By Geoffrey Rowlands
David Byrne was once described as rock music’s renaissance man. The description is certainly apt. There is little that the 65-year-old Scottish-born, but American-raised multi-faceted artist has not achieved during a career which now spans almost half a century.
His music is more popular than ever. David’s latest album, American Utopia, has gained by far the highest chart placing of his solo career. It debuted at number three on the Billboard 200 and number 16 in Britain.
Although Talking Heads did earn places in the UK top ten with their final three albums, the band with whom David found fame never charted higher than number 15 in America. This mark was made by their 1983 album, Speaking in Tongues.
“It’s very pleasing that people seem to really appreciate my new album,” David smiled. “Some critics have said American Utopia is my first true solo album for 14 years. But there were many different musicians who made their contributions to the songs on Grown Backwards. There are not as many but still some other musicians who have performed with me on the new album.
“The difference between these two albums and the three others I’ve released during the intervening time is that Grown Backwards and American Utopia are credited solely to me. Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, Here Lies Love and Love This Giant are also credited to the artistes with whom I collaborated to create the songs.”
Considering the extent of David’s various interests, it begs the question how he finds the time to make music. He is currently combining the promotion of American Utopia with a lecture tour entitled Reasons To Be Cheerful.
“I came up with the idea about two years ago. So many world events are bad news so I thought I’d put together a collection of stories which have brought about positive changes. They are not grand schemes, just small, pragmatic innovations that genuinely work. My objective is that people should leave the lectures feeling uplifted and more optimistic about the future.”
Lecturing provides yet another string to David’s bow. He has scored numerous theatre and film productions winning the Best Original Score Oscar for his work on Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor. He created an album of classical music, 1981’s The Forest, founded record labels, initiated his own Internet radio station, written books, exhibited works of art and pursued so many more fields of activity which even included designing bicycle racks.
“Cycling is one of the things I’m really passionate about. A bicycle has been my main form of personal transport for most of my life. One of my books is Bicycle Diaries. It’s a mix of travelogue, journal and photo album which covered my cycling experiences in places such as Sydney, Manila, San Francisco and my home city of New York.
“The bike rack thing came about after the New York Department of Transportation asked me to help judge a design competition for the city’s new bike racks. I was so taken by the idea that I decided to submit my own designs.
“I knew this would disqualify me as a judge but I’d come up with the concept of appropriate designs for different areas of the city. For example, I designed a bike rack in the shape of a dollar sign for Wall Street.”
Fabricated by the art gallery through which David exhibits and sells his work, the bike racks adorned New York’s streets for about a year before they were sold at auction.
“Riding a bike used to be regarded as completely uncool. But attitudes have changed. Bikes are now cool in different ways. You can be just as cool riding an old junker as a top notch racing bike.”
He does, however, recognise that bike riding is not for everyone and is all too aware that accidents can happen.
“A few years ago, I had a spill when I skidded on the cobblestones of West 14th Street in New York. I broke a couple of ribs but didn’t get much sympathy or help from the New York police officers. One of them did at least ask if I was David Byrne.”
It seems like barely yesterday when Kylie Minogue was playing teenage car mechanic Charlene Mitchell in the Australian television soap opera, Neighbours. But the superstar singer and actress will turn 50 on May 28, just a few weeks after the release of her 14th studio album, Golden.
The original concept was for Kylie to create more of her trademark synthpop dance songs. But the end result is an album which has been significantly influenced by country music.
“Most of the recording was done in Nashville,” Kylie stated. “I co-wrote every song on the album and was privileged to work with some wonderful songwriters.
“Working in Nashville had a profound effect on me. Many of the lyrics were more authentic and story-telling than my previous songs. The inspiration was definitely country music but we brought the songs back into my world of dance-pop. The end result is a bit like Dolly Parton standing on a dance floor.”
Kylie admits working on the album helped her through the despair of her broken relationship with British actor Joshua Sasse.
“The songwriting was a bit like therapy. I was in a fragile state when I started work on the album. It was a rotten period in my life, kind of nervous breakdown time. I was a bit broken as a person.
“Making the album was a kind of saviour. In many ways, it was like a great escape from my sadness. I thought I should be honest in my songwriting, work through everything and give a snapshot of where I am in my life. It was actually very rewarding.
“Since then, it’s like I’ve shed a skin. I feel better than ever. I would like to find true love and be married one day but I realise that may never happen. I’m on my own at present, which is fantastic, so I feel like I have another chance.”
Golden is set for release on April 6. It is available in a variety of formats. Different editions feature additional items such as a jewel case, a 32-page book, an autographed white label vinyl record and a picture disc vinyl album which is housed in a cover with alternative artwork. Full details of these and all the other bundles can be found at www.kylie.com.
video for lead single, Dancing, is posted at www.youtube.com/watch?v=-BDImdAfodA. As yet, there is no official video for second single, Stop Me From Falling. However, an audio posting is at www.youtube.com/watch?v=_yiQHtBFYkg while a live performance at Le Cafe de la Danse in Paris can be seen at www.youtube.com/watch?v=dosfB6to0wQ.
With all the UK chart records which have been established in recent times, Little Mix may perhaps feel a little put out that their mark for number of weeks with an album in the top 40 has not been mentioned before now.
The record only applies to all-girl groups. But the 69 weeks and counting notched up by their fourth album, Glory Days, is unquestionably an impressive number. They have comfortably surpassed The Spice Girls, with Spice, and Eternal, with Always & Forever, who had previously been tied for top spot at 63 weeks in the top 40.
The Spice Girls do continue to hold the record for consecutive weeks among the chart elite. Their album spent all 63 weeks in the top 40.
After spending exactly a year in the top 40, Glory Days dropped down to number 46 for one week last November. It bounced straight back to number three in the following chart.
The world’s first statue of the late David Bowie was recently unveiled in the English town of Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire.
Created by sculptor Andrew Sinclair, it is a multi-faceted work of art depicting a relaxed Bowie looking at a variety of the alter egos he used during the course of his career. Entitled Earthly Messenger, speakers mounted above the piece play a Bowie song every hour between 9am and 9pm.
Located in the town’s Market Square, the statue was already attracting tourists wanting to see, and be photographed by, the lifesize artwork. But others took a different view. Within two days of the unveiling, a vandal had daubed paint on the sculpture. He also spray-painted Feed the Homeless First on the ground in front of the statue and RIP DB on the wall beside it.
His act of vandalism was captured on CCTV but police have yet to identify the culprit. Local volunteers helped in the process of cleaning up the statue and removing the graffiti.
Bowie’s link to Aylesbury is that he debuted two albums, Hunky Dory and The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars, and first performed as his Ziggy Stardust persona in concerts at the town’s Friars music venue during the early 1970s.
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