Peripheral “Famous” Artists?

This morning MSN posted a listicle of “The Most Famous Band From Each State.”  Here are the factors considered:

As such, PrettyFamous accounted for the following factors in its Band Score:

The band’s number of Spotify followers
The band’s Wikipedia page views over the last 30 days
The Wikipedia page views of the band’s releases

Note: Because recent Wikipedia page views are taken into consideration, the results tend to favor bands who are popular now, or whose music has stood the test of time.

That last is a serious understatement.

I live just a few hundred yards from D.C. and have been following D.C. music my entire life. If you asked me who the “most famous band” from D.C. was, I’d say Minor Threat . . .

. . . or Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers . . .

. . . the premiere bands of D.C.’s two homegrown music genres, harDCore and go-go funk.

The listicle claims “the most famous band” in D.C. is Periphery. Who the hell is Periphery? According to their Wikipedia page (I’ve now added to their fame quotient), they are a progressive metal band, a genre that holds little to know interest for me, but still, can they possibly be more famous than Minor Threat or Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers?

Bowie’s Gas Heart Belonged to Dada

David Bowie‘s dramatic performance with Klaus Nomi and Joey Arias on SNL in 1979 . . .

. . .  shows the continuing impact Dada had on Bowie’s art, in this case, the costumes Sonia  Delaunay designed for Tristan Tzara‘s 1921 play, Le Cœur à gaz (The Gas Heart):

tzara

As bizarre as many probably found it, Bowie’s performance was received much better than Tzara’s play:


Thanks again to Paul Morley’s The Age of Bowie for sending me back to various highlights of Bowie’s career.

On My Way to Life on Mars

In 1968, Claude François had a big hit in France with “Comme d’habitude”:

Paul Anka* liked the tune so much he bought the American publishing and recording rights. Perhaps more importantly, he acquired the adaptation rights so he could strip the original lyrics and write new ones for Frank Sinatra to sing over a slightly changed melody:

Meanwhile in the U.K., a young, pre-stardom David Bowie was asked by his music publisher to translate the French lyrics to English. As he laughed on VH1 Storytellers, he failed miserably. However, he later adapted the tune for his own song, “Life on Mars” (the clip is cued to Bowie telling his story, but it is worth going back to the beginning to hear him sing it) . . .

. . . which he notes was later covered by, Barbra Streisand, not very well in his estimation. I’ve got to agree, but judge for yourself:

The song later lent the title to the British crime/sci-fi show Life on Mars . . .

. . . and its American adaptation, . . .

. . .but was not the opening theme for either. I guess they felt it was more important to explain and/or remind viewers of the show’s convoluted concept each week.  (The song did appear on the show’s UK soundtrack album and another Bowie song provided the title for the show’s U.K. sequel, Ashes to Ashes.)

“Life on Mars” was one of several songs sung by Jessica Lange in season four of American Horror Story. Her German character, Elsa Mars, gave it a very Kurt Weill, Weimar cabaret sound:

(She also sang Kurt Weill’s “September Song,” another song associated with Sinatra.)

“Life on Mars” appeared more recently in the “god-awful small affair,” HBO’s Vinyl. Although sung by black Trey Songz, it was lip synced by white Douglas Smith, . . .

. . . just one of so many things wrong with this show.


* If you are at all interested in Paul Anka, or early ’60s teen idols in general, I highly recommend seeing the short documentary Lonely Boy. Peter Watkins consulted it while making the film Privilege, a fascinating fictional, Marxist take on the ’60s rock scene that I’ve always felt must have inspired Bowie. Patti Smith later sang the movie’s theme on Easter.

note — I must give Paul Morley’s The Age of Bowie credit for reminding me of the origin of Bowie’s “Life on Mars.”