I See Dead People

Without wanting this blog to turn into LondonLee’s Book of The Dead I should mark the passing of Mott The Hoople drummer Dale Griffin. I posted this marvelous clip many years ago but it’s one of my all-time favourite Top of The Pops performances and well worth a replay.

As we all know Glenn Frey popped his clogs too. I know we’re supposed to hate The Eagles but they did have some good moments like this one. It sounds even better when you don’t have to look at them.

See These Eyes So Red

I tried to finish off some new posts for this week but realized I’m not quite ready to let go of David Bowie just yet. He’s pretty much all I’ve been listening to and thinking about this past week and the earth still feels a little off it’s axis to me.

I don’t have much of anything in the way of Bowie rarities but this one isn’t too common on compilations and whatnot. The original version of “Cat People” produced by Giorgio Moroder in its longer, 6:40-minute form on the movie soundtrack.

Download: Cat People (Putting Out Fire) – David Bowie (mp3)

Something for the Weekend

The 1980 Floor Show was a television special Bowie recorded at the Marquee in London in 1973 for the American music show The Midnight Special. It was never shown in England and still hasn’t had an official release. Mind boggling when you see how good this is, and singing a duet of “I Got You Babe” with Marianne Faithful dressed as a nun is audacious even for him.

Now I’m all sad again.

Goodbye Spaceboy

Well, this really puts Ed Stewpot in perspective, doesn’t it?

Unlike seemingly every other kid who grew up in the 1970s I didn’t have my life changed by seeing Bowie perform “Starman” on Top of The Pops in 1972 because I was only nine years old at the time and, to be honest, I don’t actually remember seeing it. But us kids were fascinated by Bowie who was clearly far stranger than Marc Bolan or David Essex in a way we didn’t really understand yet.

I had no clue about gender-bending or performance art, I just liked the fact that he sang about astronauts and aliens — and looked like one himself — and even though I had no idea what “Life On Mars?” was about (I still don’t really) the words fired my imagination and painted some bizarre pictures in my head. I remember going to the house of a school friend whose older sister had just bought Aladdin Sane and we stared at the sleeve image as if we were sneaking an illicit peek at his Dad’s porn magazines. It was both magnetic and a little bit… pervy. Heady, thrilling stuff when you’re a kid, if a little unnerving.

I was on the right wavelength for him by my teens though. The first album of his I bought was the compilation ChangesOne in 1977 which opened the gates and in the space of about two years I’d bought all the others right up to the newest one “Heroes”.

Digging in to Bowie’s back catalogue was a thrilling adventure, you never knew what kind of experience you were going to get and it’s astonishing to think that at this point Ziggy Stardust was only five years old but he had already covered more water and changed skin more times than most artists do in a career. I saw him live at Wembley on the Serious Moonlight tour in 1983 when he was in smiling, family-entertainer mode playing hit after hit after hit — Space Oddity! Life On Mars! Young Americans! The critics were sniffy but I was in dreamland.

Being another working class kid with an artistic/creative streak myself I had other reasons to be inspired by Bowie and even identify with him a little bit. Art schools like mine were full of his children, kids from shitty towns with blue hair and far-out dreams he had shown they could make reality. The early punk scene was driven by Bowie disciples, as was post-punk, synthpop, New Pop, Goth, and every other 80s act with cheekbones and eyeliner. The million tiny seeds he planted through the 1970s flowered and bore glorious fruit.

But all the conceptual, art-school trappings in the world would mean nothing if the records were crap, then he’d just be Steve Harley or some second-rate New Romantic act. The guy knew how to write a song that hit the heart and hips as well as the head and — something which gets overlooked in all the chameleon/artist/icon talk — he was a phenomenally great singer whether it was the theatrical sneer of Ziggy or the deep croon of the Thin White Duke.

And somehow through all he achieved and experienced he seemed to stay a charming, decent, and funny man. Thank you so very much Mr. Jones, may God’s love be with you.

Download: Somebody Up There Likes Me – David Bowie (mp3)

PS: What kind of person can rally themselves to make an album as good as Blackstar when they know they’re dying? Maybe he was an alien.


Oh man, now Ed “Stewpot” Stewart has gone and died too, that’s another massive part of my childhood taken. I listened to his show Junior Choice in my bedroom nearly every weekend morning when I was a kid and he was to my early years what John Peel was to my late teens and early 20s, the one who provided a large part of its soundtrack and whose voice immediately brings the past back with all its sounds, images, and feelings.

I still know every note of the songs he played regularly like “Puff The Magic Dragon”, “Jake The Peg”, “The Laughing Policeman” and, of course, the amazing “Excerpt From A Teenage Opera” which is wrapped up with so many memories I had to unpack them on one of the earliest posts on this blog. But the thing I most associate with his show isn’t a song at all but “Sparky’s Magic Piano”, an audio story from the 1940s which he ran in installments seemingly over and over again. While I have many fond memories of this the robotic voice of that piano always creeped me out and still does.

This is the whole thing, it lasts 18 minutes but the file isn’t too big.

Download: Sparky’s Magic Piano (mp3)

Lemon Drops

The Celebrity Grim Reaper was busy in the week between Christmas and New Year, taking Lemmy, Natalie Cole, The Specials’ drummer John Bradbury and Guru Josh (not Guru Josh!) off to meet their maker. But I’m not kidding when I say the one that upset me the most personally was the death of legendary Harlem Globetrotter Meadowlark Lemon.

Basketball is a niche sport in England and when I was a kid we’d never even heard of the NBA and couldn’t name a single American team. But we knew all about The Harlem Globetrotters (who actually came from Chicago), the exhibition team who toured the world playing “matches” against opponents they always beat which were full of trick shots and clownish routines and more about entertainment than sports.

They were such a pop-culture phenomenon in the early 70s they had their own Hanna-Barbera cartoon show on television (the first one made with a primarily black cast) and made guest appearances on Scooby-Doo.

My mum took me to see them at Wembley Empire Pool (now the Arena) one year and actually seeing Lemon — the star of the team nicknamed “The Clown Prince of Basketball” — doing his famous Hook Shot and that gag with the bucket full of confetti was one of the major treats of my childhood.

But it was their cartoon show that really made them household names with my generation of English kids, and because of it Meadowlark Lemon (how could you forget that name!) became part of the pantheon of loved TV stars I watched after school. So when I heard the news about his death it felt like Hong Kong Phooey or Secret Squirrel had died. No wonder I was so upset.

Download: Harlem – Edwin Starr (mp3)

This soulful beauty by Edwin Starr was the b-side of “Headline News” in 1966.

Something for the Weekend

The sad death of the great Allen Toussaint earlier this week got me falling down a YouTube hole of records he either wrote, produced, or performed himself. Bouncing between Irma Thomas, Lee Dorsey, Dr John, The Meters, Aaron Neville, and Labelle really brought home what an extraordinary amount of great music he was responsible for. Like this joyous beauty he wrote.

Though I didn’t know the original version of this song was recorded by Frankie Miller of all people.

Holy Hormones, Batman!

I’m not entirely sure who was the very first woman I saw on TV as a boy that made my dormant hormones go Boing! and realize that girls were actually rather interesting creatures. Previously I’ve identified that first crush as possibly being Raquel Welch, or even Bobbie Gentry, but it could very well have been Yvonne Craig as Batgirl.

The Batman TV show was already catnip to a young boy anyway with its bright cartoon sensibility and KAPOW! fight scenes, then they threw this cute girl in a skintight purple outfit into the mix (they already had Julie Newmar as Catwoman, add her to the list too) and I thought it was about the greatest thing on television.

40+ years later and I have a daughter who loves watching the same show to see Batgirl beating up bad guys. Anyone with a daughter can tell you the power of strong female role models to fight against the malevolent evil that is Barbie and Disney princesses, so I’m very grateful to her Batgirl for several reasons. Craig died yesterday at the age of 78, she’ll be fondly remembered.

Download: Hero Takes A Fall – The Bangles (mp3)

What’s it all about?

The sentimental musings of an ageing expat in words, music, and pictures. Mp3 files are up for a limited time so drink them while they're hot. Contact me: lee at londonlee dot com





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