The “Bowie Bonds”

gold star

Warning: this is a long digression about, among other things, mortgage finance and royalties securitizations. If the post on Tibet was too much for you, perhaps give this one a miss. See you next week.

David Bowie released a new album and toured three continents in 1997, but this was of little interest to the press when compared to the state of his finances. In February of that year, news broke that Bowie was lending Wall Street his song catalog for $55 million.

At the time, I was working at 2 World Trade Center, writing for a financial industry newsletter. The Bowie story was a rare moment when the public took notice of our obscure world. I recall an editor standing at his cubicle, asking for headline ideas: “Glass-Steagall Spider?” “The Man Who Sold the Bonds?” It helped that the banker organizing the sale, David Pullman, would return a phone call seemingly a minute after it was placed, and was eminently quotable. He was a bull of self-promotion and got great press.

There have been a few misconceptions about the Bowie securitizations over the years. I’ll try to describe, in relatively plain English, what happened.

lonely at the top

1) They weren’t bonds. While Pullman pushed for reporters to use his (trademarked) “Bowie Bond” name, the Bowie deal was, technically, a privately-placed securitization of music royalties future receivables. This isn’t the “bond” of vague public imagination: a piece of stock paper, issued by the electric company or Sears, that your grandmother kept in the family strongbox along with birth certificates, marriage licenses and Mercury dimes.

What Bowie did begins in home mortgages. Go back to 1969 and buy a house. You make a substantial down payment (20% or more) and get a 15-year or 30-year mortgage, at a fixed interest rate, from a bank. The bank keeps your mortgage on its books. You mail your payment to them each month. The bank sometimes will sell your mortgage, in a portfolio of similar mortgages, to another bank, but that’s often a headache involving reams of paperwork. Home finance is a quiet, modest and “illiquid” world.

In the early Seventies, banks began to pool their mortgages into a new type of security (called a “pass-through”). This made it easier to compile and sell mortgages to investors or other banks; as the name implied, banks just “passed through” mortgage payments to some new owner. A decade later, this concept had mushroomed, mutating into more complex securities, in great part due to a man named Lewis Ranieri, who worked at Salomon Brothers. Ranieri, who allegedly coined the word “securitization” to describe the process and who once boasted that “mortgages are math,” was the first banker to realize the implications of packaging hundreds and thousands of disparate mortgages, dicing them into sections and selling them to investors as high-rated securities. This wasn’t just home finance made easier; this was one of the biggest trading markets in the world. (The book to read is Michael Lewis’ Liar’s Poker.)

A bank could now funnel thousands of its mortgages into various mortgage-backed securities (MBS) and the likes of Salomon Brothers would arrange the MBS into “tranches” (ranks) of quality. The top tranche (rated AAA) would have the most protection if anything went to smash. The lowest tranche was, say, BBB-rated. If you bought that tranche, the issuer paid you a higher interest rate (“the coupon”) for the risk. [Edit: as a commenter on another site pointed out, I blundered earlier in describing the structure:  the AAA/BBB etc rating structure was not tied to borrower quality---that is, any losses that the mortgage pools took would simply hit the lowest tranche (BBB) first, and then go up the ladder of tranches,etc.]

Everyone had a stake. Banks took mortgages off their books, reducing their risk, and got all of their money up-front. Bankers could charge higher fees to arrange, package and sell the MBS: Ranieri’s desk was an enormous profit generator for Salomon in the Eighties. Investors had a liquid (they could sell MBS easily, as there was a booming secondary trading market for them) and safe investment, implicitly guaranteed by the federal government (which had its fingers in most mortgages). And mortgage holders got easier credit terms, because banks wanted to make more and more mortgages to create more and more MBS.

So by 1997 mortgage finance had been nationalized (a mortgage made in Schenectady could be pooled in an MBS with a mortgage from Kankakee, with pieces of them owned by a pension fund based in Fresno and a hedge fund in Bermuda) and radicalized. A house was no longer a place in which you merely lived. It was an investment; it was your retirement package; it was an income generator. There were so many varieties of home debt now: no-money-down mortgages; adjustable-rate mortgages; “balloon” mortgages (pay little now, pay a hell of a lot later); “subprime” (i.e., you don’t need a job to buy a house) mortgages.

futureflow

I wish all our clients were as innovative as David Bowie…David’s ability to embrace new ideas is a testament to his position as a living rock legend.

David Pullman, quoted by Bloomberg, 4 February 1997.

The brilliance of the securitization concept was that it could be applied to seemingly anything, not just mortgages. All you needed was an asset that generated a predictable return over a set period of time. There were a lot of these assets around by now. By the Nineties, Americans had become, quietly and with little fuss, a nation of exuberant debtors. With wages deteriorating or stagnating, for middle-class Americans to keep being middle-class, to put a kid through college or buy a car, meant acquiring more debt. This was now easy. My mother recalled how hard it was to get a Sears credit card in 1971; it was like applying for a passport that you might well be denied. Whereas in today’s mail, I’ve received three offers for no-approval-needed credit cards.

So today, any debt that you owe any institution is likely packaged somewhere in a securitization. Your student loans: securitized. Your credit-card debt: securitized. Your home-improvement loan: securitized. Your car lease: securitized. And so on. Writing about this was my job. On down weeks, we would speculate about which market sector would be next: Shipping returns? Drug patents? Highway project finance? Baseball park revenues? And, thanks to David Bowie, music royalties.

chart

The “Bowie Bond” negotiations happened in late 1996. Pullman recalled to Bowie’s biographer Marc Spitz that it was a clandestine process, involving having to get everyone from [possibly? see comments] Bowie’s ex-wife Angela to his former manager Tony Defries to sign off on some aspect of the project. While Pullman says the idea was his, Paul Trynka’s bio speculates that Bowie’s new financial manager, William Zysblat, was also heavily involved in its creation. By January 1997, the deal was assembled and pre-sold.

Bowie was fairly unusual among rock stars in that he owned both his master recordings and most of his music copyrights. His current arrangements were expiring, and normally he would’ve just signed another distribution agreement with a label and/or a song publisher. Instead, Zysblat and Pullman determined that a securitization would give him far more money up-front.

So Bowie, with Pullman’s bank Fahnestock as his representative, packaged 287 of his copyrights and recordings, from “Space Oddity” and”Life on Mars? to “Ashes to Ashes” and “Sound and Vision,” into a security.* Every crumb of income that the songs generated—royalties from broadcast and performance, record sales, commercial use, licensing in films–would now go into a “special purpose vehicle” that would in turn give regular payments to whoever bought the bonds. To entice investors, the bonds paid a 7.9% rate of interest, which was higher than the 10-year Treasury note (6.37% at the time).

terms of psychic warfare

”This was a very good deal, offering a superior return compared to the risk,” said Rick Matthews, a spokesman for Prudential. ”And because it was the first, you’re going a higher rate than the next.”

Bowie’s Latest Hit,” New York Times, 21 February 1997.

2) You could never have owned them. Once the news broke, some Bowie fans thought they could own a Bowie Bond: imagine, the next time you heard “Let’s Dance” on TV, you’d receive 1/2,344th of its royalties. They never had a chance. It’s not as though the Bowie Bonds were bid on by traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange or were available on E-Trade. The bonds “changed hands” once. The securitization was issued by Fahnestock’s computer and purchased, in its entirety, by the computer of the Prudential Insurance Co. of America. Prudential held onto the bonds for their whole lifetime.

3) They (probably) were a good investment. In 2004, the rating agency Moody’s Investors Service downgraded the Bowie bonds (to Baa1, a step above “junk” status). This was not due to anything Bowie had done but because by 2004 the music industry was up the creek, and any investment tied to music royalties looked like a bet gone badly wrong.

Yet this downgrade only would’ve been a problem had Prudential wanted to sell its bonds, as they were now considered to be of lesser credit quality. As far as we know, Prudential didn’t. Instead, the Bowie bonds sat in Prudential’s coffers, generating who knows how much in terms of royalty payments for a decade. It’s likely his royalties decreased in the early 2000s, but Bowie was never in any remote danger of losing his songs.

brixton-money-bowi

The absolute transformation of everything that we ever thought about music will take place within 10 years, and nothing is going to be able to stop it. I see absolutely no point in pretending that it’s not going to happen. I’m fully confident that copyright, for instance, will no longer exist in 10 years, and authorship and intellectual property is in for such a bashing…Music itself is going to become like running water or electricity. So it’s like, just take advantage of these last few years because none of this is ever going to happen again.

Bowie, interview by Jon Pareles, New York Times, 9 June 2002.

4) They may never happen again (probably). Bowie’s sense of timing was uncanny here: 1997 was the ideal moment to issue these securities. Wall Street and the music industry were fat and happy. The labels were making billions by selling $17 CDs via armies of Tower Records and Sam Goody’s. Every few years a catalog artist like Bowie reissued his old albums in boxed sets or in remastered special editions. It was a never-ending stream of revenue, and already the industry was imagining how to get people to buy their old records yet again: SACD? Blu-Ray? The next year, Shawn Fanning started Napster.

(This reminds me, indirectly, of a conference I attended around 2000. One discussion was about how, as the United States was quickly paying down its federal budget deficit, there could be no need for the government to issue new Treasury notes. This would be a problem, as other bonds were priced off Treasurys. What could replace them? The Chairman of the Federal Reserve, speaking via satellite, suggested one idea would be to use Ford and General Motors corporate debt as a pricing peg. Why not? What could be steadier than the American automakers?)

The Bowie securitizations did kick off a small wave of similar deals in the late Nineties: James Brown, Holland-Dozier-Holland, Ashford and Simpson. But the implosion of the music industry post-Napster, coupled with the lack of prospects for future top-name securitizations (the likes of the Beatles and the Stones couldn’t do it, as their catalogs were tied up with the likes of Michael Jackson and Allen Klein), meant that the deals dried up. And the worst excesses of securitization, of course, helped dynamite the global economy in 2008, from which it’s hardly recovered. The Bowie Bond was supposed to herald the future but it now seems like a relic from a shattered world (so, very Bowie).

wld

It’s horrible, it’s gross, it’s obscene. It turns his music into a commodity. It’s like [Bowie] could be a water company or gas company.

Dustan Bruce (Chumbawumba), quoted in People, 20 July 1998.

The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionizing the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society…All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air…

Marx, Communist Manifesto.

There was much ado about Bowie’s financing at the time. Some wrote the deal up as another innovation by rock’s equivalent to Nicola Tesla; some even found tying Wall Street to rock and roll had sex appeal (see Linda Davies’ Something Wild, a 2001 novel in which the heroine investigates if the rock star securitizing his assets has a dark secret in his past). Others mocked Bowie for being a sell-out, a shill of the highest order: see the gruesome prose of Mark Steyn (Once upon a time, rock stars weren’t rated by Moody’s. They were moody.”). The deal was yet another way the Baby Boom generation had failed, yet another sign of rock ‘n’ roll gone corporate. It was gross and tasteless. How much more money did Bowie need, anyway?

And yes, it crumbles the spirit to look back through the thick catalog of Bowie songs—their happy inspirations, their twists of composition; the tone of Mick Ronson’s guitar, the sonic density of Dennis Davis’ kick drum; all of the distractions and karaoke heroics and fantasies that this music has given to countless people—and to know that this messy human ambition was reduced to a tradeable commodity. That a computer at Prudential tracked and collated the royalties of “Changes” as it did a pool of credit-card obligations by American Express. A moment in someone’s life (a song that David Bowie wrote on a piano in Haddon Hall, one afternoon in 1971, and recorded on tape with two now-dead fellow musicians) had been abstracted, had been reduced to a piece of a piece of a synthetic compilation of debts.

bustd

There’s another take on the story. A young man in Britain is a talented songwriter but is unable to manage himself and remains oblivious to finance. He acquires a manager and signs a typically egregious rock ‘n’ roll contract, in which the manager has, outright, 50% ownership of the singer’s catalog for a decade, and will retain ownership of a smaller portion of that (on a sliding scale, reportedly) for decades thereafter.

The young man grew older. He became a parent. He had a costly split from his manager. He moved to Switzerland to reduce his taxes. He had a costly split from his wife. He married again, he would have another child. Now he was 50. How long could he keep at his racket? The papers had wanted him gone years before. So he and his financial adviser devised a scheme. He would give away the royalties to his songs for a decade in exchange for a considerable pile of money. As much as half of which, some $27 million, reportedly would buy out his old manager for once and for all. Then he (and his children) would finally and wholly own his songs.

Consider the course Bowie took in the years that he worked, indirectly, for Prudential. He performed his older songs more. He supervised new releases of his old CDs in 1999 and various 30th Anniversary reissues in the early 2000s. He recorded an album where he reworked his obscure Sixties compositions (though his label shot it down). He played 83 shows in 1997 and from 2002 to 2004, he toured almost ceaselessly, racking up over 150 dates, to the apparent detriment of his health.

And around 2006, the bonds matured and his songs returned to him, and now to him alone. By then he’d stopped recording and playing live. He had (temporarily) retired; you could say that he’d earned it.

Released February 1997.

* As it was a private deal and had no prospectus, it’s never been revealed which songs were in the package. I’m assuming that Bowie’s co-compositions, including “Fame,” “Breaking Glass,” much of the Berlin-era Eno-Bowie instrumentals, the Tin Machine stuff and the immortal “Too Dizzy,” were not part of the securitization, due to the complication of having to get a co-author’s approval, but who knows.

“Bowie Bonds” are trademarked by Pullman & Co.

Sources:

James Damron and Joseph Labbadia, “Comments on Music Royalty Securitizations,” Duff & Phelps Special Report, September 1999.

Karen Richardson, “Bankers Hope for a Reprise of ‘Bowie Bonds’,” Wall Street Journal, 23 August 2005.

Jennifer Sylva, Comment, Bowie Bonds Sold for Far More Than a Song: The Securitization of Intellectual Property as a Super-Charged Vehicle for High Technology Financing, 15 Santa Clara Computer & High Tech. L.J. 195 (1999). (Sylva must have been a fan: one subhead is a play on “Sweet Thing/Candidate”)

Paul Trynka, Starman; Marc Spitz, Bowie.

Top to bottom: Starman gets star on Hollywood Blvd., February 1997; Pullman promo, 1999; chart of the beanstalk-like growth of the ABS market, 1990-2001 (Bond Market Association); Bowie bond schematics (via Dr. Martin Kretschmer’s 2001 paper here);  Brixton’s 10-pound Bowie note; cover of Linda Davies’ Something Wild, 2001; Bowie and Goldie acquire working capital in Everybody Loves Sunshine (aka BUSTED), 1998.

83 Responses to The “Bowie Bonds”

  1. humanizingthevacuum says:

    Damn, Chris. Damn.

    If Jagger could have done this deal in 1997, he would have, but, as you point, he and Richards don’t own their songs. What better way to back up the “securitized” copyright bundles than with the never-ending royalty stream? I don’t see how any songwriter could (have resist(ed).

  2. gcreptile says:

    Very interesting that you decided to turn these into a post. Thank you very much for this! I think I’ve commented on these bonds before (I have a similar background). The whole idea was so very, very New Labour. And it has to be said, Bowie never was years ahead of the mainstream, instead he was always there when some underground movement broke into the mainstream, not years ahead but always on time. These Bowie bonds happened just as the dot-com boom took off. Germany had its own boom, Tony and Blair and chancellor Gerhard Schroeder were allies in their project to modernize social democracy (Bill Clinton did something similar in the US). In those days, the left had accepted the victory of the right. Well, then Lehman Brothers crashed and the victory of the right was in vain. Anyway…. it strikes that Bowie was always… a professional. I wonder how little he simply decided to “just go with it”. Everything from Space Oddity to his comeback was calculated. And don’t get me wrong, I like Bowie because of this. It’s an intellectual appeal.

  3. Mikael says:

    Brilliant post (as always), and I agree, everyone should read Liar’s Poker.
    And I also agree David has earned both the money, and his songs back.

  4. Ken Houghton says:

    I have always heard–generally from economics professors, who make bond traders seem forthright–that the original ‘Bowie Bonds’ were the securitization of his next seven albums (basically, the EMI deal that began with “Let’s Dance”).

    (The story is usually told that he sold the bonds and then went on Letterman or something like that and said, basically, “I’m not going to worry about being commercial any more,” At the point where he had offloaded all of the risk.)

    Your tale makes much more sense.

    • col1234 says:

      it’s possible, but I can’t really see how they could’ve sold those records alone as the collateral (half of Tonight is covers, tons of Tin Machine songs are Gabrels or Kevin Armstrong co-writes). (One imagines a Prudential risk analyst digging through the numbers for “87 and Cry”) the big guns (“Young Americans,” “Oddity” etc) had to have been part of the package, i think

  5. fantailfan says:

    I hadn’t tied the indifferent 1999 remasters, the 32 flavors Best of Bowie and the shoddy 30th anniversary sets with the “securitization,” The only ones that didn’t suck were the live albums and the Ziggy MP (because Tony Visconti did them, not Peter Mew).
    The reissues after 2006 (Young Americans, Space Oddity, Station to Station (all Visconti), and Ziggy 40 and Aladdin 40 (Ken Scott) were vast improvements. I have hoped for The Man Who Sold the World (Visconti) and Hunky Dory (Scott), but I don’t think Bowie is that keen on them.

  6. Flaming Nora says:

    When I first heard about these ‘bonds’ back in ’97 I was rather disillusioned with Bowie but learning more about his reasons for it a few years ago I can only say good for him, especially when the likes of Paul McCartney don’t even own their work outright. I don’t know if you’re aware of the fact that DeFries went on to lose $20 millions plus on a bad investment (most of that money probably from Bowie’s payoff, no doubt!). Poor old Defries! Just a little query about this. Why would Angie be asked to sign off on the back catalogue? I’m not sure this is correct, DeFries, yes obviously but Angie!?

    • col1234 says:

      that’s in Spitz’s interview w/Pullman, I think (i’ll double check). Maybe she had some stake in something?

      • Flaming Nora says:

        I can’t imagine her her having any involvement with the deal Bowie signed with DeFries and the whole issue if songs rights though. I can’t imagine Bowie actually wanting to involve her in that side of things to be honest! Also DeFries was caught trying to pass off his own Ziggy era compilation as an authentic Bowie release to iTunes ( in the US only) and claim the rights and royalties on it even though of course he no longer had any rights on these songs. This was just a couple of years ago and suffice to say he got caught and is now being sued by Bowie and EMI. I suspect his losing all that money on that dodgy investment scheme may have been the motivation behind this! I’m suprised that this hasn’t been picked up by the wider music press and the press in general. I think the lawsuit is ongoing. Apparently he’s being sued by John Mellencamp too! Back in 2006/7 Defries issued a press release about how he was bringing out some amazing book about his time in the music business but so far nothing has materialized which is rather interesting.

      • col1234 says:

        ok here’s the quote. Pullman interview (Spitz p. 365)

        “the idea of producing something from so many different disciplines involved things like estate issues. Tax issues. **Divorce issues.** Child support issues.* (my emphasis). Wills, trusts. We had to consolidate all those disciplines into one deal.”

        so perhaps wrong to say she was involved, but it looks like (tho lang is oblique) that at least her lawyers were involved in some form of divorce/child support settlement issues.

  7. postpunkmonk says:

    I always felt like I should have thanked Bowie profusely for the whole “Bowie Bonds” scheme. I felt it was by far the only reason that in 1997, I was able to pay $40 + service charges to see David Bowie in a club that held a thousand people. You know and I know that Bowie’s band and entourage would require more than $40K a night [with 100% of door, of course] to keep the tour mobile. I put that tour down as a thank you for the fans paid for by Prudential. It was a genius move that had impeccable, no… flawless timing.

    • s.t. says:

      I hadn’t thought of that, but you’re probably right. I too got to see Bowie at a fairly small venue then, and it really felt like a blessing. Of course, I should also thank Bowie for using this small tour to support a drum-n-bass inflected album, since a more conventional rock approach would have made it impossible for me to get any tickets!

      • postpunkmonk says:

        I still can’t believe I got four tickets as readily as I did. The irony was, one of our friends was under the weather so we had to unload a ticket outside of the venue. Someone got lucky! [especially since I ate the service charge as a courtesy]

  8. s.t. says:

    My suggestion for a ’97 headline: “Dame of Bond Street.”

  9. Flaming Nora says:

    Reply to col1234
    That’s interesting! Bowie won full custody of Duncan (aka Zowie) in 1980 so he would not have been paying out child support to Angie and certainly not in 1997 when Duncan would have have been 26! As for the pay outs to do with the divorce, according to Angie she was awarded around £500,00 which was paid out over 10 years from when they divorced in 1980. So the payments would have come to an end in 1990. I really can’t see why Angie would have been involved in any of this. It doesn’t make sense. Bowie has had nothing to do with her since the divorce and Duncan stopped seeing her from about 13 years old. She has said all this many times in interviews. It doesn’t look like there has been any kind of contact even with her lawyers because I’m sure Angie would let everyone know if there had been! I think Pullman was just talking bollocks really.

    • Flaming Nora says:

      The deal to ‘mortgage’ the back catalogue would have been a straight forward thing between DeFries and Bowie, the only complication, probably, being co-writes on certain songs such as Fame, if those songs were included. I don’t know where wills, estates and divorce pay outs would come into it. Maybe Pullman is trying to make the deal look more complicated than it was to show off. His statement to Spitz just doesn’t make sense really. Or perhaps he was speaking generally and referring to the other artists who did the ‘bond’ thing such as the late James Brown (who’s life and business affairs were far more complicated than Bowie’s!).

  10. Flaming Nora says:

    Replyt to col1234
    *sorry £ 500,000 over 10 years*

  11. Momus says:

    I remember Jeremy Paxman demanding at the time: “What do you need so much money for?” Bowie didn’t really have a convincing answer; he had an internet company and a family, he said, and those cost money.

    As an independent musician, I have to wonder the same thing. What do you need so much money for? I think it’s more of a question now than it would have been when Bowie started out. Because now things can be scaled in an almost fractal way. You can zoom down, and they still work. You can be a “successful” recording artist at a tiny scale, and have enough of the things a big-scale successful artist has to make it all worthwhile. I think when Bowie started, this just wasn’t possible. To record, to distribute, to promote, to perform, these all cost huge amounts of money. Just to move, in that mastodon world, cost earth-shaking amounts. You would either sink or swim. Amphibians had not yet evolved.

    So, yes, “none of this is ever going to happen again”. But “this” was something by now nobody sane would want to repeat: a “nauseous Shake’n’Vac” (as Morrissey put it) world of scalping, consolidation, repackaging, cataloguing, assets management, aggressive takeovers and mergers, of 60s dreams turned into 90s nightmares, of ghastly oil-rig-like megastores and plastic emporia selling exhausted, reheated Beatles pastiches. “Take advantage”? Well, if you must. But regret its passing? Absolutely not.

    Bowie has always been very wise and down-to-earth about one thing: it’s all about the kind of day you’re able to have. If you’re having a good day, you’re doing something right. And a good day is not spent on the phone to lawyers, bankers and record company executives.

    • Flaming Nora says:

      Ummm…..he needed a big chunk of money to buy back his own songs from his former manager DeFries! Plus, of course, some financial security for himself knowing as he did that the download era was coming and his future royalties would suffer. He, unlike the record companies, saw the future! Owning the rights to your own songs and financial security too, how many older artists have that? Not many, not even McCartney or Jagger and Richards! Bowie isn’t touring the Next Day album because he doesn’t have too!

      • twinkle-twinkle says:

        Exactly!! Bowie pulled a fast one. If he had waited for royalties to flow in normally he may never have succeeded in getting rid of Defries etc. He saw the writing on the wall. (And Bowie was never a unit shifter like Elton or The Beatles).

        Essentially, he let someone else take the risk, got his money up front, bish-bash-bosh, job done. I think everyone here has made many valid points as to why some of the arguments in the post don’t hold water.

        I think he started playing older songs because he knew his new stuff was strong enough to stand comparison. He didn’t really tour that much, not compared to Elton who’s ego is likely to shrivel to nothing if he’s not on a stage or in the papers.

        ‘hours’ got a few special gigs and some radio station live stuff. ‘Heathen’ wasn’t a full blown tour either. The question was why ‘Heathen’ didn’t get the full ‘Reality’ tour treatment. I think from ‘Outside’ on, Bowie felt on a roll musically and was enjoying gigging – when it suited him.

        As for ‘Toy’ – I don’t think he recorded it because of the ‘Bonds’. I think he just wanted to show the quality of some of his early songs at a time he was being reflective on ‘hours’, and as the millennium approached.

        Many admirable artists have made disappointing ‘covers’ and unremarkable reworkings of their own songs. I think Bowie played it straight musically with his old songs to prove that, if only he’d had better musicians &/or producers back in the 60′s, the songs would have been more successful. But I digress, as usual.

        There is a lot of sanctimonious crap around this simple financial ‘Bonds’ deal. The 80′s killed many dreams or illusions about many artists.If you were still with Bowie by the late 90′s you knew the score.

        And wasn’t Bowie always about being the ‘Warholian commodity’, seeping into all areas and mediums? It’s not as if db stopped being ‘street’ and ‘real’ – he never was.

        Bowie doesn’t appear every 5yrs and pretend ‘this could be the last time’ and tour for ‘the numbers’, like The Stones. He isn’t seen to indulge in conspicuous consumption a la Elton. And he can’t be called a financial hypocrite like most of The Beatles. How blue collar America copes with Bruce is a bigger mystery to me.

        Bowie is entitled to as much of his royalties as he can get in my opinion, (and col sets out the reasons for that in his final paragraphs). If not Bowie, who?

        “Aah – f**k it! I’ve got enough, just let the record company decide what to do with whatever future coinage comes in from me ditties…”

        I think the problem is that some people keep imaging Bowie is a different artist than he really is. The NIN audience who discovered Bowie in the mid-90′s still seem disappointed and confused, angry even, at his other work. Some older fans are stuck in Berlin or Glam. He walks his own path, sometimes juggling too many balls and dropping a few; he tries to marry too many contrary things, including stardom and artistic integrity, but that’s what makes him Bowie.

        As for his finances, for all we know Bowie may be the worlds biggest secret philanthropist, or he may be buying a spaceship to return to his own planet.

        I just think the ‘Bonds’ are inconsequential to his artistic credibility, but highly admirable for their canniness and timing. Considering the financial deals Bowie could have done with his music over the years, I’d say he’s been very restrained.

        Chumbawumba… Tish!

      • s.t. says:

        I agree twinkle, that Dave’s been canny from the get-go, and has been accused of opportunism quite a bit throughout his lifetime. Hell, his most famous song, Space Oddity, was dismissed by Visconti as a pandering novelty record. “Bowie Bonds” and “BowieNet” seemed very of the time, as usual. There are worse, and better, examples of artists dealing with commerce in rock, just like there are more, and less challenging or accessible artists than Bowie. Part of the reason Bowie’s career has been so fascinating is due to his somewhat contradictory nature, like a hybrid of Paul McCartney and Scott Walker (and yes, I think Dave takes after Macca much more than he lets on). Some of the flavors may be unsettling, but they’re usually exciting.

        We’ll get to “Toy” soon enough, but I’d argue that it’s less of a “Temptation 88″ type of revisionism, and more of a rumination on olden youthful times by an older man in a hyper-updated world.

      • twinkle-twinkle says:

        s.t. – how could you? Macca!?! Ha-ha-ha! I thought we were friends?

        I always saw Bowie as the science fiction creation born of Sinatra and Lennon, delivered by Dr Presley and midwife Little Richard, with Mile Davis playing in the background. But I would.

      • s.t. says:

        Haha, I knew that line was gonna cause trouble. It’s clear than Lennon was an influence, especially his vocal delivery on the Ziggy stuff. Still, I’d say that John–like Neil Young–was more who David sometimes wished he was: the earnest, no-bullshit sage. But that’s not Bowie at all. He has flecks of it sometimes, but he’s far more mannered, and far too easily bored for all that. He’s a mutation of the variety artist, except unlike most, he’ll use avant-garde or underground ingredients as well as the simpler, friendlier ones. So yes, definitely some Sinatra, some Miles and Coltrane, some Little Richard…and also some Jayne County, some Neu!, some Brecht, some Young Gods…some late 60′s Coltrane, some 90′s Scott Walker.

        Also, while Macca of course has that nasty penchant for syrupy schmaltz, most of the artier touches in Beatles albums came from him (and George Martin). John dabbled once in a while in some sonic experimentation, but he was more than not egged on by Paul or inspired by Yoko. He sure is guilty of creating Elton John, but Bowie is inadvertently guilty of inspiring the late 90′s shift from grunge to goth-glam (Hole, Smashing Pumpkins). All these old dudes have to carry the…weight, carry that weight a long time.

      • twinkle-twinkle says:

        I forgive ya, s.t.

        But one minute you read my mind about Mozza, then you say what you did about Macca, now I’m torn on Schnabel and Basquiat.

        Yes, I think Schnabel was dissing Basquiat, but I’m not a fan of Basquiat either, lol. The paintings Basquiat did with Warhol must be some of the worst I’ve ever seen, and in such a lovely gallery in Madrid too.

        I’ll try to leave Macca and The Beatles alone, especially for the non-UK readers of this blog, they do seem to have a romanticized soft spot for the fab four. Even tho’ my stories are true, Macca has better lawyers, he-he!

        As for artists being con-men – that is absolutely true. Artists tell people any crap they think will justify what they do, or to ingratiate themselves. They hide their shortcomings behind waffle; my work’s not really about that, or I’m not really interested in x, y, z, means – I can’t do that. You just have to judge art by looking, not listening and reading. (Obvious ‘sound and video art’ is an exception to that rule. If the art involves text – it’s NOT art, ha-ha-ha!!!).

      • s.t. says:

        Sorry, I meant to write that “Paul invented Elton John.”

        Also, I meant “Temptation 87″ in my earlier post.

      • s.t. says:

        While I wouldn’t necessarily call artists con-men, I would say that their interpretations of their own work, private or public, is usually worthless. If they could express their intentions coherently, they would have been writers. I don’t know much of Schnabel’s works, but I like Basquiat in way similar to how I like Ornette Coleman. He’s no Coltrane, but there’s a childlike/impish appeal.

        I’m from a rare US family with parents who did not push Beatlemania upon their children (not Christian enough), so perhaps I’m just lucky that they pose little risk of over-saturation for me. I can totally hear the cheese, even from John and George–and I prefer Yoko’s work to any solo Beatle—but hey, I just dig those tunes. It does seem like, at least in this instance, you would readily agree with that yank Lester Bangs’ take. Basically once the euphoria of the 60′s turned into the splitting withdrawal headache of the 70′s, the Beatles were irrelevant. I can buy that to some extent, but that won’t stop me from jammin to Hey Bulldog!

      • twinkle-twinkle says:

        Hi, again, s.t.

        I think you were replying to my comment about artists being con-men. I say much for effect and in jest, but I should point out I do practice that aforementioned ‘dark art’ and know much about bull***t, lol. It’s a book – a library – on it’s own, but in relation to Bowie, I’d say fine artists often only understand what they are about ‘after’ the intuitive doing of something, building the ‘theory and reasons’ after creating the work.

        This then gets picked up and taken as a manifesto and people later assume the chicken came before the egg. This is true for individuals as well as art movements. It could well be the reason for some of Bowie’s utterances and myth-making, especially in the early days.

      • Sky-Possessing Spider says:

        Hi s.t.
        Just on your point about there being worse examples of rock stars dealing with commerce in rock: Here in Australia we have a round the clock TV commercial for a supermarket chain called Coles, featuring hoary old rockers Status Quo singing “down, down, prices are down ” to the tune of their old hit Get Down. The slightly bemused looking band are standing in a cheesy-looking eskimo village set, complete with cardboard igloos, paper snow, extras in walrus suits, and a cast of happy Coles shoppers with shit-eating grins which would suggest that they’ve just won the lottery. It’s all a bit sad. Makes Bowie’s sake rice wine commercial look like Citizen Kane by comparison -hee hee!

    • gcreptile says:

      There was a list around ..I don’t know exactly… 1999 or something. A list of the wealthiest living musicians. McCartney was at Nr. 1 with about 900 million $, Bowie was 2nd with 400 million $.

  12. Mike F says:

    Interesting. I’m also in downtown Manhattan working in the financial industry on the IT side.

    “Consider the course Bowie took in the years that he worked, indirectly, for Prudential. He performed his older songs more.”

    I don’t follow this line of reasoning. What would be his motivation for promoting his older songs if he was already paid a fixed amount up front?

  13. SeaSaw says:

    Wonderful stuff again, Chris.

    I have to say I love the idea that Bowie worked his back catalogue like a trouper out of a sense of duty over the deal – seems to fit with his work ethic. I wonder if for him it also felt like no sacrifice compared to having his songs back safely with him and his family.

    Agree with Twinkle-Twinkle’s take on the ethical issues (if there are any in this case) – who on earth should benefit financially from his songs but DB? There is a world of difference between creating something and (eventually) securing your just rewards, and being a mere exploiter of society’s inequalities.

    DB qualifies as an “innocent millionaire”, no?

    Long-term lurker here. I do have a bone to pick with DB however, given that he confused me horribly as a 14-year old in 1983. It took almost 20 years to recover but I returned eventually, as you do.

  14. Lee says:

    Thanks for posting this Chris, in my mind it has always been a mystery and I’ve never fully understood what it involved.

    One thing that does still puzzle me, do we know he has the rights back? I heard something that suggested they needed to make a certain return value otherwise he’d lose the rights?

    • col1234 says:

      well no one knows for 100% sure but I’d bet my (securitized) house that DB has his rights, full and square, now.

      the idea that mortgaging the back catalog led to, for lack of a better word, a more reflective and conservative DB in the turn of the century is just my supposition and works for me thematically. Twinkle makes a very good rebuttal.

      That said, there seems to have been, in the deal agreement, the expectation that the royalties would return some given amount annually. If the catalog had grossly underperformed expectations, DB may have had to put up more collateral or perhaps increase the coupon (i.e., move up to 9% annually or something). So it was in his interest that the songs kept generating as much royalties as they could, esp. given that he did see the writing on the wall, and knew the Internet would crush record sales.

      • Lee says:

        I agree. And the push on his older material would make financial sense.

      • twinkle-twinkle says:

        Cheers, col. And now I understand your point more clearly – it could be six of one, half a dozen of the other. I’ve quoted Eno before on such matters, about Bowie being very good at balancing art and mammon.

  15. postpunkmonk says:

    On a tangent related to Bowie’s financials, as that’s where we are this time, it has occurred to me in recent years that Bowie is the rare artist of his stature in control of his legacy to an astonishing degree. He owns the publishing and masters to much of it. I have often thought that if I were Bowie, I’d like to make my songs and recordings free in the public domain following my death.

    That quote:

    QUOTE>>> The absolute transformation of everything that we ever thought about music will take place within 10 years, and nothing is going to be able to stop it. I see absolutely no point in pretending that it’s not going to happen. I’m fully confident that copyright, for instance, will no longer exist in 10 years, and authorship and intellectual property is in for such a bashing…Music itself is going to become like running water or electricity. So it’s like, just take advantage of these last few years because none of this is ever going to happen again.

    Bowie, interview by Jon Pareles, New York Times, 9 June 2002. <<<UNQUOTE

    …Is something that I'd never read before, but it shows that he just might be capable thinking along the same lines as I was. The modern perpetual exploitation of copyright is something that has cropped up in the 20th century with mechanical distribution of songs, but is essentially a foreign notion to the idea of music that has been a part and parcel of human society for all time. At least until the last several generations, where the idea of perpetual copyright has evolved to serve the desires of the companies that have positioned themselves to "own" music. I don't know of any musician of his stature that has made his music "open source" to such a degree, but it would be a huge chuckle to me, if I were him.

    I’m sure his family have other financial securities to keep them in the manner in which they’re accustomed. Iman is a businesswoman who has her own empire. His family still have an amassed fortune that his songs have accrued in life. This would just be cutting them free and making them something for all people to draw freely from after he’s gone. I think it would be a hell of a cool thing to do. Of course, as pointed out, co-written music is more complicated. and may be kept separate from such actions, though I’ll bet Eno would bite at such a concept.

  16. twinkle-twinkle says:

    Although playing things like, ‘Can’t Help Thinking About Me’ and ‘Repetition’, during the ‘hours’ promotion period wasn’t likely to send casual listeners, or even some fans, rushing to his back catalogue, (and I believe new remasters were available around that time).

  17. Momus says:

    I must say I’m looking forward to the entry on Bowiebanc! I mean, if that wasn’t hubris… http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/601992.stm

    • twinkle-twinkle says:

      God, Bowiebanc – I’d forgotten that, lol. Maybe a step too far, yet it does have a certain Thomas Jerome Newton quality about it… he said, clutching at a very weak straw, ha-ha-ha!

      Perhaps, as Germaine Greer – not at all in the pay of the ‘White Cube’ art gallery – patronisingly said to the great Robert Hughes, when he dismissed Damian Hurst’s art, ‘bling’ and that famous art sale, “B-o-b!The money IS the art.”

      Three people from the art world are of interest in relation to Bowie. They run parallel to Bowie through the 80′s to the present day and echo some of his traits.

      Jeff Koons, as I understand it, freed himself to a certain extent from having to consider the art market and good taste at the start of his career by making money via the stock market. Yet his artwork has not benefited from this initial freedom, extended by his later success, as his work is considered by many to be merely vacuous decoration, or tacky self-promotion.

      Julian Schnabel seems to have used force of will and ego to gain fame and financial success as a ‘painter’ in the art world, yet he clearly has absolutely zero painterly skill or even the ability to make a memorable image. What strange voodoo did he use to make this happen? (Well, let’s just blame the 80′s).

      Damian Hurst, the uber-plagiarist, who’s whole oeuvre is simply a higher spec re-presentation of other peoples ideas (see ‘the art Damian Hurst stole’ blog).

      Vacuous, self-promotion, ego, uber-plagiarist. Sounds like the kind of accusations we may have heard before as regards Bowie. At different periods in his career, probably true to some degree. Yet despite those accusations, something much deeper, more profound still comes through in Bowie’s work.

      I’d say no amount of pretension, haircuts, fancy ‘art-speak’, posing, or talk of ‘memento mori’ can manufacture true poignancy. Bowie’s best work transcends his short comings in a way Hurst, Koons and Schnabel, all tied up in a Warhol box, never will.

      I find Bowie’s ill judged ‘hanging out’ with two of these…. people… more worrying detrimental to db’s image than any Bowie-bling-bond-banc, lol.

      • s.t. says:

        Speaking of Schnabel (and indirectly linked to Bowie), his film about Basquiat was a travesty. I really couldn’t tell if Schnabel was bitchily dismissing Jon-Michel as a vapid con artist, or if he was transposing his own blandness onto the character and his paintings, and was only unintentionally making the depiction seem insulting.

      • Flaming Nora says:

        I find it really odd and annoying how fans of Bowie think they can judge him over who he hangs out with etc and coming out with stuff about how it might affect his ‘image’. It’s a bit patronising and dare I say arrogant. You don’t actually know him and it’s his life!

      • twinkle-twinkle says:

        Hi Flaming Nora,

        Your right, I’ve been saying that since I found this blog. I was simply saying that if anything does diminishes him, it’s hanging around with wankers, not using a clever financial scheme to get the money which is rightfully his a little earlier.

      • twinkle-twinkle says:

        Sorry, I’ve just realised I misread and answered you wrongly, F.N.

        It seems to be the nature of some of this blog that what Bowie is seen to do, wear, and have for breakfast determines how artistically relevant he is at any given moment in his creative life. If I see an alternative reading to something – usually in Bowie’s defense – I’ll offer it up.

        My spontaneous thoughts here developed out of seeing Bowie’s behaviour in a wider art context. So, his apparent greed for money – as others see it – is no different to the fine art world where it has become part of the ‘art’, in some peoples eyes.

        Having got there, my thoughts did turn to some of those he hung out with in that world and, unfortunately, to my mind some do seem, by their utterances and antics, to be… not in Bowie’s class.

        Hurst enjoyed hanging out and dropping Bowie’s name, but also chose to make fun of him later.

  18. Maj says:

    A very interesting post. Thanks Chris. Though I had to skip point no. 1, once I scrolled thru it & found graphs. ;) I’m one of those useless people who barely passed maths at high school.

    I personally have no opinion on the bonds (or non-bonds). I think it’s his own matter and good for him if it worked out for him just fine.

    • Brendan O'Lear says:

      A genuinely fascinating entry. I’m so glad this was posted, but I didn”t want to say anything until Maj had the floor.

      There was an interview somewhere around 1976 – my first tour. I think it’s in France. He’s asked something and he says “Yes, I’ve never been anything more than a businessman… Oh, and yes, I’ve always been a liar.”

      I think I’m roughly the same age as Morrissey – well, I know for a fact he’s a couple of years older than I am, but he never came to terms with Bowie being a ‘professional’ liar. But what other options were open to him?

      There was a ‘perfume’ in the shops around 1975, going by the name of ‘Rebel Rebel’. A VERY cheap perfume. We all know the soundtrack for that commerciall. If that was ok in 1975, what was so problematic about pulling in serious money in 1998?

      • Maj says:

        Oh god. Now I regret not quoting Shakespeare.

        There are the three constants in our lives:

        Steven Moffat lies.

        The Doctor lies.

        David Bowie lies.

        Whenever I read old interviews with Bowie my eyes eventually get stuck facing the skull. But I wouldn’t have him any other way. This way I can laugh at him. And with him.

      • s.t. says:

        Judge Weeks on Morrissey, following the royalties dispute for Smiths songs: “Mr. Morrissey is a more complicated character. He did not find giving evidence an easy or happy experience. To me at least he appeared devious, truculent and unreliable where his own interests were at stake.”

        Glass houses and all that, Moz…

      • col1234 says:

        There’s something to be said for skilful lying; it’s more appealing and less brutal than, say, crass honesty. I recently watched a documentary on the Eagles: Don Henley and Glenn Frey are an example of guys who were fairly straight-forward in their intentions, and who were rather insufferable, at times awful people to be around, apparently

      • postpunkmonk says:

        Re: Henley & Frey. Some may find them insufferable people to listen to as well. I know I’m one! The Eagles are a huge pet peeve of mine. Don’t get me started… too late!!

      • Flaming Nora says:

        Doesn’t ‘honest’ Moz own some very lucrative realestate in California? He’s as much a ‘businessman’ as Bowie except Bowie is more honest about who and what he is!

      • Mr Tagomi says:

        I remember the ad for the Rebel Rebel perfume, although I think it might have been more 1978/9. A sort of punk girl on a bicycle cycling around a displeased policewoman.

        Or something like that.

        It was not until many years later that I realised that the song from the ad was Bowie’s. I’d probably never even heard of Bowie then, being very very small.

    • Flaming Nora says:

      Reply to twinkle twinkle

      Hirst is an idiot and the other two but like I said it was his choice to ‘hang out’ with them and ultimately his business. I have found a weird sense of entitlement with some fans on fansites and blogs which is very annoying and sometimes distasteful. I’ve seen fans criticise just about everything about Bowie like it’s their God given right to do so because they have all his albums and they’ve seen him this many times on tour etc etc! Criticism of his work is fine but anything regarding his personal life or friendships etc is his business. I’ve seen people criticise his choice of wife for God’s sake and they feel they have the right to do so because they are a ‘fan’! Like I said we don’t actually know him even if some fans like to believe they do. This applies to a lot of public figures not just Bowie. The internet has given people a platform to voice their opinions on everything and some are far too enthusiastic about that!

      • s.t. says:

        I can’t speak for everyone, but I take a lot of the Bowie critiques, including my own, as friendly jabs rather than serious attacks. Chris’ blog is a paragon of internet civility compared to most comment sections, but even here the tone is usually informal and off-the-cuff. Most of this stuff is said out of love by people who feel that they can be a little cheeky from time to time. I’d say that it reflects a sense of closeness to Bowie the Character, not unlike when someone complains about their home town (yet become defensive when outsiders do the same). I may disagree with some people here that BowieBonds was terribly crass, but good points have been made in that direction, even if there’s some snark in the mix.

        I agree that internet civility is important, and often ignored. But is there no room for a little sauciness among fellow fans? :)

      • twinkle-twinkle says:

        Nicely put, s.t.

      • twinkle-twinkle says:

        Hi again, FN.

        I know what you mean and I agree with you, you’re talking to someone who has taken a few slaps in defense of Team db on this blog.

        s.t. has made a very good point. But I also think that we cannot help human nature, and we don’t like to see those we love hanging with people we don’t respect, whether family, friends or some pop star, lol.

        Of course it’s none of our business what Bowie does, and most of his life goes unseen, always has done – thankfully. It’s one of the things I admire about him. I don’t think Bowie’s passing friends should be the benchmark as to whether db’s lost the plot, or whatever, but sometimes one can’t help but wish you hadn’t seen the photographic evidence.

        A candid snap taken in the street or backstage at a mixed gathering of the great and the good is one thing, but Bowie seemed to seek Hurst out, and he allowed photo opportunities from those encounters. In Bowie’s world he was making a small artistic statement. If Bowie saw their encounter as worthy of being seen, then the encounter is worthy of a certain modicum of comment. Bob Geldof is/was/may still be a friend of Bowie’s, he called Schnabel ‘an absolute tosser’. People just have opinions.

        As for the question of Bowie’s wife, are we talking Iman or Angie? I’ve never heard anyone say a bad word about Iman, ever, so I’m guessing Angie. Unfortunately, Angie hasn’t done herself any favours by writing two unreadable books full of salacious stories, not to mention the numerous tabloid stories she’s sold over the years.

        This blog can be boisterous, but I think most people who contribute are adding interesting info and also testing the validity of other points of view concerning Bowie and his work.

  19. Flaming Nora says:

    Reply to twinkle twinkle

    Actually I have seen criticism of Iman by ‘fans’! Snobbery because she is a model and accusations of her being a gold digger who spends Bowie’s money! Nevermind the fact that she is successful and wealthy in her own right! I have even seen some racist stuff about her which is as I said in my previous post is just distasteful and out of order. I don’t bother with certain Bowie fansites anymore because of this and this is what I mean about the sense of entitlement that some ‘fans’ think they have. Regarding Bowie seeking out Damian Hirst, Schnabel and Koons, well at the time he was on the editorial board of Modern Painters and seemed to want to involve himself in the art scene of that period and I don’t think it reflects badly on him at all. As I said it’s his choice! He seems to have stepped back from all that now and prefers to just be around his family which is understandable. We all feel protective of our hero but that doesn’t give us the right to constantly judge him on what he does with his life and who he ‘hangs out’ with. I do feel that it really isn’t any of our business and to make it our business and to judge him on it is very arrogant. Also, Bob Geldof’s assessment of Schnabel ( if it’s true!) is interesting as some have said the same about him!

    • twinkle-twinkle says:

      Ha-ha-ha!!! I did almost make the same comment about Geldof myself. I don’t bother with other sites much, but I have to say I’m shocked that anyone says anything detrimental about Iman. I certainly can’t remember seeing anything here.

      We tend to argue about guitar solo’s and does a misplace vowel sound spoil a vocal on a particular track (well, we don’t, but somebody up there does… wink, lol). I am very aware of why Bowie was hanging out with the people he was hanging out with, and part of it was ‘reflected cool’, bad boys lighting their ‘fags’ together; enfants terribles, etc.

      Bowie is a past master at knowing which name to drop and when. It’s true Damian was still ‘hot and edgy’ when Bowie was hanging out, having lunch at Damian’s restaurant, getting his best clothes covered in paint doing a spin painting together. (Bowie was told to bring or wear old clothes, but maybe that wouldn’t have made as interesting a performance, for in many ways, that is what it was – and is).

      I just remember an interview where Bowie was in Schnabel’s studio and I thought db was ingratiating himself with a comment a little more than he needed, in my opinion. It stuck in my head. And Schnabel was always ‘Schnabel’. As for Koons, I think Bowie gave him a harder time in his interview than even Robert Hughes did.

      Bowie tends to praise and enthuse more often than not, but I do remember a TV interview where db made a jokey put down of The Stones, looks out of the screen still laughing, and quips something like, “Mick understands – it’s all part of the game.”

      Like it or not, and there have been many times I hated the fact, in this game of life as a performance, who you are seen with counts. Bowie allegedly said in the late 80′s/90′s, that he had run out of charisma. The ‘had it, lost it’ dialogue aimed at Bowie in ‘Trainspotting’ really hurt this fan, because I sensed the truth in it, at that particular moment in time. Now Charles Shaar Murray can say Bowie has finally regained his mystique, that certain X factor that made him great in the first place – and new great music helps.

      It also helps if you have the ‘right’ support band and guests at your 50th Birthday bash. Cool guests. The right guests. Bowie did. It doesn’t matter who else was lurking in the wings, or back at a private party at home. On stage, in a photo opp, it all adds or subtracts, incrementally. It’s all part of the game.

      Anyway, I was only trying to put one perceived Bowie mis-step in some kind of context, and for me – and I can’t help this feeling – hanging out with Schnabel was never cool, not even now he seems to be making good films.

      • Flaming Nora says:

        I don’t think we will ever agree! You seem to be overly concerned about Bowie’s image and how he’s perceived by others, more so than Bowie himself! In my opinion stuff like that really doesn’t matter. Who cares about Schnabel? Bowie still has his old school friends in his life and people like Tony Visconti and Eno etc plus his family of course. He’s not some lost soul hanging out with the ‘wrong’ people because he has nothing else instead he comes across as very grounded and clearly knows which friendships matter. So that’s why his messing about with Damian Hirst years ago really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things! Regarding fansites DB Illustrated is a good one. I’m not a member but I look in sometimes. The guy who runs it moniters and moderates the message board which is good so you don’t get idiots posting crap. Unfortunately other fansites are not like this which is a great shame.

    • Maj says:

      Flaming Nora is correct. I’ve seen Iman hate online as well, which completely blew me away. I think that woman doesn’t deserve anything but respect.

      I also agree with FN on the other points in her posts.

      Something I’d like to add: I hate judgement. And the world of arts, music including, is perhaps even more judgemental than the “real world”, when it really should be anything but.
      Take Paul McCartney, so he likes to write a schmalzy pop song once in a while, why should he be a subject of snobs’s bile for that? People too lazy to delve deeper into his discography to discover it’s hardly all that he writes.
      So Bowie liked to hang out with pretentious artists. So what? He’s one too. Just one we happen to love. (What do Hurst’s fans think of Bowie, I wonder? ;) )
      So Iggy did a commercial, because punk-loving people wanna be all anti-estabilishment & don’t actually buy his music. (I semi-joke.)

      I could go on. I won’t. I’d like to point out I’m not speaking out against anybody in particular commenting here, this snobbery and just plain old need to be negative, nit-pick and moan, control what we love etc. is way more widespread. It’s as old as mankind itself.

      LLAP y’all.

      • s.t. says:

        That is absolutely insane about the Iman hate.I don’t like to bring out my plush foam “Racist!” finger pointer unless it’s absolutely necessary, but this might be a good time.

        Apologies if any of my comments about Paul have ever offended. To be clear, I’m a huge Beatles fan, even of stuff I consider to be schmaltzy.

        But there are different kinds of fans. There’s A) the religious warrior, (thankfully haven’t come across this type here)…. B) the “no sacred cows” persnickety critic, and then there’s C) normal people. Perhaps it’s related to my vocation in science research, but I’m decidedly in Group B. Picking things apart is how I understand them, and even if I love something, it’s not sacred enough to escape critical examination. Actually, I liken the process to Jewish midrash, where the critical engagement is how one accesses the sacred. Except it’s sometimes more like bitchy drag queen midrash. Sometimes we gotta really wring out that old Dame and squeeze for those holy juices, ya know?

        I realize that people can interpret critical remarks differently, and the intent is even more ambiguous when presented as text online with no tones or gestures to add emotional context (and all from strangers, no less). But I can say this for myself: anything that I would post on a music site is meant in good humor. If it sounds negative, it’s probably closer to the obsessions of a pedant. It’s fine if that’s not your M.O., but certainly don’t take it as ill will towards Bowie or anyone else.

        At the very least, there’s something to be said about the variety of comments made here. Some may seem bitchier than others, but good points have been made all around, yes? Plenty can be gleaned from those minefields, given the right strategy.

      • Maj says:

        s.t. This place is amazing, the bitchiness does get too much for me even here sometimes (sorry, I’m a gentle soul), but it’s heaven compared to other Bowie places (which I don’t visit any more), or really, any comment section on the internet. I do get tired of music fans in general, for being snobby & irrationally hateful – and then I need to vent a bit, but I can still spot a joke. ;) Hell I like “nudging” my music favourites, laughing at them as well as with them, Bowie included, obviously. It’s definitely fair game. As long as it doesn’t get vile.

        As for Iman, I find that almost any wife of a any rockstar ever (or, in David Furnish’s case a husband) get flack for marrying said musician, whatever they do. Some deserve it to a certain extent, some don’t deserve it at all. I hope in Iman’s case it’s not racist, but more to do with her being a Goddess that most of us aren’t worthy of & so people get jealous.

      • Flaming Nora says:

        Yep! Saw the racist stuff on one of those crappy fansites I no longer visit. We are all judgemental in some way but it wouldn’t occur to me to go on a message board or comments section and just vent! I mean, why? To be honest the older I’ve got the less judgemental and snobbish I’ve become, certainly about public figures that I don’t even know and that,of course includes Bowie. Life is too short for that!

      • Maj says:

        FN: The same here. The older I get the more I actually feel as long as you don’t hurt anyone you should be able to like, do and believe in whatever you want without risking being called an idiot, or worse, whether you’re an artist or a fan. I think I was at my most snobbish & judgemental when I started listening to Bowie over a decade ago and discovered the online fandom of his; being a naive teenager, I was easily influenced. Of course his fan base (any fan base, really) consists of lovely people, hell even most of the snobs are lovely people ;) None of us are perfect…

      • col1234 says:

        well even the tone of the blog has matured and gotten soft. some of the old entries are pretty snarky. I think peak bitchiness is the “Dancing in the St” entry (which of course is by far the blog’s most popular entry)

        i’m happy this is a civil comments section as such go (and self-policed, for the most part—think i’ve had to ban like one guy in its history). occasionally i have to ask people to stop the ad hominems and turn down the temperature, but otherwise, it’s been a real treat having all of you here.

        the “hours” entries could be an interesting case. just to disclose: it is not one of my favorite DB albums by any remote stretch, but I am going to listen to it again over the next month and see if I get a new perspective. But if i knock a song, I’ll try to say, without malice, why I think it doesn’t work, and I’m sure I’ll get some push-back. which is fine.

      • Maj says:

        Chris, you do a great job here. You don’t nit-pick, you analyse and you put your opinion across in a way that I never considered as desiring to be the gospel. ;) Even if we disagree on songs here, with you and with other commenters, I never feel like you preach to us or look down on us.
        And you do a good job moderating as well.

        Snark is healthy if used moderately, and totally fair game when it comes to Bowie. ;) I’ve nothing against that.

      • Re: Chris and the general decrease in snark level – I dunno, one could definitely feel you reaching a kind of breaking point during some of those Tin Machine entires.

  20. postpunkmonk says:

    Something that just occurred to me was in 2000, I relented and got the Internet at home. I had spent the whole of the 90s in software development, so the whole of my web experience was a fat pipe at work and I saw little point in having poky dial up (that I had to pay for) at home. But seeing as how we were planning to move to another state in 2001, it behooved us to do web searches at a place where my web excursions were not monitored. So I joined Bowienet. Why not? Those who signed up received the “Live and Well.com” live CD from the “Earthling” tour as a premium. The “label” that this self-released Bowie album was issued on? Risky Folio, of course!

  21. Dean Goodman says:

    If Bowie was so bearish on the future of copyrights, why didn’t he sell his entire interest to one of the big publishers and invest the proceeds in a diversified portfolio? Some Apple, some Manhattan property? I believe people like Pete Townshend have been selling their copyrights. It may be prudent estate planning. Emotions should not influence investment decisions.

  22. sidthecat says:

    I suppose you could say that Mr. Bowie decided to play on a few financial instruments.

  23. kermit Bee says:

    Nice.

  24. every thing says:

    thaaaaaaaaaaanx

  25. awax1217 says:

    Well done. It reminds me of my association with Lehman Brothers when I went to college. This might interest you. I was a take checker. There were about twenty of us. We tried to resolve the paper mistakes made in transactions. There were a few places mistakes were made and we were trying to cross reference where the errors were made on take out tickets. Let us say 1,000 shares was put in the Chicago account but on the ticket there was an error and the ticket read only ten. Easy to fix the error. But thousands of them were done and it got more complicated. Finally Lehman Brothers went on the computer system and our department went down to five people. I was let go after spending weeks putting information into their new computer. You got to love technology.

  26. Karl Drobnic says:

    A good explanation of securitization and SPVs done to the benefit of all stakeholders…Prudential gets theirs and Bowie gets his. But your explanation also provides insight into the potential to use the process to fleece the public, as per Enron and Worldcom, and then the Wall St. banks. Nicely articulated.

  27. evsetia says:

    Well ! I visited the second article related him, fenomenal Bowie

  28. androidbethy says:

    Reblogged this on Android Bethy.

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