Sunday, January 24, 2016


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by Madeline Bocaro

There's a crack in the sky and a hand reaching down to me.

That's how Bowie entered our world. We were the teens of the 1970s - the lucky ones. He raised us as our wise sage, respecting that we could comprehend much more than our own parents thought we could. He understood us. They taught us to be ordinary. Bowie gave us Kabuki, Mishima, Genet, Gitanes, the occult, Dada, Schiele, Krautrock, outer space A Clockwork Orange, Warhol, Isherwood's Berlin… Let all the children boogie.

It was thrilling to see him in concert, and to anticipate each Bowie album in the 70s, wondering what David might look like on each album cover. He always blew our minds; wearing a 'man's dress', his gorgeous glamorous face, half man/half dog, a lightning flash dividing his face, a Pin up with Twiggy…

We became accustomed to his years of silence. It was nice just knowing he was still around, taking it all in. Now the world mourns his passing. But many will never know the intimacy we had, growing up with Bowie, living through all of his changes - immersed in his world. The isolation we felt in a teenage daydream (when NOBODY understood why we adored 'that freak') was written into all of his songs. He came from the future. We were his pretty things.

Bowie portrayed someone alien, but he was really the opposite. He was one of us. A young man, lonely, confused, searching, tormented, human. He craved, exploited and later rejected fame. Bowie used rock n' roll, but he was so much more than a rock star.

We yearned for our next lesson from him. "I'm just the space cadet - he's the commander!" What would Bowie reveal next? Who would he become?  His music was atmospheric, his lyrics foretelling and enlightening. It all flashes before my eyes. When I close them, I can see the revolving orange label of the  RCA Dynaflex albums!

Space Oddity

Dislocation. A detached astronaut floating in space, strangely comfortable with his situation. Perhaps he cut the cord himself.

Bowie sings softly, acoustically, establishing who he will become to us - 
We had a friend, a talking man / Who spoke of many powers that he had …We used him / We let him use his powers / We let him fill our needs / Now we are strong.

He sets a precedent for his never ending search for enlightenment - And I want to believe / In the madness that calls 'Now' / And I want to believe / That a light's shining through somehow…

...and he sings in a folky psychedelic Barrett-laden skiffle -  So now you could spend the morning talking with me quite amazed / Cos' I'm raving mad and somewhat slightly dazed…

The Man Who Sold The World

Oh no, not me / I've never lost control. Written at age 23. Far from ordinary song subjects. Themes of insanity. Fear of inheriting his family's madness. An ode to his tragic older brother Terry, who gave David the gift of music. I'd rather stay here with all the madmen  / Than perish with the sad men roaming free.

A race of immortal supermen yearn for a chance to die - Wondrous beings chained to life.

Bowie questions mortality, death, religion, good and evil - When God did take my logic for a ride… He sings of a saviour machine, which scorns humanity and begs to be destroyed.

He considers that we might really be all alone - But the thought just occurred that we're nobody's children at all, after all.

Hunky Dory

A glamorous cover shot – he's gone blonde. Dietrich circa 1946. David imparts the Buddhist principle of 'Changes' - Turn and face the strange. We evolve together. Impressions of his New York City idols - 'Andy Warhol looks a scream'.  An ode to Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground, 'Queen Bitch' - 'Some V.U. white light returned with thanks.' And a song for Robert Zimmerman.

Thoughts can overpower us like quicksand. Don't believe in yourself, don't deceive with belief / Knowledge comes with death's release…
I'm not a prophet or a stone-age man / Just a mortal with the potential of a superman / I'm living on… (How did he know?)

And who wasn't mystified by The Bewlay Brothers? Oh, and we were Gone / Kings of Oblivion / We were so Turned On / In the Mind-Warp Pavilion…

'Life On Mars?' Blue eye shadow (emulating Kari Ann on Roxy's first cover) and a Burretti suit in ice blue. It is Bowie's despairing social commentary, and also his beautiful revenge on 'My Way'. As she walks through her sunken dream / to the seat with the clearest view / and she's hooked to the silver screen / but the film is a saddening bore…

The Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars

“Wherein Ziggy Stardust makes himself manifest to all.”

He landed on Heddon Street. Ziggy looked like an alien, but he was simply a gorgeous, visionary boy from Brixton with an incredible voice, who pointed us toward the infinite. Most of Bowie's songs are full of darkness and dismay, yet they bring feelings of brightness and joy. Therein lies the magic.

We all have films in our heads depicting the 'Five Years' before earth's demise. As no videos exist, we each see the Aylesbury market square differently. The soldier, the Cadillac, the girl hitting the children, the black guy, the cop, the priest, the ice cream parlor – the decline of humanity before its time was up. Bleak and poignant. Bowie was only 25.

Ziggy singled us out personally. Millions of us!  I had to phone someone so I picked on YOU. Bowie was our radio. A small voice on a wave of phase with his hazy cosmic jive. David turned us on to The Velvet Underground & Lou Reed, and Iggy Pop & The Stooges. He saved Mott The Hoople. David frequently referenced his friend Marc Bolan and T. Rex. Thank god for them all. Thank god for Bowie. We sought out other fans who became our lifelong friends, since our schoolmates could share nothing of the glory that we knew.

It was pure theater - choreographed and precise. Thanks to his wife Angie for styling Ziggy and the Spiders, and orchestrating the dramatics early on. But for David it was all too real - Ziggy sucked up into his mind. Ziggy was visible in brief flickering moments. The stage shows were dimly lit, and photographers banned. The more fleeting the images, the more we craved to see. It became an addiction - an obsession. It doesn't take much to enrapture a fourteen year old, and this was over the top. The hype worked beautifully. Less is more.

On-stage, Ziggy wore Kansai costumes that were so spectacular they had their own names; Tokyo Pop, Space Samurai, Spring Rain, Woodland Creatures… Exclusive photographs of Ziggy by Mick Rock and Sukita became iconic. The intro music was Beethoven's Ninth, synthetically arranged by Wendy Carlos from A Clockwork Orange soundtrack. The Spiders from Mars launched Ziggy to stardom. Ronson and Bowie's interplay is unmatched. 'Moonage Daydream' is otherworldly. “Some very shiny and hard-edged music indeed.” Jacques Brel’s ‘My Death’ was a live staple. For in front of that door, there is YOU!

Ziggy sang, Gimme your hands, cause you're wonderful. We grasped his hands and never let go. Just before Ziggy's demise he told us, I've had my share, I'll help you with the pain / You're not alone / Just turn on with me... Then Ziggy was gone. "This is the last show that we will ever do. Bye bye, we love you." But Bowie never left us.

Aladdin Sane

When Ziggy came to America he snapped. Who will love Aladdin Sane? His face divided. Schizophrenic. Lightning bolt by Pierre LaRoche, photo by Duffy.  An entourage of Warhol stars as his management team. Crack baby crack.

Los Angeles broke him. Hollywood highs. Paranoia. Weird vibes and strange rituals. Subsisting on milk, peppers and cocaine…(these items - sans the cocaine - were left by a fan at his Hollywood memorial site). We thought this was all crazy, cool and decadent, unaware of the toll it was taking on his body and mind.

It's hard enough to keep formation with this fall out saturation…

With snorting head he gazes to the shore…

It's a crash course for the ravers…

Diamond Dogs

Bowie is a stunning canine freak on Pellaert's cover art (based on a pose by Josephine Baker). Using Burroughs' technique, Bowie cuts up lyrics and rearranges them. Still, they make sense to us somehow - all jumbled and cryptic.  We decipher them in our bedrooms, sometimes alone, or with a cherished friend.

And in the death, as the last few
corpses lay rotting on the slimy thoroughfare… This ain't rock n' roll / This is genocide!

Droog-like street gangs reappear. The future is hopeless. (Meanwhile the Sex Pistols were forming, who soon would declare 'No future'). The Diamond Dogs are poachers and they hide behind trees / Hunt you to the ground they will, mannequins with kill appeal. It all takes place in the apocalyptic Hunger City - the first elaborate theatrical stage set with blood-dripping buildings, built for the Diamond Dogs tour.

The funky '1984' with its Barry White / Shaft styled strings. Orwellian themes.

A sick society yearns for a leader to subjugate them - Someone to claim us, someone to follow / Someone to shame us, some brave Apollo / Someone to fool us, someone like you / We want you Big Brother. An extended theme of The Stooges' 'I Wanna Be Your Dog'.

The epic 'Sweet Thing' - When it's good, it's really good, and when it's bad I go to pieces…
We'll buy some drugs and watch a band / Then jump in the river holding hands

Within this dystopian landscape (not unlike London at the time), David includes a wonderful pop tune for young rebels – You've got your mother in a whirl / She's not sure if you're a boy or a girl…

Pin Ups

Bowie's London favorites when he was our age. The Easybeats, The Merseys, Pink Floyd, The Yardbirds, The Who, Them, The Kinks…His last album with Ronson.

The 1980 Floor Show on Midnight Special beams Bowie into American homes from the Marquee Club. Amanda Lear as hostess. Erte styled dancers denote the cobwebs of time. Outrageous costumes; Space Samurai pulls away to reveal the Dadaist keyhole leotard. Censored mannequin hands, Angel of Death feathered corset. A strange Marianne Faithfull duet.

David Live

Double album, Tower Theater, Philly. Shoulder pads. In the Cracked Actor documentary – Bowie is emaciated and unwell. He drinks milk and mimes to Aretha in the back of a limo driving through Los Angeles. Songs from Ziggy, Aladdin Sane, Diamond Dogs. It morphed into the Plastic Soul tour after the recording of Young Americans began. Some fans left the theater. I didn't.

Young Americans

The first time Bowie became a black star. Philadelphia, plastic soul. Ain't there one damn song that can make me break down and cry?

'Fame' with John Lennon. Gotta get a rain check on pain.  Coked up and emaciated on the Dick Cavett show. Crazy duets with Cher on television.


The Man Who Fell To Earth

Bowie fit the alien part perfectly. A million shades of orange hair. In the end he lives forever. Stuck on earth, sort of like now, only his body has left us. So many parallels with Thomas Jerome Newton in Bowie's own life - past and future.

Station to Station

Darkness in L.A. - Transition / Transmission. Electronic soul. Bending sound
The Thin White Duke's white lines.  It's not the side effects of the cocaine / I'm thinking that it must be love

Religious meanderings. Stations of the cross. Scribbling the tree of life.

Wonderful crooners in his golden voice - Just because I believe, don't mean I don't think as well / Don't have to question everything in heaven or hell

A gorgeous cover of 'Wild is the Wind' - I don't need another change / Still you forced your way
into my scheme of things

Funky carry-overs from plastic soul – 'Stay' and 'Golden Years' – Run for the shadows in these golden years / I'll stick with you baby for a thousand years. The whitest man ever on Soul Train.

Stark, stunning black and white stage lights. 

Expressionism. Suave and elegant in a monochrome suit by Ola Hudson. Chain smoking Gitanes. High kicks and slick moves. Dali / Bunuel film as the opening act, and Kraftwerk music.



Written during the emergence of punk rock. Incomparable. Eno and his EMS synth. 'A New Career in a New Town' (France, then Germany). Starting over, yet still in turmoil. Another low. Drifting into my solitude / Over my head

Always Crashing in the Same Car'. Making the same mistakes.

Tony Visconti described the Eventide harmonizer (which gave Low its drum sound) as "fucking with the fabric of time." In essence, that's the ultimate description of David Bowie.

A beautiful, mostly wordless B-side. Serene - synth sounds. The antithesis of punk rock's violence.

Bowie plays keyboards behind Iggy Pop on The Idiot tour. Subterranean. Moves to Germany with Iggy. The Idiot & The Oddity. Bad Boys In Berlin.

"Two sides of Bowie you've never heard before."


In Berlin, by the wall, with Eno's Oblique strategies to guide them.  Stunning Sukita cover photo, Egon Schiele style. Fripp's dazzling guitar wails.



'Heroes' is one of the greatest songs of all time, illuminating East Berlin's dreadful plight. First he sings in a low key, wistful, smothered by the Wall. Dreaming of escape, of stealing time …just for one day. Then an octave jump, as the music swells. Shouting, frantic, defiant, victorious! 'Heroes' made us all feel sublime and fearless – above anything. But then he is doubtful, revisiting mortality / reality in the last verse…We're nothing, and nothing will help us / Maybe we're lying, then you better not stay / But we could be safer, just for one day

'Sons of the Silent Age' -  'they never die, they just go to sleep one day …Baby, I'll never let you go / All I see is all I know

Another mostly 
instrumental B-side. Stunning, lamenting and tranquil. A koto on 'Moss Garden'. Woeful  wailing sax on 'Neukoln'. 'Subterraneans' for the East Berliners. A foreboding: 'Sense of Doubt'.

"Tomorrow belongs to those who can hear it coming."  
Tomorrow belonged to us.


A travelogue. 'Red Sails'. 'Fantastic Voyage' – In the event that this fantastic voyage / Should turn to erosion and we never get old / Remember it's true, dignity is valuable / But our lives are valuable too

The angel of death appears in the video for 'Look Back In Anger' as Bowie paints himself as Dorian Gray. In 'Boys Keep Swinging', he is three different women in drag, as well as a beautiful boy. 

An unwitting self-assessment - I am a DJ I am what I play / I've got believers believing me.

Scary Monsters

Bowie is Pierrot, the sad clown. A woman descends into madness. When I looked in her eyes they were blue but nobody home.

A million dreams / a million scars 'Because You're Young'. He knew.

A sad update on Major Tom …hitting an all time low.

Fa fa fa fa Fashion.

'Teenage Wildlife' referenced the new wave artists who worshipped and emulated Bowie - Same old thing in brand new drag

"Often Copied, Never Equaled."

Then we turned 25, and he turned 33. This is just a fragment of what Bowie gave us. It was all so heavy, prescient and sublime, but he always gave us a wink and a smile. In the end, he was overcome by quicksand, but he's still got the power. Bowie will be as much a part of our future as he was in our past. 

Don't fake it baby / lay the real thing on me

There are so many false idols being worshipped these days. I'm so glad that Bowie is mine.

When you rock 'n' roll with me
No one else I'd rather be
Nobody down here can do it for me
I'm in tears again
When you rock 'n' roll with me