The Perfectly Normal World Of Zowie Bowie
THE important thing to remember is that what's weird and eccentric to everybody else is perfectly normal for the person who's doing it. If you'd been brought up on a diet on boiled pencil erasers and stewed shirt-sleeves, living at the bottom of a disused lift-shaft, you would have thought it was quite normal - even though one or two people might think it rather odd. So, for Zowie Bowie, the two-year-old son of one of the most talked-about and controversial figures in the rock business, life is like it's always been. But to the rest of us, of course, it sometimes seems unusual. For example, did your father get your first name from a Batman comic? That's where David got Zowie's. "I'm going to tell him later he can call himself anything he wants to if he doesn't like the name." Well, you can't say that's not sensible. And again, if as you stumbled down to breakfast one morning your mother remarked: "Morning, dear. We're flying to Japan today to see your father in concert. He's shaved off his eyebrows and drawn thin green lines instead, his hair's bright red, and he'll be wearing an iridescent kimono," you might have the slightest feeling that things weren't quite normal. But, for Zowie, it's the way it's always been. And for him, the way you live is weird! It's just that David makes up his own rules. Most people can't because of the jobs they do. (Try turning up for school in a scant, lurex 1980's catsuit). Or they simply can't afford it. But, to David, there are no rules about which are men's clothes and which are women's. It's all down to what you feel like wearing, or what is most suitable. So it might be a suit like the one you couldn't turn up to school in, or a long, flowing dress, or hardly anything at all! There are no rules for David, so he can wear what he likes. Can't be bad. Flying Saucers Strange Pain White Rose The world of David Bowie is brightly-coloured, noisy, fast, luxurious, and bizarre. And that's little Zowie Bowie's world too. It's as normal to him as your world is to you. So whatever opinions you might form about Mr. Bowie senior, or anything else for that matter, investigate, meditate, discuss... and then keep an open mind!
David makes up his own rules about travel as well. He never flies. "I stopped flying a year and a half ago," he said early this year, "I had too many bad flights. Once the plane's engines stalled in a storm. I'm waiting for flying saucers." And when he was on the way back from his recent trip to Japan, his wife Angie even had trouble persuading him to travel by hovercraft!
But all the same, David Bowie enjoys living dangerously. He says "I enjoy living on a tight-rope. It gives me an excitement that I need in life." And nobody who knows anything about the music business can say that stars have an easy life. The strain is always fantastic. And sometimes it shows: "I have a very strange pain in my right-hand side. I've had it for a year. It's a pain that now has to be taken to a specialist." David coughs a lot, too. Perhaps that's the chain-smoking.
David Bowie doesn't just write some of the most interesting songs of our time, and he doesn't just sing them with extraordinary passion and sincerity - he also brings the theatre on to the stage. And he knows what some people say about his act. David replies: "It is effeminate and I think it's shocking. It's a lot to do with vanity and a lot to do with making people think twice. But I don't think it's outrageous. It's just a more exciting way of looking."
THE important thing to remember is that what's weird and eccentric to everybody else is perfectly normal for the person who's doing it. If you'd been brought up on a diet on boiled pencil erasers and stewed shirt-sleeves, living at the bottom of a disused lift-shaft, you would have thought it was quite normal - even though one or two people might think it rather odd. So, for Zowie Bowie, the two-year-old son of one of the most talked-about and controversial figures in the rock business, life is like it's always been.
But to the rest of us, of course, it sometimes seems unusual. For example, did your father get your first name from a Batman comic? That's where David got Zowie's. "I'm going to tell him later he can call himself anything he wants to if he doesn't like the name." Well, you can't say that's not sensible. And again, if as you stumbled down to breakfast one morning your mother remarked: "Morning, dear. We're flying to Japan today to see your father in concert. He's shaved off his eyebrows and drawn thin green lines instead, his hair's bright red, and he'll be wearing an iridescent kimono," you might have the slightest feeling that things weren't quite normal. But, for Zowie, it's the way it's always been. And for him, the way you live is weird!
It's just that David makes up his own rules. Most people can't because of the jobs they do. (Try turning up for school in a scant, lurex 1980's catsuit). Or they simply can't afford it. But, to David, there are no rules about which are men's clothes and which are women's. It's all down to what you feel like wearing, or what is most suitable. So it might be a suit like the one you couldn't turn up to school in, or a long, flowing dress, or hardly anything at all! There are no rules for David, so he can wear what he likes. Can't be bad.
The world of David Bowie is brightly-coloured, noisy, fast, luxurious, and bizarre. And that's little Zowie Bowie's world too. It's as normal to him as your world is to you. So whatever opinions you might form about Mr. Bowie senior, or anything else for that matter, investigate, meditate, discuss... and then keep an open mind!
BOWIE: Superstar Who's A Fan At Heart
By Mick Rock
Everybody's a fan at heart, and no one more than everybody's current idol, David Bowie, as he freely admits. Two performers he has idolised for years are Lou Reed and Iggy Pop.
The two, probably more than any other, have by example influenced the progress of his own career.
It's more than just interesting therefore when you examine the credits on Lou Reed's last album "Transformer" and Iggy's soon-to-be released, long awaited new album "Raw Power", and find alongside the producer's tag, the name of Mr. Bowie.
There's the well-known statement that Lou Reed is to Bowie what Chuck Berry was to the Rolling Stones. And just as the Stones helped to expand Mr. Berry's reputation, by recording his songs and imitating his style from time to time, so Bowie has released Lou Reed's work from the greedy clutches of the esoteric underground circles which first hallowed his name.
Two of Lou's strongest ever songs, "White Light, White Heat" and "Waiting For The Man" have long been part of Bowie's repertoire, and "Queen Bitch" from "Hunky Dory" and "Suffragette City" on "Ziggy Stardust" are deliberate and acknowledged lifts from the Velvet Underground style.
There are even certain well-versed and canny critics who hold that Mr B. performs Velvet Underground songs better than Mr. R. himself ever has. But that is, of course, open to more than a little debate...
Lou Reed tells how they first came together in New York: "I met David when he came over on a promotional visit for RCA a couple of years ago. I hadn't heard any of his records. I can't remember how it happened. Maybe a friend introduced us. He had longer hair then.
"Anyway, we all went out to dinner, and I got drunk as usual. Then he played me 'Hunky Dory', and I thought, 'aha, how about that'. And I knew there was somebody else moving in the same areas I was.
"I especially loved 'Queen Bitch', David's always been so upfront about these things." Mmm... Lou however, refuses to acknowledge that David owes anything to him, even though David insists he does.
"I think that's really nice of David, but I think David would have been fine all by himself.
"I think it's marvellous and I take it as the most delicious compliment, because I love his stuff so much, but frankly I don't understand him saying it."
Still, whatever the whys and hows of such nebulous issues it's obvious that there is much sympathy, musically and personally between the two. For Bowie, "the biggest thrill of my first visit to America was meeting Lou Reed."
And he met many strange and wonderful individuals on that same trip, including Captain America himself, Andy Warhol, patron saint of itinerant freaks and weirdos. Another story, that one, however.
It was on this same trip that he also first met the notorious Mr. Pop. An interesting link in the puzzle is that Iggy's first album with the Stooges was produced by John Cale, who along with Lou Reed was the founder of the Velvet Underground.
Bowie's interest in Iggy was understandably less in his actual music than in the extreme mode of its delivery. The Ig has a very violent self-destructive streak, and his act, apart from the vocalising, consisted in him performing all kinds of obscene bodily contortions, interspersed with moments when he would throw himself into the audience or vomit on them, or deliberately cut his face up with the microphone, or smear peanut butter all over his body and invite the audience to lick it off.
He claims that the more forward members of his audience, male as well as female, frequently took advantage of his over generous invitations.
Although a man of action rather than words, Iggy is a very able perpetrator of the classic statement: e.g. "It's interestin' to play for an audience, it really is."
The vibes which link the three are too innumerable to list, but they are a result of constant feedback. When questioned about his producer roles on their albums, Bowie disclaims any important influence. "I'm just a good organiser."
He insists that he merely helped them to co-ordinate things, to interpret certain pieces which they were unsure about.
Whatever Bowie's contribution, they are both remarkable albums. The mingled chemistry of the Bowie-Reed combination had to produce something disastrous or magnificent. The latter is the case.
I mean, try and top "Transformer" in any decade. It's got something for everybody. Delicious "Vicious", Lou's new single, "Walk On The Wild Side" - for men only (said in a deep all-American boy voice); "Satellite Of Love" for spaceage lovers and "Goodnight Ladies", for the little Queen in us all. As for "Raw Power", it's pretty much what the title implies - so beware!
In fact, it's the first time the Ig's overwhelming stage presence has come anywhere near to being represented on vinyl.
We are all fans, and no one more than David Bowie. And two of his No. 1 fans are Messrs. Reed and Pop.
THE STARDUST KID
By Hubert Saal
Whatever world of rock is ultimately to succeed the Beatles, the Stones and the Who, it's having trouble being born. This is a time of confusion, a middle ages, an appropriate breeding ground for the dark, satanic majesty of England's David Bowie.
Until last month, Bowie was known in the U.S. largely through his RCA Records, especially the last, "Ziggy Stardust." But in his first American appearances - in Cleveland, Memphis and, last week, in New York's Carnegie Hall - vast underground army of supporters has surfaced. And Bowie's momentum is accelerating. He originally intended to perform in seven cities. That number has jumped to 25, enough to keep him in America through December.
Well-publicized rumors of blatant homosexuality preceded Bowie's arrival - and proved misleading. Not that he reflects the wholesomeness of Sunday school. The whip-slender, cat-like Bowie, 24, comes out like a souped-up harlequin in a sequined, multi-colored jump suit, beautiful face painted ash white, eyes black with mascara, hair orange-colored. His three-man back-up band, led by blond guitarist Mick Ronson, almost matches him sparkle for sparkle. Rarely is there anything explicitly suggestive in Bowie's movements. But he moves, smiling faintly, about the floor with feline grace and delicacy, a soft counterpoint to the hot and heavy rock that underscores his songs.
He sings songs about homosexuals, such as "Queen Bitch," or about bi-sexual experience, such as "The Width Of A Circle," but there are just as many straight songs as bent ones. In any case he's concerned with the emotion behind the song rather than its gender. Bowie, who has an acrobatic, diverting vocal style, is much more an entertainer than a singer, his performance not so much a concert as pure theater, in which his group, called the Spiders from Mars, performs with crackling precision. More than a sex symbol, Bowie is a clown, a sexless, faceless figure, whose songs present a view of the world that is despairing and apocalyptic.
In such songs as "Running Gun Blues" or "All the Madmen," Bowie is against war or the establishment, for individual freedom and the virtue of being different. In his space songs, Bowie seems to say, "If you can't beat 'em, flee 'em." Electronic equipment provides realistic space-flight accompaniment, the sexual man becomes loftily androgynous, the jumpsuited clown is transformed into an astronaut. Space is the ultimate escape in "Starman" or "Life on Mars" - the longest and last journey, like that of the astronaut in "Space Oddity" who prefers death in clean space to life on earth.
Not that the lyrics of the songs are readily accessible. Bowie is amazed that audiences like him. "I suppose most of them are as confused about things as I am," he says. "I console them in their confusion, they're got alone. I've stopped analyzing it. Cataloguing confusion is courting suicide."
But he is turned inward as well as toward society and space. On "Ziggy Stardust" he chronicles the rise and fall of a rock superstar, unmistakably Bowie, since one song, "Lady Stardust," is about an androgynous performer: "And lady stardust sang his songs/Of darkness and disgrace." "I'm not what I'm supposed to be," says Bowie. "What are people buying? I adopted Ziggy onstage and now I feel more and more like this monster and less and less like David Bowie."
Bowie grew up in Brixton, South London. The child of middle-class parents, he wanted to be a commercial artist before becoming what has been called the Lauren Bacall of Rock. Perhaps his freakiness is an antidote for his self-confessed emotional numbness. "Offstage I'm a robot. Onstage I achieve emotion. It's probably why I prefer being Ziggy to David. Who's David Bowie? I can't seem to understand the 'why' of things, like 'why are we'." His world-weariness does not seem at all affected.
The homosexual interpretations of his songs, he feels, came about after he had admitted his bisexual nature. "My sexual nature is irrelevant," he says. "I'm an actor, I play roles, fragments of myself." One role is that of husband. He and his wife, Angela, have a son, Zowie Bowie, left at home during this important American journey. "When I was a boy we were all fascinated by America. I read Jack Kerouac's 'On the Road.' It was the most important thing that ever happened to me." He smiled his sweet smile and waved a forlorn arm and said, "But now that I'm here I've forgotten why I wanted to come."
Bowie Neat-O At Carnegie Debut
By Ron Ross
CONCERT REVIEW: NEW YORK - Even Andy couldn't get a third ticket; David Bowie's first concert in New York at Carnegie Hall (September 28) was the toughest ticket in town, in the Event class with Elvis and the Stones. From hard rocking kidz to executives that had yet to be convinced of their own hype, the Apple's boogaloo dudes sat amazed while Bowie proved once and for all that his act, his songs, his style were all one needed to know about the Face of 1972, whose photos most of us know so much better than his music.
A few were disappointed; they had expected Alice Cooper, Iggy Pop, Jim Morrison, and Mick Jagger, all in drag, and what they got was an intimate, tasteful, and dignified young man, whose performance seemed closer to Marlene Dietrich or Edith Piaf than the late lamented Ziggy Stardust. In fact, tunes from Bowie's latest RCA album, "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars," seemed to fall into clear perspective for the first time, as Bowie combined them with earlier masterpieces like "Space Oddity" and "Width of a Circle."
They did what Bowie's agent calls the "rock and roll" show to distinguish it from the theatre extravaganza, with pantomimists and dancers, which David mounted at London's Rainbow Theatre shortly before he embarked on his first American tour. It is a surprisingly straight-forward set, despite the difficulty of some of the material, after one gets over the initial impression of the band's highly styled, reptile-tight futuristic costumes, guitarist Mick Ronson's platinum blond super-image, and the remarkable dexterity of drummer Woody Woodmansey and bassist Trevor Bolder, it is David's face and hands and voice that captivate and focus attention on the flow, beat, and content of the incomparable songs. He appears then not as a gay boy, a transvestite, a theatrical rocker, or a Bolanish hype, but as an artist who even without force of flash compells hushed respect. New York audiences are not generally renowned for hushed respect.
Bowie began with his current theme song "Hang on to Yourself," but quickly moved on to a variety of material from his last four albums. The show is beautifully paced, mixing up such poles of Bowie's genius as "Life on Mars" and "Suffragette City," "Starman" and "Andy Warhol" ("to all the blonds in the audience") with no sense of strain or pretension. The band is the sharpest, tightest and tastiest trio since the original Beck group, sans Nicky Hopkins and Rod Stewart. They could be a hot band on their own, but it is greatly to Bowie's credit that he turns them on enough for them to add new dimensions to his older songs as they perform them today. Previously, they had used Cream's "I Feel Free" to knock the audience over with their virtuosity, not coincidentally allowing Bowie time to slip offstage and change outfits. Now the extended bizarre personal odyssey "Width of A Circle" is the vehicle, and like the Who's medley from "Tommy" or the Stones' live version of "Midnight Rambler," it is hard to believe a show can go on from there.
But Bowie had some Lou Reed to get across, so "like bringing coals to Newcastle," he lit into "Waiting for the Man" and "White Heat," driving those songs harder than the Velvets, who lived them, ever could. When the audience stood and laughed, whistled, stomped and generated for David, who had in a short hour and a half become a rocking Reality the like of which we just don't hear anymore, there was nothing left to do but boogie on with "Round and Round." A Smile, a sincere "thank you," and away.
People have been talking about David Bowie for years, and even now that he is here and turning his cult into a superstar's following, there are those who will write him off as a hype, because they can't cope with the energy, the confusion, the politics, and perhaps their disappointment because tickets were scarce and nobody was petted into self-importance for liking David Bowie. Bowie's show is his own best justification; no more need be said, and eventually as with Alice and Jagger, words will be superfluous. For the time being, we should note that David Bowie sold 4300 seats in Memphis on a Sunday night, that his "All the Young Dudes" as performed by Mott and Hoople is bulleting up the charts, and that Ziggy Stardust is one of the year's biggest albums in Britain. David Bowie is the cat's p.j.s.
Rock Music: A Colorful David Bowie
English Group Blends Tinsel and Rhythm
By Don Heckman
Tinseled English rock superstars have been sprouting eagerly all over the place this season, but most, unfortunately, have looked as appealing as out-of-date Christmas trees. On Thursday night at Carnegie Hall, David Bowie, one of the most heralded - and, to American audiences, one of the most unknown - of the new theatrical rock stars proved that the whole trend hasn't been a publicity agent's fantasy. The mother country still has a few worthwhile exports for her erstwhile colony.
Advance stories about Bowie had most of us expecting a performance that would be little more than a transvestic fashion show with musical accompaniment. But despite Bowie's obvious interest in unusual costuming, make-up and dyed hair, he is a solidly competent stage performer who brings a strong sense of professionalism to every move he makes. Those members of the audience - and there obviously were many - who expected a racier show received a major disappointment.
There can be no denying the outright colorfulness of Bowie and his group. He and his band members have dyed their hair various shades, from Bowie's flaming orange to the drummer's snow white. Their costumes, made of a shiny satin-like texture, with tight trousers tucked into laced-up boots, combined with the strangely hued hair and highlighted facial make-up to give the musicians an otherworldly appearance, almost as thought they were acting out Bowie's fascination with science fiction.
The music is not very familiar, aside from a few tunes - the stuttering 'Changes' is one - that have received some radio play in this country. Unfamiliar or not, it is good music with a sense of sectionalization and variation that has been woefully rare in much rock music lately. Bowie still doesn't seem to know how to write an appealing melody, but this promise of his talent is crystal clear.
Most important, as a performer, Bowie delivered. He understands that theatricality has more to do with presence than with gimmickry, and that beautifully coordinated physical movements and well-planned music can reach an audience a lot quicker than aimless prancing and high-decibel electronics. In an age of publicity overkill, that alone has to be counted a major accomplishment
By Al Kemp
ANYBODY STILL unconvinced that David Bowie will sweep all before him in the coming months of year should have witnessed the end of his remarkable concert last Saturday at the Festival Hall. With elegant flash, and just a little help from "surprise" guest Lou Reed, he coaxed the younger section of the audience down to the foot of the stage and nearly caused one girl to fall out of her box as she enthusiastically waved a banner which simply said: "Ziggy".
Ziggy himself, alias David Bowie, is unlikely to fail. His music has an urgency lacking for too long from the music scene, his lyrics are intelligent and well-constructed and he has discovered the power of outrage on stage with the whole band now all dressed in 1990's space-age fashion.
Bowie opened with an electric set featuring some of the best numbers from "Hunky Dory" and "Ziggy Stardust" before an acoustic spot with "Space Oddity", "Andy Warhol" and his strangely moving version of Jacques Brel's "Amsterdam".
But, as the one influence that shows through strongly in Bowie's work is that of the Velvet Underground it was natural he should drop back to become a backing musician when Lou Reed took the stage.
For his first ever appearance in Britain, Reed cavorted his way through four numbers including "White Heat" - with Bowie's band behind him, all sounded remarkably like the originals.
But even so, it was Bowie who was unquestionably the star of the show, coming back for an encore with "Suffragette City", to scenes of unrestrained enthusiasm. In many ways he aims for the same audience response by the same methods, as T. Rex. Is he to become the thinking man's (or woman's) Marc Bolan?
LIVE! Hard Rockin' Mr. Bowie
By J. Arthur
DAVID BOWIE debuted his new rock and roll show at the opening of unique Hardrock Concert Theatre in Manchester on Saturday. With over a thousand fans turned away from the new purpose-built rock venue, 3,500 managed to get in and witness a phenomenal show from the incomparable Bowie, whom we are going to lose to America for some three months.
Bowie always comes up with the unexpected and his act was quite a shock for anybody who had expected to see Bowie as he has performed in recent weeks. He now has three acts to choose from, and indeed he presented his "acoustic set" on Sunday at the Hardrock, which heralds a new era in rock concert presentation.
Supporting Bowie was the relatively unknown act Iguana, who proved quite interesting, but it was not until that seasoned rock and roller, Roy Young, sat in the with the band that things really got moving. Roy had the audience eating out of his hand and it just goes to show that it ain't just cosmic rock the kids want. Mention should be made of the superb sound system at the hall which - horror of horrors - can be turned in a discotheque at the flick of a switch. Luckily it changes back to being a concert hall at the flick of a switch as well.
BOWIE ON ZOWIE
By Uti Kooffreh
It's not going to be easy being the son of someone like David Bowie, especially with a name like Zowie to live with! At present Bowie Jnr. is too young to pass comment on his future, so I went along to the family homestead to find out how David felt about being a father, what his hopes for Zowie were, and why he gave him that name!
Father and son were both present at our meeting. Angie, David's wife, was wildly chasing Zowie round the room, trying to get him to come and eat - but he wasn't interested. I asked David how close Zowie was to him, considering how little they saw of each other. "We're quite close. Of course, he's closer to Angie, 'cos she's with him constantly, but when I'm at home he usually heads straight for me, because I spoil him too much and let him get away with murder!!"
Try as I might, I just had to ask him what on earth possessed him to lumber his offspring with the title Zowie! He hesitated for a bit, and I thought for a moment I'd offended him, then he burst out laughing! "It was pure whim really!" he said, still chuckling away to himself. "Zowie Bowie, was just too good to resist! If when he gets old enough to care about his name he doesn't like it, he can always change it, or give himself a nickname, it's OK by me."
What about when he grows up, would David like to see Zowie in the entertainment world? "Well, that would be completely up to him. I'd really like to keep his mind free of influences until he's old enough to decide what he wants to do, and be, and believe in. Really all I'm going to do is give him a very basic code to live by, if he doesn't want to follow it, I'm not going to tell him that he's wrong. I'd really like him to cultivate his own views, I wouldn't dream of telling him he should believe in something, just because I do!
"The same goes with going into my profession, I won't be the proud father, just because he might choose to do the same thing as me, I'll just be proud and pleased if he's happy and feels that he's getting something out of his life.
"Mind you, he's only two now, and he takes not a blind bit of notice of what anyone says, so I guess I won't have to worry about having too strong an influence on him - I won't get a chance!!"
QUESTION TIME WITH DAVID BOWIE
Q. How does your wife, Angela, cope with you being a pop star. Does she get jealous of your fans at all?
A. No, Angela is only delighted at what has happened to me. She knows how long I've been waiting to make it big, and now that things have been happening at last, she's with me all the way.
Q. Although you still must be one of the most outrageous dressers on the music scene, it's quite a while since we saw those dresses of yours that hit the headlines some time back. Why the change of heart?
A. No change of heart really, it was just that the time came along for something new and so the dresses were put aside.
It's incredible that there should have been such an uproar about those dresses. After all, they were men's dresses and I don't think that they were feminine in any way at all.
They were very comfortable to wear and if only more men had worn them they might have found them a beneficial change from trousers.
Q. How do you feel about your latest album, 'Aladdin Sane'?
A. I'm very happy with the results and hope that the fans will be, too. As with any album, you can't have an indication of how it's going to be accepted until you see black and white proof. But I hope the fans are going to enjoy it. We put an awful lot of hard work into the recording of it.
Q. You have plans to undertake a huge British tour - in fact one of the biggest ever undertaken by a major star in Britain. How do you think you are going to stand up to doing so many gigs?
A. Well, I hope I don't collapse under the strain! No, seriously, I think it's going to be fine really and I'm looking forward to it very much.
One of our dates is at London's Earls Court Arena and apparently, ours will be the first musical event to be staged at that venue for years.
Why I've decided to do such a large tour is for several reasons. One is that I'm not too sure when I'll be appearing on stage in this country again.
It may be one of my last tours for a very long time as I may be concentrating on films in the future, so I thought this would be a good opportunity for all my fans to see me.
Q. Why the decision to concentrate on films?
A. I believe that you always have to move forward and I think it's about time my career took another progressive step.
I'm not fed-up with what I'm doing, but I'm a great believer in trying new things all the time. I don't want things to go stale on me.
If you look at my past history, you'll see I'm never one to stay with one thing for too long.
I've been in a number of groups and then when I had a hit of my own at last with 'Space Oddity', I went into retirement for a couple of years because I got bogged down with it all.
I've been involved with a mime troupe at an Arts Lab., and at one time I joined the Buddhist Tibet Society and helped to form a monastery in Scotland.
So, maybe you can see now why I have to keep moving on to different things all the time?
Q. It seems that this drive to try new things is one of the major elements that has led to your success. We hope it won't mean you disappear from your fans' sight?
A. No, I don't think so. It seems that in the future in one way or another, I'll be doing work for the fans. I just hope they're going to like what I'll be doing.
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About the most exciting and electrifying rock artist in the world.
20 QUESTIONS TO DAVID BOWIE
ABOUT HIS IMAGE
Mirabelle: Would you agree in the first place that you have an image?
David: I'd have trouble denying it although it's really in other people's eyes rather than mine. People have trouble pinning me down to a description and it annoys some of them.
Mirabelle: So you couldn't put that image into words?
David: No, not really. You see I'm not David Bowie private individual who dresses up for special occasions like concerts and television shows, takes on this professional image for the public and then takes it off again when I go home. More than anything else it's me.
Mirabelle: The world really sat up and took notice of you when you appeared as Ziggy Stardust. You don't appear to have moved far from Ziggy as regards your appearance.
David: Ziggy was a very strong character and I'm not sure I've lost him. I quite like the way I look at the moment so I don't intend to change it. My only reason for changing appearance is because I get bored and in my book being bored is the biggest sin!
Mirabelle: But you were into "image" long before Ziggy.
David: Yes, I've always believed there was more to being a singer than standing on the stage and having the girls scream at you. But it wasn't until I met Lindsay Kemp, my mime teacher that I fully understood how drama and theatre could play its part in a rock show. The make up and the fancy clothes are simply theatrical costumes... nothing more sinister than that.
Mirabelle: Do you ever regret that so much of your publicity is about your image?
David: People must write about me as the feel. I like to think my most important contribution is the music but I've got no right to insist that others feel the same way. If someone thinks of me as an important fashion trendsetter, good luck. Just as long as they write about me!
Mirabelle: And the controversial things you come out with from time to time?
David: I say what I think at the time. I don't set out to shock people but there will always be people who are offended by certain points of view. I can't think of things like that before I speak. I try to be honest in my opinions.
Mirabelle: Criticism has been levelled at your stage act. People says it's too bizarre for the young fans who are attracted to your shows.
David: Again, I don't think that much happens on stage that could shock but you know I think people tend to be over-protective towards young teenagers. These days they can cope with things better and they won't accept things they don't like.
Mirabelle: Could David Bowie exist in a grey pin-stripe three-piece suit?
David: I'm sure he could but why should he have to do things that don't come naturally? I'd feel suffocated and maybe in time I would become a greyer, duller person if I were forced to live in a lifestyle that wasn't me.
Mirabelle: What prompts you to be permanently on the hop? Unable to pin down as you say?
David: It's just the sort of mind I've got. A butterfly mind that flits from one thing to another. I've got an enormous capacity for work and learning but I don't like to concentrate on one thing for too long. I get the idea, do the work and I'm off to the next. And the amazing thing is, I like to cover as many different fields as possible. Records, stage shows, films, books - everything interests me.
Mirabelle: Just how important is an image to a performer such as yourself?
David: That's difficult for me to answer but I suppose it is important even though I wish I could say it wasn't. Obviously I've reached a far wider audience and what I do on and off-duty has become of far greater significance because some people think my image makes me newsworthy. As for whether I think that's a good or bad thing - well, I haven't made up my mind yet.
Mirabelle: How about the part of your image that has you almost as a recluse - where you don't talk to anybody?
David: I think you mean don't talk to the Press. I can't deny that, I don't give interviews out like a packet of sweets. I only like talking when there's something specific to talk about like a new album or something. And I prefer to deal with people I know because I have to admit I'm rather distrustful of strange journalists!
Mirabelle: I guess some people consider you a weirdo. Is it you who is different or the rest of us?
David: I'm different and I sincerely hope every one is different from his neighbour. To my mind, it's the differences in human beings that make them interesting not the sameness. But whereas I go ahead and act out my fantasies without caring too much about public opinion, most people stop short because they're afraid about what the neighbours would think.
Mirabelle: Can you see the time when you will revert to what is considered the conventional behaviour and appearance for a male singer?
David: Convention is relative to the age. I'd have been totally shocking years ago. Today I shock a few people. Tomorrow I'll be old hat. I'll change over the years but the changes will be natural. I won't even know about them myself until they hit me. If I found myself thinking along the same lines as most other people, then yes, I supposed I'd be conventional. I don't deliberately set out to be different.
Mirabelle: Has criticism ever made you think about toning down your appearance or your stage act?
David: Never! That would be a cop-out and dishonest to myself.
Mirabelle: What does your mother think of your image?
David: I think she's given up on me! But she's proud of what I've achieved. She enjoys reading about me.
Mirabelle: And Angie?
David: Angie is an incredible inspiration! She's a very creative woman and has influenced me to a certain extent. She's always there with ideas and encouragement.
Mirabelle: When you look around at other people on the scene, who's images do you rate?
David: I never think of it like that. I really rate Mick Jagger and he's a man with a very strong image. You can't really separate the man from the image and I like it that way because it means the image is merely a blown-up extension of the man beneath it. The same with Jimi Hendrix and others. The one thing I can't stand are those obvious cardboard characters who jump on any passing bandwagon if they think there's still an ounce of success to be wrung from it.
Mirabelle: How do other people in the business react to you?
David: I'm loved by some, hated by some and doubtless there are many who never give me a thought. Remember the pop scene is spread far and wide and these days groups go off on tour, or spend months at a time in the recording studios. They very seldom bump into each other in motorway cafes like they used to. We don't form personal relationships very often. We only know each other through our music.
Mirabelle: Is it possible your image has done you any harm?
David: Yes, in that I might have out off people from listening to the music which they might have got something out of. It's a shame but I consider that their hang-up, not mine.
Mirabelle: Can anybody make it today without an image?
David: Yes, it's not easy because you've got to shine out of the pile. But music is still the strongest gimmick and I think that's what the vast bulk of my fans enjoy from me.
THE PEOPLE WHO TURN ME ON
Most people find that they have favourite singers, actors and favourite friends. A superstar like Bowie, is no exception. So he has decided to tell us about the people who turn him on.
"Obviously Angie must have turned me on for me to have married her! I mean you just don't go marrying anybody. For a start I suppose I was attracted by her looks but no relationship can last long if it's just based on physical attraction. There has to be more to it than that. You've got to be able to respect somebody in every way, especially if you're going to marry them... With Angie I found that I really liked her personality. She's got a lively mind and she's always doing lots of different and sometimes unusual things. If I'm feeling jaded or tired she's great because her bubbly mood soon ribs off on me and I don't feel nearly so down any more. Obviously it works both ways and I feel that I can help her out too when she's not feeling so good. I think our relationship's good because we both know how to give and take. That's our secret, I suppose."
"Well he's my son and he really turns me on. That's mainly because he's such an inventive kid, quite capable of looking after himself even though he's so young. But the thing about Zowie is that he's so loving and even if he's been naughty my heart really melts when he rolls his big eyes at me and gives me a kiss. Every name should have a Zowie in it. He really makes for a happy family."
"The reason I've listed Freddie here is because I'm turned on by people who have taste, especially my kind of taste. One of my great loves is clothes. I'm really mad about them. I go through so many different phases, at the moment I'm into short jacketed double-breasted suits but next week I might be into something completely different. With all my changes of mood Freddie is extremely patient. He just listens to my ideas and has this sort of telepathy. Because whatever I think of in my mind he produces for real. I suppose I've come to admire Freddie as a person through his work because people's personalities really come through when they are working, as much as any other time. Freddie comes across as a really tolerant and talented guy. I just hope he'll continue to design incredible clothes for me."
"Like Freddie I've come to respect Cherry through her work. Since she's worked for us I've been able to see just how talented she is and talent is something that turns me on.
"Cherry is also so kind-hearted. If Angie and I want to go out in the evening Cherry is only too pleased to look after Zows if she's in town. I've even known her put off something she's doing to help out without telling us. You couldn't ask for more than that from a friend."
"When I saw 'The Boyfriend' I was really knocked out with Twiggy's singing and dancing. Since she'd always done modelling before I suppose it came as a real surprise to learn that she could sing and dance too. Models have got a reputation for being dumb. Twiggy is certainly not dumb. I really liked her just to look at before she became an actress and my admiration for her has increased since I saw her in the film. My one regret is that I never got a chance to see her television show because of being in the States. I just hope they repeat them."
"Recently Marc Bolan and I have been seeing a lot of each other. We've been friends for a number of years but have both been busy. When Marc's been touring in one place I've been somewhere different and somehow we've always managed to miss each other. But with both of us in New York at the same time recently we've taken the opportunity to see each other as much as we can. Marc's got this tremendous ability to write really original lyrics. His musical taste is so varied that he's introduced me to people I've never even heard of. We've spent many hours talking and playing records which is something I love doing but never seem to have had the chance to do before."
"Dana's such a quiet, gentle person that I think she found Angie and I a bit over-powering at first but somebody with character like Dana can come into her own eventually. We both respect her for herself and we're sure that it won't be long before she's a star in her own right. She did some concerts in Britain recently which I was unable to attend so I can't wait to see her in concert. For the moment knowing her turns me on enough. But I'm sure seeing her giving a live stage performance would be incredible. Angie looks after her career now."
THE THREE DEGREES
"As you probably know my big kick at the moment is soul music. My next album will be much more in the soul style than any of my records so far. There's so much good soul music around at the moment that it's had a big influence on me. One of the groups who has influenced me most is The Three Degrees. I don't just mean their chart hits but also their albums. They've recorded some really great albums. The vocal range they achieve is incredible. Just listening to them turns me on."
BOWIE'S WISHING TREE
Here he is Fan people, just for you Bowie's branching out
and telling all!
The most important wish I have is for the world to be in harmony. If people are without fear and have enough to eat, then there can be peace and happiness.
I'd love Angie to surprise me with a new stage outfit that she's designed for me herself. And if she's actually made it by hand, then it'd be all the more great.
Christmas would be wonderful if everyone played just one of my songs at their parties. That way I'd feel really a part of the festivities and merry-making.
I hope it'll snow just as the clock strikes midnight on Christmas Eve. Then I'll be able to build a snowman with Zows in the morning and go sledging with him.
It'd be fantastic to have all my friends with me for a few days holiday. It's great to be surrounded by mates!
I long to roast chestnuts on the grate of a log fire. There's nothing more delicious when it's cold and windy outside.
When I look at the sky I'd love to see the stars stretch to eternity. I want the air to be crisp and icicles to hang from roofs.
Maybe I'll fulfil my wish of dreaming in the future. I'd like to fall into a deep slumber and be taken into time unknown.
Perhaps a generous friend will give me an ankle-length furry coat. That's something I've always wanted but have never bought for myself.
This Christmas I'm going to do my best to decorate the whole house with coloured lights. It'll be a wonderland for Zows!
I'd really enjoy sitting with a stomach full of mince pies, watching an old Laurel and Hardy film. They always make me laugh.
At the same time as I'm enjoying my day, I'd like to watch my friends in Australia sitting on the beach. But unless it's televised by satellite, that's a bit impossible.
It'd be nice to send everyone a card that I've painted myself but I think it'd take years. Instead I'm going to think up a different and personal message for each one.
I'll be excited to see how Zows and Angie will react to the presents I've bought them. I want to wrap them up in a totally original way and that's going to need some imagination!
A present that would really please me would be a glass paper weight. There are some beautiful ones about, full of exotic flowers and tiny shells.
One big wish is that I won't be spending my time in the recording studios. There's a time for everything and Christmas is for families.
If it's possible, I'd love to go for a short sail in a boat. I love the water but it'd have to be fairly calm. I think perhaps that my wish won't come true!
Something simple I'd adore is a long knitted scarf to keep those freezing winds away from my neck. I like the ones with the long fringes.
I hope to start a completely new project about Christmas time. Something that I can get totally involved in for a couple of months. I've got the enthusiasm now for something new.
DAVID BOWIE: THE UNGLOVED HAND
By Franc Gavin
Look at the hands. They're a dead giveaway. The typically collarless boehme-kraut style leather jacket. The wan austere features, waxen with no particular expression outside of a sort of a dislocated puzzlement. But the hands - the focal point of the picture. Their stiff, mannered pose belies the anxiety behind the stretched tendons. Rigid, yet expressive like the hands in the expressionist works of Kokoschka, to which this photograph bears a strong resemblance.
Expressionism perhaps being the key word in the deciphering of the "real Bowie," the title of his most recent incarnation. The way, however, in which the present Bowie differs from all the preceding reflections in his hallway of mirror devices in his use of point-counterpoint with regard to personality and music. Obviously Bowie has always been a very visual head. But whereas in past worlds of the Sensitive Folkie, The Intergalactic Anti-Christ, the black/white eleganza of a Man Ray disco-cool, the music was an extension of the image. Now the image is an extension of the music.
Sound treater Brian Eno is responsible for more than just a small part of this transition. Present in both name and spirit on "Low" and "Heroes," his own music has taken on an increasingly tropistic nature in both substance and execution. "Another Green World" his last LP, was more a catalogue of possibilities and textural diagrams than anything else. His new album, "Before and After Science," is a bit less outre in parts, but Eno is so fond of the visual projections that his sonic scenarios create that he has taken the time to include four nominally related offset lithographs within the jacket of the new LP that were done by an associate of his, Peter Schmidt.
Bowie has certainly incorporated a great deal of the philosophical stance of Eno into his own music. In a manner of speaking it is history repeating itself. Starting in the London of 1910, Ezra Pound influenced almost every major poet of the century, yet was never really able to get his own complex, mood oriented verse to as large an audience as his proteges. He was a "poet's poet." So it is with Brian Eno and his "oblique strategies." Chances are his music will never reach the sizable audience that has been afforded Bowie. But beginning with Bowie, his ideas have already begun to diffuse, and will continue to do so. Bowie has always been a translator of ideas. When he began his exuberant quest, his music smacked of clever imitation. It became apparent that he had a way of catering to the audience while still utilizing an occasionally original touch, one that he would usually insinuate upon the audience through a cult of personality that eventually became a veritable propaganda machine. As is usually the case in which a staged situation revolves around the public image of a strong character, real or imagined, we were given privy to all aspects of the disguise that he oft-times wore. He seemed to have an opinion on everything, and usually changed them with the same frequency that most people change their socks. He had fun with the image manufacturing, press releasing paid for the return of 1973. That in itself is a reflection of the state of rock audiences and the music per se.
A lot of mixed reviews have been the basic critical reception for "Heroes." The album, to paraphrase Max Ernst, "Intensifies the irritability of the mental faculties." The Fripp guitar on the first two cuts of side one is both well placed and inarguable, like a stainless steel hieratic head centered in a stark white plaster gallery. The title track quote/Heroes unquote, is the showpiece of side one. It keeps a low, intense profile while it cruises steadily like a Lotus Sprint flat out on a long stretch of Autobahn, hugging all the curves beneath a rain-cold sky. Bowie's to-do-it-rationalizers for a while.
His toying with the odd illusion in and out of direct-vision of the public eye, reflected certain truths. People believe whatever they choose to believe. Give them both a smorgasbord of music and a handful of separate realities from which to pick and choose and they will most likely put together a composite picture that they somehow feel is just right for their own attitudinal decor. Thus he took the translator of ideas a step further than had the Beatles. While their transitions were a direct reflection of the forefront of social change, Bowie turned the politics of image into cubist art and while remaining aloof from it all, proved that one need only a short term image for purposes of conveying all the rest.
Now there emerges according to the star-making machinery, the "real David Bowie," as if in open admittance that there had never been a "real: David Bowie. since reality at best, is only temporary, this new attempt at retail-rationale is at best laughable. Since the man has already answered the question of "Who cares about the image?" with "quite a great number, in oh so many ways," and since the press continues to find fascination with such earthshaking factota, as Bowie drinking beer, right from a can, already, the question remains "who cares about the music?" While critics founder over the possibilities of a no-image/image, Bowie seems to answer the question quite simplistically in this case, which is not at all. But since he has been able to make a large segment of our population care about his music simply on the basis of what he says and does, it seems quite plausible that he can make them care about it by what he does not say and does not do.
He has made a break. While working along the conventional linear terms of attack and proceed as prescribed long ago by Western culture, he was music via theatre. Now his music is quite blatantly a subjective image, and it is what is said what is does say that is the most desired result, rather than just How. This has already alienated, quite increasingly, a great number of diehards that still yearn voice is centered like a driver in the cockpit, occasionally switching the toggle-switch of emotion for a littler supercharge. Fripp's guitar literally soars like a jet-stream, and Eno's monotone harmonies only serve to underscore the intense, desperate quality of Bowie's voice as he implores the lady not to leave, not to take the easy way out... It is the idea of taking a chance in what appears to be a dying world, one in which the first step toward The End or Absolute Zero is the death of love. It is an appeal to the inhabitants of an Age that demands a saviour on whom it will wage nothing. It is perhaps the most magnificent bit of rock and roll he has ever committed to vinyl.
It is also a precursor to side two. Kind of a preparatory mantra for the onslaught. Nothing is quite as intense as "Heroes," but one suspects this to be stuff of his dreams. "V-2 Schneider" is a fast moving tribute to Florian Schneider of Kraftwerk-fame and his Pynchoneque "Gravity's Rainbow" posturings. The next three tracks, "Sense of Doubt," "Moss Garden" and "Neuköln" are the core of the second side. "Sense of Doubt" fluctuates with the heaviness of teutonic purgatory, a side-stepping close-up shot of Northern Man and his anxiety. "Moss Garden" moves with a wafer-like delicacy like a trout pausing in the sunlit shallows of a mountain stream. Its airy Zen pastel of color and light combines Japanese koto with a synthesizer that diffuses slow, sensual textures like an aerator diffusing perfumed aether. "NeuKöln" is just that. Just as expressionist like Ernst, Pollock, and others used Koln as a crossroads of ideas for creating new plateaus of anxiety prior to the terrible release of "The War," so has Bowie taken these high tension elements off canvas. He translates them aurally with an Ornette Coleman-esque sax that is ugly and disparaging as it is painfully, beautifully, existential. Lastly, there is "The Secret Life of Arabia" which rings like the last scene of a tragedy set amidst The Desert in which as the son says, "...the heroine dies..." Romantic, eh? Valentino meets Camus.
"Heroes" is Bowie's journey into the interior. Sometimes it is sweepingly majestic, other moments are unbelievably depressing. But so is most honest-to-God-art, and "Heroes" is more than a kind of period piece. It is a flawed masterpiece.
With "Heroes" Bowie has apparently made a decision for the future. It is a future rife with possibilities for real change, the kind of trial and error any artist must make if he is to survive both as an artist and a person.
The question remains, will he take the gamble? Or will he let the less-than-phenomenal sales of "Heroes" deter him? It would be refreshing to the extreme to see him put it all on the line, to be a hero "just for one day," but word has it that his set for the upcoming tour will be the same as it was for "Station To Station," something which he has agreed to with a certain reluctance. If he has any cojones at all he'll change his mind. He has it within his power, right at the moment, to change the face of music. But maybe he's still lying to us. (Then he'd better not stay).
He can negate himself forwards and backwards, but "Heroes" still makes sense. With or without him. The cry seems pure enough, the pain genuine. The suffering amidst one rose thorn plea is absolute. If it isn't the truth, it ought to be.
Rock Around the World
|Created: July 1997 © Paul Kinder||Last Updated: 3/9/06|