A Daft Draft Punk Funk

I wrote this nearly two years ago .. slightly edited ...

The July 2015 Melbourne Symposium The Stardom and Celebrity of David Bowie, somewhat carries on from the October 2012 University of Limerick’s Strange Fascination? A Symposium on David Bowie from which David Bowie: Critical Perspectives (Routledge Studies in Popular Music, 2015) emerged.  Presenting a paper at both, Ian Chapman and Sam Coley provide a lighthearted experience of the first, which sounds similar to the mood of Melbourne.

They had a vox pop or similarly monikered; where we faced a camera and spoke of our Bowie experience; and to finish into a sentence “Bowie is..”  I looked into the camera and said Bowie is still alive.. and so am I … it was a joke at the time

Limerick [symposium] and the V&A Show began (or were begat) before his return to commercial recording embellished upon us in January 2013.  Forty years before that, many of us were encroaching upon our adult self, admonishing its relevance to subservience, and imagining we would change this and the spacemen would come [in 2012].  Bowie, Pink Floyd, Stones, Cat Stevens, Moody Blues; all of them made life worth living.

bowiecollage02

Before attending the Melbourne Symposium – a partnership between ACMI, The University of Melbourne, Deakin University and with the support of the Naomi Milgrom Foundation – I’d read the hardcover Orange catalog book Bowie Is, also full of essays. Reading it in tandem with Moonage Daydream (Rock/Bowie, 2002) seemed apt, as both books rely heavily on the accompanying photographs yet have crucial written evidence of the Bowie phenomenon and history.

( I’d done the research due to being chosen to attend the press showing to write a review for davidbowienews website )

I struggled with the idea of intellectualising Bowie but dutifully summarised the Orange Book, shuffling between stories and picture albums until I came to Camille Paglia where i nearly gave up.  While pressing the point is important the reader can disengage when being told why an artist does something when there is no obvious contact with the artist themselves.  Paglia makes sure we set Bowie’s androgynous look in within influences such as early Kathryn Hepburn early on; the 1968 movie Queen, Vince Taylor, and many of the ‘other’ forms of androgyny such as the 1931 August Sander Secretary photograph.  She reminds us of the 1932 film Freaks as similar to the background of the Diamond Dogs cover.  She talks about his physical attractiveness.

One aspect of the larger than life footage of the Bowie Is exhibition, is that it sets us free from the ‘gazely stare’ in that it is not possible in such a social environment to believe that that wink, that all-encompassing I-want-you charismatic invitation is for yours truly.   Bowie’s photographs show a mastery and ease with the camera encapsulate that sense of him sharing an intimate moment with us yet in reality he is in love with the camera or at the very least sharing an infinity with it, and a professional understanding with the photographer of the genius they were creating.

Yet the extent of his fanship and the way it has changed over the years is evident in facebook post David Bowie Is Mistaken  .. there was no public internet in 1973 and even the comments on this post show the extent of fanship today.

(so much has happened {since his absence} since i wrote this; yet with distance I’m aggrieved at his suffering and feelings of desolation; at other’s suffering and desolation that he’s disappeared)

Then you see a letter from the late seventies where he suggested a fan read Julian James’ The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind (1976, 2000).

(Their level of intelligence isnt often publicist’s main concern in creating rock stars; after all Brian Cox was one once)

This intellectual approach towards a rock star ( or ‘rock god’ in his words as quoted by Ricky Gervais ) isn’t what many of us expect however in academic circles it’s undoubtedly exciting to write, research and teach on such a topic.  From these readings I began to see his use of collaboration and inspiration, not to prop up his own misgivings about his talents but to create an altogether more interesting phenomenon, was the most vital part of his success.

So many light-bulbs flashed during reading the catalog and listening to the symposium talks.  Yet overriding most of it, was the camaraderie and joy of like-minded people, as if someone had spread bliss amongst us.  It was obvious amongst many of the speakers as well as the audience.  Even at the press call.

BowieIsPressCall

My real “Bowie” obsession was in the late 70s and early 80s; about six entire years thinking of nothing else.  There’s a mob of us who ‘left’ him, some at Let’s Dance, some very shortly after.  I came back in 2003; home-computerless at the time, I spent an hour every day at the internet cafe listening to Bowie Radio on his website, re-introducing myself to his songs and acquainting myself with Bnetters, who had even had special shows put on just for them.

Lindsay Kemp’s Flowers created big waves in Australia from 1975.  The atmosphere was created immediately you arrived on the steps of the New Arts Cinema in inner-Sydney Glebe by trumpeter, incense, colour, smoke.  As one walked through the foyer becoming more entranced with each step.  It was a big moment in Sydney.  While it was based on Jean Genet’s Lady of the Flowers, the pure eroticism of taut men clad in not much at all, covered all-over in white theatre paint with made-up faces, writhing on 3 layered platforms of scaffolding symmetrically on each side of the stage to overpoweringly excellent music and lighting was just the start.  It is hard remembering details because we invariably went stoned.

flowers Glebe

It wasnt as if Australia had no theatre or stars. Dame Edna can attest to that. So can Reg Livermore.   They both created themselves.  The documentary Brilliant Creatures by Howard Jacobsen, 2014 concentrates on the impact that Barry Humphries, Germaine Greer, Clive James and Robert Hughes had on the cultural revolution in the 1960s … in Britain.  And that’s just four of them.

In one of Lindsay’s dance classes during his first Australian tour he mentioned that he cant turn everyone into a David Bowie.  Music was all important to all of us, especially after the early 1970s.    We were young.  We were also involved in a magic group with further debauched influences and indeed Bowie’s “Cygnet Committee” (as well as ) was one of the enabling points of realisation to get out of it.    Much emphasis had been made within that group regarding Bowie’s referencing ‘Kether to Malkuth’ on Station to Station.  This was many years before Madonna, in 1996, publicised her Kabbalah teachings. in an online article, quoting from Bebergal’s book…

“The theater of rock began long ago: in the smoky UFO Club when Arthur Brown wore his flaming helmet, when Hawkwind hypnotized their fans with lights, when Bowie came onstage not as himself but as a crash-landed Ziggy.”
Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll, Peter Bebergal, 2014

( these first two posts were drafts when i decided to activate this blog )