Sunday, 8 January 2012

They'll never clone ya

Just when you thought it was all over...

On the great man's 65th birthday, having already covered his early works that influenced me so much and remain among my favourites, I continue the journey into the world of that musical genius David Bowie.

Well, ain't that poster love?

Released on 7th March 1975, the album Young Americans signalled David's cementing of his relationship with his newly-adopted home and, more importantly, the black dance/Soul music that was in its evolution from 60s Motown towards the all-encompassing "Disco" music that would obsess the rest of the decade. Suddenly, once again Mr Bowie signified all that was "cool"...

They pulled in just behind the fridge
He laid her down - he frowns
"Gee my life's a funny thing
Am I still too young"
He kissed then and there
She took his ring, took his babies
It took him minutes, took her nowhere
Heaven knows she'd've taken anything

All night - she wants the young American
It's all right - but she wants the young American

Scanning life through the picture window
She finds the slinky vagabond
He coughs as he passes her Ford Mustang
Heaven forbid she'll take anything
But the freak and his type - all for nothing
He misses a step and cuts his hand
Showing nothing he swoops like a song
She cries "Where have all papa's heroes gone?"

All night - she wants the young American
It's all right - but she wants the young American

All the way from Washington
Her breadwinner begs of the bathroom floor
"We live for just these twenty years
Do we have to die for the fifty more"

All night - he wants the young American
It's all right - but he wants the young American

Do you remember president Nixon
Do you remember the bills you have to pay
Or even yesterday

But you ain't a pimp and you ain't a hustler
Pimps got a Caddy - lady got a Chrysler
Black got respect - white got his soul train
Mama's got cramps and look at your hands
I heard the news today oh boy
I got a suite and you got defeat
Ain't there a man - who can say no more
Ain't there a woman - I can sock in the jaw
Ain't there a child - I can hold without judging
Ain't there a pen - that will write before they die
Ain't you proud - that you've still got faces
And ain't there one damn song that can make me
Break down and cry

All night - I want the young American
It's all right - but I want the young American.
However cool he became though, his latest emerging persona of "The Thin White Duke" was to lead him inexorably away from the glittering heights of Soul Train and LA towards a very much darker period, in a geographical location that couldn't be more different - Berlin.

"A plea to come back to Europe for me"

Having just completed his starring role in The Man Who Fell To Earth, Mr B was halfway through a second bad (possibly drug-induced) breakdown when he recorded the synth masterpiece Station to Station (still one of my favourite albums), released on 23rd January 1976. It is a most remarkable combination of his newly-discovered dance rhythms (as in Golden Years), his love of "Soul" (as in my fave Wild Is The Wind) and a much more experimental electronic sound, influenced by the European pioneers Kraftwerk and Eno (especially evident on the title track).

Low was known as the first of his "Berlin Trilogy", despite having been recorded largely in France

Having cut his ties with the US for a while, Low - his first collaboration with Brian Eno, released 35 years ago on 14th January 1977 - was surprisingly poorly received by critics, despite spawning two great hits.

Cover photography inspired by the expressionist painter Erich Heckel's work "Roquairol"

And so it came to pass that Bowie bounced back, in his customary fashion, with the ground-breaking Cold War-inspired album Heroes, released on 14th October 1977 - at last, an Eno album that people liked, and it spawned an anthem at the same time! I adore this album (and especially Secret Life of Arabia).

Originally "The Lodger" was to be titled either "Planned Accidents" or "Despite Straight Lines"

As the winds of musical change were yet again in the air (punk had shaken up the musical scene quite significantly), it became evident in their third collaboration that Bowie and Eno were not destined to work together again (at least for a while). However, the third part of the "trilogy" The Lodger (released on 18th May 1979) did contain two of the most influential Bowie tracks that I heard when I was just getting into the maestro's work (and struggling with my own sexuality):

Heaven loves ya, the clouds part for ya
Nothing stands in your way When you're a boy
Clothes always fit ya
Life is a pop of the cherry
When you're a boy
(When you're a boy)
You can wear a uniform
(When you're a boy)
Other boys check you out
(You get a girl)
These are your favourite things
(When you're a boy)

Boys Boys Boys keep swinging
Boys always work it out

Un-cage the colours, unfurl the flag
Luck just kissed you hello
When you're a boy
They'll never clone ya
You're always first on the line
When you're a boy
(When you're a boy)
You can buy a home of your own
(When you're a boy)
Learn to drive and everything
(You'll get your share)
You'll get your share
When you're a boy

Boys Boys Boys keep swinging
Boys always work it out

Many commentators consider Scary Monsters to be "his last great album"

And suddenly it happened! A new Bowie album was released (on 12th September 1980) right in the middle of my entry into the wonderful dressing-up world of the New Romantics. Scary Monsters and Super Creeps was everything I wanted from an album - I raved about it; it was hardly off my radiogram! My absolute obsession with David Bowie had begun in earnest.

Bowie's first album for EMI records with whom he had signed for a reported $17.5m

And to conclude - because I have to conclude somewhere - Let's Dance, released on 14 April 1983, was the album that David Bowie was promoting when I went to see him on his "Serious Moonlight Tour" in Milton Keynes Bowl that summer.

Disappointing though it is to say it, and if truth be told, Mr Bowie's albums over the last couple of decades have not been overly impressive (like the Curate's Egg, "good in parts"). An awful lot of material my beloved David has done, apart from perhaps Absolute Beginners, Buddah of Suburbia and Nature Boy has completely faded out of my consciousness very quickly. He hasn't made an album since 2003.

And of course, his heart scare in 2004 hasn't exactly helped him remain in the spotlight.

Commenting on his continued absence, Rolling Stone magazine said:
In May of 2006, Bowie announced that was going to curate the inaugural "High Line Festival" in New York. "It will culminate in an enormous outdoor David Bowie concert," said a press release. "His first full show in New York City since the Reality Tour hit Madison Square Garden on December 15, 2003." A few months later, the bad news hit. "Due to ongoing work on a new project, David Bowie has announced that it will not be possible for him to perform," said a press release. That "new project" hasn't seen the light of day. Instead, Bowie retreated almost completely from the public view – popping up only occasionally at a public event.
And according to his biographer Paul Trynka, David Bowie has “retired”. He says he believes it would be “a miracle” if Bowie returned to the frontline of music.

It would be an incredible shame if he did not.

Happy Birthday, sweetie!

David Bowie official website


  1. A shame indeed if he did not return to the public eye.

    I read "somewhere" that he would release a book in Sept./Oct 2012 titled Bowie Object and it would be 100 photographs of items that are special to him and written text with why the item holds a special place in his heart/life.

    From Young Americans - Let's Dance is I think my fave Bowie period - peaking with Young Americans & Golden Years (for me personally).


  2. We think alike, young man.
    He remains one of my favorite people. He has been a major force in my life since the late 1960s.

    Here's to Mr. Jones!

  3. Tony - the book project sounds intriguing, if a bit esoteric...

    Stephen - all together now, "Me-e-e-e-e-e and Mr Jones, Mr Jones. We got a thing going on."


  4. Another great Bowie post. And I agree, he hasnt released much that has peaked my intrest since the early 80s. There have been a few fantastic singles though - "Jump They Say", "Hearts Filthy Lessons", "Thursday's Child" and of course "Hello Spaceboy".

    Regardless, the man is and will always be an absolute legend. Happy birthday!

  5. Ah yes, that blinding appearance with Pet Shop Boys at the Brit Awards in 1996 - I did indeed forget that one. Thanks for reminding me! Jx


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