“When you think about it, Adolf Hitler was the first pop star.” – David Bowie
David Bowie: The Man Who Fell On Earth
The innovator, the legend, the Starman, the Thin White Duke, Ziggy Stardust and of course Major Tom. David Bowie has always managed to reinvent his music and his image with almost every new album and tour. His music and songwriting has influenced musicians as diverse as U2, Nirvana and No Doubt. A catalogue of classic albums, he has embraced almost all popular genres of music with consummate ease. His revolutionary concerts “Glass Spider” and “Sound and Vision” have been ahead of its time and theme. David Bowie has changed the musical landscape for over four decades. The intellectual depth in his songwriting has never been surpassed. His avant-garde and often androgynous lifestyle has only added to the mystery. An inductee into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1996, he has always been at the cutting edge of music, media and fashion. The multi-talented artist has even acted in many films and even a very successful Broadway musical.
The Starman Cometh
David Bowie was born in England in 1947. His early interest was in blues music and his hero Little Richard. David Bowie learnt very early on to play many instruments and by 1967 recorded and released his first album David Bowie. The album does not sound anything of what was about to come but it was an experimental work of a 20-year old with many ideas. His next album “Space Oddity” in 1969 was his international breakthrough. The title track inspired from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 A Space Odyssey, has the legendary opening lines “Ground Control to Major Tom”. Major Tom is a fictional astronaut caught in space. “The Man who Sold the Word” in 1970 is considered one of the first hard rock albums ever. The cover showed David Bowie in a dress! Hunky Dory in 1971 was a concept Pop album with modern jazz influences. The song “Changes” and “Life on Mars” are considered by many as Bowie’s greatest ever.
The Early Years
In 1972 David Bowie released one of the greatest albums ever recorded, the rock classic “Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust – The Spiders from Mars”. David Bowie became the protagonist, the ultimate rock star – Ziggy Stardust. The album also had an apocalyptical thought that the world would end in five years and was a drift into glam-rock. He toured US, UK and Japan with his band The Spiders from Mars. The ’73 “Aladdin Sane” was a pun and it actually was meant “A lad insane”. The album was a UK No.1 and was blues based rock n’ roll, sounding like the Rolling Stones album Exile on Main Street. Bowie even covered a Rolling Stone song “Let’s Spend a Night Together”. He released a UK No1 covers only album “Pin-Ups” in ’73.
David Bowie wanted to shake up the Ziggy persona and recorded the highly ambitious UK No.1 “Diamond Dogs” in ’74. Inspired by the George Orwell’s 1984, was post nuclear holocaust world. The single “Rebel Rebel” was a massive hit and is one David Bowie’s most recognized song. The ensuing North American tour to support the album was also well received. The music now was more soul and funk influenced which in the ’75 album “Young Americans” was quite obvious. The album had Bowie’s first US No.1 single “Fame” co-written with John Lennon. In 1976 he recorded “Station to Station” which had him playing The Thin White Duke. But it was his cocaine abuse which started to take a toll on him.
The “Plastic” Soul
From 1976-1979 David Bowie made West Berlin his home and along with Brian Eno recorded three legendary albums. “Low” and “Heroes” and “Lodger”. The first album of the trilogy was synthesizer influenced and had the hit song “Sound and Vision” The second album’s title track about two lovers meeting on the Berlin wall is one of his all-time favorites. The final album lacked cohesiveness and had a hit single in “Absolute Beginners”.
The Berlin Trilogy
The new album in 1980 was an avant-garde “Scare Monster and Super Creeps”. The landmark “Ashes to Ashes” is no.1 single which referred to Major Tom from Space Oddity in which he declares “Major Tom was a junkie”. In 1981, Bowie collaborated with Queen to release the mega-hit “Under Pressure”. David Bowie’s first global chart buster was released in ’83 “Lets Dance”. Hit singles “Modern Love” and “China Girl” were his biggest commercial hits. The massively successful Serious Moonlight Tour was a global juggernaut. In ’87 “Never Let me Down” and its "Glass Spider Tower" were savaged by critics and fans alike. David Bowie ventured out to form the short-lived hard rock band Tin Machine.
The Pop Eighties
The 1990 Sound and Vision tour was a massive success, which featured a huge visual monitor which would later form a blueprint of rock touring for many artists.But the albums were less prolific in the 90’s. In ’93 came soul influenced “Black Tie-White Noise” which was a commercial flop. The ambitious “1.Outside” industrial sounding album was successful but did not yield hit singles. Embracing the underground dance techno movement “Earthling” was also an average hit.
The albums “Hours” in ’99 and “Heathen” in 2002 failed to capture past glory. But it was 2003’s “Reality” and the globally successful tour was a return to form. David Bowie appeared with David Gilmour at the Royal Albert Hall to perform Pink Floyd classics “Arnold Layne” and “Comfortably Numb” in 2006. Rumors of a new album and tour in 2010 have surfaced.
David Bowie is easily recognized as of the architects of shaping rock music. Long live Major Tom!
Did you know that...
- ...David Bowie’s song Space Oddity was used by BBC to cover the moon landings.
- ...David Bowie appeared as Pontius Pilate in Martin Scorsese’s Last Temptation of Christ
- ...David Bowie was one of the first artists to understand the future impact of Internet. He released an Internet only single in ’97 and also launched BowieNet a ISP service