For Whom The Bell Tolls: The Story of Bjork and Alexander McQueen



I was researching beatboxing for the British Pathe archive yesterday and part of that research involved talking to one of the world's most celebrated beatboxers Rahzel. I first heard the name Razhel in the autumn of 2004 when Bjork used his vocal beats for her acapella album Medulla.

Re-watching the video to Who Is It, the first Bjork song that Razhel worked on (according to Bjork the final version was recorded by Rahzel in its entirety on his first take!) I was surprised to learn from the comments section that Alexander McQueen designed Bjork's bell dress. In hindsight it's quite obvious:



Who Is It can act rather harrowingly today as a prophetic commentary on the Alexander McQueen story, and this left me wanting to know more about the working relationship between these two great artists...

Bjork first met McQueen in 1997 when he was fresh out of St. Martin's (when Lady Gaga was 10 years old - assuming her given age is accurate). Isabella Blow, a mutual friend, had just purchased McQueen's graduate collection and this drew the attention of the obscure Icelandic singer who was looking to break away from her bubblegum punk routes that had beed defined by her days as the lead singer of The Sugarcubes.

Bjork commissioned McQueen to dress and direct her for the cover of her album Homogenic. Both artists were interested in the relationship between technology and nature and Bjork's album Homogenic addressed this relationship directly, as well as using stereo intelligently so that you could hear the whole album with either just strings or just beats - the kind of project that won McQueen's interest (admittedly, Bjork was already becoming a bit of a gay icon and music mag pigeon-holers were clutching photos of her, one eye squinting, holding her up against the stained glass window of Kate Bush in their offices - to style Bjork was a big oppurtunity for the young McQueen). Homogenic became Bjork's most iconic cover:


McQueen then directed the video to one of the album's songs Alarm Call:



The clothing and activity in Alarm Call is quite subtle for McQueen really, just as the song is quite cheerful and rounded for a Bjork single. The important thing was that both artists were busy working and steadily sailing towards the mouths of their desired industries. Life was looking good and by the end of the decade both Bjork and McQueen were household names.

Earlier I mentioned Lady Gaga and before I discuss her more I feel I should point out here that I enjoy her pop music, own all of her records and don't want to fall into a YouTube-esque trap of comparing Lady Gaga against Bjork as they are both very different artists.

HOWEVERRRRRRR......

It is unfortunate that with all the razmataz of Lady Gaga's attention-grabbing high-profile pull-out-all-the-stops money-making tributes to McQueen, in which she sang her own on-the-shelves pop songs to audiences of millions, that some of the more truthful and heartfelt aspects of McQueen's earlier vision have already lapsed.

Some artists have a habit of overwriting and overshadowing the work of their predecessors, and whilst that may be commendable and due to their timeliness and relevance it also means that some of the more tender truths are left behind. So until somebody takes it upon themselves to write a pamphlet about Bjork and McQueen, battle-axe blogposts like this must remain.

It seems to me that whilst McQueen's partnership with Bjork was sensual and thinking, other parts of McQueen's later work was a practical joke on the pop industry. He sent Lady Gaga to collect an award looking like this...

"You look amazing Gaga, you're a fashion statement, you're a pioneer, you're our leader" *Cough, ka-ching, snigger, snort*

You see, even this blog post is losing sight of its path, rapidly descending into a vapid bitch fest on nothingness, a world that didn't exist in 1997.

ANYWAY. One year after Bjork first met McQueen in 1997, she told the Chicago Sun Times "I explained to Lee that the person who wrote these songs is someone in an impossible situation, so impossible that she had to become a warrior, but a warrior who had to fight with love, not weapons"

If only McQueen had remembered those words 13 years later when his impossible situation had materialised and was threatening to engulf him.

Despite Lady Gaga's big song and dance at the Brits (the McQueen tribute aspect was big news at at the time, serving its purpose as journalistic firewood for Gaga's flaming hot career, but two years later it's boiled down to a rather disappoint glittery residue of "Look at these fabulous hoof shoes he made guys!") it was Bjork who was invited to sing at his funeral at St. Paul's Cathedral in London.

Bjork could have resurrected one of her hits from the 90s, perhaps re-issued the video of Alarm Call, or promoted material from her then forthcoming film. Instead she sang Gloomy Sunday, accompanied only by an organ. The extraordinary and yet modest performance was recorded on a shaky handheld camera and was not televised. Afterwards she published a small note on her website thanking Alexander McQueen and stating that he played a vital role in her formative years.

Bjork joined a long list of magical stars to cover Gloomy Sunday, including Billie Holiday, Ray Charles, Marianne Faithfull and Sinead O'Connor. And so it came as no surprise to high fashion's inner circle when Nick Knight approached Bjork to work with him on his Alexander McQueen tribute video:





Perhaps it was Bjork who let McQueen down. She found her fans, she had a son and she found happiness. Bjork opened The Olympic ceremony in Greece before a TV audience of 50 million and yet it's almost as if nobody noticed. Bjork is for her fans' eyes only. McQueen sacrificed himself for those who still needed something to look at.

Bjork dedicated her career to nature and trying to preserve the earth, McQueen took the technological route with its holographic fashion shows, deliberately over-produced pop records and sea of flashing cameras. A world that eventually played a part in destroying him.


Bad Romance is a fantastic song that arguably captures that pain, chaos and yearning that McQueen might have felt at the very end of his life. The song has enjoyed 450 million YouTube views as of today and will go down in history as one of the songs of its decade, if not the song. Meanwhile Who Is It can only be viewed on YouTube in poor quality and the official Bjork TV version has only had a measly 15,000 visitors across 5 whole years.

But if Bad Romance has you reaching for the volume, it is Bjork's song that speaks volumes...

"Who is it that never let you down? Who is it who gave you back your crown? And the ornaments - they're going around. Now they're handing it over, handing it over" - Bjork, 2004.


"I want your ugly. I want your disease. I want your everything as long as it's free. I want your love. LAAV LAAV LAAV, I want your Leurrrrrrrgggggghhhhhhhhhhh..........." - Lady Gaga, 2010.


And indeed, McQueen's crown does get passed around. And so when Kate Middleton chose an Alexander McQueen wedding dress for The Royal Wedding it acted for me as an antedote to the robotic diseased side of McQueen's magnificent designs, bringing a sense of catharsis, it seemed to connect to the Bjork side of McQueen, the side that he very nearly left behind.



Further reading:



The official Who Is It page (Bjork's website has a beautifully crafted page for each of her songs)


@jackcullenuk

Bjorn Borg’s Bizarre Battersea Power Station Party with Robyn and Luke Worrall


So last night London Fashion Week “launched” with a much-hyped party at Battersea Power Station.

Male underwear models + an abstract edgy venue + free bar + a performance from Robyn = AMAZING. Right?

Wrong:

7.00pm

We arrive at Battersea Power station as instructed, only to be told that the party actually starts at 8, not 7 like it said on the invite. This wasn’t their fault, the PR girls were quite adamant on letting us know whilst listlessly stroking their iPads, dubious manicures a-go-go.

7.12pm

A crowd of cold hungry sober media personae started to gather outside... A fifty-five year-old magazine editor starts to wonder what the fuck she is doing in SW8.



7.17pm

Four feckless heater lamps were installed. People didn’t mind waiting an hour though because there were lots of cute little bars and bistros dotted around so we could just hang out in those for a bit... oh no wait .. there weren’t actually... BECAUSE WE WERE STANDING OUTSIDE BATTERSEA FUCKING POWER STATION.

"Punctuality in PR is essential. If the invite says 7pm and journalists turn up at 7pm and you've made them travel to Battersea then you let them in at 7pm and handle the situation from there or you hand them a fucking drink. Isn't that just common sense? Like in journalism if you have a deadline and your article isn't ready then you drop everything and finish it, what you don't do is say "Well, I know I originally said it would be ready, but it's not quite ready, so can you like just print a blank page this month or make the pictures bigger and I'll maybe finish it later?" " - is not the kind of small-talk you want to hear at the beginning of your event.

A more successful PR move would have been scratching Bjorn Borg's name onto a plastic bucket and kicking it in the Thames.

So... Journalists started mingling with staff from other PR companies, complimenting each other’s winter coats. Journalists started saying how they weren’t going to write about this event now, even if it was really good, because they resented being made to wait in the cold, whilst older PR people gave a whispered commentary on how embarrassing the situation was for Bjorn Borg, as if he's sat at home watching us on CCTV, and that this is why the PR industry shouldn't be 50% staffed by sense-illiterate interns who steal toilet roll from work.

7.36pm

Still waiting. No drinks. More people. A lady from a national newspaper left because she needed a piss. She was probably one of only ten guests who had genuine and influential editorial content at her finger tips, but not to worry - someone from Made In Chelsea is going to show up!

8.00pm.

Finally we were let in. Just when we thought our Thursday night was going to be dancing to the sound of our own teeth chattering in a gravel yard connected to a giant dump.

8.02pm
We're inside and the music is good! Whoever organised the overture playlist was a genius, it instantly put everyone in a better mood, I’m talking golden oldies by Kelis, Eve and Adina Howard. Although to be honest, just having electricity and basic amenities was a joy.

8.03pm

I had my first sip of a drink since lunch. Possibly the longest period of sobriety this year. The free bar sprang into action, better late than never, but was disappointingly staffed by people wearing all of their clothes. But who cares – we’re drinking.

8.15pm

It occurs to me that this event may as well not be in Battersea Power station.

We’re in a marquee inside the power station and it could basically be anywhere, like my Auntie Patty's wedding in Guildford or a 16th birthday party on cable television. The “Swedish forest” that some of the advanced press coverage picked up on is just a few plastic department store esque Christmas trees that you can’t even appreciate because the smoke machine is on top notch like it’s 6pm at a mid 90s school disco. The PR strategy seems to be "If we put enough exclamation marks on Facebook tomorrow and keep serving wine - nobody will notice". That would have been the case if I wasn't intensely sobered by the fact that Robyn.. oh no wait... read on...

8.20pm

Food arrives and is really good. Oysters, meatballs, cured meats, sashimi. The food was the best part of the event, but we didn’t know that then or appreciate it enough at the time because we still thought that Robyn was going to... oh no wait.. read on....

8.30pm

Models in pants begin to appear. Girl models in Bjorg Born pants start staging extrovertly contrived pillow fights and jumping on wooden benches. Call me old fashioned, but if I was a straight girl, I would choose to wear nice lovely delicate, possibly ornate, knickers - not block-colour glow in the dark boxer shorts.

The male models wore two pairs of pants, one on top of the other, instantly ruining the sex appeal for gay members of the media, who were everywhere. As one gay journalist told me: “It’s not like I’m going to pull a model’s pants down at an event is it? Why are they being so lame? I want to see some cock definition”, to which another guest replied “Yeah but Caroline Flack’s here”.

8.45pm

I had my photograph taken with two models. The one on the left is called Luke Worrall. Before this photo was taken a woman told me: “At the peak of his career he was dating Kelly Osbourne and was a muse for blar blar blar blar at i-D magazine”


During the taking of this photo I am thinking the following. 1) How did this rock-hard little boy end up dating Kelly Osbourne? 2) How much money was he paid to do this event? 3) Isn’t it tragic that someone said “At the peak of his career”? 4) What will Luke be doing in twenty years time – maybe we could live in a seaside village together and do jigsaw puzzles and take drugs?

He’s actually quite hot, but would look hotter in ANY OTHER PAIR OF PANTS IN THE ENTIRE WORLD. I’m not just being a bitch am I? These pants are pretty bad right? Also – do the eyebrows come with that bikini? Don’t get me wrong, I like Bjorn Borg pants, but this pair aren’t cutting it baby.

But yeah, Luke is hot in real life as well as in editorial. Also - this is only the fifth ever photo of me to appear on my blog, that's one photo of me per year, and I look a bit ropey in it too - so I hope you appreciate this if you're reading Luke. I'm imagining Luke Worrall naked in a fashion designer's bed now, conducting a 24hr Google search of himself on his laptop, reading my blog, with Tetris and the Student Loans Company open in other tabs. So Bret Easton Ellis.

In the background you can see the sauna-style seating. It’s Swedish – get it? Things can also fall down it.

9.00pm

Some kind of world exclusive film happens on the outside side of the building, but of course we’re all inside the building. I don’t get the excitement behind “world exclusives” anyway. I think archive footage is far more interesting, like this. Bjorn Borg is a hot retro tennis player who flogs pants to gays now, I like that and would rather indulge in his impressive back-story rather than kid myself that there’s a connection between the piece of fabric around my cock and the future of fashion - this is why I can't work in fashion.

10.00pm

Some people from Laid In Chelsea turn up which keeps girls at the event amused for approximately twelve minutes. Gays take the opportunity to rape the bar or go for a cigarette. If the cast of Gimme, Gimme, Gimme turned up - we'd have been there.

LATER

Finally Robyn comes onstage. This is the moment everyone has been waiting for. Everyone knows it is the most important segment of the evening, which is why this guy starts filming it without even looking at it:


Does he realise that he is living his ONE LIFE on this planet RIGHT NOW and that there’s no playback in heaven? Stop filming and start fucking looking!

So anyway, we’re all thrilled to see a butch little Robyn come onstage with her effortlessly unbeatably cool hair, but then in a horrid twist.....


SHE DOESN’T SING ANY ROBYN SONGS!

NO CALL YOUR GIRLFRIEND. NO HANG WITH ME. NO DREAM ON. NO WITH EVERY HEARTBEAT. NO NEVER BE MINE. NO FUCKING ANYTHING!

All Robyn does is sing an acoustic heavily edited version of Indestructible and then sing two or possibly three random downer rock songs with Coco Sumnothing.

Coco Sumner is basically Sting’s daughter (younger readers: Sting is a retired popstar who used to be The Police who sang Message In The Bottle), and she has this little band called “I Blame Coco” and everyone in the London fashion world seems to think that she’s actually a popstar, happily overlooking the fact that nobody can name any of her songs, no gay bars play any of her songs and nobody could pick her out from an identify line-up of 3 random girls that you met on the Tube. Girls at boarding schools in Kent share I Blame Coco videos on their Facebook walls, one woman in Chichester once mentioned Coco Sumner on her Pinterest page, and that’s about the extent of it...

Meanwhile, Rob fucking Yn is on the stage and she's not even singing any of her songs!

I blame Coco indeed.

Then, almost as an apology to the crowd of disappointed gays who are swearing they'll never wear Bjorn Borg pants again unless they're free or a one-night-stand leaves them behind, Jodie Harsh appears and starts DJ'ing a compensation playlist of hot gay dance.

Drunkenly I suspected that this horrifying actuality of Robyn not singing any Robyn was because Robyn was annoyed with someone organising the event, and so I tweeted Bjorn Borg because his Twitter address was plastered in black gloss over all of the walls - which is definitely a mistake at a free-bar media event.

Bjorn Borg’s Twitter then replied saying this:


I don’t know who tweets from Bjorn Borg but why on earth would they reply to me – a drunken lame gay man complaining at a free event which is actually pretty fun – on Twitter, thereby drawing the attention of Bjorn Borg followers onto me, and subsequently my tweets about waiting in the cold outside their erroneous party and other bitchy riff raff? There must be SOMETHING happening in Sweden they can tweet about? And even worse - they CC Robyn into the tweet, like the kid who does Robyn's Twitter from an improvised bedsit in Stockholm gives a fucking shit.

At 2.30 this afternoon I am still at the top of Bjorn Borg’s twitter page. Madness.

So, needless to say, before the sheer tragedy set in of seeing Robyn on a stage here in London and not getting to hear or dance to even one of the many fantastic songs in her impeccable songbook, we left and went out in Vauxhall, where lots of proper Robyn was played.

On the way out I saw this guy and took this photo of him on my telephone:


He’s at EVERYTHING but I don’t get what he does. He was even at a random Austin Reed event last year where we got free socks. And when I say he’s at everything, that’s not a good thing, because I’m a complete nobody and I get invited to the same things. People who are really relevent don't actually go to things, unless it's like a Royal Wedding or a tea dance at Davina McCall's house.

Also, being interviewed by someone who is a lot hotter than you is not a good look. Unless your fame has nothing to do with style. Nor is looking like a joke character from The Mighty Boosh a good look.

Can I also just put it into words once more how hot that interviewer guy is. HE’S SO FUCKING HOT! There, that felt good.

Finally, I didn’t see Diana Vickers last night - which is a first. Maybe something good was on telly?


Check out Bjorn Borg's hot new glow in the dark pants here: BJORN BORG'S HOT NEW GLOW IN THE DARK PANTS. And then let's finish on some I Blame Coco, oh no wait - I can't think of any of her songs. Well here's Robyn instead...



@jackcullenuk

Do you think this bookcase looks a bit gay?


I came across this photograph of what appears to be a live bookcase made out of naked men, via the gorgeous Dominic Davison on Facebook. I uploaded the image onto Twitter via Tweetdeck with the tweet "Does this bookcase look a bit gay?" - and it was removed!

I wonder is this bookcase is a live performance involving six men, or a photoshop job (the men all look very similar - so possibly the same guy? The artist?), or perhaps it is a realistic model. A Ron Mueck bookcase perhaps?

Below: Big Boy, by Ron Mueck.

Presenting: Star Warrior Cool - The Best Aftershave of 2012?

Marc Jacobs may as well pack fashion in and stick to crackers now that THIS aftershave has arrived:


*** STAR WARRIOR COOL ***


Bang! Bang! Bang! This aftershave has everything!

The name: “Star Warrior Cool” evokes masculinity, success, homemade Stanton Warriors Boney M mixtapes and the wastepaper basket of a Marvel Comics office.

The smell: It smells like you’ve pissed into a packet of Haribo, topped it up with Windolene and then let it settle in a box of Duplo on a meningitis ward.

The bottle: To think that we all considered Jean-Paul Gaultier’s work to be iconic. Pah! We’ve blown the cap on Le Male now, clearly JPG has been scouring cash-n-carry catalogues ever since Woolworths closed, stealing concepts wherever he can, the fiend.

The concept: Whereas Jean-Paul Gaultier would go for a luxurious refined push-spray cap (perhaps with a nautical chain detail?) Star Warrior Cool goes one Turner Prize further and makes a statement with this mismatched plastic lid from a bubble bath reject pile.

The colour: Pioneering the way for YSL and Joop, Star Warrior Cool comes in a nauseatingly breathless shade of blue, the kind of metallic vaporous shade that questions the meaning behind life’s tiring continuity.

BONUS FEATURES:

The price: Star Warrior Cool costs £1 (from select junk shops along Seven Sisters Road) next to the gooey aliens (that don’t have babies) in plastic eggs and the broken lighters.

The alcoholic content: At a staggering 80% one sip of Star Warrior Cool is all you need before you’re hurling chicken and chips at ambulances.

Considering a bulk purchase? Take a look at this Cash N Carry website selling Star Warrior Cool for only 67p a unit.