Haddon Hall: When David Invented Bowie


It was the end of the swinging sixties. 
That day, like so many others, the London sky was sad like a cold cup of tea.
The nasty rain rattled tediously at my windowpane.
I was waiting for my new tenants to show up and inhabit me.

Haddon Hall was the Gothic Victorian mansion in Beckenham where Bowie and his first wife Angie lived from 1969 to 1972. Accompanying them at various times were a random crew of musicians: people who moved in and out of their lives. Bowie, of course, was the most significant resident of Haddon Hall - even at that point - although he was still working out who he would be.

David and Angie rented the ground floor flat, which had (according to Angie, in later interviews) been previously home to some professors and their 27 cats. It was in Haddon Hall that Bowie crossed over into Ziggy Stardust territory, finally embracing his weird; accepting that he was more than just the guy who played at the local pub three times a week.

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Prince: Stories from the Purple Underground

Prince-stories-from-the-purple-undergroundIn a few weeks it’ll be five months since Prince died.

It’s still not believable, still inconceivable, still a complete and utter shock to his fans worldwide. I haven't been able to write about him, but so many have, and so well. A great many people have started disclosing their personal stories about him - or so they claim, since some of these seem to be of the People magazine variety.

But the real ones, the authentic Prince stories are always, always a treat to hear. Even when he was alive, hearing a Prince story from someone - Matt Thorne, who wrote the seminal book on Prince music a few years ago and was flown in to Paisley Park only to have the great man listen to thanks but not talk, Kevin Smith’s long winded story about being hired to make music videos for Prince that never saw the light of day, the husband of a man I met at a Frankenstein symposium in Hermance telling me Ingrid Chavez left him for Prince… no matter what, or told by whom, stories about Prince have always, always made my day.

And so I can’t help but immediately fall in love with journalist Mobeen Azhar’s new book, Prince: Stories From the Purple Underground.

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Frankentales and Frankensongs

Walk This WayYou’ve probably seen the #Frankenstein200 tag floating around: Mary Shelley’s seminal gothic horror novel Frankenstein is celebrating its bicentennial.

And by that, I mean a bunch of people around the world are celebrating a book they love, a book they find important and a book that brought a bunch of us to a little estate near the Swiss village of Hermance to talk about Frankenstein’s echoes through history, pop culture, bioethics, artificial intelligence, science fiction, film and well… life. 

One of the things I started thinking about was how far the myth of Frankenstein and his Creature had spread in pop music. Thus, a list of Frankensongs. Because I believe there isn’t a single aspect of culture not influenced in some way by what Mary Shelley created... 

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Taher Shah's "Angel"


In a conservative country no stranger to the Taliban and ISIS and all sorts of extremist behaviour, a country not known for its great liberal, progressive, humanist ways, a country where homosexuality is very much illegal, where anything outside of heteronormative cliches is considered a ‘deviancy’ and isn't really tolerated by most of the population, where transpeople are treated terribly and where being subversive or transgressive in even the smallest of ways can be an act of major rebellion... here is a man who is throwing this all out of the window. Taherstory_647_041216012218

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'90s Music in Karachi. It wasn’t all bad.


In the early 90s, when I was going my A Levels in Karachi (yeah, that's how old I am shhhh), we didn’t have music online.

Hell, we barely had music anyway. MTV was in our lives via satellite dishes but it wasn’t the same MTV the rest of the world got - we seemed to get far fewer videos on rotation and you had to wait around for something you liked to come on air. I guess that hasn't changed much.

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Taylor Swift: Are We In The Clear Yet?


Would that all new years started with fantastic beasts and stormy weather. They don’t, but thanks to Taylor Swift, 2016 did for us. The video for "Out of the Woods", complete with its fairy tale narrative, is my first favourite thing of 2016 and it proves that the indomitable Ms Swift is only getting better and better.

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A Knee-Jerk Reaction to Prince's HITnRUN Phase One


Prince’s latest album was released via Jay Z’s music streaming site Tidal, because Prince has changed his mind about the internet just being a fad that was about to die. Prince changes his mind often enough, so there are no surprises there. The fact that he’s once again let his latest producer on to share credit isn’t surprising either, given that Joshua Welton worked on last year’s double album Art Office Age/Plectrum Electrum. HitnRun is very different from last year’s offerings though, and sounds a whole lot more confused - at least, at the initial few times it’s heard. Clocking in at under 40 minutes, it’s a strange beast - not great, but with enough in it to stop me from saying it’s bad.

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The Music of Nashville: TV's Only Country Fantasy Epic


It’s not secret that I love Nashville. Hell, it seems to me like the half the SF/F community does too: it’s a country epic fantasy.

What makes Nashville such a great show isn’t the fast paced storylines or the addictive, soap opera style cliffhangers, intense relationships or the glamorous cast with gorgeous clothes and fantastic hair, or even the music itself. What makes it great is that it is essentially about two complex, intriguing, ambitious women, their careers and their relationship with their art. 

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