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New Podcast Series! ‘Off The Record: David Bowie’

February 6th, 2021 | by admin
New Podcast Series! ‘Off The Record: David Bowie’

Jordan Runtagh from iHeart Radio in New York has been in touch to tell us about a new series of podcasts he’s producing, ‘Off The Record: David Bowie’.

He’s spent the last 9 months researching and writing the production (which he also hosts). 12 hour-long scripted episodes that each explore a different “persona” or facet of Bowie’s personality. In addition, each week he’ll publish a bonus episode featuring interviews with real life figures from that week’s episode: George Underwood, Phillip Lancaster, Dana Gillespie, Mary Finnigan, Carlos Alomar, Ken Scott, and many more!

You can listen to the episodes below, i’ll add the new episodes as they are released. Enjoy.

Episode 1: David Jones (1947-1962)

Who is David Bowie? To answer that question, you’ll have to meet little David Jones, the shy boy growing up in grey, postwar Britain. Grappling with a troubled home life, young David becomes transfixed by science fiction and rock ‘n’ roll. A painful family secret spurs him to reject his drab suburban life in favor of beat poetry and free jazz. The vibrant, rebellious artistry inspires him to try his hand at making music of his own. On the series premiere of ‘Off the Record,’ we’ll explore the confluence of influences that formed David’s unique creative vision, and instilled in him the drive to conquer the rock world — and remake it in his own image.



Bonus Episode: Bowie’s Best Friend George Underwood Recalls Their Childhood, Early Bands and That Famous Punch


Each chapter of ‘Off the Record’ will be followed by a bonus episode featuring interviews with real life figures from that week’s installment. To kick things off, Jordan spoke to George Underwood, the renowned visual artist and David’s childhood best friend. David and George were inseparable throughout their youth. These guys went to school together, played their first concerts together, saw Little Richard live and in person together, and chatted up girls together. This last factor would cause a bit of a problem, sparking their one and only fight. The teenage tussle resulted in David’s distinctive eye injury, but their friendship endured. In fact, David would later thank George for his trademark feature! George got David into his first band, the Konrads, and they also played together in a mid-’60s R&B combo called the King Bees. He later accompanied David on his first American tour and helped design some of his most iconic album covers. They remained close for the rest of David’s life.



Episode 2: The London Boy (1962-1966)


At the peak of the Swinging Sixties, young David Jones remained on the fringe of the London music scene, watching bands like the Beatles, the Stones, the Who and the Kinks have all the fun. In just a few short years, the teenager fronted a lengthy list of short-lived groups, all destined to vanish without a trace. His first recordings flopped, and he faced ridicule and humiliation at nearly every turn. It was the most frustrating time in his life as he navigated the sharks and hucksters keen to rip off young hopefuls. To blow off steam, he partied all night with the sharp-dressed, pilled-up, sexually adventurous Mod kids. But trailing the pack of pop stars ultimately had an advantage. It allowed David to study them intently, reverse engineering the image and affectations that came to them naturally. By trying out different voices, he’d ultimately find his own. He’d also adopt a new name — Bowie.



Episode 3: Major Tom (1966-1969)


Frustrated by his stalled pop career and emboldened by the creative daring of the psychedelic era, David Bowie begins to embrace more experimental art forms. Mime, movement, avant garde theater and film acting all serve as fascinating artistic detours, and he expands his mind with Tibetan Buddhism. But his first heartbreak makes him feel more alone and adrift than ever, inspiring a song about an astronaut drifting into the black abyss of space. Fusing science fiction with his innermost feelings, “Space Oddity” became his breakthrough hit. But one of David’s biggest supporters — his father — wouldn’t be there to share in the triumph.



Bonus Episode: Phil Lancaster Recalls the Pranks, Girls, and Backstage Drama of Bowie’s Early Band, the Lower Third.

Our latest chapter focused on teenage David Bowie as he struggled for fame in the mid ’60s. It was a frustrating period for the wannabe rockstar — a time of high hopes and repeated failures as he fronted a string of short-lived bands that followed in the wake of the Beatles and the Stones. David leapfrogged from group to group, hoping he’d find the right one to catapult him to success, but none ever made an impact on the charts. The strongest of Bowie’s early bands was a group called the Lower Third. Though they were together for less than a year, they released the best of David’s early songs. During his time in the group, David experimented with their setlist, stage presentation, and even makeup. There was also a more important metamorphosis — it was while fronting the Lower Third that David changed his surname from Jones to Bowie. Jordan speaks to Phil Lancaster, David’s bandmate and author of the book ‘From the Birth of Bowie.’ From his vantage point on the Lower Third’s drum kit, he watched a legend taking shape.



Bonus Episode: Dana Gillespie Remembers Her Teenage Romance with Bowie and Life as a Swinging Sixties ‘It Girl’

Our latest chapter followed young David Bowie as he struggled to find his place in the Mod music scene of swinging sixties London. It was an exciting yet frustrating time for him as he fronted a lengthy list of doomed R&B bands — so close, yet so far from headliners like the Beatles, the Who and the Rolling Stones. Jordan spoke to one of David’s closest friends during that crucial learning period — Dana Gillespie, the legendary British blues singer whose career spans more than 70 albums. Her new memoir, Weren’t Born A Man, is a fascinating look at her astonishing life at the center of the entertainment scene in the ’60s and ’70s. It’s filled with tales of wild times with Bob Dylan, Elton John, Jimmy Page, Michael Caine, Sean Connery, and so many more. But back in 1964, Dana was just another teenage music hopeful. Just like David. They shared songs, laughter, beds (on occasion), and unforgettable memories of a time when they were just starting out and the Fab Four ruled the land.



Bonus Episode: Mary Finnigan Reflects on Life as Bowie’s Lover, Landlady and Arts Lab Co-Founder in the ‘Psychedelic Suburbia’ of 1969

Our latest chapter followed David Bowie in the late ’60s — a thrilling, colorful time when his creativity soared to new heights. After half a decade of near constant rejection from the mainstream music industry, David had started to rebel. Instead of chasing pop hits, he embraced the avant garde arts scene that was beginning to blossom in London. A key figure in David’s life was Mary Finnigan, his friend, lover and (somewhat unusually) his landlady. A journalist by day, Mary was deeply involved with the London underground scene, a vibrant community of artists and activists looking to shake the populace out of their spiritual complacency. Together, she and David formed a folk club at a local pub called the Three Tuns. Later known as the Beckenham Arts Lab, the venue became a crucial incubator for Bowie, giving him a supportive and enriching environment to find his musical voice. The songs that he wrote in this period would find their way onto breakthrough albums like Space Oddity, The Man Who Sold the World, and Hunky Dory. Mary recorded her electrifying period with Bowie in a 2016 memoir, Psychedelic Suburbia. She speaks to Jordan about Bowie the lodger, Bowie the Buddhist, Bowie the boyfriend — and much more.



Chapter Four: Pretty Thing (1969–1971)

At the dawn of the decade he’d grow to dominate, David Bowie found himself in low spirits. His first taste of fame with “Space Oddity” was not so sweet, and he seemed in danger of becoming that most sorry of acts: a one hit wonder. As his music career floundered, he grew closer to Angie Barnett, his girlfriend and creative co-conspirator. Their marriage in 1970 was one of the wilder rock unions, characterized by mutual ambition and sexual exploration. At Angie’s encouragement, David began to experiment with gender roles, shocking the public with his feminine appearance, makeup and “man dresses.” It was a time of constant transition for Bowie as the ’60s became the ’70s. In just two years he’d bury his father and become one himself. Musically, he’d morph from a sci-fi loving space hippie and into the androgynous Godfather of Glam. He established his singular songwriting style with 1971’s irrepressibly tuneful Hunky Dory, which contained his personal anthem of the era: “Changes” — changes in looks, sounds, homes, management, and partnerships. But the most transformative experience would be his first visit to the United States. The trip opened up a whole new realm of ideas, leading to David’s greatest artistic breakthrough.


Chapter Five: Ziggy Stardust (1971-1972)

At last, a starman is born. The arrival of Ziggy Stardust brought David Bowie the fame he’d been working towards for nearly a decade. Fusing innovative fashion, avant-garde theatrical flair, far out sci-fi and killer song craft, he transformed rock ‘n’ roll into concept art. But he didn’t do it alone. The latest installment explores the genesis of Bowie’s most iconic creation, with influences ranging from Warholian speed freaks to teen idol burnouts to ’50s pulp TV shows and a cult American country act. Once Ziggy arrived, Bowie’s life was changed forever. So were millions of others. Find out how the album ‘The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars’ touched every aspect of popular culture, including music, film, fashion, social and sexual mores, and the very nature of fame itself. Note: This episode should be played at maximum volume.

Bonus Episode: Michael Oberman Recalls Hosting David Bowie on His First Night in America in 1971

The latest chapter of ‘Off the Record’ opens with David Bowie’s first trip to the United States in January of 1971. The arrival was a triumph for David — until he was detained by customs officials for his feminine clothes. He received a warmer welcome Ron Oberman, his press agent set to greet him by his label, Mercury Records. Ron was joined by his entire family — his mom, his dad, and his younger brother, music journalist Michael Oberman. The Oberman’s welcomed the young, unknown singer into their family, sharing their suburban home and taking him out for a meal at a local steakhouse.

David’s first night in the States has gone down in Bowie legend as an important early step in his journey to global superstardom. The trip is the plot of a new film, Stardust, a movie that has been deemed controversial for its liberal reinterpretation of historical events. Ron Oberman, an instrumental force in Bowie’s early career, died in 2019. But his brother Michael recounted the famous visit in his new book, Fast Forward, Play and Rewind. A memoir of sorts, the book also collects Michael’s interviews with over a hundred rock legends ranging from Janis Joplin and James Brown to the Doors, Jefferson Airplane, Leon Russell, Emitt Rhodes, Little Feat — and of course David.

Jordan spoke with Michael about his remarkable career as a music journalist, and that special night with David Bowie in his parents living room back in 1971.

Bonus Episode: Warhol Superstar Cherry Vanilla Opens Up About Her Friendship with David Bowie and Helping Launch Ziggy Stardust

Ziggy Stardust wouldn’t have been the same without the help of David Bowie’s new friends from the cast of Andy Warhol’s play, ‘Pork.’ The groundbreaking avant garde theatrical production shocked audiences by taking aim at pretty much every social taboo you could imagine — and maybe a few you can’t. David loved it, but he loved the cast even more. He was entranced by their bold style, an unmissable blend of gritty New York street and gaudy old Hollywood glamor. They, in turn, appreciated David’s own brand of artistic fearlessness. In short, they were kindred spirts.

The ‘Pork’ crowd would have a marked effect on David’s life and career, changing his relationship to performance and inspiring him to new creative heights. They also had a hand in launching him into the pop stratosphere. David’s manager, Tony Defries, tapped the Warholites to head up the New York office of his management company, MainMan. Though few had any actual business experience, they made it work.

In the latest bonus episode of ‘Off the Record,’ Jordan spoke to genuine Warhol superstar and alternative arts scene legend, Ms. Cherry Vanilla. After starring in the London production of ‘Pork,’ she was hired to work at MainMan as Bowie’s public relations manager. Unlike most of her Warhol compatriots, she actually had a substantial professional background, having worked in the real-life ‘Mad Men’ world of advertising in the mid-’60s. The experience would come in handy when hyping David to the world. It was she who crafted some of the enduring myths and tall tales that surround his legend to this day. For a glorious stretch in the early ’70s, she and David were friends, lovers and artistic comrades.

Check back regularly for new episodes.

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