The Man Who Fell to Earth and Sold the World

The Wild Eyed Boy from Freecloud. 

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British musician David Robert Jones aka David Bowie died in New-York on Sunday January 10, 2016, two days after his 69th birthday. His death really hit me hard. I had often fantasized that if there was a movie to be made about my life, for sure they would have been more than a couple of Bowie’s songs on the soundtrack. I can without a doubt  say that Bowie’s music has been a constant throughout my life, no matter how I changed, no matter what place I ended up being watching the sunrise or whom I found myself to be with, Bowie was there, humming along as I walked passed through life, no matter which path I had chosen nor how wild was the wind, Bowie always seemed either to fit perfectly or to be perfectly unfit for the situation. Each tune telling me in a very special, unique way that I’m ok, and if I’m not doing ok, that, at the very least, I am not the only one who feels alone and locked away in space and time, huge thanks to aliens and Major Tom. 

 THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH 1976 British Lion film with David Bowie
The Man Who Fell to Earth (Nicolas Roeg, 1976)

clockwerk bowie 

   I vividly remember myself setting myself up to listen Space Oddity from start to finish. That album was the first of a long and important part of my vinyl record collection. I was expecting something very new wave, very edgy. I was so pleasantly surprised  by the deep felt lyrics and conquered by the very planetary folk essence. It definitely had a knack to it and I felt a deep intimacy and sensitiveness through the whole album. I was conquered and intrigued.

Arnold Layne’s Moonage Daydream

Syd Barrett by George Underwood who was David Bowie's childhood friend. David owns this painting, he is a huge Syd fan.
Syd Barrett by George Underwood who was David Bowie’s childhood friend (Underwood is the one responsible for punching him in the left eye during a fight over a girl that left David with faulty depth perception and a permanently dilated pupil, which gave a false impression of a change in the iris’ colour) . David owns this painting and is a huge Syd fan (and always remained Underwood’s close friend).

     I was already a huge fan of Pink Floyd’s early days with Barrett and everything that was shining behind those ”crazy diamonds”. David Bowie first released “Moonage Daydream” under the project name Arnold Corns,  inspired by Pink Floyd’s song “Arnold Layne”. Arnold Corns’ version of “Moonage Daydream” was recorded in April ‘71 and released as a single in May of that year, with “Hang on to Yourself” as its B-side.  The song tells the story of an alien messiah, who is born to save the world from impending disaster. Surprisingly, it was a flop, but Bowie recognized he had hit on an idea that was too good to waste, and developed it for the album Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.  Later, on PIN-UPS ,  Bowie showed again his admiration by making a cover of  Pink Floyd’s early tracks, ”See Emily Play” written by no other than the original frontman Syd Barrett .  I saw in Bowie the same Oddity coupled with some space, alien, extraterrestrial, Life on Mars and the wild psychedelic thoughts of The Man Who Sold the World .  For sure Bowie’s deep sympathy and interest for Barrett must also have a little something to do with his half-brother Terry, who had been diagnosed as a schizophrenic. A lad insane… As some would put it…   david-bowie-aka-ziggy-stardust-wallpaper

So If you try and follow that thread all the way one can gather all the main roots of Bowie’s first albums…. From Syd Barrett‘s psychedelic fascination for astronomy, LSD and schizophrenia coupled with Bowie’s appreciation for Brian Eno and Roxy Music, VU and Iggy to a lad insane all dolled up!!  I’m referring here to The New-York Dolls who certainly had something to do with Bowie’s early very openly effeminate look of his early days, giving birth to Glam Rock as Bowie saw it. The thread being picked up later on by krautrock, leading to ”space” music which in turn influenced largely techno music… Now this no small influence… Bowie never invented anything of this but per se but he sure did picked it up because the vibes were in the air, moonage daydreaming with Arnold…  Bowie space

     I see Bowie as a one of the pioneer of  ”modern” music along with The Velvet Underground, Iggy Pop and Joy Division. He also committed some of the best glam rock and art rock stuff with glitters of gold that was ever done along with The Dolls, The Heartbreakers, Brian Eno/Roxy Music and to his credit he was aware of the Velvet Underground and The Stooges before a lot of people, before he was known himself . What he added was this theatrical and artistic dimension that was first introduced by VU, managed in their early days by Andy Warhol,  plus the whole persona/opera aspect that the Who have also explored on very early. The Velvets and Warhol, were one of the first to really exploit the aspect of performance other than the musicians themselves, in modern rock. Andy Warhol’s lights engineer Danny Williams pioneered many innovations that have since become standard practice in rock music light shows.  

The Exploding Plastic Inevitable effects featured while VU were performing onstage but the show was offstage as well with lots of special effects.
The Exploding Plastic Inevitable effects featured while VU were performing onstage but the show was offstage as well with lots of special effects.

From May 27-29 the Exploding Plastic Inevitable played The Fillmore in San Francisco, where Williams built a light show including stroboscopes, slides and film projections onstage. At Bill Graham’s request he was soon to come back and build more. Film maker Jonas Mekas (who pioneered film projections during concerts at New York’s Cinematheque), Andy Warhol and Danny Williams influential ideas contributed much to the legendary Fillmore Auditorium’s prestige and were also used at the Fillmore East and Fillmore West, both opening in 1968. Bowie was clever enough to realise that there definitely was something there. He used all these ideas in his very own way, perfecting the art of performing an opera like show, impersonating Ziggy while at the same time pushing the whole concept of space and extraterrestrials and alien life. Don’t get me wrong here.. I’m not saying he was a plagiarist… He just so happened that everything he was about was probably at least partly incorporating all of these ”trends” already and of course I’m totally skipping T-Rex, Slade, Suzy Quatro, Glitter, etc, etc, etc… But Bowie just caught the vibes that were in the air and made a mold that would be his from then on to Eternity… From Cosmic Folk to… everything else…. Bowie was always inspired by what was the very best and he made sure he got the very best in order to create the very best. It seems that everything started with the new folk created by Bob Dylan back then in one way or another… So…. Barrett and Bowie ”invented” ”Cosmic Folk” and from there, it was like…..Ziggy played guitar and took it so very far… Became the Thin White Duke..and so much more… 

English model Twiggy poses with David Bowie in Paris for the cover of his 'Pin Ups' album, 1973. (Photo by Justin de Villeneuve/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
English model Twiggy poses with David Bowie in Paris for the cover of his ‘Pin Ups’ album, 1973. (Photo by Justin de Villeneuve/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

I heard recently that this gut instinct attraction to anything that glows or shines like gold, silver, diamonds and any precious stones comes from a very primal need we had for water during the pre-historical times of our evolution and has now become part of our genes legacy. So in a very poetic manner, one could say that we needed glam rock like we need  water. The relief we got from drinking the source of life that is water was and is still related to seeing the ripples and twinkle the sun would make when playing on the surface of this precious vital liquid, reminding us of our Gods and of the very sources of life on Earth. The Sun and the Water. While Richard Hell rightly felt we were the Blank Generation, Bowie made us realise how small we are under the stars… And we felt it, we felt the immensity of our Universe. I always felt that Bowie’s contribution to music was rarely bleak but rather uplifting, he always made us stare into the mystery of the universe without losing sight of all that was going inside another parallel universe, one filled with an overactive imagination and very deep, heartfelt but nevertheless human feelings.  BTW I always felt that those Diamond Dogs were inspired by the Nova Trilogy written by William Burroughs…. It just precisely the kind of creatures that would come out of his novels and bite your balls.

As befitting a post-apocalyptic work, Dogs was born from the frustration of failed opportunities. Bowie initially endeavored to create a TV musical adaptation of George Orwell’s totalitarian milestone 1984—until the social critic’s widow refused permission. Around the same time, Rolling Stone’s London bureau arranged for Bowie and William S. Burroughs to interview each other, which introduced the singer to the author’s Nova Express. Immediately thereafter, Bowie began penning lyrical non sequiturs via that novel’s cut-up technique, and planned a Ziggy musical to be similarly shuffled each night. This, too, faltered, although it inspired new tunes. These two projects, sharing dystopian themes, fused together to form the mutant Dogs.”Barry Walters for Pitchfork

Bowie and Burroughs
Bowie and Burroughs

I always saw Bowie as universal as he was intimate and had the power of attracting us to the most mysterious but positive sources of life.  

Lou Reed performing in UK at Scala Cinema,King's Cross,London on 15th of July 1972.
Lou Reed performing in UK at Scala Cinema,King’s Cross,London on 15th of July 1972.

Personally I see 1972 as a stepping stone in Bowie’s career mainly because it was then that he so kindly invited over in England Iggy and The Stooges and Lou Reed for a memorable series of shows , seizing this occasional dream and turning it in one of the most important album in the history of modern rock by producing Lou Reed’s Transformer‘. I thought that it was really nice of Bowie to offer a helping hand, share his technical, musical and artistic abilities/facilities,  the place he had in the spotlight by then by opening his arms, and the Gates of England (Europe?),  by showing to the world who were his greatest, most important, I could almost say revered (?)influences, Lou Reed (formerly from the Velvet Underground) as well as Iggy and the Stooges.  This was not as you all know a one time thing… He really helped Iggy Pop as much as he could to write and produce The Idiot and Lust for Life, even touring with Iggy!Brian Eno was a major producer on at least 3 of Bowie’s album known as the Berlin Trilogy” (”Low” , ”Heroes” and ”Lodger”)  though the album was mainly recorded in France and only mixed in West Berlin. Iggy Pop was of course cited by many as THE major influence for Ziggy Stardust.Iggy…. Ziggy… But the opinion as to the inspiration behind Bowie’s 1972 album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust, has always been divided; Mick Ronson, guitarist on the album, who died in 1993, credited Iggy Pop. “Mick said Bowie was looking for a rock star name beginning with Z – just like a plumber looks for a name beginning with A, to be at the front of the phone book,” said Christopher Sandford, Bowie’s latest biographer. “He met Iggy in 1971 and put a Z in front.” But we all know there’s more to it .  Another Bowie biographer, Peter Gillman, claimed the name was a composite of Iggy Pop and a US performer called The Legendary Stardust Cowboy. He is sceptical about Bowie’s announcement. “Look at how the lyrics describe him. `Loaded’, `Well hung’, `God given ass’. He was talking about himself.”

Bowie on the cover of his 1977 album "Low.
Bowie on the cover of his 1977 album “Low”

The album ”Low” marked a decisive shift in his musical style toward an electronic and avant-garde approach that would be further explored on the subsequent albums “Heroes” (1977) and Lodger (1979). Despite all these influences and collaboration Bowie was more than the sum of it. He always added is own touch and constantly went out of his way to give us the very best.  I think Bowie should be remembered as the ”Warhol” of music, always seeing and seeking the very best out of everyone and everything that was ”in the Universe”,  had the humility to help as well as being helped. Let’s not forget that even if he wasn’t the first one to do so, he really helped to change the perceptions towards homosexuals, cross dressing (”TV”s) and transgender, helping perpetuate the movement started in New-York by Warhol that the Velvet Underground had already strongly approached in NYC as well as throughout the US and Bowie somehow managed to making it a mainstream thing in the UK! We all know how much admiration Bowie had for Warhol (there’s a track called Andy Warhol on Bowie’s album Hunky Dory that was of course dedicated to Warhol) and how deceived David was to only get a remark on how nice his shoes were by the master of Pop Art! Nevertheless, glam rock really was the musical embodiment of Warhol’s thinking as well as many universal truth like the principal of the yin and the yang, the fact that there are greater forces at work here such as the universal attraction and major power that the sun and water still hold over each and every human being, only proving that this fascination we have from gold, diamonds and other shiny things only being a lure whereas we should be more focusing on, as mentioned before, water, fire, stars, planets and..loving the aliens?

David Bowie as Alex from A Clockwork Orange with a background that says a lot to me..
David Bowie as Alex from A Clockwork Orange with a background that speaks for itself.
Artwork ©Butcher Billy
Spiffy GIF Artwork ©Butcher Billy