January 25, 2016 § Leave a comment

January 25, 2016 § Leave a comment

via @whisperingdave

January 14, 2016 § Leave a comment

January 14, 2016 § Leave a comment

david-bowie-2

I was going to avoid writing anything about Bowie – struggling against the flat generalities, vivid anecdotes, ourobouric strings of discourse, bristling ill will, the feeling of unspeakable opacity in a life lived, for most of the past 20 years, out of the public eye after a long moment when he couldn’t be anything but public (whatever that means in the archives of 20th century stardom), that flooded out from a high-profile death in the age of social media, didn’t seem worth it. Is death really the moment for ‘assessments’ (except the unavoidable weighing in the scales of Osiris)? But then, there’s a reason why I started this blog w/ a paraphrase of ‘A New Career in a New Town’.

***

A double cliché: that everyone has their own Bowie; that the quote-unquote Berlin period & its deglammed outliers (LodgerYoung AmericansStation to StationScary Monsters) represented an apex of his career from wh/ everything else was a slow fall. (We don’t need to point out the mouldering rockism of preferring ‘dark’ themes to sublime records made w/ black disco songwriters.) This, then, is my fate: the “monochrome nomad”, as Joe Stannard so elegantly put it, of the late 70s meant the world to me. Everything else, for better or worse, was the flickering historical backdrop to a ‘man’ who fell to earth. That was partially the result of a strange amnesia that enveloped Bowie’s career: ‘Space Oddity’ aside, his songs never played on the MOR stations in Bournemouth;  Ziggy Stardust & Heathen were the only albums you could get in Our Price; VH1 (&, later, 120 Minutes, late at night on MTV2) might, at a push, play ‘Ashes To Ashes’. It was only later, after all the changes of the 2000s – as the reissue industry got into full swing & I discovered second hand record shops, CD prices went down, then were replaced entirely by ripping, BitTorrent, sharity blogs, Spotify – that ‘Bowie’, as the apparently solid sum of a shifting history came into focus. Death did the rest.

But, then, was Bowie ever about holism? The much-publicised death of Ziggy in 1973 crystallised pop’s dynamics in its first decade or so: 3-minute 45RPM burnout, careers finished in a few years. (What you notice, in DB’s 1977 appearance on The Marc Bolan Show, is how drained & Fassbinder-swollen Bolan looks, five years from Electric Warriorwhile Bowie, in double-denim, looks lithe as a cat.) The music from Station to Lodger is a careering passage of shadows & figments, darkroom ambiences tried on for size, pocket epics discarded like fag ash,  terror, sex, heartbreak, cosmology & provisional redemption glimpsed as if from a car “pushing close to ninety-four”. That the music pushes back against the canonisation that its very quality allows is just another of the contradictions that the culture industry produces & occludes. The question of what might happen when or if pop outlived its allotted time, posed increasingly throughout the 70s, has been solved in favour of the execs: it gets sold back to us as “memory anaesthetised”. But personal totems, ostentatiously sealed off from the “empty, linear, homogeneous time” of careers & industries, are never only personal. (& also never not personal: the last few days have been accompanied by a low-level annoyance at very well-adjusted people claiming DB helped them as weirdo teenagers. Given that some of us, years later, are still unfortunately weirdos, & treated as such by said people, you have to wonder whether how weird they really were.) He was an index of possibilities that formed w/ all the reality & speciousness of images in a society that “presents itself as an immense accumulation of spectacles” – promises, w/ the remoteness & unbearably sad proximity of Flaubert’s imagined Carthage, that not only your life within society but the framing society itself might be different. For someone seemingly permanently left w/ the legacy of their teenage deficiencies – gawky, awkward, cerebral, undersexed, bitter, ugly, dirt poor, unable to dress themselves as if they were actually an adult, branded by the agonies of class even within contexts that claim to transcend it (the permanent junior high atmosphere of the academy & artworld) – the image of grace, in all its senses, lived in, among others, a working-class boy at once from Bromley & Mars. (Who, whatever & however subtle their declared allegiances of gender or orientation, wouldn’t want to fuck mid-70s Bowie?) (We even had the same initials!) The dialectic of rootless drift & TV seclusion, impenetrable privacy & radiant image-life of the Berlin years exists under neoliberalism as if inverted in the camera obscura of ideology: “moving to Berlin” now means something very different. As Emily put it, “now we really are in the future, and it’s not the one that his music promised”. (Even less so, for some of us, than others.) He was the evening star of network society, flaring out into the absent sparks of what it should have been: life after class, after production, after “the workers have struck for fame”.

***

Hard not to think now that people’s wish, after the lacklustre comeback effort of Reality (2003), that Bowie retire gracefully wasn’t really a belief that, sealed away from the churn of the market & the scrutiny of Hello!, mortality might overlook him. (It’s not the first time such an unconscious wish broke the surface: watching The Hunger (1983), the distress of seeing his character age & die, trapped in the suddenly mummified carapace of his own body, outweighed the interest of Deneuve & Sarandon gettin’ it on.) Rewatching Cracked Actor the other night, the strangest moments actually come from the Ziggy Stardust concert film: the announcement – “this is the last show we’re ever playing!” – that prompts the vision of rock-star as sacrifice, torn apart by Maenads in Marks & Sparks dresses; the chilling moment (that I’d forgotten) when he begins Brel’s ‘My Death’. He delivers the second “let’s drink to that” as if someone were holding were holding a razor to his throat & he didn’t much care – a flash-forward to the harrowing weight of lost time & extinguished tenderness freighting “I, I’ll drink all the time” on ‘”Heroes”‘. Callow, yes, but rehearsing it, as he did so many times, was the obverse to the possibility, embodied in so many flickers of lines & chords, that life might be more than survival. Perhaps all those listeners who believed his seemingly ever-renewing life vouchsafed him a trip to the grave thought, really, what everybody knows of popstars, from Robert Johnson onwards: that he knew exactly what death was.

January 4, 2016 § Leave a comment

December 26, 2015 § Leave a comment

December 26, 2015 § Leave a comment

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