Here is a Q and A I did with a true legend, the Roxy Music cover model, singer and icon AMANDA LEAR. In a sample from my book, ASPECTS OF SALVADOR DALI, I ask Lear all about her time with the legendary Spanish artist.
Singer, model and actress Amanda Lear was close to Salvador Dali for nearly twenty years. The cover model for Roxy Music and one time lover of David Bowie, Lear has been there and done it all, including being the muse of one of the greatest artists of all time during his later years. I was lucky enough to ask her some questions about Dali, and here she discusses her experiences with him, both Dali the superstar and the man he really was, away from the flash bulbs and spotlight.
I find it interesting that you didn't like the public Dali persona. You'd been around famous people before, so were aware of both public and private aspects of a personality. But in what ways did Dali differ in private?
I never liked Dali as a public figure. He was such a show off, always bragging that he was the best and that all the others painters were rubbish. Since I liked Picasso, I never got into Dali's work, I found it scary and weird.
The first meeting you had with him must have been amazing. Did Dali express instant fondness for you and see how you were to inspire his work?
Our first meeting was a disaster. I told him that I was studying art and that I wanted to be a painter. He told me that women had no talent and that they only could paint bouquets of flowers or crying babies, wishy washy art., real artistic creativity was a male thing, coming directly from the testicles. No balls no art. Then he said that I had the most beautiful skull he ever saw and that he liked my skeleton. I hated him, found him ridiculous and swore never to speak to him again. All this in front of a circle of admirers, parasites who adored him and applauded at his declarations. That was the public Dali. The next day he asked me to lunch and I discovered the private Dali, adorable, witty, educated and magical. And I fell for him. For 16 or so years I was with him and was never once bored or annoyed. He was so funny and inventive.
People describe the energy he had when painting. Is it possible to describe how he acted when painting, how he moved and expressed himself?
Posing for him was fun, he spoke all the time. Made great gestures, explaining what he was doing and being highly satisfied with himself as if he was creating a masterpiece. But mostly he was hurrying up to finish his drawing, throwing ink all over the place, more "action" painting than really caring. I did not like that. I was only impressed when he was carefully working on an oil painting on canvas. Then he was slow, precise, careful not to spoil his work by being too fast to complete it. There was only the two of us then, I was watching him paint and sometimes reading to him some pages of Proust. He was very patient, totally different from the show he put on when he had an audience.
You got to know him very well. How true was the theory that he invented the public Dali to combat the ghost of his deceased brother?
Of course he explained that his paranoia came from his childhood when he discovered that his dead brother was also named Salvador and he was never sure if his parents spoke of him, alive, or of his dead brother... Many psychiatrists were visiting him to study this famous paranoia. But Dali was far from crazy and he just enjoyed fooling them.
I imagine everywhere in the world Dali was famous and gathered a crowd.
Everywhere we went there was a crowd and photographers, journalists, and Dali loved it while I was sulking and hated the whole circus. I was only happy when we were alone.
How do you view the relationship between him and Gala? He obviously worshiped her, but do you believe she loved him the same back?
His wife Gala became my close friend, a sort of grandmother. She was very kind to me. Everybody hated her because she was trying to control the situation; she was tough in business, hard to deal with. She managed Dali business contracts, was greedy for dollars and frightened the entourage. But she liked me, she realised that Dali needed me for inspiration and my presence gave her the possibility to be finally "free". She could travel, go to the theatre with some friend and let Dali show off with me on his arm.
Were you saddened when he started to become ill and frail? The public Dali was no longer a possibility at that stage but the man you knew so well must have been there inside...
The end was pathetic. Gala died and Dali fell into depression. He had Parkinson's, could not hold a pencil or paint anymore. Surrounded by vultures who pretended to protect him and cut him away from his real friends. He told me he wanted to be buried near his father in Cadaques, then with Gala in Pubol. Finally they buried him in his museum in Figueres and visitors walk on top of his grave. It's revolting.
Do you remember where you were when he died, when you heard the news?
I was working in Italy when he died. Of course all the media wanted to interview me. I was the only person left who could react and talk about him. They flew me to Philadelphia for his retrospective, a beautiful show of his work. I felt like his widow.
Do you think a film will ever surface of you and Dali's relationship?
I sold the rights to my story to a Canadian film company, they are actually finishing the script (which I must approve) and we'll start the casting. Nobody can portray Dali. Perhaps Adrian Brody... we'll see.
I see Dali's influence everywhere today, and you must too. Do you think his influence is growing over time more and more, in fashion, art, film and music?
Years after he disappeared he is still very present. People finally ignore the scandals and the provocation; they rediscover the fantastic painter and genius that he is. His influence is enormous.
To read more, buy my book on Dali, ASPECTS OF SALVADOR DALI, on Amazon....
This piece is from Chris Wade's book, THE LIFE AND WORK OF GEORGE MELLY...
George enjoyed his time as a cultural commentator in the 1960s, but even though he had a strong family life, nice house, good job, money, success, the right kind of fame and a generally steady going on, there was an itch that needed to be scratched. Only problem was, Melly didn't know what it was. At the end of 1960s, the mainstream music scene began to open up. The R and B boom of the mid sixties, which had put to death anything that wasn't beaten out by four or five hairy young lads with six strings, had lost its steam, and thanks to The Beatles and other mind expanding groups, more varied musical forms were acceptable once again in the mainstream. Even jazz, often a dirty word in the 1960s, was finding new popularity. George began making the odd appearance in the provinces and singing the odd song in London, not making money he says but just enough to cover expenses. He soon realised that this was the itch that needed scratching. "A performer is very similar to an alcoholic," George wrote, and one can see his point. He pined for the crowd once again, the musician's life style, the lure of the open road.
Melly admitted this desired return to the stage was ego driven, but the truth is that in the ten year gap since he had last been performing, his voice had taken on a whole new tone. Not only that, he was older, wiser perhaps, and singing those old jazz standards in a more weathered, world weary tone offered the material pathos, humour and genuine excitement. Melly had lived, no longer a snotty young lad, but a middle aged writer who found himself tempted enough by jazz to return, against all odds, to the dazzling (and often undazzling) world of show business.
At first, George began gigging with Alan Elsdon and his band, but he sought something more tight and reliable. Melly became interested in a band called The Chilton-Fawkes Feetwarmers who played every weekend at Merlin's Cave in King's Cross. They were a killer group, and George wanted in! He loved watching them at the "shabby" pub, where the landlord had split the bar and the live room in half so children could come into the venue, and drinkers could simply carry their pints in from the bar. It was a way of saving money, but as a result George said the atmosphere was grand, and obviously the audience was larger.
Wally Fawkes and John Chilton were up front in the band, as Melly described, blowing their respective instruments with passion (ooer!) and precision. Backing them up was a band including Bruce Turner on the sax, and Melly was tempted then convinced, upon request of course, to sing a few numbers with them. Melly felt a new excitement, with old chums returning to the scene, a buzz he'd not had since the 1950s.
“It was lovely to have some drinks, get high and sing with old friends,” he said. “The audiences began to go cuckoo. The place became fashionable. We were asked to do concerts and to make a record. Suddenly, one day, I decided to take another crack at it. It had to do with the applause. It's like the alcoholic thing—applause is like the first fatal sip of sherry.”
When George Melly seriously (though he was never that serious) returned to the jazz scene in 72, it was Derek Taylor who snapped him up quick and urged him and John Chilston's Feetwarmers to record and release an LP. Gigs had been coming more solidly, and Melly found that the thing missing from his life which he could not previously identify was that old mistress named jazz. With a fabulous band backing him up, and possibly the greatest music PR man in the world by his side, Melly set his sights on fame and mass adoration. Never physically vein by his own admission, he was hungry for the attention, and the best way to get people to look at him was when he was singing on the stage the jazz songs he knew and loved, injecting them with his characteristic individuality and his love of bawdy, good time thrills.
Melly and the band decided to record their first album together live at Ronnie Scott's Club in London. Typically, Melly didn't hold back during the performance and consumed a considerable amount of alcoholic beverages to aid him in his feral outbursts. A gathered crowd of friends - including Melly's very close chum Margaret Anne Du Cane, a countess - thoroughly enjoyed the night, as did Melly and the lads. The next morning however, Margaret advised Melly to listen back to the tapes before getting too excited about the record's release. When he did hear the tapes he was horrified, though also amused, by a rather less than polished vocal performance. The booze was clear in his voice, and it was evident in the general musicianship of the band too. The whole thing, save a few numbers, was in George's words, "an escalating shambles."
"There were hundreds of people at Ronnie's when we recorded Nuts and some very outré behaviour," Melly recalls, going on to describe women undressing and unleashing their inner beasts. "Everybody was terribly drunk, including, alas, us. At the end, I went raving up to a girlfriend of mine who was sober and said, `Wasn't that great?' and she said, `Wait until you hear it in the morning'."
Though the recording was a wreck, Melly and the boys did impress Ronnie enough for him to hire the group for a week, and continued to do so for years, often at Christmas for a festive night of lewd fun ("Here's George Melly," Ronnie used to say, announcing him from the stage, before adding, "God help us all!") and bawdy thrills. With the recorded cuts not being up to scratch, the band and Taylor went into a recording studio in South London to lay down some new renditions. Famously, they ran up an expense bill that consisted of 87 bottles of wine and fish and chips for the whole gang.
As well as its frantic recording, the cover art for Nuts has also gone into Melly folk lore. According to George, Taylor took him to a professional photographer down Oxford Street to get a nice snap of him for the cover. "They airbrushed out every line" Melly recalled, "and hand tinted the resultant bland visage which in consequence resembled the work of an American mortician."
George Melly may have looked reserved and respectful on the album cover, but on the contents of the record he was anything but. In fact, he was more wild and feral than ever before, while holding it all together with effortless cool. One of George's friends, Louisa Buck, spoke to me recently and summed George up as a man who was both out of control but also in control at all times. The Nuts album seems to prove that theory. The recording was done in a studio, but the added audience sounds from the other recording lend it a certain authenticity, while George's charismatic performance keeps a certain level of excitement up at all time, not to mention an atmosphere of camp naughtiness that is very much of its era.
The album is full of crisply recorded, wonderfully played Melly gems, to which the great man brings his effortless charm and relatable approachability. Anyone put off by the J word must learn that there are all types of sub genres within that large encompassing genre, and Melly's music sits on the authentic but accessible border. Indeed, Nuts is an album even a jazz hater might enjoy. The musicianship is, of course, flawless, with the band on top form. Chilton's colourful trumpet, always complimenting Melly's vocals, is continuously solid throughout, and the arrangements by Chilton himself are tastefully well observed.
His take on the old classic Dr Jazz is a striking cut, with Melly's voice at its most fun and care free, while their rendition of T'Ain't Nobody's Business is fabulous and among the best here. The band swing nice and cool, while Melly holds back a little and stays faithful to the song. He holds the band with his deep tones.
The title track is simply wonderful too, among his most well known numbers and a definite crowd pleaser. Swerving double entendres or subtle innuendo all together, Melly goes all out and enjoys himself shamelessly, unapologetically. One wouldn't think that hearing a middle aged man say "he plays with his nuts every night in bed" would continue to please you after countless listens, but for some reason it does. This is Good Time Melly magic. "I hate Nuts," Diana Melly told me with a smile. "How many times can you hear about a man playing with his nuts?" My answer is a lot.
Elsewhere there are more sombre and bluesy cuts, like a wonderful version of Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out, which Melly gives real depth and weight. Sugar is so smooth it almost hurts, with Melly's vocals more restrained and giving way to a beautiful arrangement. Viper Mad, the energetic closer, is simply marvellous, featuring some great solos and a wound up and rather wild Melly vocal. As a stand alone record, outside the folk lore of Mellydom, Nuts is of its time but also timeless, like all good trad jazz music truly is, and is an all round solid album in its own right. Melly's risqué lyrics and fun loving crooning style might jar with the ears of some modern listeners more used to polished, clean pop and PC lyricism, but for me he gets it right. These are solid interpretations, and some 46 years on from its recording it remains a rich and endlessly enjoyable LP, one which gets spun quite often in my domicile. More music should be like this - unashamedly fun and a little naughty to boot.
The Guardian gave it a glowing review during its 2004 CD reissue. "Everyone should have a George Melly CD in the house, for those moments when life gets a bit too solemn, and this is the one to have. It features the original Feetwarmers, with Wally Fawkes (also formerly of this paper) on clarinet and Bruce Turner on alto saxophone, both playing beautifully, as does trumpeter John Chilton. George excels himself, especially in the title song, a masterpiece of single entendre."
Anyone reluctant to dip their toe into Melly waters, perhaps put off by sniffy, snobby critics who turn their noses up at his habit of making jazz light and full of humour, might want to take on Nuts, because even though it does feature trademark Mellyisms and harmless Carry On style smut, the musicianship is staggering and undeniably good. You never know, even if you're a full time Melly doubter you might find your foot-a-tappin' to this record.
Chris's book is on Amazon now. His film on Melly is at http://wisdomtwinsbooks.weebly.com/
O Lucky Man was Lindsay Anderson's 1973 follow up to his Cannes Palme D'or winning masterpiece If..., released in 1968. An epic fable of success and acceptance, from the day I first saw it almost twenty years ago it became a firm curious favourite of mine. I wrote a book on the movie a few years back and interviewed Jeremy Bulloch, who appears in three roles throughout the sprawling epic. More well known for playing Boba Fett in Star Wars, Bulloch has a famous scene in a hospital bed, pictured above.
Below is my Q and A with Bulloch, featured in my book, Classic Film Series: O Lucky Man (reprinted this year).
You had had quite a long career by the time O Lucky Man! came along in 1973. How did you come to be cast in the film?
I had worked with Lindsay Anderson before on a commercial as well as being asked to be in the theatre production of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.
What was your view on Lindsay Anderson when you first met him?
I liked him immediately. I got the impression that he had to be comfortable with the actors around him.
When you read the scene when you would be playing the pig man in the bed, what were your initial views?
I didn't realise exactly what I was going to look like in the hospital ward. Even to this day people remember that scene of me with my head grafted on to a pig’s body.
Where do you think O Lucky Man! stands in Anderson’s career and as a part of British screen history?
Lindsay had already proved himself both in film and theatre. The film was both praised and criticised. I had worked with Malcolm many years before in a soap opera called "The Newcomers." I enjoyed my time on the film with some great actors and I felt honoured to be part of it.
Do you have any funny stories regarding the making of the film?
No really funny stories except at the very end of the film when I had the sandwich board. I stood outside the cinema in Leicester Square as the public came out. The camera was hidden and Lindsay asked me to approach the cinema goers. I was there for hours. I was punched but not hard. What hurt me most was the way the general public swore as I walked towards them. F Off! You filthy F!!cker! Get a bath!!! At the end of the night shoot Lindsay asked me what he thought of the reaction I got. I said that I got the response I expected. Lindsay stood looking at me and finally he said "I think we'll come back tomorrow night just to get the right look when you turn towards Malcolm." I couldn't believe it but Lindsay was right in the end. The final look to Malcolm felt just right. I wasn't looking forward to returning to the Leicester Square Odeon but luckily I didn't get too much verbal abuse.
I was about to ask if it was true that you got punched in that scene…
I was hoping that Lindsay would not entice people to punch me and film it. That would be physical abuse.
Finally, how do you look back on O Lucky Man as a film?
As I mentioned before it was both praised and criticised and my part was the alter-ego of Malcolm McDowell's character.
You can get my book on the film through Amazon. Also wroth getting is the 2 DVD edition of O Lucky Man itself, which is getting more collectible now.
This article is a sample from my book, MADONNA IN THE EIGHTIES, available on Amazon...
Dean Gant played synthesizer and piano on the first Madonna album. Here, he recalls his memories of working the young and ambitious Queen in waiting...
Do you remember first hearing about Madonna?
In 1982 when Reggie Lucas called me about doing a new project on “this singer” who had a dance tune that was breaking out in NY.
How did you first meet her? What was she like?
First time was in the recording studio, Sigma Sound. She was very cool and friendly, we hit it off right away.
What are your memories of recording on the first album? What did your job on that record entail?
Kind of a tricky question... I was Reggie Lucas’s go-to keyboardist, arranger, synth guy etc. I was also producing stuff on my own, but Mtume/Lucas were a hot team at the time. So I basically took all the songs and arranged them from demos that Madonna had. My input on some was greater than arranging; for instance Lucky Star, I basically wrote most of the music, (uncredited or paid), but the bridge I totally created and the chord changes. Madonna had the hook line vocal and a 3 note bass line idea.
Did Madonna seem in control and know what she wanted in the studio?
She definitely had her own ideas about what she wanted, but a lot of things weren’t expressed until after we finished and she basically had a disagreement with Reggie. That’s when she brought in Jelly Bean, who changed some of the tracks around, but kept most of the major stuff we did.
Did you enjoy playing on the tracks? Which was the most fun to do?
Yes it was a very enjoyable project, Madonna was a lot of fun, we hung out at different times. Borderline was cool and interesting in that the wonderful bassist Anthony Jackson and I played the bass part simultaneously live in the control room of the studio. Most people don’t know that it is both a synth bass and electric bass. Another fun song was I Know It, for which I came up with a neo-classical synth string intro.
How did you figure out your parts? Did Madonna say what she wanted at all?
I created all of my parts, Madonna never really suggested anything, she like pretty much everything I came up with. We were pretty much in sync.
Do any memories stick out from the recordings?
Yeah, quite a few... Madonna and a male dancer who was around quite a bit, dancing in the studio, really going wild when I put the bass part on Lucky Star; also a girl I was dating who was a model was hanging out and her and Madonna hit it off quite well. Also I went to support her at a live show she had at a club called the Red Parrot, and she was very appreciative of me coming out, as no one else who was working on the project came out to hear her.
How do you look back on the era and working with Madonna?
It was a fun time, a very creative time. We did not have any template for what we did with her. We just created a sound that was dance, R&B, pop and synth heavy, which was my specialty. Again Madonna was great to work with, one of the most fun projects I have ever done. There was no doubt that it was going to be successful, we just didn’t know it was going to blow up like it did.