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David Bowie in 1983 // Getty Images
David Bowie in 1983 // Getty Images

When David Bowie Opened For T. Rex (As a Mime)

David Bowie in 1983 // Getty Images
David Bowie in 1983 // Getty Images

When David Bowie met Marc Bolan in 1964, the two were teenaged pop hopefuls, years away from full-fledged rock stardom. They met through their manager after he offered the boys some cash in exchange for painting his London office. The two traded fashion tips ("I’m King Mod. Your shoes are crap," Bolan said, as Bowie later recalled in Nicholas Pegg's The Complete David Bowie), and they became friends.

“Bolan was slightly younger but much less introverted than David, giving him the influence of an older sibling,” wrote Marc Spitz in Bowie: A Biography. Bowie neurotically applied Bolan’s suggestions to his early songs. While Bowie shuffled in and out of unsuccessful bands, Bolan established a career with John’s Children and later T. Rex, booking gigs across the UK and getting airplay from famed BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel.

Bolan invited Bowie to open for T. Rex on the band's 1969 tour. At Bolan’s insistence, Bowie performed his one-man mime routine depicting China’s invasion of Tibet. Bowie was an experienced mime, having trained under choreographer (and Marcel Marceau protégé) Lindsay Kemp.

Throughout the tour, Bowie got a negative reception (even for a mime). The audiences for T. Rex’s psychedelic folk-rock tended to be sympathetic to Chinese Communist revolutionary Mao Zedong. Many nights, Bowie’s routine was “ruined by heckles of left-wing students and hippies irate over his damning portrayal of China’s Red Guard,” wrote Simon Goddard in Ziggyology: A Brief History of Ziggy Stardust. Bolan “couldn’t help but laugh.”

While the mime routine was a failure, Bowie's big break was just around the corner. “Space Oddity” was released in the summer of 1969 (coinciding with the Apollo 11 mission), and it became an instant hit.

For a 1999 tribute to John Peel, David Bowie recalled his time opening for T. Rex, and the advice he received from the BBC DJ:

Dear John. When you worked with me on the T-Rex tour, and I was doing a mime piece based on the invasion of Tibet by the Chinese, you were somewhat non-plussed that the audience didn't like the piece where the back row of the audience lifted their hands up with Chairman Mao's little red book, and there was a whole feud going on between me and the audience.

You decided that the problem was that I was doing mime. You didn't like mime. And until I came here to America, I never realized that you were right. Nobody in the world likes mime. Thanks for the advice about the songs. I'm glad I stayed with the songwriting.

As their careers progressed, Bowie and Bolan's friendship strained and, for a period, the two became rivals. "I don’t consider David to be even remotely near big enough to give me any competition," Bolan told Cameron Crowe in a 1973 interview for Creem.

Bowie and Bolan were able to move past the animosity, and the two rebuilt their friendship. Nine days prior to Bolan's death in a car crash in 1977, Bowie performed on Bolan's TV show, Marc. He did not perform as a mime.

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This Just In
Police Recover Nearly 100 Artifacts Stolen From John Lennon’s Estate
Keystone Features / Stringer / Getty Images
Keystone Features / Stringer / Getty Images

A collection of artifacts stolen from John Lennon’s estate, including diaries, glasses, and handwritten music, has been recovered by German police, the Associated Press reports. After arresting the first suspect, law enforcement is now working to apprehend a second person of interest in the case.

The nearly 100 items went missing from the New York home of the late Beatles star’s widow Yoko Ono in 2006. Years later, German police were tipped off to their whereabouts when a bankruptcy administrator came across the haul in the storage facility of a Berlin auction house. The three leather-bound diaries that were recovered are dated 1975, 1979, and 1980. One entry refers to Lennon’s famous nude photo shoot with Annie Leibovitz, and another was written the morning of December 8, 1980, hours before he was shot and killed. In addition to the journals, police retrieved two pairs of his iconic glasses, a 1965 recording of a Beatles concert, a 1952 school book, contract documents for the copyright of the song “I’m the Greatest”, handwritten scores for "Woman" and "Just Like Starting Over”, and a cigarette case.

German authorities flew to New York to have Ono verify the items' authenticity. "She was very emotional and we noticed clearly how much these things mean to her,” prosecutor Susann Wettley told AP. When the objects will be returned to Ono is still unclear.

The first suspect, a 58-year-old German businessman from Turkey, was arrested Monday, November 21, following a raid of his house and vehicles. The second suspect is one of Ono's former chauffeurs who has a past conviction related to the theft. Police officers are hoping to extradite him from his current home in Turkey before moving forward with the case.

[h/t AP]

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science
Scientists Analyze the Moods of 90,000 Songs Based on Music and Lyrics
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iStock

Based on the first few seconds of a song, the part before the vocalist starts singing, you can judge whether the lyrics are more likely to detail a night of partying or a devastating breakup. The fact that musical structures can evoke certain emotions just as strongly as words can isn't a secret. But scientists now have a better idea of which language gets paired with which chords, according to their paper published in Royal Society Open Science.

For their study, researchers from Indiana University downloaded 90,000 songs from Ultimate Guitar, a site that allows users to upload the lyrics and chords from popular songs for musicians to reference. Next, they pulled data from labMT, which crowd-sources the emotional valence (positive and negative connotations) of words. They referred to the music recognition site Gracenote to determine where and when each song was produced.

Their new method for analyzing the relationship between music and lyrics confirmed long-held knowledge: that minor chords are associated with sad feelings and major chords with happy ones. Words with a negative valence, like "pain," "die," and "lost," are all more likely to fall on the minor side of the spectrum.

But outside of major chords, the researchers found that high-valence words tend to show up in a surprising place: seventh chords. These chords contain four notes at a time and can be played in both the major and minor keys. The lyrics associated with these chords are positive all around, but their mood varies slightly depending on the type of seventh. Dominant seventh chords, for example, are often paired with terms of endearment, like "baby", or "sweet." With minor seventh chords, the words "life" and "god" are overrepresented.

Using their data, the researchers also looked at how lyric and chord valence differs between genres, regions, and eras. Sixties rock ranks highest in terms of positivity while punk and metal occupy the bottom slots. As for geography, Scandinavia (think Norwegian death metal) produces the dreariest music while songs from Asia (like K-Pop) are the happiest. So if you're looking for a song to boost your mood, we suggest digging up some Asian rock music from the 1960s, and make sure it's heavy on the seventh chords.

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