Bowie: The Starman Returns to the Sky



The Legend is now complete. The story has been told, its ending could not have been more perfectly constructed or executed. It's said that the great ones know when to leave the stage; the Greatest also know how.

A little less than three years ago, David Bowie released what I called "The Last Rock 'n' Roll Album," and pulled off what some critics labeled the greatest comeback since Elvis in '68. Hardcore Bowie fans like myself were a bit nonplussed by the critical response to The Next Day, not because we didn't appreciate the praise but because we wondered where these critics had been hiding while Bowie had been making important music both onstage (The BBC Radio Concert, the A Reality DVD, for starters) and in the studio (see 1.Outside, Earthling, Heathen).

But The Next Day was a landmark in that no one expected ever to hear from Bowie again, not after he suffered a coronary event onstage in 2004 that preceded a very long and troubling silence. No one certainly expected him to return with an album filled with top rank material designed to serve as an endpiece to the pop/rock phase of Bowie's career. 

Fewer still expected him to follow that up with Blackstar, an experimental set of jazz-inflected postrock designed to serve as his epitaph. 

That he had also been working on a theatrical sequel to The Man Who Fell to Earth (currently enjoying a sellout run in New York) at the same time as recording Blackstar while dying of cancer can only add to the legend, of a man not-quite-human, but something more than you or I.

What can and must be said is that Bowie runs through the lifeblood of this blog and all the other work I've done. That's no surprise to longtime readers.

 I can still remember the effect hearing "Fame" had on my young mind, how it seemed like a transmission from a far stranger world, a world I wanted to go to. Soon enough I was reading the Time Magazine review of The Man Who Fell to Earth and realizing that this Bowie thing was a completely different type of phenomena, one I best pay close attention to (yeah, I was a weird nine year-old). The effect was only cemented by 'Golden Years' and 'Sound and Vision', which stood out like holographic intruders on the old daguerreotype of the AM radio Top 40 wasteland.

Of course, now my shelves are now filled with Bowie biographies but then I had no idea how utterly alien this man was, how these albums that redefined the course of popular music seem to burst fully formed from his fevered brain to the literal astonishment of his collaborators. 

How he spent countless hours immersed in his occult library, or skywatching for UFOs, all the while painting, writing in his journals, studying dance or boxing and later, appearing in more films than most professional actors, until such time as it came to lay down another indelible classic. 

It's not a stretch to say that music was being channeled through him.

It wouldn't be until 1978 that I'd really immerse myself in his Mysteries, and by the golden locks of Apollo, what a time it was to do so. I can still remember buying Stage at Jason's Music and Luggage (!), which seems unloved today but for me was like finally stepping into that parallel dimension (I should add that I was on my way home from theatre class at the time, having briefly humored acting fantasies).  

It was here I'd be initiated into the Mysteries of Sound that so bewitched Philip K Dick, Bowie and Eno's synth-driven symphonettes from Low and Heroes. Dick was so enraptured by this music he saw it as some kind of alien transmissions converted to vinyl through a kind of modern electronic alchemy. 



Bowie and The Man Who Fell to Earth had such a powerful effect on Dick's emerging Gnostic awakening that they became major players in the first allegorical exegesis of his spiritual journey, Valis (the film within the novel was based on Dick's experience of seeing Earth for the first time and how it seemed to resonate so completely with his own inner turmoil). 

Not long after I ended up with an eight-track tape of Hunky Dory and not long after that Lodger was released. All of a sudden the hand-me-down rock stars of the 60s and 70s seemed irrelevant, counter-revolutionary, even. There was a dividing line now, it was Year Zero. Punk, Postpunk, New Wave and the rest were the new vanguard, the Great Wheel had turned. Only Bowie and his fellow travelers (Fripp, Eno, Iggy, etc) would seem relevant in the new regime.

But Bowie had other plans. He'd released his now-legendary string of classic albums under constant threat of financial insolvency (the great Spiders from Mars lineup was  broken up because of financial pressures), thanks in large part to the drain on his accounts by his management team, who burned through his profits either with their endless partying and extravagance or by trying to launch hopeless careers. 

He'd seen a new generation of artists getting rich off of his ideas and now he wanted to cash in. During the sessions for "Under Pressure", Queen sold Bowie on the benefits he could reap by dumping the moribund RCA for the ravenous EMI, who'd made plutocrats out of the glam foursome. 

With an eye on the success the Rolling Stones and The Police were having touring large stadiums, Bowie set his sights on American superstardom. His sexuality underwent public revision, with Bowie now claiming to have been a "closet heterosexual."* He entered the studio with Chic mastermind Nile Rodgers and a new backing band which included rising star Stevie Ray Vaughn on guitar. The result was Let's Dance, a bonafide blockbuster that finally put Bowie in the top rank where he and his fans felt he belonged. 

Oh, but the price to pay.

A massive tour was planned which saw Bowie playing American football stadiums and making sure he gave fans every penny's worth of entertainment. I saw Bowie on this tour and while it was an amazing show- one of the best I'd ever seen- it also felt like something had changed. This was no longer my Bowie, it was someone else. A lot of fans felt that way.

Suspicions were not dissuaded when Bowie rushed out Tonight which featured two bonafide classics ('Blue Jean', 'Loving the Alien') and a whole lot of filler (admittedly, Let's Dance had its share of filler too). 

Signs that Bowie was as bored with his new role as his 70s fans were were confirmed by a long (for the time) post-Tonight silence punctuated only by a few weak soundtrack numbers.

 He re-emerged in 1987 with Never Let Me Down, an album that tried too hard to recapture Let's Dance's formula and buried a lot of worthy songs in the histrionic production techniques of the time. He compounded the felony with the Glass Spider tour, a half-hearted return to the theatricality of the Diamond Dogs era, only without the zeitgeist and with 75% more cringe. Plus, Peter Frampton?

Sensing he'd made all the wrong moves he tried to right the ship. He did a bare-bones greatest hits tour in 1990 (I saw that one too) but the backing band (aside from King Crimson frontman Adrian Belew) wasn't up to the job. 

He then hooked up with Iggy's old rhythm section (the Sales brothers, as in Soupy) and new guitarist Reeves Gabrels for Tin Machine, but it looked and sounded like an overwrought midlife crisis. A reunion with Nile Rodgers seemed promising, but then his new record company went bankrupt as soon as Black Tie White Noise was released.

INTERLUDE: 'I've been interested in the Gnostics.' 
  
"Now the archon who is weak has three names. The first name is Yaltabaoth, the second is Saklas, and the third is Samael. And he is impious in his arrogance which is in him. For he said, `I am God and there is no other God beside me,' for he is ignorant of his strength, the place from which he had come..." --THE APOCRYPHON OF JOHN
"Opening his eyes he saw a vast quantity of matter without limit; and he became arrogant, saying, `It is I who am God, and there is none other apart from me.' 
"When he said this, he sinned against the entirety. And a voice came forth from above the realm of absolute power, saying, `You are mistaken, Samael' - which is, `god of the blind.'" --THE HYPOSTASIS OF THE ARCHONS.
It wouldn't be until Bowie abandoned his grasping for the mainstream and got his freak back on that he'd rediscover his Bowieness. A soundtrack for the British indie film The Buddha of Suburbia got Eno's attention again and they took to the studio to record 1.Outside, a sprawling, deliciously-pretentious slab of 200-proof Bowie, replete with a ludicrous "concept" based on transgressive art, millennial angst and ritual murder. 

The planned-for trilogy never materialized as Eno continued his career as megahit-making producer so Bowie returned with Earthling, where then-trendy dance music dribblings were grafted onto classic Bowie melodies. Luckily, most of the songs survive the procedure.

This was a favorite Bowie period for me, since he was just successful enough to be visible but not so much as to be annoyingly ubiquitous. His band, with Zach Alford on drums, Gail Ann Dorsey on bass and vocals, longtime keyboardist Mike Garson and guitarist Gabrels were hard, polished and just artsy enough to be interesting. 

Unfortunately, it kind of came to a thudding halt in 1999 when Bowie's mersh instincts (or record company pressure) got the better (or worse) of him again and …hours was released, an attempt to appeal to the then-burgeoning adult alternative contemporary or whatever the hell it was called market. Gabrels wasn't having any of it and split. Fantastic CD artwork though.

Bowie played around with a few ideas- a Pin-Ups 2, remakes of his 60s songs- before cutting Heathen (2002) with Tony Visconti, the producer of his late 70s classics. Because of the realities of the new market or simple maturity, Bowie dropped the attempts to appeal to the dissipating younger market and made a classic Bowie album, a return to old-fashioned songcraft without any trendy bells and whistles. A new and larger band was assembled and Bowie began touring and doing various media appearances. 

The effect of Heathen was mitigated by the followup Reality (2003), which in fairness may have been recorded to secure tour financing. A live DVD of the marathon Reality tour bolsters that suspicion but unfortunately the stress of the road on the 56-year old performer resulted in the aforementioned coronary event, leading us back to the long radio silence.



THE SECRET BOWIE

Of course, part of Bowie's mystique is his lifelong immersion in the Occult. OTO member Peter Koenig first explored this in a highly subjective and rambling essay called The Laughing Gnostic (which I first read back in the old USENET days) and has been continually updated ever since. It touches on Bowie's repeated use of catchwords and imagery taken from occult orders like the Golden Dawn as well as his cocaine-fueled obsession with Fascism in the mid-70s. 

Bowie himself has always been cagey about his occult interests, preferring to keep an aura of uncertainty and mystery (much like his contemporary Jimmy Page, with whom he shares a birthday). All of this mystery and play will become very important shortly.

From 1997:
So were you involved in actual devil worship? 
"Not devil worship, no, it was pure straighforward, old–fashioned magic." 
The Aleister Crowley variety? 
"No, I always thought Crowley was a charlatan. But there was a guy called [Arthur] Edward Waite who was terribly important to me at the time. And another called Dion Fortune who wrote a book called 'Psychic Self–Defence'. You had to run around the room getting bits of string and old crayons and draw funny things on the wall, and I took it all most seriously, ha ha ha ! I drew gateways into different dimensions, and I'm quite sure that , for myself, I really walked into other worlds. I drew things on walls and just walked trough them, and saw what was on the other side!" 
For those who don't know already, Waite is not only the man behind the definitive Tarot (as well as the author of The Pictorial Key to the Tarot), he also wrote a number of influential magical texts, many of which are still in print. 



Less ambivalent is Bowie's obsession with UFOs, which dates back to his time as a UFO watcher in London and lurks throughout his entire recorded catalog, from 'Memory of a Free Festival' in 1969 to 'Born on a UFO' in 2013 and all points in between (possibly on the new album, I'm not sure yet). Such was Bowie's alien mystique that a whole corpus of legend surrounding Bowie, UFOs and ETs arose in the rumor mill:

"Extraterrestrials had been in the audience during his concerts at the Los Angeles Amphitheatre [in September 1974]. People had mistaken them for the Bowie clones he attracted. The silver pentagrams marked on their foreheads had been interpreted as attempts to imitate his own facial decoration. But he had distinguished his own. They were there and their eyes never left him. He had counted twenty. He was terrified they would come backstage. The time wasn't right. His act had still to be perfected, enhanced, taken to ultimate extremes.  [Jeremy Reed: "Diamond Nebula", London 1994, p. 68] 
The Man Who Fell to Earth was science fiction but one has to wonder how exactly an alien come down to Earth would operate in the real world. Given the immense stellar distances, he might not travel physically but through some form of astral travel, using technology we can guess at. He might take refuge in a human being, preferably a fetus in which the personality has not yet formed. 

He may do so in 1947, the year of Roswell and Kenneth Arnold, and may do so in London, a world capital filled with people calling out to the stars. He'd fill that host with powers far beyond those of ordinary humans and an insatiable need to experience as much of the world as possible, like what an international celebrity with a storming libido might do.

But these powers may not be suitable for the human host and might begin to take their toll at a relatively early age, say in the host's mid-fifties. It might also lead to a relatively early death. But it might also rally the host for one last great burst of productivity, including an epitaph to its presence here on Earth.

I mean, just total speculation here. Those kind of things don't happen in the real world. Right?

Either way, we have an incredible life to celebrate and the most impressive catalog in the pantheon of Rock. Bowie himself surely understood death was simply a movement from station to station, and I have a feeling his spirit may linger for a while among those he loved before boarding that 5:15....


POSTSCRIPT: THE FORESHADOWING


In 1999, Bowie released ...hours, which wasn't a great album but featured some very interesting artwork (like the Gnostic bit up there). It also used numbers as letters in the typography, a habit you may have noticed I've picked up. 


"3 (Janus)- 10- 16"

The thing is though that the numerals used in his name in this rather ominous graphic here include 16 and 10, the year and date of his death. The three (which is reversed, like a Janus face) may even have a double meaning here in that the 3rd month (March) used to be the first month of the Roman calendar. Note also that the Rites of Janus- for whom January were named- were once held on March 1 (3/1).


Coincidence, right? I mean he had to use numbers instead of letters on the art here, it was foreordained, right?

Note: Reader Tony points out that Dead David has his hand over his liver...

 Well, there's death imagery all over the album, including here on the cover....


And here on the CD, in which Bowie is posing in a 69 shape, the age of his death. That ersatz barcode is curious as well, since if you flip it and rotate it....


You have the 10 and 16 plus a 43. 

4-3=1 in the simplest kind of arithmetic.

1/10/16.

By the way, the first song on the album right after this would be called "Sunday."

That's a lot of coincidences there.


It may all seem bizarre, unless you know your Bowie, who loved to throw occult clues and riddles all over his work (the flaming dove, white stains, from Kether to Malkuth, Golden Dawn, etc, etc, etc).

 For instance, see how he wrote his name in an ersatz Hebrew script on the album spine (for no apparent reason, mind you), almost begging for quasi-Kabbalistic interpretation of the art.

Coincidences? Decide for yourself. But I think if anyone could have foreseen his death 17 years out (even if unconsciously), it would be David Bowie.

Oh yeah, that's ambiguous

Maybe it's no accident that he released his final single 'Lazarus' (or "El Osiris") on the 17th of December.† The video was released January 7th (1/7) of this year.

One last puzzle for the initiated, perhaps...

POSTSCRIPT: I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the weird Bowie/Secret Sun conjunction, when one of his music videos replayed a scene I detailed both here and in Nick Redfern's Men in Black book...



UPDATE: Joe Linsner reminds us of Bowie's "Never Get Old" from Reality. Note circumpunct graphic. See great commercial based on this song here. Make note of final gesture. The Mystery deepens, indeed.

* Bowie's sexuality has always been a topic of debate, with some claiming his gay relationships were opportunistic (ie., most of his relationships with men were with men who could advance his career) and that he was known for bedding "thousands" of female groupies (according to T.Rex's Marc Bolan, who was probably exaggerating for effect). But I was told by former MainMan press officer Leee Black Childers that the real reason that Bowie moved to Berlin was to be with drag star Romy Haag, whom he had fallen in love with on tour and that he also had liaisons with some of Haag's performers. I think with many charismatic performers of his type, Bowie's sexuality could not be easily defined or reduced. Or should be, despite whatever is the current orthodoxy. It should also be noted that Bowie rediscovered his muse only when he returned to his more liminal, boundary-crossing persona after the long dry spell of playing conventional rock star for the American mainstream.

† The single 'Seven' off ...hours was released 7.17.00, giving us that magic number again. A reissue had a bonus track '1917'.

50 comments:

  1. Jason's Luggage and Music! I loved that place when I was a lad. Now I wonder how often we bumped elbows rummaging the LP bins. It's also where I bought my first Bowie album, a K-Tel greatest hits cheapie.

    I also saw Glass Spider. It was the first of many Bowie concerts for me. I have to defend Frampton. He's a great guitarist! Besides, Bowie and Frampton were childhood friends. Peter would (ahem) never let him down. But, yeah, great as the music was, I have to admit it was kinda weak as a show. At least he played "Time".

    Magic - I recall reading an unauthorized biography in the early 90s called Starman that had much in the way of his oddities in his magickal studies days. Habits such as pissing into bottles and keeping his urine in the fridge so evil mages couldn't use it against him. That and other examples are discussed in many places.

    He might have dissed Crowley in that interview, but he name-checks him in at least one song from the early days. Damn, can't remember the title...

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    1. You're thinking of "Quicksand." As to Frampton, for me it's the same deal as Vaughn. After Ronson, Fripp, Belew and Slick it just seems like wait, what? It's Bowie thinking conventionally instead of outside the box. Frampton is a solid player but just not the kind of thing I want to hear alongside Bowie.

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    2. Does anyone compare to Fripp? Bowie's entire Berlin Period is enhanced beyond measure by his "spraying burning guitar" (his phrase) all over that work.

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  2. Chris, as to possible alien/ufo resonances in Bowie's last album, the music video for Sue (Or in a Season of Crime) is a very nourish piece with Dark City vibes, which opens with a dark figure in a coat and hat moving through a decayed industrial space. The darkness is initially illuminated by what we might imagine as the lights from passing cars outside, but what we could also take to be the roving searchlights of a UFO and the materialisation of a classic MIB figure. Just a thought. Thank you for this post, Chris. Will return later.

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    1. I will take a look for it. Thank you very much for the heads up, Raj. Hard day but so much to celebrate as well.

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  3. Wow Chris! What an epic palate cleanser of a post after a lot of well deserved yet mundane tributes from the mainstream. Side note: for Christmas, my employer gave me a prepaid gift card to spend at my discretion. While reading your post I finally unwrapped it to purchase the la(te)st Bowie album. The expiry date is 3/17. Well done Spaceman, you will be missed.

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    1. Good for you, Tim. Enjoy it and your fortuitous timing.

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  4. His awesome appearance in Fire Walk With Me remains one of my favourite scenes from any movie (especially when including the deleted bits where he disappears and then reappears from the hotel in Buenos Aires). I had been hoping that Lynch might have gotten Bowie on board the new Twin Peaks, having Phillip Jefferies materialise and perhaps wrap up that story line that would have been TV nirvana for me.
    Really good piece Mr Knowles.

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    1. Cheers, Stephen. That scene in FWWM is certainly memorable- I kept rewinding to it when I watched the movie. I forget exactly why now.

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    2. On Sunday I watched that movie for the first time in my life. Talk about synch. I also had been thinking over the weekend about opening my little acoustic combo's next gig with Ziggy Stardust (the only Bowie song we know, but have yet to perform live). I guess those two things take on a lot more meaning now.

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  5. In the picture from the Hours album (alien Bowie holding the dying human Bowie), he has his hand on his liver...

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  6. The one eyed god. One eye blind. Hitting an all time low. Dennis

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  7. Bowie's interests in UFOs reminds me of a similar interest expressed by Kenneth Anger, that pioneer director and admitted Crowley disciple. His _Lucifer Rising_ portrays a (cartoon) UFO over the pyramids and temples of the ancients, an event he insists happened while they were there (but sadly, not caught on camera). Anger was for a time quite enmeshed with the Brian Jones-era Rolling Stones and their crowd, but I can't recall if he had any more than passing dealings with Bowie.

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    1. Oh, I believe Anger. I interviewed him and he's not the joshing around kind. With all the energy they were fooling around with it would be a surprise if they didn't see UFOs. Is the Jimmy Page version online anywhere? It's a lot different than the Beausoleil cut. I enjoy both but it really has a numinosity all its own.

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    2. A quick peek of the usual places didn't reveal a version synced with the film, but here's one of many posts of the soundtrack file.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EpvqgskZYRo

      BTW, and I had forgotten this, he also did the soundtrack for the Bronson movie Death Wish II. Fun for Page fans.

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    3. Well, I don't think Anger himself has the Page cut. The only version I've seen is umpteenth generation. It's wonderful, though. As Page and Anger says the soundtrack syncs so perfectly with the cut it's kind of scary.

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  8. I like your description of hearing 'Fame' for the first time. That song sounds fresh TODAY. Must have been all the more 'from the future' sounding back then.

    Whenever I hear 'Space Oddity', I feel like that little acoustic riff in it could have had a whole song built around it.

    It seems like whenever I comment here, I bring up Guns N' Roses...

    With all these legends dying, and the Guns reunion perhaps for real this time, these connections are a bit more relevant right now:

    Weiland's now dead. Slash played in Velvet Revolver with Weiland.

    Weiland, in his final interview (two days before he died), talking about Bowie:

    "He's my biggest influence musically, vocally and fashion-wise".

    Now Bowie's dead.

    Slash's mom designed Bowie's clothes at one point, and they were involved sexually. In Slash's autobio, he talks about Bowie coming over to the house with his wife and son; and he implies that Bowie didn't need to hide anything from his wife.

    Less relevant but still interesting (I really hope Axl isn't next)..

    Axl and Bowie:

    At the shoot for the 'It's So Easy' video (which never aired, but surfaced later), Bowie, supposedly while drunk, was making passes at Axl's wife, Erin Everly. Then, Axl attacked, or tried to attack Bowie. They later put the incident behind them and hung out occasionally. Bowie told Axl that Axl's creativity was driven/fueled by hate. Perhaps relevant here is that the video featured Erin on all fours with a ball-gag in her mouth.

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    1. I think that's why I never went for GNR- the hate and the rage. They loved so much of the same stuff I did growing up- hard rock, early metal, punk- that they should have been a cinch, kind of like I glommed onto early Motley Crue so hard because I realized they loved The Sweet as much as I did. But I could never get past Axl's attitude.

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  9. Rest In Peace, Mr. Bowie.

    I was not an overt fan, but I can recognize genius, and I admired that David Bowie acted on his sexual and romantic attractions to adults of whatever orientation without worrying (overmuch) about what society approves of.

    Perhaps that should be a lesson to us all. :)

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    1. Speaking of which, this is the chapter in his life that seems to have been written out of a lot of his biographies- his romance with Romy Haag, the reason for his relocation to Berlin, according to his former publicist. It was Haag who inspired the Boys Keep Swinging video- Bowie stole all his moves from her act. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T6en0mExSrw

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    2. Very cool, and Romy *still* has it goin' on, IMHO. :)

      Gawd, the comments on that video. :(

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  10. Hey Chris, you might like this one.

    Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence – Ryuichi Sakamoto wrote the theme tune.

    Sakamoto born 17th January.

    He also wrote the score for ‘The Revenant’ (back from the dead)

    Film released 17th December 2015, the day after ‘Lazarus’.

    Close but no cigar?

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    1. No, very interesting indeed. Thank you for that.

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  11. I have been shaking my head at the man's timing. It feels Willed to me for sure. I haven't listened/watched the new album yet, but I'm certain that it's full of things he wanted us to see and hear. I suspect that both the content and the energy generated by the simultaneity of the release *Blackstar* (a Secret Sun?) and his death two days after his birthday are intended as a magnum opus that will be working itself out for a while yet. I've been thinking about your recent comments regarding the often unhappy endings of magical biographies -- maybe, in a while, those who care about such things will regard Bowie as one of the most successful magicians of the 20th/21st centuries.

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    1. The video for Blackstar is very interesting, and I'm sure better versed synchromystics than me will pick through the symbolism.

      I read something a while ago that suggested that new stars are possibly born out of black holes. A black star in this context might be the stage before becoming a star..

      Who knows, eh? I hope he's enjoying his next adventure.

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  12. Well, the difference between Bowie and other magicians is that he channeled his work into forms that could be communicated into commercial products. He was an artist first and a magician next. Both informed each other. But he was able to do more than pursue magic as an end unto itself, which I think is where those other magicians failed. And yes, I'm not unmindful as to the semiotic connection between the new album title and the title of this blog...

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    1. In terms of how he succeeded, I think you are exactly right. I saw him once on the *Serious Moonlight* tour, and it was a great show. One old friend who saw a lot of shows commented on his reaction on seeing Bowie (don't recall what tour): "So that's how Hitler did it."

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    2. There's a time when Bowie would have been thrilled to hear that. Even on the Sound and Vision tour when his band was so clearly not up to the job, Bowie had an entire stadium eating out of his hand.

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  13. An acquaintance of mine, who has published UFO books and periodicals
    for decades, once wrote this Bowie:
    David Bowie, UFOs, Witchcraft, Cocaine and Paranoia
    http://ufodigest.com/article/david-bowie-ufos-witchcraft-cocaine-and-paranoia
    further info is here:
    Meet the mysterious ‘white witch’ who exorcised David Bowie’s cocaine palace
    http://dangerousminds.net/comments/mysterious_white_witch_who_exorcised_david_bowie

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    1. Yeah, that whole period has been very well documented. Cocaine, malnutrition and witchcraft aren't a healthy mix for anyone.

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  14. We all struggle with comprehending the alien part of ourselves, no doubt Bowie did too. But he was perhaps more informed as to the semiotic, symbolic infrastructure - or local spiritual biosphere - that he was enmeshed in. Hence his ability to channel that alien within, that magic, into commercially viable art-forms that actually transformed the fabric of modern culture. On numerous levels. Chris is right, for sure. Bowie was an artist first, but he didn't simply cast spells with his songs and albums, he crafted multidimensional magickal sigils that are still resonating and 'active' even today, and with very little loss of signal, it should be noted. Ritual magicians will understand this, I think. His music changed everything. Literally everything.

    In my opinion part of an artist's job, especially one so well-known as Bowie, is to simultaneously accept and interrogate their own legend, their self-image. Or images, in Bowie's case. He was a genius, but a fallible human being like all of us, with his own demons and struggles. But he was also a semi-reluctant shaman of sorts. In the most literal of senses. Black Star, indeed.

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    1. The question with Bowie is how alien that alien part of him was. The ancients would say someone was a genius, they'd say they HAD a genius, as in a genie or Djinn. Bowie lost sight of that when he gave into ego and materialism but most certainly regained it after being humbled. How literal then do we take your first statement, Raj?

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    2. Literally. I'm a diehard x-files fan, after all. :)

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  15. Okay, dig this: Lazarus rose from the dead. Hmm. In both videos, bandageless Bowie is very animated and funny, not seeming sick or dying at all... In 'Lazarus', he's writing worriedly about something when he has a hilarious inspiring idea, and bandaged Bowie sings "I'll be free! Ain't that just like me??"... At the very end, the 'death' figure is still under the bed but no longer imminently reaching, and bandageless Bowie goes and hides in the closet. 'In the closet' could be a sort of coffin, or it could refer to a secret identity -- the bandages are the same in both videos, and could suggest plastic surgery... whether literally or symbolically, the logical climax of his 'chameleon' character-flux: disappear and become someone else... https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=y-JqH1M4Ya8

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    1. The bandages may also symbolize rebirth- mummification. Note there are bandage-like bands painted on his clothing as he goes into the cabinet, which is upright like a sarcophagus.

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  16. I came upon this in an old 1974 interview with Bowie and William Burroughs.

    Bowie:The end comes when the infinites arrive. They really are a black hole, but I've made them people because it would be very hard to explain a black hole onstage...Ziggy is advised in a dream by the infinites to write the coming of a starman, so he writes "Starman"...The starmen that he is talking about are called the infinites, and they are black-hole jumpers...They just happened to stumble into our universe by black-hole jumping...When the infinites arrive, they take bits of Ziggy to make themselves real because in their original state they are anti-matter and cannot exist on our world. And they tear him to pieces onstage during the song "Rock and Roll Suicide." As soon as Ziggy dies onstage the infinites take his elements and make themselves visible.

    Someone else in the comments I believe raised the idea of a connection between black holes and blackstar, and right there in Bowie's own words, Ziggy Stardust is a vehicle for black hole entities. Maybe Blackstar is Bowie closing the circle knowing his death is imminent.

    So know he's died, look out for the infinites making themselves visible.







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    1. Very interesting proposition. Bowie may have been like a Jack Parsons figure, opening strange doors.

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  17. When you are a part of the LGBTQA spectrum, you know that you are different. I grew up in a dysfunctional family with an abusive, Fundamentalist father, so I knew nothing about sex & sexuality, only that I was always different, often unwelcome in the company of others. Freak or alien? I wasn't sure.

    It took a long time to learn what was different, and an even longer time to learn that the advice of "be yourself" is actually correct.

    Perhaps David Bowie was expressing something similar in his notions of Starmen, aliens, and Black Stars?

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    1. Maybe. But there's a pretty long paper trail indicating he was pretty literal minded about it as well. But then again bisexuality seems to be identified with these supernatural/extraterrestrial beings throughout so much of the ancient lore.

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    2. I can attest that I've always been noticeably different, from the time I was so young to not care that male is any different from female. We seem to bear a "mark".

      If nothing else, this might be how Bowie started on a path of questioning *why* he was different?

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  18. You know, the first thing I thought of when I heard about his death with this little obscure movie Bowie did called, "Mr. Rice's Secret" in which he plays a centuries old man with the secret of longevity which he imparts to a 12 year old child suffering from Hodgkin's disease who obsesses about his own impending short life. Bowie's character is seen only in the kids flashbacks as a solitary neighbor that he befriends. His performance is so subtly unique and powerful, even though the movie is basically about this kid and his own problems facing death and dealing with his own issues. I can't help but think that Bowie agreed to this part because he may have seen a way to provide a glimpse to others about something so illuminating from what I can only say was a place of love coming from his own heart. If you have not seen the film, take some time to get it and watch it. You will be rewarded, I think, in respect to Chris' article and these wonderful comments section in his blog.

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  19. Great white up about the Thin White Duke. My lady friend is a big Bowie fan so I'm sending her your link, but I have to ask if you and/or Raj would be interested in doing a phone interview for a podcast I'm involved with. The podcast is all over the place in terms of topics and tone, but I am looking for experts on the X-files Mytharc, and after reading your three part series on the subject, I am quite convinced that you fellas are indeed experts. Let me know if you'd be interested and I'll send you some further info.

    Thanks!

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  20. Chris, I was thinking of the picture at the top of this post when I read Tony Visconti's description of how Bowie appeared when he showed up to record Blackstar: "He just came fresh from a chemo session, and he had no eyebrows, and he had no hair on his head." Another sync for you. (The full article is here: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/david-bowie-planned-post-blackstar-album-thought-he-had-few-more-months-20160113 )

    Nice piece.

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    1. Yes, it reminds me of Freddie Mercury who was literally recording songs for the next Queen album on his deathbed. These people aren't like you or I- they are cut from a separate cloth.

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  21. I think you'll find an Elvis connection in the Blackstar video. Look at the scarecrows. "The King" did a song called Black Star, as a matter of fact. Like, it's something that shadows you. They were born on the same day.

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