February 28, 2012

POSTED BY

Mark davis

CATEGORY

Before Bjork, Lady Gaga or Nicki Minaj, There Was Klaus Nomi

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It’s funny how cult figures can have amazing staying power and influence over contemporary culture. I was reminded of this when I recently happened upon a copy of Eclipsed: The Best of Klaus Nomi on a recent visit to NYC’s Colony Records. Nomi (1944-1983), a performance artist active in New …

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It’s funny how cult figures can have amazing staying power and influence over contemporary culture. I was reminded of this when I recently happened upon a copy of Eclipsed: The Best of Klaus Nomi on a recent visit to NYC’s Colony Records. Nomi (1944-1983), a performance artist active in New York’s late 70s/early 80s downtown club scene, took aspects of new wave, disco, opera, Brill Building pop, German cabaret, Dada, and sci-fi futurism, and created a performance style that somehow managed to be unique and cohesive.

Nomi’s appearance on Saturday Night Live in December, 1979, backing up David Bowie, is the one Nomi performance that most Americans might be familiar with. (The firestorm over Lana Del Rey’s SNL appearance a few weeks ago proved just how memorable those “musical guest” performances continue to be).

Nomi was the subject of a relatively recent (2004) documentary, The Nomi Song by director Andrew Horn, and can also be seen performing in several episodes of Glenn O’Brien’s TV Party, released on dvd a few years ago.

Most recently, one of Nomi’s performance costumes was included in the Victoria & Albert Museum’s 2011 Postmodernism exhibition alongside iconic costumes created for David Byrne, Grace Jones, Annie Lennox, and Devo. Though hardly the first person to place such an emphasis on costume as part of the performance, Nomi’s legacy can be seen in live popular music performances in which appearance and the transformation of self (think Björk, Lady Gaga, or Nicki Minaj) are critical components.

Enjoy my favorite Klaus Nomi video:

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