I thought I was pretty much conscious of the complete world-weariness I’ve gradually descended into the past few years. But the other day something happened that made me worry that I might be a lot worse off than I thought. I watched Carmen’s legendary 1973 “1980 Floor Show” television performance and couldn’t figure out whether I actually liked it or not. Let me explain.
I’m definitely a lover of progressive and glam rock, two terms easily applied to Carmen. Hell, I’ll even say I’m a fan of flamenco, though I wouldn’t claim to know much about the genre which the Los Angeles-based band uses partially as a glamour enhancer. I won’t try to deny that songwriter David Allen has mastered all of these styles and blended them seamlessly. And there’s no doubt that the band is flawlessly professional: Angela Allen and Roberto Amaral don’t hesitate to pick up their tambourines after the elaborate dance interlude of “Bulerias”. I’d even accuse the band of lip-synching if Amaral didn’t sing a bit off key at times (although someone offstage is definitely helping out with keyboards).
It must have been somewhere in the midst of Carmen’s ode on the epic struggle between man and beast, “Bulllfight”, that I smelled smoke and realized that my bullshit detector hadn’t gone off. Had I been dazzled by the reflection off of Allen’s mirror ball guitar? Was I seduced by the sweaty chest revealed by drummer Paul Fenton’s low-cut blouse? Did I even smirk at Amaral’s huge, silly moustache? You see my concern now? I can’t tell what’s serious to me and what’s a joke. I’ve become so used to treating everything around me as a subtly absurd joke that I don’t even know whether I take anything seriously anymore.
David Bowie probably didn’t share my concern when he booked Carmen as part of the NBC bankrolled event, one week’s worth of Burt Sugarman’s long running “Midnight Special”: Bowie and Marianne Faithful’s version of “I’ve got you, babe” would be utterly dismal if not for Bowie’s bizarre feather shirt and tight, sparkly red pants and Faithful’s assless nun-gone-Cleopatra getup. There are actually some excellent performances on the special, which hasn’t seen official release yet (though you might find a few scraps floating around the internet…). Apart from tons of Bowie we also get performances by the Troggs and footage of Amanda Lear being a hottie.
Carmen was very lucky to get on this bill – they had only arrived in London earlier that year and had just released their first album, the excellent “Fandangos in Space”. Still, their performance is impressive even compared to most of Bowie's songs from this performance. Carmen released two more albums before calling it quits, with Jethro Tull and T-Rex to pick up the scraps of a unique if not quite tasteful band. More info at the pretty complete Fandangos In Space fansite.
...Ah, I can’t resist it! I know I’m supposed to only really post about obscurities, but I just can’t stop watching Bowie’s performance of Sorrow. What the hell is Amanda Lear doing with that giant silver pole?