Saturday, May 18, 2013
David Bowie Is in my room
Well, it finally arrived.
I must say it is a beautiful book. The cover is orange with a sort of rubbery feel & semi-negative photos on it - Ziggy on the front, later rugged Bowie on the back. 'David Bowie Is inside' printed on the spine - the Is theme is used throughout the book, he is Is Blowing our minds, Is Putting out fire with gasoline, Is A human being, Is at given moment of time a given moment of time, even Is Referenced and Is Indexed
The inside is beautiful, even sumptuous with the expected catalogue collection of essays, which while I haven't read them all yet looking interesting and varied. Life, album covers, impact on fashion, visual imagery, sexual revolution, writing and so on. I am sure there will be some pseudoish stuff in there, but hey this is an art catalogue. Go here to get to the V&A site
As a visual artifact we are obviously going to lose the sound aspect of the exhibition, which by all accounts was quite spectacular. But we do get loads and loads of images: costumes in full view and close up of detail and also in concert photographs, photos from the life, lyrics, drawings and paintings, draft covers, variants, simple lyrics given as a single line of text on each of facing pages and more. A visual feast well worth getting (You can buy this from the V&A website, who direct you to their Amazon shop page. But if you buy it direct from Amazon it is cheaper. Though not a cheap book).
It's the sort of book to return to and savour. And to also make you think about Bowie and Bowie's impact on you. And as this is a spot for me to reflect, here goes.
When I review my musical life Bowie plays a rising, plateaued, rising again trajectory. After hearing the second self-titled album which is usually considered his first one, Bowie was in my hearing but not essential (I got an american import of **The Man** with the strange cartoon cover in a sale - and wasn't ready for it). As for many listeners, I should think, he sort of sank into a background until **Ziggy Stardust** - an album that I knew the songs from but didn't own till later. In that period I will admit ELP or Jethro Tull or even Elton John were higher in my consciousness. After that though, I became a more consistent buyer, **Pinups**, **Diamond Dogs**, probably not **Aladdin Sane** first up. The release of *Man who fell to earth* reignited the fire a bit & Young Americans & Station to Station came more to the ofre (I think the Lennon duet helped). Then there was my stated **Low** epiphany. Interestingly, like many epiphanies I can recall it - and I happened to have a diary of that trip to England and there is no mention of **Low**, the radio, Crashing in the same car while we were driving or the album. Some mention of Eno later though.
That said, Bowie was back. I closely followed from that point for the next decade - even the seeming commercial dredge of **Let's Dance** and its relatives. Then Bowies quiet phase as he restructured his finance. I was excited by the return: I enjoyed **Black Tie** and **Outside** was a return to Eno, complexity and difficulty (and was probably overstretched as it is, but has some great songs) and **Earthling** was ahead of the game. Then we hit the period where my reviewing seems to have overwhelmed mainstream listening, then **Heathen** which I love, reality which I came to later and now the dramatic return.
In terms of my Bowie collection I have all the albums (I did own the Decca one but have never bothered to relisten) digitally, vinyl or CD: including the **sound and vision** box set (the second edition with 4 CDs, digital version), the best of DVD which includes the wonderful Top of the pops clips with beused young brits watching on & pretending to 'dance'. A couple of bootlegs - scary monsters outtakes and the lost Toys album.
I saw him live once - the Stages tour. It was good to do, but I think in retrospect disappointing: the sound was terrible, the songs too much like the records, the show quite downbeat. Looking at the costumes some of the early personas looked pretty weird - David Bowie Is pushing the boundaries! But I have got recordings of life shows from most of his various periods & enjoy them.
And a couple of other books, bought for the kindle have been interesting.
David Bowie Is in my life - and has really been a part of it for the last 40+ years. And David Bowie Is never disappointing really - the albums which are at the bottom of peoples lists of Bowie Albums From Worst To Best are (a) often near the top of someone elses and (b) better than most else which is or was going around and (c) different to the other albums in that list which means there is always something new fresh different to listen to.
I feel privileged to have been able to grow with Bowie's changes (I just inserted a note above that I wasn't ready for it when I bought The Man & that is true of other artists as well, you have to learn what they are trying to do; my late coming to Miles Davis is another example) and the pleasure of being able to think about when his musical journey and my life intersected (what was going on in my life when the thin white duke documentary came out for example). To have had one artist whose life has burned bright at the same time as I have developed is probably unique: there are not that many pop musicians who have such an extended strong career (Robert Fripp and Brian Eno come to mind, not surprisingly). Crooners - yes; classical - yes; jazz - yes; but not pop/rock I think, and not ones who have developed changed and effected so much change (I proffer the Rolling Stones as exhibit A).
And somewhat topically David Bowie Is given the best ever cover version with the Space Oddity from the space station. A good version sonically, but when tied to the so appropriate and so not bluescreened visuals it was a treat.