Music, OldVenue

Venue’s David Bowie Tributes

[su_spoiler title=”Dominic Clarke” style=”simple” icon=”chevron-circle” anchor=”Comment”]David Bowie was the first artist I ever listened to. He’s arguably one of the biggest musical influences that has graced the world, being voted fourth by the BBC in a list of the most influential greatest British icons (2006), and was offered both a CBE and a Knighthood, both of which he turned down. Neither of these, nor the 140m albums he sold were what made me love David Bowie however. As a four-year-old, ‘Space Oddity’ was the first song I knew every word to, and as a teenager I realised the importance of David Bowie not only to the music industry but to the world as we see it. He broke ground as a man who came out as bisexual during an age of homophobia and dressed in an androgynous manner in a country that needed to escape from conservatism. His death has been felt by people across the world, proven by the German foreign office thanking him for helping to bring down the Berlin wall. David Bowie managed to encapsulate every great change in the latter half of the 20th century, from the changing attitudes, the ideals, the fashion and the music taste. David Bowie managed to transcend genres in a way his peers could never manage. Of course everyone remembers Bowie as the glam star, of his album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars and Aladdin Sane. But how many artists then did folk music as he did on Hunky Dory, the electronic music he moved into during his Berlin years, the Disco/pop period of Let’s Dance, in which he worked with Nile Rogers of Chic, and then his post nineties period where he has moved into progressive art rock? David Bowie was a man who could avoid being shackled to any genre or time period, something that is clear when you notice that he had always been the height of style since the 1960s. All of this explains what NME claimed in the year 2000: David Bowie was the most influential artist of all time. There has been a recent petition that garnered over 20,000 signatures to stop Kanye West making a David Bowie covers album. This is precisely the situation that Bowie would have wanted. A man who has been considered one of the best and worst musicians, depending on your particular taste, suggesting that he should cover an artist who, although sounded nothing like him, has managed to influence him. The reaction to this shows not only how popular Bowie was, but also how much people value his work. Why is it that David Bowie connected with so many people though? Is it to do with the fact that at the height of the Cold War someone came along with a breath of fresh air? Was it simply because his songs were amazing? The many different personas and attitudes he managed to encapsulate? Or was it that Bowie managed to unite everyone from glam rock fans, pop music lovers, misfits, and film lovers? David Bowie left his mark everywhere. This is precisely why I love David Bowie. Whatever mood you are in there is a track that you can listen to. It’s a shame on my part that I only looked into this enough once he had died, and a greater shame that he never played a show again after 2006, meaning so many people from my generation never had the opportunity to see him. My father still reminds me that his Glass Spider Tour was one of the best shows that he ever saw, and it annoys me that I will never get to see that in person. What annoys me more however, is that there will never be another David Bowie. Everything that he did laid the way for so many artists to follow up and continue to revolutionise music, but I doubt there will ever be a musician who manages to transcend genres, films and art work in quite the way he did. Maybe the fact that Bowie will always have a legacy of his own is a good thing, but I hope not, because music could really do with some one as unifying yet different as Bowie. By all means Bowie wasn’t perfect though. Bowie spent a period claiming that fascism was the way forward and claimed ‘Britain could benefit from a fascist leader’ and praised its efficiency. This was a period that he later blamed on his addiction to cocaine and other hard drugs. His drug taking was notorious throughout the 70s, something that he later denounced, along with his fascist views. He spent the 80s and 90s spreading anti-fascist messages alongside messages of anti-racism, including criticizing MTV during an interview for their lack of coverage of black musicians. The importance of Bowie’s past, taking drugs and experimenting with fascism, shows his willingness to accept his mistakes but also his staying power. How many artists have had the longevity to stay in the public consciousness long enough to make such divisive comments and then retract them decades later? David Bowie occupied the top of the album charts the week following his death, whilst the top twenty singles chart was covered in his tracks, some of which are now more than forty years old, and he has finally achieved a number one US album. I expressed my fear that there will never be another David Bowie. However, a greater fear of mine however, is that after this week people will slowly forget David Bowie, although he is exactly what a musician should be, creative, divisive and completely different to everything before him and after him.[/su_spoiler]

[su_spoiler title=”Dominic Clarke” style=”simple” icon=”chevron-circle” anchor=”Comment”]We’ve all been through a David Bowie phase during our formative years of music the same way we all had a Beatles and a Queen stage. These British juggernauts are held up as British national treasures and were significantly important to rock from the 1960s onwards, hence why they stand the test of time, and will continue to do so for many decades. Following the success of Space Oddity, the British public were greeted by the arrival of Ziggy Stardust at the beginning of the 70s. One of the first characters created by Bowie, Ziggy was an alien often dressed in flamboyant clothing with striking red hair- a shocking ‘statement’ for the era. During the mid 70s Bowie transformed into the Thin White Duke, heavily influenced by his move to soul and funk, who was (again) an alien similar to the one he played in his film The Man Who Fell to Earth. Around this time Bowie, at his lyrical peak, released his most influential and recognised tracks, to name but a few; ‘Starman’, ‘Ziggy Stardust’, ‘The Jean Genie’, ‘Life on Mars’, ‘Rebel Rebel’, ‘Diamond Dogs’, ‘Fame’ and ‘Heroes’. Bowie churned out his timeless repertoire in the space of just five years and have lasted in popular culture for over 40 years. While the 70s saw Bowie setting up the foundations for his long career, the 80s allowed him to walk on the world stage and enjoy international attention. The decade was a time when Bowie embraced the pop era, perhaps most noticeably in ‘Under Pressure’ – his collaboration with Queen which secured him a third UK number one. His album Let’s Dance has sold to this day, 10.7m copies and counting, going platinum on both sides of the Atlantic. But Bowie was unhappy with having to cater to the pop obsessed audience of the 80’s. The latter half of the 80s did not treat Bowie so kindly however as his subsequent two albums were trashed by critics forcing him to create a band named Tin Machine which enjoyed partial success. This part of his career may, be unfamiliar to many but it all builds to the mythology of his risks and brave gambles with styles of music and alter egos, some more successful than others. The turn of the 21st century saw Bowie dealing with various health problems meaning his public appearances were sparse and irregular. Sadly, unbeknown to any of his fans at the time, he delivered his last ever live performance in 2006. Fast-forwarding seven years, critics and the general public were shocked to learn of a new album, The Next Day, released on his 66th birthday. It generated massive publicity despite his refusal to perform, tour or give interviews to the press. Little did fans know that three years later on his 69th birthday Bowie was to release his final album, Blackstar, a “parting gift” for his fans, which saw a dramatic change in genre once more, something more in line with Radiohead than his old work from the 70s, with lyrics revolving around impending death. Very few performers could say their music and career has stretched over all the sections of your average edition of Venue, and that is obviously the way celebrities measure their success, but David Bowie is one of those talented individuals. In regards to arts, Bowie was an accomplished author and artist alongside his shows, which were spectacles from his breakthrough in the 1960s through to 2006. Considering the second section of Venue, creative writing, one need look no further than Bowie’s fascinating and nonsensical lyrics ‘The Jean Genie lives on his back, the Jean Genie loves chimney stacks’. Only Bowie could get away with such bizarre lyrics. Fashion can be explained by just Googling Ziggy Stardust, Major Tom, The Thin White Duke or any of his other creations. David Bowie appeared in various films throughout his long career, many of which enjoy a cult status nowadays such as: Twin Peaks, Walk with Me, The Prestige, Zoolander but perhaps most notably Labyrinth as Jareth the Goblin King. Moving on to Gaming and Technology, perhaps the most tenuous Venue link, Metal Gear: Phantom Pain features a military group called Diamond Dogs and even a cover of ‘The Man Who Sold the World.’ I don’t even need to explain his lasting influence on the music industry. When thinking of Bowie and TV, however, there are two events around the mid noughties that spring to mind. One is the best TV series in recent years: Life on Mars which sees John Simm waking up in 1973 in the midst of Bowiemania with so many Bowie songs and references you could make a drinking game out of it (if you want to be out cold within seconds). The other is a surprise appearance from the man himself in Ricky Gervais’ Extras, a rare treat considering his reluctance to be in the limelight and an even greater treat as he roasts Gervais’ character with a hilarious song entitled ‘Chubby Little Loser’. This linking to Venue content may have seemed a pointless and trivial exercise but the point I’m trying to prove, is that Bowie and his music are a part of pop culture and his influence is unmatched as seen in his portfolio of songs throughout the decades. His dramatic change of genre over the year as well as his shocking alter egos are, and will be, unmatched, and there will be a Bowie shaped hole in pop culture for many decades to come. As the man himself said: “I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring”. It certainly wasn’t, Ziggy. [/su_spoiler]

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