Tales of Rock – The remarkable story behind David Bowie’s most iconic feature

At the centre of it all, your eyes, your eyes …”

Many aspects of the life and incredible achievements of David Bowie will be considered in the weeks and months ahead following the news of his death. Yet the cryptic lyric above from the lead single on David Bowie’s new album is a reminder that the unusual appearance of his eyes was a key part of the singer’s star persona.

Indeed their iconic presence features in the advertising campaign for ★[Blackstar]. For many people it is that look – that the eyes formed a core part of – that will be an abiding memory of Bowie.

So, why were they apparently two different colours?

Complete heterochromia is a fairly rare condition (in humans) whereby each iris is a distinctly different colour, such as having one blue iris and the other brown.

But this isn’t why Bowie’s eyes looked different.

Instead, the unusual appearance of Bowie’s eyes were due to a condition called anisocoria. Anisocoria is a condition characterized by an unequal size in a person’s pupils. In Bowie’s case, his left pupil was permanently dilated.

This can create the illusion of having different coloured eyes because the fixed pupil does not respond to changes in light, while the right pupil does. So Bowie’s left eye often appeared to be quite dark, due to the blackness of his dilated pupil, when compared to the blue of his right iris.

The dilated pupil of his left eye was also potentially more prone to the effect of “red eye”. This sometimes adds to the appearance of a different color when contrasted to his right eye.

Red eye occurs when light reflects off of the fundus (the back of the eye), through an open pupil, and captures a red coloration by picking up tonality from the blood in the choroid lining of the eyeball.

This can clearly be seen in the Aladdin Sane – Eyes Open photograph by Brian Duffy (shot in 1973 but unpublished until 2011) that was used as the lead image on the posters for the V&A David Bowie is (2013) exhibition.

So what happened?

Anecdotally, the cause of Bowie’s anisocoria was attributed to the fallout from a lusty scrap in the spring of 1962. Bowie had come to blows with a friend, George Underwood, over a girl they were both hoping to date.

Both were just 15 at the time and their friendship seemingly remained intact. The two performed together in various bands before Underwood turned from music to painting and graphics. But Bowie’s left eye remained seriously damaged.

An impulsive punch had accidentally scratched the eyeball, resulting in paralysis of the muscles that contract the iris. From that day, Bowie’s left pupil remained in a fixed open position.

Over time, Bowie apparently thanked his friend for his notorious eye injury, telling Underwood that it gave him “a kind of mystique”. This mystique helped fuel some of Bowie’s greatest creations and enhance iconic images, such as the album cover for Heroes (1977).

His eyes could appear eerie and mismatched, producing a captivating or mesmeric gaze from on stage or through the lens of a camera. And the uncanny appearance of Bowie’s eyes was ideal for a performer who embraced ideas of the alien, the outsider, the otherworldly and the occult.

In an increasingly visual world seemingly preoccupied by perfection, Bowie’s damaged left pupil became an intrinsic and arresting part of his enigmatic identity.

 

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Tales of Rock – Tony Iommi

Birmingham was an industrial town in the Sixties, “much like our Detroit.” He had been welding, but grew infatuated with making music, playing guitar and accordion. When a band he was playing in wanted to tour Europe, he decided he’d take the rest of the day off from welding, but his mother sent him back to finish off the day. “They put me on a huge machine, a massive thing, and I didn’t know how to work it,” he said. “As I was pushing the metal into the machine, it came down with such a force and bang, it just chopped my fingers. There was blood going all over the place.”

A co-worker had put his fingertips in a matchbox and sent him to the hospital, but doctors told him he could never play again. “I was extremely depressed and very down,” he said. “The manager of the factory came to visit me at home…and then he told me the story about Django Reinhardt, who had lost his fingers.”

Feeling inspired, he created makeshift fingertips, invented light-gauge strings, dropped his tuning and explored a number of other ways he could play guitar. The combination led to an “aggressive, raw and fat” sound that became Black Sabbath’s signature style.

“Of course, losing my fingertips was devastating, but in hindsight it created something,” he said. “It made me invent a new sound and a different style of playing, and a different sort of music. Really, it turned out to be a good thing off a bad thing.”

Thank you Tony, for 45 years of joy!

 

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Tales of Rock – Motley Crue’s Tommy Lee And Nikki Sixx Had The Grossest Bet Ever

Once you’re a famous rock star, all the fun goes out of making a conquest. Instead of having to go to a bar and desperately try to pick someone up, or swipe right on every photo on Tinder in the hopes one single person will like you back, you basically can’t go anywhere without beating groupies off with a stick (pun not intended). Even if you’re the bassist. That’s why you have to throw some roadblocks in your way to make it a little more interesting.

That’s where Motley Crue’s drummer and aforementioned bassist come in. Apparently sick of having foursomes every night, they made a bet with each other over who could go longest without bathing, showering, or washing in any way, and still find a groupie willing to have sex with them and/or not vomit all over them. Spoiler alert: This has gone down in history as “The Spaghetti Incident” so if you are squeamish, tap out now.

So Tommy and Nikki did their thing up on stage every night, getting sweaty and gross in their trouser areas, then would proceed to have sex with up to four women a night, getting even grosser and sweatier down there, and did nothing about it. After even two days of that, most of us would be so disgusted with ourselves that we would give up on the bet, but the members of the Crue managed to go two months.

Two months.

Then finally one night it all came to a head, literally. (Seriously, one last warning. Go look at puppies or something.) Nikki brought a woman to his room to get down, and she started giving him a blowjob. Next thing he knew, she was vomiting all over his junk. Since she had eaten pasta earlier in the night, this became known as “The Spaghetti Incident.” Said pasta apparently “became tangled in his pubic hair.” Instead of freaking out and running for the nearest water, Nikki called for Tommy to come check out what had happened, and admitted he lost the bet. And you will never be able to eat pasta again.

 

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Tales of Rock – The 10 Wildest Led Zeppelin Legends, Fact-Checked

The Old Hermit in the ‘Led Zeppelin IV’ Gatefold Is a Character From ‘The Lord of the Rings’

THE BACKSTORY: It’s no secret that Led Zeppelin loved The Lord of the Rings. They even sing about “Mordor” and “Gollum” in 1969’s “Ramble On.” So when a mysterious cloaked figure with a lantern who seemed to be straight out of Middle-Earth appeared on the inside cover of their fourth album, many fans assumed it was a figure from J.R.R. Tolkien’s books.

THE TRUTH: “The hermit” was merely inspired by a figure from a Tarot card. Page played the role of the Hermit during a fantasy sequence in Zeppelin’s 1976 movie, The Song Remains the Same.

Led Zeppelin

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

 

The Title of ‘D’yer Mak’er’ Is Based on an Old Cockney Joke About Jamaica

THE BACKSTORY: Many fans think the title of this Houses of the Holy tune is pronounced
“Dire Maker”; in fact, you’re supposed to say it more like the name of the Caribbean country.

THE TRUTH: Plant has confirmed that the title “D’yer Mak’er” does, in fact, come from a rusty bit of Cockney humor, which usually goes something like this:
Cockney Man 1: My wife is going on holiday.
Cockney Man 2: D’yer make ‘er? [“Jamaica,” but pronounced quickly so that it sounds just like “Did you make her?”]
Cockney Man 1: No, she’s going on her own accord. 
The sly allusion to Jamaica made sense for the song: “D’yer Mak’er” is Zeppelin’s reggae move.

Led Zeppelin

Atlantic Records

The Title of Zeppelin’s Fourth Album Is ‘Zoso’

THE BACKSTORY: Their first three albums had simple, sensible titles: Led ZeppelinIIIII.
When it came time for number four, in November 1971, they stripped things down even further, refusing to print a single word anywhere on the record sleeve, not even their own names, apparently in hopes of causing confusion among the hated rock press. “After all we had accomplished, the press was still calling us a hype,” Page said. “So that is why the fourth album was untitled.” Naturally, this created some confusion – and it infuriated Atlantic Records. The band did include four symbols on the cover, one that represented each group member. Page’s symbol seemed to spell out “Zoso.”

THE TRUTH: Page insists the symbols aren’t even letters, although that hasn’t stopped people from referring to the album as Zoso (or Zeppelin IV). Technically the album is untitled.

Randy Olson/National Geographic/Getty Images

Led Zeppelin Once Defiled a Groupie With a Mud Shark

THE BACKSTORY: The most notorious of all Zeppelin legends began when the band played the Seattle Pop Festival on July 27th, 1969, then retired to the Edgewater Inn. The building sits atop Seattle’s Puget Sound; guests can actually fish directly from their windows. The 1985 Led Zeppelin biography Hammer of the Gods – which got much of its information from Zep road manager Richard Cole – describes a graphic scene in one of the rooms. “A pretty young groupie with red hair was disrobed and tied to the bed,” wrote author Stephen Davis. “Led Zeppelin then proceeded to stuff pieces of shark into her vagina and rectum.”

THE TRUTH: This one’s fishy. A different version of the mud-shark incident has Cole as the fish-wielding culprit; the band Vanilla Fudge have also claimed responsibility for the incident. Their drummer, Carmine Appice, says the girl in question was a groupie who’d tagged along with him, and his keyboardist Mark Stein filmed the entire encounter. Zeppelin were supposedly in the hotel at the time, though only John Bonham was around for the incident. Somewhere out there is a sixtysomething woman who might be able to confirm the whole thing, but it’s hard to imagine her coming forward.

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Jimmy Page Dated a 14-year-old Girl While He Was in Led Zeppelin

THE BACKSTORY: Lori Maddox was a part of the Los Angeles groupie scene beginning in the early 1970s. According to Maddox, Page became infatuated with her and had a roadie bring Maddox up to his suite at the L.A. Hyatt House. “[He was] wearing this hat over his eyes and holding a cane,” she remembered. “He looked just like a gangster. It was magnificent.” The pair went on to have a torrid affair over the next few years. (Cutie!)

THE TRUTH: Maddox was, amazingly, just 14 when she met Page, though Page did what he could to keep the relationship hidden. Even in the swingin’ Seventies this kind of thing could put you in jail. But with no TMZ or Us Weekly, Page got away with it. He eventually dumped Maddox for the of-legal-age Bebe Buell.

 

jimmy page

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Jimmy Page Worshipped the Devil

THE BACKSTORY: Page’s obsession with Aleister Crowley led to whispers that he and Satan were tight; yet another rumor claimed that the members of Led Zeppelin had made a Faustian bargain in exchange for stardom.

THE TRUTH: There’s no evidence Page was a Satanist, though he believed in Crowley’s philosophy of personal liberation. (He even had Crowley’s dictum “Do what thou wilt” inscribed in the run-off groove of the original vinyl releases of Led Zeppelin III.) Page did little to deflect the rumors throughout Zeppelin’s history, perhaps sensing they were good for business. “I don’t really want to go on about my personal beliefs or my involvement in magic,” he told Rolling Stone. “I’m not interested in turning
anybody on to anybody that I’m turned on to. If people want to find things, they find them themselves.”

 

John Bonham

Jorgen Angel/Redferns

John Bonham Drank 40 Shots of Vodka the Night He Died

THE BACKSTORY: Bonham was found dead on the morning of September 25th, 1980, at Page’s house in Windsor Berkshire, after a day of drinking and rehearsing.

THE TRUTH: According to the coroner’s report, the drummer had the equivalent of 40 vodka shots in his system. Bonham had been drinking quadruple vodkas earlier in the day and was so inebriated he failed to wake up when his body began ejecting the alcohol.

 

kieth moon

Chris Morphet/Redferns

Keith Moon of the Who Gave Led Zeppelin Their Name

THE BACKSTORY: In May 1966, Moon and Who bassist John Entwistle recorded the instrumental “Beck’s Bolero” with Page, John Paul Jones and Jeff Beck. The track came out well, and they tossed around the idea of forming a new band. Moon allegedly said the band would go over like a lead balloon. Page remembered the joke two years later when he created Zep.

THE TRUTH: Accounts differ; for decades Entwistle claimed it was he, not Moon, who made the “lead balloon” crack. But history seems to favor Moon’s version.

 

Jimmy Page

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Jimmy Page Once Owned Aleister Crowley’s Former Home

THE BACKSTORY: Crowley was a British philosopher and occultist who dabbled in black magic in the early 20th century. Page was obsessed with him, amassing a huge collection of memorabilia.

THE TRUTH: Page did, in fact, purchase Crowley’s former home in Loch Ness, Scotland, in 1971 and later claimed it was haunted – but not necessarily because of Crowley. “There were two or three owners before Crowley moved into it,” Page told Rolling Stone in 1975. “It was also a church that was burned to the ground with the congregation in it. Strange things have happened in that house that had nothing to do with Crowley. The bad vibes were already there. A man was beheaded there, and sometimes you can hear his head rolling down.”

 

Led Zeppelin

Atlantic Records

If You Play ‘Stairway to Heaven’ in Reverse, You Hear Satanic Messages

THE BACKSTORY: Televangelist Paul Crouch brought this allegation into the mainstream in 1982, claiming that, when played backward, the “bustle in your hedgerow” segment of Zep’s signature tune says this: “Here’s to my sweet Satan/The one whose little path would make me sad, whose power is Satan/He will give those with him 666/There was a little toolshed where he made us suffer, sad Satan.”

THE TRUTH: That part of “Stairway” does sound similar to Crouch’s interpretation when played backward, but it’s just a bizarre coincidence. “Who on Earth would have ever thought of doing that?” Robert Plant said of the backward-Satanism charges. “You’ve got to have a lot of time on your hands to even consider that people would do that.”

 

 

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Celebrity Sightings: Aretha Franklin Had Power. Did We Truly Respect It?

apple.news/Ah2IFn194SCK0RAACJOpo5Q

 

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My Young Life: Bitter? Table for One.

As far back as I can remember, I’ve loved music. I was always there standing in front of the record player playing air guitar before anyone even coined the phrase “air guitar.”

I thought about writing this piece for a long time, but was too busy with all the dating content. But now it’s 2018 and things have changed in my life, so like I said at the beginning of the year I’m going to add more content about other parts of my life and childhood.

I’m going to take a different approach to this piece. I’m going to write it in terms of how I think about the story in my mind. The way I see it is as an interview. Someone who is interviewing my parents about their decisions. We’ll call him Bob.

This is something new for me but here goes:

1970

Bob: “Thanks for meeting with me today. I see your son over there really loves music. Look at him jamming out on his imaginary guitar and tapping his foot as he listens to that song on the record player.”

Parents: “Yea, he loves rock and roll music.”

Bob: “You should get him a guitar and give him lessons.”

Parents: “Nah, we’re going to buy a huge upright piano and pay for lessons for his sister Janice for a few years.”

Bob: Is she musically inclined as well?

Parents: “She doesn’t appear to be.”

Bob: “Why not for him?”

Parents: “He isn’t disciplined enough to take guitar lessons.”

Bob: “Okay. Anything for him?”

Parents: “Probably karate lessons.”

 

Let’s jump to 1979

Bob: “How’s it going?”

Parents: “Good.”

Bob: “How’s Janice’s piano playing going?”

Parents: “We sold the house with the piano in it. She never plays it. But there is a piano at our shore house.”

Bob: “Does she play that?”

Parents: “No. Actually some weird girl she hangs out with plays it more than she does when she comes over.”

Bob: “What about your Son?”

Parents: “He joined a band in Philly as their lead singer. Then he got his hands on a cheap electric guitar and taught himself how to play by listening to his records, and reading music books. He’s even started writing his own songs and the band plays them.”

Bob: “Impressive.”

Parents: “But we’re moving the family to the shore so that’s the end of his band.”

Bob: “That’s sad.”

Parents: “Not really. He met some guys and he joined their band as a guitarist. They play around in Wildwood and they play some of his original compositions.”

Bob: “He did all of that on his own?”

Parents: “Well, we bought him a Marshall amplifier.”

Bob: “So can you admit that there have been some missteps in the parenting department?”

Parents: “No.”

I’ll be writing some more about my musical journey on phicklephilly. I guess the lesson here is, you can do anything you put your mind to. I’m pretty sure Janice only took all of those lessons to please my father. But I remember I was sitting on the floor playing my guitar to “I Want You” note for note by the Beatles.  He came in and said I had surpassed him because he could only listen to music, but I could make music. That was one of the best compliments that he ever paid me.

Another time I was jamming out in my bedroom and it was loud distortion metal guitar playing. I went out on the deck to smoke a cigarette and one of our neighbors who was just a renter gave me an earful, about how I was disturbing the peace and how he was going to get a petition to have us thrown out of the neighborhood. When my father found out he went over to the guy and tore him a new asshole. That guy died a year or so later.

So that was pretty cool.

Bitter? No. I’m just telling my version of a series of events in my life. I forgave everybody for everything over a decade ago. Why drink the poison hoping they all die? You only end up consuming yourself with hatred. It’s a waste of your precious time. Don’t let anybody live rent free in your head. Besides, my parents goodness outweighed anything negative they ever did.

 

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Tales of Rock – Rush – This Elegant Band That Is Like No Other

My baby sister Jill, loves Rush. They once played two nights near where she went to college and she went both nights! That’s dedication. She said she stood on her chair the entire show and sang every lyric right back to Geddy Lee. Rush is to her as Aerosmith is to me.

Here’s some cool facts about this legendary band from Canada.

Rush have fans in high places. Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan is an outspoken “fanboy,” and he even interviewed the band for a radio segment. Country star Tim McGraw called himself a “big Rush fan” during an interview with Larry King. On a grander stage, hip-hop/pop/R&B mega-producer Pharrell Williams subtly rocked a ‘Test for Echo’ t-shirt during an episode of ‘The Voice.’

Neil Peart is rightly regarded as one of the greatest rock drummers in history. In addition to his famously massive kit, he also plays a seemingly endless list of auxiliary percussion instruments. On 1977’s ‘A Farewell to Kings’ alone, he is credited with “drums, orchestra bells, wind chimes, bell tree, vibraslap, triangle, tubular bells, and temple blocks”; on the following year’s ‘Hemispheres,’ he added gong, cowbells, wind chimes, crotales, and timpani.

“Alex Lifeson” has a nice ring to it – by design. The guitarist was born Aleksandar Zivojinovic to Serbian immigrant parents, but he used his surname’s English equivalent for the stage, fearing it would be too difficult for others to pronounce. Bassist Geddy Lee, the son of two Polish Holocaust survivors, changed his name from Gary Lee Weinrib. But how did her get the name “Geddy”? His mother had such a thick Yiddish accent, that when she would call his name (Gary) it always came out as “Geddy” so they boys started to refer to him as Geddy. (I love that bit!)

Rush have rarely taken a break since their 1974 self-titled debut. True, the trio have slowed down considerably in recent years, but their early amount of work is staggering, releasing 18 studio and live albums (from ‘Rush’ to 1993’s ‘Counterparts’) in a 20-year span.

Peart isn’t just the band’s primary lyricist. He’s also an author, with six books published since 1996 that have chronicled his travels as a touring musician and motorcyclist. His most recent, ‘Far and Near: On Days Like These,’ was released in October 2014.

Terry Brown co-produced every Rush album from 1975’s ‘Fly By Night’ to 1982’s ‘Signals.’ But that fruitful partnership was ruined largely by one song, the reggae-tinged bass monster ‘Digital Man.’ The trio were aiming to push their music in new – often more commercially accessible – directions, but Brown was reluctant to leave the prog epics behind.

Though Rush is from Toronto, the band’s first true success came when DJ Donna Halper played the band’s hard-hitting ‘Working Man’ on Cleveland’s WMMS. It became a fixture on local radio, propelling Rush to a record deal (and LP re-release) with American label Mercury and high-profile opening slots for Uriah Heep and Kiss.

Rush was christened by an unlikely source: Bill Rutsey, the brother of the band’s original drummer, John Rutsey. “The band was excited, but they had a big problem,” author Bill Banasiewicz explains in his 1988 biography ‘Rush Visions.’ “While they had been dreaming of playing, they had neglected to come up with a name for their group. So a few days before the gig they sat around in John’s basement trying to come up with an appropriate moniker. They weren’t having much luck when John’s older brother Bill piped up, ‘Why don’t you call the band Rush?’, and Rush it was.”

Rush rank alongside Cream and ELP as one of rock’s greatest power trios, but they’ve recruited a number of outside studio collaborators over the years. The first of these guests was Hugh Syme, who played keyboards on several albums beginning with ‘2112.’ Syme is more famous for his visual art: he’s designed all of Rush’s album covers since 1975’s ‘Caress of Steel.’

YYZ,’ Rush’s Grammy-nominated instrumental showcase, was named after the identification code for Toronto’s Pearson International Airport. The song’s drilling intro riff is based on the visual pattern for those three letters, rendered into Morse code. It’s the most lovably nerdy moment from prog’s nerdiest band.

 

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