An interview with David Clark Allen and Angela Allen-Barr
By Madeline Bocaro & Gil Soliz ©
As many of you may know, I manage the one and only Bowie 1980 Floor Show Facebook group. It is the source of all information on Bowie’s special takeover of American television music show The Midnight Special for one evening in 1973. It was his final appearance in his Ziggy Stardust persona. Bowie invited the band Carmen to perform as a part of his show. He was enamoured by their fusion of flamenco music with rock, and their incorporation of dance in their performances.
(Send a request to join the Bowie 1980 Floor Show Facebook group here):
With the invaluable collaboration of Gil Soliz
we are happy to bring you a wonderful, rare and special interview with siblings
David Clark Allen and Angela Allen-Barr of British-American rock band Carmen.
(See all photos below).
Carmen released three albums collaborating with producer Tony Visconti; Fandangos in Space(1973), Dancing on a Cold Wind (1974) and The Gypsies (1975). Carmen’s first album, Fandangos in Space is ranked number 46 in Rolling Stone’s list of 50 Greatest Prog Rock Albums of All Time. In 1975, Carmen were the opening act for Santana, Electric Light Orchestra, Blue Oyster Cult and Jethro Tull.
We also learn that the gold mannequin hands on Bowie’s webbed costume for ‘The Jean Genie’ were inspired by a coat that David Allen wore around London! Please enjoy our interview!
MB: Where the band’s name Carmen originate from. Was it perhaps named after Carmen Miranda, or the famous opera?
David: Roberto thought of it first, and it was from the opera + it ticked the box of the glam era – a female name for a primarily male band! (Note: Just like Queen!)
MB: What circumstances led to you performing on the 1980 Floor Show?
Angela: You’ll probably get more detail from David about this. We knew David Bowie through Tony Visconti, who was a very good friend of David’s both professionally and personally. Tony was producing our first album at the time he told DB about us, guessing that he would be intrigued by our strangeness and originality. He was right.
When the Midnight Special 1980 Floor Show came around, DB decided to present it as a staged show, in which the Troggs represented the past of music, he represented the ‘now’ of music, and Carmen represented the future.
What a compliment! But he was always very generous towards other artists.
David: Carmen had almost finished recording the first album Fandangos In Space with Tony Visconti when Bowie got offered the Midnight Special. Tony mixed a version of ‘Bulerias’ and invited Bowie and Burt Sugerman (who was in town to firm up the details of the 1980 Floorshow) to listen at Air studios (the big speakers!). Luckily they were suitably impressed and asked us to be part of the show.
MB: How would you describe your first meeting with Bowie, and please tell us where and when it occurred.
David: The interesting thing is I can’t remember whether our homemade Mexican dinner for Bowie, Angela, Amanda Lear and Visconti was the first time we met them, I think it was – I believe Tony lent us his kitchen and home to cook in once the evening was agreed on. I can’t remember the date, I think it was early Autumn.
MB: Were you a fan of Bowie’s music? If so, what were your favorite songs/albums of his?
Angela: We were all big fans of his music and of his many fascinating and highly original public images. I love Hunky Dory, favorite tracks being the iconic songs, ‘Changes’, ‘Oh You Pretty Things’, ‘Life On Mars?’, and ‘Andy Warhol’. I find it difficult to say which one I like best. I love his Ziggy Stardust persona. My favourite songs from that album in no particular order, ‘Five Years’, ‘Moonage Daydream’ and ‘Starman’.
David: We loved Bowie’s music and style. I saw him in LA in ’72 as Ziggy Stardust and was blown away! I loved all his albums from The Man Who Sold the World on. I guess Aladdin Sane, Scary Monsters and Let’s Danceare real favourites . . . and the magnificent final album.
MB: Did Bowie compliment you on your music?
Angela: Yes he did, he loved it. As I mentioned before, he was a generous person that way.
David: David was very generous and often let us know he was knocked out by our music and technical skills.
MB: What are your most vivid memories of being a guest of the now legendary
1980 Floor Show?
Angela: As charismatic and fun as DB was to watch, my outstanding memory of that day was Marianne Faithfull. I was standing around waiting in the darkness of the Marquee, done up in full flamenco costume and makeup, when a seemingly endless coterie of minders and bodyguards brushed by me. In the center was a tiny woman of unearthly beauty who seemed to literally glow as if she was an angel with a halo going at full blast. She floated by serenely, taking the light with her. She was on her way to the stage to film her duet with DB, high as a kite and truly magical.
David: It was so much fun! I loved that I met Marianne Faithfull (she was wild and beautiful). Tony did live engineering/mixing for us – we combined a bit of backing tape with live singing. Tony wanted us to sound better than anyone else – he was very proud of his production work with us (he wrote recorder/string arrangements and played recorder on ‘Dancing on a Cold Wind’, Mary (Tony’s wife Mary Hopkin) sang harmonies on both albums).
MB: Didyou meet Amanda Lear, who introduced Carmen on the show? If so, what were your impressions.
Angela: Amanda is a lovely person. A beauty and a strong character. We had no idea she was going to dress up in a flamenco outfit and introduce us so spectacularly. We loved it!
David: Amanda was camp, outrageous and pretty. She ‘got’ Carmen and insisted on writing her own spoken introduction for us.
MB: Did you ever meet David again afterwards?
Angela: We were invited to and went to a party at his house, which I think was a post filming celebration. There may have been other times we were with him, but my memory of the chronological order of things back then is not so great nowadays.
David: He introduced us at our first major PR event in London (that’s where the photo of Bowie and us I recently posted was taken). We met in LA in early 1975 at SIR rehearsal studios on Santa Monica Blvd. Carmen was rehearsing for the Jethro Tull tour and Bowie for the Thin White Duke tour. He was friendly, and I stayed and listened for a bit.
GS: I communicated with your brother David via Facebook about how it seemed that for a short period David Bowie started to dress like Carmen? He wore a beaded bolero jacket with satin shirt, for instance, and later some Spanish style hats. Was that strange to see, or did you guys not really care?
Angela: I’m not sure how the others felt about it, but I thought it was pretty flattering, really. Bowie the artist was always on the look-out for new images, characters, personalities, worlds to take on and turn into something fantastical for the stage. I always thought he was primarily a performance artist at heart – he just also happened to write amazing songs. I saw a 70’s photo of Bowie where he was wearing a top with two fabric hands sewn onto it.
David (Allen) also had a jacket around that time with one hand sewn onto his shoulder to look like it belonged to someone standing behind him.
He had it custom made by a guy working in Kensington market.
I’m pretty sure it was my brother who pioneered the stuffed stocking hand look, and obviously Bowie liked it and took it on.
GS: David, your fashion style of this era (1973 & 1974) was extremely ahead of the wave. The custom leather coat you are wearing on The 1980 Floor Show is equally as iconic as your guitar! They are both works of art. Can you give us a little history about that leather coat & who owns it now?
David: I’ve always been a style queen at heart! I love extreme looks – the New York Dolls, etc. I met an Asian brother and sister while Carmen was living in London who were both fashion students who had recently graduated and were starting to set up their business. I went to them with the idea and most of the materials for the jacket but they ran with it, taking my ideas much further (Paul has that jacket now).
GS: David, that beautiful Zemaitis guitar is so iconic! Do you still own it? Can you also remember what type of guitar amp & pedals you used back then?
David: I still own that original Zemaitis – I had another one as well but I didn’t get on with it as much so I eventually sold it (a few years later, 1977) for the same price I bought it (now I wish I hadn’t!). I used a classic Marshall 4×4 stack set-up. The only pedal I used was a huge heavy thing – I can’t even remember what it was called (it was a pedal operated flanger/chorus – rather like a Wah-Wah but the sound was unique and magnificent).
GS: Those amazing choreographed Flamenco dance routines done by you & Roberto were incredible! Whose idea was it to implement that into the recording & live performance?
David: I don’t know what my sister remembers but it was always part of my concept for flamenco/rock to include dancing. A dancer named Vicente was the first, but he couldn’t sing or play an instrument so my mother, who knew Roberto, suggested I ask him . . . and the rest is Carmen history!
GS: Can you tell us about the mic placement on the portable wood dance floor? How essential was that for the live audience to hear all that intricate footwork & was it difficult for the sound engineer to mix?
Carmen’s live performances featured
Amaral and Angela Allen dancing on a specially amplified stage floor.
Their flamenco footsteps were an integral percussive addition to their music.
David: We used about 10 contact mics attached under the floorboards we took with us (they were built to stand 5 inches off the ground for flexibility and good echo/reverb characteristics). Our sound guy (Skippy) busted his ass creating our thundering, yet clean live sound – it was not easy!
GS: David, the producer Tony Visconti who produced Carmen’s Fandangos In Space & Dancing On A Cold Wind is a legendary sound engineering genius who has also produced other groundbreaking artists (David Bowie, T-Rex / Marc Bolan). What was it like being in the studio working with him? Did you learn any engineering techniques from him?
David: He was funny, generous and made us feel as if he wasn’t interfering with our sound/concept at all. If we wanted a certain sound he didn’t know off hand, he’d call the person who created it (Paul McCartney for Sgt. Pepper’s ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ bass sound for instance!). I learned a lot by watching and listening to Visconti record and mix – he’s what I call the ‘real deal’. Tony did it all.
GS: Tony Visconti proudly commented on the Floor Show Facebook page that he introduced Carmen to Bowie. Angela replied that Carmen would have happily continued making albums with him, as he was a creative part of Carmen in the studio. You thought that the band may have continued professionally indefinitely. Is there any chance that you would work with Tony again on a new Carmen album?
I have no idea what the future holds but I suspect that Tony has moved on. I’m not sure I’d want to do it again – it was a moment in time that would be impossible to replicate, and John was a large part of our instrumental sound and energy.
GS: David, for all our Carmen fans out there, are there some lost outtake recordings or alternate mixed versions? Might they appear in a special Carmen Box Set sometime in the near future?
As far as I know there was only a 1/4” tape of our live show with Jethro Tull. Skippy had recorded it to let us hear what we sounded like live (and how good he was at engineering that sound!). It was incredible – we had been touring for over a year solidly and were so tight and punchy! Whether that tape still exists I have no idea as I’ve not had any luck contacting Skippy (I have tried).
David Clark Allen continued a music career after Carmen disbanded. He played guitar on Michelle Phillip’s solo album produced by Jack Nitzsche. He wrote two songs for Agnetha’s (ABBA) solo album, Wrap Your Arms Around Me – produced by Mike Chapman. David is a cancer survivor. He later changed his name to Housk Randall and became a sexual anthropologist / photographer, publishing 5 books published in 4 languages, including a photographic fantasy catalog for fetish designers FeMask. He married in 1996, changed his name to David Randall-Goddard and established a successful family photo studio.
For the 2006 reissue of Carmen’s three albums by Angel Air records, David produced an instrumental album Widescreen with remixer/producer Larry Lush. Widescreen became the name of a band David then formed with Larry. They performed on the festival circuit in England for many years. Widescreen morphed into Flamexicano which disbanded in 2013. David then formed an Americana/Latino roots rock band, Papa Tigre (disbanded in 2015). David then became a recording engineer/producer.
Angela Allen has relocated to Los Angeles and continues to sing. She contributed vocals for the Widescreen album. She will soon launch an online clothing store.
Carmen drummer Paul Fenton was badly injured in a fall from a horse at the time of Carmen’s break-up. He had also worked with Marc Bolan and T. Rex, and later performed in a Bolan tribute band including original members of T. Rex.
John Glascock became a member of Jethro Tull during their 1976 tour. He died age 28 in November 1979 of complications connected to an unsuspected congenital heart problem, which only came to light when he was being treated for an infection from a tooth abcess. Angela: John was a rare and special spirit, impossible to replace both as a person and an artist. RIP the one and only John Glascock.”
Robert Amaral now resides in Van Nuys, California. He continues as a as a singer, songwriter and producer. He is the leading Flamenco teacher/choreographer at his own studio in Southern California. After over 40 years, his dance companies, including Ballet Espanol de Los Angeles, Fuego Flamenco and Espana clasica, continue to receive public and critical acclaim. He collaborated on a book and composed the musical score for an original stage play incorporating Flamenco dance. His music publishing company is called Delicia Music.
David Clark Allen
Watch Carmen live on The 1980 Floor Show:
Paul Fenton with Carmen costumes and Marc Bolan memorabilia on Antiques Roadshow: