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The David Bowie Story
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"And Now?" (pg. 26-27)
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Where next for David Bowie? Well, that's a very hard question to answer. It could be in the world of theatre - in the sort of Anthony Newley-Tommy Steele sort of role that was planned for him by previous manager Ken Pitt
That he'll go on writing songs goes without saying. The ideas ferment inside that keen mind and they just have to find expression in records and shows.
He's broken very well indeed in the States, as a result of some very shrewd plotting by his management and advisers. His records have cracked into charts all over the world. Perhaps he's more the album-selling giant rather than the singles-selling instant rave.
They flew a crowd of American journalists over specially to see David Bowie in his natural habitat - and they watched him in action at the Friars Club in Aylesbury, way out in the "sticks" and they jetted back to America with most of their questions unanswered. This pencil-slim young man - one mother wrote to say that she would love to look after him because she was astonished at the way his ribs showed through in his photographs - came onstage and created his aura, and the visitors looked around in the audience and saw dozens of young men fans wearing their lizard-skin boots and their dyed hair.
It was strange and it took time to get accustomed to what was going on out there on stage, but the effect was...just as usual. Which is to say it was both magnetic and hypnotic. And afterwards David Bowie extended his generous praise to take in his band, the Spiders, and how completely, totally professional they were in everything they did.
Certainly David makes no bones about his liking for the spotlight. "I had my bad times, my down times, and in recent months I've been exposed to the full glare, and I have to say I like it. Basically it gives me that feeling that people want me...in other words I feel I really belong, and that's something very important to anybody."
He worries sometimes about the image he's created. He says he doesn't mind people making jokes about his way of dress, but hates the idea that they'll concentrate on his clothes and forget about his music and his songs. He forgot long ago that he used to be one David Jones, hopeful pop singer from Brixton. David Bowie is a brand new personality and it gets tougher as the days go by to separate the on-stage image with the off-stage one.
Maybe that wearing-a-dress album cover was not calculated to help his "serious" side, but it was a long, long time ago and he's still amazed that people kicked up such a fuss about it. It's all part of his own fantasy world, and his fantasies change so fast he can't understand why other people can't keep up with him!
Of course, there are the headlines like "David Bowie Bent on Success". People still wonder and worry whether he is actually just gay, or practicing, or bi-sexual or anything else, and he personally couldn't care less what decision they come to. He knows, he says, EXACTLY what he is. And if his act is called camp-rock, then there's a lot to be said for saying he plays to camp-audiences.
Camp...or Kemp? Which is one way into a further reference to the much-mentioned Lindsay Kemp, that mime master who has said: "Bowie got it all from me. His dresses, his hair, his makeup" ... but he says that with a real feeling of pride and friendship.
It was last summer that David Bowie did three absolute sell-out shows at London's Rainbow Theatre, and the man who staged them, who produced them, was Lindsay Kemp. Together they'd written a show called Pierrot in Turquoise, which was staged at the Mercury Theatre in London. Like so many things, there's tremendous interest now in that project because of David's superstardom.
Lindsay Kemp is delighted that his protege has got far, specially as he's never lost that flair for mime and for dancing. He also learned, from Lindsay, that it was important to wear really splendid clothes when entertaining audiences ... for one show, David wore a Japanese cloak which cost more than £600.
Of course David Bowie is now big business in countries other than Britain. One can see and hear how his music has changed in the past two or three years. The album The Man Who Sold The World was the breakthrough point, but Bowie addicts should compare the style and the songs with the recently re-released album The World of David Bowie (Decca SPA 58).
Recordings mostly from 1967 and 1970 - and even in that short time one can see the changes, the new directions. Titles on this splendidly nostalgic album are: Uncle Arthur, Love You Till Tuesday, There is A Happy Land, Little Bombardier, Sell Me a Coat, Silly Boy Blue, The London Boys, Karma Man, Rubber Band, Let Me Sleep Beside You, Come and Buy My Toys, She's Got Medals, In The Heat of The Morning, When I Live My Dream.
But now, of course, he has his own musicians. It seems certain that his relationship with the Spiders will go on for a longtime - the musicians and the stars are so perfectly in tune, both on and off the stage.
Mick Ronson comes from Hull, though he's been operating in London for the best part of three years. He and Woody Woodmansey were previously in the group known as Rats, which is S-T-A-R spelt backwards, or upside down or whatever. When David was publicly searching for a guitarist, Mick volunteered and got the job - and now admits that David had become something of a hero figure anyway with Space Oddity.
There's a very serious side to Mick and his music, and he spent a long time in the blues field, but he enjoys being up there as part of the David Bowie Spectacular. And, for sure, the Spiders have no objection to David getting the lion's share of the spotlight, because they're all very grateful to him for helping their careers.
Mick and David, in fact, have become a very real and important musical team - and they exchange ideas both for their own act and for other artists involved with Bowie.
Their team-work on stage astonishes critics. And just listen to this rave review from the Music Week trade paper. Wrote Charles Webster: David Bowie will soon become the greatest entertainer Britain has ever known. His performance at the Festival Hall was a triumph for showmanship as well as music.
His talent seems unlimited and he looks certain to become the most important person in pop music on either side of the Atlantic. He is a real Star, incorporating the things that made people like Frank Sinatra, Judy garland and the Beatles so very special.
The atmosphere that surrounded him at the Festival Hall could be felt so positively that even before he appeared on stage it was obvious that something quite unique was about to take the platform. With his Spiders from Mars band, featuring Mick Ronson, another man destined for superstardom, he performed a selection of numbers from his Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust albums.
After a dozen numbers, he was joined by Lou Reed, once of the legendary Velvet Underground, but the inclusion of the American was quite unnecessary. The people were there to see Bowie and somehow Lou Reed - a mere mortal next to our hero from Mars - seemed to destroy the illusion that Bowie had created.
Now that is praise indeed - even the doubts about the wisdom of Lou Reed intervening...
David says: "I never do anything by half. The costumes for the act are outrageous. I've had twelve, fifteen, any number made up, but not just for myself. For the group, too. I like to keep my band always well-dressed, not like some other people I could mention.
"I'm out all the time to bloody well entertain, not just get up on stage and knock out a few songs. I couldn't live with myself if I did that. I'm the last person to pretend that I'm a radio. I'd rather go out and be a colour television set. Actually I'm a bit worried abut the way the band are falling into it all so easily...remember they were into hard blues, but now they enjoy the costume bit!"
No, David Bowie's future is unpredictable in terms of just WHAT he'll do. What is absolutely certain is that he'll do whatever it is, well, will do it in the glaringest of spotlights and that he'll shock people at the same time.
He'll write songs, sing them, play them, make beautiful and thoughtful records, discover new talent, look quite delightful - and laugh up his flared and frilly sleeve as the mere mortals of pop try to analyse just where he's at.
David Bowie is a once-in-a-lifetime sort of entertainer. No point being flip about him, because he takes no notice and anyway he's long since stopped worrying.
Maybe Bowie really DID come to Earth from Mars. Maybe he really isn't isn't one of US but one of THEM!
---This page last modified: 29 Jun 2002---