It has been a strange week for a David Bowie fan. On Friday, I was looking for a rerun to post, and was reminded that January 8 was his birthday. (Along with Elvis and Shirley Bassey) I put up a piece about Mr. Bowie, and fashioned a poem out of his song titles. Aquarian Drunkard reissued a collection of the “best and most interesting Bowie oddities”. A new album was released, with a lot of comments about how strange it was. Strange is something Bowie fans turn to face.
On Monday, I woke up. Go on the internet. MSN news says that David Bowie has died. This is surprising. I know what people are going to talk about for a few days.
I typically download the new wtf podcast on Monday. The show is “supported” by Columbia records, presenting David Bowie’s new album “Blackstar.” Marc Maron gushes on about how ” DAVID BOWIE I LOVE DAVID BOWIE. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?” The single is called “Lazarus.”
The timing of the whole thing is bizarre. Was this planned? To release a puzzling new work on your sixty ninth birthday, and then die two days later. With the master media manipulator involved, prior planning cannot be ruled out. Or was it just a parting shot of synchronicity? We will never know.
In what might be a new move for celebrity deaths, sex scandal rumors emerged. A lady named Lori Maddox claims that Mr. Bowie “devirginized” her. Miss Maddox was underage at the time. Some people think that this incident makes Mr. Bowie a terrible person, whose artistic output should be ignored. One made the inevitable comment “As someone who sees White stars get a pass for things that celebrities of color get crucified for.”
I learned a long time ago to separate the performer from the performance. I also apply this rule to David Robert Jones. (David Bowie was a stage name. The legal name was never changed.) In 1976, there was an interview, where the artist said “Don’t believe anything you hear me say.” While the creative/marketing genius can be enjoyed, there was always a bit of coldness behind the mask. Some press reports say that this softened as the years went by. In the end David Bowie was human. Ziggy Stardust was a character played by an actor. Does it matter that they were a Cracked Actor?
It is ironic that David Bowie played Andy Warhol in Basquiat. Both combined creation of art, and the marketing of art product, into a seamless unit. The two did not have a good first meeting. “Remember, David Bowie was not a big star. He was just some guy off the street as far as Andy Warhol was concerned. They found a common ground in David’s shoes. David was wearing yellow Mary Janes and Andy had been a shoe illustrator, which David knew so they began talking about shoes.”
This would have been in 1971. Mr. Bowie discusses his adventures in between songs of this show. There is another story from that first tour: “I think that must’ve been part of the Mercury Records publicity tour in early 1971, Gus. Ted Vigodsky, if I remember correctly, brought Bowie by The Great Speckled Bird’s offices on North Avenue where Moe Slotin and I met him. Bowie was dressed in an ill-fitting gingham dress and looked something like a gaunt, poverty-stricken woman in one of those Walker Evans photos from the Depression. He informed Moe and me that he was gonna be the next big star in rock-n-roll. It took all of our will power not to laugh in his face. This was before anyone in America had heard of him and he had no records out yet (“Space Oddity,” a hit in England in 1969, was not released in the USA until 1973). Six months later Moe and I realised we had completely underestimated him. I had forgotten Charlie had called you about interviewing him.” Pictures today are from “The Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library”.
David Bowie is 69 today. Elvis is ageless, and Sarah Palin is obsolete. This Bowie tribute is a repost. Pictures are from The Library of Congress.
A webpage called CaptainsDead had a download of a David Bowie concert. (It is here on “A Portrait In Flesh” (Full show L.A. Sept. 5th 1974)) Most Bowie live recordings are pretty dull. While the Thin White Duke is renowned for his concerts, they tend to be live events, that depend on staging and costumes as much as music. This show, from 1974, is different. Focusing on material from “Diamond Dogs”, the sound he produces comes close to matching the studio sound.
The next move for Bowie in 1974 was the “white soul” sound of “Young Americans”. He is moving in that direction in this show, even while he lingers in the glitter apocalypse. This tour included a stop at the Fox Theater, the first Atlanta show for Mr.Bowie. On the way to Florida for the next show, the truck with the sets and costumes crashed into a swamp full of rattlesnakes. The show in Tampa was performed in street clothes.
Maybe it is time for a Chamblee54 tribute to David Bowie. It is six am, and PG has stumbled into a job. The time and energy required to write new material is not always available.
The first album by David Bowie that PG heard about was “Hunky Dory”. At the time, Mr. Bowie had generated some buzz by admitting that he fancies blokes, or some uber british expression for being queer. In time, this would be seen as more publicity stunt than brave confession. The RCA debut got some good reviews, but not much else.
The next year produced “Ziggy Stardust”, a concept album. At about this time he did a tour of the United States, with costumes and onstage antics that generated even more publicity. More and more people started listening, some in spite of his outrageous image, and quite a few more because of it. He broke up his band, the spiders from mars, and announced his retirement. The band, according to reports, learned about this while standing on stage behind him. Mr. Bowie, for all his genius, is not always a nice man.
In 1974 there was an album, “Diamond Dogs”, about the decadent urban life in the scifi future. A stage show based on this album…the source of the download mentioned above…marked a return to the concert stage. The next year gave us “Young Americans”, and the year after that “Station to Station”. Every year was a different sound and vision.
Meanwhile, the artist was not doing so good as a human being. According to all reports, he was doing mountains of cocaine. (There is a story of going to meet the parents of Ava Cherry, one of his girlfriends. He shows up at 3am, and does coke on the dining room table.) There was an interview in Playboy (or maybe it was Rolling Stone ) where the first thing he says is, don’t believe anything I say. He went on to say that he admired Adolf Hitler. Have we mentioned the physical appearance of David Bowie in 1975? He looked like he was dead, and nobody bothered to tell him. (By contrast, in recent photo collections of rock stars, Mr. Bowie looks pretty good for a man who is 69 yo.)
This was the era of Rocky Horror show. At one point, Riff Raff sings (Tim O’Brien wrote the show, and gave himself some darn good lines) Frank n furter, it’s all over, your mission is a failure, your lifestyle’s too extreme.I’m your new commander you now are my prisoner we return to transylvania prepare the transit beam While this may not have been directed at David Bowie, he took the hint.
We interrupt this David Bowie tribute with an emergency announcement. A person, reputed to be an entertainer, was seen using the n word on facebook. The screen shots have disappeared, and all we have is the word of the accuser. More details will be available as soon as anyone is interested.
David Bowie saw himself at a dead end, and possibly a dead life. He moved into a little apartment in West Berlin, on top of a garage. Brian Eno offered his assistance, and a series of electronic albums was the result. The next few years saw rock and roll, dance music, and finally, crap. PG bought a Bowie album in 1984, the first time he saw it on sale, and was immensely disappointed. The last David Bowie album that PG got was a free cd that was given to people buying a magazine.
Around 1981, MTV was born, and radio was suddenly obsolete. A visual artiste like David Bowie was a natural for video. Unfortunately, many of these videos are not available for embedding in blogs. Ashes to Ashes was a staple of early MTV. Boys Keep Swinging , off the “Lodger” album, is a return to the gender bender Bowie of younger days.
David Bowie continued to do tours, and PG got to see two of the shows. In 1987, something called the “Glass Spider Tour” came to the Omni. (In a later interview, it turns out Mr. Bowie was extremely unhappy during this tour, and close to suicide at some points.) The Glass Spider was this mass of lighting effects that hovered over the stage, and was used to best advantage during “Scary Monsters”. The show featured Peter Frampton on guitar, and had a pack of dancers. (One apparent female took her drag off during the finale.) A good time was had by all.
In 1990, another retirement tour came to the Omni. This one had movies projected on a screen behind the stage, and featured guitar hero Adrian Bellew. The night had the feel of a contractual obligation. David Bowie is too professional to give a bad show, but this one did not have the fire of “Glass Spider”. PG had a new set of contact lenses, and his eyes were painfully dry most of the night.
This David Bowie Death Day tribute is a triple repost.
Using only song names from ONE ARTIST, cleverly answer these questions. Tag some others who might enjoy this. You can’t use the band I used. Try not to repeat a song title. It’s a lot harder than you think! Re-post as “my life according to (band name)”Pick your Artist: David Bowie
Are you a male or female: The Bewley Brothers
Describe yourself: Quicksand
How do you feel:Always crashing in the same car
Describe where you currently live: Life on Mars
If you could go anywhere, where would you go: Width of a circle
Your favorite form of transportation: Queen Bitch
Your best friend is: Young Americans
You and your best friends are: Kooks
What’s the weather like: Changes
Favorite time of day: Eight Line Poem
If your life was a TV show, what would it be called: Scary Monsters
What is life to you: Panic in Detroit
Your relationship: Fame
Your fear: Sound and Vision
What is the best advice you have to give:Somebody up there likes me
Thought for the Day: Hang onto yourself
How I would like to die: Ashes to Ashes
My soul’s present condition: Moonage Daydream
My motto: Andy Warhol