David Bowie

David Bowie, whose death after a long battle with cancer has just been announced, was a creative genius with a unique talent for constantly breaking the mould. He was also clearly a man of inordinate intelligence with a fierce devotion to privacy that marked a refreshing change to the norm in the world in which he existed.

I remember seeing him live in concert back in 1987, during his Glass Spider Tour. It was at Roker Park, Sunderland FC’s old ground, and involved a spectacular stage show consistent with Bowie’s reputation for pushing boundaries with his music and performances.

Of the countless iconic songs he wrote and performed, Space Oddity is my personal favourite. It was ahead of its time in its arrangement and with lyrics that were sufficiently cryptic to allow us to extrapolate our own meaning, despite being written to coincide with the Apollo moon landing in 1969.

Bowie also took up the odd role in movies, though never with the same success as his music. However the following scene from Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence (1983) is particularly powerful, depicting man’s inhumanity to man and the power of the human spirit.

There will be countless obituaries produced in response to the news of his passing, but none I think that will come close to representing him as well as the huge body of work he leaves behind. His loss to music and culture is mitigated somewhat by that body of work.

17 comments on “David Bowie

  1. John Grimshaw on said:

    Although lets not forget.

    “Sid Vicious and Siouxsie Sioux were sporting swastikas as fashion statements. David Bowie, who three months earlier had been photographed apparently giving a Nazi salute in Victoria Station, told Cameron Crowe in the September 1976 edition of Playboy ‘… yes I believe very strongly in fascism. The only way we can speed up the sort of liberalism that’s hanging foul in the air… is a right-wing totally dictatorial tyranny…’ In that same interview Bowie claimed that ‘Adolf Hitler was one of the first rock stars.’ This was Britain then in the sweltering summer of 1976, and in that context Clapton’s comments were potentially incendiary.”

  2. John Grimshaw,

    This MU article of 2012 provides useful background to that controversy. It also makes the point that unlike Clapton, Bowie later expressed regret over the episode and retracted the statements he made in support of fascism. Whether we choose to accept that retraction is another matter, of course. Personally, I do.


    As Oscar Wilde said, ‘Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.’

  3. Ginny Brown:
    A cached version in case that article’s still offline

    Is there any concrete evidence that this alleged grooming took place? Was he arrested, questioned, charged by the police over it?

    I have no doubt that Bowie, along with most rock stars, engaged in some wild and racous antics in his life. Whether those antics included grooming and sexually abusing under age girls is something that may emerge in days and months to come. But I personally would rather wait for concrete evidence to come to light before castigating the man.

  4. Andy Newman on said:

    I am somewhat bemused by all the fuss about Bowie. I can see that he had a very long career, and wrote some very good tunes, but as it was hard to avoid listening to a lot of Bowie yesterday on the radio, I was struck that much of his output was firmly conformist to the musical fashions of whatever day he was working in, and a large part of Bowie’s appeal was that he worked very hard at his image, the myth of Bowie almost consumed the content.

    I do wonder whether some of the strong response to his death is about people mourning their passing of their own youth, and the evocation of their own memories through the associations that they have with Bowie’s popular hits.

    I say this as someone who has genuinely never got over the shock of Elvis Presley’s passing.

  5. Andy Newman on said:

    John: Is there any concrete evidence that this alleged grooming took place? Was he arrested, questioned, charged by the police over it?

    Exactly, while we can all agree that the victims of sexual, physical and emotional abuse need every support and acknowledgement, it is also impermissible for unsubstantiated allegations to be made through the medium of the Internet, based upon an assumption of guilt.

  6. john Grimshaw on said:

    Ah sorry my response was to your first comment. I’ve got too many mates on the left some of whom were partying in Brixton last night all getting too giddy. He’s a Brixton boy indeed. I thought he came from Beckenham? Are usually reasonable people having a Princess Di moment? As for the illegal sexual behaviour I know nothing. No doubt in due time….or not as the case may be.

  7. jim mclean on said:

    Separate the man from his output, some good stuff, some brilliant stuff, egotistical stuff. As for the allegations above these guys probably did take advantage of people that were young but grooming, they were never in the one place long enough. Bowie’s 1st american tour was 72-73 and most of us, apart from the odd Elvis fan, have watched the documentary, and it was too hectic for weird stuff, though he did sack the band live on stage and they were only getting working musicians rates.
    (No disrespect to the King)

  8. jim mclean on said:

    Mmmmmmmmm, I would make a snide comment except i know every word of the song.

    Say what you like, but ‘The Laughing Gnome’ had a huge influence on me when I was young.

  9. John Grimshaw on said:

    Say what you like, but ‘The Laughing Gnome’ had a huge influence on me when I was young.

    Buster Bloodvessel did a cover.

  10. John Grimshaw on said:

    jim mclean: though he did sack the band live on stage and they were only getting working musicians rates.

    Ahhh. So he was an oppressor of the working class! 🙂

  11. Andy Newman on said:

    john Grimshaw: Are usually reasonable people having a Princess Di moment?

    That is an interesting question, the degree to which individual responses to an event are contextualised by their social and collective expression through the media.

    I suppose that Bowie’s death does feel like the passing of an era of popular music in a way, and all those art school bans in the 1980s like Bauhaus and Japan did want to *be* Bowie more than sound like Bowie.

  12. jock mctrousers on said:

    This should be of interest to Andy at least – from the comments to the first Amazon UK review of Bowie’s Black Star album:

    Son says:
    Elvis sang a song called Black Star. It starts with:
    Every man has a black star
    A black star over his shoulder
    And when a man sees his black star
    He knows his time, his time has come

    I wonder if David knew this song?

    Bibliophile says:
    Thank you for this reference. Following it up, I realized that commentators have been pointing out that the album Black Star was released on David Bowie’s 69th birthday, but that is also, of course, Elvis’ birthday – January 8th. When a man’s ‘time has come’ the Black Star is born. ‘We are all arriving and departing all at the same time.’

    gaaron says:
    I appreciate the follow up to the sad news.
    I also learned something else: the song by Elvis ‘flaming star’ , from same titled film, was originally ‘black star’. Poignant words.