11
Jan 16

Gnome Man’s Land

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I wrote a thing for here about David Bowie and how I felt about him and what he meant to me, but then Pitchfork kindly decided they wanted to run it, so it’s below. (Original title: He Could Be Dead, He Could Be Not, He Could Be You). And to any other good pieces I see, or that you want to point me to, or memorial threads.

My Pitchfork piece
Chris O’Leary’s Pushing Ahead Of The Dame memorial thread
Alfred Soto’s obituary, for Spin
Ann Powers ‘Reflections Of A Bowie Girl’ for NPR
Rory (of Popular)’s memorial post

Meanwhile this feels like it deserves more than an RIP on a Popular entry, so by all means use this thread too to post, comment about Bowie, list your favourite songs, fit him into your history or pop’s history. Whatever, really.

David Bowie: RIP

Comments

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  1. 31
    Tom on 13 Jan 2016 #

    Today’s LP was The Man Who Sold The World. Here’s a nice piece on it from the AV Club http://www.avclub.com/article/man-who-sold-world-david-bowie-found-his-career-bl-230571 – some bits are an overreach (I don’t think it had much influence on the direction of prog, or metal) but the thrust of it, Bowie finding a method and a style (or rather a way into styles), is right I think.

    There are usually tracks on Bowie albums which sound like they could have been on the last Bowie album, except they’ve been infected by the style of the current one. Signposts of development. “Width Of A Circle”, in this case. The very rapid artistic development gives the chance meeting in that song (and in the title track) a kind of Faustian vibe – the 60s Bowie meeting his monster self, then saying goodbye, but with no suggestion the places might not have switched. Hunky Dory tomorrow.

    Favourite track: “The Man Who Sold The World” – no challops here.

  2. 32

    likeable new york times interview (by jon pareles) of iggy pop on his friend’s passing: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/14/arts/music/david-bowie-iggy-pop.html?_r=0

    true to its house style, the NYT refers to IG as “Mr. Pop” throughout :)

  3. 33
    Pink champalepink on 13 Jan 2016 #

    That’s a lovely interview with Mr Pop. My secret theory has long been that he’s the most intelligent and urbane person in rock. I liked the Greg Tate piece too. I don’t think I’ve read him before. Is his style always so, um, hepcat?

  4. 34

    it is, yes

  5. 35
    Pink champalepink on 13 Jan 2016 #

    Far out

  6. 36
    Rory on 14 Jan 2016 #

    Thanks for adding my blog post to your list of links, Tom. I don’t seem to have let it go (I’ve been on a self-imposed daily posting schedule again this year, about whatever’s uppermost in my mind, which is currently this), so there are a couple more posts with various links readers here might like, plus some further ramblings of mine. If you read nothing else, read this extraordinary post from a Bowie fan who became more than just a fan.

  7. 37

    not a recent piece (it’s from 1980) but an interview by one of nme’s best (albeit most unsung) editor-critics, angus mackinnon:
    http://www.bowiegoldenyears.com/articles/800913-nme.html

    (when apocalypse now came out, to somewhat baffled response in this country, coppola, frustrated at a tiresome press conference, waved a copy of the nme around and said “this is the only man who has understood my film!”, AM having reviewed it at length)

    adding: can’t decide if i’m irritated by or enjoying the layout decision, which means you often can’t tell which one of them (DB or AM) is speaking

  8. 38
    Tom on 14 Jan 2016 #

    Hunky Dory today. I have had so many different favourite songs from this album. Right at the start it was “Oh! You Pretty Things”, because it reminded me of the X-Men. Then “Andy Warhol”, because of the oddness of it, the cut-ups and the deadened sing-song vocal style. Then “Life On Mars?”, because tunes that big don’t come along that often. Then “Changes” for its optimism. Then very briefly “Kooks” when I became a Dad. And now “The Bewley Brothers”, which had always been lurking high on my list, waiting to outlast the others. Perhaps the remainder of the songs will take their place too, it’s not like they’re bad.

  9. 39
    Phil on 14 Jan 2016 #

    I asked my big sister what The Bewlay Brothers was all about, the last bit in particular. She didn’t know either, which quite shocked me at the time – I mean, she was twenty! Now, running through the lyrics in my head (the two-thirds I can remember), it actually seems fairly straightforward – if he’d sat down to write the song Ziggy Stardust but got distracted by an acid trip, or just by reading an awful lot of Dylan Thomas, the result would have been something like that.

    Amazing stuff in its own way – a whole album of it would have got wearing, but there was never any danger of that.
    “The Factor Max that proved the fact is melted down
    And woven on the edging of my pillow”
    I think that was a liberation of sorts, too. If pop music can encompass that

  10. 40
    Cumbrian on 14 Jan 2016 #

    As I said up thread, I am more for Bowie’s mid-70s output than the earlier stuff, but Hunky Dory does contain my favourite Bowie track: Queen Bitch – a muscular take on Three Steps To Heaven via The Velvet Underground that manages to be better than either of its main influences by some distance, as far as I am concerned.

    I’ve been thinking about Bowie, Johnny Cash and Queen a lot over the last few days for fairly obvious reasons. I wonder whether Bowie thought about Cash and Queen as well, or whether he just decided to do his own thing and the comparisons will inevitably be drawn given the circumstances. Gratifyingly, a lot of the notices about Bowie I have seen over the last few days have been about how generous he could be, so I doubt he looked at them and thought “I could do better than that”. That said, “I could do better than that” seems to have been a guiding principle for him (not necessarily that he always did but it can be used as a spur to at least give something a go) so he might have thought it. Anyway, all this by way of saying, and after listening to it quite a lot over the last couple of days, Blackstar is a mighty impressive piece of work, would have been in any case if Bowie were still alive but the weight it now carries is borne easily, I think.

  11. 41
    weej on 15 Jan 2016 #

    Queen Bitch is one of my favourites too, and I believe it’s the favourite of the Bowiesongs guy too. It seems to have a very low profile considering (a) how good it is and (b) how many people seem to love it. Least rated on Hunky Dory for most people seems to be Fill Your Heart, but it’s one of the highlights for me, maybe I have a higher tolerance for twee than most. Afraid I have always found The Bewley Brothers a bit of a slog, especially the second half, would probably rank it last. But still my favourite Bowie album if I’m honest.

  12. 42
    Tom on 15 Jan 2016 #

    I like “Fill Your Heart” too, it has a tinge of mania mixed in with the twee, and the bit where it falls away into the synth tones of “Andy Warhol” is probably my favourite moment on Hunky Dory. And I like “Queen Bitch” more than its influence, which is not true of “Song For Bob Dylan”, MY least favourite track on the record (though “sand and glue” is pretty good).

  13. 43
    Rory on 15 Jan 2016 #

    Hunky Dory was the first Bowie album I fell for unreservedly, and I love it all. My love for it might be what delayed my engagement with other key albums, particularly in the 1975-1980 era; there was so much to discover and consider in each fresh listen that I was happy with that. Even Ziggy couldn’t match it for me.

    “Queen Bitch” featured prominently in Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, in its Bowie form, alongside Seu Jorge’s Portuguese covers of other Bowiesongs of the era. Great soundtrack, mixing songs by Bowie, Jorge covering Bowie, and Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo.

    (The Life Aquatic soundtrack was so effective that it spawned a spin-off album of Jorge’s Bowie covers, which I see now has an iTunes bonus track that isn’t on my CD. To the iTunes store!)

  14. 44
    Phil on 15 Jan 2016 #

    I heard side one of Ziggy at someone else’s house – my uncle’s in fact. (He also had the first headphones I’d ever used, and the best I’ve ever used to this day; when I put them on I was genuinely convinced that the music was still filling the room. Wish I’d made a note.) Anyway, I was appropriately blown away, so when my sister told me that IHO Hunky Dory was an even better album, well… After that build-up I was a bit less than overwhelmed to begin with, but once I’d listened to both a few dozen times I did come round to her opinion. Close thing, though, not to mention a bit of a chalk/cheese problem.

  15. 45
    Pink champale on 15 Jan 2016 #

    I’m one of three people that voted for Song for Bob Dylan in the grand Bowiesongs poll. Though tbh it was a slightly odd choice on my part and one I wouldn’t necessarily have made on a different day. Whereas Hunky Dory got my best album vote and would have done every day for the past thirty years.

  16. 46
    swanstep on 15 Jan 2016 #

    Jemaine Clement of Flight of the Conchords winsomely details the writing and filming of their ‘Bowie in Space’ (as a case study of the overwhelming power of Bowie fandom and of his example) here: http://thespinoff.co.nz/13-01-2016/david-bowie-the-man-we-idolised-imitated-and-failed-to-get-on-our-show/

  17. 47
    Tom on 15 Jan 2016 #

    So, Ziggy. I’d forgotten how much piano there was on this record! (It works). When I got into Bowie (late-80s), this record was The One, and it’s still his most “Acclaimed” (viz Acclaimed Music). I think it’s been a decade-plus since I listened straight through to it. It’s a mix of stuff that can never wear out for me (“Five Years”, “Starman”, “Rock’n’Roll Suicide”), stuff that has worn out for me (the title track), stuff I haven’t played enough to wear out (most of the rest) and a couple of songs I never dug anyway. Not, oddly enough, “It Ain’t Easy”, which is like “Sloop John B” – an unfairly maligned breather to let the pressure out in an intense record. It does its job.

    I remember bobbing around in a swimming pool with a friend age 14 or so, spending an hour discussing this record, trying to arrange the tracks into a story which was – we felt – necessary to justify its being a “concept album”.

    Best Track: “Five Years”, his best lyric to that date, perhaps ever. (My inner Tanya H raises her head to suggest you don’t need to cry all that much for your face to be wet. I push her back down.) The extraordinary lyrical pan across people’s reactions (“A girl my age went off her head…” etc) feels like something out of an 80s comics script (Moore or post-Moore) – and quite possibly was an inspiration. That brings back another memory of a pub discussion where we decided we were going to make a “Five Years” comic in the style of a Just 17 photo story. Who would want such a thing was unclear.

    Aladdin Sane tomorrow.

  18. 48
    weej on 15 Jan 2016 #

    Ha, I wrote a film script called “Five Years” at university, wonder if you can guess what played over the end credits? Anyway, it now seems to be the name of the most popular retrospective documentary (that I haven’t seen) so looks like it’s taken.

  19. 49
    Andrew Farrell on 15 Jan 2016 #

    A friend elsewhere (regarding Lazarus Dawn) makes the excellent observation “He’s not a good talking actor — but he is an exceptional being-actor.”

  20. 50
    Cumbrian on 15 Jan 2016 #

    Always thought of Ziggy as more Mick Ronson’s album than Bowie’s – despite Bowie writing the songs, Ronson seems like the guy being given centre stage a lot of the time. At least, almost all my favourite bits on the album are Ronno anyway – the “start your engines” rev up at the start of Suffragette City, the BLAM-BLAM power chords to herald the start of Moonage Daydream, the string bending solo in the otherwise slight Hang Onto Yourself (though Steve Jones was listening to that riff, right? Seems very Pistols). Otherwise, I kind of agree that there’s quite a bit on here that is either overplayed or I have never really been that into. Indeed, I can take or leave both SC and HOY even with those really great moments in them.

    Five Years is great, as is Rock N Roll Suicide. Moonage Daydream is the best for me though and would make my Bowie Top 20 definitely and Top 10 maybe.

  21. 51

    intriguing speculative piece on the (possible) roots of the sleng teng rhythm: https://axischemicals.wordpress.com/2016/01/11/david-bowie-digital-reggae-kingpin/

  22. 52
    Cumbrian on 15 Jan 2016 #

    David Bowie with the final release of his lifetime becoming a #1 album, owning 25% of the placings in the Top 40 album chart and 13 singles in the Top 100.

    Albums

    01 – Blackstar – RCA
    05 – Nothing Has Changed – The Very Best Of David Bowie – Parlophone
    11 – The Best Of 1969/1974 – Parlophone
    14 – Hunky Dory – Parlophone
    17 – The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust – Parlophone
    18 – Best Of Bowie – Parlophone
    23 – Aladdin Sane – Parlophone
    25 – The Next Day – RCA
    31 – Low – Parlophone
    37 – Diamond Dogs – Parlophone
    42 – Let’s Dance – Parlophone
    45 – “Heroes” – Parlophone
    55 – Station To Station – Parlophone
    59 – The Best Of – 1980/1987 Parlophone
    60 – Young Americans – Parlophone
    61 – Scary Monsters – Parlophone
    89 – The Man Who Sold The World – Parlophone
    95 – Space Oddity – Parlophone
    97 – Five Years – 1969-1973 – Parlophone

    Singles

    12 – “Heroes” – David Bowie – Parlophone
    16 – “Life On Mars” – David Bowie – Parlophone
    18 – “Starman” – David Bowie – Parlophone
    23 – “Let’s Dance” – David Bowie – Parlophone
    24 – “Space Oddity” – David Bowie – Parlophone
    43 – “Under Pressure” – Queen & David Bowie – Virgin
    45 – “Lazarus” – David Bowie – RCA
    49 – “Changes” – David Bowie – Parlophone
    61 – “Blackstar” – David Bowie – RCA
    62 – “Ashes To Ashes” – David Bowie – Parlophone
    65 – “Rebel Rebel” – David Bowie – Parlophone
    76 – “Ziggy Stardust” – David Bowie – Parlophone
    97 – “China Girl” – David Bowie – Parlophone

  23. 53
    Jeff W on 15 Jan 2016 #

    Geeta on DB, “Part 1”:

    https://medium.com/@geetadayal/on-david-bowie-part-1-47066adc0640#.486shtiq4

  24. 54

    tsj’s tribute (featuring a couple of FT regulars):
    http://www.thesinglesjukebox.com/?p=19563

  25. 55
    Tom on 17 Jan 2016 #

    A final Then Play Long entry from Marcello. http://nobilliards.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/david-bowie-blackstar.html

  26. 56
    Tom on 17 Jan 2016 #

    Aladdin Sane yesterday, PinUps today. PinUps mostly interesting as an exercise in contrast – Bowie demonstrating how he wouldn’t really have fitted into rock’n’roll, freakbeat, etc. Even that’s a stretch. Mark S pointed out somewhere last week that Groovy Greil Marcus thinks this is the ONLY GOOD BOWIE RECORD, an imperial challops. Tough going now, as it was when I first heard it, mostly because of the vocals slipping back into bad old habits. It was the record I first heard “See Emily Play” on, and I like Bowie’s fairly faithful take, so that gets the Favourite Track pick.

    Aladdin Sane is magnificent. Someone was saying upthread that Ziggy is Mick Ronson’s LP. I think Aladdin is even more so – in terms of how good it sounds, anyway, louder, richer, with that gorgeous thick guitar sound I think of when I think of “glam”. At school I liked it more than Ziggy, it had more mystique to it, it seemed bigger and nastier. More grown up too – that was mostly a case of me deciphering the slang on Aladdin more easily, I think, but the cabaret touches all through too. Hard to pick a standout but it’s probably “Drive In Saturday”, which (it hardly needs saying) does more interesting things with the past than PinUps manages.

  27. 57
    Phil on 17 Jan 2016 #

    I remember buying Aladdin Sane in Croydon as soon as it came out in 1974, but I remember erroneously – it was released in April 1973, at which point I wasn’t even in England. But I still remember the creak of the gatefold as I opened it for the first time, the weight & finish (and the smell) of the white card sleeve, the look of the navy blue card inner sleeve… The whole package was stylish and clean-looking, but opulent with it – no expense had been spared.

    The music is full-on in a similar way – the guitars are louder than any I’d ever heard, but they’re part of a big, full, lush sound. It’s a really achieved album.

  28. 58
    mapman132 on 18 Jan 2016 #

    Blackstar is now the number one album in the US – one of the few chart accomplishments David Bowie hadn’t yet achieved:

    http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/chart-beat/6844036/david-bowie-blackstar-album-debuts-no-1-on-billboard-200-charts

  29. 59
    Phil on 18 Jan 2016 #

    I’ve been listening to Aladdin Sane, and I’ve been absolutely blown away. Mike Garson’s piano on the title track is astonishing, and everyone in the band – Ronson, Bolder, Woodmansey – is playing right at the top of their game. (That melodic bass line on the title track, right up the neck like something by Hugh Hopper! Those manic hurry-up fills on Watch That Man!)

    I find myself noticing little signposts and foreshadowings of what was to come: Panic in Detroit is obviously(!) from the same person who made Young Americans, and what’s that in the last minute of Cracked Actor – two separate guitar parts consisting entirely of feedback? Hmm. Amazing to realise that YA was only two years away, and Heroes only four and a half – seemed a lot longer at the time.

    Astonishing album. I’m looking forward to side two.

  30. 60
    lonepilgrim on 18 Jan 2016 #

    I’ve always felt slightly out of phase with Bowie for most of his career although I’ve mostly liked his work and ambition.
    I first heard ‘Space Oddity’ in 1969 when Apollo moon shot fever was at its height at my Primary school and I liked the song. Earlier that year I’d been to see 2001 for a friend’s birthday and I liked the wordplay. In my mind David Bowie was the singer who told Sci-fi stories which was a GOOD THING as I liked Sci-fi stories.
    By 1972 I had begun to listen to pop music more avidly. I watched TOTP regularly and begin to buy singles with my pocket money and get LPs for presents. I saw DB singing Starman – another sci-fi story VG – but I’d already fallen in love with first T. Rex and then Alice Cooper.
    In 1973 my sister wanted to buy Jean Genie but I persuade her to pool her pocket money with me and we get the ‘Top Of The Pops’ LP with that track and several others for almost the same price (we didn’t realise that these were cheaper copies of the songs). I read an interview with DB in my dad’s paper where he compared himself to Alice Cooper. No comparison I scoffed.
    I started Secondary School and made friends with lads who introduced me to Prog rock. The boys who liked Bowie in my class were a bit leery and sneaky so that put me off him as did the fact that girls liked him too. I still liked the singles although I found his ‘theatricality’ a bit scary. Aladdin Sane is the first album I can remember seeing promoted in our local record shop along with Pinups, which was released only a few months later. ‘Drive In Saturday’ was (and still is) a particular favourite – more Sci-Fi, VG. I liked ‘All the young dudes’ and ‘Walk on the Wild Side’ without fully realising Bowie’s involvement. The BBC ‘Cracked Actor’ documentary made me more interested in him and I went to see ‘The Man who fell to Earth’ and loved it. My first girlfriend was a huge Bowie fan and lent me Ziggy and Low to convert me and seemed a bit miffed that I preferred the latter. We broke up soon after. I can remember being impressed that the NME featured two contrasting reviews of Low, suggesting what a divisive album it was at the time. Punk and Disco were happening around the same time and their pleasures were more immediate and accessible at the time. The singles from ‘Heroes’ and Lodger were favourites at parties but I felt no urgency to investigate the albums until later. ‘Ashes to Ashes’ and the ‘Scary Monsters’ album was the point where Bowie and I came into sync. I loved the singles and kind of enjoyed the album. I caught up with ‘Heroes’, Aladdin Sane and Station to Station. I bought and enjoyed Lets Dance single and album as a party soundtrack and lost interest as his work became unfocused. The last new music I bought was ‘This is not America’. After that I vaguely followed his output with less and less interest – although his occasional ‘live’ appearances on TV were usually good value. Through this site I discovered the Pushing Ahead of the Dame blog which has helped me to appreciate some of his later work as well as earlier stuff that I had forgotten. I was touched when he returned with the first song from ‘The Next Day’ but didn’t feel compelled to listen to or buy the album. I was more stimulated by the songs leading up to the release of ‘Blackstar’ and so actually bought it when it was released. There’s a lot I like about it, there’s stuff I find perplexing and irritating but I want to keep on listening to it – so a return to form.
    Apologies for being so autobiographical but its a way to process my response to the man and his work. More may follow

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