Nightclub founder's vision of Bennie and the Jets wins worldwide 'official video' contest
WHEN a much-loved club or gig venue finally closes its doors, it can have a real emotional impact on the regular clientele. With nothing but memories where once there were good times shared, these late-night beat seekers and thrill creepers are often to be found clutching at fragments of half-forgotten moments, desperate to feel the kick of that after-dark electricity one more time.
Liverpool has a familiar roll call of dearly departed venues, of course, and although the sting caused by the Kazimier’s recent loss has been soothed by the emergence of the Invisible Wind Factory, there remains a corner of very many city minds that will remain forever Kaz-shaped.
We were invited to meet Elton, Bernie and David Furnish at Elton John’s villa in Nice where we first presented our video to him. He was very complimentary about our work
But just as recollections of those aesthetically irresistible black-and-white nights are beginning to fade, what should appear on YouTube but a video that looks more than a little familiar to all who experienced the Kazimier’s definition-defying events over the last decade.
And it isn’t a video from some fly-by-night-got-lucky internet trickster either, but a six-minute epic from Sir Elton John himself.
It’s all there, from the RKO Pictures graphic styling to the circular big-top arena, to the geometric body-hugging Lycra to the healthy dose of slinky sci-fi camp.
This video, it turns out, isn’t some kind of outrageous imitative flattery, but is actually the work of Kazimier co-founder Laura Brownhill together with her collaborator, and fellow Kazimier veteran, Jack Whiteley.
And how come they’re making videos for Elton John? By winning a competition, that’s how.
The contest involved a worldwide search for three new videos to accompany three old songs: Tiny Dancer, Rocket Man and Bennie and the Jets. Organised in association with YouTube, it gave video dreamers and schemers across the globe the chance to pitch ideas to Elton John and his songwriting partner Bernie Taupin, with the chance of becoming official promo filmmakers for tracks originally released before the age of the pop video.
In an impressive tribute to the clarity and power of their vision, Brownhill and Whiteley’s concept for Bennie and the Jets was selected, and the video has just been premiered at the Cannes Film Festival with a line-up of authentic pop royalty in attendance.
“Cannes was an incredible experience,” says Brownhill.
“We were invited to meet Elton, Bernie and David Furnish at Elton John’s private villa in Nice where we first presented our video to him. He was very complimentary about our work, saying it was stunning and wonderful and very 'now', very 2017!”
It also seems that word of Liverpool’s unique Wolstenholme Square ex-venue had already reached Elton John’s ear.
“He said he had heard of the Kazimier too,” says Brownhill, “which I was pretty chuffed about.”
Brownhill and Whiteley’s winning video interprets John’s 1973 hit Bennie and the Jets as a future sci-fi search for a star – something like Metropolis meets Britain’s Got Talent.
And that ever-present Kazimier ‘look’? Brownhill agrees it’s a visual style that Liverpool club goers may be familiar with.
“The aesthetic is something that defines a lot of my work and my contributions to the Kazimier between 2007 and 2016,” she says. “It was a perfect opportunity to bring this style to a global audience.
“The brief initially appealed to me because it contained all the references I’ve used in my work before. Elton had also mentioned it would be cool if the video was in black and white, which we jumped at. It nods to the classic Hollywood era and the Busby Berkeley films we took inspiration from.”
While Brownhill and Whiteley’s initial visual ideas revolved around a zoetrope-style set, the spark for the narrative can be traced back to the original art for John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album.
“We took inspiration from an image on the album that depicts Bennie as the lead singer of a rock ‘n’ roll band with an identically dressed backing band,” says Brownhill.
“Other themes and references mentioned in the brief were Robert Palmer’s Addicted to Love video, Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and the idea of androgyny.”
It remains to be seen what happens next once you’ve made an official Elton John video, but Brownhill is ready for a breather following the Cannes celebrity whirlwind.
“I’ve only just got back from Cannes and London,” she says, “so for the time being I’m taking a few moments to relax. This was the first time Jack and I have collaborated, but we do hope to work as a duo in the future on the back of this project.”
For Brownhill and Whiteley, there’s no telling where this Elton John adventure could take them. But for those city souls suffering severe Kazimier withdrawal, the destination is much more certain.
Just sit back, relax and put your feet up. And for five minutes and 48 seconds, you’ll be back in the pre-demolition Wolstenholme Square.