in an effort to be hailed as a genius, I have decided to change the way I publish posts on this Blog.
Rather than carefully choosing ideas and words, I will be cutting up magazines and newspapers and choosing random sentences. Until yesterday, I had no idea that this is how David Bowie wrote his songs. And David Bowie was a genius.
It sounds like a joke. Random sentences. But who knows? It might explain Sinn Féin and Alliance Party manifestos.
I am sorry to labour the point. I wish I actually got Bowie. All I know of him was “Space Oddity”. “Starman”, “Ashes to Ashes”, “Gene Genie” and “The Laughing Gnome”. There is the video featuring a Chinese girl which was almost banned and the best thing he ever did was “Dancing In The Streets” with Mick Jagger.
But I an a man who was never into concept albums. There are few good songs that dont involve only lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass guitar and drums. And few good songs last longer than three minutes.
They tell me that David Bowie was a great lyricist but I dont know any of his lyrics and I cant get my head around the fact that great songs are composed at random.
Are great paintings produced at random. I cant believe that Michaelangelo had no idea how the Cistine Chapel would turn out or that Leonardo da Vinci looked at the finished portrait of Mona Lisa and said “sheesh its a woman smiling”.
I did know that Bowie created the Ziggy Stardust persona but the Thin White Duke is a new one to me.
Have I been living under a rock for forty years? Seemingly…in musical terms I have.
But while I would have appreciated that Bowie was a major figure, I find the outpouring of grief to be a kinda Lady Diana type thing. Thoughtless.
It seems strange that Bowie was appreciated as an “individual” yet his followers are curiously tribal. If Art is meant to be controversial, then surely I should expect some kinda TV studio discussions that might reflect Bowie’s appeal to be not so universal.
Surely those hailed as a genius…from Charlie Chaplins Little Tramp to Monty Python and from Damien Hirst’s Cows to Tracy Emins Bed…we might get rival experts into a studio to make the rival cases…genius or crap.
But seemingly nobody has gone into a TV studio to make the case that David Bowie was total crap….there is a curious group-think.I really dont get it. I just dont get it.
I’m going to write more later, I’ll apologize in advance but the 6yr old dying in a traffic accident at the weekend was definitely a lot more heartbreaking.
Exactly!!! Well said.
Personally I liked his music but I think it was too cold to love.
I really cant understand how I was obsessed with music in 1960s but totally rejected it after about 1972.
Exceptions…the Eagles, Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt etc.
And of course Irish stuff.
I would say I’m music obsessed and my first love is probably Motown even though it is way before my time but follows from my teenage love of ska and two-tone. A lot of Bowie’s songs are saxophone based (which was the main instrument he played) and maybe not too big a jump from the big Motown wall of sound to Bowie’s heavily produced art-house concept albums. Bowie was a bit of a change from the motown cult of the single and a change from the pop guitar songs based on the circle of fifths. I actually moved backwards through Bowie’s music from Ashes to Ashes in 1980 due to the fantastic compilation album Changestwo and with help from the musical influence of two older brothers. From there, Changesone went on the turntable and then album after album was collected. All, after the first few, superbly produced and all with a different musical influence and story. It would be hard to pick a favourite but Low which is really Bowie and a big chunk of Brian Eno (Roxy Music) and Hunky Dory with a theme of madness and his schizophrenic half-brother, emphasized by Rick Wakeman’s fantastic piano are pretty good. From there the journey just expands as you listen to music that Bowie has worked on. You hear Bowie’s backing vocals on Iggy Pop’s the Passenger and on Lou Reed’s Satellite of love and even to the modern day with Arcade Fire. (Rick Wakeman’s piano never led to an interest in YES, I never got prog rock.) He gave ‘All the young dudes’ to Mott the Hoople and saved their careers, even gave ‘The man who sold the world’ to Cilla Black to murder which was then rescued bizarrely by Nirvana. Maybe he wasn’t a great ballad writer, but his songs told plenty of stories, with some stand-out lyrics. Some of my favourite lyrics are from Ziggy Stardust. I’m not a fan of the musical style or Mick Ronson’s guitar but I find myself singing along when they are on the radio. Incidentally, you will hear a lot more Bowie on Irish radio stations than you will on the English ones, I like to think we are a bit more eclectic. Bowie doesn’t just have a legacy on the musical influences he dragged with him but he also read a lot of books and poetry. The thing about using cut-ups to create stories comes from a meeting with the novelist William Burroughs. Reading about Bowie and William Burroughs is probably to blame for the 2hrs I spent at the cinema watching Naked lunch, which was close to a mental and visual assault. Bowie probably used the idea of cut-ups to throw something of interest to the press and was more to say that he was into Burroughs than how he actually wrote lyrics. Iggy pop said that writing songs was a painful, stressful process for himself and Bowie just spat them out with ease. I’ve no interest in the whole confused sex, gender bending and to me it was just sex obsessed media than anything to do with the music. Though, he seems to have lived a pretty normal heterosexual life bar the drug use and near cocaine death. The documentary ‘Cracked Actor’ is pretty sobering and god knows how he managed to function. I can understand why someone wouldn’t like Bowie’s work, it isn’t always immediate and a lot of tracks are just experimental but any music aficionado from the 70’s will need to be familiar with his back catalogue as he is name checked so many times by modern musicians. He took a lot of styles and commercialized them, took raw talent and pushed them to a commercial product and his talent may be more managerial or encyclopaedic than musically technical but it is impossible to understate his musical contribution. Musically Bowie ended for me in the early 80’s. Let’s Dance was more Nile Rodgers and David Bowie, China girl was an Iggy pop cover but Absolute Beginners and This is not America with Pat Methany are decent songs. I’d recommend Changestwo for anyone who has missed the fuss.
The thing that I cant understand about myself is that 1960s music was an obsession and my father agonised that I studied Popology more than I studied Algebra or French or Geography.
In part POP is childish. I statrted big school when She Loves You and I Wanna Hold Your Hand. And these songs were being sung to pre-teens by men, already in their 20s who had played Hanburgs Red Light District.
We were childish and so much more naive than 11 year olds today.
There should be no surprise that adults presenting a childrens programme like Blue Peter will be living the lifestyle of a 25 year old Londoner with access to the best “clubs”.
We really DID think that Paul McCartney did not live with Jane Asher.
We knew nothing about groupies and until the Summer of Love, we knew nothing of drugs. In fact I was 49 years old before I even tried a “joint”.
But when RTE. banned Manfred Mann for “If You Gotta Go” (if youre unfamiliar with it, try You Tibe) and the BBC insisted on playing B side “Ruby Tuesday” rather than “Lets Spend the nIght Together” Rolling Stones.
Note that “Young Girl”, (Union Gap) the first record I ever bought in 1968 was about underage sex and yet it wS NOT banned.
And while it is generally thought “Je Taime” (1968) was a watershed, I remember being genuinely shocked by a line in “Norwegian Wood” (Beatles) ….”until she said, its time for bed”
Of course we were more savvy in the late 1960s but West Belfast was both latently religious and unsophisticated…not unlike Middlesbrough or Yeovil or PortLaoise.
Was it the Troubles?
We …or maybe I …stagnated. Certainly no interest in Music,
Men of 30 were singing to people in their 20s…but it was all too sophisticated. John Peel and Whispering Bob Harris, rather than Tony Blackburn or Simon Dee.
POP pretentiously became ROCK.
GROUPS became BANDS.
And I was stuck in rut….Pink Floyd,Bowie, Zepellin, meant nothing to me.
PROG ROCK, HEAVY METAL, PUNK ROCK, GLAM ROCK….all meant nothing.
Only the Eagles and Emmylou Harris made the 1970s tolerable.
It was just too sophisticated. And I am a very low brow person. Certainly there is more merit in Pink Floyd, Zepellin, Bowie…than in the Glitter Band or Bay City Rollers but i just did not acquire the taste. But along with “sophistication” there is always a degree of “pretentiousness” ….and Bowie had that. I am genuinely shocked that so many politicians, journos etc lined up to pay him tribute.
There was something we knew was unsavoury in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Whether its “Deep Throat” and Linda Lovelace, drug use or racist comedies like “Mind Your Language” or the availability of under age girls and boys for Cyril Smith, Jimmy Savile, Rolf Harris, Stuart Hall etc….we were I suppose finding destroying boundaries in the Permissive Society and it would be another generation before we realised the full scale of this.
I am NOT a moralist….but have we.given David Bowie an easier ride than some people who over-indulged at the time. Is “sophistication” a good excuse?
You are absolutely right about Tamla Motown.
But even there, there was a POP- ROCK Division.
My fave Motown group is the Four Tops but they are considered less innovative than the Temptations.
I was avoiding the class thing and intellectual snobbery, I don’t think that does it justice but art and the concept album are self indulgent. An ordinary working family man in the 70s couldn’t justify the expense of a vinyl album collection without adding the time to listen to a concept album end to end. I do find Burroughs, Nietzsche, The Mac, Bowie and things like that up their own arse a bit but at the time I was in my teens to early 20s and had all the time in the world.
I have no talent for poetry and song writing.
Essentially writing new songs is a quest to find new ways of saying very familiar things about the himan condition.
So “She Loves You….yeah yeah yeah” appeals to the pre-teen. It was about my condition then.
Likewise at 15 in 1967, I wanted to go to San Francisco with Flowers in my Hair.
After that few songs except sImon and Garfunkel, Carly Simon, Joni Mitchell really captured how I felt about anything. Thus it was great when the Eagles came along in the early and mid 1970s…its all about who I want to be as much as who I am.
Someday….I will stand on THAT corner in Winslow, Arizona and a girl in a flat bed Ford will slow down. We will head off to have Peaceful Easy Feelings in the desert before I check into Hotel California before I get the plane home. 🙂
The morality is interesting. I can remember my Dad watching Boy George on top of the pops and saying ‘what is that?’ at the time we thought that that was just the effect Boy George was going for. He was just another notch of shock as people got used to the last one. Plenty of people in the 50s went for shock, Some like it hot, came out in 59. I don’t buy what Bowie was doing was anything new. The kinks did it better with Lola. Sweet Sixteen by the Furys was to me a lovely sweet song, now it sounds a bit wrong, which is sad in a way. My kids know more than me about the mechanics and variety but they are just as clueless on the human emotion side. The media do seem to be run by a bunch of sleeze bags and blew up Bowie’s bisexuality which helped his career. There are lots of talented artists that don’t seem to make it, for instance, I’m listening to the Delorentos at the minute, very good Irish band, haven’t made the impact they deserve. Maybe they should perform in a dress.
Boy George is interesting.
He was embraced as cuddly and even a guest star on the A Team. I recall Cliff Richard was on a chat show (possibly Wogan) and was asked about Boy George. He said “Boy George has a fantastic gimmick….he can sing”.
I think the Public went along with that sentiment.
His fall from grace was little to do with sexualoty but a lot to do with selfishness, possibly brought on by being indulged too much.
I suppose everyone deserves rehabilitaion but I am not convinced by the new older, wiser Boy George.
You are slightly younger than me and that makes some things difficult as my reference points are probably before your time.
There was a five year (approx) period 1968-1973 when people were struggling with a new vocabulary and a new attitude. For example the beloved Likely Lads spent their time chasing girls and openly saw it as normal to chase women and get them drunk…a criminal activity in 2016.
There was much more nidity on TV than there is now. And there was the casual racism of Love Thy Neighbour and Mind Your Language.
Even “right on” comedies like Monty Python and Spike Milligan were surprisingly politically incorrect.
There was a definite point where people thought it had gone too far…(long before Ben Elton and Saturday Night Live).
Some…Bernard Manning for example were marginalised.
And those TV comedies are never shown…Barry Evans star of Mind Your Language and Doctor at Large was a really big star but ended up a taxi driver.
Its almost like Society wanted to airbrush it away.
Likewise the excesses of Jimm Savile. Realistically we cant be surprised that DJs, rock stars, roadies, footballers, politicians misused their position in those years.
And I think its impossible that nobody knew about Saville.
More likely it was all brushed aside.
But can we really justify locking up people we dont like…Gary Glitter…and being more tolerant of National Treasures.