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Friday, July 28, 2006

BALLAD OF A THIN WHITE DUKE

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In late sixties swinging London there was a singer/mime/sax playing guitarist named David Jones who couldn't get arrested. Legend has it that the fame accorded to the other David Jones of Monkees fame prompted this individual to change his name. This reinvention began a seemingly never ending readressing of character and style that would be the career of David Bowie.

Bowie was not the first to do this. One must remember that back then everybody was trying on Bob Dylan's clothes. Reinvention begins with Dylan, and Bowie gladly took the torch and ran. What was genius was that Bowie didn't reinvent himself as Bob per se, he made himself into Bob in a dress, sang a song that tied in well with a popular movie, and seemed destined for one hit wonder/novelty status.

That is until he met Andy and Lou. The Velvets had a huge impact on Bowie, but he didn't make himself into a Lou clone either. He blended the dylanesque with the lower east side velvety vibe which we hear on Hunky Dory.

Then Angie took over the look, Tony Defries took over the books, and history was made in the image of an androgenous spaceman.


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"That weren't no d.j. that was crazy cosmic jive"

Bowie was not the only genius responsible for his glory. His forementioned wife and manager; Mick Ronson, Tony Visconti, Ken Scott, the list goes on. Ziggy took off, took over, and then Bowie killed him just like he promised in song. He also fired everybody, including his wife, moved to LA, ordered up a crop of Peru's finest, and began chapter three.

This time it was R&B, gloss, session men, coke, more coke, and some more coke.


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He almost died. Bowie almost did a Belushi before there was a Belushi.

BUT, he's David. He's a genius. He made three great records during that period.

Then he took Visconti, Iggy and Eno to Berlin for Phase Four.

Coke was out, smack was in. Pop was out, soundscapes were in. Horns were out, synths were in. He dug deep, got high, made 'Low', became a 'Lodger', and we became 'Heroes' (not in that order).


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Then he came back to London, arriving by train with a brand of pomp that could not be mistaken for anything but fascist.

What is he doing?

He's still trying on Dylan's clothes. Clothes Bob didn't even know he had.

He capped that phase with the fab 'Scary Monsters'. Put art to bed, called Nile Rodgers, and said 'Let's Dance'.

Then he disapionted everyone, got involved with films, made a ton of dough, moved to Switzerland and married a supermodel.


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This would have been a logical end, but David wasn't done with Bob's clothes.

Bowie joined a band. Made some fun records with them that didn't sell, and then he went electronica and toured with Trent Reznor.

Not done yet.

The dawn of the new millenium saw David combining all of the above, including working with Visconti and Eno again.


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And let's not forget Zoolander.

I am now going to put on my red shoes and dance the blues.

Comments:
BRILLIANT POST! God, I love Bowie. We saw him two years ago at our outdoor amphitheater, on the 10th row. Still charming, still sexy, still had the crowd eating out of his hands.

You forgot to include Bowie's great quote about making it in the rock world (and I'm totally paragraphing here): It isn't who does it first who gets famous; it's who does it second.
 
Great qoote. I'd never heard that one. Another great one is:

Fame can take a great man and thrust mediocrity upon him.
 
Thank you Soupy Sales for Hunt and Tony... I am one of the few who actually enjoyed the first Tin Machine record. I recall Bowie's aggressive insistance that this wasnt "David Bowie's Tin Machine".. He was just another schlub in the band... not. While it is certainly not his best work (by far) I thought it was unique.. (def hook-y)
Blender (rag) did their "Back Catalog" feature on Bowie a few months ago..always interesting. They had to break it down into several issues due to his prolific nature.. (Neil Young 60's and 70's this month)
Some of my worst memories.. driving pizzas around College Park, wired, listening to "Ziggy Stardust..." and Velvet Underground and Nico"
Ugggh... The willies...
 
Bowie's been a presence so long that I take it for granted now, but stepping back, it's mind-boggling that the guy who made 'Aladdin Sane' made 'Low'. No one's been more successful at reinventing himself.
 
great post

the only thing its missing is some mp3s (or m4as to please chris) to provide the soundtrack to the post.

i am going to pull out Scary Monsters right now and give it a listen.
 
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