“By far, he is the greatest 'clinger-on' in music history.”
David "Give it Here" Bowie (8 January 1947 – 10 January 2016) was the pseudonym of former English second-hand car salesman David Robert "Yeah, 'course it has an MOT" Jones. His chief claim to fame was his 1970s portrayal of a bisexual alien trapped in a labyrinth. He took on several "personas" during his long career and adopted pseudonyms such as Ziggy Stardust, The Thin White Duke, Jareth the Goblin King, and Les Dance!.
Jones landed on Earth in the 1940s, a turbulent time for Britain and the world. His early years were characterised by being bored and talentless and indulging in whatever sexual endeavours he could find. Jones would later admit to being "try-sexual", much to the astonishment of '90s media. It had been assumed that Jones was a "butch hetero" type that would "never partake in any of those homo shenanigans", as reported Mojo on the matter in 1997.
At age 15, Jones took up a job with his mother's fourth husband as a second-hand car salesman. He quickly became known as the number one seller of poor automobiles in London. By 1962, the young Jones could sell anything; "I've never seen a man sell like him before... he isn't human," explained Stix Zadinia, his old boss and now-drummer for Steel Panther. It was commented by industry leaders at the time that Jones was able to repackage unconvincing arguments about the "quality" cars he claimed to be selling.
Whilst he was at school, Jones changed from "Jones" to "Bowie", apparently for the numerological significance of "Bowie". He found that his new name opened doors throughout his career, particularly with music industry leaders. Bowie would later comment that "It's not who you know, it's who you blow" in reference to cooperate managers and distributors.
1964–68: Dylan and Barrett tribute act era
Bowie's first foray into music was in the tribute band, "The Lower Turd". It was breakthrough for the young Bowie and allowed him to play music at his local gay bar "The Swallow." The band broke up after a week due to 'communication problems', something very common for the argumentative and capricious Bowie.
It was around this time that the young Bowie met emerging music producer Tony Visconti. Visconti was just starting out and needed a front man for the band he was starting — "someone to put on a bit of a show". Bowie promptly accepted Visconti’s offer and they began cutting their first album. The early Bowie was seen to move in with Visconti, who handled the drugs and the rent. Visconti's bathroom proved useful as a dark room, recording studio, and hideout for a string of hangers-on.
These early works were defined by the heavily Bob Dylan- and Syd Barrett-influenced "Laughing Pedognome". It was an interesting and controversial piece dealing with paranoia and drug addiction with a distinct, pronounced nasal tone (pronounced "nas-al tone").
1969–74: Alien phase era
Bowie's experiments with sodomy along with masquerading as an "alien" thrust him into the public eye. He sought to capitalise on his newfound fame and began a drag act called Ziggy Stardust. Bowie sacked Visconti to pursue this more commercial approach to his music. With Tony gone, Bowie was able to frequent strip clubs and partake in the general debauchery that his old boss hampered. It was well known amongst inner circles the Bowie found Visconti "tedious" and "complains all the time about excess noise in bars."
|“||It was great to see David as Ziggy, better still that I was able to see the back of David and produce T-Rex...Of course, at the time I had no idea of the impact Ziggy would have, or how my earlier contributions would be marginalised though the live shows and publicity.||”|
Bowie proved an instant hit with the British press due to his controversial lifestyle. Headlines such as "Bowie, Bolan, and Jagger in Three-in-a-Bed Chocolate Bar Eating Marathon" regularly screamed out from newsstands. Revelations came in 1969, which quoted Bowie as enjoying "shitting in a tin can".
The then-emergent Bowie was also able to conquer America. The raving homosexuality and anti-Christian sentiments within his song lyrics were lost on American audiences; at the time, audiences were instead captivated by the bright colours of Bowie's live shows and gay conditioning within the backmasking of his albums. These would become standard features common to all of Bowie's future releases and concerts.
1974–76: Nazi era
In 1974, Bowie was faced with a terrible decision to become a full-time cocaine addict or continue in the circus act. There was an obvious choice. Sadly, as he was off his head on cocaine at this time, it probably wasn't the right choice. Under his new Thin White Duke persona, Bowie developed a nervous tic which forced his legs to goose-march in a dramatic fashion. He also began throwing a full salute with his right arm at inopportune moments, as well as developing a fake German accent.
Bowie's affiliation with Tony Visconti began again that year when he decided that plastic soul music would be a good bandwagon to jump on (John Lennon, at the time, agreed). 1975's Spunky Americans was the result. The album's controversial themes of nihilism and general artistic failure with age was something both Lennon and Bowie could empathise with. Throughout the album, lyrics of discontent and self-pity perhaps explained Bowie's decision to relocate to Los Angeles, where other performers shared Bowie's "coked-out predicament". Visconti did his best in the studio and Bowie managed to cut the entire album with minimal personal involvement.
1977–79: Tony Visconti does the lot era
Brian Eno, who was being prosecuted at the time for a bogus sleep therapy device (later used as a makeshift synthesiser), also moved to Berlin to flat share as his finances were "poor". They set about working on three "concept albums". Iggy Pop was also present at that time, trying to revive his career by cashing in on the whole tax dodge, and released the mediocre album I'm an Idiot with Freudian Complexes. He soon became a regular contributor to Bowie's work.
The first album began with Bowie singing about his addiction to high air pressure, leading to the very experimental sound involving Eno's device. The results garnered Bowie some accolade at the time. Audiences were apparently blown away by the sound of something that seemed to be a cross between Kraftwerk and an angry squirrel.
Bowie was able to make his albums before the legendary Hanza studio turned him and his drug crazed cronies out. Bowie promptly managed to relocate to Mexico before U.S. tax enforcement officers were able to capture him. Iggy Pop, however, was captured, judged "unfit for trial", and sectioned. Brian Eno crammed himself in Tony Visconti's rucksack and the pair fled to East Germany and on to Russia.
The albums released, collective known as the "Berlin trilogy", were: Dave’s Feeling Low, Beauty and the Beast (rumoured to be a jibe against Visconti), and last but not least, Lodging with Weirdoes. None of them achieved the kind of success Bowie craved.
1980–88: '80s trash era
The 1980s were an unfortunate era for Bowie: adjusting to middle age the hard way was his move on the matter. Creatively, he adopted the wicked "persona" of an old drag queen, Jareth the Goblin King. Audiences cringed at Bowie's live performances and have continued to do so since.
Bowie's work at the time was characterised as being full of music videos paying tribute to the cigarette adverts that began Bowie's fifty-a-day habit, and attempts to reconcile Live-Aid with his lifelong obsession with Aleister Crowley and money.
Throughout the '80s, Bowie was able to accrue serious commercial assets when the Thatcher Government was well underway. With his newfound prosperity, Bowie left for Switzerland, as he felt "disillusioned", and "too loaded to stay in that craphole Britain".
1989–91: Tin Machine era
With a new decade dawning, Bowie thought that it would revitalise his career if he formed a hard rock band with a dude who looked like Carlos Santana mated with Bono, a generic bass player, and a bald guy who was most well known for "exploring new sonic landscapes with his instrument" (aka playing his guitars with vibrators).
It didn't. Moving on...
1992–94: Identity crisis era
With a new decade dawning, Bowie attempted to reverse the trend of mediocrity by "going classical" with Philip Glass. These attempts — Symphony No. 1 "Low" and Symphony No. 4:33 "Heroes" — sank into yet more obscurity, as the classical albums were heavily derivative of Bowie's previous releases.
With another career mishap under his belt, Bowie decided to fleece his fans once again with yet another "Best of" collection in 1992. The fifteenth of its kind in as many years, it was seen as evidence that his marriage to supermodel Iman slowed the "creative process".
The distinctive style of music Bowie subsequently experimented with led to notoriously controversial performances, wherein he dressed up like a "person of colour" and sang duets with Lenny Kravitz. The album that was haphazardly cut from this madness was 1993's Black Shag, White Noise. It proved to be yet another unsuccessful venture into black music, Bowie's first being Spunky Americans in 1975.
1995–98: Trent Reznor era
Trent Reznor's industrial take on "music" led Bowie to release his seminal 1995 album 1. Outside – The Nathan Adler Diaries: A Hyper-cycle of Not Going Outside But Staying Indoors and Becoming Peculiar. The album was apparently not influenced by Nine Inch Nails; rather, Bowie came up with the "distinctive" sound after listening to his blow dryer for a while. It proved to be an artistic and commercial comeback for the ageing Bowie, being hailed as his best since Scary Monsters.
|“||He was so grumpy on tour...and he kept bugging me for ideas on his next album. All in all, the tour with Bowie was one of the worst I have ever done...||”|
Unfortunately, the followup 1997 release, My Little Wonder, bombed throughout the globe commercially, and signified an end to any new groundbreaking material. Bowie decided to try and revive his flagging career by sacking his entire band, something he had become generally accustomed to doing, especially when the controversy caught up to him though heavy press coverage. He always, however, kept the odd token geriatrics to give a "pastiche" value to his music. These old-timers, however, had decided by the late '90s to quit Bowie for good. Many reported finding Bowie's "Draconian handling of band members and studio staff" too unpleasant to tolerate any longer.
1999–2003: Dirty old queer era
Bowie's middle-aged rebellion and ginger hair revival caused the final backlash from fans, as most had grown weary of his Internet scams and repeated "best of" releases. Bowie, being resourceful, decided to tour with Placebo to shift the critical contempt from himself to the annoying Brian Molko. This collaboration led to yet another botched reinvention, from "industrial" to "wannabe Morrissey", something fans had noted in previous drum 'n' bass albums where Bowie was seen to whine angstily amidst pounding drum machines.
In 1999, Bowie's contract with EMI expired. In order to counter the threat of album retractions, he signed a deal with the label allowing all of his music to be used for incidental soundtracks for low-quality BBC dramas. Bowie reportedly found the deal agreeable, as he wanted to catch up on Paul McCartney's "astronomic royalties".
From 2002 to 2003, Bowie began a comeback from his terrible obscurity and critical contempt. He hired Tony Visconti to produce two albums to bring him out of exile; the results — Heathen and Reality — were alright, being hailed as his best since Scary Monsters. However, Bowie had developed the unpleasant habit of hurling abuse at fans during concerts, and the resulting rejection from "fans" put Bowie off producing any of his "own" music ever again.
2004–2016: Final years
Following his "comeback" in 2003, Bowie again faded away from the public eye, and had ceased to produce any of his "own" music. He had, however, continued to cling to popular up-and-coming acts, such as alt-rockers Arcade Fire and Kashmir, and perform a string of duets with them. Bowie, however, made the mistake of failing to realise that these acts were far from up-and-coming or popular with even the most nerdish of music aficionados.
...then Lemmy died and Bowie followed a few days later, their work on this Earth completed.
Wikipedia hastily commenced work on his article so as to cast Bowie as a homosexual icon — a treatment it has given celebrities from Sylvester Stallone to Barack Obama — and taking pains to point out that the couple of times the male-or-female-or-both rock star claimed he was bisexual, he painfully recanted the claim. The material on him being married twice, with one child by each wife, was relegated to footnotes.
- Mojo was forced to retract its statements made about Jones in 1997, as New Labour flak would have prevented them from a successful run of the issue.
- Eno blacklisted after several telemarketing scams were busted by police in 1975.
- It is thought both Eno and Visconti drove a reconditioned LADA across Alaska and into the States illegally.
- Sony/Columbia said categorically, that they would never fund another Bowie release.
- Zombie John Peel (2003). David Bowie: A Career Wasted in the Seventies, Second Edition. Shirtlifter Publishing, London, England. ISBN 0-593-05252-8.
- Visconti, Tony (1992). My Hell with Bowie. Puffinphonies Publishing, Brooklyn, New York. ISBN 978-0-00-722944-4.