At some point in 1984, when I was 18, I was approached by a woman who identified herself as a casting agent, near the American Embassy on London’s Grosvenor Square.
Would you be interested in doing a screen test for the new Stanley Kubrick project?
Why, yes, of course, I would most certainly be interested in that!
Would you be willing to get all of your hair chopped off? Like in an military buzz-cut?
That I was considerably less enthusiastic about. I had long hair then and I was… rather attached to it.
Obviously, in retrospect, she was casting for long-haired young guys willing to have their heads shorn for Full Metal Jacket. I took her card but never went for the screen test.
I’ll bet David Bowie wishes he’d had made a similar decision before losing his locks for a blink and you’ll miss ‘im cameo in 1969’s The Virgin Soldiers. Aside from a two-second cameo as a falling down drunk soldier in the background of a bar scene, the rest of Bowie’s performance ended up on the cutting room floor.
New York City-based artist E.V. Svetova (aka Katyok on deviantART), designs these oddly-beautiful David Bowie dolls. According to her page, she does “all of the customization and painting, as well as most of the garment design and construction.”
Some of these shots are based on iconic Mick Rock portraits of Bowie. Extra points for the mini Kansai Yamamoto knock-offs!
Unfortunately none of the dolls are for sale. My husband was crushed by this news.
When his debut album flopped in 1967, David Bowie thought his pop career was over. The years of practice and ambition had sadly delivered nothing but the indifference of the public (who preferred The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s) and the bewilderment of critics, who could not quite understand this young singer (who sounded like Anthony Newley) and delivered such diverse and original songs. Bowie had discovered the width of his talent, but not its depth. Understandably, disheartened, Bowie considered packing it all in and becoming a Buddhist monk at the Samye Ling Monastery in Scotland, but fate played a hand and he soon found himself under the influence of a charismatic fan - the brilliant dancer, performer and choreographer Lindsay Kemp.
Kemp loved Bowie’s first album, and used one its tracks “When I Live My Dream” for one of his shows. Kemp offered Bowie a new career - as dancer, actor and member of Kemp’s dance troupe
On 28 December 1967, David Bowie made his theatrical debut in Kemp’s mime Pierrot in Turquoise or, The Looking Glass Murders at the New Theater in Oxford. Bowie wrote and performed the music, and co-starred as Cloud, alongside Kemp’s Pierrot, Jack Birkett’s Harlequin, and Annie Stainer’s Columbine.
The production was still in rehearsal when it played for its one night at the New Theater, which perhaps explains why the Oxford Mail described the show as “something of a pot-pourri,” though it highlighted Bowie’s contribution for praise:
David Bowie has composed some haunting songs, which he sings in a superb, dreamlike voice. But beguilingly as he plays Cloud, and vigorously as Jack Birkett mimes Harlequin, the pantomime isn’t a completely satisfactory framework for some of the items from his repertoire that Mr Kemp, who plays Pierrot, chooses to present….
...No doubt these are shortcomings Mr. Kemp will attend to before he presents Pierrot in Turquoise at the Prague Festival at the invitation of Marceau and Fialka next summer. No mean honour for an English mime troupe.
The mime told the story of Pierrot and his attempts to win the love of his life, Columbine. Of course things are never simple, and Columbine falls for Harlequin, and is then killed by Pierrot.
After a few tweaks, Pierrot in Turquoise or The Looking Glass Murders opened at the Rosehill Theater, Whitehaven, before its proper run at the Mercury Theater, and Intimate Theater, both London, in March 1968….
More on Bowie & Kemp in ‘The Looking Glass Murders’, after the jump…
By the time she was just 25, irrepressible Scottish songstress Lulu was already a firmly established member of the British “light entertainment” pantheon, having come to fame in the early 60s with her cover of “Shout!” and presenting many a “family friendly” TV variety series.
A 1974 chance meeting with David Bowie—then the most “far out” rock star the world had ever seen—at a party in Paris saw her take the (for her) unusual step of recording two of his songs for a single, the tunes being “The Man Who Sold The World” and for the flip-side, “Watch That Man.” The idea was to sort of update her cozy image for a new decade, and who better to employ for this task than David Bowie, who told her he wanted to record a “motherfucker” of a song for her (They also had a brief fling, as recounted in her book).
The numbers were produced by Bowie and Mick Ronson, and Bowie played guitar and sax as well as doing backing vocals. “The Man Who Sold The World” was re-imagined as a cold, sleazy cabaret vamp. Bowie had Lulu smoke cigarette after cigarette to get her voice sounding as scratchy as possible. Bolstered by several Top of the Pops appearances, the single went top 10 hit in Britain—her first in five years—and was a hit in several other European countries in 1974.
These fan-shot clips of David Bowie and the Spiders from Mars in Dunstable, supporting the then brand-new Ziggy Stardust album on June 21, 1972, have been sync’d up to live recordings. I’m unsure if the audio is from the same show, sometimes they’re really in sync, other times less so, but it’s close enough for rock and roll.
YouTube user bri2kay is who we have to thank for this Ziggiful bounty. Considering the scarcity of Ziggy-era footage, this is gold. And there’s a lot more where these came from.
Today, his 66th birthday, sees David Bowie releasing a new single and video, “Where Are We Now?” and announcing the release of an upcoming album, The Next Day, his first in a decade.
The Next Day was produced by long-time collaborator Tony Visconti in New York. The new song, an elegiac ode to the past apparently, has an accompanying video directed by installation artist Tony Oursler that was shot in the auto repair shop underneath the apartment where Bowie lived in Berlin in the late 1970s.
As thin as a matchstick with a freshly ignited flame at the tip, David Bowie makes an appearance on The Dick Cavett Show in November of 1974. Chatting about Diane Arbus, mime, his wife Angie and his son Zowie, this makes for a fascinating and intimate 30 minutes. Songs get sung, including “1984,” “Young Americans” and “Footstompin’.”
The intersection of Radio Soulwax and David Bowie should be enough to pique even the most casual music listener’s interest, but fear not, the brothers Dewaele have delivered something truly special with the dj-set-cum-art-film Dave.
Dave is a 60 minute long megamix of Bowie music, arranged and mixed by Soulwax in their own inimitable stye, and accompanied by visuals put together specially for the piece by film maker Wim Reygaert. In true gender-bending fashion, Bowie is portrayed by a woman in the film, which takes its visual cues from some of the most recognizable moments in Bowie’s long career.
Soulwax are the undisputed kings of the audio/visual mash-up (it’s hard to believe the 2manydjs “As Heard on Radio Soulwax Pt. 2” album is ten years old already!) Here’s their reasoning for dedicating a whole hour of their work to David Bowie:
Our homage to the man whose ability to change whilst remaining himself has been a massive influence on us. There are many legends in the music industry but for us, there is no greater than the mighty Dave. We’ve included all things Bowie, whether that is original songs, covers, backing vocals, production work or reworks we made, to attempt to give you the full scope of the man’s genius.
For the visual side to this mix our friend Wim Reygaert (who also made the amazing film for Into The Vortex) came up with the most ambitious film for RSWX, taking us on a fever dream time travel through the man’s career starring the amazing Hannelore Knuts as Dave. We’ve got to extend a special thank you to the cast and crew and everyone involved for putting so much time and energy and heart and soul into this amazing film, it is a pure labour of love for the phenomenon that is Bowie.
There are lots more treats available at radiosoulwax.com, including apps for iPhone and Android, but before you go rooting around in there, check out Dave:
Another in our unending parade of Bowie rarities for you fine people is this recording of “Rebel Rebel” done in New York in 1974 and known as the “U.S. Single Version.”
This furious variation on the song, released only as a 7” record (backed with “Lady Grinning Soul” and attributed only to “Bowie”) was out just for a few months when it was withdrawn and replaced with the album version. It’s a more uptempo, far more aggressive take of “Rebel Rebel” with Bowie himself allegedly playing all the instruments, save for the frenzied congas, played by Geoff MacCormack.
Bowie’s guitar sounds like Keith Richards playing a rusty Strat through a transistor radio and he’s added the chorus of the “li li li li li li li li li li li li” bits not present on the LP version. It’s heavily phase-shifted and the vocals are, I suppose, campier. All in all, I think it’s superior to the better-known album track, although I love that one, too.
This was (and still is) the loudest cut record I have ever heard. If you drop the needle on this baby with the stereo at a normal volume, it will blow your speakers (and ear drums) out. I have to seriously crank the volume on the CD until the speakers start to distort or it just doesn’t sound right to me.
Here’s something from a posting about “Rebel Rebel (U.S. Single Version)” from the merry audiophile maniacs at the Steve Hoffman Forums:
Rebel Rebel (Bowie): three different versions exist. The familiar version was released in edited and remixed form (4’22” instead of 4’31” and much more echoey than the album version) as the the first single from Diamond Dogs (RCA LPBO 5009). The Australian Rebel Rebel EP (RCA RCA 20610) features a shorter 4’06” edit. Further mixes of this version are found on bootlegs: a ‘dry mix’ (“BBC Version”) was released on Absolutely Rare (no label) and The Axeman Cometh (DB003) has a “Mix 1”, supposedly from a 1973 acetate, but this version is very similar (if not completely identical) to the regular single edit.
The second version (often referred to as the US or “phased” version) is rumored to be played entirely by Bowie. It was released in May 1974, three months after the first issue, but only in the US, Canada (both RCA APBO-0287) and Mexico (RCA SP-4049). The US single version was re-released on several bootleg singles and albums, before officially appearing on Sound + Vision II and the 30th Anniversary 2CD Edition of Diamond Dogs.
The performance of Rebel Revel on David Live has a similar arrangement to US single version.
Lip-syncing to the more familiar album edit on Dutch television’s TopPop in 1974. Afterwards, Bowie is presented the Dutch Edison award for sales of Ziggy Stardust and served “an old fisherman’s drink” called Schelvispekel.
On the cusp of stardom, a young David Bowie models a Michael Fish dress on the cover of Curious - the ‘sex education magazine for men and women.’ He wore the same outfit on the cover of his 1970 album, The Man Who Sold The World.
Bowie stands next to clothes designer Freddie Buretti, who would design some of the early Ziggy Stardust costumes. Bowie tried to make a star of Buretti with his side-project band Arnold Corns, recording a version of “Moonage Daydream” with Buretti. The band failed, Buretti returned to designing clothes, and Bowie recorded Ziggy Stardust.
I recently picked up the 2009 “deluxe” 2 CD 40th anniversary set of David Bowie’s eponymous 1969 album, David Bowie (released in America as Man of Words/Man of Musicand then later as Space Oddity before reverting back to the original British title in 2009). It’s an album I know quite well and it includes some of my favorite “underdog” deep catalog cuts from Bowie’s discography, namely “Cygnet Committee,” “Janine.” “Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud” and the epic seven-minute-long number from the album “Memory of a Free Festival.”
“Memory of a Free Festival” is a ghostly-sounding evocation of what seems to be some mind-blowing Hair-like hippie celebration from long ago and far away, but the actual event it celebrates (the Beckenham Free Festival of August 16, 1969, organized by Bowie and Mary Finnigan) was only about three weeks in the rearview mirror when the song was written and recorded (and it took place in Croydon, not exactly the fairy wonderland implied by the song’s blissed-out chant)
At the request of the record label, Mercury Records, the song was re-recorded as a harder-rocking “electric” version—and split into an A and B side of a 45rpm single—by a pre-Spiders from Mars band that included Mick Ronson (his first session with Bowie), drummer Mick Woodmansey and producer Tony Visconti, who played bass.
“Memory of a Free Festival” is essentially two separate songs: the long, slow build-up, with Bowie accompanying himself on a cheap Rosedale kids organ, and then the long drawn out fade/chorus/chant: “The Sun Machine is coming down and we’re gonna have a party” a line that is repeated 27 more times.
The two songs were connected by the sound of a cymble being sturck by a mallet and then slowed and manipulated on tape. The single was a huge flop, selling but a few hundred copies, which probably shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise considering that the catchy bit doesn’t even start until around the three-minute mark, and thus the B-side.
The original version of “Memory of a Free Festival” as it appeared on the album:
The rockier “Memory of a Free Festival” single, parts 1 & 2. Dig Mick Ronson’s guitar work here, he’s on fire.
Echo-drenched, more chaotic alternative album mix with two extra minutes, clocking in at 9.22. Unrelased until 2009. Listen LOUD:
There’s also a fourth version of “Memory of a Free Festival” recorded at the BBC that was included on the Bowie at Beeb set, but it’s not on YouTube. The song has been covered by the likes of Ween, Mercury Rev, Kashmir, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and Polyphonic Spree.
Here’s something for casual Bowie fans and die hards alike. In fact, it doesn’t really matter if you are a fan or not, this is guaranteed to brighten up your autumn Monday blues.
Bowie’s pre-1970s career is rife for re-evaluation I reckon, and I think this is as good a place as any to start.
Love You Till Tuesday is a half-hour show-reel of Bowie and a couple of his compatriots performing his songs in a bare TV studio. It was recorded in 1969 at the behest of his manager Kenneth Pitt, and was due to be shown on German TV with some of the sections re-dubbed from English. Unfortunately it never aired, though it does contain the original promo clip for “Space Oddity” you may have seen, erm, floating around.
But really, none of that is too important. The thing is… it’s really fucking funny.
The film’s opening promo, to accompany the song “Love You Till Tuesday,” is like an exquisite distillation of everything that made the late 60s so kitsch.
Just look at little David flopping onto a pillow in the campest imaginable way, while boasting that he will love you for TWO WHOLE DAYS! Try not to think of Austin Powers. it’s pretty hard. There’s a big lol at 1:44, and the music itself is like something from a shitty 70s English sex-comedy, or perhaps one of those racist, unfunny sitcoms people were so fond of back then.
Sadly, David, this is much more Robin Askwith than Anthony Newley.
You don’t have to watch all of this film for the funzies, just the first 4 minutes. But if you care to watch on, there are some good tunes, including the very Kinksy “Rubber Band,” and a mid-section mime performance about a mask.