David Bowie: Remembering the Master
IN THIS PHOTO: David Bowie/PHOTO CREDIT: Masayoshi Sukita
Will We Ever See the Like of Him Again?
THE start of January is always a hard time...
IN THIS PHOTO: David Bowie in a promotional image for Blackstar/PHOTO CREDIT: Spotify/Getty Images
to transition and it can be really difficult getting into the spirit of the fresh year. Back in 2016, we had no idea what would befall music. It was a terrible year regarding deaths and losing icons. Among those that we said goodbye to was David Bowie - his death on 10th January stunned the world as we never knew he had cancer. Only two days previously, we were celebrating his sixty-ninth birthday and the release of his album, Blackstar. It was a treat to have a double celebration on that day. Many snapped up the record and had no idea what would come next. Bowie knew he wanted to release the album on his birthday but he wouldn’t have been that sure he would die so soon after – or maybe he knew, in a final piece of show-stealing, that we would get this masterful album and then the curtain would come down. I recall hearing the news during the morning of 11th January – I think that is when it broke over here – and wondering how it could happen and what was going on. He kept his illness secret as not to have people pry but that shock and unexpected bombshell resonated. David Bowie tributes were read and we all played his best cuts – keeping his memory fresh; unwilling to except that this was the end.
Of course, as with Bowie, he continues to amaze us from the grave. We celebrated his seventy-second birthday yesterday and it was a great chance to play his songs and remember him. Like all the icons, we will mark his birthday and passing every year. Tomorrow will be sad because we not only get to commemorate his final album but look back three years and feel that absence. It does not seem that long ago and it is still sad to think he will never be able to release a new album. I said Bowie continues to influence after death and there is a new app available – where we get to walk in an exhibit and into his world. AdWeek lay out the details:
“David Bowie might make augmented reality a hero–at least for one day.
To celebrate Bowie’s birthday, a new AR mobile app for Apple and Android devices lets fans explore hundreds of items from the late singer’s life. The app, a collaboration between the David Bowie Archive and Sony Music Entertainment, is called “David Bowie Is,” a title bearing the same name as the touring exhibition that’s already attracted more than 2 million fans across 12 cities.
The app—available today on what would have been Bowie’s 72nd birthday—allows users to place a virtual version of the entire exhibition inside of their home or office. Along with narration from Bowie friend and Oscar-winning actor Gary Oldman, fans can examine more than 50 high-resolution costumes along with “videos, handwritten lyrics and original works of art,” according to David Bowie’s estate’s website. The app will also feature items that weren’t on tour, which ended in July after making stops in London, Brooklyn and other cities around the world...
IN THIS PHOTO: David Bowie in an outtake from his 1974 People Magazine shoot in Los Angeles/PHOTO CREDIT: People Magazine/Getty Images
Upon opening the app, users are greeted with a reminder that “David Bowie showed us that we could be who we wanted to be,” before inviting them to tour through 25 rooms and 400 objects.
It also uses spacial audio, which connects where a person walks in real life to what they hear on the app—part of an emerging trend that already has manufactures like Magic Leap and Sennheiser developing various prospects for augmented reality sound. (Upon plugging in headphones, users hear enthusiastic applause—much like what Bowie himself might have heard during an encore at a show.)
The experience is meant to take place on a table top. After scanning the surface a costume appears, followed by the voice of Oldman as the viewer’s room transforms on the screen to pitch black, illuminated only by the object’s digital glow. After that, the costume disappears, and is replaced by a black and white photo of Bowie at six years old, along with some drawings ranging from a portrait of his mother to sketches for stage outfits. After learning about his early years, the scene transforms yet again to outer space, explaining the origin story of “Space Oddity” along with the history that influenced it”.
That is a really cool idea but there is also some more David Bowie martial coming. NME have revealed there will be some new songs coming our way!
There has been a dribble of previously unreleased material since his death: from demos and rare cuts through to some live performances, we have not been denied when it comes to Bowie! I do wonder, as we mark his passing tomorrow, whether any fresh revelations will come our way. I love the fact there is stuff in the archives and people are finding ways for the public to stay connected with the master. I look around music and wonder whether Bowie was the last true icon in music. I have raised this topic before but I feel like the days of icons has left us. Madonna is still around but cannot project the same drama and buzz as she did as recently as the 1990s. I feel like she is an icon but not really on the same level as Bowie. Think about how the man continued to reinvent himself and even on his final album, we had this man who was not willing to repeat himself. Blackstar is one of the darker efforts in the Bowie cannon but one of the most accomplished, memorable and unexpected. His albums of the twenty-first century vary in quality: Heathen (2002) and Reality (2003) are promising whereas The Next Day (2013) and Blackstar (2016) are up there with some of his best work. It is heartaching to know that Bowie was on an upward trajectory and was hitting a new peak.
That is the mark of the icon: they have these dips but they are always looking ahead and you can guarantee they will turn that corner. I do not agree that the period between 1971-1977 was his best time and everything around that was inferior. Bowie created some great albums in the 1980s - Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) being among them. I agree that the 1980s was not his most engaging and successful period; the 1990s would see stronger albums come through but none that quite matched the 1970s’ best. Every David Bowie is interesting and he was not willing to repeat his early work; always moving forward and addressing new themes. From 1970’s The Man Who Sold the World through to 1977’s “Heroes”; here was a man who had no rivals and was constantly reinventing. From personas such as Ziggy Stardust to Aladdin Sane through genres as wide as Dance, R&B and Art-Rock...it was impossible to pin the man down! The Brixton-born artist developed a love of art and music as a youngster and decided to become a professional musician in 1963. He was always able to predict trends and move with the times. When Glam exploded and became huge in the early-1970s, he gave us Ziggy Stardust. I love how Bowie managed to make these radical shifts and keep the audience hooked. By 1975, he embraced ‘Plastic Soul’ and that gave him big success in the U.S. – even if it took a while for his U.K. base to come around to the idea.
IN THIS PHOTO: A chilled David Bowie in 1969/PHOTO CREDIT: REX
His number-one single, Fame, gave him crossover success in the U.S. and by 1977’s Low there were Electronic inflections and, yet again, a musician reinvented. Albums such as Let’s Dance (1983) meant he has commercial success in the 1980s but it took a little while before he was back into his stride and at his very best. I have raced through his evolutions but it is amazing he gave us something as staggering and fresh as Blackstar – considering he was ill when he recorded it, the fact it sounds so good makes it all the more impressive. It is not only the music and the personas that captivated people and won him millions of fans. His acting work showed a new side to him and every interview he gave seemed to reveal new light and layers. Many say Bowie was able to predict the future and he seemed aware of what was to come in terms of technology and changes in the world. Maybe that was intuition but it is clear Bowie could think ahead and had a very keen sense of how the world was moving and what was needed. I urge people to listen through his back catalogue and watch as many Bowie interviews as you possibly can. There is a reason why he is regarded as an icon and a legend!
IMAGE CREDIT: Spotify/Getty Images
It is three years after the Starman left the world and there are these recordings in the vault. I look at all the albums he left and what he managed to achieve in his life. We had this strange and wonderful creature that seems like an extra-terrestrial. Certainty, nobody like him has come since and it makes me wonder whether anyone will ever match Bowie. I know we have potential icons in music right now but there is nobody around that, I feel, can get anywhere near Bowie. In many ways, his death marked the end of an era and the death of the final icon. I imagine, if Bowie were still alive, he would be planning his next move and would probably stun us all with some strange tangent and fantastical oddity. His fashion and looks became less radical as he left the 1970s but his music remained daring, unique and varied right up until his death. There are new features that recommend classic and rare Bowie songs to investigate – I recommend you check out this one from GQ. Yesterday was sad but we got to celebrate what would have been David Bowie’s seventy-second birthday. The new app and promise of recordings gave us reason to smile and tomorrow, as we mark him once more, I know there will be some happy memories. We also lost Prince in 2016 and, again, an icon that managed to transform music.
I see music evolving and modernising and, with the electronic dominance and a certain homogenisation, do we really have the market and room to foster the pioneering, bold and Bowie-esque?! There will be nobody like him but I am curious whether there are musicians inspired by him that feel like they will not be accepted or able to stand out today. Certainty, there are accusations the mainstream is as homogeneous and limited as ever. We do not look out and see an ocean of individuals who are moving in their own way: instead, there is a vague and grey blob that occasionally spits out something special. It is concerning to think we are breeding Spotify-owning stars who are primed for streams but there is no space for those who want to shine and tread their own path. Maybe music has radically changed and we want different things from our artists. It is sad to ponder but it makes David Bowie’s memory and legacy even more important. We can never see anyone like him and that is a good thing – having another Bowie would seem odd and I love the original! Rather than feel too sad tomorrow and wonder why he was taken from us too early; use it as an opportunity to dive back into his extraordinary catalogue and check out as much as you can.
His interviews as priceless and there are some great live recordings around. In terms of his albums, I would urge you to digest everything from 1971-1977 and, if you are heading back further, have a listen to David Bowie (1967). In terms of the 1980s, have a listen to Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) from 1980 and Let’s Dance (1983). Listen to 1990s’ efforts like ‘hours…’ (1999) and check out his last two albums, The Next Day (2013) and Blackstar (2016). I will be having my own Bowie listen-a-thon and have ended this piece with a Spotify-based playlist – where you can hear work from his debut right through to his last album. I was going to suggest that we could foster a Bowie-like artist but I have been looking around and that does not seem possible. I think David Bowie will always remain unique and will always be relevant. As we can see; there are new inventions, ways of keeping him alive and material coming out. The genius gave so much during his life but, in so many ways, he is inspiring musicians today and will do so for many decades more. I think we need to use David Bowie as an icon and reason why it is sad to mark the end of icons. I think music could benefit from some new and otherworldly artist that continues to change and stands out from the crowd – could we ever realistically see that in the modern time?! It is hard to say but it remains clear that, three years after his death, the immaculate, inventive and wonderful David Bowie...
IS on a planet all on his own.