The Companion

Home Index FAQ Encyclopaedia Timeline Songs Gallery E-mail

  The Freakiest Rocker...
Or the Biggest Put-On

Winterland Concert Flyer - (the following article appears on the other side)

Article Index

Al Rudis - BJ Examiner (October 1972)

England's David Bowie may be the new Bob Dylan, but it's more likely he's in a class by himself, comparable to such non-rock figures as Jean Genet or Robert Heinlein.  He may be the freakiest rocker of all, or the biggest put-on artist.

At a sold-out concert in Carnegie Hall, Bowie's hair was sticking straight up, looking like pieces of straw that had been dipped in orange shoe polish. "I always had a conception that aliens from other planets could possibly have red hair." Bowie said. "If they came, I wanted them not be be freaked." It's his hair, he says but the colour comes out of a tube.  It has been blond, may be blue or green next.

He has admitted that he is bisexual.  Subsequently he added that of course almost everybody is, as Freud and others have shown.  When he saw what a ruckus his statement caused, did he retreat and disavow?  You can bet your Alice Cooper panties he didn't.

He embraced his new image, along with lead guitarist onstage.  He now runs the gayest, campiest rock n roll show ever to spread its reputation over several continents.  It's presently shaking up the United States (there's talk of him coming to San Francisco), and in all the tumult and outrage, the most astounding thing about him may be forgotten: his musical art.

A few years ago, before all the upheaval, Bowie put out a magnificent album called "The Man Who Sold The World" (Mercury) and toured America trying (in vain) to get it heard.  Quietly, patiently, he explained that while the album's chief intention was to communicate - the message was whatever the listener heard.

"I'm not a good musician" he said at the time.  But I have some kind of knack for being able to design my songs on a musical basis. Otherwise I would have been a painter."

Now he has re-designed his image, the song designs on his two recent albums - "Hunky Dory" and "The Rise and Fall Of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars" (both RCA records and tapes), are being heard.  And if he never does another thing, these and "The Man Who Sold The World" should be enough to maintain his legend for a long time.

Before we look at them, lets go back to a very important first album "David Bowie" (Mercury).  The most important thing on it was "Space Oddity", an eerie song about an astronaut Major Tom who never returns.  Although it never made a big splash in America, this song was a No 1 hit in England, and Bowie's experiences with sudden celebrity, misunderstanding and sudden lack of celebrity made a deep impression.

At least two songs on the album show Bowie was a Dylan disciple. "God Knows I'm Good" is an epic of petty shop-lifting on several levels and 'Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed" is in the tradition of nasty-tough Dylan love songs.

Bowie has a voice that seems to change from song to song. He can sound like Dylan or like Roy Orbison (on the rocking love song   "Janine". He can do soft love songs, or dreamy scenes of nostalgia. Altogether, "David Bowie" was a very special debut album whose biggest drawback was that it came a couple of years too early.

The same applies to "The Man Who Sold The World".  For instance, there's a song called "The Width of the Circle," which would seem to refer to the strange painting on the back cover of "David Bowie" called "The Depth of the Circle". But with hindsight, the surrealistic song now may be seen as perhaps the first out-front homosexual rock n roll song.

"All the Madmen" pre-dates the madness songs of Alice Cooper and others and while its subtlety keeps it from being an outright shocker, it is easily the maddest of the mad songs yet.  "Running Gun Blues" is a re-telling of the familiar story about the trained killer who sneaks out even after the Armistice to bag him a few bodies and "She Shook Me Cold" is a hot erotic number.

Equally special are the selections on "Hunky Dory".  On this album David begins shaking down his band and aiming for the stars.

Each number is worth its own story so here are just few things to note.  "Fill Your Heart" on "Hunky Dory" shows off David's chameleon voice once more as he sounds much like the song's writer Biff Rose.   "Queen Bitch" is a wild song of homosexual jealousy, but its the only one that comes out.

In contrast, "Kooks" is a totally delightful number written for his child, who is growing up in a household of kooks.  Among the things David's going to get the child is "a book of rules" on what to say to people when they pick on you. "cause if you stay with us you're going to be pretty kookie too".

Both "David Bowie" and "The Man Who Sold the World" are hard to find nowadays, but RCA owns the master tapes and there is talk that the two albums will be reissued as a double album.  Meanwhile, no matter what your sexual preferences (or hang-ups), if you let "Hunky Dory" and "Ziggy Stardust" get by, you'll be missing some of the finest pop music of this decade.

---This page last modified: 13 Dec 2018---

Ziggy Stardust Scarf (1973)