"David Bowie, as a musician, performer, and songwriter, continually re-invents himself and his art."
The hallmark of rock and roll's greats often lies in their ability to hone to perfection a strong and easily assimilated iconic, but singular image. It may evolve slowly and surely over the years but will always be presumed to be a natural maturing. David Bowie, as a musician, performer and songwriter, defied this convention completely. He continually re-invented himself and his art at breakneck speed and illogical disjointedness. It seemed as though time was always at a premium. With complete disregard for music style loyalty or so called integrity, he often combined the most unlikely forms of music with angst ridden end-of-millennium subject matter, presenting the rock world with its first truly post-modernist star. After living each legendary character to the utmost, he deconstructed that which made him singular, then a new element would arise to confound and entice the masses who thought they had just figured out his latest incarnation. Bowie exemplifies the new aesthetic from his humble folkie beginnings to the glitter and glam of Ziggy Stardust, to the elegance of the Thin White Duke at each twist and turn of his career, creating more than one myth to harken back to his creative visions.
In the beginning ...
David Robert Jones was born in Brixton on January 8th, 1947. At age thirteen, inspired by the jazz of the West End, he picked up the saxophone and called up Ronnie Ross for lessons. Early bands he played with the Kon-Rads, The King Bees, the Manish Boys and the Lower Third provided him with an introduction into the showy world of pop and mod, and by 1966 he was David Bowie, with long hair and aspirations of stardom rustling about his head. Kenneth Pitt signed on as his manager, and his career began with a handful of mostly forgotten singles but a head full of ideas. It was not until 1969 that the splash down into the charts would begin, with the legendary "Space Oddity" (which peaked at No. 5 in the UK). Amidst his musical wanderings in the late '60s, he experimented with mixed media, cinema, mime, Tibetan Buddhism, acting and love. The album, originally titled David Bowie then subsequently Man of Words, Man of Music, pays homage to all the influences of the London artistic scene, and shows the early songwriting talent that was yet to yield some of rock and roll's finest works, even if it would take the rest of the world a few years to catch up with him.
The Man Who Sold The World, Bowie's first album recorded as an entity in itself, marks the first definitive creative stretch for the listener. Mick Ronson's guitars are often referred to as the birthpoint of heavy metal, and certainly the auspicious beginnings of glam rock can be traced back here. The album was released by Mercury in April 1971 to minimal fanfare, and Bowie took his first trip to the United States to promote it that Spring. In May of the same year, Duncan Zowie Haywood Bowie was born to David and his then wife Angela.
RCA was the next label to sign Bowie, and after a trip to America to complete the legalities, he returned to London to record two albums nearly back to back. Hunky Dory was built from a six-song demo that had enticed the label to sign him and features "Changes" and "Life On Mars." Almost immediately, it was followed up by the instant classic, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars.
1972 was certainly the year that Bowie began to get a glimpse of the power of the pop. Previewed in London that Spring, his rock and roll creation Ziggy Stardust put on one of the most spectacular and innovative live shows to date, and the craze that followed was the beginnings of his superstar myth. The summer of 1972 was also a busy one for Bowie in the studio, as he produced albums for Lou Reed (Transformer) and Mott the Hoople (All The Young Dudes, for which he wrote the hit title track). The US "Ziggy" tour began in September playing sold out shows full of theatrically inspired Japanese costumes, snarling guitars courtesy of Mick Ronson, and a bold, daring approach to performance that propelled the audience into a rock and roll fervor. He abruptly put his own creation to rest on June 3, 1973 with the pronouncement "of all the shows on the tour this one will stay with us for the longest because not only is this the last show of the tour, but it is the last show we will ever do." This surprised everyone in the house - not least the members of his band.
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