Monday, January 11, 2016

David Bowie 1947-2016

I am deeply shocked to hear of Bowie's passing. As anybody who has read this blog for any length of time knows, I was not even remotely a fan. But the guy had been a major presence in rock for so long that I genuinely thought he was going to live forever.


Mark said...

I was surprised when I saw the NY Times headline about Bowie's death very early this morning. I had seen nothing about his cancer anywhere amid the attention paid to BLACKSTAR (which is very very nice, by the way) and LAZARUS.

He made me a fan at THE MAN WHO SOLD THE WORLD, and made me appreciate him as a writer and artist at HUNKY DORY.

cthulhu said...

Count me shocked too. Also was not a fan of his music, but he still has a legacy in my mind for his strong support of Lou Reed and Iggy Pop over the years.

Anna said...

Good as the LP version was, the single version is my go-to. (I always sing the "liiiie-lie-lie-lie-lie-lie-lie-lie-lie-lie" if I'm listening to the LP track.) And it rocked just that little bit harder, like the man himself. RIP, David.

steve simels said...

The single is light years better than the album version. IMHO.

Alzo said...

I dragged my then-10-year-old daughter to see the 'David Bowie is' exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art here in Chicago last winter and she became a fan. It was tough breaking the news to her this morning. Missing from the otherwise-exhaustive show was his using the platform of his stardom to produce and champion his rock-n-roll heroes. Steve: can you pretty-please reprint 'Bowie and Hoople and Reed' from SR?

steve simels said...

I haven't read it in years, and don't have a copy. But I suspect it's embarrassing.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Simels,

I remember your rants about Mr. Bowie in that magazine formerly known as stereo review....

And while I was never part of the core fan group, I always thought you had a blind spot there. He was one of the small handful of true rock originals of all time. Without Bowie there is no Mott. No New York Dolls. No Lou Reed as big star. No Prince, Queen or Madonna. On and on.

This is an awesome body of work that has more periods and genuine reinventions than five careers should produce.

This is a profound loss

I am saddened.

steve simels said...

Just checked my SR archives. Fortunately, I have nothing before 1974, and those embarrassing anti-Bowie rants were from early '73.

Seriously, that stuff makes me cringe now. Badly written and sort of the opposite of fan-boy gush drivel.

Unknown said...

I still remember your article "A Tale of One Pop Svengali and Two Trilbis", and it was brilliant, not cringeworthy at all.

Mark said...

For what it's worth, and I AM a Bowie fan, reinvention is an attribute better used in commerce than art. You can no more reinvent yourself than you can invent yourself. And while the term's definition means to create anew, you can't really reinvent people. You can market people differently, however, and as such "reinvention" always had a large dose of hucksterism when used in art and (especially) music circles. Madonna reinvents herself. Cher reinvents herself. And the high-point and instructional moment of reinvention took place when Prince changed his name to an ornamental graphic symbol to get out of a restrictive contract. That's why there's always been a Barnum-like element to reinvention.

F. Scott Fitzgerald famously wrote, "I once thought that there were no second acts in American lives, but there was certainly to be a second act to New York's boom days," and even THAT line's not about reinvention, but an analysis of changes in NYC over time.

Picasso, for example, didn't reinvent himself. He changed styles, and the term used to describe his changes over time are referred to as periods for a reason: to help to understand the different styles that he worked in.

So please, Bowie just died, and describing his different styles as reinventions diminishes him. Wait a month or two, at least.

Unknown said...

With all due respect, it has been said that Bowie was "reinventing" himself for years. Nothing new here!

Anonymous said...

This is a big deal.

Found out last night around 9:30PM PST. My daughter is a member of a Bowie fansite and was sent the message. She immediately phoned me. Very shocking. It took the CNN another hour and a half to announce. They needed to verify it wasn't a hoax. I think it is admirable that he kept his cancer a secret and went on working till the end. Good for him.

Been in a couple of bands that covered "Rebel Rebel," but in a more Standells fashion. That song has attitude in spades. I prefer the long version without the intrusive castanets and silly bongos.

For me, it's hard to argue with his 70's work. Loved Ziggy Stardust and got caught up in the Bowie rise to fame in the Fall of 1972. Saw one of the Santa Monica shows with a gay guy from my high school. That's when I became a true believer. Fuckin' A! The Width of a Circle, man. My Death! Holy fuck!

That is, until he played the Universal Amphitheater in 1974 on the coked out Diamond Dogs Tour. That was a jarring experience for me. It's where I drew the line until he did Station To Station, and redeemed himself. Then I was back on board for a while.

And the early bootlegs were indispensable. "In Person", "In America", "Soft In the Middle", "Dollars In Drag", "His Master's Voice", and "Thin White Duke" were all killer and no filler.

I had a GF named Tina who was the biggest Bowie fan I knew. Blindly devoted. He could do no wrong. You know, she dreamed of fucking him. Really, she would call out his name when boning her boyfriends. They didn't mind being surrogates, believe me. As they say, the crazier the better.

Once I found out that we were both doing the same guy because she had left her copy of "David Live" at his place. She had a very unique logo for identifying her LP's. At the time, that album served as favorite accompaniment to her bedspring symphonies. Small world. We had a good chuckle about it later and compared notes. The guy was interesting to say the least. Lotsa guns, explosives and Soldier of Fortune magazines with the usual porn. He sometimes liked us to do gay things to him. But that's another story.

Never cared for "David Live" that much at the time. But I listened to it over the holidays and was surprised how much better it sounds to me now. Bowie's that way.

Hugely influential as is obvious. A man who definitely changed the world. And will continue to do so.


Brooklyn Girl in Queens said...

Never loved him (with the exception of the obvious songs), but had tremendous respect for him. An artist to the end.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

1- Steve, re: your pre-'74 opinion pieces on Bowie - if it's any consolation to you, even back then (I think it was in your review of the "Diamond Dogs" LP), you admitted that some of the stuff you'd written about him was "pretty vicious".
2- My favorite Bowie: the "Hunky Dory" album, the song "All The Young Dudes" as done by Mott The Hoople, the single edit of "Heroes", the LP version of "Rebel, Rebel" (sorry, Steve) and the 45 version of "Hang On To Yourself" on which he billed himself as the Arnold Corns. And he definitely was an influence on people's looks and fashion and notions of sexuality; one of my (straight) female friends who was into glam based her whole short-haired androgynous look on 70's Bowie.
3- I agree with Brooklyn Girl's comment: even when he sold large quantities of records, you didn't get the sense he was "selling out". Some might argue that happened a bit during the "Let's Dance" period, or with Tin Machine, but I don't think so.

J. Lag

Anonymous said...

"I chanced across a very high-quality stereo bootleg of David Bowie recorded somewhere during the first American tour (probably Santa Monica)) that has forced me to re-evaluate somewhat. He and the Spiders, at least when they were into no more than guitars and an occasional costume change, were a pretty good little rock band. If nothing else, it cuts the official "David Live" by miles."

--Steve Simels

Mostly right, if only begrudgingly. But you fail to emphasize that the Santa Monica Civic KMET-FM broadcast is one of the greatest concerts of all time.

VR - The Guess Who were wrong.

steve simels said...


Anonymous said...

Thought you might like that. :-)

More clips if you want 'em

VR - Layin' belief on you.

danny1959 said...

I was always willing to overlook this weakness because of the strength of your writing, Mr. Simels. Bowie made my own, and many gay boys', teen years bearable back then.

Alzo said...

Random Bowie memories:
Personal favorite single: 'Helden'- the German version of 'Heroes.' Ach du lieber!
'Pin-Ups' is massively underrated, but the less said about 'Let's Spend the Night Together' the better.
In the summer of '76 the two most overplayed songs on the radio were 10cc's 'I'm Not in Love' and 'Fame.'
I was sick of them then, but now I have to admit they're both absolutely wonderful.
The Aladdin Sane haircut marks the true start of 70s style.
Never a fan of Angela, but girls who were into Bowie were the coolest.

buzzbabyjesus said...

David Bowie and The Spiders From Mars played the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, on October 20th 1972. KMET broadcast the concert on Halloween 11 days later. I was 15 and not cool or invited to any parties, so I was home and taped it with the hand me down 1/4" Sony reel to reel my uncle gave me.
It blew my mind. A few days later when I'd got $4.99 together, I rode my bike to Kmart and bought The Rise And Fall of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars.
Soon afterward this happened:
Dad: So you like that David Bowie?
Me: Yeah, he's great.
Dad: Ya know he's a queer, doncha?
Me: I don't care.
It didn't matter. I already loved the album. It turned out to be untrue anyway.
I've been a fan ever since.
I spent this weekend listening to Blackstar and thinking it was probably great, that it was an interesting direction he was taking, and wondered where it would lead.
Today I know he knew it was his last.
Tonight, while making dinner, I wept through Diamond Dogs, Hunk Dory, and Ziggy.

I was a punk in LA 1979-81, and bassist in King James And The Bible Burners. One night I went to see Michael Des Barre at the Jefferson Bowl, a former bowling alley in Culver City. I ended up hanging out with Nikki Sixx, and Screamin Scott of Sha Na Na. Hair metal guy, punk rocker and 50's revivalist getting drunk together. The artists we agreed were cool were David Bowie and James Brown, in no particular order.

I never met him, but we spent a lot of time together.

MJConroy said...

Listened to the cd of the Santa Monica show last night. Sill have my TMOQ double lp version of that show. Ziggy was HUGE in Cleveland.

Anonymous said...

Nice comment BBJ. Genuine and heartfelt.

Me and my friends kinda went bonkers over Bowie circa 1972. I had Hunky Dory and Ziggy before seeing him in Santa Monica. Plus the All the Young Dudes LP was released around the time. Really dug those records and wanted to see if he could live up to the hype in a live setting. Ziggy and the Spiders exceeded my wildest expectations.

My GFs Sandy and Tina were at the first night show too. Tina was all glittered out. After the show, we really wanted a double dose. But the following night was sold-out and we couldn't pry three tickets loose. So we bought tickets for a show in Phoenix a couple of weeks later. It was a brand new venue with seating in the round. Another mind-blower. Worth the six-hour doobie and Pink Chablis drive. Blasted Bowie, Mott, Slade Alive, Love It To Death and Roxy Music the whole way. Along with the Tempts - All Directions.

RCA reissued Man Who Sold the World and Space Oddity a week or so after the SMC show. They were blowing out Bowie LP's at White Front for under 3 bucks.

Then Mott the Hoople came to town around Thanksgiving. Fuck yeah! It was a bitchen year in Boss City


The Jefferson Bowl, wow, that brings back a few weird memories. Did a coke deal there once when the Plimsouls were playing. I'm guessing 1980. It was a one-off thing with a couple of guys from the Mongols. Just a couple of keys. They had some connect probs so we helped 'em in a pinch. They returned the favor many times over. Bikers rule if you're on their good side.

Was Nikki Sixx still in London at the time, or was Crue already goin'. A friend of mine used to date the original Nikki Sixx who was in a band in the Inland Empire mid-1970's. He played bass too. A real cutie. The Crue guy stole the name from him.

Gotta get some sleep.