Monday, February 15, 2016

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Bowie And That Last Train To Clarksville

Mick Hall @ Organized Rage reckons that:

David Bowie Might have stayed Davy Jones if the Monkeys hadn't caught the last train to Clarksville 

David Bowie with his son Duncan Jones in 2009 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I failed to understand the brouhaha which erupted after the death of David Bowie. It seemed to me to be more of a media generated phenomenon than a genuine show of mass grief. You may ask why would the mainstream media bother to stoke up the death of Bowie. The answer is pretty simple he never threatened any moneyed or corporate interests.

I understand why some middle aged people liked him and looked back at him fondly. We all like the music of our youth for obvious reasons. The working class mod sound track of the first half of the 1960s still taps my toe.

I still remember the photo of Bowie which was in the record section of the local department store where I grew up. He was then Davy Jones, and would have remained so if the Monkeys hadn't caught the last train to Clarksville. He was being marketed with a lounge lizard look, a younger version of the 1950s teen idols like Ronnie Carroll.

Naturally we young Mods thought he was sad crap. Maybe it was because our mindset blurred our opinion. But I rather think not. Whatever, what I do know is we failed to recognise his emerging talent.

Davy then came across Marc Bolan, probably on children's TV, and he then morphed into the Ziggy thingamy.

The musical trajectory of Bolan and Bowie were very similar at least until Marc had the misfortune to hit the tree. They had both been around the edges of the music business for a good few years before they spotted the potential of Glam Rock, which they then both latched onto eagerly.

As to competition, Suzi Quatro, Gary Glitter, Mud and, Sweet were hardly going to scare the horses, so in truth if you liked this type of stuff, until Queen hit the big time in 1974, Bowie and Bolan had a clear field.

By all accounts Bowie was a nice enough chap who didn't take himself too seriously. When Ziggy Stardust hit the scene his management took control of the business side of things perfectly. They knew how to work in tandem with the MSM having learned their craft on Andrew Loog Oldham's knee.

Oldham had played up the Stones rebelouseness and Jagger's sexiuality, promoting a bad boy image of the band, which generated headlines like "Would you let your daughter marry a Rolling Stone?"

Ziggy Stardust was promoted as Bowie's flamboyant and androgynous alter ego. His management used their contacts in the MSM to promote his sexuality: one day he was bi sexual, the next gay, the next having a three in a bed romps with his then wife. Whether there was any truth in any of this didn't matter as his growing army of fans lapped it up.

When a middle aged man flouncing about in silk began to look ridiculous, he produced records which have been best described as plastic soul, a poor imitation of the R&B us mods enjoyed so much in the early 1960's. An Otis or Marvin Bowie was certainly not. When Bowie and Mick Jagger sang the Tamla song Dancing in the Street in 1985 to raise money for Live Aid, it was a lesson in how not to sing Rhythm and Blues music. The two pranced about like they were in a Butlins Karaoke contest for best live act.

He stopped concert touring in 2004, and last performed live at a 'charity event' in 2006: a prolific musician he was not. To be a real music legend you either die young like Elvis, or record and tour until you drop, Bowie did neither.

He re-emerged in 2013 with his lounge lizard look reincarnated, to record a single, "Where Are We Now?" it's a pleasant enough little ditty and it was nice to see a 1960s pop singer who acted his age.

In truth you would have to be more of an old curmudgeon that even I, too dislike how Bowie dressed and handled himself in the last years of his life. He came across as a star, and that is how he will be remembered by most folk including me. Art, like beauty is in the eye of the beholder and most of the man's back catalogue is not for me.

However that is not important, the fact is Davy Jones, aka David Bowie tapped many a toe, and brought joy and happiness to many a soul. He made the world a better place and for that alone we must be very thankful...

RIP Davy, RIP.

4 comments :

AM said...

I am loathe to say I enjoyed an obituary but this is one of the most entertaining pieces I have read in a while. Mick I loved Dancing in The Street!!

Jerome G. said...

u dont deserve ur ears.

Emmett Grogan said...

Surly almost all "stars" fit into his category. Its an entertainment industry, false and manufactured as any other profit generating industry. your correct to highlight the press seemingly blowing his death out of all proportion, however this is not due to his middleclass suitability rather the penchant of all those fucking babyboomers to engage in generationalism. They overrate almost all art from 1960s onwards the best example of this is Dylan and the Beatles - both great - but totally over played and talked about. Had they been black ala Stevie Wonder you would hear much less in the way of adulation. Punk for a while stuck 2 fingers up all those old hippy fucks asses bringing prog rock and with it Zeppelin and queen et al down to earth with a bang. Had I been old enough to be around that scene at the time I would have donned a T shirt that read "baby boom this ya cunts" This summer I think I still might ;)

Organized Rage said...

Thanks AM, I enjoyed writing it, one of my less angry days ;)

Jerome G

I know, but my tin ears do come in handy when i'm getting a bad time from her indoors

Emmett

Great comment, you're right, back in the 60s us baby boomers wouldn't have known good art if we stole it from the Louvre during an open day. We would have rushed out the door with Warhol's Campbell soup crap turning our noses up at real masterpieces as bourgeois crap.