David Bowie changed the face of London with his music forever. He was more than just a musician, he was a writer, composer, designer and fan of many. He kept an open mind about everything and was able to constantly adapt, learn and break new boundaries by manifesting new sounds and imagery through his creativity. He was an innovator like no other.
Above: The Linguini Incident 1991
Pop star, rockstar, composer, actor, showman, producer. David Bowie symbolized versatility like few musicians could. The constant evolution of his sound and artistic persona have colossal influence on popular culture.
David Bowie: “My personal need to entertain has changed a lot. I think when I was young, I was about creating theatricality, creating a more artificial kind of parallel reality on stage, but as Ive gotten older over the last 5 or 6 years Ive really fallen into the comfort of actually adjusting into the tempo of the songs.
“As far as style is concerned I dont think I really want to have a style. I much prefer to be sort of a free agent and move from one thing into another and where my enthusiasms take me.”
The cacophony of androgyny, the science fiction look, the colors, the dyed hair. This was all red meat to designers. Clearly David was a genius in that area as well.
David Bowie didn’t just entertain, he intrigued and invoked. After 50 years in the spotlight the legendary musician somehow managed to retain a sense of mystery.
Along with the Beetles and Elvis Presley, Bowie obliterated musical boundaries and defined what pop music should be. He left a permanent mark on more than one generation.
Above: Photo of David Bowie Circa 1967
It took years of hard work for David Roger Jones to emerge as one of the most influential figures in music.
Growing up in the austerity of post war Britain he came of age in the swinging sixties. He was born in the Brixton suburbs of London in 1947.
Bowie was introduced to rock and roll at an early age through his brother Terry’s record collection. The recurring theme of mental instability of Bowies early work connects to Terry and his cruel grandmother.
Madness was the refrain playing in his families background. Three of his mothers sisters reportedly became psychotic, likewise Terry, his half brother.
You have to go back a generation to understand what made him tick. His maternal grandmother, Margaret Burns, was a cruel woman who took her anger out on anyone around her. Bowies mother Peggy was the eldest of six children. Peggy was beautiful and modeled lingerie.
She met a glamorous French barman, fell in love and became pregnant with Bowies brother Terry, Bowies half brother. Soon after she gave birth he disappeared without a trace.
Because the stigma of illegitimacy was so strong back then, her mother Margaret looked after Terry from the age of 6 months. In passing him to Margaret, Peggy had unwittingly created a natural experiment. Terry was raised by a woman who had nurtured three psychotic daughters.
Bowie got a subtly different deal.
Margaret was emotionally abusive to Terry. Rebuked by her for some misdemeanour, he smirked out of nervousness. Margaret said “go on, laugh again’, and he nervously did again so she smacked him across the ear and said, “that’ll teach you to laugh at me”.
Such abuse is the single strongest childhood predictor of schizophrenia, more so even than sexual abuse.
Terry was later institutionalized with schizophrenia and committed suicide in 1985. This deeply affected Bowie as he loved his brother and visited him frequently.
Above: Bowie And Older Brother Terry Burns Photographed Early 1960’s
Peggy married in 1946 and gave birth to Bowie born David Jones, the next year. Both Peggy and Bowie’s father, John Jones were physically undemonstrative but John was affectionate to his son. He took him to pop concerts and bought him a saxophone at age nine.
Above: David Bowie With His Mother Peggy Jones Circa Early 1950’s.
During David Jones adolescence there was one indelible incident in 1962 which would forever change his image. The incredible photogenic eyes were a result of his being punched by his friend George. It just changed the look of his eye to a much lighter shade of blue which worked out in his favor so bizarrely he owed his friend George. They remained friends after the incident which was a one time thing to which his friend really regretted after.
David Bowie never really cared for his own singing voice and performed his own songs because no one else would sing them. He was quoted saying he would give someone else’s right arm to find someone who would sing his songs.
Bowies early musical interests were blues influenced and he formed a few bands before reaching Space Oddity.
Bowie regularly frequented an underground psychedelic club called ” Middle Earth”, located in London where he performed with his band, “Feathers” with Hermione Farthingale his girlfriend at the time. He wasn’t doing the lead singing in this group, he was more of a mime artist in this group. He was magnetic on stage. Some years later Hermione left David and the group Feathers as she was doing small scale films and fell in love with another actor. David was broken hearted.
Above: Bowie And Farthingale of Feathers 1969
Bowie almost decided to leave the music scene all together. “IT” is one of the most intriguing stories to resurface in the wake of David Bowie’s death: the tale of how the rock legend almost became a Buddhist monk in Scotland.
In a Russell Harty interview in 1976 via satellite from Burbank California. David Bowie stated his opinion on being disciplined.
David Bowie: “Discipline doesn’t mean getting up every morning at 8 and having breakfast and leaving your flat at half past 8. Discipline is if you conceive of something you decide whether or not its worth following through and if its worth following through well then you follow it through to its logical conclusion and do it with the best of your abilities. Thats a discipline. Whether there are areas in it not to ones liking you have to go back and re-do it”.
He was always focused and driven. During the time he was sitting around the flat not doing much he was constantly composing. He was never idle.
David Bowies skills of being a great story teller remain unparalleled.
David didn’t write love songs. At a time where everyone was writing love songs he never did.
David would often go to La Giocond which was a cafe at 9 Dennmark Street in London’s Tin Pan Alley, where musicians such as David Bowie and Elton John would eat and meet other people in the music. Bowie would sit and nurse a cup of tea for hours because at any moment anyone from the song publishing companies would rush in and say “boy we need a bass player”, or “we need a back up singer”, and you would wait and see if someone would call you in for something.
David Bowie employed a writing technique from William Burroughs where he would write a song, cut it up and rearrange it out if order. You would still have the same meaning but the song would be out of order.
Throughout his career David Bowies style and image were inextricably linked to his music. He made the focus on himself and his reinventions.
Bowie was an artist who changed himself frequently and completely. This presented a challenge and caused tremendous problems for his fans who would turn up for his gigs dressed up as last years image and at the end look very sheepish because they realized they were wearing the wrong costume. Bowies fans really made massive efforts to try and look like him. The audience became a sea of a multitude of Bowies multiple personas. Bowie was the master of reinvention.
Some of Bowies groundbreaking work would come from his band Spiders From Mars such as The Man Who Sold The World, followed by Hunkey Dory which introduced the sexual ambiguity that would become a part of Bowies imagery.
Bowie photographed in a dress on the cover of his album The Man Who Saved The World released November 4th 1970 was extremely edgy and unheard of for that time. Heres David Bowie essentially saying to gay males to not be afraid to be themselves and not change who they are inside.
He was already giving the signals that he was going to blur the lines.
One object of Bowies admiration was New York pop icon Andy Warhol. Andy Warhol was a massive figure in Davids life in the late 60’s to early 70’s and what The Factory was doing in New York. David wrote a song for Andy Warhol titled “Andy Warhol” on the album, Hunky Dori. He said, “Its different from anything Ive ever done.”
On July 3, 1973 Bowie released The Starman. “The Rise And Fall of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars.” This is the story of David Bowie’s fifth album, the masterwork that would immortalise him as the world’s biggest pop star.
Bowie was already planning his next move. In 1973 Bowie announced the retirement of Ziggy.
By the mid 70’s David Bowie metamorphosed again. Still breaking new musical ground. “Station To Station” provided a dose synthetic funk and introduced Bowies more toxic alter ego, The Thin White Duke.
The cocaine fueled paranoia that seeped through Station To Station reflected Bowies increasingly troubled state of mind. Exacerbated with legal and financial troubles with former managers or damagers as Bowie liked to call them.
Spying Through a Keyhole contains demos and rarities from Bowie’s “Space Oddity” era