David Bowie – circa 1976
“Ch-ch-changes / Turn and face the strange” – ‘Changes’ (David Bowie)
The young man sits on the windowsill, crying uncontrollably. The sunlight through the window panes illuminates the tears streaming down a face that may be just a little too pretty to be described as masculine. One of his favourite books is Franz Kafka’s ‘Metamorphosis’ (1915). After spending eight years in the Royal Air Force, the tearful youth returned home, greatly disturbed. He shuts out the world and refuses to talk. After he vanishes for a few years, the young man is found in a mental ward and is fated to remain there as a permanent resident. This is not David Bowie; it is his eight years older half-brother, Terry.
David Bowie (8 January 1947-10 January 2016) is born David Robert Jones at 9.00 a.m. at 40 Stansfield Road, Brixton, South London, England. He is the son of Haywood Stenton ‘John’ Jones and his wife, Margaret Mary ‘Peggy’ Jones (nee Burns). John Jones was a ‘Soho club-owner-turned-publicist’, but his son remembers him more for his latter occupation. “My father worked for a children’s home called Dr Bernardo’s Homes. They’re a charity,” David recalls. In fact, John Jones was a promotions officer for Bernardo’s. Peggy Jones, a woman of Irish descent, worked as a cinema usherette and a waitress.
Although David is the only child of John and Peggy Jones together, each of his parents had previously had other children. David Jones has three half-siblings.
John Jones married Hilda Sullivan on 19 December 1933. During the Second World War, John had an affair. His mistress, a nurse in Birmingham, gave birth to John’s first child, a girl named Annette (born 1941). John and Hilda took custody of Annette. When John left Hilda for Peggy Burns, Annette was left with Hilda. Years later, the adult ‘Annette is said to go to Egypt with a millionaire businessman and is never heard from again.’
Peggy Burns had a son named Terry Burns (born 5 November 1937). Terry’s father was a barman named Wolf Isaac ‘Jack’ Rosenberg. Terry was brought up by his mother, an aunt and his grandparents. He is the only one of David Jones’ half-siblings to have any contact with David. He recommends music and books to David, including ‘The Metamorphosis’. Terry has a stint with the Royal Air Force but, afterwards, is deeply troubled mentally. He becomes institutionalised in a mental ward for most of his life. John Jones gives Terry his surname of Jones, but Terry later changes it back to Burns. Terry Burns eventually commits suicide on 16 January 1985.
Peggy Burns had a second child, a daughter named Myra Ann (born 29 August 1943). Myra was given up for adoption. Her later name and fate remain unknown.
When David Robert Jones is born on 8 January 1947, his parents John Jones and Peggy Burns are not yet married. This is because John Jones has not yet obtained a divorce from Hilda Sullivan, his first wife. John and Peggy marry on 12 September 1947, when David is eight months old.
Aside from the tangled history of David Bowie’s half siblings, his family background is strange. ‘Close relations were prone to sudden, mysterious disappearances; aunts and cousins were hospitalised after being found wandering in the streets.’ Even Bowie’s relationship with his own parents seems troubled. He reflects, “I’ve always regretted that I was never able to talk openly with my parents, especially with my father.”
David Jones – the boy who will become David Bowie – attends Stockwell Infants School from 12 November 1951 until 1953. He is characterised as a ‘gifted and single-minded child – and a defiant brawler.’
In January 1953 the Jones family moves to 106 Cannon Road, Bromley, and David is sent to Raglan Infants School from 5 January 1953 to 1955. During this time, the Jones family moves house two more times, though they remain within Bromley. In February 1954, they move to 23 Clarence Road. Then in June 1955, the family moves on to 4 Plaistow Grove. This last move coincides with David going on to Burnt Ash Junior High School from 20 June 1955.
David grows up ‘vaguely middle-class in a solidly working-class’ area. He is ‘always an outsider.’
While he is at Burnt Ash Junior High School, David Jones begins to develop an interest in music. He sings in the choir and learns to play the recorder. David even takes an interest in dance when he is 9. That same year, 1956, David’s father brings home a bunch of early rock ‘n’ roll singles. The discs include songs by Little Richard, Elvis Presley, Fats Domino, The Platters and Frankie Lymon And The Teenagers. “When I heard Little Richard, I mean, it just set my world on fire,” enthuses David Bowie. He takes up saxophone, ‘motivated by the dream of someday earning a place in Little Richard’s backing band.’ “I sort of persuaded my dad to get me a kind of plastic saxophone on the higher purchase plan,” says David. By 1957, skiffle is popular in Great Britain. Skiffle is a kind of home-made hybrid of rock music and folk music. Young David Jones gets involved with would-be skiffle bands, playing ukulele or tea-chest bass. He also starts to learn piano. David Jones winds up his time at Burnt Ash Junior High School on 24 July 1958.
David Jones moves on to Bromley Technical School, beginning there on 8 September 1958.
As an adolescent, David Jones comes to realise he is bisexual. “When I was 14, sex suddenly became all important to me. It didn’t really matter who or what it was with, as long as it was a sexual experience,” Bowie later claims.
David Jones’ half-brother Terry Burns introduces David to modern jazz and David gets more serious about playing the tenor saxophone. Naturally, David gravitates towards other students with an interest in music. One of his acquaintances is future rock star Peter Frampton. However, David’s closest comrade may be George Underwood, who has his own band, George And The Dragons. In a schoolyard fight between the two boys in 1962, David sustains a serious injury. The duo gets in a fight over a girl. When George Underwood punches David Jones, Underwood’s fingernail accidentally slices into Jones’ left eyeball. David undergoes a number of operations to save his sight, spending four months in hospital. He is ‘left with faulty depth perception and a permanently dilated pupil, which gives a false impression of a change in the iris’ colour.’ It is often thought that David Bowie has heterochromia – different coloured eyes – but that is incorrect. Both David Bowie’s eyes are blue. The overly dilated pupil of the left eye certainly gives the impression in some photos that his left eye is brown, but that is an illusion. Despite his injury, David Jones remains friends with George Underwood.
David Jones forms his first band, The Konrads, in 1962. The line-up of the group is: George Underwood (vocals), David Jones (vocals, saxophone), Neville Wills (guitar), Alan Dodds (guitar) and Dave Crook (drums). The Konrads appear to have got along without an official bassist. George Underwood leaves after a short time, necessitating a membership reshuffle. By the end of 1962, The Konrads consist of: Roger Ferris (vocals), Dave Jay (formerly David Jones)(vocals, saxophone), Neville Wills (guitar), Alan Dodds (guitar), Rocky Shahan (bass), David Hadfield (drums), Christine Patton (backing vocals) and her sister, Stella Patton (backing vocals). “As an adolescent, I was painfully shy, withdrawn. I didn’t really have the nerve to sing my songs on stage,” admits David Bowie/Dave Jaye/David Jones. “I decided to do them in disguise so that I didn’t have to actually go through the humiliation of going on stage and being myself.”
When he is 16, David Jones becomes very withdrawn. This is when he reads Frank Kafka’s ‘The Metamorphosis’ as recommended by his half-brother Terry Burns. Given his family history, David is ‘haunted by the spectre of his own impending lunacy.’ He finds some relief in creating ‘fresh characterisations of himself.’ “Even though I was very shy, I found I could get onstage if I had a new identity,” Bowie later explains.
On 5 July 1963 David Jones leaves Bromley Technical School. He has decided that he wants to be a pop star. Somewhat unconvinced, David’s pragmatic mother gets him a job as an electrician’s mate (i.e. an apprentice). This appears to have been a very short term arrangement because David is still only 16 ½ when he gets a job as a ‘junior visualiser’ with Nevin D. Hirst Advertising. David leaves the advertising agency after four or five months. This is how David Bowie later describes this period: “I was broke. I got into rock because it was an enjoyable way of making my money and taking four or five years to puzzle my next move out. I was a painter before that, studying commercial art at Bromley Technical High School. I tried advertising and that was awful. The lowest. But I was well into my little saxophone so I left advertising and thought, ‘Let’s give rock a try. You can have a good time doing that and usually have at least enough money to live on.’ Especially then. It was the mod days [an English fashion movement]; nice clothes were half the battle…I lived out of the dustbins on the back streets of…Carnaby Street [the fashion centre of ‘Swinging London’].”
The Konrads cut one record, ‘I Never Dreamed’, on 30 August 1963. Roger Ferris is the lead vocalist on the song. Then The Konrads break up.
‘The 1960s is not a happy period for [David] Bowie…He dabbles in many different styles.’ David works with a number of different groups over the next few years. Some of the bands make recordings but the one thing they all have in common is a distinct lack of any commercial success.
The Hooker Brothers (who also perform as Dave’s Reds And Blues) have a regular gig at the Bromley Court Hotel – but ‘it lasts only for a few weeks.’ The Hooker Brothers is a trio consisting of: David Jones (vocals, saxophone), George Underwood (vocals, guitar, harmonica) and Viv Andrews (drums). They appear to be a blues act as suggested by their alternate name of Dave’s Reds And Blues and The Hooker Brothers tag is probably inspired by blues artist John Lee Hooker.
Davie Jones With The King Bees release the single ‘Liza Jane’ on the Vocalion label on 5 June 1964. This outfit take their name from bluesman Slim Harpo’s 1957 song ‘I’m A King Bee’. ‘Liza Jane’ is itself adapted from an old blues standard, ‘Li’l Liza Jane’, though the group’s manager and record producer, Leslie Conn, somehow manages to take credit as the composer. This is Davie Jones’ first experience with a professional manager. The arrangement exists only for the month of June 1964. Davie Jones With The King Bees consists of: Davie Jones (a.k.a. David Jones) (vocals, saxophone), George Underwood (guitar, vocals, harmonica), Roger Beresford Bluck (lead guitar), Francis David Howard (bass), Robert ‘Bobby’ Allen (drums).
In August 1964 Davie Jones joins The Manish Boys. This group, like The King Bees, take their name from a blues song. In this case, their inspiration is Muddy Waters’ 1955 song ‘Manish Boy’. Unlike The King Bees, The Manish Boys incorporate folk music and soul music as well as blues. The members of The Manish Boys are: Davie Jones (vocals, saxophone), Johnny Flux (lead guitar), John Watson (guitar, vocals), Bob Solly (organ), Paul Rodriguez (bass, saxophone, trumpet), Wolf Byrne (saxophone, harmonica) and Mike White (drums). On 5 March 1965 The Manish Boys release the single ‘I Pity The Fool’ backed with ‘Take My Tip’. ‘I Pity The Fool’ is a cover version of a 1961 song by Bobby Bland, a blues singer who also performed rhythm and blues and other styles of music. The flipside, ‘Take My Tip’, is the first of David Jones’ original compositions committed to vinyl. The single is produced by Shel Talmy, features future Led Zeppelin star Jimmy Page playing guitar as a session musician, and is released on the Parlophone label.
In April 1965, David Jones changes bands again. He joins together with a band called The Lower Third and they become Davy Jones And The Lower Third. Jones’ new comrades have been working together since 1963 as Oliver Twist And The Lower Third. The April 1965 incarnation is: Davy Jones (vocals, saxophone), Denis ‘Tea-Cup’ Taylor (guitar), Graham Rivens (bass), Les Mighall (drums) and Neil Anderson (occasional vocals). In July 1965 Les Mighall is replaced by new drummer Phil Lancaster. The Lower Third is described as a ‘blues trio’ – which may be true if Davy Jones and Neil Anderson are not included in the head count. On 20 August 1965 Davy Jones And The Lower Third release the single ‘You’ve Got A Habit Of Leaving’. The song is written by Davy Jones. The single is produced by Shel Talmy and issued on the Parlophone label. Ralph Horton takes on the role of manager after this single is released in 1965.
On 15 September 1965 David Jones officially changes his stagename to David Bowie. The name change is designed to avoid confusion with Davy Jones, an upcoming star of British musical theatre who, in 1966, becomes a founding member of U.S. pop group The Monkees. David Jones’ new surname on stage is derived from the American frontiersman Jim Bowie (1796-6 March 1836), famed for his use of the Bowie knife. The singer pronounces his new surname ‘BO-ee’ (the first syllable rhymes with ‘go’).
‘Can’t Help Thinking About Me’ b/w ‘And I Say To Myself’ is released on the Pye label on 14 January 1966 and is credited to David Bowie With The Lower Third. David Bowie is the songwriter. Tony Hatch produces the single.
A new band, David Bowie And The Buzz, is constituted in February 1966. The line-up of this group is: David Bowie (vocals, guitar, saxophone), John ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson (guitar), Derrick ‘Chow’ Boyes (keyboards), Derek ‘Dek’ Fearnley (bass) and John ‘Ego’ Eager (drums). Ralph Horton continues to act as manager.
On 1 April 1966, David Bowie releases the single ‘Do Anything You Say’ b/w ‘Good Morning Girl’ on Pye. As is now customary, both are original compositions by Bowie. Although he is still working with The Buzz, this is the first single listing David Bowie as a solo act on the label. The single is produced by Tony Hatch.
On 27 June 1966 John Hutchinson is replaced on guitar in The Buzz by Billy ‘Haggis’ Gray.
David Bowie’s ‘I Dig Everything’ in August 1966 is the singer’s last single for Pye. It is produced by Tony Hatch.
On 19 November 1966 guitarist Billy Gray leaves The Buzz. The group continues as a trio.
At this point David Bowie moves to Deram Records. It can be said that, after a string of low-key singles, his recording career is about to begin in earnest – though anything like commercial success is still a short way off.
Trying to define the type of music associated with David Bowie’s recording career is almost an exercise in futility. One of Bowie’s chief characteristics is his propensity to change course. Since he is clearly identified as a rock ‘n’ roll artist, his songs could broadly be described simply as rock or pop. However such bland, generic labels do an injustice to his chimerical nature. Along the way, Bowie’s music is described as baroque pop, music hall, rock, prog, psychedelic, hard rock, glam rock, art rock, proto punk, blue-eyed soul, funk, ambient, electronic, experimental, post punk, new wave, post disco, dance, pop, rock, industrial and jazz. Each of them is accurate enough for an album or two, but Bowie’s restlessness makes it difficult to pin him down to any one of them. Some of the more significant phases will be described more fully as they are encountered.
“I was never particularly fond of my voice,” says David Bowie. “I’ve never been a musician,” he claims. Although Bowie plays saxophone, guitar and keyboards, he is competent rather than exceptional. This seems to be why he denies being ‘a musician.’ But if Bowie’s singing and playing are not at the heart of his art, then what does occupy that space? The answer would seem to be songwriting. Although David Bowie records some cover versions, some outside compositions and occasionally collaborates with another songwriter, the bulk of his catalogue is composed by the man himself. Unless otherwise indicated, all songs mentioned here from this point on are written by David Bowie. Yet, despite an apparent pride in his songwriting, Bowie is prone to deflect attention from it. “I’m always amazed that people take what I say seriously. I don’t even take what I am seriously,” he says dismissively. “I have no message whatsoever. I really have nothing to say,” Bowie baldly insists. Yet on other occasions, when his defences are down, Bowie acknowledges, “A lot of what I’ve done is about alienation.” He will tentatively say, “What I do is write mainly about very personal and rather lonely feelings, and I explore them in a different way each time.” But then the walls come up again and he snaps, “I’m a pop singer for Christ’s sake. As a person, I’m fairly uncomplicated.”
It could be said that David Bowie’s main talent is not songwriting but image manipulation. He maintains an ‘outsider’ status no matter how popular he becomes. This partly comes from his family history of mental illness, partly from the vaguely unsettling look of his odd eyes, partly from his bisexuality and, possibly, from his own wilful desire to forge his own path. Bowie began to cultivate ‘characters’ to combat his shyness when on stage. It was all an act. He was a performer playing a part, not a confessional diarist. And so there comes to be a parade of ‘David Bowies’ over the years. Which one is ‘real’? Are any of them ‘real’? Are they all ‘real’ in their own ways? Bowie’s art is the art of disguise. “I reinvented my image so many times that I’m in denial that I was originally an overweight Korean woman,” he jests. Just as Bowie’s style of music changes at a rapid pace, so does the image he uses to convey that music.
On 2 December 1966 David Bowie releases the single ‘Rubber Band’. It is produced by Mike Vernon and is issued on the Deram label.
‘The Laughing Gnome’, issued on 14 April 1967, is a bizarre psychedelic novelty. Commercially it is an ‘utter failure’ but it is actually quite charming. Bowie the narrator converses with the laughing gnome, his own voice speeded up in the recording studio to a high pitch for the part of the gnome. Like its predecessor, ‘The Laughing Gnome’ is produced by Mike Vernon and issued by Deram.
On 25 April 1967 Ken Pitt becomes David Bowie’s new manager.
Although The Buzz is still technically a going concern, in spring 1967 David Bowie joins a group called The Riot Squad as well. The line-up of The Riot Squad is: David Bowie (vocals, harmonica, saxophone), Rod Davies (guitar), George ‘Butch’ Davis (keyboards), Bob Evans (saxophone, vocals, flute), Brian ‘Croke’ Prebble (vocals, bass) and Derek ‘Del’ Roll (drums). (Note: An earlier version of The Riot Squad (1964-1966) included Mitch Mitchell on drums. Mitchell is now better known for his work with The Jimi Hendrix Experience.)
The debut album ‘David Bowie’ (1967) (UK no. 125) is released on 1 June 1967. Mike Vernon produces this disc, which is released on the Deram label. The album includes the earlier single ‘Rubber Band’ – but not ‘The Laughing Gnome’. Also present is Bowie’s next single, ‘Love You Till Tuesday’. When ‘Love You Til Tuesday’ is released on 14 July it maintains Bowie’s unbroken string of singles that fail to chart. Likewise, ‘David Bowie’ is ‘not very successful.’
Chastened, David Bowie ‘drops out of music’ for a time. Both The Buzz and The Riot Squad are abandoned. In 1967 David Bowie meets Lindsay Kemp and attends his dance classes. He spends time studying with Kemp’s Underground Mime Troupe and, in Bowie’s words, “living the most degenerate life with this rancid…theatre group.” Bowie later credits Kemp as a major influence on the more theatrical aspects of Bowie’s stage presentations. During his sabbatical from music, David Bowie joins a Buddhist group headed by Chimi Youngdong Rimpoche, a monk who recently escaped from Communist China. Bowie comes close to taking his vows and becoming a monk at the group’s headquarters in Scotland, but he backs away at the last minute. Finally, David Bowie studies acting. He appears in some avant-garde films and a commercial for Lyons Maid ‘Pop Ice Cream’.
In 1968 David Bowie moves into a flat with Hermione Farthingale (born Hermione Dennis), a dancer he has been dating. The couple met during a play for the British Broadcasting Corporation. The lovers form a ‘mixed media trio’ called Turquoise for a ‘few appearances.’ Turquoise consists of: David Bowie (vocals, guitar, mime), Hermione Farthingale (vocals, guitar, mime) and Tony Hill (guitar, vocals). In September 1968 this morphs into Feathers, a similar mixed media trio made up of: David Bowie (vocals, guitar, mime), Hermione Farthingale (vocals, guitar, mime) and John ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson (acoustic guitar). It may be recalled that Hutch was a member of Bowie’s former group, The Buzz. Feathers play folk music, recite poetry and perform mime. David and Hermione break-up in February 1969. The rechristened Bowie And Hutch play three more gigs as a duo – but then John Hutchinson pulls out. He is married and has a child to support and is not keen on this risky venture.
Like David Bowie, Marc Bolan is a future star of glam rock. He will become a pop star with his band T-Rex. In 1969 the act is still known as Tyrannosaurus Rex. On 22 February 1969 Tyrannosaurus Rex begins a tour of England with a concert at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester. David Bowie appears as the supporting act…but not in a musical capacity. Bowie combines two of his interests and puts on a one-man mime show, telling the story of a young Tibetan Buddhist monk. David Bowie tours with Tyrannosaurus Rex in this manner in February and March 1969.
David Bowie moves in with Mary Finnigan as a lodger. David and Mary soon begin an affair. Together with Christina Ostrom and Barrie Jackson, David Bowie and Mary Finnigan run a folk club on Sunday nights at the Three Tuns pub in Beckenham High Street. This evolves into a creative arts cooperative rather grandly named The Beckenham Arts Lab. It is basically ‘an aesthete’s version of a…commune…on London’s outskirts.’
In April 1969 David Bowie meets a model named Angie Barnett, an American citizen born Mary Angela Barnett in Cyprus. “Another of her boyfriends, a talent scout for Mercury Records, took her to a show I did at the Roundhouse,” David recalls. He adds, “She thought I was great.” Another version of the couple’s first meeting has it that the encounter takes place at a press reception for U.K. band King Crimson’s album ‘In The Court Of The Crimson King’ (1969) in October. Angie and David become a couple and she wields considerable influence over his career – to the frustration of Bowie’s manager Ken Pitt.
David Bowie finally returns to music with the release of the single ‘Space Oddity’ (UK no. 5) on 11 July 1969. In late 1968 Bowie saw the movie ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ (1968) and this inspires the title. The single is released to coincide with the Apollo 11 mission to the moon (the launch date of Apollo 11 is 16 July 1969; it lands on the moon on 20 July 1969; and Neil Armstrong steps on to the moon’s surface on 21 July 1969). ‘Space Oddity’ is issued on the Phillips record label. In ‘Space Oddity’, Bowie strums an acoustic guitar like a folk troubadour, narrating the voyage of ‘Major Tom’ into space. Gus Dudgeon’s high-tech production job contrasts strongly with the acoustic guitar underlay, but suits the song’s science-fiction pretensions. The character of Major Tom undergoes a wrenching personality dislocation, a recurring motif in David Bowie’s life and music. The vocals are sung in an archly e-nun-cia-ted fashion, influenced by U.K. singer and actor Anthony Newley, rising to a squealing shriek. ‘Space Oddity’ is David Bowie’s ‘commercial breakthrough.’
‘David Bowie’ (1969), released on 4 November, is issued by Phillips in the U.K. It shares a title with David Bowie’s previous album. In the United States, Mercury Records releases the disc under the name of ‘Man Of Words And Music’ (1969) instead. ‘Space Oddity’ and a song called ‘Memory Of A Free Festival’ are included on this album produced by Gus Dudgeon and Tony Visconti. The album contains ‘philosophical post-hippie lyrics on peace, love and morality, its acoustic folk rock occasionally fortified by harder rock.’ The album is ‘not a commercial success at the time of its release’ in 1969.
On 22 February 1970 David Bowie puts together a new band, The Hype. The members of this outfit are: David Bowie (vocals, guitar, piano), Mick Ronson (guitar), Tony Visconti (bass) and John Cambridge (drums). Mick Ronson becomes Bowie’s main musical foil for the next few years. Tony Visconti co-produced Bowie’s last album and will also have a lengthy association with the singer – but as a record producer rather than a bassist. Mick ‘Woody’ Woodmansey replaces John Cambridge on drums on 30 March 1970. The Hype is notable for wearing bright, colourful costumes on stage, the kind of attire that will soon be associated with glam rock. After a ‘disastrous opening gig at the London Roundhouse’, The Hype sink into history and the focus returns to Bowie as a solo act.
David Bowie releases a one-off single, ‘The Prettiest Star’, on 6 March 1970. This poised combination merges acoustic guitar with a string section. The overall effect is light and airy. The song is produced by Tony Visconti and released on the Mercury label. It fails to make an impact on the singles chart.
On 19 March 1970 David Bowie marries Angie Barnett at the register office in Bromley, England. David and Angie ‘agree to an open marriage that will accommodate unrestrained infidelities and Bowie’s bisexuality.’ The couple go on to have a son, Duncan Zowie Haywood Jones (born 30 May 1971). As a youngster, the child is commonly referred to with the rhyming name of Zowie Bowie. Later, David begins referring to the boy as Joey instead. As an adult, David Bowie’s son is known as Duncan Jones and directs such movies as ‘Moon’ (2009) and ‘Source Code’ (2011).
‘The World Of David Bowie’ (1970) is a compilation album issued by Decca in March. It collects together many of Bowie’s early commercially unsuccessful singles for labels such as Pye.
In March 1970 Kenneth Pitt ceases to be David Bowie’s manager. Tony DeFries replaces him in that role.
David Bowie’s third album, ‘The Man Who Sold The World’ (1970), is released by Mercury on 4 November. The album is produced by Tony Visconti. For the album cover, Bowie wears a long dress and reclines on a couch. The title track, ‘The Man Who Sold The World’, weaves its words sinuously around a serpentine guitar figure and chattering percussion. This album has a more hard rock sound, with the emphasis shifting from ‘acoustic strumming [to the] heavy guitar work of Mick Ronson.’ Thematically, ‘The Man Who Sold The World’ is a ‘vision of a future riddled with sexual perversion, dominance by machines, loneliness and helplessness.’ It has songs about ‘schizophrenia, paranoia [and] delusion.’ Titles include ‘All The Madmen’ (about Bowie’s half-brother, Terry) and ‘The Supermen’. David Bowie later claims, “’The Man Who Sold The World’ is actually the most drug-oriented album I’ve made. That was when I was most f***ed up.”
Early in 1971 David Bowie again assembles a band. The motivation this time is to evade Mercury Records to whom Bowie is still contracted. The band he creates is called Arnold Corns. The line-up is: Freddie Burretti (born Frederick Burrett, stagename Rudi Valentino) (lead vocals), David Bowie (vocals, guitar, piano), Mark Carr Pritchard (born Mark Pritchett) (guitar), Peter DeSomogyi (bass) and Tim Broadbent (drums). Arnold Corns release the single ‘Moonage Daydream’ on 25 February 1971 on B & C Records. The B side of the single, ‘Hang On To Yourself’, is issued as a single in its own right more than a year later in August 1972. Both songs are written and produced by Bowie. Neither of them is commercially successful and Arnold Corns quietly disappears.
‘Hunky Dory’ (1971) (UK no. 3, US no. 57, AUS no. 39) is a David Bowie album released by RCA on 17 December, beginning a long association between the singer and that record label. The disc is the first of four consecutive albums co-produced by David Bowie and Ken Scott. Bowie still sports long hair and a frock on the album cover. ‘Hunk Dory’ includes Bowie’s manifesto, ‘Changes’, a piano led statement of intent: “Every time I thought I’d got it made / It seemed the taste was not so sweet / So I turned myself to face me / But I’ve never caught a glimpse / Of how the others must see the faker / I’m much too fast to take that test.” ‘Oh! You Pretty Things’ expands the picture from the personal to the global, envisioning a new society of morally and sexually ambiguous beings, insisting, “Gotta make way for the Homo Superior.” ‘Life On Mars?’ maintains the themes, accompanied predominantly by piano, casting a weary eye over society – “Look at those cavemen go / It’s the freakiest show” – while pondering, “Is there life on Mars?” ‘Hunk Dory’ is a ‘blend of gay camp, flashy rock guitar and saloon-piano balladry.’ David Bowie says of ‘Hunky Dory’, “It provided me, for the first time in my life, with an actual audience.”
Although David Bowie’s cross-dressing adventures on the covers of his last two albums may have raised suspicions about his sexuality, up to this point it is all conjecture. That is about to change. “Someone asked me in an interview once – I believe it was in 1971 – if I were gay. I said, ‘No, I’m bisexual’,” David Bowie recalls. The interview to which he refers is published in the U.K. music newspaper ‘Melody Maker’ on 22 January 1972. In this way, ‘David Bowie becomes the first sexually ambiguous British pop star.’
Although a case may be made that ‘Hunky Dory’ (or even ‘The Man Who Sold The World’) is a glam rock album, it is David Bowie’s next disc that really establishes the genre. It is arguable that Bowie is not the first glam rock artist, but he is certainly one of its most high profile performers. So what is glam rock? ‘Glam’ is short for ‘glamour.’ The (mostly) male glam rock stars dress up in colourful costumes and apply make-up, lipstick and eye-liner, often creating an androgynous image. Musically, glam trades in loud hard rock guitar chords and crunchy beats, contrasting rather nicely with the fey appearance of the artist. “Glam really did plant seeds for a new identity,” insists Bowie. It would seem to create an environment where something other than straightforward heterosexuality may find a home.
David Bowie creates the character of Ziggy Stardust to embody glam rock. Bowie conceives the role for a projected West End musical about a transgender space boy who becomes a rock star. Bowie intends to play the title role until he gets tired of it and then someone else can take over. It never appears as a musical and, to many fans, Bowie and Ziggy are interchangeable. The Ziggy Stardust character is launched on 10 February 1972 at a gig at the Toby Jug pub in Tolworth. As Ziggy, David Bowie sports a bright red “screwed-down hairdo” and a series of jumpsuits…sometimes even an eyepatch. Ziggy is allegedly a mix of Iggy Pop (formerly of U.S. proto punk band The Stooges) and Lou Reed (ex-leader of U.S. artful primitives band The Velvet Underground). Further blurring fiction and fact, the name of Ziggy Stardust’s imaginary backing band, The Spiders From Mars, becomes the name of David Bowie’s real-life backing group: Mick Ronson (guitar), Trevor Bolder (bass) and Mick ‘Woody’ Woodmansey (drums). Of all the musicians Bowie works with over the course of his career, this the unit with which he is most associated. Ziggy Stardust is ‘the most enduring of all [Bowie’s] theatrical devices.’
David Bowie’s greatest album is the ‘glitter-rock juggernaut’ called ‘The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars’ (1972) (UK no. 5, US no. 21, AUS no. 11). The album is released on 6 June. The cover image shows the singer in the guise of Ziggy in Heddon Street, off London’s Regent Street. ‘Ziggy Stardust’, the song, introduces a “leather messiah” who is “well hung, snow white tan.” Ziggy seems to partake of the essences of famed U.S. guitarist the late Jimi Hendrix (“Ziggy played guitar/ He played it left hand”) and Iggy Pop (in his sobriquet of ‘Ziggy’). Of course it is Mick Ronson who really supplies Ziggy’s unearthly, strangled guitar notes in the song. The nominal single from the album is ‘Starman’ (UK no. 10, US no. 65, AUS no. 37) b/w ‘Suffragette City’. ‘Starman’ is Bowie’s finest single. With its acoustic verses, it provides a bridge from the last era of Bowie’s career to this. In the same way that kids worshipped the “Homo Superior” of ‘Oh! You Pretty Things’, they now flock to the “crazy cosmic jive” of a “Starman / Waiting in the skies / He’d like to come and meet us / But he thinks he’d blow our minds.” On the flipside, ‘Suffragette City’ is a freight train of squalling fuzz guitar as Ziggy/Bowie moans in mock (?) despair over the demands of groupies – “I can’t take her this time / No way” – before conceding to “Wham! Bam! Thank you, ma’am.” Also present on this disc is ‘Lady Stardust’ and reincarnations of the two songs from the abandoned Arnold Corns band, ‘Moonage Daydream’ and ‘Hang On To Yourself’. The album closes with ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicide’, a blend of acoustic guitar, disillusionment and saxophone. The album ‘The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars’ is the disc that cracks the U.S. market for David Bowie. Triumphant, he proclaims, “I consider myself responsible for a whole new school of pretensions.” Later, he reflects that, “From 1972 through to about 1976, I was the ultimate rock star.”
With his new found musical clout, David Bowie gives away his composition ‘All The Young Dudes’ to British band Mott The Hoople. Released on 28 July 1972, the song resuscitates the band’s career and Bowie goes on to produce their next album, also titled ‘All The Young Dudes’ (1972).
On 1 September 1972 David Bowie releases the stand alone single ‘John, I’m Only Dancing’ (UK no. 12), notable for its big, thumping beat. It is not released in the U.S. until 1976, ‘presumably because of the song’s supposedly gay lyrics.’
David Bowie and his guitarist Mick Ronson co-produce ‘Transformer’ (1972), a solo album by one of Bowie’s influences, Lou Reed (formerly of The Velvet Underground). The album is issued on 8 November. Bowie also provides some backing vocals on the album, perhaps most noticeably on ‘Satellite Of Love’.
RCA makes the most of David Bowie’s higher commercial profile. They obtain the rights to his earlier albums and reissue ‘David Bowie’ (1969) as ‘Space Oddity’ (1972) (UK no. 17, US no. 16, AUS no. 21). The song, ‘Space Oddity’ (UK no. 16, US no. 15, AUS no. 9) is also rereleased as a single in 1973. In addition, RCA reissues ‘The Man Who Sold The World’ (1970) (UK no. 24, US no. 105, AUS no. 44) in 1972 – but it retains the same title. Deram Records gets in on the act too, reissuing ‘The World Of David Bowie’ (1970) compilation as an expanded double album called ‘Images 1966-1967’ (1973) (US no. 144) in February. ‘The Laughing Gnome’ (UK no. 6, AUS no. 57) from this set is also rereleased as a single in 1973.
On 13 April, David Bowie releases his next album, ‘Aladdin Sane’ (1973) (UK no. 1, US no. 17, AUS no. 7) – ‘a lad insane’, geddit? This album’s cover shows Bowie’s pale visage emblazoned with a painted red and blue lightning bolt. The songs on this disc both consolidate and advance Bowie’s musical traits. The title track, ‘Aladdin Sane’, with its wanderingly eccentric piano recalls the ‘Hunky Dory’ phase. The album’s biggest hit is ‘Jean Genie’ (UK no. 2, US no. 71, AUS no. 42), a blasting anthem that is ‘purportedly about Iggy Pop.’ From being one of Bowie’s idols, Iggy has become one of his acquaintances. Iggy’s unhinged, unpremeditated antics are something the artier and cerebral Bowie can only admire and vaguely emulate. Mind you, Bowie can score a commercial success while Iggy remains an acquired taste for a cult audience. ‘Aladdin Sane’ also offers the 1950s nostalgia of ‘Drive-In Saturday’ (UK no. 3), complete with saxophone and doo wop harmonies. For good measure, there is a ‘raunchy’ cover of the 1967 Rolling Stones song ‘Let’s Spend The Night Together’. Rounding out the set are Bowie notables such as ‘Cracked Actor’ and ‘Lady Grinning Soul’. “I think ‘Aladdin’ was much more in the area of ‘Ziggy Goes To America’,” observes its creator.
On 3 July 1973 David Bowie announces his ‘retirement’ live on stage at London’s Hammersmith Odeon. “This night shall always be special in my memory. Not only is it the last show of my British tour…but it is the last show I will ever do,” he declares before, appropriately enough, swinging into ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicide’. People assume Bowie is talking about his own retirement, but the fatigued performer is really killing off the Ziggy Stardust persona. “[Ziggy] wouldn’t leave me alone for years…I really did have doubts about my sanity,” Bowie reveals. The Hammersmith Odeon gig is also his last show with The Spiders From Mars.
A couple of David Bowie songs from previous albums are exhumed to become singles in their own right during 1973-1974. This is a move orchestrated by RCA and Bowie’s manager Tony DeFries ‘to gain maximum mileage out of their star.’ These ‘new’ singles are ‘Life On Mars?’ (UK no. 3, AUS no. 67) (from ‘Hunky Dory’) on 22 July 1973 and ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicide’ (UK no. 22) (from ‘Ziggy Stardust’) on 11 April 1974. “Being shoved into the top forty scene was an unusual experience,” Bowie later smirks.
David Bowie’s next project, released on 19 October, is ‘Pin-Ups’ (1973) (UK no. 1, US no. 23, AUS no. 4), a collection of cover versions of songs from the mid-1960s. On the album cover, Bowie poses with Twiggy, the female fashion model icon of that period. The contents of the disc are tunes first recorded by such acts as The Easybeats, The Kinks, Pink Floyd, The Pretty Things and The Yardbirds. The Velvet Underground’s ‘White Light/White Heat’ is also recorded, but doesn’t make the final cut. The hit single from ‘Pin-Ups’ is a cover version of ‘Sorrow’ (UK no. 3, AUS no. 1), a song first recorded by The McCoys in 1965 – though some may be more familiar with the 1966 version by U.K. act The Merseys.
David Bowie conceives the idea of a musical based on George Orwell’s novel of a dystopic future, ‘1984’ (1949). However, Orwell’s widow denies Bowie the rights to the book. He reworks the concept in his own image instead. In October 1973 Bowie mounts the ‘1980 Floor Show’ at London’s Marquee Club. He then travels by boat to the U.S.A., taking up residence in Los Angeles for the next few years. On 14 February 1974 it is reported that Bowie has turned down a request from a Gay Liberation group to compose ‘the world’s first Gay National Anthem.’
The end product of David Bowie’s revision of the ‘1984’ concept is the album ‘Diamond Dogs’ (1974) (UK no. 1, US no. 5, AUS no. 3), released on 24 April. Bowie also acts as producer on this album. Despite ‘killing off’ Ziggy Stardust, this album is not a radical reinvention of Bowie’s performing persona. In many ways, it is more like a continuance of his recordings to date. The title track, ‘Diamond Dogs’ (UK no. 21, AUS no. 66), depicts a glam, flash new humanity that combines a “silicone hump and a ten-inch stump” in a single body. It is still powered by the kind of grinding riff that Mick Ronson brought to Bowie’s sound. Speaking of riffs, the album’s most successful single, ‘Rebel Rebel’ (UK no. 5, US no. 64, AUS no. 28), features one of the most recognisable riffs in Bowie’s catalogue (and the guitar part is played by Bowie himself) while, again, paying tribute to a gaudy creature: “You’ve torn your dress / And your face is a mess.” Also present is ‘1984’, Bowie’s most literal take on George Orwell’s concepts. The lyrics archly warn, “They’ll split your pretty cranium and fill it full of air / You’ll be shooting up on anything and brother you won’t care.” Musically, ‘1984’ swaps the jagged guitars for a swooping, dramatic string section, with Bowie’s vocals at their most theatrical.
‘David Live’ (1974) (UK no. 2, US no. 8, AUS no. 9) is released on 29 October. It records for posterity material from a David Bowie concert at Philadelphia’s Tower Theater on 10 July 1974. This double album set yields a cover version of Eddie Floyd’s 1966 soul song ‘Knock On Wood’ (UK no. 10, AUS no. 49). American guitarist Earl Slick is featured in David Bowie’s band at this time. The ‘Diamond Dogs’ tour of North America from June to December 1974 sees David Bowie ‘slide from heavy cocaine use into addiction, producing severe physical debilitation, paranoia and emotional problems.’
On 30 January 1975 David Bowie fires his manager, Tony DeFries. According to Bowie, DeFries ‘attempted to use the money generated by [Bowie] to build a managerial empire, with disastrous results’ such as the extravagant set used on the last tour being scrapped midway through the tour because it was too expensive. Michael Lippmann, Bowie’s attorney, takes over as the singer’s manager.
“The lowest point in my life was in 1975, when I was living in Los Angeles. Drugs had taken my life away from me,” David Bowie later says.
While ‘Diamond Dogs’ posed as a new beginning, the true reinvention of David Bowie comes with ‘Young Americans’ (1975) (UK no. 2, US no. 9, AUS no. 9), released on 7 March. Production duties for this disc are shared between Tony Visconti, Harry Maslin and David Bowie. The album is recorded in Philadelphia. Bowie describes it as ‘plastic soul.’ Soul music is a genre most associated with African-American recording artists in the 1960s. It infuses the dance beats of rhythm and blues with characteristics from gospel music. But this is the 1970s and David Bowie is a white Englishman. Yet, just as Bowie could create Ziggy Stardust from fragments of Iggy Pop, Lou Reed and Jimi Hendrix, he can emulate soul music. Of course it is not authentic, but that’s why Bowie calls it ‘plastic soul.’ On the title track, ‘Young Americans’ (UK no. 18, US no. 28, AUS no. 27), a squad of black female backing vocalists combine with the Philadelphia session musicians to make Bowie sound like a peer of the early adopters of what comes to be known as disco music. ‘Fame’ (UK no. 17, US no. 1) is co-written by Bowie, guitarist Carlos Alomar and former member of The Beatles, John Lennon. The basis of the song is a very repetitive guitar part over which Lennon sings the word ‘aim.’ Carlos Alomar adds a stiffly rhythmic, choking, spluttering disco guitar sound. Bowie stitches the whole thing together, changing ‘aim’ to ‘Fame’, and turning it into a meditation on the joys and perils of notoriety: “Makes you loose / Hard to swallow…Gotta get a rent-a-gun.” ‘Fame’ tops the U.S. singles charts for two non-consecutive weeks on 20 September 1975 and 4 October 1975. ‘Young Americans’ also includes the lush ‘Can You Hear Me’ in which Bowie’s vocals move from a whisper to a croon to something otherworldly.
‘Space Oddity’ (UK no. 1) is rereleased on 26 September 1975. This 1969 song was previously reissued in 1973. However, this time it tops the U.K. singles chart for two weeks, 1 November 1975 to 8 November 1975. The 1975 ‘Space Oddity’ single is also notable for its B side, one of Bowie’s most overlooked tunes, ‘Velvet Goldmine’. It was recorded during the sessions for ‘Ziggy Stardust’ and is an innuendo laced anthem to decadence.
David Bowie ends Michael Lippmann’s tenure as his manager in 1976. On 27 January 1976 Bowie brings a lawsuit against Lippmann contending he took excessive fees for himself. From this point on, Bowie has no official manager; he simply employs advisers as necessary.
On the title track of ‘Station To Station’ (1976) (UK no. 5, US no. 3, AUS no. 8) David Bowie proclaims himself ‘the Thin White Duke’. The album is released on 23 January and is co-produced by David Bowie and Harry Maslin. ‘Station To Station’ continues the ‘plastic soul’ phase from ‘Young Americans’, but is a bit colder and artier. On the startling ‘Golden Years’ (UK no. 8, US no. 10, AUS no. 34) a harmonica is added to a relentlessly funky tune. Bowie has now so fully absorbed soul and disco that he can, through sheer artistry, produce something equal to those he emulates. In a chocolate dark voice, on ‘Golden Years’ he intones, “Don’t let me hear you say life’s taking you nowhere,” before adding in a shrill falsetto, “Angel.” ‘TVC15’ (UK no. 33, US no. 64), apparently an ode to a mysterious device, is ‘New Orleans rhythm and blues as robotic funk.’ ‘Station To Station’ contains only six songs, five of them penned by Bowie. The exception is ‘Wild Is The Wind’, written by Dmitri Tiomkin and Ned Washington. It is a strangely romantic vision with David Bowie’s warbling vocal threatening to totally derail the sweeping arrangement at any moment. ‘Station To Station’ is recorded ‘in a blizzard of cocaine in Los Angeles.’
The embodiment of David Bowie’s ‘plastic soul’ phase, the Think White Duke, first appears on stage in Seattle, Washington, on 3 February 1976. Although the name was first used in the lyrics to the title track of ‘Station To Station’, this is the earliest physical manifestation of the character. The Thin White Duke is Bowie at his most icy. Ziggy Stardust’s freakishness is sacrificed for a more severe look consisting of black trousers and waistcoat, crisp white shirt and Bowie’s carrot-top hair slicked back. Imperiously, he sways across the stage, a disco crooner. The Thin White Duke is second only to Ziggy Stardust in Bowie’s catalogue of alter egos. From 1976 to the end of the decade, the core of Bowie’s backing band is: Carlos Alomar (guitar), George Murray (bass) and Dennis Davis (drums).
David Bowie stars in the movie ‘The Man Who Fell to Earth’ (1976), released on 18 March. He plays an alien on Earth. Although released after ‘Station To Station’ and the stage debut of the Thin White Duke persona, filming for this movie took place earlier. It is possible to contend that Bowie’s otherworldly character here is the template for the Thin White Duke.
The compilation album ‘ChangesOneBowie’ (1976) (UK no. 2, US no. 10, AUS no. 8) is released on 20 May. This ‘greatest hits collection sums up the finest disguises of his golden years: …lonely astro boy…sensitive poet…sex-crazed glitter rocker…and the utterly deranged soul crooner.’ The album also gives ‘John, I’m Only Dancing’, Bowie’s 1972 single, its first U.S. outing.
David Bowie undertakes a three and a half month tour of Europe and North America. During this time, he exhibits some strange conduct and makes some outrageous pronouncements. He is detained on the border between Russia and Poland with Nazi paraphernalia in his possession. Bowie is quoted saying such things in the press as: “Adolf Hitler was one of the first rock stars…Britain could benefit from a fascist leader…It doesn’t look good for America…They let people like me trammel all over their country…I’ll lead this b****y country…The masses are silly…” And, in reference to Los Angeles, “The f***ing place should be wiped off the face of the Earth.” Later, a rueful David Bowie blames his ‘pro-fascism comments and his behaviour during the period on his addiction and the character of the Thin White Duke.’ “I was out of my mind, totally crazed,” Bowie claims.
Perhaps as a matter of necessity for his own peace of mind, David Bowie moves to Switzerland in 1976. He cuts back on the cocaine and starts painting again.
By the end of 1976, David Bowie is living in Berlin, Germany. He set out to clean up his drug addictions and revitalise his career. Bowie lives in a small apartment over an auto-parts shop in the Turkish area. He collaborates with Brian Eno, a former member of Bowie’s one-time glam rock peers Roxy Music, who has ventured into rather experimental art rock textures in his solo career.
Shaking off the Thin White Duke, David Bowie at first titles his latest work ‘New Music: Night And Day’. However by the time it is released on 14 January, the album is called ‘Low’ (1977) (UK no. 2, US no. 11, AUS no. 10). Coupled with the side-on cover portrait, the album title may be interpreted as ‘Low Profile’, which seems to be Bowie’s chosen mode of operation at this point. He leaves it to Brian Eno to promote the album rather than make himself available to the press. ‘Low’ is the first part of the so-called ‘Berlin trilogy’ and the first of four consecutive albums co-produced by David Bowie and his old colleague Tony Visconti. ‘Low’ is ‘more abstract…lyrics are sporadic and optional’ with one whole side of the album being instrumental. The album’s most commercially successful piece, taken from the non-instrumental side, is the danceable ‘Sound And Vision’ (UK no. 3, US no. 69, AUS no. 74). Does its creator really sit with “Pale blinds drawn all day / Nothing to do, nothing to say”? ‘Breaking Glass’, co-written by Bowie, bassist George Murray and drummer Dennis Davis, seems to be a soundtrack to mental anguish featuring tortured guitar, discordant synthesiser notes and militaristic drums. ‘Warszawa’, co-written by Bowie and Eno, inspires the name of British post-punk band Warsaw who evolves into Joy Division and then, later, New Order.
David Bowie spends much of 1977 working with friend and inspiration Iggy Pop. Bowie produces Iggy’s album ‘The Idiot’ (1977), released in March. This disc includes ‘China Girl’, a song co-written by Bowie and Pop, which David Bowie will, years later, record on one of his own albums. The rhythm section on ‘The Idiot’ is the brothers Tony Sales (bass) and Hunt Sales (drums). David Bowie plays keyboards in Iggy Pop’s touring band for Iggy’s March-April 1977 tour of the U.K., Europe and U.S.A. Bowie also produces Iggy’s album ‘Lust For Life’ (1977), released in August. This includes ‘Tonight’, another Bowie-Pop co-authored song that Bowie will later record himself.
On 11 September 1977 David Bowie appears with pre-rock popular singer Bing Crosby on the taping of Crosby’s Christmas television special for the CBS network. The pair duet on ‘Little Drummer Boy’ and ‘Peace On Earth’. This will be released as a single – but not until five years later.
‘Heroes’ (1977) (UK no. 3, US no. 35, AUS no. 6) is the title of the David Bowie album released on 14 October. The influence of both Brian Eno and Berlin continue to be felt on this set but it ‘incorporates pop and rock to a greater extent’ in its arty, electronic soundscapes. The title track, ‘Heroes’ (UK no. 12, AUS no. 11), is co-written by David Bowie and Brian Eno. A particularly effective piece, ‘Heroes’ uses pulsing synthesisers to frame a tale of doomed lovers separated by the Berlin wall. In one of his most moving vocal performances, Bowie asserts, “I…I will be king / And you…you will be queen.” Voice breaking, he continues, “Nothing will drive us away / We can be heroes / Just for one day.” Guitarist Carlos Alomar joins Bowie and Eno as the composing team behind ‘The Secret Life Of Arabia’, a track that teeters uneasily between camp disco and poetic profundity. By contrast, ‘Beauty And The Beast’ (UK no. 39) – written by Bowie alone – lands more squarely in the light-hearted realm, sketching out a mismatched couple in a jovial tone. Robert Fripp, once a member of art rock outfit King Crimson as well as being an occasional co-conspirator of Brian Eno, contributes his distinctive guitar work to this album.
Having overcome his problems with cocaine, David Bowie undertakes a U.S. tour starting in San Diego, California, on 29 March 1978. ‘Stage’ (1978) (UK no. 5, US no. 44, AUS no. 11), a double album, documents live performances from this tour in such cities as Philadelphia, Providence and Boston. ‘Stage’ features both Bowie’s ‘early pop, rock and soul material and his more recent experimental music.’ A live version of ‘Breaking Glass’ (UK no. 54) (originally from ‘Low’) is released as a single.
The Berlin trilogy concludes with ‘Lodger’ (1979) (UK no. 4, US no. 20, AUS no. 11), released on 18 May. David Bowie’s sense of humour is apparent in the jaunty ‘Boys Keep Swinging’ (UK no. 7, AUS no. 85). He extols the joys of being a boy: “Life is the pop of a cherry…You can wear a uniform.” Bowie co-writes ‘Boys Keep Swinging’ with Brian Eno. The same duo composes ‘Look Back In Anger’, which has a busy arrangement and ominous vocal. Bowie and Eno co-write ‘D.J.’ (UK no. 29, AUS no. 98) with guitarist Carlos Alomar. A sample of cyber weirdness, ‘D.J.’ veers like a seasick sailor. The song’s disc jockey narrator admits, “I am what I play,” while imagining, “I’ve got a girl out there / I suppose / I think she’s dancing / But what do I know?” On ‘Lodger’, Bowie uses ‘the central motif of the eternal traveller adrift in the world, searching for home, love and roots but able to define himself only through motion.’
In December 1979, David Bowie issues the stand alone single ‘John, I’m Only Dancing (Again)’ (UK no. 12). As the name suggests, this is Bowie’s 1972 song ‘John, I’m Only Dancing’ given a drastic disco makeover to the point where it is barely recognisable as the same song. This dance music version is co-produced by Bowie and Tony Visconti.
At the end of 1979 David Bowie splits up with his wife, Angie. The divorce is made official on 8 February 1980. David retains custody of their son, Zowie (a.k.a. Duncan or Joey).
On 15 February 1980 David Bowie releases the one-off single ‘Alabama Song’ (UK no. 23). This darkly theatrical piece is a version of a Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill composition from 1927.
David Bowie plays the part of the tragically deformed John Merrick in Bernard Pomerance’s stage play ‘The Elephant Man’. Bowie debuts in the role on 19 July 1980 in Denver, Colorado, U.S.A. and goes on to perform the part a number of times during 1980-1981.
David Bowie’s next album both summarises his career to date and prepares for the future. On ‘Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)’ (1980) (UK no. 1, US no. 12, AUS no. 1), released on 12 September, he seems ‘to rule the shadow creatures instead of the other way around.’ The first – and most successful – single from the album, ‘Ashes To Ashes’ (UK no. 1, AUS no. 3), revisits “Major Tom” from Bowie’s breakthrough single ‘Space Oddity’. Yet now, “We know Major Tom’s a junkie,” and Bowie borrows the song title from the Christian funeral rites, symbolically putting to rest his earlier personas. The invocations are framed by a jerky, disorienting synthesiser pang. The innovative and disturbing music video for ‘Ashes To Ashes’ confirms Bowie’s artistic clout and also tenuously links him to the emergent new romantic musical genre. Steve Strange, soon to find fame as vocalist for new romantic act Visage, appears in the video. ‘Ashes To Ashes’ tops the British singles charts for two weeks, 30 August to 6 September 1980. Guitarist Robert Fripp is showcased on the album’s second single, ‘Fashion’ (UK no. 5, AUS no. 27), where it sounds like his guitar solos are unwinding in reverse. Bowie gets in some lyrical jabs too, equating fashion with fascism: “There’s a brand new dance full of tension and fear / They’re doing it over there, but we don’t do it here.” ‘Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)’ (UK no. 20), the title track, is blustering and amusing. ‘Up The Hill Backwards’ (UK no. 32) employs a shunting rhythm divided by delicate bells ringing. Generally, the album is considered ‘far more direct musically and lyrically.’
‘Under Pressure’ (UK no. 1, US no. 7, AUS no. 6) is a throbbing duet David Bowie records with U.K. band, Queen. This single is released on 25 October 1981 and tops the U.K. singles chart for two weeks, 28 November 1981 to 5 December 1981. ‘Under Pressure’ is co-written by Bowie and the four members of Queen and winds up on Queen’s album ‘Hot Space’ (1982). ‘Wild Is The Wind’ (UK no. 24) is David Bowie’s oddball sweeping cover version of a 1957 Johnny Mathis song. ‘Wild Is The Wind’ is included on the compilation album ‘ChangesTwoBowie’ (1981) (UK no. 22, US no. 68, AUS no. 53), released in November. ‘David Bowie In Bertolt Brecht’s Baal’ (UK no. 29) is an EP released on 13 February 1982. It includes the morbid ‘The Drowned Girl’, a Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill composition, which Bowie speaks as much as sings. Appearing in March 1982 is the single ‘Cat People (Putting Out Fire)’ (UK no. 26, US no. 9, AUS no. 15). Its intoned verse leads to a shrill bridge and a hot mix. The song is co-written by Bowie and disco maestro Giorgio Moroder and is part of the soundtrack for the motion picture ‘Cat People’ (1982). Bowie’s 1977 duet with Bing Crosby on ‘Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy’ (UK no. 3) is finally released in November 1982 in time for that year’s Christmas season. RCA releases the compilation disc ‘Bowie Rare’ (1982) (UK no. 34, AUS no. 47) in December.
‘Let’s Dance’ (1983) (UK no. 1, US no. 4, AUS no. 1), released on 14 April, represents the ‘peak of popularity and commercial success’ for David Bowie. The album is co-produced by Bowie and Nile Rodgers of U.S. disco act, Chic. ‘Let’s Dance’ is ‘a worldwide chart topper.’ His first album for EMI after years on RCA gives Bowie’s new sponsors reason to be pleased with their investment. The title track, ‘Let’s Dance’ (UK no. 1, US no. 8, AUS no. 2), has hard choppy horns and funky bass and drums. Its sound suggests a new avenue for Bowie’s talents and it sits comfortably alongside such early 1980s artists as Prince and Eurythmics. On this album, Bowie employs blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan who was, at the time, still an unknown. ‘Let’s Dance’ also has an eye-catching video featuring indigenous Australian dancers Terry Roberts and Joelene King. ‘Let’s Dance’ reaches no. 1 on the British singles chart for two weeks, 23 April 1983 to 30 April 1983. A line from the song ‘Let’s Dance’ gives a title to the accompanying ‘Serious Moonlight’ tour. ‘China Girl’ (UK no. 2, US no. 3, AUS no. 15), the song co-written by David Bowie and Iggy Pop that first appeared on the latter’s album ‘The Idiot’ (1977), is covered by David Bowie for this album. Its title is a cue for a semi-oriental guitar figure. The music video shows Bowie being rather convincingly intimate with a girl of Asian appearance – though Geeling Ng, the young lady in question, is actually from New Zealand! A fast-paced third single, ‘Modern Love’ (UK no. 2, US no. 6, AUS no. 6), is also well received. ‘Let’s Dance’ is an album that offers up ‘a hearty, heartily hetero Mr. Entertainment without a single disturbing thought on his mind.’
Curiously, in 1983 David Bowie tells a reporter that his purported bisexuality was a sham. ‘He claims he made the story up to create more mystery about himself.’ It is perhaps a testament to Bowie’s crafty image manipulation that it is hard to know the truth of this ‘revelation.’ For a sham, the bisexuality masquerade was maintained for a long-time. Alternately, this renunciation could be the sham and part of Bowie’s new heterosexual image. Judge for yourself what is the truth and what is fiction. Although Bowie’s female partners are (often) a matter of public record, his alleged male lovers remain more shadowy. Those men rumoured to be linked to Bowie in a romantic or sexual sense include Mick Ronson, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, Mick Jagger and Tony Zanetta.
It is around this time that the British music press take to calling David Bowie ‘the Dame.’ (The epithet ‘dates back to the 1980s and the height of his mainstream success and is initially used as a putdown.’) In British pantomime theatrical productions, ‘the Dame’ is a comical old woman, a role often filled by a beloved male performer dressed up in drag.
David Bowie has a couple of notable film roles as an actor in movies released in 1983. He plays an aging vampire in ‘The Hunger’ (1983), released on 29 April. His co-stars in this film are Susan Sarandon and Catherine Deneuve. Bowie also appears in ‘Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence’ (1983), released on 10 May. This is a World War Two drama about a Japanese prisoner of war camp.
RCA, David Bowie’s former record label, releases the compilation set ‘Golden Years’ (1983) (UK no. 33, US no. 99, AUS no. 25) in August.
After 1983, it is said that David Bowie’s career ‘slowly sinks into mediocrity.’
‘Tonight’ (1984) (UK no. 1, US no. 1, AUS no. 4) is released on 1 September. This album is co-produced by David Bowie, Derek Bramble and Hugh Padgham. Lead single ‘Blue Jean’ (UK no. 6, US no. 2, AUS no. 12) is a buzzing good time filled with blazing horns. ‘Tonight’ – the album’s title track – is a cover version of a song from 1977 co-written by Bowie and Iggy Pop and performed first by Iggy Pop on ‘Lust For Life’ (1977). David Bowie’s version of ‘Tonight’ (UK no. 53, US no. 32, AUS no. 70) is recast as a duet between Bowie and Tina Turner. ‘Loving The Alien’ (UK no. 19, AUS no. 65), an ode to weirdness, shows that Bowie has not completely abandoned subversiveness. ‘Tonight’ ‘receives poor reviews and is ultimately a commercial disappointment.’
‘This Is Not America’ (UK no. 14, US no. 7, AUS no. 33) is released as a single in February 1985. A duet between David Bowie and the jazz fusion outfit The Pat Metheny Group co-written by David Bowie, Lyle Mays (keyboards) and Pat Metheny (guitar), the song is co-produced by Bowie and Metheny. The somewhat itchy uneasiness inherent in this mid-tempo ballad is so it thematically connects with the soundtrack for the movie ‘The Falcon and the Snowman’ (1985), a conspiracy thriller starring Timothy Hutton and Sean Penn. David Bowie teams up with Rolling Stones vocalist Mick Jagger for a duet cover version of ‘Dancing In The Streets’ (UK no. 1, AUS no. 1), the 1964 song by Martha And The Vandellas. This single is created to assist the all-star charity concert Live Aid. Bowie and Jagger’s ‘Dancing In The Streets’ is issued on 12 August 1985. David Bowie’s next three singles are all associated with movies. ‘Absolute Beginners’ (UK no. 2, US no. 9, AUS no. 5), released in March 1986, comes from the movie ‘Absolute Beginners’ (1986). The song is a retro 1950s pastiche. Bowie also has a role in the film’s cast. ‘Underground’ (UK no. 21, US no. 18, AUS no. 26), released in June 1986, comes from the movie ‘Labyrinth’ (1986). The song is a strange mix of jaunty celebration and sinister undertones, but is quite fitting for the Jim Henson directed film. Bowie is also one of the stars of the film, taking the role of the goblin king. ‘When The Wind Blows’ (UK no. 44), also released in June 1986, comes from the movie ‘When the Wind Blows’ (1986). Co-written by Bowie and Erdal Kizilcay, the song frames the burnt vocal with troubled guitar and an air of doom. ‘When the Wind Blows’ is an unsettling animated feature film. It is about the effect of a distant nuclear bomb detonation on a senior citizen couple in a small English village. Although David Bowie furnishes the title song, the soundtrack for ‘When the Wind Blows’ also features Roger Waters (of Pink Floyd fame), Genesis and Hugh Cornwell (formerly of The Stranglers).
‘Never Let Me Down’ (1987) (UK no. 6, US no. 34, AUS no. 19) is released on 27 April. This disc is co-produced by David Bowie and David Richards. This album features ‘Day-In, Day-Out’ (UK no. 17, US no. 3, AUS no. 33) and ‘Time Will Crawl’ (UK no. 33, US no. 7), two interesting pieces that attempt to reconcile commercial requirements with Bowie’s intrinsic peculiarities. The title track, ‘Never Let Me Down’ (UK no. 34, US no. 15, AUS no. 63), is co-written by Bowie and guitarist Carlos Alomar. In the wake of the disc, Bowie undertakes the ‘Glass Spider’ tour starting on 30 May 1987. David Bowie’s one-time fellow student at Bromley Technical School, Peter Frampton, plays guitar in Bowie’s band on this tour. David Bowie will later describe ‘Never Let Me Down’ as his “nadir…an awful album.” On another occasion, the singer points to ‘Tonight’ (1984) and ‘Never Let Me Down’ as ‘his weakest albums’, though this seems a bit harsh.
The time seems ripe for a change. David Bowie reinvents himself again. He grows a neatly-trimmed beard and submerges his own identity in a hypothetically democratic band called Tin Machine. The line-up of the group is: David Bowie (vocals), Reeves Gabrels (guitar), Tony Sales (bass) and Hunt Sales (drums). It may be recalled that David Bowie previously worked with the Sales brothers, using them as the rhythm section for Iggy Pop’s album ‘The Idiot’ (1977) – which Bowie produced. Tin Machine is described as ‘an art-metal band.’ They purvey a harder, louder version of rock than previous Bowie outings.
‘Tin Machine’ (1989) (UK no. 3, US no. 28, AUS no. 42), released on 22 May, is the first album credited to the group called Tin Machine. The disc is co-produced by Tin Machine and Tim Palmer. David Bowie pens their first (and best) single, the confronting ‘Under The God’ (UK no. 51, US no. 8). The group composition ‘Tin Machine’ (UK no. 48) is blended with a cover version of Bob Dylan’s 1965 song ‘Maggie’s Farm’. ‘Prisoner of Love’ (UK no. 77) is co-written by David Bowie and Tin Machine’s guitarist, Reeves Gabrels.
Rykodisc puts out the David Bowie four CD box set ‘Sound + Vision’ (1989) (UK no. 63, US no. 97, AUS no. 72) on 19 September. Amongst the tracks on this compilation is Bowie’s version of Bruce Springsteen’s 1973 song ‘It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City’. The song was probably recorded by Bowie in November 1974 – though its origins are sufficiently foggy for it to also be rumoured to come from the sessions for ‘Station To Station’ (1976). Although, at the time, Bowie was a bigger star than Springsteen, the song’s author was allegedly unhappy with the version laid down by David Bowie and this appears to be the reason for it being shelved until this time.
EMI releases the compilation album ‘ChangesBowie’ (1990) (UK no. 1, US no. 34, AUS no. 6) on 20 March. This contains ‘Fame ‘90’ (UK no. 28, AUS no. 85), a questionable remix of 1975’s Bowie hit ‘Fame’.
In October 1990 David Bowie meets Iman (born in Somalia as Iman Mohamed Abdulmajid). The singer and the supermodel become acquainted through their mutual hairstylist, Teddy Antolin. David Bowie and Iman begin a romantic relationship.
‘Tin Machine II’ (1991) (UK no. 23, US no. 126) is released on 2 September on London Records as David Bowie leaves the EMI label. Tin Machine’s second album is co-produced by Tin Machine, Tim Palmer and Hugh Padgham. This set includes ‘You Belong In Rock ‘N’ Roll’ (UK no. 33), ‘Baby Universal’ (UK no. 48) and ‘One-Shot’. The last named track is a group composition; the other two tracks are co-written by David Bowie and guitarist Reeves Gabrels. This is the last Tin Machine album and the group disbands – though David Bowie will work further with Reeves Gabrels. Tin Machine is ‘perhaps [David Bowie’s] most unsuccessful’ project.
On 24 April 1992 David Bowie marries Iman. The couple settle in New York. They have a daughter, Alexandria Zahra Jones (born 15 August 2001 – note: Bowie’s real name is still David Jones, so his daughter has that surname). David Bowie also gains a step-daughter, Zulekha (born 5 July 1978). She is the child of Iman’s first marriage, the daughter of basketball player Spencer Haywood.
David Bowie releases the single ‘Real Cool World’ (UK no. 53) in August 1992. This is from the soundtrack of ‘Cool World’ (1992), a film that mixes animation and live action.
David Bowie returns to a solo career more properly with ‘Black Tie, White Noise’ (1993) (UK no. 1, US no. 39, AUS no. 12), released by Arista/BMG on 5 April. For this work, Bowie reunites with Nile Rodgers. The two of them co-produce this set as they did ‘Let’s Dance’ (1983). ‘Black Tie, White Noise’ is a ‘soul, jazz and hip-hop influenced’ album. Songs from this album include ‘Jump They Say’ (UK no. 9, AUS no. 53), ‘Black Tie, White Noise (with Al B. Sure)’ (UK no. 36, AUS no. 74) and ‘Miracle Goodnight’ (UK no. 40).
Rykodisc comb through David Bowie’s back catalogue for ‘The Singles Collection’ (1993) (UK no. 9, AUS no. 49), released on 16 November.
David Bowie again contributes to a movie soundtrack with ‘The Buddha Of Suburbia (with Lenny Kravitz)’ (UK no. 35), a single released in November 1993. It comes from the movie ‘The Buddha of Suburbia’ (1993).
‘Outside’ (1995) (UK no. 8, US no. 21, AUS no. 55), released on 26 September, heralds David Bowie’s return to RCA Records. This ambitious work is a concept album subtitled ‘The Ritual Art-Murder of Baby Grace Blue: A Non-Linear Gothic Drama Hyper-Cycle’. David Bowie, Brian Eno and David Richards share production credit. The music herein is described as industrial. Each song on this album is written and sung from the viewpoint of one of the characters in the underlying story. ‘The Heart’s Filthy Lesson’ (UK no. 35) comes through the mouthpiece of Detective Nathan Adler. The authors of the song are: David Bowie, Brian Eno (co-producer), Reeves Gabrels (guitar), Mike Garson (piano), Erdal Kizilcay (bass, keyboards) and Sterling Campbell (drums). (Note: ‘The Heart’s Filthy Secret’ can also be heard over the closing credits of the movie ‘Se7en’ (1995).) ‘Strangers When We Meet’ (UK no. 39) is rendered through the character of Leon Blank. However, the most satisfying of the bunch may be ‘Hallo Spaceboy (with Pet Shop Boys)’ (UK no. 12, AUS no. 36), co-written by Bowie and Eno, from the perspective of Paddy. Synthesisers and dance beats are fused here with a cosmic feel and a certain amount of sexual confusion.
‘Earthling’ (1997) (UK no. 6, US no. 39, AUS no. 45) comes out on 3 February. David Bowie co-produces this disc with Mark Plati and guitarist Reeves Gabrels. ‘Earthling’ continues Bowie’s flirtation with industrial noise, but adds drums ‘n’ bass sound to the end product. ‘Telling Lies’ (UK no. 76) is written by David Bowie alone. ‘Little Wonder’ (UK no. 14, AUS no. 94) may be the album’s highlight. Bowie deploys a rough English accent to his vocal for ‘Little Wonder’ while a squealing mix duels busy percussion. ‘Little Wonder’ is co-written by the album’s three producers: David Bowie, Mark Plati and Reeves Gabrels. Bowie and Gabrels co-write both ‘Dead Man Walking’ (UK no. 32) and ‘Seven Years In Tibet’ (UK no. 61). Bowie uses old colleague Brian Eno as co-writer for ‘I’m Afraid Of Americans’ (US no. 66).
‘I Can’t Read’ (UK no. 73), a track from Tin Machine’s 1989 debut album, is dusted off and released as a single in December 1997. Co-written by David Bowie and Reeves Gabrels, this song is included on the soundtrack for the movie ‘The Ice Storm’ (1997).
In 1999 David Bowie provides guest vocals on ‘Without You I’m Nothing’ (AUS no. 52), a song by U.S. alt rockers Placebo (who also write the song).
David Bowie moves to Virgin Records for ‘Hours’ (1999) (UK no. 5, US no. 47, AUS no. 33), released on 4 October. Bowie co-produces the disc with guitarist Reeves Gabrels. The most notable song on this set of pop and rock songs may be ‘Thursday’s Child’ (UK no. 16) which has a lazy groove and synthetic orchestration. ‘Thursday’s Child’ is co-written by Bowie and Gabrels. The same duo also pen ‘Survive’ (UK no. 28) and ‘Seven’ (UK no. 32).
Offered a CBE (Commander of the British Empire) in 2000, David Bowie declines. He similarly turns down a knighthood in 2003. “I would never have any intention of accepting anything like that,” Bowie says of the Royal honours. “It’s not what I spent my life working for.”
‘Heathen’ (2002) (UK no. 5, US no. 14, AUS no. 9), released on 11 June, is the first of David Bowie’s albums released on his own ISO label distributed through Columbia Records. The ISO/Columbia arrangement remains in place for the rest of David Bowie’s career. Similarly, all his albums from this point on are co-produced by Bowie and his long-time associate Tony Visconti – though Mark Plati, Gary Miller and Brian Ranking join with Bowie and Visconti on ‘Heathen’. Among the better known songs on this art rock set are: ‘Slow Burn’ (UK no. 94) (written by Bowie); ‘Everyone Says Hi’ (UK no. 20) (written by Miller and Ranking); and ‘I’ve Been Waiting For You’ (a cover version of a 1968 Neil Young song).
‘Reality’ (2003) (UK no. 3, US no. 29, AUS no. 13) is released on 16 September. This rock album by David Bowie includes such songs as ‘New Killer Star’, ‘Never Get Old’ and ‘Fall Dog Bombs Moon’.
In 2004, while on tour in Hamburg, Germany, David Bowie undergoes an emergency angioplasty to deal with a blocked coronary artery. “I gave up smoking six months before I had the heart attack,” the singer notes with grim irony. After this health scare, Bowie ‘reduces his musical output.’
EMI issues the three CD David Bowie compilation ‘The Platinum Collection’ (2005) (UK no. 53, US no. 65) on 7 November.
David Bowie plays the part of real life scientific experimenter Nikola Tesla in a small but significant role in the movie ‘The Prestige’ (2006), released on 17 October. (Note: The information contained herein is not an exhaustive list of David Bowie’s movie credits; merely a selection of his biggest and most notable films.)
‘The Next Day’ (2013) (UK no. 1, US no. 2, AUS no. 2), issued on 8 March, finds David Bowie returning after a long absence. His return is seen as ‘triumphant.’ The serene ‘Where Are We Now’ (UK no. 6, US no. 116, AUS no. 78) namechecks various German streets and places. ‘The Stars (Are Out Tonight)’ (UK no. 102) is ‘strange and beautiful.’ ‘Valentine’s Day’ (UK no. 179) is ‘a tale about a school massacre.’ ‘The Next Day’ (UK no. 179), the title track of this art rock album, also garners some attention.
‘Nothing Has Changed’ (2014) (UK no. 5, US no. 57, AUS no. 3) is a David Bowie compilation album of past hits released by Columbia/Parlophone on 17 November.
‘Blackstar’ (2016) (UK no. 1, US no. 1, AUS no. 1) is released on 8 January, David Bowie’s 69th birthday. It is described as ‘one of his most experimental’ and incorporates elements of art rock and jazz. The disc includes two songs released as singles back in 2014: ‘Tis A Pity She’s A Whore’ (UK no. 107) and ‘Sue (In A Season Of Crime)’ (UK no. 81). The latter finds Bowie sharing songwriting credit with U.S. jazz composer Maria Schneider, Paul Baleman and Bob Bharma. The title track, ‘Blackstar’ (UK no. 61, US no. 78), runs for almost ten minutes, roughly a quarter of the disc’s running time. The album’s best known song may be the haunting ‘Lazarus’ (UK no. 45, US no. 40, AUS no. 72). ‘I Can’t Give Everything Away’ (UK no. 141) is ‘achingly beautiful.’ ‘Blackstar’ is ‘a delightfully odd album with lashings of [David Bowie’s] beloved saxophone.’
Two days after the release of ‘Blackstar’, David Bowie dies from liver cancer on 10 January 2016. He had been diagnosed with the disease eighteen months earlier and recorded ‘Blackstar’ in the knowledge that it would be his farewell.
The compilation album ‘Bowie Legacy’ (2016) (UK no. 13, US no. 78, AUS no. 34), released on 11 November, is basically ‘Nothing Has Changed’ (2014) with a couple of tracks removed to make way for two songs from ‘Blackstar’. ‘Bowie Legacy’ is a two CD set.
David Bowie’s half-brother Terry may have been the one who spent years in a mental asylum, but David had doubts about his own stability. The characters he created as a form of psychic self-defence that he could use as onstage personas sometimes came uncomfortably close to taking him over. Ziggy Stardust (1972-1973) and the Thin White Duke (1976) were his best known alter egos, but there were many others: the sensitive singer-songwriter (1969), the cross-dressing siren (1970-1971), the recluse of the Berlin trilogy (1977-1979), the happily hetero Mr Entertainment (1983), the bearded metal maven of Tin Machine (1989-1991)…even ‘David Bowie’ was an alias for the boy born David Robert Jones. Bowie’s best work was mainly in the 1970s (roughly 1969-1983). A ‘musical chameleon’, he tackled glam rock, plastic soul and a variety of other song styles. ‘By defining stardom as a series of pointed impersonations, he broadened the uses to which it could be put, as communicative tool and receptor-transmitter of cultural trends…Because he was arty and shrewd, he was able to perceive rock ‘n’ roll critically – as myth, artistic construct, social phenomenon and cultural force, in a way that his predecessors, acting out those qualities from the inside, hadn’t been able to.’ ‘Pioneer, pasticheur and poseur in roughly equal amounts, Bowie’s mastery of the essential elements of rock stardom was second to none.’
- ‘Rock Stars’ by Timothy White (Columbus Books, 1984) p. 202, 204, 205
- wikipedia.org as at 10 April 2016, 3 January 2017
- brainyquote.com as 13 April 2016
- bowiesativa.wordpress.com – ‘[No Longer] Crashing in the Same Car’ by Laurie Frost (2011-2016)
- bowiewonderworld.com – FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) – no author credited – as at 12 April 2016
- ‘Esquire’ (U.S. magazine) – ‘David Bowie: What I’ve Learned’ (March 2004) (reproduced on esquire.com)
- ‘The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll’, ‘David Bowie’ by Tom Carson (Plexus Publishing Limited, 1992) p. 532, 533, 534, 537
- Notable Names Database – nndb.com – as at 13 April 2016
- ‘The Illustrated Rock Handbook’ edited by Roxanne Streeter, Ray Bonds (Salamander Books, 1983) p. 30, 31
- ‘Playboy’ (U.S. magazine) – ‘David Bowie – The Playboy Interview’ by Cameron Crowe (playboy.com via web.archive.org)
- mentalfloss.com – ‘Nine People with Heterochromia (and One Without)’ by Stacy Conradt (16 March 2011)
- ‘The Illustrated New Musical Express Encyclopedia Of Rock’ by Nick Logan, Bob Woffinden (Salamander Books, 1978) p. 33, 40, 164
- Internet Movie Database – imdb.com – as at 13 April 2016
- ‘Rolling Stone Rock Almanac’ by the Editors of ‘Rolling Stone’ magazine (Papermac, 1984) p. 112, 115, 129, 155, 170, 199, 204, 216, 220, 224, 225, 230, 246, 247, 248, 252, 253, 274, 282, 289, 309, 314, 315, 316, 332, 333
- ‘Friday On My Mind’ by Ed Nimmervoll (Five Mile Press, 2004) p. 81, 93, 97, 112
- ‘The Platinum Collection’ – Anonymous sleeve notes (EMI Records Ltd., 2005) p. 6, 8, 9, 10, 11
- ‘The 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time’ – ‘Rolling Stone’ magazine (February 2004) p. 42, 62, 64, 70
- ‘Melody Maker’ (U.K. rock newspaper) – ‘I’m Gay and Always Have Been, Even When I Was David Jones’ – David Bowie interview conducted by Michael Watts (22 January 1972) (via ‘On the Cusp of Fame, Bowie tells Melody Maker he’s Gay and Changes Pop Forever’ – the guardian.com (23 January 2006))
- ‘New Musical Express’ (U.K. rock newspaper) – ‘The Future Ain’t What it Used to Be – David Bowie Talks About Loneliness, Insecurity and Myth – and the Dangers of Messing with Major Tom’ – David Bowie interview conducted by Angus McKinnon (13 September 1980) (via 2 (above))
- allmusic.com – ‘David Bowie’ by Stephen Thomas Erlewine as at 13 April 2016
- ‘Rolling Stone’ (U.S. rock magazine) 1983 interview with David Bowie (via 13 (above))
- whosdatedwho.com as at 14 April 2016
- tvtropes.org – trivia/davidbowie – no author credited – as at 14 April 2016
- ‘A Million In Prizes – The Anthology – Iggy Pop’ – Sleeve notes by Danny Fields, Lenny Kaye (Virgin Records America Inc., 2005) p. 5
- ‘Mojo’ (U.K. rock magazine) – ‘Mojo Classic (60 Years of Bowie) – Tumble & Twirl’ by James McNair (January 2007) (via 2 (above))
- bowiesongs.wordpress.com as at 13 April 2016
- ‘Herald Sun’ (Melbourne, Australia newspaper) – ‘Bowie Puts an End to Those Pesky Retirement Rumours’ – Review of ‘The Next Day’ by Cameron Adams (7 March 2013) p. 44
- ‘Herald Sun’ (Melbourne, Australia newspaper) – ‘Big Albums’ by Cameron Adams (7 January 2016) p. 40
- ‘Herald Sun’ (Melbourne, Australia newspaper) – ‘Bowie’s Parting Gift’ – Review of ‘Blackstar’ by Cameron Adams (14 January 2016) p. 36
- ‘The History Of Rock’ by Mark Paytress (Parragon Books, 2011) p. 154
Song lyrics copyright Tintoretto Music (BMI) administered by RZO Music, Inc., Screen Gems-EMI Music, Inc (BMI) o/b/o EMI Music Publishing Ltd, Chrysalis Songs (BMI) – Tintoretto Music/RZO Music Ltd, EMI Music Publishing Ltd, Chrysalis Music Ltd. with the exceptions of ‘Diamond Dogs’, ‘Rebel Rebel’ and ‘Fame’ (all Jones Music America (ASCAP) administered by ARZO Publishing, Colgems-EMI Music, Inc. (ASCAP) o/b/o EMI Music Publishing Ltd, Chrysalis Music Ltd.)
Last revised 11 January 2017