Tina's Rock Block

David Bowie - from Ziggy Stardust to the Thin White Duke

I remember, that one of the first things I did, when I came to the Unofficial Goran Visnjic Site, was to go through the media archives, where I finally found some quotes of Goran talking about music, when he was interviewed about working with Madonna for "The Power Of Good Bye" (BTW - independent from the video my favourite Madonna song). He said, that Madonna called him a musical dinosaur, because he loves (besides Croatian music) classic rock stuff like Stones or Queen and that he is a huge fan of David Bowie. That was the moment, I thought: "WOW - thatís MY boy!"
You have to know, that I am a super devoted music fan. Music plays the leading role in my private and professional life and for me itís an important indicator, if I really fit together with people or not. I give you one example: I could never fall in love with a man, who has in my personal ears a disgusting taste in music. I am tolerant (really!) and itís inspiring, when people bring their music in my life, but it has to fit generally. That probably seems to be very superficial for you, but itís not, because I believe, that music is reflecting a lot how people feel, how they deal with their emotions or which point of view they have on our crazy world. My personal experience is, that when I find a person, which shares my passion and taste in music, we share always much more than this. The biggest and most intensive friendships and love stories in my life started this way. And so I loved the quote I read from Goran, because I am a very old-fashioned person, when itís about music and to call me a musical dinosaur would be a huge compliment. My favourites are Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, John Lennon, The Faces and lots of bluesy, rockiní and rolliní older gentlemen as well. And yes, I like Queen a lot and .. I LOVE DAVID BOWIE! So you find me this moment at my favourite place. Thatís my private "office room", which holds my guitar and the attached stuff, lots of RockíníRoll posters and pictures on the wall, really funky lights, my table with the computer and some really good speakers for the computer. You also find me typing this column, struggling with the English language and listening to one of my most loved Bowie record, from his really early period called "Hunky Dory".
So when I thought about, where to start with my music column, I decided to start, where Mr. Visnjic and I are "connected" and thatís - David Bowie. I will tell you something about his career and his music. I will also add some links, where youíll find more information. Thanks for being so patient with me concerning this extended introduction and LETíS DANCE:

David Robert Jones was born in Brixton (London) January 8th, 1947. As a teenager he started to learn how to play saxophone and later on joined some smaller bands like the King Bees or the Manish Boys, who also featured an early Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin) as a session musician. The artist name David Bowie he created in 1966, when another Davy Jones joined the first TV casted boygroup ever - The Monkees - and became a star. In the late 60ies David Bowie finally was a well known musician in the London area and had his first big break through, when he opened for T Rex, who shared Bowieís producer Tony Visconti. In 1969 he recorded his first solo record, which at first was simply called "David Bowie", then finally was released as "Man Of Words, Man Of Music" and re-released 1972 named after the breakthrough single "Space Oddity", which became a Top 10 hit and was as well the start for his US career.
From a commercial point of view the 1971 "The Man Who Sold The World", which was his first work with the outstanding guitar player Mick Ronson and featured again Tony Visonti on bass, was disappointing, but from the musical point of view this was the birth of glam rock and it was just too much ahead of itís time. The same year Bowie and his wife Angela became parents of a boy named Duncan Zowie.
Because of the financial disaster with the last record Mercury Records dropped Bowie, but he soon found a new home at RCA Records, who believed in his potential. That should be a good decision for the label, because it was the beginning of one of Davidís most creative and successful periods. He released 1972 the amazing record "Hunky Dory", which features smash hits like "Changes" or "Life On Mars" and some "dedicated" highlights like "Andy Warhol" or "Song For Bob Dylan". Bowie was a star now and everybody from London to New York, where he partied with famous pals like Andy Warhol, Iggy Pop or Lou Reed, knew the man with the weird clothes and the two different coloured eyes (the result of accident at school, when he was a kid. An inflexible, wide open pupil gives the impression, that one eye is blue and one black)
The same year he created his alter-ego Ziggy Stardust with the record "The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And Spiders From Mars". The world tour he did as Ziggy became legendary, because his stylish creation with costumes and stage design was completely new for the music business. The record with his famous title track reached high critical acclaim and itís everywhere count in as one of the most influential records of the 70ies. Additional to two amazing records and an spectacular tour Bowie produced in 1972 Lou Reedís classic "Transformer", The Stoogesí "Raw Power" and the Mott The Hoople record "All The Young Dudes".
In 1973 Bowie gave one more a proof, that he loved to provoke, when he told the world press that he is gay (in fact he is kind of bi-sexual). He used the excitement about this statement to promote his new record "Aladdine Sane", which he again released as Ziggy Stardust. He went on tour one more time with The Spiders From Mars - until he told the surprised band and audience at a show in London, June 3rd, that they were already wisdoms of the last show ever of Ziggy Stardust. Consequent like he is, he distanced himself from Ziggy with releasing the all cover song album "Pin Up" in late 1973 - at the same time his last record with Mick Ronson on guitar.
In 1974 Bowie formed a new backing band and released "Diamond Dogs". The cover features a provoking shot of Bowie half man / half dog. The record is inspired by Orwellís 1984 and shows a mostly dark vision of the future and features the successful single "Rebel, Rebel". From his artistís point of view this record is one of the turning points of his career, because started to create a new genre called "plastic soul", which means him melting his classic glam rock songwriting with the American soul music he adored. (A personal word here: If people would have been able to listening the music of the year 2001 in 1974, they would have never called it "plastic soul", because "plastic" is what we get now - IMHO). This soul influenced aspect in the music was featured even more intensive in his 1975 release "Young Americans", which includes Bowieís only US No. 1 hit ever - an impromptu duet with John Lennon called "Fame". Referring to his own ex-identity, Ziggy Stardust, and to express one more time his fascination with outer space he starred the same year in the sci-fi movie "The Man Who Fell To Earth".
In 1976 Bowie changed his image again and returned with a record called "Station To Station" including the hit single "The Golden Years" and his new persona "The Thin White Duke". He said that time some weird things about admiring Nietzsche (what not has to be a problem) and Hitler (what really is a problem). Later David said, that his use of cocaine and other substances was kind of "out of control" that time. He distances himself clearly from EVERY connection to Hitler and his ideology.
1977 Bowie moved to Berlin, where he met the visionary musician Brian Eno. The former keyboard player of Roxy Music is a pioneer in electronic music and one of the most creative producers ever, who for example signs responsible of nearly all U2 records. Working together with Eno Bowie sobered up a bit from his drug influenced lifestyle and recorded "Low". This record confused the fans as much as his record label, because it was with its strange mixture of rock and electronic ambient music minimum ten years ahead of its time. The second Berlin output of Bowie and Eno was the 1978 released record "Heroes", which featured with former King Crimson guitar player Robert Fripp again an outstanding guitarist. The more positive spirit of the record made it easier for the fans to consume the music. Especially the title track became a classic, which we all love even more since Bowie performed it live at October 20th, 2001 in the Madison Square Garden opening the "The Concert For New York City". Together with Bowie in Berlin of the late 70ies was old friend Iggy Pop and so they collaborated for Iggys records "The Idiot" (Bowie also played the keys at Iggyís tour - anonymous and not recognized by most of the fans) and "Lust For Life".
1979 David Bowie moved again. This time he went to Switzerland, where he reunited with Tony Visconti for doing "Lodger", which was finally recorded in France, and the 1980ies release "Scary Monsters". This time Bowie again showed his trend setting qualities, when he created great videos for his singles "Fashion" and "Ashes To Ashes", which became the highlights on the newly launched MTV. 1980 was also the year he returned to the USA to star in the critically acclaimed Broadway production "The Elephant Man" and the movie "The Hunger".
1982 became kind of a quiet year, when he decided to quit using drugs and to reorganize his private life. He only recorded two songs, which were a theme for the movie "Cat People" and "Under Pressure", the amazing collaboration with Queen. After this little break Bowie came back 1983 with his commercially most successful record "Letís Dance". For this record he hired the yet unknown later blues guitar legend Stevie Ray Vaughan. The innovative videos for "Letís Dance" and "China Girl" did a great job to sell the record as did the sold out "Serious Moonlight" world-tour.
"Letís Dance" was followed by "Tonight" including the title song duet with Tina Turner and the successful single "Loving Alien". Another duet was released for the Live Aid project in 1985. It was "Dancing In The Street", a collaboration with Stones front man Mick Jagger. Bowie also appeared at the Live Aid festival, where he performed a heartbreaking version of "Heroes" dedicated to his son Zowie.
The next few years he focused on acting starring in "The Labyrinth" and "Absolute Beginners" before he released "Never Let Me Down Again" in 1987. The record itself was no great success, but the huge "Glass Spider Tour", he did to promote the record, was one of his best ever and supported the legendary Peter Frampton on guitar. Bowie soon hit the road again to promote the 3-CD-Greatest-Hits box set "Sound & Vision", which was a major success. He announced that this tour would be the last time, people would see and hear him play the old stuff on stage - and thatís like it was and is since then.
Although his next project was the least successful thing he ever did, I have to say, that I personally liked the stuff a lot he recorded with his new band called Tin Machine. They released two records, which featured a rough alternative rock sound inspired by bands like The Pixies (who I really love a lot!) and Sonic Youth. The probably most important thing, which is to say about Tin Machine is, that it was the first time Bowie worked Reeves Gabrels. This man is no person of the spotlight and you donít read his name too often in the music magazines, but there are a lot people in music business - and you can count me in -, who say, that Gabrels is the best guitar player of our time: A perfectionist in playing his instrument with an excellent technique and real passion.
Together with Gabrels Bowie returned in 1993 as a solo artist with "Black Tie White Noise", which helped him to keep lots of his long time fans on track. The record includes the instrumental "The Wedding" dedicated to his new wife Iman, the Free cover "I Feel Free" with old friend Mick Ronson on guitar and the single "Jump They Say". Breaking in a new world he also released -again as a pioneer - the multimedia CD-R "Jump" before he reunited in 1994 with Brian Eno. They recorded a concept record called "Outside". The songs are written from the perspective of different "outsiders", who have all their "own", very different voices. Bowie supported the record touring the USA together with the industrial mastermind Trent Reznor and his band Nine Inch Nails. In Europe he toured with former The Smith frontman Morrisey, before he returned to the cinemas starring as his friend Andy Warhol in the movie "Basquiat".
In 1997 David Bowie was one of the first artists ever, who released a single ("Telling Lies") exclusively in the internet before he came up with his new long player "Earthling", a very heavy, very electronic, very techno-inspired record. Some techno fans say, that he jumped on their train and used their subculture and style only for his own interest. More positive critics say, that "Earthling" shows how Bowie is after 30 years in music business still on the top of his time always looking for new inspiration and going new ways.
Fact is that David Jones, David Bowie, Ziggy Stardust, The Thin White Duke or however you want to call him became 50 years old in 1997 and celebrated his birthday with a great show at the Madison Square Garden, when great musicians like Lou Reed, Robert Smith (The Cure), Billy Corgan (The Smashing Pumpkins), Frank Black (The Pixies) and the Foo Fighters joined him on stage. Bowies latest work is called "Hours ..." and was released in 1999. Its is a retrospective record, which sounds more like "Bowie" than "Outside" and "Earthling", which may depends on the fact, that the electronic part was smaller and the guitar part again more dominant. But the most important aspect of this album are the lyrics, which reflect his really crazy life.
David Bowie lives now in New York with his wife Iman, a very impressive person and for sure one of the worldís most beautiful women, and his baby daughter Alexandria, who is now the focus of his life.

So far so good and some things and thoughts to add:
For me he is one of the most important, most impressive and greatest musicians of the 20th and probably/hopefully of the 21st century (I am only talking about pop music, because I am not close enough to other genres to be able to make a statement like this). It is amazing to sit here and listen to this "old stuff" and to hear, how fresh and modern most of it still sounds. Itís pretty clear how much ahead of his time he was so often in his career. I also adore him for doing nearly all the time the things HE wanted to do and not what was promising the next big commercial success. One of his biggest talents is for sure to make a great choice in the musicians he works with. This probably seems to be only a detail, but especially for me as a guitar freak it doubles the joy of listening his records to listen also to people like Tony Visconti (on bass), Mick Ronson, Robert Fripp, Stevie Ray Vaughan or Reeves Gabrels.
Over the last two years EMI, Bowies actual label, released all the records as 24 bit digital remasters. I have nearly all of them at home and I can tell you, that they sound fantastic. You also should pay attention to the fact, that with this series his soundtrack to the German movie "Christiane F." was released on CD for the very first time - and especially this CD featuring a partly German version of "Heroes" sounds unbelievable, if you remember that this stuff is twenty years old.
David Bowie is an internet freak like we are and his internet site Bowie Net, which you can join as a guest on http://www.davidbowie.com, is one of the best artist sites in the web. Itís not only a source of information on the manís several activities. It is also a place of the latest multimedia experience, an internet services platform (for members) and the home of one of the biggest and most active communities in the web. And if you are really, really lucky The Duke shows up in the chats by himself (no joke!).

Folks - thatís for today! I need your feedback to make the next column better in every way. So let me know your thoughts and email me.

Links:
Bowie Net
Allmusic Guide about Bowie
Rolling Stone about Bowie

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