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  "The Rise and Fall of
David Bowie:
All That Glitters Is Not Gold"

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The Rise and Fall of David Bowie:
All That Glitters is Not Gold (1/2)

by Jon Tiven - The Good Times  (7-13 November, 1973)

No matter how good David Bowie may really be, the stuff he's doing now is a lot of shit.
- Chris Chesnutt, editor of the New Haven Rock Press
It's very funny..David Bowie may be the pet of the avant garde crowd, but his past few records have been pure, undiluted pop.
- Andrew Oldham, pop/rock kingpin extraodinaire
Pete Townshend is Numero Uno, but David's pretty close to number two.
- Binky Philips, guitarist with The Planets
"Lets Spend The Night Together" by David Bowie is the worst butchering ever committed upon a Rolling Stones song.  Aside from that, Aladdin Sane is probably one of the worst albums by a major artist that I've ever heard.
- Ronny Berrit, Good Times rock critic
"But what can a poor boy do / 'cept sing in a rock 'n' roll band?"
-Michael Jagger, aging rockstar

Exactly. What can a poor boy do? Poets don't count for shit nowadays on a financial or famous basis, and there are already too many actors around. Don't want to work the nine-2-five, but you've got to make a living somehow, so David Bowie decided to make it all worthwhile as a rock 'n' roll star. Not that David Bowie was the ultimate poor-boy, as a Brixton middle-income youth's got the jump on many a youth with a far more dismal upbringing.

Still, David thought of himself as an artist/performer, and there were too many actors around already so he got together The Lower Third (when his name wasn't Bowie but the ordinary Jones) which became the Buzz.  The Flaming Filly then met up with a hotshot producer who tried to turn him into the hottest thing since Tom Jones (no relation) for Deram Records, but most of that was just trash, and well worth forgetting.

The first really noteworthy Bowie track, taken strictly from a musical standpoint was "Space Oddity." This science fiction number was on his first album for Mercury Records, Man of Words, Man of Music, which, aside from this one cut, was rather unimpressive, except for the fact that the arrangements and production (courtesy of Paul Buckmaster and Gus Dudgeon) were intriguing.  The only reason to hang onto the record was that Bowie's backup band included several members of Junior's Eyes (a psychedelic English rock band that rocked a bit, with one album on A&M), a lad known as Keith Christmas (who's got a few albums out in England and one fine one on American Polydor), Rick Wakeman (then a session man, now with Yes), and several other fine musicians. As for Bowie himself, I could have cared less.

Then, quite out of nowhere came The Man Who Sold The World, which was still that same pretentious voice with the English accent....but this was no namby-pamby singer/songwriter wimpness. David was now a heavy metal rocker with a group behind him that was good (Mick Ronson-guitar, Tony Visconti-bass, Mick Woodmansey-drums, Ralph Mace-moog), and songs that were good. Talent, real live talent from this skinny runt. But what the hell did this fucker look like that the record company was scared to even put a picture of him on the cover of his album, giving the record buyer a wall-to-wall cartoon instead? So your reporter checked out the English cover, finding David B. draped across a couch wearing a dress! Well, what kind of half-man heavy metal rocker did we have here?

lntrigued by Bowie, I did a little research on the lad to find that he was not, by nature, a true homosexual, but not heterosexual and...not really a true bisexual either. "So what was he, a fucking neuter?" asks the reader, and the answer is NO, because David Bowie is really a total schizophrenic. He not only is a persona schizoid, but a sexual splitsky as well, going through periods of "straightness" and "gayness" like the little butterfly/caterpillar, but in a contiguous chain. "Ah, a lad who really doesn't know where he's at...just what the world needs." I said to myself in earnest.

But that isn't seems his whole family is a bunch of screaming loonies. His sisters a bona-fida nut, and his brother's a certified lunatic, having bounced in and out of several institutions in the past ten years. In addition to being a split personality, David himself is a confirmed paranoid, terrified that any day his life will come to a halt.  For this reason, he never flies anywhere.

Anyway, Bowie kept his karma shut for months on end, and then the word's out that he's switched record companies (to RCA) and that he's totally come out of the Kloset.  David Bowie the obscure British singer becomes David Bowie the In-Vogue Cult Hero.  He starts paying his dues to the Rolling Stones/Warhol/Velvet Underground crowd, and the media eats it up alive.  Still, Hunky Dory, despite its pretensions is a fairly good album, and although "Changes" is a good sized hit for the Big B, Hunky Dory's status at this point is merely as a critic's choice L.P.

Tony DeFries comes totally into the picture as manager/publicist, laying on the hype thicker than the scum on the seats of your local Rolling Stones concert hall, and it seems for a while that you can't pick up a newspaper without reading about David Bowie.  "Gay Rock" says one, while another claims that David Bowie will be the next big thing for the teens. The word from one end was: "Bowie's Gone Heavy Concept Rock" while others were screaming: "Sell Out" at the boyish wonder.

The controversy wasn't resolved until the release of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, accompanied by what was probably RCA's biggest promotional campaign since Elvis Presley.  Every newspaper, radio station and other media outlet was plastered with David Bowie/Ziggy Stardust posters, monograms, patches, t-shirts, tattoos, condoms, diaphragms, and every other conceivable promotional gimmick.

The strange thing was that Ziggy stardust was a damn good album in spite of the hype and hoopla. "Five Years" and "Rock n Roll Suicide" were pretentious as hell, and a lot of things about the album were infinitely more annoying than his silly posturing, but as a whole, Ziggy worked.  And in a year when all the Rolling Stones had to offer was Exile on Main Street, and when people finally decided that James Taylor was a worthless junkie, it became the norm for rock n roll fans to latch on to Bowie.

Continued on next page

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

Ziggy Stardust Scarf (1973)