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Bowie: Superstar Who's A Fan At Heart

by Mick Rock Fan Magazine (April 1973)

Everybody's a fan at heart, and no one more than everybody's current idol, David Bowie, as he freely admits. Two performers he has idolised for years are Lou Reed and Iggy Pop. The two, probably more than any other, have by example influenced the progress of his own career. It's more than just interesting therefore when you examine the credits on Lou Reed's last album "Transformer" and Iggy's soon-to-be released, long awaited new album "Raw Power", and find alongside the producer's tag, the name of Mr. Bowie.

There's the well-known statement that Lou Reed is to Bowie what Chuck Berry was to the Rolling Stones. And just as the Stones helped to expand Mr. Berry's reputation, by recording his songs and imitating his style from time to time, so Bowie has released Lou Reed's work from the greedy clutches of the esoteric underground circles which first hallowed his name.

Two of Lou's strongest ever songs, "White Light, White Heat" and "Waiting For The Man" have long been part of Bowie's repertoire, and "Queen Bitch" from "Hunky Dory" and "Suffragette City" on "Ziggy Stardust" are deliberate and acknowledged lifts from the Velvet Underground style. There are even certain well-versed and canny critics who hold that Mr B. performs Velvet Underground songs better than Mr. R. himself ever has. But that is, of course, open to more than a little debate...

Lou Reed tells how they first came together in New York: "I met David when he came over on a promotional visit for RCA a couple of years ago. I hadn't heard any of his records. I can't remember how it happened. Maybe a friend introduced us. He had longer hair then. "Anyway, we all went out to dinner, and I got drunk as usual. Then he played me 'Hunky Dory', and I thought, 'aha, how about that'. And I knew there was somebody else moving in the same areas I was.

"I especially loved 'Queen Bitch', David's always been so upfront about these things." Mmm... Lou however, refuses to acknowledge that David owes anything to him, even though David insists he does. "I think that's really nice of David, but I think David would have been fine all by himself. "I think it's marvellous and I take it as the most delicious compliment, because I love his stuff so much, but frankly I don't understand him saying it."

Still, whatever the whys and hows of such nebulous issues it's obvious that there is much sympathy, musically and personally between the two. For Bowie, "the biggest thrill of my first visit to America was meeting Lou Reed." And he met many strange and wonderful individuals on that same trip, including Captain America himself, Andy Warhol, patron saint of itinerant freaks and weirdos. Another story, that one, however.

It was on this same trip that he also first met the notorious Mr. Pop. An interesting link in the puzzle is that Iggy's first album with the Stooges was produced by John Cale, who along with Lou Reed was the founder of the Velvet Underground. Bowie's interest in Iggy was understandably less in his actual music than in the extreme mode of its delivery. The Ig has a very violent self-destructive streak, and his act, apart from the vocalising, consisted in him performing all kinds of obscene bodily contortions, interspersed with moments when he would throw himself into the audience or vomit on them, or deliberately cut his face up with the microphone, or smear peanut butter all over his body and invite the audience to lick it off. He claims that the more forward members of his audience, male as well as female, frequently took advantage of his over generous invitations.

Although a man of action rather than words, Iggy is a very able perpetrator of the classic statement: e.g. "It's interestin' to play for an audience, it really is."   The vibes which link the three are too innumerable to list, but they are a result of constant feedback. When questioned about his producer roles on their albums, Bowie disclaims any important influence. "I'm just a good organiser." He insists that he merely helped them to co-ordinate things, to interpret certain pieces which they were unsure about. Whatever Bowie's contribution, they are both.

---This page last modified: 30 Jun 2002---

Ziggy Stardust Scarf (1973)