Why Has The Great British Baking Show Conquered America? Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #75 w/ Stephen Carlile (from Broadway’s The Lion King)

What explains the immense quar­an­tine-time pop­u­lar­i­ty in Amer­i­ca of this quaint British real­i­ty cook­ing show? What do we get out of watch­ing tal­ent­ed ama­teurs bake things? Stephen Carlile, who is famous for play­ing Scar in The Lion King on Broad­way (and is VERY British him­self), joins your hosts Eri­ca Spyres, Bri­an Hirt, and Mark Lin­sen­may­er to con­sid­er the for­mat, con­text, and appeal of the show.

A few arti­cles we reviewed to pre­pare includ­ed:

Fol­low Stephen on Insta­gram @carlile1. Vis­it with him online.

Hear more of this pod­cast at prettymuchpop.com. This episode includes bonus dis­cus­sion you can access by sup­port­ing the pod­cast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop. This pod­cast is part of the Par­tial­ly Exam­ined Life pod­cast net­work.

Pret­ty Much Pop: A Cul­ture Pod­cast is the first pod­cast curat­ed by Open Cul­ture. Browse all Pret­ty Much Pop posts.

Listen to James Baldwin’s Record Collection in a 478-track, 32-Hour Spotify Playlist

Pho­to via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

Each writer’s process is a per­son­al rela­tion­ship between them and the page—and the desk, room, chair, pens or pen­cils, type­writer or lap­top, turntable, CD play­er, stream­ing audio… you get the idea. The kind of music suit­able for lis­ten­ing to while writ­ing (I, for one, can­not write to music with lyrics) varies so wide­ly that it encom­pass­es every­thing and noth­ing. Silence can be a kind of music, too, if you lis­ten close­ly.

Far more inter­est­ing than try­ing to make gen­er­al rules is to exam­ine spe­cif­ic cas­es: to learn the music a writer hears when they com­pose, to divine the rhythms that ani­mat­ed their prose.

There are almost always clues. Favorite albums left behind in writ­ing rooms or writ­ten about with high praise. Some­times the music enters into the nov­el, becomes a char­ac­ter itself. In James Baldwin’s Anoth­er Coun­try, music is a pow­er­ful pro­cre­ative force:

The beat: hands, feet, tam­bourines, drums, pianos, laugh­ter, curs­es, razor blades: the man stiff­en­ing with a laugh and a growl and a purr and the woman moist­en­ing and soft­en­ing with a whis­per and a sigh and a cry. The beat—in Harlem in the sum­mer­time one could almost see it, shak­ing above the pave­ments and the roof.

Bald­win fin­ished his first nov­el, 1953’s Go Tell It on the Moun­tain, not in Harlem but in the Swiss Alps, where he moved “with two Bessie Smith records and a type­writer under his arm,” writes Valenti­na Di Lis­cia at Hyper­al­ler­gic. He “large­ly attrib­ut­es” the nov­el “to Smith’s bluesy into­na­tions.” As he told Studs Terkel in 1961, “Bessie had the beat. In that icy wilder­ness, as far removed from Harlem as any­thing you can imag­ine, with Bessie and me… I began…”

Ikechúk­wú Onyewuenyi, a cura­tor at the Ham­mer Muse­um in Los Ange­les, has gone much fur­ther, dig­ging through all the deep cuts in Baldwin’s col­lec­tion while liv­ing in Provence and try­ing to recap­ture the atmos­phere of Baldwin’s home, “those bois­ter­ous and ten­der con­vos when guests like Nina Simone, Ste­vie Won­der… Maya Angelou, Toni Mor­ri­son” stopped by for din­ner and debates. He first encoun­tered the records in a pho­to­graph post­ed by La Mai­son Bald­win, the orga­ni­za­tion that pre­serves his house in Saint-Paul de Vence in the South of France. “I latched onto his records, their son­ic ambi­ence,” Onyewuenyi says.

“In addi­tion to read­ing the books and essays” that Bald­win wrote while liv­ing in France, Onyewuenyi dis­cov­ered “lis­ten­ing to the records was some­thing that could trans­port me there.” He has com­piled Baldwin’s col­lec­tion into a 478-track, 32-hour Spo­ti­fy playlist, Chez Bald­win. Only two records couldn’t be found on the stream­ing plat­form, Lou Rawls’ When the Night Comes (1983) and Ray Charles’s Sweet & Sour Tears (1964). Lis­ten to the full playlist above, prefer­ably while read­ing Bald­win, or com­pos­ing your own works of prose, verse, dra­ma, and email.

“The playlist is a balm of sorts when one is writ­ing,” Onyewuenyi told Hyper­al­ler­gic. “Bald­win referred to his office as a ‘tor­ture cham­ber.’ We’ve all encoun­tered those moments of writ­ers’ block, where the process of putting pen to paper feels like blood­let­ting. That process of tor­ture for Bald­win was nego­ti­at­ed with these records.”

via Hyper­al­ler­gic

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

Why James Baldwin’s Writ­ing Stays Pow­er­ful: An Art­ful­ly Ani­mat­ed Intro­duc­tion to the Author of Notes of a Native Son

The Best Music to Write By: Give Us Your Rec­om­men­da­tions

The Best Music to Write By, Part II: Your Favorites Brought Togeth­er in a Spe­cial Playlist

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness.

When Albert Einstein & Charlie Chaplin Met and Became Fast Famous Friends (1930)

Pho­to via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

“You do not real­ly under­stand some­thing unless you can explain it to your grand­moth­er,” goes a well-known quote attrib­uted var­i­ous­ly to Albert Ein­stein, Richard Feyn­man, and Ernest Ruther­ford. No mat­ter who said it, “the sen­ti­ment… rings true,” writes Michelle Lav­ery, “for researchers in all dis­ci­plines from par­ti­cle physics to ecopsy­chol­o­gy.” As Feyn­man dis­cov­ered dur­ing his many years of teach­ing, it could be “the mot­to of all pro­fes­sion­al com­mu­ni­ca­tors,” The Guardian’s Rus­sell Gross­man writes, “and espe­cial­ly those who earn a liv­ing com­mu­ni­cat­ing the tricky busi­ness of sci­ence.”

Ein­stein became one of the world’s great sci­ence com­mu­ni­ca­tors by choice, not neces­si­ty, and found ways to explain his com­plex the­o­ries to chil­dren and the elder­ly alike. But per­haps, if he’d had his way, he would rather have avoid­ed words alto­geth­er, and pre­ferred acro­bat­ic feats of silent dar­ing to get his mes­sage across. We might at least con­clude so from his rev­er­ence for the work of Char­lie Chap­lin. Chap­lin was the only per­son Ein­stein want­ed to meet in Cal­i­for­nia dur­ing his sec­ond, 1930–31 vis­it to the U.S., when he was “at the height of his fame,” notes Claire Cock-Starkey at Men­tal Floss, “with news­pa­pers track­ing his every move and aca­d­e­mics clam­or­ing for expla­na­tions of his the­o­ries.”

The admi­ra­tion, of course, was mutu­al. Their first meet­ings hap­pened out­side the press’s scruti­ny, at Uni­ver­sal Stu­dios, “where the pair took a tour and had lunch togeth­er. They hit it off straight away, shar­ing quick wits and curi­ous minds.” In his auto­bi­og­ra­phy, Chap­lin writes that Einstein’s wife Elsa fina­gled an invi­ta­tion to din­ner at Chaplin’s house. And he “was only too hap­py to oblige,” Cock-Starkey writes, arrang­ing an “inti­mate din­ner, at which Elsa regaled him with the sto­ry of when Ein­stein came up with his world-chang­ing the­o­ry, some­time around 1915.”

The two con­tin­ued to cor­re­spond, and the big pub­lic unveil­ing of their friend­ship came when Chap­lin invit­ed Ein­stein to the pre­mier of City Lights in 1931 (see pho­to up top) where the mega-celebri­ties from very dif­fer­ent worlds were greet­ed by reporters, pho­tog­ra­phers, and ador­ing crowds. There are sev­er­al record­ed ver­sions of their con­ver­sa­tion. In one account, Ein­stein expressed bemuse­ment at the cheer­ing, and Chap­lin remarked, “the peo­ple applaud me because every­one under­stands me, and they applaud you because no one under­stands you.”

Chap­lin him­self wrote in his 1933–34 trav­el­ogue, A Come­di­an Sees the World, that one of Einstein’s sons uttered the line, weeks after­ward: “You are pop­u­lar [because] you are under­stood by the mass­es. On the oth­er hand, the professor’s pop­u­lar­i­ty with the mass­es is because he is not under­stood.” Yet anoth­er ver­sion, cir­cu­lat­ing on the Nobel Prize’s Insta­gram and col­lect­ing tens of thou­sands of likes, has the exchange take place in a dia­logue.

Ein­stein: “What I most admire about your art, is your uni­ver­sal­i­ty. You don’t say a word, yet the world under­stands you!”

Chap­lin: “True. But your glo­ry is even greater! The whole world admires you, even though they don’t under­stand a word of what you say.”

What­ev­er they real­ly said to each oth­er, it’s clear Ein­stein saw some­thing in Char­lie Chap­lin worth emu­lat­ing. Chap­lin left his mark on Exis­ten­tial­ist phi­los­o­phy, lend­ing the name of his film Mod­ern Times to Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir’s influ­en­tial jour­nal, Les Temps Mod­ernes. He left a lega­cy on Beat poet­ry, lend­ing the name City Lights to Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s infa­mous San Fran­cis­co book­store and pub­lish­er. And it seems he also maybe had some small effect on physics, or on the most famous of physi­cists, who might have har­bored a secret ambi­tion to be a silent film comedian—or to com­mu­ni­cate, at least, with the uni­ver­sal effec­tive­ness of one as skilled as Char­lie Chap­lin, favorite of genius­es and grand­moth­ers (and genius grand­moth­ers) every­where.

Relat­ed Con­tent:  

60+ Free Char­lie Chap­lin Films Online

Einstein’s The­o­ry of Rel­a­tiv­i­ty Explained in One of the Ear­li­est Sci­ence Films Ever Made (1923)

Hear Albert Ein­stein Read “The Com­mon Lan­guage of Sci­ence” (1941)

The Char­lie Chap­lin Archive Opens, Putting Online 30,000 Pho­tos & Doc­u­ments from the Life of the Icon­ic Film Star

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

The Power of Pulp Fiction’s Dance Scene, Explained by Choreographers and Even John Travolta Himself

All the great movies have a few mem­o­rable scenes; Pulp Fic­tion is made of noth­ing but. More than a quar­ter-cen­tu­ry ago, that film’s release turned a young video-store clerk-turned-auteur called Quentin Taran­ti­no into a house­hold name. Cinephiles today still argue about which is the most mem­o­rable among its scenes, and only the most con­trar­i­an could fail to con­sid­er the dance. It comes ear­ly in the film, when the hit­man Vin­cent Vega takes his boss’ wife out to din­ner, the absent king­pin hav­ing ordered him to do so. The two eat at an elab­o­rate­ly 1950s-themed din­er and on a whim enter its twist con­test. They walk off the dance floor with a tro­phy — as well as a cou­ple decades’ influ­ence on pop­u­lar cul­ture.

“The twist was made famous in the 60s,” explains chore­o­g­ra­ph­er Lau­ren Yalan­go-Grant in the Van­i­ty Fair video just above. “There were a lot of vari­a­tions that came out of the twist that we do see in this scene,” such as “the mon­key,” “the swim,” and “the Bat­man,” bet­ter known as “the Batusi.”

As bust­ed by John Tavol­ta and Uma Thur­man, all these moves come out in an impro­vi­sa­tion­al fash­ion, each in response to the last: “If John starts to do the Bat­man, then Uma’s going to ‘yes-and’ it with not only a Bat­man but an open palm, her own ver­sion of this move,” adds chore­o­g­ra­ph­er Christo­pher Grant. Their move­ments give the scene a great deal of its impact, but so does those move­ments’ incon­gruity with their expres­sions, which Yalan­go-Grant calls “the jux­ta­po­si­tion of their seri­ous­ness and the lack of play on their faces ver­sus the play in their bod­ies.”

Though now cin­e­mat­i­cal­ly icon­ic in its own right, Pulp Fic­tion’s dance scene pays homage to a host of old­er films. The most obvi­ous is Jean-Luc Godard­’s Bande à part, with what Yalan­go-Grant calls its “amaz­ing dance sequence in a cafe. It’s total­ly out of con­text, of nowhere.” Nev­er shy to admit his acts of artis­tic “theft,” Taran­ti­no once com­plained that too few picked up this one: “Every­body thinks that I wrote this scene just to have John Tra­vol­ta danc­ing. But the scene exist­ed before John Tra­vol­ta was cast.” The direc­tor’s inten­tion, rather, was to pay trib­ute to his favorite musi­cal sequences, which “have always been in Godard, because they just come out of nowhere. It’s so infec­tious, so friend­ly. And the fact that it’s not a musi­cal, but he’s stop­ping the movie to have a musi­cal sequence, makes it all the more sweet.”

The cast­ing of Tra­vol­ta (Taran­ti­no’s “strong, strong, strong sec­ond choice” for Vin­cent Vega) proved for­tu­itous. The very image of the man danc­ing made for yet anoth­er chap­ter of pop cul­ture from which the film could draw, but with­out his real-life danc­ing skills and instincts, the scene would­n’t have been as mem­o­rable as it is. “Quentin was dead-set on both of us doing the twist, which is a very fun dance, but it’s lim­it­ed in how long one wants to watch some­one do the twist,” Tra­vol­ta remem­bers on a recent appear­ance on The Late Late Show with James Cor­den. So he told the direc­tor, “When I was grow­ing up, there were nov­el­ty dances. There were dances like the swim and the Bat­man and the hitch­hik­er and the tight­en up. Maybe we should widen the spec­trum on this.” Taran­ti­no’s unwill­ing­ness to com­pro­mise his ambi­tions and obses­sions has made him per­haps the most acclaimed film­mak­er of his gen­er­a­tion, but so has know­ing when to defer to the star of Sat­ur­day Night Fever.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Quentin Taran­ti­no Gives Sneak Peek of Pulp Fic­tion to Jon Stew­art in 1994

Quentin Tarantino’s Orig­i­nal Wish List for the Cast of Pulp Fic­tion

The Music in Quentin Tarantino’s Films: Hear a 5‑Hour, 100-Song Playlist

An Analy­sis of Quentin Tarantino’s Films Nar­rat­ed (Most­ly) by Quentin Taran­ti­no

How Anna Kari­na (RIP) Became the Mes­mer­iz­ing Face of the French New Wave

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

The David Bowie Monopoly Game Is Here: Advance to GO and Collect 200 Hunky Dorys!

Anoth­er way to pass the time while we’re snug­gled in, await­ing the arrival of a vac­cine: David Bowie Monop­oly.

Gone are the thim­ble, the top hat, the old boot and oth­er icon­ic game pieces you may remem­ber from your child­hood or rainy days in sea­side hol­i­day rentals.

This spe­cial edi­tion replaces them with 6 major Bowie sig­ni­fiers: a star, a skull, a Pier­rot hat, a rolled up tie, a space hel­met, and a light­ning bolt.

Monop­oly has pre­vi­ous­ly catered to music fans with sets devot­ed to AC/DC, Bea­t­les, Metal­li­ca and the Rolling Stones, but Bowie’s chameleon­ic qual­i­ty and high­ly devel­oped aes­thet­ic sense ensures that this one’s ephemera will appeal to all fac­tions of the Bowieli­gious, not just those with the patience for a long board game.

For­get about Board­walk and Mar­vin Gar­dens. Instead of real estate, the perime­ters of the board fea­ture albums from Bowie’s enor­mous cat­a­log.

Secure albums to begin erect­ing stages and sta­di­ums that oth­er play­ers will have to “rent” when they roll into town.

The Chance and Com­mu­ni­ty Chest decks have also under­gone some ch-ch-changes. Play­ers now draw Sound and Vision cards which have the capac­i­ty to “open doors, pull some strings or bring the stars crash­ing down.”

Col­lec­tors will find that this set’s paper mon­ey pairs nice­ly with the sou­venir Metro­cards from Bowie’s posthu­mous 2018 takeover of a New York City sub­way sta­tion.

The four cor­ner­stones of Monopoly—GO, Free Park­ing, JAIL, and Go to Jail—remain faith­ful to the orig­i­nal, leav­ing some fans opin­ing that an oppor­tu­ni­ty was missed:

When you weary of David Bowie Monop­oly, you can play a cou­ple hands of Bowie, a free down­load­able card game that can be print­ed at home:

Each play­er will play David Bowie, or more accu­rate­ly, a per­sona of David Bowie. The object of the game is to achieve the great­est lega­cy of any Bowie and sur­vive the 1970’s. Lega­cy is judged by points earned from cut­ting records (flat, black, round- oh, nev­er­mind). There is one slight prob­lem. The Bowies are endan­gered by var­i­ous threats, dark princes, and fig­ures of the occult (which is in no way relat­ed to the copi­ous amount of cocaine being inhaled by our hero). If any Bowie dies, all Bowies are dead and the game is lost.

There’s also Bowie’s appear­ance in the 1999 video game, Omikron: The Nomad Soul:

David Bowie Monop­oly is avail­able for pur­chase here.

via Dan­ger­ous Minds

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

David Bowie’s Rise as Zig­gy Star­dust Doc­u­ment­ed in a New 300-Page Pho­to Book

The David Bowie Book Club Gets Launched by His Son: Read One of Bowie’s 100 Favorite Books Every Month

When David Bowie Launched His Own Inter­net Ser­vice Provider: The Rise and Fall of BowieNet (1998)

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine. She most recent­ly appeared as a French Cana­di­an bear who trav­els to New York City in search of food and mean­ing in Greg Kotis’ short film, L’Ourse.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

The Ultimate 80s Medley: A Nostalgia-Inducing Performance of A‑Ha, Tears for Fears, Depeche Mode, Peter Gabriel, Van Halen & More

The last time we checked in with Germany’s own Mar­tin Miller Ses­sion Band, they dropped a love­ly cov­er of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon album, one that bal­anced all the bits you know by heart with enough of their own iden­ti­ty to make it jump off your YouTube screen.

Now they’re back with a new ses­sion in the age of COVID–hence a few of them wear­ing masks–to run through a tight 26 min­utes of 1980s songs in a med­ley that will have your toes a’tappin’.

Now, the selec­tion does tend toward the rock side, but the Miller Ses­sion band are set up that way, with a sol­id rhythm sec­tion in drum­mer Felix Lehrmann and Ben­ni Jud on bass. Lehrmann cer­tain­ly played *more* drums than the min­i­mal­ist Nick Mason on their Pink Floyd trib­ute–the YouTube com­ments called him out a bit too much on that–but here it’s all good. If any­thing some of the ‘80s hits had a bit too much pro­grammed drums, and they liv­en up the expe­ri­ence. The spe­cial guest this time is Michal Skul­s­ki, play­ing sax on “Sledge­ham­mer”.

Of course, your mileage may vary with this playlist, as there are songs here that I dear­ly love (“Every­body Wants to Rule the World,” “Enjoy the Silence”) and ones that I could live with­out (“The Final Count­down, “Eye of the Tiger”), and that’s all about taste, whether you went to high school in the 1980s, or were born dur­ing it, and your repeat­ed expo­sure ad nau­se­um to these tunes. You might be glad about the bits they leave in, or dis­grun­tled over the sec­tions they leave out (Miller improvs his own solo to the Tears for Fears song, but if you ask me, that orig­i­nal solo by Roland Orz­a­bal and then Neil Tay­lor is one of the best from that entire decade, and ‘80s pop real­ly didn’t *have* gui­tar solos).

But any band that decides to have a go at “Take On Me” bet­ter have those octave jump­ing pipes. Miller, I’m glad to say, does, chan­nel­ing his inner Ron­nie Dio to do so. And Mar­ius Leicht’s organ solo is actu­al­ly an improve­ment on the orig­i­nal.

How­ev­er, I must point out that the finale, Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy the Silence” is not an ‘80s song. As any Mode fan will tell you, the sin­gle came out in ear­ly 1990. (I was *there* mannn, it was a total­ly dif­fer­ent decade!) Still, the Mar­tin Miller Ses­sion Band real­ly get into this one, break­ing the song down and build­ing it back up again for a tremen­dous fin­ish.

It may not be the “ulti­mate” ‘80s med­ley, but is *an* ‘80s med­ley and a damn good one too.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Dis­cov­er Rare 1980s CDs by Lou Reed, Devo & Talk­ing Heads That Com­bined Music with Com­put­er Graph­ics

The Inter­net Archive Hosts 20,000 VHS Record­ings of Pop Cul­ture from the 1980s & 1990s: Enter the VHS Vault

How the Yama­ha DX7 Dig­i­tal Syn­the­siz­er Defined the Sound of 1980s Music

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the Notes from the Shed pod­cast and is the pro­duc­er of KCR­W’s Curi­ous Coast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, and/or watch his films here.

In 1896, a French Cartoonist Predicted Our Socially-Distanced Zoom Holiday Gatherings

Imag­ine that, this time last year, you’d heard that your fam­i­ly’s hol­i­day gath­er­ings in 2020 would hap­pen on the inter­net. Even if you believed such a future would one day come, would you have cred­it­ed for a moment that kind of immi­nence? Yet our video­con­fer­ence toasts this sea­son were pre­dict­ed — even ren­dered in clear and rea­son­ably accu­rate detail — more than 120 years ago. “My wife is vis­it­ing her aunt in Budapest, my old­er daugh­ter is study­ing den­tistry in Mel­bourne, my younger daugh­ter is a min­ing engi­neer in the Urals, my son rais­es ostrich­es in Batavia, my nephew is on his plan­ta­tions in Batavia,” says the cap­tion of the 1896 car­toon above. “But this does not pre­vent us from cel­e­brat­ing Christ­mas on the tele­phono­scope.”

This pan­el ran in Belle Époque humor mag­a­zine Le rire (avail­able to read at the Inter­net Archive), drawn by the hand and pro­duced by the imag­i­na­tion of Albert Robi­da. A nov­el­ist as well as an artist, Robi­da drew acclaim in his day for the series Le Vingtième Siè­cle, whose sto­ries offered visions of the tech­nol­o­gy to come in that cen­tu­ry.

“Next to Zoom Christ­mas,” tweets phi­los­o­phy pro­fes­sor Helen de Cruz, Robi­da also imag­ined a future in which this “tele­phono­scope” would “give us edu­ca­tion, movies, tele­con­fer­enc­ing.” As ear­ly as the 1860s, says the Pub­lic Domain Review, Robi­da had “pub­lished an illus­tra­tion depict­ing a man watch­ing a ‘tele­vised’ per­for­mance of Faust from the com­fort of his own home.” See image above.

Though Robi­da seems to have coined the word “tele­phono­scope,” he was­n’t the first to pub­lish the kind of idea to which it referred. “The con­cept of the device first appeared not long after the tele­phone was patent­ed in 1876,” writes Ver­i­ty Hunt in a Lit­er­a­ture and Sci­ence arti­cle quot­ed by the Pub­lic Domain Review. “The term ‘telec­tro­scope’ was used by the French sci­en­tist and pub­lish­er Louis Figu­ier in L’An­née Sci­en­tifique et Indus­trielle in 1878 to pop­u­lar­ize the inven­tion, which he incor­rect­ly inter­pret­ed as real and ascribed to Alexan­der Gra­ham Bell.” The goal was to “do for the eye what the tele­phone had done for the ear,” though it would­n’t be ful­ly real­ized for well over a cen­tu­ry. When you raise a glass to a web­cam this week, con­sid­er toast­ing Albert Robi­da, to whom the year 2021 would have sound­ed impos­si­bly dis­tant — but who has proven more pre­scient about it than many of us alive today.

via Helen De Cruz

Relat­ed Con­tent:

A 1947 French Film Accu­rate­ly Pre­dict­ed Our 21st-Cen­tu­ry Addic­tion to Smart­phones

Jules Verne Accu­rate­ly Pre­dicts What the 20th Cen­tu­ry Will Look Like in His Lost Nov­el, Paris in the Twen­ti­eth Cen­tu­ry (1863)

How French Artists in 1899 Envi­sioned Life in the Year 2000: Draw­ing the Future

Mark Twain Pre­dicts the Inter­net in 1898: Read His Sci-Fi Crime Sto­ry, “From The ‘Lon­don Times’ in 1904”

In 1911, Thomas Edi­son Pre­dicts What the World Will Look Like in 2011: Smart Phones, No Pover­ty, Libraries That Fit in One Book

Paris Had a Mov­ing Side­walk in 1900, and a Thomas Edi­son Film Cap­tured It in Action

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

Revisit Kate Bush’s Peculiar Christmas Special, Featuring Peter Gabriel (1979)

It’s been hard out there for Kate Bush fans. Since the genius “Queen of British Pop” retired from tour­ing in 1979, pub­lic appear­ances have been few and far-between. She found the machin­ery of pop-star­dom a hin­drance to her process, and she’s been busy with oth­er things, she says. “Every time I fin­ish an album, I go into visu­al projects…. So I start­ed to veer away from the thing of being a live per­form­ing artist, to one of being a record­ing artist with attached visu­als.”

Fans are not enti­tled to her pres­ence, but Kate Bush was sore­ly missed in the 35 years between her first tour and her 2014 “Before the Dawn” res­i­den­cy at London’’s Ham­mer­smith Apol­lo. Before return­ing to the stage, she kept her­self in the pub­lic eye with elab­o­rate­ly cos­tumed music videos, a for­mat per­fect­ly suit­ed to her the­atri­cal and cin­e­mat­ic ambi­tions. (Asked by an inter­view­er in 1980 what she want­ed to do next, she answered, “Every­thing.”)

But then there’s the Kate Bush Christ­mas Spe­cial, “titled sim­ply Kate on-screen,” writes Chris­tine Pal­lon. The pro­gram, which “aired on the BBC on Decem­ber 28th, 1979,” fol­lowed on the heels of the Tour of Life, the whirl­wind debut con­cert series that promised, but did not deliv­er, so many more. “The Christ­mas special’s chore­og­ra­phy bor­rows heav­i­ly from that tour. But where she sang live on the Tour of Life, she lip-syncs to pre-record­ed tracks here and incor­po­rates pre-record­ed video seg­ments. As a result, the Christ­mas spe­cial plays out more like a crazy, long­form music video than a tra­di­tion­al stage show.”

Does Kate Bush sing Christ­mas songs? Does she sit on Santa’s lap? Does she mime, arms akim­bo, before the yule log?

Does she lounge on a piano next to a Gold­en Age croon­er?


Okay, she sings one Christ­mas song, “Decem­ber Will Be Mag­ic Again,” an orig­i­nal released as a UK sin­gle that year. The song pays earnest homage to tra­di­tion­al Christ­mas fig­ures like Bing Cros­by, Saint Nick, and Oscar Wilde before Kate turns into some kind of strange San­ta-like being who drops down on “the white city” in a para­chute to “cov­er the lovers.”

Oth­er­wise, the Christ­mas Spe­cial draws on Bush’s first three albums. In addi­tion to her entourage of dancers and back­up lip-syncers, she also invites a spe­cial guest—Peter Gabriel, of course (who might just as well be called the male Kate Bush)—to sing his “Here Comes the Flood” and duet with her on the extreme­ly down­beat “Anoth­er Day.”

Christ­mas spir­it? Who needs it? This is Kate, answer­ing the age-old ques­tion, Pal­lon writes, “what would hap­pen if the BBC gave a Christ­mas spe­cial to an incred­i­bly ambi­tious 21-year-old art rock­er who also smokes a ton of weed?” See the full track­list, with time­stamps, just below. Enjoy, and Hap­py Kate Bush Christ­mas Spe­cial Day!

Kate Bush — Christ­mas Spe­cial Track­list:

(Intro) 00:00
Vio­lin 00:29
(Gymnopédie No.1 — com­posed by Erik Satie) 03:44
Sym­pho­ny In Blue 04:44
Them Heavy Peo­ple 08:20
(Intro for Peter Gabriel) 12:52
Here Comes The Flood (Peter Gabriel) 13:22
Ran Tan Waltz 17:02
Decem­ber Will Be Mag­ic Again 19:43
The Wed­ding List 23:35
Anoth­er Day (with Peter Gabriel) 28:05
Egypt 31:41
The Man With The Child In His Eyes 36:21
Don’t Push Your Foot On The Heart­break 39:24

Relat­ed Con­tent:  

Watch a Tow­er­ing Orches­tral Trib­ute to Kate Bush: A 40th Anniver­sary Cel­e­bra­tion of Her First Sin­gle, “Wuther­ing Heights”

300 Kate Bush Imper­son­ators Pay Trib­ute to Kate Bush’s Icon­ic “Wuther­ing Heights” Video

2009 Kate Bush Doc­u­men­tary Dubs Her “Queen of British Pop”

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

« Go BackMore in this category... »
Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.