GROUND CONTROL TO DAVY JONES
Cameron Crowe | Rolling Stone | 12 February 1976
Despite a new album and tour, David Bowie claims
to have rocked his last roll. It's the devil's music, he warns
sterile, fascist, downright dangerous. That's why he's abdicated
his glitter throne for more promising careers. Like films. Or world
Corinne Schwab is probably the last holdover from
David Bowie's glitter glam phase the days of Ziggy Stardust,
Moonage Daydream, gaudy costumes, hulking bodyguards, ex-manager
Tony DeFries and the back-room-at-Max's-Kansas-City mystique. In
her three years as his secretary, Corinne has watched Bowie shrewdly
work up to his most difficult move yet: the switch from cultish
deco rocker to a wide-appeal film and recording star/entertainer.
"I want to be a Frank Sinatra figure," Bowie declares. "And I will
Wheeling a cart in Hollywood supermarket just three
blocks from where David is working on his new LP "Station To Station",
Corinne says she has no doubts about something so obvious as Bowie's
success in achieving his stated goal. The way she sees it. David
has only one problem. "I've got to put more weight on that boy,"
she sighs. And with that she carefully places eight quarts of extra
rich milk in the basket.
Down the street at Cherokee Studios, David Bowie
is just back from three vice-free months in New Mexico where he
starred in Nic Roeg's film, The Man Who Fell To Earth. He is still
glowing from the experience and, says Corinne, the healthiest he's
been in years. He is so relaxed and almost humble as he scoots around
the studio and directs his musicians (Carlos Alomar and Earl Slick,
guitars; George Murray, bass and Dennis Davis, drums) through the
songs. It is a complete evolution from the David Bowie six months
before. But then, of course, anything less than a total personality
upheaval would be entirely out of character for him. "I love it,"
he cracked several months earlier. "I'm really just my own little
corporation of characters."
He is actually anything one wants him to be at any
given moment a paranoid hustler, an arrogant opportunist,
a versatile actor, a gentleman, maybe even a genius. He had, after
all, made a warning up front. "Don't expect to find the real me
… the David Jones (his true name) underneath all this."
May 1975 It's four in the morning, Hollywood
time, and David Bowie is twitching with energy. He's fidgeting,
jabbing a cigarette in and out of his pursed lips, bouncing lightly
on a stool behind the control board in a makeshift demo studio,
staring through the glass at Iggy Pop.
Bowie has spent the last nine hours composing, producing
and playing every instrument on the backing track, and it's finally
time for Pop to do his bit. After all, this is Iggy's demo.
Bowie touches a button and the room is filled with
an ominous, dirgelike instrumental track. The shirtless Iggy listens
intently for a moment, then approaches the mike. He has prepared
no lyrics, and in the name of improv, he snarls:
You go out at nights from the sixty dollar single
down in West Hollywood
With your ripped off clothes that are bulging
at the screens.
I can't believe that you don't know you look ugly.
I mean, are you really all that dumb?
I mean, I don't want you to be that dumb, you know
But you are.
You're just dumb.
Straight out of the cradle and into the hole with you.
He begins screaming.
When I walk through the do-wa.
I'm your new breed of who-wa.
We will nooowwwwwwwwww drink
Bowie clutches his heart and beams like a proud father
watching his kid in the school play. His whisper is full of wonder.
"They just don't appreciate Iggy," he is saying. "He's Lenny fucking
Bruce and James Dean. When that adlib flow starts, there's nobody
like him. It's verbal jazz, man!"
Pop himself is spent from his eruption; he listens
only once to the completed cut and groggily proclaims it "the best
thing I've ever done." A woman acquaintance materialises, as if
on cue, to drag him out by a handful of his platinum-dyed-hair.
"Go and do what you will," Bowie calls after them.
"Just don't be too long. We have a lot more work to do tomorrow."
"Don't worry," Pop mumbles. "She never lets me kiss
her anyway. Ever… "
"Good. Good." David adds an afterthought. "Iggy,
please keep healthy."
Pop is still mumbling as he walks out the door. "I
don't believe my patience," he says to no one in particular. "I
just don't believe my patience. She won't even let me give her one
little smooch… "
He leaves Bowie laughing, partly at the soporific
antiwit, but mostly over a successful effort at producing the unproducible.
Less than a minute later, Iggy Pop is the farthest
thing from his mind. Bowie's blanched, bony face has already fallen
into furrows. "I am very, very bored," he says.
But he is still charged up. He jumps to his feet,
skips to the next room and straps on an electric guitar. This is
Bowie the rocker and the image is striking. He stands under the
studio's deep blue light, dressed like a scruffy street corner newsboy
from the Thirties, bashing on a bright orange instrument that perfectly
matches the hair peaking out from under his cap. Over the next couple
of hours, Bowie moves at break-neck speed. Before long he has written
and recorded a new song and entitled "Movin On." Only three months
before, he and John Lennon had come up with the number One single
"Fame" in only 45 minutes. "Another song," he groans. "That's the
last thing I need. I write an album a month as it is. I've already
got two new albums in the can. Give me a break." He is happy. It's
7 a.m. and David Bowie is finally content as he locks up the studio.
Driving a borrowed VW bug through sluggish morning
traffic toward the Hollywood Hills, his eyes never stop scanning
the streets. He thrills over the massage parlours, billboards and
stumbling itinerants. "LA is my favourite museum," he says.
Bowie had fled New York by train (he does
not fly) only five days earlier. After numerous lawsuits, countersuits
and injunctions over his split with manager Tony DeFries and the
MainMan Companies, New York, he says, began to, "close in on me."
Now he is staying at the home of Deep Purple bassist Glenn Hughes.
While Purple is on tour, he's been living there with Hughes's housekeeper,
Phil. Where he lets himself into the house, David finds a stranger,
Phil's house guest, drunk and half asleep on the sofa.
Bowie extends his hand tentatively. "Hello. I'm David.
Who are you?"
The stranger is quickly aroused. Looking exactly
as if he'd just awakened to find David Bowie standing in front of
him, he pumps the hand wildly. "I'm Jack," he says. "Hey man, fucking-A
great to meet you. Phil told me you were staying here too. He's
asleep now… so how you fuckin' doin' anyway?"
After a quick breakfast spent dodging inquiries ("I
hear you only play soul music now. That true?"), Bowie graciously
explains that he's late for an appointment. He leaves the house,
hops into the car and shrieks: "Oh my God, what a cretin! He's totally
wrecked my nerves, that oaf! Christ!" He calms down and politely
begins easing out of the planned interview, his first in more then
three years. He begs exhaustion after two full days without sleep.
"Why don't I just drop you off at your hotel and we can get together
next week?" He has already swung into the direction of the Beverly
Wiltshire. "You know, I may even check myself into the hotel for
a day of sleep. No one will know where I am, no one will bother
me … yes, that is exactly what I'll do." Ron Wood is staying
in room 207, and Bowie decides to pay his old friend a visit. He
procures a fine champagne and raps on the door.
Wood has just fallen asleep, but is glad to see Bowie
nonetheless. They exchange stories on what they're up to in LA,
then settle down to listen to a cassette of the Jeff Beck Group
live at Detroit's Grande Ballroom. Sprawled across the hotel room
bed, Bowie is by now well into his fifth or sixth wind. And the
interview is on. "Well, "he asks, "what do you want me to talk about?"
One mentions the MainMan lawsuits.
Bowie's speech assumes a quiet, studied tone. "The
split had been building up for some time. For the last year and
a half, I've had no empathy with them whatsoever. It took me that
long to stop touring and come back to finding out where the office
was really at. I guess it was a bit hard for them to come to terms
with what I wanted to do. A lot of people who I never even met got
involved. I grew to dislike their attitude. So I just said goodbye.
No, of course, it isn't that simple, but I'm going to make it that
simple. It's not going to bother me. I'll survive. I'm far from
broke. I'm free." (Reached at the New York MainMan offices, DeFries
refused to comment.)
"I've never been so happy," Bowie says. "I've
got that old I'm gonna change the world's thing back again. I had
that once. I was a strong idealist once, then when I saw all my
efforts being mistranslated, I turned into an avid pessimist. A
manic-depressive. Now, I feel strong mentally again. You could probably
hear from Young Americans that I'm on an upper. It's the first record
I've actually liked since Hunky Dory.
"Basically I haven't liked a lot of music I've been
doing the past few years. I forgot that I'm not a musician and never
have been. I've always wanted to be a film director, so unconsciously
the two mediums got amalgamated. I was trying to put cinematic concepts
into an audio staging. It doesn't work."
At the time, Bowie had already signed the contracts
for his film debut in The Man Who Fell To Earth. Not that director
Nick Roeg (whose previous credits include Far From The Madding Crowd,
Walkabout, Don't Look Back and Performance) had an easy time procuring
his star. David disliked the script sent him but was fascinated
by the fact that Roeg had waited eight hours for him after he forgot
an appointment. The two held an eight-hour conversation lasting
into the next afternoon and Bowie was sold. "It didn't take long
for me to realise the man was a genius. He's at a level of understanding
of art that tremendously overshadows me. I was and still am in awe
of Roeg. Total awe." Still, parts of the script were rewritten.
Before he fell to earth, Bowie had been reported
ready to star with Elizabeth Taylor in Bluebird. "I never said that."
David counters. "Elizabeth Taylor did. It was her idea for me to
be doing the film. I read the script though and it was very dry.
I mean she was a nice woman and all, even if I didn't get much of
a chance to get to know her. She did tell me I reminded her of James
Dean the endeared me to her but her script was so…
boring. My own films are more important anyway."
Bowie has been voraciously writing screenplays and
scenarios ever since his three-month Diamond Dogs tour of two years
ago. His first completed script is Dogs, a film which could star
Terence Stamp and Iggy Pop if Bowie can work it out. David is especially
amused by his casting. "Terence is going to be Iggy's father," he
titters. "Isn't that lovely? I can't wait to direct it.
"I think, you see, that the most talented actors
around are all in rock and roll. Iggy never should have been a rock
& roll singer, he's an actor. Dave Johansen [the former New
York Doll] is an actor. A renaissance in filmmaking.
"I think, you see, that the most talented actors
around are all in rock & roll. Iggy never should have been a
rock & roll singer, he's an actor. Dave Johansen [the former
New York Doll] is an actor. A renaissance in filmmaking is going
to come from rock. Not because of it, but despite it I'll
tell you, I've got nothing to do with music. I've always interpreted
or played roles with my songs."
Ron Wood, who's been quietly listening all along,
comes alive. "Why did you get into rock and roll, then?" he asks.
"Rock & roll is a very accessible medium for
any young artist. Don't you think so? I like music but it's not
my life by any stretch of the imagination. I mean I was a painter
before, but as a painter I couldn't make enough money to live on.
So I went into advertising and that was awful. That was the worst.
I got out of that and tried rock & roll because it seemed like
an enjoyable way of making my money and taking four or five years
out to decide what I really wanted to do. I have no ideals on being
a starving artist at all."
"Same as me," Wood chortles. "Otherwise we'd both
still be in art school, eh?"
"Absolutely." Assured that Wood is an interested
listener, Bowie settles into a monologue:
"It's interesting how this all started. At the time
I did Ziggy Stardust, all I had was a small cult audience in England
from Hunky Dory. I think it was out of curiosity that I began wondering
what it would be like to be a rock & roll star. So basically,
I wrote a script and played it out as Ziggy Stardust onstage and
on record. I mean it when I say I didn't like all those albums
Aladdin Sane, Pin Ups, Diamond Dogs, David Live. It wasn't a matter
of liking them, it was 'Did they work or not?' Yes, they worked.
They kept the trip going. Now, I'm all through with rock & roll.
Finished. I've rocked my roll. It was great fun while it lasted
but I won't do it again."
One can assume then, that Bowie is asking for a separation
from the "Glitter Rock King" tag?
David is offended by the notion. "Not at all. I'm
very proud of that tag. That's what the public's made me and that's
what I am. Who am I to question that? I am the King of Glitter Rock,
aren't I, Ron?"
"The reigning king." Wood goes to his writing desk
and scribbles. "I don't like giving people tags," he cackles, "but
here. For the king." He hands Bowie a $15 price tag, on the back
of which he's written "King of Glitter Rock."
"Fifteen dollars!" Bowie deadpans. "Well, I guess
glitter rock was always cheap anyway." A full minute is spent in
laughter, then Bowie abruptly turns skittish and paranoid. "I keep
drifting off." He admits to being tired. "My thought forms are already
fragmented, to say the least. I've had to do cutups on my writing
for some time so that I might be able to put it all back into some
coherent form again. My actual writing doesn't make a tremendous
amount of sense… frankly, I'm surprised Young Americans has
done so well. I really, honestly and truly, don't know how much
longer my albums will sell. I think they're going to get more diversified,
more extreme and radical right along with my writing. And I really
don't give a shit… " Finally Bowie bows:
"Could I have a little break? I can't go on like
this. Just sitting here, talking… it wears me out."
June 1975 A straw hat cocked lazily over
one eye, David is sitting cross-legged against the wall in a small,
candle-lit, book-lined room. The framed cover photo from Aladdin
Sane hangs above his head in direct juxtaposition. It is one of
his favourite ploys striking not only poses but whole portraits.
It's been three weeks since the last meeting, and
he's moved from Hughes's house into the more centrally located Hollywood
home of lawyer and former booking agent Michael Lippman. Bowie and
lggy never did make it back into the studio. Pop slept past the
booked time, called up drunk several nights later and when Bowie
told him to "go away" meaning "hang up" Iggy did just
that. Now he's disappeared. "I hope he's not dead," says Bowie,
"he's got a good act."
Bowie announces that he's got a new project, his autobiography.
"I've still not read an autobiography by a rock person that had
the same degree of presumptuousness and arrogance that a rock &
roll record used to have. So I've decided to write my autobiography
as a way of life. It may be a series of books. I'm so incredibly
methodical that I would be able to categorise each section and make
it a bleedin' encyclopedia. You know what I mean? David Bowie as
the microcosm of all matter."
If the first chapter is any indication, The Return
of the Thin White Duke is more telling of Bowie's "fragmented mind"
than of his life story. It is a series of sketchy self-portraits
and isolated incidents apparently strung together in random, probably
cutout order. Despite David's enthusiasm, one suspects it may never
outlast his abbreviated attention span. But it's a good idea. At
29, Bowie's life is already perfect fodder for an autobiography.
The son of a children's home publicist, David Jones
grew up prowling the tough neighbourhoods in the south of London.
One fistfight paralysed his left pupil. Today, caught at a certain
angle, it looks like a clear marble. Eye operations kept him prostrate
for the better part of his 16th year. During the same bedridden
time, his brother Terry, six years David's senior, was committed
to a mental institution. It was then, he remembers, that he began
to draw up the blueprint for David Bowie.
"Who knows? Maybe I'm insane too, it runs in my family,
but I always had a repulsive sort of need to be something more than
human. I felt very very puny as a human. I thought, 'Fuck that.
I want to be a superman.' I guess I realised very early that man
isn't a very clever mechanism. I wanted to make better. I always
thought that I should change all the time … I know for a fact
that my personality now is totally different to what it was then.
I took a my thoughts, my appearance, my expressions, my mannerisms
and idiosyncrasies and didn't like them So I stripped myself down,
chucked things out and replaced them with a completely new personality.
When I heard someone say something intelligent, I used it later
as if it were my own. When I saw a quality in someone that I liked,
I took it. I still do that. All the time. It's just like a car,
man, replacing parts."
Bowie learned to apply this theory to his music.
"If I'd been an original thinker, I'd never have been in rock &
roll. There's no new way of saying anything." He recalls himself
as a "trendy mod" through his late teens. "I was never a flower
child. Look what's happened to them with all their love and peace.
They've grown up into the SLA, kidnapping Patty Hearst and the like.
I'd been into meditation years before it became fashionable through
Kerouac and Ferlinghetti. I was always a sort of throwback to the
Beat period in my early thinking. And when the hippies came along
with all their funny tie-dyes and things, it all seemed naive and
wrong. It didn't have a backbone. I hate weak things. I can't stand
weakness. I wanted to hit everybody that came along wearing love
"I never got into acid either. I did it three or
four times and it was colourful, but my own imagination was already
richer. I never got into grass at all. Hash for a time, but never
grass. I guess drugs have been a part of my life for the past ten
years, but never anything very heavy … I've had short flirtations
with smack and things, but it was only for the mystery and the enigma.
I like fast drugs. I hate anything that slows me down."
A high school dropout. David had already changed
his name and gone through a number of pop groups when he met his
wife Angela. She was the girlfriend of a Mercury Records talent
scout who refused to sign David. Later, she pulled strings and he
got a contract with the label. Within months he had a hit with his
first single, "Space Oddity". "I married her," David explains, "because
she was one of the few women [his emphasis] that I was capable of
living with for more than a week. We never suffocated each other
at all. We always bounced around. No, I don't think we fell in love.
I've never been in love, thank God. Love is a disease that breeds
jealousy, anxiety and brute anger. Everything but love. It's a bit
like Christianity. That never happened to me and Angie. She's a
remarkably pleasant girl to keep coming back to and, for me, always
will be. I mean there's nobody … I'm very demanding sometimes.
Not physically, but mentally. I'm very intense about anything I
do. I scare away most people that I've lived with.
In 1971, the Bowies had a son, named Zowie. Having
a child, Bowie says, "pleased my ego a lot. I think Zowie's a survivor.
He's very definitely an independent person, of his own choosing,
it seems. And I find it quite easy to think of him not as mine or
as Angie's, but as Gibran has said, 'a little plant.' I don't feel
very paternal about him."
Bowie adamantly states that he is still and always
will be bisexual. And he will not deny that he has fully exploited
the media potential of that. "I remember the first time it got out.
Somebody asked me in an interview if I ever had a gay experience
and I said, 'Yes, of course, I am a bisexual.' The guy didn't know
what I meant. He gave me this horrified look of 'Oh my God, that
means he's got a cock and a cunt.' I had no idea my sexuality would
get so widely publicised. It was a very sort of off-the-cuff little
remark. Best thing I ever said, I suppose."
He returns to the subject of his autobiography: "It's
not that I have anything to say, it's a matter of laying antistyle
on people and making them upset. Who the hell is Bowie to think
he deserves an encyclopedia?' But it's not what you actually put
on the canvas, it's the reason why you did it. Like the Andy Warhol
thing. It wasn't why he painted a Campbell's soup can. It was 'What
sort of man paints a Campbell's soup can?' That's what aggravates
people. That's the premise behind antistyle. And antistyle is the
premise behind me.
"I already consider myself responsible for a whole
school of pretension. Really. I'm quite serious about that. The
only thing that seems to shock anybody anymore is something that's
pretentious or kitsch. Unless you take things to extremes nobody
will believe or pay attention to you. You have to hit them on the
head and pretension does the trick. it shocks as much as a Dylanesque
thing did ten years ago."
Suddenly - always suddenly - David is on his feet
and rushing to a nearby picture window. He thinks he's seen a body
fall from the sky. "I've got to do this," he says, pulling a shade
down on the window. A ballpoint-penned star has been crudely drawn
on the inside. Below it is the word "Aum." Bowie lights a black
candle on his dresser and immediately blows it out to leave a thin
trail of smoke floating upward. "Don't let me scare the pants off
you. It's only protective. I've been getting a little trouble from
… the neighbours."
Something has triggered the emergence of another
David Bowie the apocalyptic theoriser in albums ranging from
Ziggy Stardust to Diamond Dogs. "I think we are due for a revival
of God awareness. Not a wishy-washy kind of fey, flower-child thing,
but a very medieval, firm-handed masculine God awareness where we
go out and make the world right again. I'm feeling more and more
"Rock & roll has been really bringing
me down lately. It's in great danger of becoming an immobile, sterile
fascist that constantly spews its propaganda on every arm of the
media. It rules a level of thought and clarity of intelligence that
you'll never raise above. You don't have a fucking chance to hear
Beethoven on any radio station anymore. You've got to listen to
the O'Jays. I mean, disco music is great. I used disco to get my
first Number One single ["Fame"] but it's an escapist's way out.
It's musical soma. Rock & roll too-it will occupy and destroy
you that way. It lets in lower elements and shadows that I don't
think are necessary. Rock has always been the devil's music. You
can't convince me that it isn't."
How about specifics? Is Mick Jagger evil?
"Mick himself? Oh Lord, no. He's not unlike Elton
John, who represents the token queen, like Liberace used to. No,
I don't think Mick is evil at all. He represents the sort of harmless,
bourgeois kind of evil that one can accept with a shrug.
"I've got this thing that rock shouldn't be overstated.
I did my bit of Ziggy, I made my explosion and that's it. When the
artist and song is novel and new and enigmatic, then that's good.
That's when it's strong it has a familiarity and understanding,
it's no longer rock & roll.
"I wasn't all surprised Ziggy Stardust made my career.
I packaged a totally credible plastic rock star than any sort of
Monkees fabrication. My plastic rocker was much more plastic than
"I fell for Ziggy too. It was quite easy to become
obsessed night and day with the character. I became Ziggy Stardust.
David Bowie went totally out the window. Everybody was convincing
me that I was a Messiah, especially on that first American tour.
I got hopelessly lost in the fantasy. I could have been Hitler in
England. Wouldn't have been hard. Concerts alone got so enormously
frightening that even the papers were saying, 'This ain't rock music,
this is bloody Hitler! Something must be done!' And they were right.
It was awesome. Actually, I wonder … I think I might have been
a bloody good Hitler. I'd be an excellent dictator. Very eccentric
and quite mad.
"I was thinking a few days ago that when I got bored
with films and had far too many showings in art galleries of my
paintings and sculptures, maybe I should be prime minister of England.
I wouldn't mind being the first English president of the United
States either. I'm certainly right wing enough. Do you think Jerry
would swap positions with me? I think that would be lovely, don't
Chain-smoking Rothman after Rothman, Bowie is now
just spilling words and concepts out without regard for their ramifications.
His sole target now is impact. Shock. Effect.
"Listen, I mean it. I'll bloody lead this country,
make it a great fucking nation. I can't exist happily and make records
and be safe because, man, it's depressing… Everyone whimpering
about the state of things. So what do I do? Just sit by and wait
for someone else to sort it all out? No way. The masses are silly.
Just look at the cultural leaders of today. Once they were Humphrey
Bogart, James Dean and Elvis Presley. Now it's Robert Redford and
John Denver… and these are supposed to be the degenerate Seventies.
It doesn't look good for America. They let people like me trample
all over their country.
"I have this dream. I'd like to host a satellite
television show and invite all the biggest bands onto one stage.
Then I'd come out with a great big wheelbarrow of machine guns and
ask them, 'Now how many of you are gonna do anything? How many are
going to pick up a gun and how many of you are gonna cling to your
Before he can pick up the thread again one feels
the need to question Bowie on the seriousness of his tirades. He
answers with an impatient huff that seems to ask, how much longer
will it take you silly mortals to understand? "I have to carry through
with my conviction that the artist is also the medium. The only
way that I can be this abrasive as a person is to be this confoundedly
arrogant and forthright with my point of view. I can only do that
by believing in my point of view with sincerity. And I do. I honestly
believe everything that I've said. I believe that rock & roll
is dangerous. It could well bring about a very evil feeling in the
West. I do want to rule the world.
"There's always a pendulum swing, right? Well, we've
had the high with rock. it's got to go the other way now. And that's
where I see it heading, bringing about the dark era. That we weenie
boys with our makeup and funny clothes and whatnot, I feel that
we're only heralding something even darker than ourselves. 'Cause
we were never dark ourselves. We just bounded around the periphery.
Lou [Reed] is not evil. Iggy isn't evil. There's something else.
And it's evil because it supplements people's sensitivity. Just
look at Led Zeppelin. Our natural inclination to be adventurous
with our brains is being repressed. I don't like or approve of loud
rock & roll."
That's why he broke up his backing group, the Spiders
from Mars. "I gave them more life than I intended. And I was also
getting honestly bored. There's only so much you can do with that
kind of a band. I wanted no more to do with that loud thing. Hurt
my ears. Wasn't pleasing my mind too much either. Since then, poor
Mick [Ronson] has completely missed his vocation. From his faulty
solo career right on down. I've been disappointed. He could have
been amazing. I just don't know. Christ, I haven't spoken properly
with him in years. I wonder if he's changed."
One reminds Bowie of a remark Ronson made to Melody
Maker that "David needs someone around him to say 'Fuck off, you're
stupid.' He needs one person who won't bow to him… "
Bowie grins. "I've got God. Who's Mick got?" He turns
stern. "I promised myself I wouldn't talk about rock & roll.
Now look what I've done. Let's talk about something else." He picks
his appearance on the Grammy awards as the next topic. "Did you
see it? It's on videotape in the next room if you didn't. You really
should see it. It's only a minute. You see, the Grammys were very
significant for me. It was like walking a tightrope. There were
mostly aging middleclass show business people in that audience.
It was a question of entertaining them or coming off like just another
rock singer. I really did feel I was David Bowie and not a rock
singer. It was very strange. Strange, strange, strange.
"There are very few who have broken out of rock and
into any other medium, much less films. I'm determined to do it.
The media should be used. You can't let it use you, which is what
is happening to the majority of rock stars around. And as for touring,
I honestly believe that it kills my art. I will never ever tour
Several months later, Bowie apparently changed his
mind and announced that on February 2nd he would kick off a 34-date
North American tour. "The tour," Bowie explained, "will make an
obscenely large amount of money which I desperately need to set
up my media-production company, Bewlay Bros."
The tour is a turnabout for Bowie; the production
company is consistent with his previously stated goal of breaking
the "dreaded circle" of being a star enmeshed in the music business.
"I'm optimistic enough to think that of any rock singer, I've got
a better chance of escaping. One person who I admire, quite honestly,
is Frank Sinatra. He's broken out. He hates the fucking music business
game and so do I. I refuse to play it. I've never made an album
capitalising on the success of the previous one.
"I want to make an impact on myself. I'd much rather
take chances than stay safe. Like in the movie I'm doing. Everything's
is against me. I'm going into a dead straight, nonmusical role.
No singing. And I will be bloody good. I have to be. 'Cause if I
ain't, that's it. Another rock singer… is still a rock singer.
If that's the case, I want to go out like Vince Taylor."
"Yeah. He was the inspiration for Ziggy. Vince Taylor
was an American rock & roll star from the Sixties who was slowly
going crazy. Finally, he fired his band and went onstage one night
in a white sheet. He told the audience to rejoice, that he was Jesus.
They put him away." David Bowie straightens up, removes the straw
hat and rakes several fingers through his orange hair.
"Think you can use any of that?"
The Return of the Thin White Duke
An autobiography by David Bowie
Vince was American and came to England, then went
to France and became a star of dirge.
But then he came back to England and we spoke of
our Findings. He wore a white robe and sandals and we sat in the
busy London street with a map of the world and tried to find the
people who were passing by and scowling at us. They were nowhere
on the map.
Vince went back to France, then I heard about the
famous show where he had told his band to go home and appeared in
front of the curtains in that old white robe and sandals telling
the French people about the comings and goings due upon us. He was
banned from performing.
My records were selling and I was being a man in demand.
I thought of Vince and wrote "Ziggy Stardust." I thought of my brother
and wrote "Five Years." Then my friend came to mind, standing the
way we stood in Bewlay Bros. and I wrote "Moonage Daydream."