Changes (live, Glastonbury, 1971).
Changes (live, 1973).
Changes (live, 1974).
Changes (rehearsal, 1976).
Changes (live, 1990).
Changes (live, 1999).
Changes (live, Glastonbury, 2000).
Changes (A&E Live By Request, 2002).
Changes (live, 2002).
Changes (Ellen, 2004).
Changes (Butterfly Boucher with David Bowie, 2004).
Changes (with Mike Garson and Alicia Keys (Bowie’s last performed song), 2006.)
Changes (Cristin Milioti, 2016).
Changes (50th anniversary remix).
David was born on 8th January . The midwife said to me, “this child has been on earth before,” and I thought that was rather an odd thing to say, but the midwife seemed quite adamant.
Margaret “Peggy” Burns Jones.
The very first memory I have is of being left in my pram in the hallway of 40 Stansfield Road [Brixton], facing the stairs—they were dark and shadowy.
If there was anything that caught his ear, he would tell everyone to be quiet and listen, and then fling himself about to the music.
So many people are born in a trap. And they don’t seem to have the courage to want to get out. And it’s so simple, really, so simple.
Gurney Slade (Anthony Newley), The Strange World of Gurney Slade.
So many of the things I wanted to do come from books.
He didn’t actually go out very much but preferred to stay home. I’d often invite him to a party and he would often say, “No, I’m going to stay in, I’ve got some work to do.”
David knew all the songs by heart and in his peculiar way could sing every song in our set [but] none of us liked his voice at all.
Alan Dodds, The Kon-Rads.
He looked like a young waiter who had blown his first check on a bad haircut.
John Bloom, recalling Davie Jones and the King Bees’ performance at Bloom’s birthday party, April 1964.
One of the ways we would write was I would bring my fingers down on the keyboard and David would say, “What’s that? Hold that chord.” And we would write something around it. I found it hard getting my fingers used to those chords, he never made things easy.
Denis Taylor, lead guitarist, The Lower Third.
You can’t give all you have to take something back.
“Take My Tip” (1965).
He had written a lot of songs, they were not Rock and Roll but they were very good, very musical and they had unusual shapes, nothing like the current Top 20 stuff.
John “Hutch” Hutchinson, on first working with Bowie in The Buzz, 1966 (from Bowie & Hutch).
Now you know I’m not the warmest performer on stage, and I never have been…I’ve never felt comfortable talking on stage. With ‘Diamond Dogs’ I even wanted to have the band in an orchestra pit.
David, you’re working with a backing group, The Buzz. Have you always worked with them?
As David Bowie, yes. I’ve always been with them, for about six months.
Why do you say ‘as David Bowie’?
I was someone else before that.
Radio London interview with Bowie at the Marquee Club, 1966.
I want to act. I’d like to do character parts. I think it takes a lot to become somebody else. It takes some doing.
Bowie, to Melody Maker, 26 February 1966.
He would go down to Carnaby Street and get himself kitted in a fancy outfit. You would never see him walking around like a slob. He didn’t do slob.
Dana Gillespie, to Dylan Jones.
Lo, Palmer’s Green has been disrupted by a clown and two friends. Twenty-four people walked out the first night. Most of them were coppers off duty. One old man sat and read a newspaper: The Sketch, I think. And a couple of nice ladies talked about their babies, bingo, and bras in Row E. Lindsay [Kemp] was pissed, Jack [Birkett] was ill and I just sang.
Bowie, letter to Hermione Farthingale, 1967.
I’m not quite sure what
We’re supposed to do
So, I’ve been writing just for you
Bowie: What do you think you’ll be doing in ten or twenty years’ time?
Bowie: I might be writing, too. I think of myself more as a writer than a musician. I shall be a millionaire by the time I’m thirty, and I’ll spend the rest of my life doing other things.
Interview by George Tremlett in Ken Pitt’s apartment, 39 Manchester St., London, 17 November 1969.
David Bowie is 22 years old, thin, with a halo of fair hair, a delicately soft face and two cold eyes. One is pale kitten blue and the other green, and it makes it rather disconcerting to talk to him.
Penny Valentine, Disc, 11 October 1969.
I haven’t got a clue why Visconti didn’t like the song. The fact is, Mercury didn’t have any major acts with the exception of Rod Stewart, who at that point wasn’t a major act anyway…they took Bowie on specifically because of “Space Oddity.” They’d heard the demo and in those days a gimmick was a big deal, and people who had gimmicks were taken more seriously than those who hadn’t.
Gus Dudgeon, 1993.
I wasn’t interested in the far future, spaceships and all that. Forget it. I was interested in the evolving world, the world of hidden persuaders, of the communications landscape developing, of mass tourism, of the vast conformist suburbs dominated by television—that was a form of science fiction, and it was already here.
J.G. Ballard, 2008.
With The Man Who Sold The World I wanted to work in some kind of strange micro-world where the human element had been taken out, where we were dealing with a technological society. That world [was] an experimental playground where you could do dangerous things without anybody taking too many risks, other than ideas risks….It was all family problems and analogies, put into science-fiction form.
Bowie, 1993; 1976.
The song breathes out the whole sweep of postwar British culture before the Beatles turned it on its head—the slow, squalid sink of pointless desires caught in John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger, Colin MacInnes’s Absolute Beginners, Tom Courtenay and Julie Christie in Billy Liar, Nell Dunn’s Up the Junction—and places it squarely in the present. It’s a drama of ordinary life you can’t turn away from, because you’re seeing a life that you know, that you’re living, thrown up on the screen of the song. The quietest tinkling piano begins it; at the end, the piano trails off into a huge, harsh crescendo of movie-finale strings—hero and heroine clasped in each other’s arms, wind propelling them into their future—as if the notes can’t remember the song.
Greil Marcus, on “Life on Mars?”
The day will come when David Bowie is a star and the crushed remains of his melodies are broadcast from Muzak boxes in every elevator and hotel lobby in town.
Nancy Erlich, New York Times, 11 July 1971.
You had to make the two sides of the album roughly the same length. While parts were being worked out, I would spend time working out the timings and putting songs together so I could suggest which order would work best…Up to a point, the running order was dictated by the LP format. The whole idea about the concept album thing…there are some songs that fit together on a certain story. But I dispute the fact that it’s a concept album, because why would you have “It Ain’t Easy,” which was recorded for Hunky Dory?
Ken Scott, on The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars.
Writers like George Steiner had nailed the sexy term “post-culture” and it seemed a jolly good idea to join up the dots of rock…Everything was up for grabs. If we needed any truths we could construct them ourselves. The main platform would be, other than shoes, “we are the future, now” and the way of celebrating that was to create it by the only means at our disposal.
Bowie, introduction to Moonage Daydream, 2002.
Ziggy was this kind of megalomaniac little prophet figure who came down to tell us it was all over. We were never quite sure whether he meant it or not, whether he was from outer space or not.
Bowie, on 20/20, 1980.
As David Bowie appears, the child dies. The vision is profound – a sanity heralding the coming of consciousness from someone who – at last! – transcends our gloomy coal-fire existence. David Bowie is detached from everything, yet open to everything; stripped of the notion that both art and life are impossible. He is quite real, impossibly glamorous, fearless, and quite British. How could this possibly be?
How would you describe yourself?
Bowie: Partly enigmatic, partly fossil.
Backstage interview at Carnegie Hall, 28 September 1972.
Among certain more affluent hippies Bowie is apparently the symbol of a kind of thrilling extremism, a life-style (the word is for once permissible) characterised by sexual omnivorousness, lavish use of stimulants— particularly cocaine, very much an élitist drug, being both expensive and galvanising—self-parodied narcissism, and a glamorously early death. To dignify this unhappy outlook with such a term as “nihilist” would, of course, be absurd; but Bowie does appear to be a new focus for the vague, predatory, escapist reveries of the alienated young. Although Bowie himself is unlikely to last long as a cult, it is hard to believe that the feelings he has aroused or aggravated will vanish along with the fashion built round him.
Martin Amis, The New Statesman, 6 July 1973.
The Sixties are definitely not with us anymore…the change into the music of the Seventies is starting to come with people like David Bowie and Lou Reed…they don’t expect to live more than thirty years and they don’t care. And they don’t care. They’re in the Seventies. What I’m tryin’ to say is these people like Lou Reed and Davie Booie or Bowie, however you pronounce it, those folks—I think they got somethin’ there, heh heh. Take a walk on the wild side!
Neil Young, 1973.
Living in Dagenham, the appeal was that if you dyed your hair or had a little bit of make-up or wore a bangle, you’d get the piss taken out of you, but because it was David Bowie you didn’t. You could dress up like that…It was so obvious that girls liked it—thank you David Bowie! And good music to shag to, I have to say.
Steve Ignorant, of Crass (whose name came from “the kids were just crass” in “Ziggy Stardust”).
“Lady Grinning Soul”—to have all those runs on the piano, I was practicing eight hours a day at the time, year after year. You can’t play like that if you haven’t done tons of repetition….then when we did “Time” they found that truly humorous, and David being almost like a Broadway singer and knowing all the German stuff, everything about it was David Bowie. But I was playing the piano how I think he would have played if he could play at my level. He could play, he played well, but it was very basic piano. I think, if he had my chops, that’s what he would have done.
Mike Garson, on Aladdin Sane.
The ego is the instrument of living in this world. If the ego is broken up or destroyed…then the person may be exposed to other worlds, “real” in different ways.
R.D. Laing, The Politics of Experience.
I was already a 13-year-old fan when Diamond Dogs came out…Diamond Dogs is not a coherent story, but I’m not sure I wanted a coherent story. The inner sleeve’s photographs of a broken city, as if seen in a damaged kaleidoscope, aren’t coherent either, but they paint a place…it’s my favourite album because it was mine—in a way no other Bowie album had been, or would be again…because it contained complex lyrics on Sweet Thing and Candidate that made me feel like I was being shown a 12-hour drama through a letterbox slot; because the opening monologue pronounces the album unashamed science fiction; because it sent me to the school library aged 13 to borrow 1984, back then only a decade away; because the track listing on the cassette was all jumbled for reasons of time, so that story, whatever it was, and that sequence was what I first encountered and responded to, built up in my head, which meant that it would be another 32 years until I realised I could reorder the track listing on my computer and listen to Diamond Dogs in a way that felt right to me.
I just remember I wanted to write something that would read the way Diamond Dogs sounded.
William Gibson, on writing Neuromancer.
Diamond Dogs, as I remember it at the time, was trying to accomplish some great mockery of rock ‘n’ roll. It seemed to be part of my manifesto at the time, I don’t know why.
It solidified..what I wanted to do with Devo. We’d spent way too much time smoking pot talking about ideas & doing nothing about it. Here was someone who’d taken the time to do it for real.
Jerry Casale, on seeing the Diamond Dogs tour in Cleveland, June 1974.
I ran to his room and looked at the thin white man singing on Soul Train. Bowie was wearing a dark suit with a light shirt. He was moving very slowly, as though he were high or drunk or too cool to sweat. “He sing ‘Fame'”? I said. We loved that song. “I thought he was black.” We stared at the television as though we didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. “I’m trippin’,” Keith kept saying. “I am really trippin’.” “Me too,” I said. “He white?” “I don’t care,” Keith said. “He bad. He a bad dude.”…Who was this man who wasn’t anything close to what he looked and sounded like? Who let him do that? Who let him be white and weird and on Soul Train?
Dana Johnson, Elsewhere, California.
Plane comes into view, loud, knocks letters out. Hand places “The Young American.” Major Tom walks into vision. The letters drop and he passes the camera…We are in [an] aircraft and slide back to passenger section to find Major Tom watching English news TV of his sensational send-off.
Bowie, film scenario, 1974.
David played “Station to Station” to me at Cherokee. When he played that…it was cinematic in every respect…I was amazed how he could come up with that, having been in complete cocaine psychosis.
Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple).
The tree-top at last! Here we are at the very apex of the Middle Pillar where we can make no further progress on the Tree of Life unless we leave it altogether into the Nothing above, or fall back to Malkuth and start all over again.
William G. Gray, The Ladder of Lights (1968).
I walked out on Bowie’s show. I thought it was dreadful. I got turned off by that whole ego trip. That ‘here I am, baby, and isn’t it wonderful to actually be able to see me, I’m the thin white duke’ bit. What is all that about? I could call myself the fat pink pulp, but I don’t.
Elton John, 1976.
“The first space-rock hero of the 70s,” as David has been called, has finished a book of “semi-autobiographical” short stories called “The Return of the Thin White Duke,” which will be published at Christmas—by his own company, natch.
The Los Angeles Times, 24 July 1975.
And all of the imbeciles and cretins, who had been delegated to some other imperceivable providence of their own, have tumbled and fallen from the sky, soared spouting from the seas. The catastrophic menage is ripping and torturing their release from the soul of OM. And the rock bands just dirge and provacate [sic] the malforms into the frenzid waltz of [infinity symbol].
Excerpt from Chapter One of The Return of the Thin White Duke.
Because of the dark glasses Bryce could not see Newton’s eyes, but it seemed to him as though Newton were looking everywhere. “Easy come, easy go, Nathan,” he said. Newton began to tremble. His angular body began to lean forward and the felt hat fell silently on the table, showing his chalk-white hair. Then his Anthean head fell on to his spindly Anthean arms and Bryce saw that he was crying…
The bartender had come over and when Bryce looked up the bartender said, “I’m afraid this fellow needs help.”
“Yes,” Bryce said. “Yes, I guess he does.”
Walter Tevis, The Man Who Fell to Earth.
In this movie, the forlorn, limp hero-David Bowie—a stranger on earth, doesn’t have a human sex drive. He isn’t even equipped for it: naked, he’s as devoid of sex differentiation as a child in sleepers. When he splashes down in a lake in the Southwest and drinks water like a vampire gulping down his lifeblood, one is drawn in, fascinated by the obliqueness and by the promise of an erotic sci-fi story. It is and it isn’t. The stranger has come to earth to obtain the water that will save his people, who are dying from drought, but he is corrupted, and then is so damaged that he can’t return…The plot, about big-business machinations, is so uninvolving that one watches Bowie traipsing around—looking like Katharine Hepburn in her transvestite role in Sylvia Scarlett—and either tunes out or allows the film, with its perverse pathos, to become a sci-fi framework for a sex-role-confusion fantasy. The wilted stranger can be said to represent everyone who feels misunderstood, everyone who feels sexually immature or “different,” everyone who has lost his way, and so the film is a gigantic launching pad for anything that viewers want to drift to.
Pauline Kael, review of The Man Who Fell To Earth, The New Yorker, 8 November 1976.
[Bowie’s] done something that I should have done but I backed out of doing, which is just split the album into two halves and said “Well, here’s all the fast songs—and here’s all the other things that I also like.” I’ve got this same problem coming up again now. Because it’s even more polarized. I’ve got on the one hand some really manic songs. Oh dear, they sound so bizarre I don’t know what I’m gonna do with them. They sound a bit like Captain Beefheart or my version of modern jazz or something like that.
Brian Eno, NME interview, 27 November 1976.
On this album David Bowie achieves the ultimate image-illusion available to an individual working within the existing cultural forms of the West.
THE FIRST IMPRESSION Low imparts to the listener is that he is somehow hearing it sideways.
Ian MacDonald, Low review, NME, 22 January 1977.
It’s decadent in the sense that it glamourises and glorifies passive decay and I don’t give a shit about how clever it may or may not be—David never makes minor errors, only fundamental ones—it stinks of artfully counterfeited spiritual defeat and futility and emptiness.
We’re low enough already, David.
Give us a high or else just swap tapes with Eno by post and leave those of us who’d rather search for solutions than lie down and be counted to try and find ourselves instead of lose ourselves.
You’re a wonderful person but you’ve got problems.
Charles Shaar Murray, Low review, NME, 22 January 1977.
From station to station back to Düsseldorf city
Meet Iggy Pop and David Bowie.
Kraftwerk, “Trans-Europe Express.”
We went to East Berlin across Checkpoint Charlie where you have to show your passport to the East German police. David’s passport had a picture of him with curly hair from his “Space Oddity” days and Iggy Pop had platinum blonde hair in a Beatles cut. The guards took one look and burst out laughing at the two passports. David and Iggy were holding back their aggression and gritting their teeth, saying “very funny.”
I’m happy now. Content. I feel more than a product on an assembly line and no more a means of support for 10,000 persons who seem to revolve around every fart that I made.
My role as an artist in rock is rather different to most. I encapsulate things very quickly, in a very short space of time. Over two or three months usually. And generally my policy have been that as soon as a system or process works, it’s out of date. I move on to another area. Another piece of time.
You wouldn’t believe how much of it was entirely unwitting. I think I did play outside the boundaries of what is considered the general area of rock ‘n’ roll. Some of it, just pure petulance, some of it was arrogance, some of it was unwitting, but, inevitably, I kept moving ahead.
Ziggy, particularly, was created out of a certain arrogance. But, remember, at that time I was young and I was full of life, and that seemed like a very positive artistic statement. I thought that was a beautiful piece of art, I really did. I thought that was a grand kitsch painting. The whole guy. Then that fucker would not leave me alone for years. That was when it all started to sour.
Bowie, Melody Maker interview, 29 October 1977.
[Marianne Faithfull] reminded me of Grace Kelly, or rather Kelly’s voice in the duet she sang with Bing Crosby in High Society, “True Love.” Kelly was almost speaking her parts in a captivating and sensual monotone. It was not unlike Crosby’s later duet, with David Bowie playing Princess Grace.
Andrew Loog Oldham (from Stoned).
I’m incredibly happy now, because I’m not ambitious anymore. I do have a strong paternal streak. I’m a born father. I want more children, but not ego children…You can stuff all your punk bands, give me three children instead.
Bowie to Lisa Robinson, Hit Parader, March 1978.
“You owe me a move,” say the bells of St. Groove
“Come on and show me,” say the bells of Old Bowie.
The Clash, “Clash City Rockers” (1978).
They’re different from me, they actually go and read books, they don’t read walls.
Bowie, introducing Talking Heads’ “The Book I Read” on BBC1’s Star Special, 20 May 1979.
I’m so pleased that the conclusion of these three albums has been so up. I think it would have been terribly depressing if the third one had been down. At least this one has a kind of optimism.
Bowie, 1979, on Lodger.
The [Scary Monsters cover] character is based on Lindsay Kemp’s very wonderful-looking Victorian clown. I took that feeling and looked inside of that, that’s when you get the disheveled side of the clown. It’s a nod backwards to an element I started with. One always returns and looks back and reincorporates those old things and reevaluates them from time to time…There were an awful lot of mistakes on that album [Scary Monsters] that I went with rather than cut them out. [It’s hard] to put oneself on the line artistically ever since the Dadaists, who pronounced Art Is Dead. Once you’ve said Art is Dead, it’s very hard to get more radical then that. Since 1924 it’s been dead, so what the hell can we do with it from there on? One tries to at least keep readdressing the thing and looking at it from a very different point of view.
I must say I admire [Bowie] for his vast repertoire of talent the guy has, you know. I was never around when the Ziggy Stardust thing came, because I’d already left England while all that was going on, so I never really knew what he was. And meeting him doesn’t give you much more of a clue, you know…Because you don’t know which one you’re talking to.
John Lennon, BBC interview, 6 December 1980.
I enjoy David Bowie. He can stay right out of it all and enjoy his life, enjoy his music. I can enjoy my life like that when I’ve done a lot more work.
Adam Ant, NME interview, November 1981.
The subject matter of ‘Let’s Dance’ is nebulous. There is an undercurrent of commitment, but it’s not quite so straightforward… It’s a one-to-one thing, yes, but the danger, the terrifying conclusion is only intimated in the piece. It is not apparent what exactly the fear is that they’re running from. There’s an ominous quality about it, quite definitely. That was the dance song that has all the trappings of old disco music, but it’s almost like the last dance.
Bowie, NME interview, 16 April 1983.
Bowie: Having watched MTV over the last few months, it’s a solid enterprise…I’m just floored by the fact that there are so few black artists featured on it. Why is that?…The only few black artists that one does see are on from about 2:30 in the morning to around six.
Mark Goodman: Of course we have to try and do what we think not only New York and Los Angeles will appreciate but also Poughkeepsie, or pick some town in the Midwest that would be scared to death by Prince, which we’re playing, or a string of other black faces.
Bowie: That’s very interesting. Isn’t that interesting.
Goodman: We have to play the music that we think an entire country’s going to like…should PLJ play the Isley Brothers? Now you and I might say yeah, because we grew up in an era when the Isley Brothers mean something to millions…but what does it mean to a 17-year old?
Bowie: I’ll tell you what the Isley Brothers or Marvin Gaye means to a black 17 year old, and surely he’s part of America as well…Do you not find it is a frightening predicament to be in?…Is it not possible that it should be a conviction of the station and of other radio stations? It does seem to be rampant through American media. Should it not be a challenge to try and make the media far more integrated? Especially, if anything, in musical terms.
Bowie MTV interview, January 1983
Somebody once said — who was it? It’s terribly important — that Harry Langdon, the silent comedian, cannot be taken on his own; you have to put him alongside that which went on around him, like Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd and Chaplin. He can only be seen by reference, and somebody said that about me, which is probably very true. I kind of quite like that, actually, that you can’t take me on my own. You can only use me as a form of reference!
Bowie to Charles Shaar Murray, NME, 29 September 1984.
Mick wants to do new things. He would much prefer to be David Bowie than to work with Keith Richards because when he makes a record now he has to deal with the fact that Keith Richards wants to be like Muddy Waters and grow old and die playing the blues.
Pete Townshend, 2002.
August 1987: Cafe Luxembourg, following Bowie’s Madison Square Garden Glass Spider concert. Nick Rhodes, Jeremy Irons, Coco Schwab…Bowie asks me what I thought of the show. “A little busy,” I say, attempting to be flippant about the dancers, the huge props, the overkill. “No, really,” he says. “C’mon, you and I have known each other too long. What did you really think?” In no uncertain terms, I proceed to tell him what I thought. You can only fool some of the people some of the time, I say. Less is more, David. Put on a leather jacket and jeans and go out and sing your hits, for God’s sake. It’s a new generation: they’d love those songs. I finish; everyone is horrified. David is laughing.
Lisa Robinson, SPIN, August 1990.
I knew David wanted to do a different kind of music. [But] I always thought if I gave it back to him, it would end up going back to the Spiders from Mars. That’s exactly what happened.
Hunt Sales: But, man, those albums. I dunno. And the Glass Spider tour? Well, I didn’t go and see it but I saw it on TV and…
Bowie: But, Hunt (slips into music hall straight man mode), I thought you never missed any of my tours...
Hunt: I never miss any of your tours. I never go see ’em, so I never miss ’em…
Bowie: Boom boom!
Hunt: But I didn’t like Glass Spider. I mean that. Seriously. I thought it was a bit beneath you. That’s my opinion. I don’t need to sit here and say that I love something I didn’t think much of. I watched it thinking, This is the guy who did Spiders From Mars.
Bowie: What he’s saying is he hasn’t listened to anything of mine since Spiders From Mars!
Reeves Gabrels: But Glass Spider was cabaret. A lot of critics said…
Bowie: Yeah, critics. Give me your personal opinion.
Reeves: If you want my personal opinion you’ll have to ask my wife. But it seemed to me it was about entertainment more than music. I went to see a soundcheck in Chicago and that was better than the show.
Bowie: To come to its defence, I liked the video of it. But I overstretched. I made too much detail of… Oh Christ. Next question!
Tony Sales: He’s beginning to roast!
Tin Machine interview by Adrian Deevoy, Q, June 1989.
He was lying in bed, too weak to stand, losing his sight, going: “Have you heard Mrs Bowie’s new album, darling? What does she think she’s doing?“
Elton John, on Freddie Mercury in 1991.
Did you hear the latest Living Colour album? Vernon Reid wrote a song about bisexuality. I think that’s very good of him, very brave. Because I think especially today people shouldn’t be made to feel as if they should hide their sexuality. These are dangerous times for everyone that wants to explore their own sexuality. Sex is becoming a taboo again and I feel people should be able to talk about it. As long as the discussion remains open you’ll prevent so-called vigilantes from using AIDS as an excuse to discriminate and isolate certain groups from society. Because of this, people will turn inward or won’t experiment with their sexuality or worse: pretend to be something different sexually then they really are and that is very, very dangerous. It must be awful for young people today to be trapped into an existence that goes against their very nature, you have to continue to rebel against this. Sexual experimentation might be dangerous right now, but the danger should not be a reason to stop people from being who you want to be.
Bowie, interview with Oor, 1993.
My personal brief for this collection was to marry my present way of writing and playing with the stockpile of residue from the 1970’s.
Here is a partial list: Free association lyrics Pink Floyd Harry Partch Blues clubs Unter den Linden Brücke Museum Pet Sounds Friends of the Krays Roxy Music T. Rex Costume The Casserole Neu Kraftwerk Bromley Croydon Eno Prostitutes & Soho Ronnie Scott’s club Travels thru Russia Loneliness O’Jays Philip Glass in New York clubs Die Mauer Drugs.
Bowie, liner notes to The Buddha of Suburbia (1993).
Phillip Jeffries: Well now, I’m not gonna talk about Judy. In fact, we’re not gonna talk about Judy at all, we’re gonna keep her out of it.
Special Agent Dale Cooper: [bewildered] Gordon?
Gordon Cole: I KNOW, COOP!
Jeffries: Who do you think this is there?
Albert Rosenfeld: Suffered some bumps on the old noggin, hey, Phil?
Cole: WHAT THE HELL DID HE SAY THERE, ALBERT? THAT’S SPECIAL AGENT DALE COOPER! FOR GOD’S SAKES, JEFFRIES, WHERE THE HELL HAVE YOU BEEN? YOU’VE BEEN GONE DAMN NEAR TWO YEARS!
Jeffries : The stories that I wanna tell you about… It was a dream! We live inside a dream!
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992).
I see no way we can go back, philosophically, to a world of absolutes. Which I feel very comfortable with and I always have done…I think seeing the problems that historians themselves have with revisionism of history it seems almost nonsensical for the layman to even bother to try and analyze history any more in a straight narrative way. In a way history almost ceases to exist—possibly we can’t really entertain the idea of a future in the same way. Which may be not a bad thing…I mean, by hacking off the limbs of both past and future we might have created a workable future where we have to deal with things on a day-to-day basis, rather than having long term plans for a world which really can’t afford to have long term plans.
Bowie to Ian Penman, Esquire, 1995.
Brian and I had both felt resolutely out of it. I tried passionately hard in the first part of the ’80s to fit in, and I had my first overground success. I was suddenly no longer the world’s biggest cult artist in popular music. I went mainstream in a major way with the song “Let’s Dance.” I pandered to that in my next few albums, and what I found I had done was put a box around myself. It was very hard for people to see me as anything other than the person in the suit who did “Let’s Dance”, and it was driving me mad – because it took all my passion for experimenting away. I went through the doldrums at approximately the same time as Brian. I felt I really wanted to back off from music completely and just work within the visual arts in some way. I started painting quite passionately at that time. Then, toward the end of the ’80s, everything started to fall back into place again. It was as though there had been this hiatus where everything had stood still. Birds hung in the sky; they didn’t finish their flight.
Bowie to Ingrid Sischy, Interview, 1995.
Caller: How did you get the title for the new album and why is the title split up on the album cover?
Bowie: Well it was kind of lugubrious, it was a rather a weak pun on the fact that I feel quite happy with life and anything else you want to read into it, you know, the work is never finished until the audience participates and all that. But I think the idea if you change the content of something, if you look at something that you know very well for a long time, it starts to disappear. So if you change the context of what that thing looks like people notice it more, so we put spaces in the word just to make you take in the word “Earthling” in a different way to how you would normally receive it.
Riki Rachtman: What was that word again, there, nugubrious?
Bowie:…It’s an old graphic design trick.
Rachtman: Well you gotta help me with that other word David, I wanna learn a new word. “Unagubrious”?
Bowie: [laughs] Lugubrious.
Rachtman: Oh OK, I just want to say I learned that one —
Bowie: It’s from Alfonse Lugubri, the old silent actor.
Bowie radio interview, Rockline, 1997.
Wake up, people of Omikron! Reshev and his corrupt government are lulling you to sleep in order to control you better. They have transformed you into puppets that are manipulated by Ix and the demons. Join the Awakened Ones and rise up to fight for your freedom.
Boz (Bowie)’s message; Omikron: The Nomad Soul (1998).
Jeremy Paxman: You’ve got to think that some of the claims being made for [the internet] are hugely exaggerated. I mean, when the telephone was invented, people made amazing claims.
Bowie:…No, you see, I don’t agree. I don’t think we’ve even seen the tip of the iceberg. I think the potential of what the internet is going to do to society, both good and bad, is unimaginable. I think we’re actually on the cusp of something exhilarating and terrifying.
Paxman: It’s just a tool though, isn’t it?
Bowie. No, it’s not. No. It’s an alien life form. [Laughs] Is there life on Mars? Yes, it’s just landed here… I’m talking about the actual context and the state of content is going to be so different from anything we can envisage at the moment, where the interplay between the user and the provider will be so in sympatico, it’s going to crush our ideas of what mediums are all about.
Bowie on Newsnight, 1999
Isn’t it all so personal, though, isn’t really all so personal? If by consensus an artist is great, if numerically enough people like that artist, that he becomes a great artist? [Roy] Lichtenstein that way isn’t a great artist. How can he be a great artist if I don’t think he’s a great artist? I mean he had a great gag for the first few years, and then he just did it and did it and did it and then he died.
Bowie on Charlie Rose, 1998.
Our ace boon Arthur Jafa likes to say that ”Andy Warhol was so white he was black.” Bowie (who played Warhol in Schnabel’s film Basquiat) was likewise so avant-garde he tipped over into the Avant-‘Groid—that Afro-outré dimension where Little Richard and Sun Ra define how far out you can go and command love from the folk. Like Joni Mitchell—another unguilty pleasure of many boho blackfolk—Bowie double-crossed back over to black culture by being his own transcendently pan-everything creation. But not even Queen Mother Joni can say she provoked James Brown to copycat action twice in his career. JB was so blown away by Bowie’s ”Fame,” he cut his own carbon-copy track, ”Hot (I Need to Be Loved, Loved, Loved),” and, years later, when Bowie optioned his publishing for stock points, the Godfather of Soul got the news about how lucrative the deal proved and quickly followed suit. Bowie once said, “The secret to my success was I was always the second guy to come up with the idea.” All hip-hop junkies can relate.
Greg Tate, “Brother From Another Planet,” 2016.
I feel like I’ve finally arrived at being instead of becoming, which is kind of how I feel about being young – there’s always a sense that you’re becoming something, that you’re going be shocked by something new or discover something or be surprised by what life has in store. I’m still surprised at some things, but I do understand them, I know them. There’s a sense that I know where I am now. I recognise life and most of its experiences, and I’m quite comfortable with the idea of the finality of it. But it doesn’t stop me trying to continually resolve it: resolve my questions about it. And I probably will. I think I’ll still be doing it – hopefully – like Strauss, at 84.
Bowie, to The Observer, June 2002.
Down in space it’s always 1982.
I don’t think we are going to destroy it at all. I’m not that pessimistic. I just believe we’re going through a transition where we will become a humankind that accepts chaos as our basic premise.
Bowie, Soma interview, 2003.
I’m grateful for any audience, you know? It’s fine; I don’t care if they’ve got two heads. As long as they are there to enjoy themselves, come listen. I suppose the only thing I’m fairly strong-armed about is that I really kind of require them to get involved with the new material I’m writing as well as the older things.
Bowie, Weekly Dig interview, 2003.
The last time I saw him was in New York at a party in the early 2000s. I arrived a bit late and was surprised to see Bowie stepping out of a yellow cab. I asked him how he traveled about Manhattan, unrecognized and un-harassed. Simple, he said. I carry a Greek newspaper. He held it up…People think, hey that’s David Bowie! Then they see the newspaper and realize it’s just some Greek guy who looks like him.
It was early 2007. She was out in the East Village on St. Mark’s Place in the middle of a blizzard, trying to hail a cab. [There was] only one other pedestrian on the sidewalk. When a lone pair of headlights appeared through the snow, the stranger gallantly said, “go ahead.” She said, “why don’t we share?”…It was only in the cab that the scarves and hats came off and she said, “Oh, I know who you are.” She made the split-second (but brilliant) decision to start talking about herself and tell him her entire life story, so he could relax and not have to entertain this stranger he was trapped with…She told him every last detail of her family life (“You’ve got to forgive, for your own sake,” he kept telling her) until the taxi reached Soho. As she got out, he said, “Now when you tell your friends about this, make sure you mention that I was wearing fabulous shoes.”
Rob Sheffield, on his friend’s encounter with Bowie (On Bowie, 2016).
“I’m not thinking of touring,” he said. “I’m comfortable.” He draws, paints and collects 20th Century British art.
Bowie’s last quote to the New York Times, in a profile of his wife, 6 June 2010.
Here’s what David sent me (and I should thank him for doing it, and so I fervently thank him here):
Bowie’s list was left-justified, but probably because he didn’t want to take the time to center justify, and also his list was purposefully double-spaced.
Rick Moody, 25 April 2013.
That’s why I’m so puzzled when people say [my work is] all dark, dark, dark, whereas I think there’s a lot of beauty in it. Obvious beauty. I’m not a religious man, but it’s a longing. For who knows. For existence itself. True existence. It’s a longing for a calling. It’s just a feeling that it might be there.
Scott Walker, 2012.
There are songs to sing, there are feelings to feel, there are thoughts to think. That makes three things, and you can’t do three things at the same time. The singing is easy, syrup in my mouth, and the thinking comes with the tune, so that leaves only the feelings. Am I right, or am I right? I can sing the singing. I can think the thinking. But you’re not going to catch me feeling the feeling. No, sir.
Dennis Potter, The Singing Detective.
I know something’s very wrong
The pulse returns the prodigal sons
The blackout hearts the flowered news
With skull designs upon my shoes
“I Can’t Give Everything Away”
NEWTON: And I’m not of this world. And not yet marked by this place here. Not pinned down in this apartment—not divided into days and praying for my death—and bullied by this broken mind—and before all of this happened to me—and before the journey down here—to wake in the place where I was born. And to be up there.
Lazarus (Bowie/Walsh, 2015).
I remember when I found out about 2:30 in the morning that he’d passed, I was laying in bed, my partner woke me up; she’d heard from Duncan [Bowie’s son]. I just kind of laid in bed and I started laughing. She said, “Why are you laughing?” I said, “Because we had so much fun.“
The night of April 14, 1865, and Lincoln’s assassination. As Lincoln drew his last breath, all the worthies who had crowded into a little back bedroom in a boarding house across the street from Ford’s Theatre turned to Edwin Stanton, Lincoln’s formidable Secretary of War, for a final word….Stanton stood still, sobbing, and then said, simply, “Now he belongs to the ages.”
I picked up James L. Swanson’s “Manhunt,” a vivid account of the assassination and the twelve-day search for John Wilkes Booth that followed. Once again, I came to the deathbed scene, the vigil, the gathering…Again Stanton broke the silence. ‘Now he belongs to the angels.’ Now he belongs to the angels? Where had that come from?…In the endnotes, Swanson explained that his rendering was deliberately at variance with the scholarly consensus: “In my view, shared by Jay Winik, the most persuasive interpretation supports ‘angels’ and is also more consistent with Stanton’s character and faith.”
…I made up my mind about what must have happened: Stanton had muttered “angels,” been heard as saying “ages,” and, if he had been asked which afterward, would have been torn. He might have decided to enable the mishearing, in order to place Lincoln in history, not Heaven. It seemed possible that both versions were true, one to the intention and the other to the articulation, one to the emotion of the moment and one, in retrospect, to the meaning of the life. Angels or ages? Lincoln belongs to both.
…And then I knew that we probably would not have understood any better had we been standing there than we do now. Stanton was weeping, Lincoln had just died, the room was overwhelmed, whatever he said was broken by a sob—the sob, in a sense, is the story. History is not an agreed-on fiction but what gets made in a crowded room; what is said isn’t what’s heard, and what is heard isn’t what gets repeated…The past is so often unknowable not because it is befogged now but because it was befogged then, too, back when it was still the present. If we had been there listening, we still might not have been able to determine exactly what Stanton said. All we know for sure is that everyone was weeping, and the room was full.
Adam Gopnik, “Angels and Ages,” The New Yorker, 28 May 2007.
Something happened on the day he died.
Such a beautiful tribute. For all celebrations all there, it will be hard to top this one. Very moving and very brilliant.
Thank you, Chris.
Thank you, Bowie.
.Every second spent with you is a second full of happiness and laughter
.You are such a huge part of my life, and the main reason of my stable mental health
.I’m so lucky to have you
.I feel really blessed.
Reading this while listening to the newly released “Toy” for the first time. Paired like a fine wine to one’s feast of choice. Read it twice over. Laughed many times. Tears welled occasionally. The palpable sense of excitement I felt when this arrived in my Inbox was familiar from every past missive I’ve received from you. A new entry from you feels like a new single was just released. Quite a feat, that!
Thanks for years of pleasure and thousands and upon thousands of well chosen words in exquisite order. Your sizable books are on the shelf from my current vantage point. Will be celebrating DB75 with the Mike Garson webcast this evening (6PM US Pacific Time). I hope other readers will be virtually joining me at the concert. “…you’re not alone”.
I can’t give . everything . . . . . away
Thank you for trying ★♥︎
Beautiful. Thank you for this.
Thanks. Really lovely.
Writing about David Bowie must be exhausting. Seriously.
Sounds like a dream job. I envy (and admire) Chris a lot. Happy new year voyeurs of utter destruction! (that’s the first time someone called bowie fans like that (unless it was a thing on 90s bowienet), let’s make this a thing
January 8 to 10 every year since 2016 are magical days of remembrance for me. Thanks for this, Chris, and thanks for all you do.
Thank you Chris
Thank you, thank you.
“He didn’t actually go out very much but preferred to stay home. I’d often invite him to a party and he would often say, “No, I’m going to stay in, I’ve got some work to do.”
“I know when to go out
Know when to stay in
Get things done”
You’ve written a Bowie song.
Wonderful approach and choice of quotations to create a timeline into DB’s body of work. Your insight is always so interesting and much appreciated. Thanks for all the work over these many years. This one needs lots of unpacking, which makes it all the more fun.
Beautiful, touching tribute. Read it in one sitting and made me teary-eyed.
Glorious. Just glorious. Thank you.
shooting up pie in the sky!!!!
Thank you, Chris!!!!
Thank you for this post Chris, and all the blog posts over the years. Has it been 8 or so years now since I’ve been following PAotD? I got the feeling of experiencing a rushing flashback while reading this and listening to Toy. When David Bowie died in 2016, my own life also took a dark turn and things didn’t get fully back on track until 2019… with Coronavirus around the corner. David’s music was a connection for me for better times all through those years, and he remains one of the primary influences in my life. I owe a lot to you for your explanations on his posts for not only enriching my understanding of his music, but also helping me double down on David as a gateway into the unknown and eccentric with all the tangents you sent me down. Hope to see you around for the 100th anniversary of his birthday!
So glad to get another post from you. Always thought provoking and interesting. His passing hit me so differently than the death of other artists that I never met. His work is “closer”.
Chris O’Leary, you have brought me to tears ( but in a good way, as to feel profoundly shows we are still alive). You have managed to achieve something that has become increasingly difficult on account of the huge volume of words quoted and written about him; you have found rare snippets of information transmitted in a new format. You should be very proud, you have done this wonderful, enigmatic man a great service.
Thank you Chris for this ingenious chronology and worthy tribute. To be read and reread. The familiar, the forgotten, the new, he’s always fascinating and so damn funny. “It’s from Alfonse Lugubri, the old silent actor,” tossed away in character, mocking himself, his encyclopedic knowledge and need to name drop. Oh how we adore that brilliant cunt in a clown suit. Happy 75!
Absolute gold, Chris. One to just keep in the inbox and pick up every day (like your books, but even quicker going!). Have a great 2020.
Incredible tribute and lovely. Thank you Chris.
A brilliantly curated collage of thought — configuring so many sources into new constellations of meaning (and better yet, brand-new questions) as skillfully as the Main Man himself.
Great work, Chris. I keep wanting to post links to individual things here, but I think I’ll just share all of it….
Outstanding and poignant chronology marking Bowie’s birthday Chris. Always so much deep and scholarly content to joyfully absorb and unpack (yes, even through the tears of David’s untimely passing). As others have noted, such a great feeling of anticipation when I discover a new entry has been posted! Especially appreciated and elated when it’s the “IT’S (JUST LIKE) XMAS post!!
That’s the best Xmas present of all and a wonderful entry into a new year of exploring the enigmatic Bowie canon. Your brilliant writing style continues to be the key to this illumination.
Looking forward to more of your intriguing posts and the revised Rebel Rebel in 2022.
Belated condolences for your adorable pup Lucy. A true friend indeed.
Love this entry! Beautiful and fascinating. Thanks for everything.
Beautiful work, Chris. Thanks again!
Gorgeous. Thank you, Chris.
Thankyou – how wonderful of you to do this.
I’ve just finished ‘Bowie and his Heroes’ and now this. A beautiful walk down memory lane.
Took a few weeks to work my way through this collage of memories and enjoy it. Thank you, it’s just beautiful.
I just came here to check your notes on a song and found myself in tears with this beautiful collage. Thank you for this, you’ve made my day a lot brighter today.
Can anyone tell me what Bowie means by FRAM and LTCL in the Record Mirror letter?
Thanks for doing this. In post-industrial 1970s north-east England, Bowie (no surprise) offered a way out for teenagers, even pseudo-intellectual ones like me. We shared his albums (plus Ronno’s and Lou’s), no individual among us could afford to buy all those lps. There was no mystery – what Bowie was doing went straight from the grooves through the headphones into your heart. Message received. The surprise was, that if you went an hour north to see him live in Newcastle and then battled backstage, you met someone warm, affable and humorous, though he must have been exhausted and we were just spotty kids without money and sometimes with his haircut. He looked unearthly, but you could sense the real pleasure he took in performing his songs (and one of Brel’s) for an audience (then). The connection felt almost old-fashioned, and not glam. Later I had kids and lost touch with his new stuff, he’d pop up as a celeb. Then Where are we now? and Momus covering it immediately. We went to see Momus live, in our 50s (we’d always liked the Momus Brel covers, and Tender Pervert). The old friend I went with died suddenly thereafter, then Bowie was gone too and I went back to the albums and found your blog. And now back to the songs, again. Another old friend plays with Visconti’s Bowie-covers band, I’ve still a slight imposter half-connection to the dead, keeping them un-dead, along with the memories. Every few years, some small gossip. But all you can do is tell the story of the life and you’ve done that so well, here.
Thank you for this reminiscence. Bowie was known to describe himself as a cold person, but I did feel a warm quality coming from him.
Same here — I never forgot the description of Bowie in the 1980 Angus MacKinnon interview as “radiating loneliness” but the one time I met Bowie I felt something different; practically an insatiability to connect. This was backstage at the Tower in Philly, soon after our only phonecall, in which he was remarkably accommodating and genuine (in what I now realize may have been the only gentlemanly interview he gave in the whole Tin Machine era :-)).