This week in rock history, John Lennon began filming his only non-Beatles movie, the Rolling Stones were banned by the BBC, friends-turned-rivals David Bowie and Marc Bolan dueted on TV, Keith Moon passed away, and Simon and Garfunkel announced their reunion tour.
September 5, 1966: John Lennon begins filming How I Won the War in Germany
John Lennon gave his only non-Beatles film performance in How I Won the War, a darkly humorous riff on World War II. He played Gripweed, a member of the hapless "fourth Musketeers" regiment, in the ambitious but narratively disjointed film. (It jumped wildly among filmmaking approaches – documentary, farce, absurdist and more.)
Gripweed was a fittingly anarchistic character: he was revealed midway through the film to be a former member of the British Union of Fascists, which his commander shrugged off. Released in 1967, How I Won the War was a moderate success in England, though American audiences failed to connect with the heavy British Army slang peppering the dialogue. Beatles fans regularly cite the movie for its offscreen impact: Lennon reportedly composed "Strawberry Fields Forever" during a shooting break, and a photo of Lennon in costume was printed on the front page of the first issue of Rolling Stone.
September 10, 1973: the Rolling Stones’ track "Star Star" is banned by the BBC
"Star Star," the last track on the Rolling Stones’ 1973 album Goat’s Head Soup, is an impressively lewd song. It charts singer Mick Jagger’s lust for a girl in New York City, progressing from innocent longing and a simple blues-rock lick into continued chanting of the phrase "starfucker," as well as less-than-polite name-dropping of Steve McQueen and John Wayne.
The BBC banned the song from airplay. Atlantic Records was also displeased with the track, but they only managed to convince the band to change the title from the profane hook into the less contentious "Star Star."
Goat’s Head Soup is better known for containing the hit single "Angie," a veiled farewell to heroin.
September 9, 1977: David Bowie and Marc Bolan duet on Bolan’s television show
Though they began as friends in the London underground art scene, David Bowie and Marc Bolan became rivals once they both achieved glam-rock success. Mutual friends attributed this to Bolan’s ego; in his autobiography Bowie, Bolan, and the Brooklyn Boy, producer Tony Visconti noted that Bowie was happy for Bolan’s success, while the jealous T. Rex frontman pushed Bowie into petty arguments and derided his Ziggy Stardust persona.
The two musicians reunited amiably, to unintentionally hilarious results, on Bolan’s 1977 television series, Marc. On the show, Bolan performed original material and introduced up-and-coming bands; for the final episode, he welcomed Bowie to sing "Heroes" and join him for an unprecedented duet on a short new song called "Standing Next to You." But before the pair could begin singing, Bolan fell off the stage and had to scramble back upright. The episode aired with that gaffe intact, and Bowie was seen giggling throughout their number.
Sadly, Bolan’s duet with his friend was one of his final appearances in public; he died one week later, on September 16th, in a car accident.
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