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|Previous page||Velvet Goldmine:
Jonathan Rhys Meyers (aka David
& Ewan McGregor (aka Iggy Pop)
One of the glammest things about Velvet Goldmine is how it borrows from history and gives it a twist. This includes the cast of characters: inventions based on real people who were inventions and inventors themselves. Though the film is far more about the flux of identity than the precision of equal signs, knowing which characters are drawn from where helps greatly in deciphering the action.
Oscar Wilde = Oscar Wilde. Except in this version, Wilde is delivered to Earth by a glowing spaceship and found with a mysterious green brooch tucked into his swaddling clothes.
Brian Slade = David Bowie, straight up. From Slade's hippie-folk comeuppance to his disappearance into the Ziggy Stardusted "Maxwell Demon," the character of Slade (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) bears the greatest historical burden.
Curt Wild = A mess of uniquely American glitterology. Wild (Ewan McGregor) is Iggy Pop's histrionics with some of Lou Reed's history (and a little of Bowie guitarist Mick Ronson). Plus: a striking similarity to a certain grunge icon.
Jack Fairy = A strange brew. Fairy (Micko Westmoreland) is the film's most liberal invention, with elements of Bryan Ferry, Brian Eno, and '60s avant-garde filmmaker Jack Smith. Fairy's trip in-side the Goldmine begins and ends the era of glam.
Mandy Slade = Angela Bowie, dutiful wife and latter-day tell-all. Angela (Toni Collette) helps reconstruct who was who and what was what.
Jerry Devine = Tony Defries. Slade's main manager (played brilliantly by Eddie Izzard) is not dissimilar to the real-life operator of MainMan, the management company that represented Bowie, Pop, and Reed.
Arthur Stuart = The secret glam fan in all of us. Stuart (Christian Bale), the film's glitterboy-turned-newspaper-reporter, is set loose to uncover the secrets of Brian Slade's mysterious disappearance.
The narrative of Velvet Goldmine builds on the bones of David Bowie's glam years: what he knew, who he did. A documentary would have left it at that and maybe a tag about how only the names had been changed to protect the beautiful. But in the spirit of the glam revolution, Velvet Goldmine (which was meticulously researched by Haynes and editor James Lyons) remakes and remodels the stories of Bowie and the rest into its own performance. Likewise, Haynes and Lyons heavily alter the chronology of Velvet Goldmine, flashing it forward and back along the timeline of glam, as if history were at once utterly elusive and as shapable as celluloid.
GETTING ZIGGY WITH IT
1. The final concert of Brian Slade's space-agey Maxwell Demon persona comes mere minutes into the movie. What happens (or doesn't happen) onstage--Maxwell Demon appears to get shot during his show--sets loose the central story of Velvet Goldmine: an attempt to piece together the events leading up to this early climax. Many of the shots from the scene echo D.A. Pennebaker's Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars. This famous documentary is a record of Bowie's last few concerts before the famed onstage "retirement" of his Ziggy Stardust persona. In real life it was only Ziggy who called it quits; in Velvet Goldmine, Brian Slade and his alter ego Maxwell Demon go down together. The slip here between film and life gets elegantly at the all-too-difficult dream of dying young and staying pretty.
A CRASH COURSE FOR THE RAVER
2. After bombing at a music festival, Brian - at this point, still in his long-haired, flower-powered incarnation catches his first sight of Curt Wild. The image of Curt, bathed in glitter and stripped to the skin, hits Brian like a double vision: a glimpse of his own as-yet-unimagined rock future, and love at first sight. This is probably actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers's finest moment. More a lip model than a great deliverer of lines, he's a genius at capturing vulnerability, confused desire, and calculation in a single expression. Though Wild embodies at least three crucial glam figures, his stage performance is pure Iggy Pop: the audience-confronting, exhibitionist, self-mutilating raw power plant. McGregor didn't pump (or diet) enough to match the famously ripped Pop, but in fact his puffiness makes him a good cross between Iggy and the less-than-chiseled Lou Reed. Curt Wild is given Iggy's working-class Detroit background and gets Reed's back story too: particularly how young Lou was sent off for electroshock therapy to "cure" him of homosexual tendencies. But if Iggy and Lou are the two most famous sources for Curt Wild, they are not the only ones. Curt's band, for example, is called the Rats as was the original band of Bowie guitarist and collaborator Mick Ronson. In another scene Slade will be photographed going down on Curt's guitar: a recreation of a infamous Bowie/Ronson stage moment.
KANE AND BABEL
3. In scenes set ten years after glam has faded (an exceedingly grim, Reagan-esque 1984), Arthur tracks down Mandy at the dive where she's performing nightly as "the Divine Miss Mandy Slade." Wan and wasted, she's drawn reluctantly into recounting her life with Brian following their meeting in 1969. Acted brilliantly by Australian Toni Collette, the half-soused Mandy swings between her obviously contrived Brit accent and the shade of her character's original American--the inevitable ruin of self-invention. This is clearly borrowed from a scene in Orson Welles's Citizen Kane, in which the reporter Thompson corners a broken-down, boozed-up Susan Alexander in the club where she's performing, and interviews her about Kane. Like that movie, Velvet Goldmine is built of supposedly "actual" interviews, documentary clips, newsreels, and recollected scenes.
DO MAKE ME OVER
4. Trying to break Slade in America, manager Devine enlists beautiful freaks to simulate the trappings of big-time, crypto-Hollywood-style celebrity. "Because the secret of becoming a star," says Devine, "is knowing how to behave like one." And voila! Maxwell Demon is born--the ultimate role for the ultimate star. For the 1972 Ziggy Stardust tour, Tony Defries's American strategy was simple, unheard-of, and to the point: "They had to act like stars so they would be treated like stars. They had to learn to spend money, and spend it in the right way." Needless to say, it worked.
THE GLAMOUR TWINS
5. When Slade and Wild meet for the first time, it's pure sex & drugs & rock'n'roll--the archetypal collision of the super-aesthete Brit and the real American wild child. After Slade is introduced to a profoundly wasted Wild in a New York nightclub, Slade and Devine make an offer. Wild is bewildered by Devine's biz-speak until Brian breaks in and invites him to make a record. "Oh yeah. Cool," answers Wild. "See, heroin was my main man. But I'm on the methadone. I'm getting my act together. And you come here and say you wanna help? I say, far out. You can be my main man."
And so begins the romance at the heart of the movie, which will set worlds spinning and eventually bring them tumbling down. Though Iggy Pop and Lou Reed had already made names for themselves by 1970, it was Bowie who introduced them to British glam culture and Britain to them. They all ended up under the parasol of Tony Defries's MainMan management company. The club in which Slade and Wild first meet is modelled after Max's Kansas City in New York, hangout to the ultimate hipoisie where Bowie first met Iggy. It's here we catch our only glimpse of Andy Warhol whose effect on Bowie was so profound Bowie titled a song after him and later played Warhol in the 1996 film Basquiat.
THE WILDE LIFE
6. "The first duty in life is to assume a pose," says one of Slade's quote-spewing retinue. "What the second duty is, no one has yet found out." In a staged press performance, Brian Slade follows a series of archly recited quotations with an interview in which both the reporters' questions and his answers are read from cue cards laying bare the manipulations of the music-media spectacle and yukking it up over the conspiracy of performers and the press. Taking costumes from here, set designs from there, and quotations from everywhere (playwright Jean Genet, Oscar Wilde, newspaper accounts of Wilde's famous trial), this is the most cinematically glam moment of the movie.
If the archness is in keeping with the sense of beautiful illusion, it also makes everyone seem canned, or at best canny. Lost in this cultural commentary is the wicked intelligence and conversational wit of many actual glamsters - especially Bowie. His real words might best describe the essence of glam's mission. "As a medium, [music] should not be questioned, analysed or taken so seriously. I think it should be tarted up, made into a prostitute, a parody of itself."
7. In the midst of a decadent free-for-all, Brian and Curt fall into bed together and run off to a recording studio. It's there that things start to go wrong. Did Bowie and Iggy ever do it? Or for that matter, Bowie and Lou? Rumours abounded, but the world may never know - and it's really not the point. This is the romantic fantasy of rock stars making it and rushing off to cut a record, and the terrible fallout: Love + Art = Tragedy. In real life, Bowie successfully collaborated with both Reed and Pop, producing Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side" single and remixing Pop's Raw Power, both in the magical year of 1972. "People are very preoccupied with the sources behind the relationship of Brian and Curt," says Haynes. "To me it's not ultimately about the relationship of Bowie and Iggy Pop. It's a distillation of the truly British element that inspired glam rock - the androgynous, self-conscious, ironic poseur, incredibly alluring to look at but dangerous at the same time - and that element's attraction to the American element: visceral, sexually violent, raw. That's what glam rock is - a romance between that British element and that American element, and an infatuation that didn't last, didn't work, but produced something really resonant." "Bowie may not have been gay, but Ziggy was - and a lot more besides," writes Barney Hoskyns in his new book Glam! "Above all, Ziggy enabled Bowie to turn himself into an icon of deviance fit to stand alongside the Lou Reeds and Iggy Pops."
PARTY LIKE IT'S 1999
8. In a wild, hallucinatory cut-up of images, the various participants get ready for a concert called the Death of Glitter Show, which is intended to lay glam in its grave. By now Arthur the reporter of 1984 is revealed as the glam scenester of 1975 and flatmate of glam rockers the Flaming Creatures. Shots of the fan and band going through identical preparations for the night show how glam's public performance included both the musicians and the audience. "The music was about inviting you to enter into these fantastic worlds and imaginary landscapes with exotic alien characters," says Haynes. "But it also suggested we could all dress up into these things ourselves. We could become what we wanted to become just like Bowie. The fan is as much a participant."
There were at least two actual "Death of Glitter" concerts held in the 1970s. The Los Angeles version starred Iggy Pop and the New York Dolls. In the eloquent phrase of participant and famous husband Michael Des Barres, "The sequins were lying in the gutter."
9. On the roof of the concert hall after the Death of Glitter show, Curt and Arthur get as close as a star and a fanboy can ever get maybe closer. As stardust falls from the sky, the spaceship that originally delivered Oscar Wilde to Earth reappears. "Make a wish," says Curt, "and see yourself, onstage, inside out!" This redeems one of the film's most central faiths: that embracing your queer self and putting your inversion on display promises not just truth but a transcendent freedom. This isn't the last coming together for Arthur and Curt. Nine years later, after the Tommy Stone concert, Arthur ducks into a bar to discover Curt--just another anonymous denizen of 1984. Ducking out, Curt sticks Arthur with the brooch passed down from Wilde to Jack Fairy to Slade to Wild. Curt's double-edged closer: "A man's life is his image." The alien craft that originally appears to take culture to the next level is akin to the alien intervention that starts 2001: A Space Odyssey. "A lot of Velvet Goldmine was inspired by films that came out of late-'60s experimentation," says Haynes. "The films were trips that were gonna take you somewhere unknown. You had to go with it and trust it and want to be on a journey."
10. In the film's 1984, the musical scene--represented by animatronic stadium god Tommy Stone--is as grim as the social atmosphere. After rocking Madison Square Garden, he takes the opportunity to wax smug about his tour's lumbering largeness. "Tommy!" yells a reporter at a post-concert press briefing. "Where did you get the idea for such a spectacular show?" "Tell you the truth," he replies, "it's a bloody pain in the ass. The whole thing takes six full-size rigs or three chartered planes to transport. What can I say? I think big!" It's the Orwellian bleakness of the film's "present" that sets off the desperation of Arthur's voyage into the past. Tommy Stone may have learned a little something about spectacle from the days of glam, but the lesson has been lost on the corporate rocker. (Sound familiar?) Now it's size rather than experimentation; Reaganite regression rather than anarchy. The crushing weight of Stone's money-makin' circus is inevitably similar to the big-biz, big top of Bowie's 1983 Serious Moonlight tour and his famously bad, globally telecast Live Aid performance. "The music [of glam] was very much about a lost moment even before it started," says Haynes. "That made it easier to approach the film surrounded by the repressive '80s that had thrust all this into denial, have glam be something we could learn from but that maybe wasn't completely available to us." Ironically, punk rock in many ways a direct response to glam (which was a direct response to hippie rock) ended up being much more famous for bridging the gap between the band and the crowd. But if the lesson of punk's musical primitivism was that anyone could be the band, the lesson of glam's pop art self-invention was that anyone could be the star.
GOLDEN YEARS: A BRIEF HISTORY OF GLAM - Timeline compiled by Marc Spitz.
-Mod-art student David Jones of band the Lower Third signs with manager Ken Pitt.
-Pitt informs Jones that there is an extremely short Monkee named Davy Jones; David adopts surname Bowie.
-Marc Bolan forms Tyrannosaurus Rex.
-Bowie joins Lindsay Kemp's avant-garde mime troupe; appears in a Kemp performance as "Cloud."
-Bowie forms hippie combo, Feathers, with girlfriend Hermione Farthingale.
-Mick Ronson and the Rats record "The Rise and Fall of Bernie Gripplestone."
-Danny Fields signs Iggy Pop and the Stooges to Elektra Records; "It was the music," says Fields, "I had been waiting to hear all my life."
-Bowie, inspired by Apollo 11 moonwalk, records "Space Oddity"; has several UFO "sightings."
-American Mary Angela Barnett first sees Bowie ("I was looking at myself," says Barnett); later moves with Bowie into run-down London mansion, Haddon Hall.
-Velvet Underground become house band at New York City club Max's Kansas City.
-Guitarist Mick Ronson joins Bowie's new band, the Hype.
-Opening for the hippieish Country Joe McDonald, Bowie and Hype laughed off stage after appearing in flamboyant drag; Marc Bolan in attendance; "That night is probably when glam rock was born," says Hype bassist Tony Visconti.
-Bowie releases The Man Who Sold the World; appears on album cover and at first U.S. promo appearances in a dress ("It's not a woman's. It's a man's dress," says Bowie).
-Bolan performs No. 1 hit "Hot Love" on Top of the Pops with glitter on his face; "People are really works of art," says Bolan, "and if you have a nice face, you might as well play about with it."
-Stooges release free jazz-influenced Fun House; Iggy and the boys promptly dropped by Elektra.
-Bowie marries Angie.
-Bowie parts from Pitt, with assistance of lawyer Tony Defries; promising to make him a star, Defries becomes Bowie's manager; "David is going to be bigger than the Beatles, bigger than Elvis," says Defries.
-Art-schooled Bryan Ferry forms Roxy Music; flamboyant soundman Brian Eno invited to play synthesiser; "I was not gay," says Eno, "but I wanted to look great, and looking great meant dressing like a woman."
-Bowie releases Hunky Dory; "Darling," says Angie, "you're going to be a great star."
-First trip to New York; Bowie introduced to Lou Reed and Iggy Pop; Pop, on methadone, says, "I'm getting my shit together"; Bowie invites Pop to record for MainMan; "You can be my main man," says Pop; Bowie meets Andy Warhol at Factory; Warhol digs Bowie's shoes.
-London hair stylist Suzy Fussey dyes Bowie's hair Red Hot Red and cuts famous rooster mullet; "It's very marketable," says Defries.
-Bowie and Ronson form the Spiders From Mars.
-Bowie taught to "be a star"; stops opening doors for himself, carrying his own money.
-The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars released; Bowie walks on stage at London's Royal Festival Hall "Save the Whale" benefit concert and announces, "I'm Ziggy Stardust."
-Reed debuts "Phantom of Rock" persona at Dorchester Hotel Press conference; kisses Bowie on mouth (Iggy Pop, also present, remains unkissed).
-Bowie tells Melody Maker, "I'm gay and always have been."-While performing Lou Reed's "Waiting for the Man" at the Dunstable Civic Hall, Bowie mimes fellatio on Mick Ronson's guitar.
-New York Dolls become house band at Mercer Arts Center; leaders Johnny Thunders and David Johansen play in makeup and partial drag; "Very cute," says Lou Reed.
-Raw Power by Iggy and Stooges recorded with Bowie; Transformer by Lou Reed recorded with Bowie and Ronson.
-Brian Ferry-led Roxy Music release self-titled debut album; record For Your Pleasure; T. Rex release The Slider.
-London streets crawl with "Bowie Boys" and "Bowie Girls"; Defries considers marketing Ziggy boots, jump-suits, and hair-care kits.
-Glam-mania yields hits from glam-lite singles acts like Slade, ("Cum on Feel the Noize"), the Sweet, ("Wig Wam Bam," "The Ballroom Blitz"), and Gary Glitter and the Glitter Band ("Rock and Roll (Part 2)").
-All above are dismissed by glam purists: "We were very miffed that people who'd obviously never seen Metropolis and had never heard of Christopher Isherwood were becoming glam rockers," Bowie says later.
-Ziggy-inspired "Bennie and the Jets" No. 1 U.S. hit for Elton John, who takes glam to cartoon extremes; Bolan creates Ziggy-esque "Zinc Alloy" alter ego to considerably less fanfare.
-Iggy and Stooges dropped from MainMan roster after Pop strips and masturbates live on Detroit radio; "I'm naked here," says Pop.
-Bowie announces from stage of Hammersmith Odeon, "It's the last show we'll ever do," plays the song "Rock'n'Roll Suicide."
-Bowie performs "I Got You Babe" with Marianne Faithfull in nun's habit.
-Elton John expresses interest in signing label-less Stooges, surprises Pop on Atlanta stage in a gorilla suit; the wasted, gorilla-fearing Pop freaks out, runs off stage.
-Rodney Bingenheimer opens Rodney's English Disco in Hollywood, creates L.A. glam scene; "If you were skinny and English and dressed like some horrible Biba [a U.K. department store] girl," says rock critic Nick Kent, "you could have anything you wanted."
-Bowie plans to write and direct stage musical based on George Orwell's dystopian classic 1984.
-Bowie releases "Rebel Rebel" single.
-New York Dolls release unsuccessful LP, Too Much Too Soon.
-Enormous billboard of latest prefab glam star, openly gay Jobriath, erected in New York City's Times Square: "A brazen parody that celebrates outrageousness for the sake of outrageousness," declares the New York Times.
-Suzi Quatro's self-titled debut released.
-At Max's Kansas City, Pop cuts open chest in an on-stage suicide attempt; "Iggy is very sweet," says Reed. "Very sweet, but very stupid."
-Bowie's Diamond Dogs released; "The final nightmare of the glitter apocalypse," writes critic Charles Schaar Murray.
-High concept tour (Bowie French-kisses skull, sings into a phone while suspended from crane) scrapped after first U.S. leg; Bowie begins to perform with R&B musicians; wears elegant suits, slicked back hair; critics dub it "the Bowie Minstrel Show."
-Glam-inspired The Rocky Horror Show premieres at London's Royal Court.
-Iggy and the Stooges, the New York Dolls, and Silverhead perform at glam's last hurrah, the "Hollywood Street Revival and Dance" at the Hollywood Palladium; "Glam rock is dead," says Marc Bolan.
-Bowie splits with Defries; begins recording Young Americans ("His first human album since Hunky Dory," writes critic Lester Bangs).
-Bowie begins wearing an eyepatch.
-Malcolm McLaren becomes New York Dolls' manager, dresses band in red patent leather; they perform in front of hammer-and-sickle banner, break up shortly thereafter.
-Bowie hits No. 1 U.S. with disco song "Fame."
-Bowie films Nicolas Roeg's The Man Who Fell to Earth; appears on the Dick Cavett Show carrying a cane and sniffling loudly.
-Bowie records cocaine-informed Station to Station; performs "Golden Years" on Soul Train; debuts "the Thin White Duke" alter ego; gives cryptic, one-word interviews to music press while holding stuffed monkey named "Asshole."
-Bowie moves to Berlin after tour; photographed in Hitler's bunker.
-Bowie and Eno collaborate on Heroes and Low.
-Marc Bolan releases Dandy in the Underworld LP; tours with the Damned; performs "Standing Next to You" with Bowie on Marc, U.K. variety show; dies in car accident.
-Bowie duets with Bing Crosby on Christmas song "Little Drummer Boy"; produces Iggy's Lust For Life; tours as Iggy's keyboard player.
-David and Angie Bowie divorce.
-Serious Moonlight tour plays 15 countries and grosses $50 million; "The new Bowie says much to us about the rewards of mediocrity," writes the New Music Express; Bowie is crowned Playboy's "Man of the Year."
-Angela Bowie writes tell-all memoir Backstage Passes.
-Bowie announces revival of Ziggy Stardust.
'Glam!' by Barney Hoskyns
We will never know exactly what happened in David Bowie's head between September 1971 and January 1972. Whatever it was had a cataclysmic effect on both pop music and the lives of three of its most famous sons: Bowie, Iggy Pop and Lou Reed. At some point in those five intense, tangled months, it started in New York where glam rock was born in the fantastic form of Ziggy Stardust.
It started in new York, where Bowie flew in September 1971 with his new manager, Tony DeFries of MainMan Management, to complete his signing to RCA, whose Dennis Katz had also just signed Lou Reed. Katz arranged for Bowie to meet the ex-Velvet Underground frontman at a restaurant called the Ginger Man. Surrounded by A&R men, Bowie paid court to Reed and told him that his new song, `Queen Bitch', was a homage to the Velvets. `David was flirtatious and coy,' observed one of the group. `He was in his Lauren Bacall phase, with his Veronica Lake hairdo and eyeshadow. So he let Lou take the driver's seat conversationally.' Reed, bloated with drink, let Bowie off lightly, perhaps sensing that this effete creature might be a passport to the revival of his own career.
After dinner, the party repaired to Max's Kansas City, then the hippest club in New York. Here, Bowie was introduced to another of his American heroes, Iggy Pop. As a performer, Iggy was the most unhinged maniac ever to prowl a stage; out of his skull on acid, coke and opiates, he pushed himself to the edge of self-annihilation. If Reed was, in Camille Paglia's formulation, a demonised Apollo, then Iggy was Dionysus on heroin. To Bowie, Pop was the genuine article the id to his ego. He took the abjection of Warhol's superstars to a cartoon extreme. And when Bowie met him, Iggy was already embracing the glam aesthetic by covering himself in glitter and gold and silver spray-paint. This, Bowie decided, was nothing like the Gothic circus of Alice Cooper it was `natural' theatre. The next morning, he and DeFries met with Iggy to discuss working together.`I think Bowie's infatuation with Iggy had to do with wanting to tap into the rock'n'roll reality that Iggy lived,' said Leee Black Childers, a Max's regular. `Bowie was a wimpy little south London art student and Iggy was a Detroit trash bag. Bowie knew he could never achieve the reality that Iggy was born into. So he thought he'd buy it.' Bowie was granted an audience the next day with Warhol himself. This time the atmosphere was a little frostier, especially after Bowie played him the song `Andy Warhol'. Desperately sensitive about his appearance, Warhol cringed at the line `Andy Warhol looks a scream'. But the sight of Bowie's yellow patent-leather shoes was enough to win the artist over and the meeting ended cordially. Back in England, high on the experience of meeting his American mainmen, Bowie plotted his course to glory. By the time Hunky Dory was released in December, Ziggy Stardust had been conceived, born and set to music.
The idea of creating a superstar alter ego was an unprecedented brainwave, a strategy of reconstruction that simultaneously parodied and hyperbolised the nature of stardom. To make this alter ego a kind of alien hermaphrodite was even more inspired. `It was one of those instantaneous vision things that you get,' Bowie said in 1997. `It all came to me in a daydream.' Almost as unprecedented was the musical quantum leap from Hunky Dory to The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Steering a course between the futuristic blues-metal of The Man Who Sold the World and the melodic balladry of Hunky Dory, Bowie and guitarist Mick Ronson fashioned the perfect Seventies sound loud, flashy and apocalyptic To give Ziggy the kick-start he deserved, Bowie turned himself into a polysexual space invader with a carrot-coloured puffball mullet, `snow-white tan' and skin-tight PVC jump-suits that exaggerated his ectomorphic physique. Unlike Iggy, Ziggy was deliberately unsexy. The metamorphosis was a brilliant device: a distancing disguise, a doppelganger. `By creating Ziggy to go out and front for him,' wrote Bowie's wife Angie, `David never had to act like himself in public if he didn't want to.'
Even this wasn't quite enough and Bowie decided to push the boat still further by announcing to Michael Watts of Melody Maker that he was `gay and always had been'. The fact that it was not strictly true that Bowie had homosexual leanings but was primarily heterosexual was irrelevant. Six years later, Bowie confessed to the same journalist that he wasn't sure what had prompted the `confession': `It certainly wasn't a premeditated thing. I was starting to build Ziggy, he was starting to come together and I was naturally falling into that role.'
Bowie may not have been gay, but Ziggy Stardust was and a lot more besides. `David had to become what Ziggy was, he had to believe in him,' said Mick Ronson. `Yes, Ziggy affected his personality. But he affected Ziggy's personality. They lived off each other.' Above all, Ziggy enabled Bowie to turn himself into an icon of deviance fit to stand alongside the Lou Reeds and Iggy Pops. `Ziggy served my purpose,' Bowie recalled a decade later, `because I found it easier to function through him, though I probably put myself on a path of pure psychological damage by doing what I did. But I felt like it was going to be easier living through an alternative self.'
Tony DeFries was more than happy to exploit the controversy over Bowie's coming out. And by the time `Starman' was released in April, the hype was paying off. On stage with the Spiders From Mars, Bowie would mime fellatio on the staunchly heterosexual Mick Ronson's guitar, a gimmick that only pointed up Ronson's greater sex appeal to women. With the June release of Ziggy Stardust itself, Bowiemania began in earnest. Bowie's gift to disaffected British teenagers was the implicit invitation for them to reinvent themselves as he had done to strike a pose, to revolt into style. Marc Bolan had started the ball rolling, but Bowie took the `everybody is a star' aesthetic one stage further. As a Bowie boy or girl, you were staking your own claim to autonomy in Edward Heath's grey council-block Britain.
Bowie cemented his achievement at a show at London's Festival Hall on 8 July 1972 that had Melody Maker proclaiming `A STAR IS BORN'. Lou Reed made a guest appearance on stage with his disciple, singing three Velvets songs, `Waiting for the Man', `White Light/White Heat' and `Sweet Jane'. A week later, Bowie invited both Reed and new MainMan signing Iggy Pop to parade themselves at his Dorchester Hotel press conference. The event acted as Reed and Pop's official entrance on to the glam rock stage. Iggy sported a T.Rex shirt and silver hair, and Reed swanned into the room in platforms and black nail polish, planting a kiss full on Bowie's lips. Perhaps Reed's subsequent key album, Transformer, should have been called `Transformed', since Bowie was the transformer, the catalyst bringing glam godfather Reed out of the closet, just as Iggy Pop had unwittingly coaxed Ziggy out of Bowie.
IT DIDN'T take long for glam rock to be taken over by pop acts such as Slade, Sweet and Gary Glitter. Their domination of the mainstream charts prompted Marc Bolan to promise, after the last great T. Rex single, `The Groover', that `My next thing won't be glam rock. I'm telling you that, babe.' If Bolan was unhappy about being associated with Sweet and Gary Glitter, Bowie was positively mortified about it. `It became a sense of embarrassment, iconically,' he said. `In my feather boas and dresses, I certainly didn't want to be associated with the likes of Gary Glitter, who was obviously a charlatan.' To Suede's Brett Anderson he later confided that `We were very miffed that people who'd obviously never seen Metropolis or heard of Christopher Isherwood were actually becoming glam rockers.' This was at least partly why, in 1973, Bowie decided to kill off Ziggy Stardust.
First he created a new persona, a modified Ziggy, in the form of Aladdin Sane, who was less focused and more unhinged than Ziggy Stardust. It suggested a mind teetering on the edge of psychosis, writing under intense pressure, in the spotlight of media attention. `This decadence thing is just a bloody joke,' Bowie told Melody Maker in May 1973. `I'm very normal. I never thought Ziggy would become the most talked-about man in the world. I felt like a Dr Frankenstein.' Exhausted by a tour that had taken him to America, to Japan and Europe, Bowie decided to retire Ziggy and the Spiders after the last show at the Hammersmith Odeon. Watching the film of the concert, the fatigue of the cracked actor is all too obvious under his caked make-up: all the glam in the world can't conceal Bowie's heavy sockets, sheer cheekbones and bad teeth. He is epicene to the point of anorexia. After a supercharged `Suffragette City', Bowie announced that this was `the last show we'll ever do', then serenaded his bewildered followers with a beseeching version of `Rock 'n' Roll Suicide'. Ziggy Stardust, pop martyr, had fallen to earth.
VELVET GOLDMINE CAPTURES GLAM IN ALL ITS GLORY - Rocktropolis Allstar News
Todd Haynes has a reputation among film critics as being a "cult" or "alternative" film director, meaning that while his work may be critically acclaimed, it's not something deemed accessible to the mainstream. That may change with the release next month of Velvet Goldmine, a lavish, visually stunning depiction of England's glam rock scene of the early '70s. Part fantasy, part bio-pic, part mystery, part music video, Velvet Goldmine celebrates the golden era of '70s Brit-pop, when over-the-top theatricality ruled and "hype" was not yet a dirty word. Velvet Goldmine is loosely based on the life and times of such glamsters as David Bowie, Marc Bolan and T. Rex, Roxy Music, and Iggy Pop, though these figures are used more for inspiration than factual storytelling. Brian Slade (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) transforms himself from folkie to a Bowie-esque Ziggy Stardust character, carousing along the way with his Iggy-styled sidekick, Curt Wild (Ewan McGregor). Arthur Stuart (Christian Bale) is the fan that follows them both as a teen, then finds himself reliving their - and his - story 10 years later, having become (horror!) a journalist.
Velvet Goldmine sets a new standard for rock films in how cleverly the music is integrated into the story. At the most obvious level, songs are performed in concert; at other times, the story's put on hold so we can cut to a music video for no apparent reason (other than to put another in a string of absolutely fabulous costumes on display); and then there are moments of out-and-out fantasy, when characters sing to each other as in a traditional "musical" setting (as when Brian Slade meets his future wife, Mandy). By following a non-linear format, Haynes points out what virtually all non-documentary rock films of the decade have been missing; originality, visual flair, and a true love of the subject matter. Forget about Boogie Nights, The Last Days of Disco and 54. Velvet Goldmine captures the heyday of glam in all its giddy, platform-shod, gender-bending glory, and just might single- handedly rescue the '70s from being written off as the most musically barren decade of rock.
INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY - 13 September 1998
What do the original devotees think of Ziggy, Bolan, platform boots and glitter 25 years on?
Will the latest revival of Seventies androgyny take off? asks Barney Hoskyns.
The spectre of early Seventies glam rock is hard to avoid in 1998. As the Todd Haynes film Velvet Goldmine looms on the horizon - along with a plethora of other artworks that use glam as a touchstone, from Patrick McCabe's new novel Breakfast in Pluto to Marilyn Manson's forthcoming album Mechanical Animals - the buzz word is everywhere in the pop-culture bloodstream. If glam is being revived primarily as a fad or a marketing tool, its reappearance comes nonetheless at an opportune moment: a time when pop needs fresh inspiration in order to recover from five years of lumpen lad culture, when it would benefit hugely from an injection of sexual and sartorial ambiguity. The world may be a more benign place for a sexually confused teenager than it was 25 years ago, but the masculinist stereotypes of babe-worship seem, if anything, more prevalent than they did in 1973.
"I think the main application of glam now, and why it's worth getting excited about it again, is that we need something to roll back the tide of lad and bloke culture," says perennial pop sage Jon Savage. "I can't believe how conservative everything's become. I mean, if The Sweet were on Top of the Pops now, you'd probably have front-page headlines and outrage." Observing these cultural fluctuations with special interest is the generation of fans who came of age with glam, who lived it the first time around, and who will doubtless be checking out Velvet Goldmine to see how it tallies with their own memories of mascara and Marc Bolan.
"I know people who grew up in the Sixties say they were free, but in a way I think we had a bit more freedom," says Hampstead mother-of-three Esther Rinkoff, 42. "Everything was much more accessible. Our parents really didn't give a shit about what we were doing: we came and went as we pleased. I've got an 18-year-old son now, but just through growing up in that period I feel I can relate to music today. I'm not saying, `Turn that rubbish down.' A lot of the stuff my son plays today is very reminiscent of Bowie and that era."
For Rinkoff, as for so many others, glam rock was the first teenage music which genuinely felt like it was "hers". Too young to fully appreciate the Beatles and the Stones, she became a true pop consumer only with the advent of Bowie, Bolan and Roxy Music. "We didn't think we were teenyboppers," she says. "We felt we were really hip. Bowie to us was much more intellectual than The Sweet. I must have worn out Hunky Dory - my friends and I used to listen to that over and over again. And then we all saw the Ziggy show. It was a blissful time. We were all very chilled-out, very brought together by the music. We'd bunk off school to queue up for tickets. We'd spend every Saturday at Biba and Kensington Market, and we'd go to Shelly's and buy our outrageous platform shoes and boots."
Rinkoff says that part of the attraction of glam was the femininity of the boys who were into it. "The boys really showed their feminine side," she says. "One of my male friends was really pretty, and he wasn't ashamed to show that he could be a bit feminine. I certainly geared towards those kinds of boys, boys who related to Bowie and Marc Bolan. I think most of them were just playing with the gay thing. I couldn't say for sure, because I lost touch with them." All over Britain, in public schools and comprehensives alike, boys were seduced by glam's androgyny and excess. "When I got hooked on glam, it happened in an instant," says Old Harrovian and therapist Christopher Edwards, 44. "I was watching The Old Grey Whistle Test, and the camera closed in on these calf-length, lace-up, green day-glo boots, progressed up to this sort of Chinese quilted jumpsuit, and then you heard the opening three chords of "Queen Bitch". And it was Bowie, and it was instant love - I was gone. A couple of months later I found a photo of him in the NME, and I took it down to this little barber's in Wealdstone and said, `Cut my hair like this.' And they said, `No way - that's a girl!'" For Edwards, glam was, if nothing else, an antidote to the odious Mark Thatcher, who was in his form at Harrow. "Glam was the antithesis of the rugger-bugger image," he says. "We used to be as camp as we possibly could. Suddenly being bisexual was cool among my friends. It was the rebellion we'd been looking for." A 1972 Roxy Music show in Manchester remains, Edwards says, "the best gig I've ever been to ... so completely out there, so sexy and stylish". Glam provided just as much of an anti-rugger-bugger stance for writer Dave Rimmer, 43, who grew up in Newcastle and numbered future Pet Shop Boy Neil Tennant among his mates. "There was a level at which being into glam was a big f***-off to all the twats who used to beat me up," he says. "My friends and I all took great delight in dyeing our hair orange and wearing make-up, just because it was two fingers to all the rugby players, who couldn't understand it at all. We'd parade around making the most of what naive sexual ambiguity we could muster. And it actually meant that people were a bit scared of us for a change. There was a certain power in it - the power of belonging, but also the power of freaking people out: `epater les rugger-buggers'!"
Rimmer claims that even some of the rugger-buggers converted to glam: the hooker in his direct grant school's 1st XV ended up plucking his eyebrows at one party organised by Rimmer and his friend Polly. For thousands of primarily heterosexual adolescents, the Bowie of Ziggy Stardust was a transgressive revelation - an incitement to nonconformity that changed their lives. Imagine, then, how it felt to be 15 and gay and to read Bowie's (albeit disingenuous) confession that he was "gay and always had been". "I'll never forget seeing Bowie and Ronson with their arms round each other on Top of the Pops, singing "Starman"," says music critic Martin Aston, 40. "It did feel like my life changed. Even though I hadn't come out at the age of 15, it sparked off something in me - something which, sitting in my parents' living room, I couldn't exactly express. It was such a brilliant concept: this alien comes down and tells you it's all going to be different from now on. It was a brave new world."
"There's no point in beating around the bush on this," says Jon Savage. "Glam was finally some kind of free expression of male homosexuality in popular culture, five years after it had been partially decriminalised. The thing that had always been there in the music industry finally got a chance to appear in various guises. It became a fantastic pop mode, because there's nothing more amusing or intriguing for everybody than straight guys pretending to be gay. Glam opened a door and people could explore various things about themselves - the whole point was that sexuality is fluid. Like David Johansen of the New York Dolls said, `I'm tri-sexual - I'll try anything.'" Even in America, which - despite the Dolls (and Lou Reed and Iggy Pop) - never "got" glam rock, the swooning androgyny and sheer fun of T Rex and co made inroads into the psyche of pop's underbelly. "It was fun and flamboyant and exciting," says Joey Ramone who, long before the Ramones, could be seen tottering down Queens Boulevard in New York in thigh-length boots and a pink jumpsuit. "I was definitely the black sheep of Queens! I got a lotta dirty looks. You were always walking around on the defensive: like, what the f*** you lookin' at? It was a very macho neighbourhood. I can remember going into this record store where everybody was into Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, and they really wanted to kick my ass for buying a Gary Glitter record. I felt like a total outcast, and I guess I was."
Asked if he thinks a glam sensibility still exists in American pop, Ramone points to Marilyn Manson as the natural heir to his one-time idol Alice Cooper. "For the younger kids, Marilyn Manson serves the same function as Alice did for me," he says. "I like the fact that Marilyn Manson makes people nervous. In these conservative times, it's good that there are people like him out there. Music today is so safe, and everybody's just kissing butt; at least Marilyn Manson is going against the grain."
Manson's shock value may have some validity in the homophobic US, but do we really need a glam movement in Britain? "Anything that tells you you don't have to fit into any kind of stereotype is great," says Martin Aston, "but I don't think there's ever been a movement based on a revival. There just isn't the same need for a Ziggy Stardust today. If you're 15 and gay, you have so many more role models. Back then it was Larry Grayson and John Inman, and that was everything you didn't want to be. Yeah, you have babes on every men's magazine cover, but you also have glossy gay magazines, you have films, you have groups like Suede and Placebo. Drag is so pervasive today. Gay culture is such a part of the club scene. How many male torsos do you see in adverts every day? Everything is so much more open than it was when I was 15. Nobody could feel like they were `the only one' any more." "I think camp has become much more acceptable in society, so glam doesn't have quite the same attraction," agrees Christopher Edwards. "The edges between masculine and feminine have been blurred anyway." However spurious a glam revival may seem in the late Nineties, the memories of the music and the myriad outrageous styles live on. Just as the children of Ziggy Stardust became the stars of New Romanticism in the Eighties, so the spawn of Adam Ant and Boy George are once again bending genders and rifling through the dressing-up box. "That androgynous thing never goes away," says Dave Rimmer, whose 1985 book Like Punk Never Happened was all about the "new pop" of Culture Club and their ilk. "Why did thousands of teenage girls fancy Nick Rhodes?" "Glam was about going out there and having fun," concludes Jon Savage. "I think it's been undervalued critically because it didn't appear to take itself too seriously. It had that horror of pomposity. But it wasn't like some little ghetto. It was full of vigour and full of life, and it bossed English pop music for two or three years."
INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY - 16th August 1998
Glam's Top 10 by Catherine Pepinster.
1. 'Get It On' - T.Rex (Fly, 1971). 1971: T.Rex dominated the charts and every pubescent schoolgirl trembled as the elfin prince strutted his stuff on Top of the Pops. Rocking guitars, Ian McDonald's haunting sax, Marc Bolan's fey voice combined with the falsetto chorus of Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman: this was the essence of the Glam Rock sound.
2. 'Starman' - David Bowie (RCA, 1972). Where Bolan led, Bowie followed - and quickly overtook him. "Starman" - in the charts for 11 weeks in 1972 - that introduced the 45rpm teeny buyer to the ultimate concept album. From the moment we first played The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, we knew this was the work of a genius.
3. 'Walk on the Wild Side' - Lou Reed (RCA, 1973). The song that brought Warhol's world to Radio 1. The narrative was enough to make any putative Keith Haring pack his bags and head for the urban nightmare. Bowie's produced the album, Transformer, together with his guitarist, the late Mick Ronson.
4. 'All the Young Dudes' - Mott the Hoople (CBS, 1972). Mott were old-fart West Country pub rockers, of the kind older brothers liked, until David Bowie wrote them this song. Overnight, it became Glam Rock's anthem for its doomed youth.
5. 'Virginia Plain' - Roxy Music (Island, 1972). Glam Rock for art students. You could look supercool and still be big on the music scene. When they first appeared, Roxy were a band fronted by an aloof Bryan Ferry; but soon it was Brian Eno who stood out, in collars so big they were wings. Affected and affecting, overnight 'Virginia Plain' made Glam the thing for sophisticates.
6. 'John I'm Only Dancing' - David Bowie (RCA, 1972). The one that nearly got away. Fed up with every single we ever bought turning up on an album within months, we failed to buy this one. Bowie caught us out, and didn't put it on a LP until ChangesOneBowie, in 1976. The sound of Bowie plaintively explaining to his boy that he was merely dancing with his girl signified the complexities of adulthood that awaited us.
7. 'Blockbuster' - Sweet (RCA, 1973). There were lots of nasty, sad bands who tried to make it on the back of Glam: Slade, Gary Glitter and Elton John, who tried to imitate the class of "Starman" with his lame "Rocket Man". But Sweet were different: so trashy, you didn't mind the sour aftertaste they left. Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman's "Blockbuster", sung by the blonde-with-a-blue-parting Brian Connolly, proved that pop was fun again. And that the British public's taste can never be underestimated: "Blockbuster" kept "The Jean Genie" off the No 1 slot in January 1973.
8. 'Hot Love' - T.Rex (Fly, 1971). Marc's first big No 1: it stayed on top for six weeks. The band recorded it on brandy at 4am: you can hear the boozy fun they're having in every smudgy moment. It's got all the ingredients: fulsome guitars, Mickey Finn's irrepressible bongo beat, lush choruses, and a terrible recording. Six years later, Bolan was dead.
9. 'Drive-in Saturday' - David Bowie (RCA, 1973). The main man and his Spiders took off to America, only to discover the psychotic nightmare that inspired Aladdin Sane. All the pain of fame, of the unknown, of the loss of control was here. "Drive-in Saturday" evoked the moment of yearning that made you realise Bowie was human after all. But on stage, he was a glorious alien: at Earl's Court in 1973, we clambered down fire exits to the stage, arriving alongside Mickey Finn and Angie Bowie.
10. "Angie" - Rolling Stones (1973); "School's Out" - Alice Cooper (Warner, 1972). "Angie" was Jagger's hymn to Ziggy's other half as the marriage fell apart. It also proved that Mick and Keith could ride any wave, classily. Alice Cooper was a sadder case: a division-two act trying to jump on the Glam bandwagon. But 26 years ago this week we sent it No 1. For one brief shining moment, we really did think we were children of the revolution.
David Bowie fell to Earth and Bryan Ferry found 'penthouse perfection': it was 1972, it was Glam Rock ... and Peter York was there
There's always a key moment when a star's status gets confirmed, when a movement becomes the movement, when everybody's there. Bowie's hot-ticket moment was the Save the Whale Concert at the Royal Festival Hall in 1972.
It was my first Bowie concert. I'd got the Ziggy Stardust album, then I'd shopped back in time and bought Hunky Dory (whose surprising whiff of patchouli had fazed me). My girlfriend had just been photographed by Mick Rock, the official Bowie photographer, and she'd bought me a Rive Gauche diamante star which I wore in my lapel. Nothing if not modish! We had good seats (alas, not backstage passes). We started off expectant; we ended the evening rushing the stage. Very uncool. An utterly new world had been proposed and, along with the rest of the audience, we'd bought it. In this Futurist Twilight City, somewhere between 42nd Street and Metropolis, Bowie, undeniably the Prettiest Star, seemed totally in command - of the audience, the band and, more impressive still, of his guest star Lou Reed; the real Lou Reed from the Velvet Underground! And here was Reed, Bowie's mentor some might say, looking rather shambly and uncomfortable in his new glitterduds and dark nail varnish, plucked from his SoHo boho ghetto so that David could introduce him to fashionable London. Bowie took those New York people, completely sucked their skulls and used them to make high drama for the high street. He repackaged them for people like me, who didn't really know their work. I bought Lou Reed's Transformer on the strength of the Bowie endorsement, and the Bowie production. (And of course when I first went to New York, The Factory was top of my list of tourist sights.)
We found Bowie ourselves; it took our friend Delroy Lindo to tell me about the first Roxy Music album. Lindo, the big black lantern-jawed American actor who played the angel in A Life Less Ordinary was then English - pure Shepherd's Bush - and like a lot of young second-generation blacks in London, he was as good on art-school sounds as he was on ska. Roxy at the Rainbow - the Thirties Moorish fantasies provided completely the right backdrop - was a different kind of delight. If Bowie's "Leper Messiah", the rent-boy who fell to Earth, was overwrought drama, Roxy Music was English art-school bought to life - the sets; the costumes; Saturday-morning-pictures Futurism; Teds in Space; cleverness; references, i.e. songs as densely packed with fashionable associations as Noel Coward's, songs that were like Noel Coward's. There were breathtaking cultural steals and slants, knowing and glossy. It was luxury consumption, "penthouse perfection" - as Bryan Ferry sang in "In Every Dream Home a Heartache" - utterly ironic yet strangely moving. The theme seemed to be: "We have to do these things, we driven people. We have to have that world of distant laughter, and it doesn't deliver. But of course we go on doing it." Luxury, taste, connoisseurship, those were the drugs.
What Michael Bracewell described in his dazzling book, England Is Mine, as Roxy Music's "cabaret futura of decadent romance" hit all its audience's buttons. No decade with Roxy in it can fairly be called the one that taste forgot. THERE WAS more to Glam than Bowie and Roxy, but the rest of it was different. Glam had a simple two-tier class system. High Glam was Bowie and Roxy and anyone they endorsed (though it didn't really include Bolan who, glittery as he was, always seemed a transitional figure: he wore Mary Jane shoes not platform boots). High Glam could obviously be consumed as Kultur; Bowie and Roxy were album artists (credible even though they sold singles on Top of the Pops). Low Glam - Slade, Sweet, Gary Glitter - was for what the Daily Mirror called "Our Pop Kids", meaning working-class adolescents, particularly girls. The Low Glammers were, as contemporaries said, "brickies in mascara" or "hod-carriers in Bacofoil" (Gary's ample buttocks stuffed into silver Lurex). It couldn't have been more heterosexual, more British or less sub-textual. It took the lipstick, the satin'n'tat but passed on the library. It wasn't class-correct to like them both but I did (and of course I knew enough to like them in different ways). There was an extraordinary and undeniable linkage between the two Glams that transformed the pop aesthetic overnight. As Bracewell says, "That Bowie's Glam Rock could turn barrow boys into screaming queens was the greatest triumph, and irony, of its period. The trappings of transvestism, thanks to Bowie, were granted the broadest currency of street fashionability." A real milestone had been passed. Glam Rock's epic period didn't last long, only from mid-1972 to the end of 1974; it never completely swept the board - college rock went on selling massively - and a stack of big thinkers never acknowledged it. Now it's safely gone, it's ripe for exhumation, for claiming. And here come a Glam book and a Glam film. A host of people who preferred Genesis at the time will now declare themselves for Gary and Noddy to give themselves cultural currency.
The book, Barney Hoskyns's Glam!, is fine. The film, Todd Haynes's Velvet Goldmine, might abort the whole revival. This is sad because Haynes has clearly put his heart into this fable about a character obviously based on David Bowie - and a life more publicly documented than Bowie's was from 1971 to 1974 is hard to imagine. Sincere as it is, Velvet Goldmine may do Glam the same disservice as Derek Jarman's Jubilee did Punk. The film will give Glam's enemies - they're everywhere, even now - the opportunity to say: "Can you seriously look me in the eye and say that gash little blip of swoony Top of the Pops camp warrants a minute's more serious attention than the social history of the Slush puppy?" And you know where the rest of that monologue's heading, don't you? "Now Punk... that had something to say." The problem with Velvet Goldmine is that it misses the smarty, the arty, the sheer cleverness of High Glam and the massive drive, energy and fun of TOTP Low Glam, and concentrates on the Boystown Romance. But the gay in Glam was always sensibility as much as sex. And whatever Haynes's disclaimers about fable you can't base a film on a crucial known biography, then get the period look and dialogue wrong and not expect to be caned for it. GLAM WAS important, and it deserves a more important treatment (which may come in Bowie's own Ziggy film, apparently in the pipeline). Glam introduced two major artists - plus the polymath Brian Eno - into the national bloodstream and set the postmodernist agenda for British pop - time travel, quotation, irony and consumption - for the next 20 years. The Bowie constituency was the original punk constituency. The Neo-Romantics quite avowedly emerged out of Bowie-worship and a purple strand of key figures since then, from Morrissey to Neil Tennant to Suede's Brett Anderson, obviously know the Glam canon from back to front. High Glam marked the point at which rock got out of its cultural cringe, and stopped trying to produce cod classical music. Low Glam marked the point at which pop became fun again, and produced two densely packed years of classic singles from "Leader of the Gang" to "Ballroom Blitz".
FAST FORWARD to Cool Brittania, 1998 and we find one fear haunting Young British Artists and musicians at the sharp end: that they'll get that call from David Bowie, the Rip Van Withit of Western Culture, saying he greatly admires their work and would like to ... collaborate with them. Who can forget the two characters in Trainspotting, otherwise quite gone, who become utterly lucid on the question of how Bowie had blown it? Arguably the most significant and influential postwar British artist in any medium, certainly the key strand in High Pop for a good 15 years, he seemed to the Trainspotters to have become strangely embarrassing. Hugely rich, cleaned-up, drug-free and straight, with Hollywood tombstone teeth, Bowie now collects art, writes about art and worse still, does art. Somebody ought to tell him about that goatee. And the single-leaf earring thing. A girl I know who's at the cutting edge of grooming says it should all come off. Including the eyebrows.
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