”) was held at one of London’s most expensive restaurants – the Café Royal in Regent Street, following frantic last minute calls from MainMan inviting guests to the impromptu party. Word soon spread and large crowds gathered in the streets to watch the celebrities (usually arriving in Rolls Royce’s and Bentley’s) enter the restaurant.

The guest list of those who attended was a virtual Who’s Who of top music and film celebrities in London at the time and included: Paul McCartney and his wife Linda, Keith Moon, Lulu, Tony Curtis, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, The Goodies, Cat Stevens, Ringo and Maureen Starr, Mick and Bianca Jagger, Jeff Beck, Lou Reed, Barbra Streisand (she was in London to film a TV special), Ryan O’Neil, Sonny Bono, Elliot Gould, Britt Ekland, Spike Milligan, Hywel Bennet, D.A. Pennebaker and Dr John who supplied the live music for the evening.

The gathering was also a great opportunity for Bowie to celebrate his fame and new friendships with fellow musical heavyweights such as Mick Jagger. But according to biographer Jerry Hopkins (1985) Bowie had reason to be anxious about Mick Jagger’s attendance. Reportedly Jagger had threatened Bowie because he believed that Bowie had put the “make” on his wife Bianca earlier that week. Hopkins even reports that Bowie had wanted to cancel the show because of Jagger’s threats. However, all was made up at the party and Bowie danced with Jagger and briefly kissed both Jagger and Lou Reed when asked to by Mick Rock who was photographing the event.

 
 

Photos by Mick Rock

 
 

“This was at the Cafe Royal in London after the final Ziggy gig at Hammersmith. Lou Reed and Mick Jagger, who’s behind us, came down. I’m not actually kissing him. If you study it, I’m talking into his ear and he’s talking into mine. I’m quite a way over. But it was near enough to a kiss for the press and they all printed it. We were supposed to have been kissing at that time anyway so there was the evidence. No, I think Lou Reed is the last person in the world I’d want to kiss.” – David Bowie (1993)

Not to be outdone Angie Bowie and Bianca Jagger were also seen dancing and embracing that night.

“The Cafe Royal party the next night was a great success, with David at the very top of his form; he was pure charm and gentle friendliness, open and happy and gay. And I must say, I had a wonderful time too. The mood was light, the glitter dazzling, the night bright and beautiful with stars and success and serendipity”. – Angie Bowie (1993)

 
 

Bowie’s Last Supper as illustrated by Mike Allred (Red Rocket 7 issue 4, November 1997)

Tales of Doom and Gloom

 
 

The video was strategically released when some people were afraid of Mayan prophecies about the world ending. The opening shots of the video images of an Atomic explosion, images of war, and critics to the wrong side of consumerism like a “hellfire and brimstone” preacher would do in front of subdued churchgoers is nothing, if not perfectly timed.

 
 

Noomi_Rapace_1624164a

 
 

The Rolling Stones Doom and Gloom video was conceptualized by costume designer and fashion stylist Susie Coulthard, who from 1994 to 2001 designed and built costumes for London’s acclaimed Hull Truck Theater. Among the more notorious plays she designed were Tennessee WilliamsGlass Menagerie; William Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Romeo & Juliet; Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. All of this was accomplished while she studied for her degree in fashion and as she opened her first shop, which she had done by the time she graduated (with honors). She also designed contemporary and period dramas for the BBC. Coulthard supports what is referred to as “ethical fashion” and her editorials have been published in glossies like Wallpaper*, Tatler and 125.
 
Her design roster includes work with visionary musicians such as Mark Ronson, Dame Shirley Bassie, Kaiser Chiefs, Siouxie Sioux and The Kooks, just to name a few. She has been nominated twice at the UK Music Video Awards, winning Best Stylist for Cops and Robbers performed by The Hoosiers. She has also performed art direction for The Libertines.
 
Make-up artist Darren Evans assisted Coulthard in capturing all the unique looks that Swedish actress Noomi Rapace rocks throughout the visually stunning video  . Rapace is best known for playing the angry heroine, Lisbeth Salander, from the Millenium film series, (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; The Girl Who Played with Fire; The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest).

 
 

 
 

Listening to Mick Jagger singing lyrics railing against capitalism is certainly ironic. A protest song doesn’t ring true coming from Sir Mick’s mouth but we appreciate his good intentions and are reminded of Salvador Dali’s statement “…Picasso is a communist, neither am I”.

 
 

 
 

D.A. Pennebacker titled his documentary, which featured Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg as special guests, “Dont Look back.” It may be the best advice for curing any homesick feelings. On the other hand, it’s hard for a rebel – no matter what age they are- to take any advice into consideration.

 
 

 
 

We should remember, Doom and Gloom is almost at the end of the track list of a compilation album and as such it offers us a perspective of the RS’ lifetime. There are resemblances to the friends who collaborated with them, by instance, Andy Warhol (Have you noticed the t-shirt wore by Noomi?) and moments made famous or successful by the Stones. The opening riff of Doom and Gloom has a taste of Brown Sugar with a twist of Jumpin’ Jack Flash, (a song which was the departure of Beggar Banquet’s concept), although finally wasn’t chosen for the album. Visually we can feel a likeness to the artwork from that classic Stones’ album.

 
 

rain fall down

 
 

In 2005, Swedish Jonas Åkerlund directed the first music video for the Stones’, Rain Fall Down; a single from A Bigger Band. Darkness, filth, pessimism, diluvium and graphic content related to war or sex… those are his remarkable hallmarks. Come Undone (2003) by Robbie Williams; Ray of Light (1998) and American Life (2003) by Madonna; Try, Try Try (2000) by The Smashing Pumpkins; et al. Mick Jagger himself was featured as an actor in the dystopian Sci-Fi movie, Freejack (Geoff Murphy, 1992).