Bowie, Blackstar and the Stories Still Untold, Part Three

Secret, Secret

David Bowie would use the fact of his onrushing mortality to achieve what many are hailing as his masterwork, both artistically and (in some quarters) magically. But was this anything new for the Starman? 

Or had he in fact been an old hand at this sort of thing? Did he perform a work of magic so subtle and sophisticated that most observers did not in fact realize that was what they were seeing? 

Part Three of a look at what many see as the most fruitful creative period for the Man Who Fell to Earth and the untold story of the Muse who inspired his most indelible musical- and magical- work.

Read Part One (Examining Blackstar and Lazarus) and Part Two (the story of Bowie's hidden muse)

While the party line has it that David Bowie and Romy Haag split in early 1977, Haag claims that their relationship broke off "at the end of the 70s," adding that,"(w)hen Angie found out we were together, she called a lawyer and they were harassing me. And there was all this bad publicity, and David had a fight with his record company." 

The first claim seems to be referring to the ongoing divorce trial. Bowie had earlier produced a photograph in court of Angela and a female lover in flagrante delicto, arguing she was an unfit parent for their son and Angela was probably looking to retaliate. Presenting evidence that Bowie was conducting a secret affair with a transsexual celebrity would suit her purposes. 

We'll see shortly that Bowie may have kept the exact extent or nature of his relationship with Haag from Angela, despite the latter's later claims.

In keeping with the timeline, the "bad publicity" may well have been local gossip or it may instead have been in response to Bowie's appearance in the Anglo-German film, Just a Gigolo, which created a firestorm of vitriol in the press in late '78 and early '79, much of it leveled at Bowie personally.

Bowie was indeed having protracted conflicts with RCA as well and had made up his mind to leave the label as Lodger was being completed in early 1979, according to guitarist Adrian Belew. Bowie would claim that his own "personal events" prevented him from spending time needed on the album, which resulted in its infamous muddy mix. More on those later.

Whatever the exact details it's certain that Bowie left Berlin for New York in the spring of 1979. But there's excellent evidence that his mind was still very much on his Berlin lover.

We also have photographic evidence of Bowie and Haag together some nine months after the allegedly ill-fated birthday party with its probable nonexistent papparazzo (other tellings instead blame the split on Haag reporting their relationship to local papers), a date we can determine by the kind of shag/mullet haircut Bowie adopted for the "Heroes" video taping (and the subsequent Bing Crosby show taping), his hair having been done up in a quiff through most of 1977. 


He's also wearing the military/punk/leather-type clothing he favored at the time (see the Heroes LP cover and video), and most importantly, we see where he got the idea for the naval officer's cap that he'd wear on stage just a few months later on the Heroes world tour (Haag herself was unsure whether the photos were taken in 1977 or 1978, but was sure the cap was hers). 

So already we see that the official story put out by Bowie and his organization was not true.

There's also the very central issue of Heroes

Goaded on by Bowie's misdirections (remember, this is a magician we're dealing with) and reinforced by a PR machine and a pliant music media, many fans are led to believe that the lyrics to Bowie's songs are just high-minded gibberish, nonsense thrown together through arcane techniques. 

But if- as a thought experiment- you look at Heroes as a document of a passionate yet doomed liaison between two androgynous savants with shared fascinations for the romance of early 20th Century Europe, a romance taking place in a city awash in drugs, political intrigue and paranoia, the album makes every bit of sense in the world.


The leadoff song is simultaneously defiant to the world-- "You can't say no to the Beauty and the Beast"-- and apologetic to a lover: "Nothing is wrong but darling, something's in the way." if you like, you can read this as an apology to Haag for the public blowup, blaming it all the outside forces that demanded it, as well as the turmoil surrounding them ("I wanted no distractions") in general.

Conversely, "Joe the Lion" is an improvised lyric which seems to reference the extreme states Bowie and Iggy were putting themselves through at the time (so much for "cleaning himself up"). 

Which brings up another issue- David was famously wrecked in Los Angeles yet seemed to regain his vitality in drug-drenched Berlin, despite the endless boozing and excess. What else could it have been- what fresh impetus- that turned his (and in turn, Iggy's) life around? Again, so little of the official story makes any real sense.*

The title track is itself a document of an embattled, doomed romance ("nothing will keep us together" and "nothing will drive them away"). It's been noted that Bowie got inspiration for the line about the lovers kissing by the wall from Tony Visconti's own secret romance (which is probably true), but if you read the lyrics in the context of Bowie singing about the impossible future of his relationship with Haag, then the rest makes absolute sense. None of the other explanations we've seen over the years actually do. 

People write- and more importantly, sing- songs like that about their own situations, not about others'.

Romy Haag in 1977

"Sons of the Silent Age" details the shared, eclectic obsessions that brought Bowie and Haag together, the decadence of Weimar Germany, the romance of silent Hollywood, and soul music. The verses catalog the activities the "sons" share with the soaring choruses promising, "Baby, I'll never let you down/I can't stand another sound/Let's find another way." 

Another way to do what? Another way to continue their relationship away from the prying eyes of the media? Haag herself would later say that ,"we wouldn’t go out together that much because of the paparazzi." 

Those damned photos again.

Similarly "Blackout" foresees the aggravation Bowie and Haag would soon suffer from Angela Bowie, whose arrival in Berlin was signaled by "Someone's back in town/The chips are down," and asks to "Get me off the streets/Give me some protection." 

I hate to sound like a broken record but again, read this like it's about a man trying to keep a relationship out of the public eye. And out of sight of his wife, as well. And as the way these things go, probably out of the sight of those closest to him too.   

And even though Angela claims to have known about Bowie and Haag all along, it's hard to imagine her not raising the issue during the divorce trial. This goes a long way in verifying Haag's claims of harassment from Angela's lawyer:  Angela heard rumors but had no evidence she could use in court, and was working to obtain it.

After a number of instrumentals (most far warmer and more romantic than their Low cousins; sexier, if you will) the final song, "The Secret Life of Arabia" is the kind of edgy Eurodisco Chez Romy Haag was famous for. 

Bowie sings "I was running at the speed of life/From morning's thoughts and fantasies/Then I saw your eyes at the cross fades"

This might sound to most like Bowie being opaque. Or it might be an account of Bowie locking eyes with Romy Hague while on tour ("running at the speed of life") at the Berlin Deutschlandhalle while singing "Station to Station", which he would claim was in fact inspired by the Stations of the Cross. 

The instrumental "Speed of Life" was also the B-side to "Be My Wife", a song that was written during the heady early days of Bowie and Haag's affair.

All of a sudden the Secret Life of Arabia isn't so secret, is it? Tell me again how this affair ended in January?


Heroes would be released at the end of the 1977 and find a better reception than Low. Though now considered to be a veritable companion piece to its predecessor, Heroes was then regarded as a lustier, meatier, more passionate experience. The recording sessions went remarkably quickly and were filled with moments of serendipitous magic. Could we assume that Bowie was indeed literally in-spired here and that the now-clandestine nature of his relationship with Haag only fed the fire?

 As Haag would later recount, the two would see little of each other as Bowie would spend much of 1978 out of Berlin, touring Heroes with his all-star band (which now featured Zappa alumnus and future King Crimson frontman Adrian Belew). Significantly, Bowie would perform Weill's "Alabama Song", Haag's famous opening number, in his own sets. 

Subsequently, sessions for his next album Lodger would take place out of Berlin as well, in Switzerland and New York, instead. The themes of the album seemed to reflect Bowie's experience traveling the world but he and Eno's mission statement was to continue doing the kind of studio adventurism that had been explored at Hansa. 

However, according to all involved the magical experience of Low and Heroes simply failed to materialize. Critics saw it as a mere shadow of Heroes, an afterthought. Strangely (and inexplicably), Bowie would also remake the song he recorded with Iggy "Sister Midnight" under the title 'Red Money'. It's first verse would read, "Oh, can you feel it in the way, That a man is not a man?" before taking the refrain, "Project canceled."



Significantly, there would be one song that seemed like an ironic inside joke between the two lovers, 'Boys Keep Swinging', maybe even some kind of entreaty during a difficult period ("boys always work it out").

Oh, that's crazytalk! There's no evidence at all for that, I hear you say!

Well, you might find this connection tenuous indeed until you see the video, which is Bowie- for absolutely no apparent reason at all- acting out the drag performances he watched every night at Chez Romy Haag.

As Haag later said about "Boys Keep Swinging,"(and no one has ever argued with), "The setting is a complete, one-to-one copy of the stage in my club. He’s performing one of my favourite numbers. There’s this one part of the video where he smears his makeup and he rips off his wig... my signature move!" Haag also believes the glamorous middle figure in the video is based on herself, which is probably the case.

Why then would Bowie still be processing an influence he'd dispensed with over two years before? This is "Bowie the Chameleon", who went through interests and influences like most other people change socks.

It's almost inconceivable that he'd be still pulling a move of a lover he-- allegedly-- had a bitter split with an eternity before in Bowietime. This is what really what hangs me up over the official party line. It's like Bowie touring Station to Station with The Spiders from Mars.

It's just...anti-Bowie.

Unless, of course, Haag was telling the truth and their relationship had in fact only ended around this point in time (after the recording of Lodger). Of her volition, if what she says is true. (Remember the woman walking out of frame in "Where Are We Now?" Ah...)

The breakup that Haag claimed took place around this time may have been the unspecified "personal events" Bowie referred to in 2001, seeing as how the biographies I've read don't record anything like that at this time. Which, of course, they wouldn't.

Well, that's just one song and one video, you might be saying. Hardly convincing. 

Well, what if I told you that one of Bowie's most legendary yet enigmatic performances may in fact been a magical ritual meant to exorcise the "ghost" of Haag from his life, a magical ritual that was performed in front of millions of unsuspecting Americans?

What if I told you that this performance climaxed with a rite taken from the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, the magical society headed by Bowie's admitted hero, Arthur Edward Waite?


On December 15th, 1979 Bowie did a three-song set on Saturday Night Live, hosted by Martin Sheen (whose Apocalypse Now was in theatres at the time). Bowie used the core of his backup band from the 1976 tour, the stunning rhythm section of drummer Dennis Davis, bassist George Murray and guitarist Stacey Heydon, longtime musical director Carlos Alomar, as well as Blondie keyboardist Jimmy Destri. 

For backup singers, he seemed to reach right back into Romy's bag of tricks, hiring gender-bending German sensation Klaus Nomi and NY underground star Joey Arias, both of whom wore Thierry Mugler dresses and full drag makeup.

The choice of songs seemed curious indeed (especially so since two of the oldies were not hits), the nine-year old "Man Who Sold the World", the three year-old "TVC15" and a truncated version of "Boys Keep Swinging." 

Bowie wore interesting costumes; a knockoff of an old Dadaist costume for "Man" (the 'Silent Age' again), a "Chinese Stewardess" skirt and jacket and high heels (drag, in other words) for "TVC," and a weird semi-naked puppet body on "Boys".

The visuals here are random only if you still believe Bowie and Haag were a thing of the distant past at this point. If you don't, they make the most perfect linear sense.

You have the German Dadaist influence for the first song, the cross-dressing in the second, the nudity (and stagecraft) of the third and the two Chez Romy refugees appearing throughout. A narrative, in other words.

Really, you ask? How so?

Well, the songs aren't random or arbitrary either. Bowie appeared in drag on the cover of The Man Who Sold the World, not coincidentally, and we've already seen the explicit Romy connection to 'Boys Keep Swinging'.

So what of 'TVC15', which was not only three years old it wasn't much of a hit in the US or anywhere else. What's its significance?


Well, nothing other than the fact that 'TVC15' was released as a single the same week Bowie met Romy Haag in Berlin.

Oh, that significance.

Note also Stacey Heydon hadn't played with Bowie in the intervening three years since, yet was hired for this one-off appearance.

Is a pattern beginning to emerge here?

By paying such exacting attention to detail here, Bowie seems to be constructing much, much more than a promotional appearance. As best he could Bowie is recreating the event at which he met Haag, but adding in crucial details meant to magnify the effect of the ritual (Debby Harry and Blondie trading on some of the same cultural signifiers as Haag, hence Destri) he is performing. He is also quite clearly taking a page from shamanism or high ritual magic and using cross-dressing as a way of taking on the power of the female. Or in this case, taking back that power.


Where ever do I get that idea from? Well, at the end of 'TVC15' he takes on (and holds) the 'Enterer' pose of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. 

What is its significance?

It's a part of the Golden Dawn's banishing ritual. Note that Arias and Nomi stiffly turn and face different directions during the song as one would during this ritual. Note also the dog, which has universal connotations to Sirius, venerated by occult orders, but is also linked to the Star trump which has androgynous connotations.

Bowie is clearly constructing a very eclectic kind of magic here, but by drawing on the Banishing Ritual at the end of the song he might reasonably most identify with meeting his former lover, the intended result is fairly obvious. 

There's also this, from the book Loving the Alien. Bowie's occult obsessions were often chalked up merely to his cocaine dementia in LA, but like so many bowiemyths that appears not to be true:
"Bowie's bizarre behaviour continued even after he moved to Europe: witness his strange use of 'signals'. Throughout 1977 and '78 his letters were filled with numbers to which he gave mysterious meanings. The minute Bowie left Berlin in 1979, the numbers abruptly stopped."
In summation: Given the evidence here, I feel very strongly that Bowie and Haag did indeed continue their relationship-- secretly-- long after his 30th birthday party and that her influence had a powerful hold over him, so much that he resorted to what can only be called a rite of sympathetic magic to take back the power he felt she had taken from him.  

Now, you don't have to believe such a thing would work, but you do have to believe Bowie believed it would.


It's interesting to note that he'd play the Fool (as one biographer noted, wearing more lipstick and makeup than ever) in his next great working, a highly symbolic start to a new journey (the man knew his occult symbolism). 

A new journey from what, we should ask? 

His Pierrot take on the Fool archetype seemed to have nothing to do with Scary Monster's title or title track, which-- oh my, look at this-- seems to bid farewell to an exotic woman ("She opened strange doors that we'd never close again") and also name-drops Iggy (who Bowie called Jimmy, which was his real name) in a curious context, reminding us that Bowie produced- and played guitar on- Iggy's records in Berlin ("Jimmy's guitar sound, jealousies scream"). 

Jealousy. Interesting.


And it should be noted just prior to 'Ashes to Ashes' b/w 'Move On' (the latter a song unambiguously about rebounding from a relationship by moving to a new location)--where he first appears as the Fool, the Beginner--that Bowie released a version of Romy's signature tune, "The Alabama Song" in 1980. (Which is included on Monsters as an extra on the CD reissue).

The "Alabama Song" also covered by The Doors. 

Now, tell me again how they split up in January 1977, how this had been just another of David's myriad conquests? That his lyrics were just randomized bulldada?

And did he really get Romy Haag out of his system? Just as I had a hard time squaring Leee's unambiguous claim that Bowie moved to Berlin to be with Romy with the scanty evidence of the relationship in the many Bowie bios (or the ones I'd read so far), none of any of this really changed my way of thinking about the situation.

Now, Haag was as much a footnote to me as anyone else.
 Interesting aside, but no more interesting than Amanda Lear, say. The story seemed fairly consistent, why doubt it? 

I didn't much, until I was recently listening to a Bowie concert from 2002, in Berlin of course. There he performed the song off the album hours called 'Survive', after which he launched into a short anecdote about his time in Berlin which in turn served to introduce, what else, 'The Alabama Song', or that is, Romy's song.

Which, by the way, he just told us he'd sing at breakfast every morning.

Oh.

That's one of those moments when the light goes on.

If 'Where Are We Now' got me to suspecting that Bowie was still carrying a torch for his Berlin muse, it was actually the lyrics to 'Survive' that first put me on the scent.

Please; don't take my word for it, go read them for yourself. 

These are not Bowie's cut-up abstractions, these are some of the bluntest, rawest lyrics I've ever read of his. This is a stunningly direct, painful address to a former lover, expressing regret for ending the relationship while at the same time cherishing the memories of their shared experiences.

What makes me think this might be about Romy and not Hermione or Ava or some other lost love? Because 'Survive' has Bowie referring to clubs and fashion ("noisy rooms" and "passion pants"), the currency of Chez Romy Haag, and again in a later verse, using apparently coded language referring to drag clubs ("People boys, all snowy white, Razzle dazzle clubs every night").


And take a look at the music video for 'Survive', which has Bowie looking absolutely miserable (again), this time in a kitchen, the ultimate symbol of domesticity. As the song progresses he's literally being pulled away from his environment (or wishing to be), by lyrics like "Give me wings, give me space, give me money for a change of face" (or anonymity), and most poignantly "Wished I had sent a Valentine, I loved you."

Bear in mind, I didn't write these lyrics, David Bowie did.
He wrote them on what was commonly regarded as his "confessional" album (which as we saw, also included some remarkable symbology). Nor did I direct the video. I'm just pointing out the rather blatant symbolism at work.

As time goes on, Bowie's time in Berlin seems to be the definitive era of his career, even more so than the glitter era that first brought him fame. Of course, it's been that way for a long time now, since it was in Berlin that Bowie created a new kind of rock music (and arguably a new kind of ambient music as well), that's had far-reaching influence past the three short years he spent there.

It was a time of intense creativity (Bowie not only recorded his own albums, he composed and produced The Idiot and Lust for Life for Iggy Pop, widely considered that artist's creative peak). Berlin could also be seen as a laboratory for Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps), the album that would become the defining landmark of his career (for better or worse).

Given the timeline of events, it's hard to argue against Leee Black Childers' claim that it was indeed Romy Haag that lured Bowie to Berlin, even if some might quibble with Angela's claim that his life there was entirely centered around Haag. There's no arguing Bowie spent a lot of time in her company for the first several months of that period and I would agree with Haag that it went beyond that.

Always judge a person by their actions, not their words. 

And Bowie's extraordinary actions right up to the very end of 1979- and indeed, beyond- tell us nothing but that Romy Haag had some kind of grip on him, a grip that apparently only magic could break.

How very, very Bowie.


UPDATE: Read this and this about Duncan Jones's (aka Zowie Bowie) "dream project."

* Read here how quickly Bowie lapses into sidebars and asides when asked a rather direct question of his move to Berlin, clearly not comfortable with his original explanation. Why? Because he repeats the party line about his precarious drug and emotional state, so of course he moves to the European city with both the Continent's worst drug problem and the stress and anxiety of being on the literal front lines during the hotting up of the Cold War!  

Berlin and Germany in general were also wracked by political terror in 1970s, notably the Munich massacre in 1972, the "German Autumn" in 1977 and violence committed by groups like the Red Army Faction and various far-right gangs throughout the decade (which Bowie himself would blame for leaving Berlin in 1979, so he was well aware of the turmoil). He was already safe and sound in Switzerland yet the notoriously-paranoid Bowie chooses Berlin? Come on.

Bowie then directly contradicts himself by claiming to want to ease his "foreboding" by moving to moving to the "spiritual home" of the "angst-ridden" Expressionists. There's also the fact that his behavior was often even more manic and extreme in Berlin than it had been in Los Angeles, only less witchy, more Teutonic. He would claim another set of reasons altogether for the Berlin move in this 1979 interview and claim he spent most of his time there alone, which is demonstrably untrue whether you believe he was secretly liaising with Haag or not.  

No offense, but I believe Leee Black Childers' explanation of the move.

The same link also tells us that Low was Bowie's most emotionally honest album. Which brings "Be My Wife" back to mind...


58 comments:

  1. ~ You're the great mistake I never made
    ~ I never lied to you
    ~ I hated when you lied

    Wow.

    I have to agree with your thesis here. A televised ritual to get Romy out of his head - and I'd guess it was only a partial success.

    I have someone, it didn't end ugly, it was what had to be, but I've never gotten Misty completely out of my head, either.

    Chris, thank you for giving me reasons to look, learn, and listen to David Bowie. :)

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  2. Glad to be of service. =) Now I can move onto other topics, that is, if Mr. Bowie is done with me...

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  3. Absolutely outstanding analysis and deconstruction.
    As much as I loved Motorhead/Lemmy and later developed a respect for GlennFrey/Eagles for sheer 70's nostalgia, there is something about David Bowie that was far beyond most other artists and musicians. His music has a power and emotional intimacy that almost no one else of his generation ( and certainly no one from this generation ) can match. A man expressing himself on so many different levels for several decades and capping it off so brilliantly. The circle is definitely complete, and it will take years to fully digest what his career was about in it's fullness. We will not see the likes of him again anytime soon.
    Thanks for your insights Chris.

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    1. And a man who could use the media in so many ways to cast so many spells. So much of Bowie is a magical spell, an arcane construction. I think there is chasm of difference between Bowie the modern god and David Robert Jones the Man. That's what Iman tells us as well.

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  4. The girl with the tail makes so much sense now.

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  5. Fantastic Chris, excellent. My dad picked up on the SNL ritual when i had the show on bootleg video tape in '87, i was 18, up til then he always took DB as yet another gimmicky pop singer but after he always squinted & watched whenever there was anything televised..! Especially performances.dad always loved Waite, Blavatsky, Crowley et al... Thanks 4 this.Thank U David XX

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    1. That appearance is legendary. I saw it when it aired, since I was a masochist and watched SNL without Aykroyd and Belushi (plus there was nothing else to watch). People have always puzzled over it, it all seemed so random and strange. But I think if you look at it in context it makes perfect sense. The thing that blows my mind is the Fool- Bowie actually comes out a few months later as the Fool. That man knew his occultism.

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  6. This explanation is essential. Magic is everywhere, power exists in everything, if one has the Will and the Art to use it (and is prepared for its consequences). David couldn't have been more of a Magus if he'd worn a star-spangled whipple, and the SNL performances can now be seen as his first Great Working, his proclamation by doing that he had achieved mastery in the old-fasioned way, the transmutation of suffering and loss into something positive. In his case, opening the door to his future which, true, was awash in Scary Monsters, but so very much more.

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  7. It also makes me wonder how much of Bowie's reputation as this wanton swordsman was all part of the spell. Swordsmen don't write lyrics like Letter to Hermione or Survive (whoever that's actually about). I think Bowie constructed this whole persona that had little to do with who he really was. There are a whole lot of questions that show themselves once you start looking with a seasoned eye at his life. And as I said it's absolutely unimaginable for him to be doing Romy Haag moves in '79 if they were done in January '77. It would be like touring Heroes with the '74 Soul Revue band. Just downright anti-Bowie.

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    1. Chris - I think you've hit something here. Bowie's lyrics really do not fit the image of a "love 'em and leave 'em" type person. Leaving out what may have been an initial period of experimentation & enjoying being a Rockstar, the Bowie I'm seeing here looks like a man that finds deep connections with his lovers.

      Bowie fascinates me more & more by the minute.

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    2. You hit it- I think his wild days were in that first flush of stardom - the glam years- and that's the origin of his legend. But reading accounts of his life later it makes less sense. It doesn't square with his personality type. I think he was a relationship-oriented personality.

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    3. There must have been safety in the legend, too. It might have made it easier to be himself if everyone thinks he's scoring with many groupies when he's really spending time with Romy or whomever.

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  8. Until now it was hard to me to understand Bowie as a "love song" songwriter beacause of his "plots". Obviously he was able to express so much complexity on a pop song format, beyond my audient ability to comprehend them. Excellent and original analysis.

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    1. Thanks. I have a thesis- things happen for reasons. Weird things happen for weird reasons. Passionate songs happen because of passion, whether realized or frustrated. Songs with references to secret affairs usually arise out of secret affairs.

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  9. If you have the CD version of "Blackstar," the one of the main images in the package is celestial. And Sirius in noted. Good call on the dog being on stage during the SNL musical/magical ritual. Amazing stuff.

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  10. Hmm, been ages since I've seen the clips from SNL, but I wonder - the moves Klaus and Joey were making all through the songs, and when they made them might also have significance, not only their postures at the banishment. Bowie was also trained as a mime, silent communication, and may have choreographed their pantomime as well.

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    1. Oh, I'm sure Bowie worked that whole thing out to the letter. It's almost anal-retentive it's so OCD.

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  11. Interesting that the Middle Finger appears to be the Finger of Saturn, the sign that rules Capricorn (Bowie & Haag's Sign)

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  12. To be honest: I almost always find what you write to be interesting. Sometimes, though, when you reach a conclusion point, I have an "I'm not completely convinced" reaction (that sometimes changes the more I think about and re-read your stuff).

    This series,though -- out of the ballpark. I buy it. As others have said, excellent analysis, and thank you for your work.

    One of the interesting questions to me about all this is "what exactly do we mean by magic?" At one level, we might think of Bowie as a "magician" in terms of the layered complexities of his "art." You, very rightly I think, point to the SNL performance as a ritual with a specific aim in mind. I don't see you make this point explicitly (forgive me if I missed it), but it seems implicit that his reason for doing it on SNL, as opposed to in private, is to harness the "juice" of the attention of the entire SNL audience to his aim. (Whether it worked completely is one question; whether it made some significant change is another).

    What, I have been wondering, might Bowie's aim been for all the juice he collected by dying, essentially, on his birthday when his last album came out? Some sort of apotheosis? After all, the astronomers have given him his very own constellation, so he's got a home among the stars!

    Last night, this occurred to me: What exactly is up with the exquisitely jewelled skull retrieved from Major Tom's helmet? ...I remember being very struck by pictures of the bejewelled corpses and skeletons of Saints the Roman Organization sent out around Europe as part of the counter-reformation.

    Maybe Bowie wants to be a Saint? Like, for real? To now function as an intercessor between us on Earth and some Higher Power(s) or another (I did see him, in one interview, reference the Serenity Prayer)?

    He'd make an excellent Patron of Queer. Let's keep our eyes out for Bowie-related miracles.

    Thanks again; excellent stuff.

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    1. Well, Charles Schultz died the day the last Peanuts comic strip ran. Sometimes these things happen. As to the jewels, it really reminds me of John veneration and Baphomet and that tradition. Which I am sure Bowie was trying to tap into. I think he wants people to make their own conclusions as to what the symbols actually mean.

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    2. The ambiguity of the jeweled skull and of other elements in his videos for Blackstar itself serves as a power source, ensuring the waters are churned by debate for years to come.

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    3. The last Sunday comic by Schultz gives me chills. "Nobody shook hands and said 'Good Game'" ... Anyways. I think you should check this out if you haven't already, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LwTFW4kfHl4

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  13. '"The first time I felt uncomfortable was with Kafka's Metamorphosis," he remembers with a bleak chuckle. "I had vivid nightmares about that - literal translations of what he was writing about: of enormous bugs flying, and lying on their backs [he mimics the hideous squirming of an insect] and other creepy-crawly dreams. I saw myself become something unrecognisable, a monster. And if you are imaginative, it does strike home very hard and leave lots of very definite impressions, indelible images, enigmatic little corners, nooks and crannies with shadows in them that will haunt you for a lifetime."' (Bowie, 1978)

    'I played at being Ziggy Stardust. That was fine until I became Ziggy, and Ziggy became a monster who nearly destroyed me. Then I played at being the Thin White Duke. Now, I think I've got rid of him.' (1979)

    I would argue for a more psychological interpretation of "Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)" where the 'Monstrous Super Creep' is his own Thin White Duke as Nietzschean Shadow Man vs. "The Little Girl with Grey Eyes" as essential Self beyond corruption--"'Tis A Pity She Was A Whore"?

    'My character is… essential man, man in his pure form who's corrupted or brought down by the corruption around him.' (1975)

    'He called “Scary Monsters” at the time “a piece of Londonism,” narrated by a “criminal with a conscience who talks about how he corrupted a fine young mind,” and he sang it in his Mockney accent (though not entirely—he sings “again” (at the close of the first verse) fairly flat, not as “ah-GAYN”).'

    I saw "Jimmy's guitar sound" as referring to the riff of "The Supermen" (i.e. the Nietzschean Thin White Duke again) that Jimmy Page gave him (later reused on "Dead Man Walking". Put it together and it implies he is really trying to exorcise the Duke once and for all.

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    1. This is all very interesting indeed but I don't see how it contradicts anything that I'm saying. You're simply making a psychological interpretation and I'm looking more at his more urgent, compelling personal motivations. I don't see the two at loggerheads. The thing is that artists and magicians do things for the same reasons everyone does they just tend to couch them in more high-falutin' lingo, if you get my drift. As to Bowie writing about Jimmy Page in 1980- he just produced, played and toured with Iggy Pop aka Jimmy Osterberg. I'd say that connection was a bit more cogent at the time.

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  14. That old black magick called love, eh? It does things, powerful things. We miss it when its gone. Occulted suns and star-entities, and their all-too fragile human hosts. Great work, Chris. You present a very nuanced and convincing case. Total Eclipses of the Heart, I guess, as Bonnie Tyler used to say.

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    1. Love and lust, the great drivers of art. So much so that the father's passions seem to be inspiring the son now. It's just uncanny.

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  15. That's some great alchemical insight man. This makes the whole Berlin trilogy stand even more on it's own transcendent merit. Sound, vision, and a whole lot of passion. I see now how the album Heroes brought out some more vulnerable and emotional singing. He had a lot on his mind- and a lot to share. What's interesting is this is all taking place in Germany. Talk about occult and high strangeness history. I would not be taken back if Bowie took a ride in a Vril saucer.
    I would have loved to have been a fly on a wall during those Eno/Bowie Hansa sessions. Thanks Chris for these amazing blogs. It makes you think, doesn't it?

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    1. Bowie was more than a British guy with bad teeth and a knack for a good tune. There're no two ways about it. He was tuned in to currents we can only guess at.

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  16. Been thinking about your posts, and realized that the (farewell) song "I Can't Give Anyway" references two earlier Bowie songs: the melody sounds a lot like "Soul Love" and the harmonica is lifted from "A New Career in a New Town" (which had to be Berlin). Soul Love + A New Career in a New Town = I Can't Give Everything Away. The equation makes sense to me after reading this article!

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    1. So many songs of regret from Bowie. "I have nothing in my life." Such strange words coming from such a blessed man.

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  17. Very sharp and interesting posts, I think.
    Stoking ones fascination for stuff,
    that´s a great thing.
    Kind of a scoop, really.

    Layers and layers, with living art as with life they don´t seem to end, do they?


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  18. On Wikipedia about Duncan Jones and his new movie:

    "Jones[..]described it as a "spiritual sequel" to Moon [...]The film, set in Berlin forty years in the future, will follow a mute bartender investigating his partner's disappearance."


    So, we know now there was a real disappeared love in Berlin bars only 40 years in the past
    that a protagonis searching for it (in song)was mute- kept schtum- about...

    (And the "spiritual sequel" is about an
    astronaut alone in space for three years...
    Well, major Tom and other space personas
    preceeded Berlin...)

    Is Duncan hard at work, too, on the mystery of his father? What would be more natural. Aren´t we all?

    I wanna be a psychosleuth, too!:)




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  19. The film is set in Berlin, 40 years from today. A roiling city of immigrants, where East crashes against West in a science-fiction Casablanca. Leo Beiler (Skarsgard), a mute bartender, has one reason and one reason only for living here, and she’s disappeared. But when Leo’s search takes him deeper into the city’s underbelly, an odd pair of American surgeons (led by Rudd) seem to be the only recurring clue, and Leo can’t tell if they can help, or who he should fear most.

    “I’ve been working towards making Mute for 12 years now. I cannot tell you how thrilled I am that we’re finally going to shoot this utterly unique film,” said Jones. “The fact that I get to make it with Alexander Skarsgard and Paul Rudd makes it all the more exciting! Mute is a film that will last. It is unlike any other science fiction being made today.”

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  20. Leo Beiler? Leon Blank was the character in the first song Bowie released with Eno after the Berlin Trilogy.

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  21. "Back in Leo’s world, he wakes up to find that Naadirah is gone. At first he assumes she’s at work, but when she doesn't answer a series of texts, he becomes suspicious. An investigation turns into a slow and purposeful pursuit, as he does a toned down imitation of Liam Neeson, and raises hell in future Berlin's shady underbelly.

    "Along the way, he finds out a shocking secret about her that changes everything."

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  22. Looking it up, Beil is the german word for a small axe. And there was a knife produced in the 60´s
    named... Bowie-axe (made for throwing).

    Bowie´s moon was in the sign of Leo.
    Joe the lion?


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  23. I mean- can there be any doubt now?

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  24. Yeah, can´t wait to see that movie.

    Duncan inherited the moon in leo, apparently. I thought he looked leo a lot (eyes, mouth). Also, Iman´s a sun leo.

    Interesting who will be playing the female
    lead. Naadirah,"rare, precious" in arabic Nadir is the opposite of zenith, the point directly below (Nadir in arabic is nazir which in the hebrew bible is- a monk, one who abstains...)



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  25. Spent part of the the afternoon yesterday watching random Bowie videos on Youtube (including some that were not "videos", including most of *Blackstar*), and I have to say that having read these posts (and this one particularly) made 90% of them more interesting. I haven't really done anything like that in quite some time, with Bowie or otherwise, and it's an exercise I want to repeat.

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  26. Synchronicities: just finished this article 10 mn ago and French Google news shows me (on another PC so no cookies involved) an article about Bowie's house on Mosquito island being sold...

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  27. what is your top 20 best horror movies?
    horror clips

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  28. Chris,

    I only had one Bowie CD, I'd heard most of his stuff on the radio, or as music videos, over the past 50 years, so when he died I bought _Blackstar_ and _Nothing has changed_. I listened to _Nothing has changed_, a three CD set, several times before I noticed that the play list starts with _Sue(Or a Season of Crime)_ November 2014 and goes back in time ending with _Liza Jane_ June 1964.

    _Nothing has changed_ was issued November 17, 2014. When you open the book-like packaging it has ginhtoN, has, Changed. Then you open up the folds and it displays, Everything, has, Changed. The inside images are different pictures of Bowie looking into mirrors, from _The Man Who Fell To Earth_ to Bowie at 2014.

    Look at the Amazon product page and there is a list of the songs on the three CDs, though there are actually 59 songs on the set. Disc:1 is 18, Disc:2 is 20, and Disc:3 is 21. This product list is a little jumbled in places.

    What made me start to wonder what was going on was the last few songs.

    DISC: 3
    17. In The Heat Of The Morning
    18. Silly Boy Blue
    19. Can't Help Thinking About Me
    20. You've Got A Habit Of Leaving
    21. Liza Jane

    Look at the lyrics and see if anything catches your sense of pattern. It's as if he was winding back the clock with these songs from his life.

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  29. I have been looking through all your Bowie posts from this year because I could have sworn I remembered you referencing a lyric from the *Blackstar* album, "She hit like a man" -- or maybe even "Man, she hit like a man." This is because I re-watched *Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Man* (which btw I thought was genius in more ways than one) and my ears perked up when the were-man said "Man, she hit like a man," (referring to his run-in with a transsexual prostitute). Am I just making it up that that was a recent Bowie lyric?

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  30. From *'Tis A Pity She's a Whore*... "Man she punched me like a dude..."

    What do you make of it?

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  31. hello! this post is incredible...illuminating! i read once that iggy pop said about his time in berlin with bowie that all he did with Bowie was coke and competing to know who would get the better-looking transvestite every night ahahaahah anyway There's his bodyguard Stuart George recently interviewed said that (as well as the threesome with jagger and some female singer) during the australian tour '78 he suffered bad depression because of the divorce with angela and romy haag in interview you mentioned seems to kind of 'reduce' their romance, so maybe it's broader than romy...i like very much this post thank you and sorry for my very bad english, hope you get what i meant, bye!

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    1. Thank for this. No, actually your information is rather spot on, since the Oz tour was late '78 which puts in the same timeframe, just a little bit earlier. But certainly a lot later than January 1977!

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    2. Then there was his song "Thursday's Child"...what year did that come out?
      Went something like "Now that I finally have a chance...everything's falling into place...only for you, I don't regret, that I was Thursday's child...the refrain then goes "Throw me tomorrow" when you listen, it sounds very much like "Romy, tomorrow"...

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  32. oh i've just found out that Iggy pop too wrote a song about berlin in his last Post Pop Depression record called " german days" , just read the lyrics and listen to tony visconti here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T6en0mExSrw ...berlin time had a strong grip on both of them (now don't tell me that also iggy pop had a secret called romy...:-D)
    P.s. romy haag has facebook page, she made a public post on her 1999 biography writing only part of the chapter 'David and I' (it's in her 'story' album photos), wish i could read it...:-))

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  33. Another "coincidence" regarding the lyrics to "Thursday's Child": Romy was a "Thursday's Child". Her birthday, January, 1st 1948 was a Thursday (as the lyrics say: "Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, born I was").
    I remember David Bowie saying when he introduced the song during VH1 storytellers that "it's a title not imbued with arcane knowledge, as you might think" but as you pointed out in your brilliant blog, maybe David's words are not under all circumstances to be trusted. So I do watch his actions and listen to his lyrics instead. And I have to admit that I could easily see Romy as an inspiration for "Thursday's Child". David also said during that VH1 storytellers session that the title was prompted by Eartha Kitt, even though, as he said: "this song, I might point out, is not actually about Eartha Kitt", leaving it up to our imagination who it really is about. He said that he saw this quite sexy photo of Eartha Kitt in one of her biographies he read at 14. The title of that photo was "Thursday's Child" and that expression stayed with him since then. Maybe in the 70's Romy became his "Thursday's Child". All of that is mere speculation but intriguing nonetheless.

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  36. Have a look here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5yrXg3zTseY

    Have you ever noticed that? Comments?

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  37. thank you.
    i am quite fascinated by DB and find the songs Heroes and Where Are We Know very haunting. I was disappointed when lately I read about the "true" story behind them. These story turned the songs into punctured tyres. Somehow blurring and deflating the humane artistic genius of Bowie too. Many things I have read lately left me confused and I only concluded the visionary artist was a liar conceiling much in the name of busyness and privacy. Your explanation revives the passion and haunting qualities of these 2 songs and the richness of David emotional and adventurous life.
    Words to qualify his life sound awkard. Actually i prefer to enjoy the legacy. But again thank you for restoring these songs to their obvious immediate sensuous qualities.
    oh well... just thank you.

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  38. Hi. I've found your blog because someone else told me "Where are we now" was all about Romy. I've read your story... Twice. Sorry, but I think you're very quick at jumping on conclusions. What you call "proofs" are not proofs at all, not to me anyways. So Bowie would remember in 1979 the day TVC 15 was released, and also remember that it was the week he met Romy Haag? So Bowie never recycles ideas he found in the past? He does that ALL THE TIME. Just look how in 1980, he did recycle songs he would have written in 1974 for Ava Cherry for instance. In 1994, he worked with Brian Eno again for the writing of 1.Outside. His old characters remade surface several times in his work. So Yes, in my opinion he could do "Boys keep swinging" movie with Romy Haag's signature, 2 years later. He certainly enjoyed her work very much.

    But let's say that Haag tells the truth about the longevity of their relationship ! After Bowie's death, she said that "His FRIENDSHIP" had been the light of her life at this period. She never, ever said that they had such a passionate love affair. It was certainly passionate at the beginning, but Bowie admitted himself that he would fall in love quite easily. According to HER, they would see each other when they had the time, basically. Bowie could have been very upset after his 30th birthday, as it is been said, but not enough upset to completely break up with Haag. Biographers may have quickly jumped on conclusions, too. But I would call this attitude "lazyness" rather than "conspiration".

    What convinces me that you're wrong, well, I find it in the very songs you quote in your demonstration: "Move On", and "Scary Monsters". The girl he talks about in both songs, well, you fail to mention that she's got BLUE eyes. Romy Haag's eyes are... undoubtly BROWN. Never, ever, a man who lures about a lost love in a song would make such a mistake about the colour of her eyes. It's not some tiny detail that doesn't count, he didn't switch brown for blue because it sounded better... Not twice! So in my opinion, either the girl he refers too is in fact, himself (an interpretation I've often read), either another girl than Haag. It could simply be Angie.

    Oh, and what Angie said: what the hell could she know about Bowie's affairs in Berlin? She was never here! The only time she came to Berlin, she burnt Coco Schwab's affairs then left for good. All she can say about in Berlin is not more than what the basic fan knows. Leee Black Childers may be right about David's reason to come to Berlin, though. I have no doubt that David indeed had a crush on her.

    The thing is, I think you're right about a secret love affair during the Berlin years, maybe even after Berlin. I think the empty frame in "Where are we now" movie meant: "We don't have pictures of us together, not for the public at least". The garnet might be for his birthday indeed, but are you sure it is a garnet? No offense please, it's a genuine question as I'm no good in precious stones.

    I guess you won't like my comment very much, as you certainly worked hard on your interpretation. Everyone else says you're right, so I bet my message won't be given any credit anyways. But I had to write it.

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    1. You're wrong on the basic historical facts. Go back and do your research. You're also unfamiliar with the concept of poetic license. Bowie was in no way as literal-minded as you seem to be.

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  39. What do you make out of this interview with R H? Is it just a 'covering up'? :o http://www.exberliner.com/features/people/queen-of-the-underground/

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