Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Changes...The David Bowie Story and Show # 205

The career of David Bowie is one that spans decades. He is known for his innovative fashion trends, the variety of musical styles that he has covered, and his career as an actor. Since the career of David Bowie is so large and interesting, it is impossible for me to talk about such a diverse, expansive career in one post. I have decided instead to focus on certain parts of his career.

Born as David Robert Jones in 1947, he first picked up the saxophone in his early years. While at school at the age of fifteen, Bowie got into a fight with his friend George Underwood. Underwood who was wearing a ring on his finger punched Bowie in his left eye; The fight was over a girl. As a result Bowie suffered eye damage and has a permanent dilated left pupil, which at times appears to be a different colour than his right eye. He started playing in several groups beginning in 1962. In the early sixties, Bowie began performing under the stage name Davie Jones, but this was also the name of Davy Jones from The Monkees, who were quite popular at the time. To avoid the confusion of the two David Robert Jones adopted the name David Bowie in 1966. He got the name Bowie from Jim Bowie, who was responsible for the Bowie knife and was an Alamo Hero. At this time he recorded singles as Manish Boy and Davy Jones, and as David Bowie and The Lower Third; All of which were unsuccessful.

In 1967, Bowie signed to Decca Records and released his first album. David Bowie was a mix of Music Hall, Pop, and Psychedelic music. It was also unsuccessful. In 1969, Bowie had his first hit single with "Space Oddity". The song would be featured on his second album known as Man of words, Man of Music; It was later re-released in 1972 as Space Oddity. In 1970 came the third Bowie album titled The Man Who Sold the World. The album was the first in which Bowie would collaborate with guitarist Mick Ronson. Tony Visconti played bass (and produced the album), Michael Woodmansey played drums, and along with Bowie formed the beginnings of the band The Spiders From Mars. the album has more of a heavy rock sound, one that can be compared to bands such as Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. The actual song "The Man Who Sold the World" regained popularity when it was covered by Nirvana for their MTV Unplugged album.

1971 brought the album Hunky Dory. For this album Visconti departed as bassist and producer and was replaced on bass by Trevor Bolder. With Bolder on bass, this album would feature all the members of Bowie's backing band known as The Spiders From Mars. Hunky Dory had more pop than that of The Man Who Sold the World, some people have compared it to the pop styles of Space Oddity. The album opens with the saxophone drenched pop song "Changes", which is a song that can describe Bowie's diverse career. The album also featured songs such as the acoustic/flamenco styled "Andy Warhol", the Broadway bordering "Life on Mars?"(also a big hit for Bowie), and "Queen Bitch". The song "Queen Bitch" is a song inspired by Bowie's love of The Velvet Underground, while the song itself features the wonderful mix of acoustic guitar mixed with the punkish guitar techniques of Mick Ronson.

In 1972, Bowie adopted the persona of Ziggy Stardust, who was an androgynous rock star coming from another planet. As Stardust, Bowie dressed in what would be known as glam style (mostly in women's clothing); This style of dress was influenced by his friend and Musician Marc Bolan (of T-Rex). Along with his band, Bowie released the concept album The Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars in 1972. The album, which i feel is his best, features some of the best songs recorded by Bowie. The album draws influence from bands such as Velvet Underground, The Stooges, T-Rex, and The Kinks. The album contains great songs such as "Five Years", "Moonage Daydream", "It Ain't Easy", "Hang On To Yourself", and "Suffragette City". The album got Bowie notice in America. His second album Space Oddity would be re-released in 1972 in the US and reach the top 20.

In 1973, Bowie produced (along with guitarist Mick Ronson) Lou Reed's Transformer, Iggy & The Stooges Raw Power, and Mott the Hoople's All The Young Dudes. In that very same year Bowie recorded Aladdin Sane. The album took elements of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars, and added more rock to it. Some critics described the album as a disappointment, but it contains great songs such as "Panic In Detroit", "Jean Genie", and "Cracked Actor". The album also features a cover of the Rolling Stones song "Let's Spend the Night Together". The album was described by Bowie as "Ziggy goes to America". The album was written during his 1972 US tour. Originally the album was going to be titled Love Aladdin Vein, but changed it because of the reference it made to drugs. The title Aladdin Sane, is a pun of the word "A Lad Insane".

In the same year came the release of yet another Bowie album with the Spiders From Mars, Pin-Ups. This was a collection of cover songs. Around this time Bowie also announced that the band was breaking up and would no longer tour. This of course was not the end of Bowie's career. Bowie then recorded Diamond Dogs, which was originally intended to be a musical based on the George Orwell novel Nineteen Eighty Four; The album spawned the hit single "Rebel, Rebel". Bowie then became fascinated by Soul music and released the album Young Americans in 1975. This album would bring Bowie into the top ten in the US, it would also feature the song "Fame" which was written with and features John Lennon. In 1976 Bowie had a new stage persona called "The Thin White Duke", which reflected his cocaine addiction. The album Station to Station was also released in the same year, which would be the last of his soul inspired efforts it would bring in influences of Avant-garde Pop; He had yet another top ten hit with the disco flavoured "Golden Years".

He would then retreat to Berlin from 1976 to 1980, where he would record three albums Low, Heroes, and Lodger. These albums would reflect his interest in electronic music and the German music scene. Low advanced the avant-garde style that Bowie created with Station to Station. It was more experimental and featured collaboration with Brian Eno; The music began as compositions to the soundtrack to the movie The Man Who Fell To Earth, but when the director was going for more of a folky sound for the film. He got someone else to compose the films music. Heroes featured more collaboration with Brian Eno and would bring in influences of Krautrock. Lodger was the final album in which can be titled the Berlin Trilogy. It brought in the sounds of New Wave and World Music. In 1980, Bowie released Scary Monsters which featured the songs "Ashes to Ashes" and "Fashion".

Bowie would also kick his drug addiction. He also brought along Iggy Pop, who was also battling with addiction. Together the two kicked their habits and recorded some great albums. Bowie helped Iggy write and produced songs and even played keyboards with Iggy Pop on tour. The albums recorded were The Idiot, and Lust For Life which were released in 1977.

Bowie would still record and make hit songs and records well into the 80's, 90s, and 2000's. Along with changes in his musical stylings, he would also adapt his look with each subsequent release to reflect the new directions his music was taking. Bowie also involved himself in acting and a movie career. He has been in numerous films throughout his career such as The Man Who Fell to Earth, the cult classic Labyrinth, The Last Temptation of Christ, and The Prestige.

Bowie's last album was titled Reality and it was released in 2003. Bowie has toured the world more than few times throughout his long career, but since 2006 has stopped performing live. David Bowie's place in musical history is not one that can be summed up so easily because his influence is so vast. He truly is an interesting and talented musician that influenced thousands of artists ranging from 1970s up to today.

The Play List:

1. 13th Floor Elevators - You're Gonna Miss Me When I'm Gone
2. Nazz - Open My Eyes
3. Northwest Company - Hard To Cry
4. Golden Hands Before God - The Ladder
5. Locusts Have No King - Down Here (Live At the Avalon)
6. 49th Parallel - Citizen Freak
7. The Strangeloves - Night Time
8. The Remains - Don't Look Back
9. Gruesomes - For All I Care
10. Young Rival - Another Nobody
11. David Bowie - Hang On To Yourself
12. David Bowie - Queen Bitch
13. David Bowie - Cracked Actor
14. Supergrass - Alright
15. Guitar Wolf - Invader Ace
16. The Subways - Kalifornia
17. The New Odds - Breakthrough
18. Ex-Boyfriends - Special Occasion
19. The Saints - Run Down
20. Radio Birdman - Murder City Nights
21. Velvet Underground - I Heard Her Call My Name
22. Luger Boa - Please Please
23. Talking Heads - Paper
24. The Clash - Overpowered By Funk
25. Radio 4 - Too Much To Ask For

People interested in this show may want to check the comments section.

Bowie Videos:

Hang On To Yourself (Live 1972)
Suffragette City (Live 1973)
Queen Bitch (Old Grey Whistle Test 1972)
Young Americans (Live Dick Cavatt Show 1974)
Rebel Rebel
China Girl
Golden Years
Let's Dance
David Bowie with Tin Machine - Baby Universal
I'm Affraid of Americans
Never Get Old (Live German TV 2003)
David Bowie & Lou Reed - Queen Bitch & Waiting For the Man

1 comment:

Dave said...
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