Absolute Bowieginners: Basquiat - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

Home Top Ad

Post Top Ad

Absolute Bowieginners: Basquiat

Christopher Morley peel's slowly...
As we gear up to saying Merry Christmas, Mr Bowie, time first to take a look at the gift he kept on giving to Andy Warhol - the man he portrayed in Basquiat as well as earlier having paid tribute in song on Hunky Dory.

The 1996 film is based on the life of American postmodernist/neo expressionist artist Jean-Michel Basquiat who used his graffiti roots as a foundation to create collage-style paintings on canvas and worked his way up the rungs of the New York art world in the eighties, thanks in part to his association with Andy Warhol.

Bowie had first been a fan, supporter and then friend of Warhol's, who between the late 1960s to his passing in 1987 was a leading figure in the visual art movement known as pop art. David was also one of the earliest English fans of the Velvet Underground, the Lou Reed-led art rock group who enjoyed Warhol’s patronage as a sort of manager & mentor figure. Though Warhol’s credited as producer of their debut album The Velvet Underground & Nico, he actually did little beyond supplying the cash for its recording sessions according to some accounts. But Reed himself begged to differ……
“He just made it possible for us to be ourselves and go right ahead with it because he was Andy Warhol. In a sense, he really did produce it, because he was this umbrella that absorbed all the attacks when we weren't large enough to be attacked... and as a consequence of him being the producer, we'd just walk in and set up and do what we always did and no one would stop it because Andy was the producer.

Of course, he didn't know anything about record production—but he didn't have to. He just sat there and said "Oooh, that's fantastic," and the engineer would say, "Oh yeah! Right! It is fantastic, isn't it?”
Warhol did at least paint the famous banana on the front cover, early prints inviting the listener to peel it back slowly & see what was underneath - a further pink banana! This instruction would later become the title of a box set of their best work done between 1965-69, the early part of which period was spent as the house band for Andy’s Factory clique & Exploding Plastic Inevitable multimedia project.

Bowie is widely supposed to have heard their first record after his then-manager Ken Pitt was given a copy by Warhol himself following a lunch meeting in 1966, quickly working I’m Waiting For The Man into his live set. Bowie was almost certainly the first English artist to cover the Velvets, and toyed with the idea of recording a studio version around the time he was finishing off his own first album in 1967.

Onwards to 1972. By now Bowie, like Warhol before him, is using his own fame as a platform to promote the bands & artists he loves but who aren’t enjoying his level of success. Among them is Lou Reed, whose first solo album has proved something of a flop after recording in London with Steve Howe & Rick Wakeman of Yes on board as session musicians.

Later the same year, Reed moved from Morgan Studios in Willesden to Trident, with Bowie & Spiders From Mars guitarist Mick Ronson in tow to start work on Transformer. Starting simple, as Loudersound noted, David encouraged Reed to...
“...reveal tales and mysteries from his Factory years, to talk about the characters, the bathos and drama. He was eager to hear about underground New York – an impossibly glamorous notion to early-70s Brits.”
Perhaps the best-known of these tales is what became Walk On The Wild Side. Again egged on by his producer, he fleshed out the stories of the people he’d been fascinated by during his time as part of Warhol’s inner circle - Candy Darling, Joe “Little Joe” Dallesandro & Joseph “Sugar Plum Fairy” Campbell.

Reed was full of praise for Ronson’s work as an arranger,
“Mick Ronson’s arrangements were killer. The thing about Ronno was that I could never understand a word that he said; it’s, like, he’s from Hull. You had to ask him eight times to say something, and he was like, ‘Ouzibuzziwoozy…’ Absolutely incomprehensible… I mean, sweet guy, but incomprehensible. Completely.

But listen to that arrangement of Perfect Day. That’s Ronson. But David is no slouch. We were rehearsing for our little show, and we’re doing Satellite Of Love and we were doing the real background part at the end, and the guys were really admiring David and going, “Holy shit, what a part that is.” He outdid himself.”

From a homage to Warhol's inner-circle and, in a sense, stepping into Andy's shoes by producing one of the artists early proteges, David would eventually go a step further and portray Andy himself...

Bowie was able to borrow Warhol's actual wig, glasses and jacket from the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh for his portrayal in Basquiat, something that went a long way to help his authenticity and in doing so impressed many of Andy's long-time collaborators. Comparing Bowie's portrayal of Warhol to others who'd played him on film prior, Paul Morrissey (who directed many films that Warhol produced) said
"Bowie was the best by far. You come away from Basquiat thinking Andy was comical and amusing, not a pretentious, phony piece of shit, which is how others show him."
He also noted that...
"Bowie at least knew Andy. They went to the same parties."
And writer Bob Colacello, who edited Warhol's Interview magazine in the 70's and early 80's, said
"[Crispin] Glover walked the most like Andy, [Jared] Harris talked the most like Andy, and Bowie looked the most like Andy.

When I first saw Bowie on the set, it was like Andy had been resurrected."
Surely, there could be no finer tribute than that to either ,man?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Post Top Ad