Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Smiling and Waving and Looking So Fine

Bowie in Brecht's Baal

RIP David Bowie

How do you pay tribute to someone you never met but who contributed to your emerging self? There’s a line in Nicolas Roeg’s The Man Who Fell To Earth directed at Bowie by Candy Clark’s character, Mary-Lou:
You know, Tommy, you’re a freak. I don’t mean that unkindly. I like freaks. And that’s why I like you.
The Man Who Sold The World

I don’t know whether or not the lyric below is my favourite Bowie lyric (and possibly song) – I could have chosen ANYTHING from Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars which I must have played over a hundred times.
We passed upon the stair, we spoke of was and when
Although I wasn’t there, he said I was his friend
Which came as some surprise, I spoke into his eyes
I thought you died alone, a long long time ago

Oh no, not me
I never lost control
You’re face to face
With the man who sold the world

I laughed and shook his hand, and made my way back home
I searched for form and land, for years and years I roamed
I gazed a gazely stare at all the millions here
We must have died alone, a long long time ago

Who knows?  Not me
We never lost control
You’re face to face
With the man who sold the world
Some lyrics are just funny (When you’re a boy/You can wear a uniform from Boys Keep Swinging), some are mysterious (Rule Britannia is out of bounds/To my mother, my dog and clowns from Life on Mars?) and some are pure poetry (Your circuit’s dead/There’s something wrong/Can you hear me, Major Tom? from Space Oddity.) His songs will endure.

Only Bernie Taupin’s lyrics loomed larger than Bowie

I think only Elton John’s albums had a bigger impact on my teenage years than David Bowie. Yes, there were particular songs that had personal significance like Love Train (The O’Jays), Kissing in the Back Row of the Movies (the Drifters) and She (Charles Aznavour); particular albums that were played over and over again like Dark Side of the Moon, Simon and Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits and Tubular Bells; and various groups and artists caught my imagination: The Beatles, the Stones, Rod Stewart, Marc Bolan, Carly Simon, Carole King, Suzi Quatro, Blondie, the Carpenters, Queen, Mud, Lindisfarne, The Eagles…. These were the background to my teenage life. But, apart from Elton John’s music and Bernie Taupin’s lyrics (lyrics that, frankly, obsessed me) no-one got into my bloodstream more than Bowie.
The Man Who Fell To Earth, Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence, Labyrinth

Stiff on my legend (lyric from Cracked Actor)

Bowie worked with impressive and maverick directors: Martin Scorsese in The Last Temptation of Christ (as Pilate), David Lynch in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, Tony Scott in The Hunger and Nagisa Oshima in Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence but it is probably his roles in Jim Henson’s Labyrinth and The Man Who Fell To Earth that capture his mercurial and other-worldly quality. Although he was uncomfortable on stage, the accounts of his performances in Pomerance’s Elephant Man and Brecht’s Baal, reveal an unsettling and uncompromising stage presence.


He was a man. Take him for all in all.
I shall not look upon his like again.
As Bowie’s character, Jareth, in Labyrinth, says “How you turn my world, you precious.”
G’bye, Bowie.