My Vinyl Tiger Eighties - is a trip back to the pop world of the eighties.
In case you don't know, Vinyl Tiger is the story of Alekzandr, the great queer popstar I had to invent because, well, we still haven't really got one after all these years.
Of course we've had our fair share of gender benders, and in real life, nobody did the masc/fem butchery better than our bonafide icons pictured above.
They are commonly known as pop's Holy Trinity: the three artists whose worldwide domination and unprecedented creativity made them the eighties' true pop royals.
Sure, there were a handful of artists who were almost there, or up there briefly (Whitney Houston RIP) but theirs is the music that captured the sound of that decade, and perhaps more powerfully, the images that defined the Raegan years (RIP MTV).
Back in 2009, the pop world was devastated by the death of Michael Jackson. He'd fallen out of public favour years earlier, though his genius was never questioned.
The murky circumstances surrounding his death had us scratching our heads wondering how it was possible that such a light could be extinguished by the people who were supposed to protect him.
In 2012, we were similarly shocked by the downfall of Whitney Houston- undoubtedly the owner of the 80s greatest voice. Another light gone too soon in circumstances so tragic that many still have trouble reconciling how someone with the voice of an angel could be driven to such depths and not be protected or helped by those around her.
Most eighties acts owed some form of debt to David Bowie- their pop ancestor- and certainly in the case of the holy trinity, the visual, musical and social torch that Bowie passed them as he moved on to other things certainly helped them move pop culture forward.
But as 2016 was ushered in we lost him and the outpouring of grief across the world came, as it did with Michael, and as it did with Whitney, after a prolonged period in which we took Bowie's existence and immense talent for granted.
We've just lost Prince, arguably the most innovative musician of the last century, and although the circumstances are as murky as they were initially with Jackson and Houston, as with their losses and the loss of Bowie, the avalanche of grief that we are experiencing comes after more than a decade in which we simply took him for granted. Gone too soon. But where was the love?
The empire of the eighties is crumbling my friends. Is it a matter of metaphysics that the Rolling Stones have outlived Jackson and Houston?
And, I know what you're all feeling, because I'm feeling it too. Worse than Ebola, worse than Zyka or any pathogen that can enter our system, 2016 is turning out to be a killer and it has a predilection for our greatest ever pop stars.
Today, the only remaining member of the holy trinity is Madonna.
She's weathered a lot in recent years, including a sustained press campaign against her- waged largely by the Daily Mail- which seems almost as lethal to pop acts as 2016 is proving to be.
She may have wound up her acclaimed Rebel Heart tour without anymore Capegates but she was routinely shot down by the press for her late curtain calls and for a teenage wardrobe malfunction.
Who cares if she was late on stage!? She's Madonna. And we have abandoned her in recent years. Certainly not to the level that we abandoned MJ, Prince and Bowie to, but she's been paying the price with lots of nastiness and pettiness being heaped upon her that none of her royal ilk have had to put up with.
Well, let's collectively learn from our mistakes. Let's begin to appreciate somebody BEFORE they're gone.
Let's not allow the eighties to disappear off of our maps and into the collective obituaries of the world's press.
We still have one living (for love) member of 80s pop royalty and, she is TheGreatestLivingPopStar.
So, what are we going to do to #protectMadonna?
We'll start by encouraging her to stay home for the rest of the year. She can write songs from her New York mansion and can start promoting them on January 1, 2017 when the coast is clear. She's rebellious by nature and is not going to appreciate the grounding we have to give her. So, if you see her on the footpath or crossing the street, you need to get all Boy Scouts on her ass and safely accompany her back home as part of operation #protectMadonna.
If you sense danger, you'll know it: operation #protectMadonna's theme song is Rescue Me.
If you don't sense danger but hear one of her songs you best applaud the beyish and remember that she is an international #livingtreasure
For the next eight months we have to #protectMadonna from 2016: sworn enemy of pop stars and the 1980s.
Let her do her Kabbalah thing. Let her talk about fame and how she's a single mother of four*. Let her make videos that make it seem like the mid 90s Madonna is still with us. Because now that we've lost Prince, Bowie, MJ and Whitney Houston you know that Mariah Carey is going to start trying to take credit not only for the GreatestLivingPopStar title, but also for the 80s as well- and you know she has nothing to do with either of those things.
And incase you think I'm overstating just how amazing the eighties were, watch the video below of Prince making a clean sweep at the 1984 American Music Awards. The nominees! The "black" categories.
You can have your frigging Drake/Taylor Swift/Ed Sheerhan world. I want the world in the video back- and if that's not possible, then I want us to all protect what little of it remains.
Project #protectMadonna starts now.
We didn't really manage to keep up with him you know.
Prince was of course so innovative, so talented and so prolific that he was perhaps the most celebrated of the eighties alumni for sheer talent. And deservedly so.
He was a phenomenal talent who emerged out of youth culture but almost as if he was already a fully formed artist with talent beyond his years.
Prince was well and truly ahead of his time on many levels and was in a league of his own throughout much of his career- whether because his music just made everything else in pop pale in comparison - or because he was incredibly private and kind of pushed out of the mainstream by all the messy Warner bros/slave/symbol dramas that marked the early 90s and completely changed his processes and output.
Like I've said in past posts, Prince - in addition to his musicianship- was as important culturally as his music because he presented a different kind of masculinity to the masses at a time when we still rejected the idea that you could be different, eccentric (and obsessed with lavender).
Trying to define and confine genius is a pointless exercise and lets face it, nobody before him ever managed to blend funk, rock and pop so well.
From his first album in 1978 For You until 1992's Love Symbol he practically had an album of new material out every year, each home to at least a classic or two. That was fourteen albums if I count right in the space of 14 years. And back then, we still couldn't get enough of him. The very idea of there being a Black Album floating around had people on tenterhooks.
He was so prolific that his 1993 Hits compilation came out in three versions - including a B-sides set- and the much documented problems he had with Warner Bros led to a pile up of previously unreleased material shortly thereafter including said Black album and Come.
From 1993 onwards things became more complicated, convoluted and complex- but Prince's problems with Warner bros led to him innovating again- this time by basically inventing the online record distribution process and by switching his distribution deals.
This turn of events happened long before the idea of the Internet in so many homes was a reality.
And from this time onwards his erratic release schedules often became a confusing mix of vault recordings and new material, which, we as a global audience couldn't really keep up with. That prolific rate of an album a year was kept up and there have been rumours circulating that the vaults at Paisley Park are spilling out with huge volumes of unreleased material which, with his passing, are likely to start filtering into the market.
Whether the material strikes a chord with audiences will be another matter- much of Prince's recent material had abided by his conversion to the Jehovas Witness faith- leading to a disavowal of the sexual content from his back catalogue and a stronger emphasis on spiritual tones.
But with more than a dozen albums from his imperial period to draw from, and dozens of the greatest pop recordings ever made included in that treasure chest, you can be sure that over the coming months there is going to be a lot of attention paid to his hefty catalogue. Brace yourselves for a few months in which we finally restore Prince to the regal status he once held and commiserate ourselves with the fact that he has passed, but that his legacy will be with us forever.
RIP to one of the all time greats, an innovator, a visionary and a genius who was so prolific that it will take another lifetime to truly appreciate.
He is and will remain one of my inspirations!
It's Record Store Day 2016.
That day of the year when you pull yourself away from Spotify and iTunes and start acting like an archaeologist.
Don't tell me you don't know what I'm talking about.
Today is that day of the year when your guilt gets the better of you and you say, 'you know what? I will go into that record store and have a look around. And make a token purchase too.' And you feel connected to your 15 or 25 (or even 35 year old self) as a result of that promise.
If and when you get into that record store, you get a sudden case of the Indiana Jones.
You start acting like a Hollywood archaeologist. And it's understandable. It's like being in an Aladdin's cave of treasure and you are forced to start thinking to yourself 'Jesus, look at all this rad shit I've discovered.'
And because your brain and your hands are no longer used to the feeling of actually physically holding music, you pick up every single disc that you faintly recognise: a name of, a title of, the artist: and you study it trying to work out just which riches you need to leave the store with.
I know you do it. Because I do it too!
From the age of about 8 or 9 hardly a week went by when I wasn't foraging around in a record store on a Friday night or a Saturday morning.
I grew up in the northern suburbs of Melbourne so I had three favourite record stores within a few kilometres of my house (and a fourth, absolute back up one).
My parents would despair when I would ask them to buy me a 7" or, later on, a full album. Partly because they thought it was a waste of money, but likely because they hated my taste in pop music.
I was given a couple of records as gifts (after specifically requesting them) but shelling out my own pocket money, the first vinyl I ever bought was the 12" of Madonna's Holiday.
I never really escaped her clutches but I certainly added to my record collection over the years (and worked in a record bar for a number of years to boot).
I can't remember the last time I bought any vinyl but I still spend ages rummaging through CDs in all kinds of record stores, markets and second hand shops. And if we can have an international (insert anything here) day, then I'm glad that we have a Record Store Day because, as much as I love a good list, clear order and the ability to carry thousands of songs around with me at anytime, there's just no way iTunes will ever tug at my heart strings like being in a record store always does.
During the eighties you probably used to listen to Eye of the Tiger to perk you up and help you find your motivation to face the cruel, cruel world.
It was a powerful song, and especially helpful when you had to get to work wearing your suit and your white trainers that you changed out of as soon as you got to your desk, because, well, it wasn't very professional to walk around in a suit and white sneakers.
Throughout the day, it was likely that you would have to hum the song to yourself and resist the urge to throw air punches, promising revenge while that nasty cow boss of yours took all the credit for all your hard work.
Oh shit, wait... something's doesn't sound right here! Oh, sorry. I got so carried away that I thought you were Melanie Griffith in Working Girl for a couple of hot minutes. Awkward.
Let's scrap that tiger then, shall we? I mean, it was a kind of novelty tiger, and I hate novelty stuff. I hated the Proclaimers. I hated Bobby McFerrin. And most of all, I hated Dire Straits. All three of these were 80s novelty acts in my books that we are still paying the consequences for.
Of course, when I think of the elegance, sophistication and the lean, mean killing machine that sums up what an eighties tiger was all about, I of course think of Duran Duran.
They had some hot brothers, there was Ni(c)k Rhodes, who, I still think has the greatest name of that decade, and then of course, there was Simon Le Bon (runner up in the poncy name stakes). For a brief while they were the kings of the pop jungle. And people loved, loathed and feared them in equal measure, just as we do tigers in the wild.
I almost want to exclude the following tiger from the great tigers in pop culture series, because, Duran Duran were more into wolves. I still can't get that Hungry Like The Wolf song out of my head all these years later. But the tiger that Duran Duran brought to the world is too powerful to ignore.
Teenage girls, a presumably smaller portion of boys, and general pop lovers usually thought Duran Duran were the bees knees for a fleeting moment. They were like a group of cosmopolitan Brits: always on yachts, marrying French supermodels, yapping on about Rio and all kinds of wild animals, and you could pretty much always find one of them backstage (anywhere) or in the gossip rags of the time.
For the first half of the eighties, they were everything, and then, well, they weren't. They kind of vanished, even though Notorious made it seem like they had a bit more life in them when 1986 rolled around and Ordinary World broke everyone's hearts. Of course we also had to put up with things like The Power Station but, well... it was the eighties.
Their disappearance didn't really matter. They had already made their contribution. They did it back in 1983 when they introduced the world to one of the great tigers in pop culture: the ragged tiger. Their mysterious, symbol heavy third studio album (are you ready for another poncy name?) Seven and the Ragged Tiger featured Union of the Snake (why the obsession with wild animals?), The Reflex and of course, Tiger Tiger.
It was a bit more dance and synth oriented than their usual stuff, but it was the last thing they did before they unleashed the shockingly awful Wild Boys onto the world. But more importantly, the ragged tiger was what got people wondering whether or not Duran Duran were actually satanists. There was of course a brief phase in the late eighties when the media were obsessed with playing pop records backwards to see if Satan was communicating to the masses. These days there's probably a Youtube page or an app for that kind of thing. Or you could just ask Trump directly what today's message is.
Back then, you didn't need to play the Ragged Tiger backwards to know if it was other worldly. You could just look at the album artwork, which was dripping with illuminati symbols. You could look around and note the existence of Duranies (Duran Duran fans... hello, cult!) for more proof that something sinister was going on. Or you could just listen to Tiger Tiger, a completely instrumental track which was proof of the devil's work! After all, Satan needs no words!
Duran Duran made better records before and after this one, but the Ragged Tiger is surely one of the greatest tigers in pop culture, because it was so powerful that it enlightened us to the dark sorcery that was behind Duran Duran, their ridiculous names and their cult like music, and for that, we should be thankful.
You can enjoy the dark magic and their message further with this fan made video.
Lushsux continues to make a splash with his series of selfie murals around Australia.
No plans to cover up the latest in Geelong, because they're on private property.
What's more interesting is the hit/miss pixelation of the images appearing across various mainstream news sites. In regards to the photos being used, I'm curious to know who it is that's, erm, censoring them?
Newsflash. An academic marketing study found that millennials don't relate to Madonna anywhere near as much as they do people like Zayn Malik, Adele or Taylor Swift. Geez, that's university time and money spent well.
As expected, Zayn will land in at No.1 on the US album chart with 157,000 "equivalent album units." That's basically Billboard short for streaming totals plus 112,000 actual album sales. What it takes for a major #1 hit album these days it seems. Mind you, someone should tell the university of Southern California that this time last year Madonna made it to #2 with 116,000 actual sales of Rebel Heart. Perhaps millennials are not yet the be all and end all.
Stuart Haygarth makes a compelling visual statement that should encourage you to pick up any trash you see at the beach. Beautiful book project unveiled here.
I am the kind of person who goes around telling everybody that Ang Lee is my fourth favourite Taiwanese person.
Well, because three of my Taiwanese friends are more important to me than him. But make no mistake. Ang Lee is better than us all.
His films are beyond perfect and yet, are usually populated by flawed characters, whose souls are so broken there's no way they're ever going to get it together again. And as a result they usually top themselves, go and live in Denial or waste away, slowly consumed by their regrets.
I'm pretty sure that even Mariah Carey thinks Ang Lee is the bees' knees and that he'd figure in her Top Five Taiwanese list (though her list would probably look like this:
1. the Hello Kitty Train that has just been unveiled in Taiwan
2. the Hello Kitty EVA Jet
3. the Hello Kitty suite at the Grand Hi-Lai Hotel in Kaohsiung
4. the Hello Kitty maternity hospital in Yuanlin
5. Ang Lee)
The best lyric Mimi ever came up with - and I have to give her credit, occasionally she pulls a decent one out - must have been inspired by the characters in films like The Ice Storm (my second favourite Ang Lee film).
Man, if you think you are fragile, go and rewatch that film. Then you could use Mimi's music as the soundtrack, kind of like a hip hop lite Pink Floyd/Wizard of Oz scenario. Just make sure you use the "If we were two Lego blocks/ Even the Harvard University graduating class of 2010/Couldn't put us back together again" verse in Up Out My Face to a suitably depressing scene.
Although I loved The Ice Storm and Brokeback Mountain, I love Ang Lee even more than usual when he's playing with tigers. He pulled off what nobody thought was possible with The Life of Pi and I have to say I had a thing for Richard Parker. God, what a hottie! Being shipwrecked with Richard Parker is my ideal fantasy. But The Life of Pi was not Ang Lee's greatest tiger moment.
No, for that, we have to turn to one of the greatest tigers to have ever made it into popular culture. The Crouching Tiger. Along with the Hidden Dragon, this tiger was kind of invisible. This tiger was a metaphoric one that alluded to the traditional Cheng Yu (like a Chinese idiom) about people's hidden strengths and talents. And the Crouching Tiger was almost as sexy as Richard Parker although you never got the feeling that you wanted to have a little cuddle.
With Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Ang Lee managed to bring together all kinds of Asian cultures to produce what I think remains the highest ever grossing foreign film in the US. He mixed together the best of Hong Kong martial arts films, classical Chinese and Taoist elements and, the pulpy, comic book/novels and came out with a masterpiece which made so many of the spiritually themed martial arts films that came before it seem like an embarrassment.
And how did he manage to do that?
Well, Ang Lee, as I said is better than us all. He's a top notch film maker, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is another example of his perfect films being populated by broken souls. And it's that juxtaposition that makes it so easy to fall in love with the characters and the stunning imagery - especially those rooftop and bamboo forest scenes. Still breathtaking nearly twenty years later.
And for that, I salute not only Ang Lee, but also one of the greatest tigers to have ever made it into popular culture: The Crouching Tiger that you left you so breathless back in 2000 that you've not ever quite recovered.
We're all familiar with spin doctors. But even they are only capable of so much, before we sit there and scratch our heads saying WTF?!!!
Sure, the best spin doctors might be capable of convincing you to vote for a complete dick at election time - like, I don't know, a property magnate with a reality TV past. They might even be able to persuade you to think of the Kardashians as America's royal family.
But there are certain things they can't pull off. Like making you believe that this month Susan Miller will respect her deadlines or that Biebs will ever be cool.
Or that golf is sexy.
On any realm.
Enter the Wooden Tiger.
Yes, he who turned the world on its ear. The baby faced club bearer who your nana loved but who turned out to be such a perve that Jody from shameless seems like a virgin in comparison.
Before Tiger Woods arrived, the words sex and golf never appeared in the same sentence without the word viagra.
But the Wooden Tiger changed all that. Not even the spin doctors who had you believing that Xtina, Britney and Beyonce suddenly discovered sex could've pulled off what that horn dog did.
Who knew that underneath all that plaid and, those polo tops and those baseball caps beat the loins of a horn dog?
And you know you had a conversation about it at some point in your life, and that the tone of that conversation was shock and disbelief.
And for those water cooler discussions that had everyone scratching their heads I must salute the Wooden Tiger who proved that especially in popular culture, you should never underestimate a tiger. Whatever form it takes.
I ALWAYS thought Canada was too cold for tigers - especially the rocking variety.
Not too cold, of course, for radio friendly rockish music. I mean look at the stellar talent that Canada has pushed out into that arena: Alanis Morisette, Alannah Myles, Bryan Adams, Nickelback... Avril Lavigne.
We all love the eighties and nothing screams nostalgia like big hair, a big power ballad or a strange mix between the two. Enter Glass Tiger.
They took over the world in 1986. They won Juno Awards and had (2) top ten hits and were partly responsible for people burning the tips of their fingers at concerts because they had to hold onto the little gas thing on their lighters. These days there's probably an app for that kind of thing. You know, you can go to a concert today, and your iPhone can probably display a flickering candle on its screen when the big, heart breaking ballad kicks in to gear.
I don't really know much about Glass Tiger but I still know all the lyrics to Don't Forget Me When I'm Gone. That I think, is a mark of respect for the first of the great tigers in pop culture. The Glass Tiger.
Dave Di Vito
Subscribe to the mailing list for information about upcoming releases and a free excerpt!
Dave Di Vito is a writer, teacher and former curator.He's also the author of the Vinyl Tiger series and Replace The Sky.
For information about upcoming writing projects subscribe to the mailing list.
Dave hates SPAM so he won't trouble you with any of his own. He promises.