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Hit Parader August  1976

Hit Parader September 1976

David Bowie: An in-depth look at the illusion

Lisa Robinson • Hit Parader • August, September 1976

(originally published in edited form by New Musical Express, 7 March)


"Bowie's back, David's great, the show is just a straight rock and roll show, he's in such good health, my interview with David was fabulous. All this and more I heard prior to departing for LA and Phoenix where I was to talk to Bowie for the first time in nearly five years, and to see his current stage show. It had been arranged for me to 1) watch him tape the Dinah Shore TV show; 2) catch his final sold out show at the LA Forum; and 3) Interview the Artiste in Phoenix several days later. I went with mixed feelings, no illusions, few expectations. I was amused that he was showing Un Chien Andalou before his concert, how naive, in a way. David would later agree with me that he is naive, and proud of it. If one views the journalistic / reportage process as confrontation. We perhaps came out even. There is an honesty about David these days even though it really can't be described as refreshing. It is as carefully acted out as anything he's ever done, and as such, the face of David Bowie presented to me that week was who David Bowie decided to be, February 1976. He's clever, totally aware of his persona, and there's a very determined gleam in his eyes these days.

The Dinah Shore Show audience was a mixed lot. Housewives with blue-hair who wait in line to be a part, somehow, of Hollywood "show business". More teenagers than usual, no doubt because of David's presence as well as that of Henry "Fonzie" Winkler - star sensation of TV series Happy Days. The warmup man comes out in bright orange turtleneck sweater and beige polyester leisure suit, hits us with raps like "We get some nutty audiences on this show folks … we want you to scream, applaud, just do your own thing … just got back from Lost Wages … yuk, yuk, yuk… "

"Didja see Day-veee?," shrieks a maniac blond groupie who has followed him everywhere. "Angela wanted to be here," whispered the publicist, "but she's home cooking for a dinner party they're having later with Alice Cooper and Ray Bradbury."

Dinah comes out, is introduced to the audience, she's a total pro. The show starts … "and here's someone considered by many to be one of the most influential people in the rock spectrum!!" Pix of Bowie flash on the screen; the Ziggy patterned jumpsuit, the long striped sock, the pink jockstrap, the white suit … about fifty teenagers in the audience scream as a screen is raised and There He Is. Standing on (what else?) a pedestal, dressed simply in black baggy trousers, blue velour pullover. Shock of orange, slick backed hair (sort of like Bryan Ferry, circa 1973).

His band stands behind him, Carlos Alomar, Dennis Davis, George Murray, Stacey Heydon & Tony Kaye on keyboards (a dead ringer for Rodney Bingenheimer). David sings 'Stay', and out of camera range co-hosts Nancy Walker (who resembles an older Bette Midler and is beloved here as Rhoda TV mother) and "Fonzie" Winkler tap their toes. Actually, The Fonz is really getting into it, doing sort of funky chicken things with his head. Dave does little disco steps, he looks great.

The song over, he sits down with Dinah to "rap".

Dinah: How do you feel when you hear those screams?

Dave: It's my drummer, actually…

Dinah: You give so much of yourself…

Dave: Well no, actually I always think I should do it again. (They would have to repeat the first number again at the end of the show in fact, due to some technical problem.)

More photos of our boy flash on the screen, big white suit, red suspenders, blue and white polka dot sweater. Dinah elicits remarks from David: "Oh that one, I was living in New York at the time and was influenced by a lot of Puerto Rican clothing… " then (GASP) "I steal from everybody, you know," he admits.

David is in total control, still fey, the poseur, affected … but nevertheless, in control. A far cry from the heavy sniffing and mumbled, rambling answers a la his last memorable TV appearance - Dick Cavett.

Dinah presses further re influences: "Well," says David, "one of my favorite English bands at the moment is Roxy Music … Bryan Ferry"…

Commercial break, switch to Bowie on the couch sipping tea with Dinah, Nancy and Fonzie. "I have never seen David perform before," Nancy Walker says earnestly, "he's beautiful. But you know I was brought up on Cole Porter, Rogers and Hart… " "Hoagy Carmichael," David offers. "David, you're a puzzle to many people," says Dinah, "there are a lot of David Bowies, but is there really only one David Bowie?'

"Well, I started as a painter," Bowie replies," but I was a natural ham. Rock and roll is a superb way of releasing that. I still act the songs rather than sing them. If the French can get away with it, I figure so can I."

"It's the policy of the self-invented man," he continues. "You strip down all the things you don't like about yourself. One thing I didn't like was being very shy. So if I gave myself an alarming reputation, then I'd be faced to defend it."

Fonzie plugs a T-shirt he's had made with his likeness, brags that he has only 1200 of them. "I'd rather have a T-shirt that six million people would wear, wouldn't you really?" David asks.

Dinah: "You know David, we all often do interviews and put people on, but I read where you said - and now I've met your lovely wife Angela - you said 'I've never been in love, thank God… '"

David: "I have a vast capacity to love, but he one time I found myself failing in love it was obsessive in a way. The thing about putting a person on a pedestal, it's like what people search for in God."

Dinah: "Don't you miss the passions of being in love?"

David: "I think there are passions of loving someone."

This sort of scintillating conversation continued, I mean it's all very well and good for straight, middle American afternoon TV audiences, but wasn't giving me a clue as to where David's head was at all except, (and this is important) he was trying terribly hard to be professional, polite, and proper. I'll bet they still thought he was a freak. An endless discussion continued as to whether Being In Love Is More Meaningful Than Loving Someone (and having to say you're sorry … )

"You've said," Dinah continued, "that if you were an original thinker, you would' not be in rock and roll." "Oh yes," smiles David. "But rock and roll has been very good to you," she says. "I've been good for rock and roll," he says.

At the end of the show David sang 'Five Years' straight into the camera, tight closeup on his face. That same song, the same face that was in closeup about five years ago when he was on BBC-TV's Old Grey Whistle Test. It was riveting, knocked me out then, and it did now. Perfect, I thought, he's finally gotten around to stealing from himself.

"I think with this stage show," David would tell me later, "I've put myself in a position of being more like the real David Bowie the audience has wanted. This show is more bisexual, more theatrical than anything I've ever done, I think. Ostensibly because it's the most real show I've done. Now I can start work."

Elton John swept into the Forum backstage area dressed in brown. He's taken a few hours out of rest and hiding in LA to pay his respects, but he doesn't stay long at the concert when his presence begins to attract too much audience attention. In the audience are Linda (it wouldn't be a rock concert without) Blair, David Hockney (who's had a busy week, attending parties for the Spinners, and the Pretty Things), Christopher Isherwood ("Can you imagine??" Angela Bowie gasped after the show, "CHRISTOPHER ISHERWOOD! My idol!!") and Henry "Fonzie" Winkler.

The taped music of Kraftwerk can be heard over the loudspeaker. "Radioactivity for you and me," croons writer Cameron Crowe. What a camp David is, I think. Fashionable fascism. Then, right before the screening of "Un Chien Andalou" Carole King treks up the aisle with new hippie boyfriend in tow. "You wouldn't believe how crazy it is down there," she shrieks to a friend in her very best Brooklyn yenta voice. I cannot believe how, with all her money, she is wearing a three dollar Indian shmatah. Cameron Crowe cannot believe I say this. She does however, seem very young, and glowingly in love.

And so, David screens Un Chien Andalou for all his 17-year-old fans who have not had the opportunity to study the surrealist classic film in college yet. The eye-cutting scene goes over big, but the rest of the twenty minutes causes the crowd to become mighty restless. And so at last, when Bowie comes onstage casually, singing 'Station to Station', there is a huge roar, and everyone stands up.

As the show has been reviewed in these pages at length by Ben Edmonds, I'll just add these observations: I didn't much care for the band; too loud, too funky, too much bottom. My seat was reverberating throughout the entire show, and it was not a pleasant sensation. 'Waiting for the Man' doesn't really work; trying to sing it as a sultry, nightclubby kind of number isn't right. Perhaps only a few who have really been there can sing Lou Reed's lyrics; even if he wouldn't agree with me, Patti Smith can. But David's new show - with the stark, spare stage lit by hot, white neon lights is theatrical. Perhaps more theatrical than any that have preceded it, because he is creating the illusion that it is real – just A Man and His Music. But make no mistake, this is a show, not a concert. Just because he's wearing a simple white shirt, black vest, black baggy trousers, instead of a long striped sock or a pink jockstrap doesn't make it any less of a stage act.

Bowie moves onstage like an actor, a film actor who knows that standing still in front of a camera often commands more attention. The entire production from the Kraftwerk, to Un Chien Andalou, to the black and white, is all sort of like a film David's directed himself. It's focused, and the focus is definitely on the Star. No more cute guitarists to go down on, no more shoving the band to the side of the stage in an attempt to be visually rid of them (that just pointed out there was a problem with them in the first place). This band stands behind Bowie but could just as easily be behind a curtain. It's fine to hire "excellent musicians", but conceptually, visually, these people have nothing at all to do with Bowie. ("Do you consider this to be your band?" I would ask him later. "Oh no … they'll all probably wander off after the tour and go back to James Brown or wherever they came from," he replied. "I really don't know them … I mean, I know Carlos… ") One thing I do love in the show is when David stands to the side of the stage during the instrumental solos, nodding his head as if he's digging them. Aside from admiring such fine acting, it makes one long for the star's speedy return to center stage. Don't think David doesn't know that.

But I'm a sucker for the more familiar, rock and roll numbers like 'Suffragette City', 'Jean Genie', 'Changes', 'Rebel Rebel', so for me, they are the most successful songs in the show. Strangely enough, he's left out 'Young Americans' and 'Golden Years' but mercifully has perhaps put Space Oddity to rest forever.

(At this point Carole King gets hassled by the usher … he tried to get her out of her seat and she has to sit on her boyfriend's lap. They leave soon thereafter and I notice that he is wearing a fur purse tied on a leather string around his hips.)

David added Diamond Dogs to the shows in LA; he had forgotten the words but Cameron Crowe found them for him and he learned it in time. The show lasts about one and a half hours, which is fine, and after much cheering and lighting of matches (can you imagine going to a concert anymore and not have that happen? It's such rote, fascism indeed… ) he returns to say, "We're touring the world, and I won't see you for … oh … a year, so we'll leave you with this" - a great 'Rebel Rebel'.

In the dressing room after the show David chats quietly with Hockney and Isherwood. Upstairs in a "press" room, Linda Blair, Mark Volman, Henry "Fonzie" Winkler, John Baldry - all wait for an appearance David never makes. Eric Barrett is complimented on his lighting: "Well," he smiled," we never had the money to do it properly before."

The Interview

It is perhaps important here to note that I hadn't spoken (and that might be with a capital H, capital S) to Bowie in nearly five years. While I had never been threatened with receiving a block of cement a la Nick Kent, there was some hostility and there were definite Problems Between Us. Partially encouraged by a variety of music business entanglements and certainly led on, to some degree by various elements of the MainMan Organization, it was felt that I "didn't understand" his true genius, that I dished him, as it were.

Whatever, I was by now sufficiently intrigued with Bowie as master illusionist - I mean he had managed to work within the context of rock star successfully for six years now, proving that Fooling Some of the People Some of the Time was all right, and I had many questions to ask.

Wouldn't you know it would be a full moon in Phoenix, and when I arrived in Bowie's suite (a reasonable facsimile of a suite, as much as one could expect in the Double Tree Inn, in Phoenix, Arizona … town where Alice Cooper and The Tubes went to high school together.) - omigod, Iggy was in the room. Bright white hair, red jumpsuit, and the same lovable, crooked grin. A perfect surrealist setting guaranteed to throw me off guard. David, in Real Life, looks like something that just stepped out of a movie, that is if one calls an interview situation real life. He is wearing blue jeans, a blue plaid shirt, and looks stunning.

While there are only three or four people "around" him now, Bowie still manages to elicit from them the same kind of whispered overprotectiveness that he used to get from some twenty MainMan employees. (This happens often, usually it is the star that wants it that way, but some do manage to have more easygoing people working for them. Alice Cooper, for one, is always treated as a human being, there is an easy air around him. Mick Jagger attempts to have people work for him who will not treat him like Prince Charles. Jimmy Page has some staffers who treat him gingerly, others are not above throwing a pie in his face. People tiptoe around Keith Richard, he hardly seems aware of it. Carole King and Joni Mitchell and Neil Young Do Not Do Interviews. John Lennon can be a regular guy. And so on.) With Bowie and me, there was an Air Of Tension to be broken; the presence of the publicist throughout our encounter did not help me to relax much.

And so, David, are you enjoying this tour now that you're doing it, are you interested in the process of appearing before 18,000 people on a stage??

"No, I'm a little bored now," David admits. "I guess I'll have to change the show around, maybe just the order of songs. I definitely left some numbers out like 'Time', Space Oddity, precisely for the reason that I'd rather the energy level come from the eye line, rather than an association with any particular piece of theater. I'm doing a lot of unknown songs, which is hard for the audience, so I've compromised and put a few of the more familiar ones in."

"No, I'm not interested in … good lord, of course, I'm doing it for the money. I'm only really playing to about three thousand people. I wouldn't know if the rest of the place was empty. I mean it sounds loud, but I can only see about three thousand people. It would have been nice to do it at the Tower (in Philadelphia) and places like that, but then I wouldn't have made any money."

I ask about R&B, of all people... how did he become involved with it in his music.

"Well if you played my records to somebody who was brought up on R&B they'd laugh in your face." (I didn't say it was good R&B, mind you … also, 'TVC15' sounds a lot like Otis Redding's 'Hucklebuck'.) "Really?" - eyes wide. "It sounds more like Elvis' 'Girl Went Walking' to me. I know the 'Hucklebuck', intimately … that's why I know that the music I play is nothing like R&B."

"As for this album, it's a good album, I like it. I wish I'd done it differently though. I compromised in the mixing; I wanted to do a dead mix. It should have been a dry mix. All the way through, no echo. All the way through the making of the album I was telling myself I'd do a dry mix. And I gave in, I gave in and added that extra commercial touch. I wish, I wish … I wish I hadn't."

You've said that you don't consider yourself a musician.

"No one else would deny that," he laughed.

But you've managed to write at least one great rock and roll song every year for the past six years.

"Incredible sort of luck and very sort of shrewd mercenary attitude got me that far."

Isn't it hard to write a good rock and roll song?

"Not if you're desperate enough. And not if you passionately want to be a rock and roll star and be lionized and have eulogies written about yourself. Then you write a bloody good song. And if you don't, then you're not going to be a rock and roll star."

"I never said I was a rock star. At any time. If I'm a rock star, then I'm a rock star despite myself. I just wanted to be good old David Bowie."

"I'm not in rock and roll, I never thought of this as a 'career', it's my own field. Not in rock and roll, never have been, refuse to be dragged into it. It's been an enlightenment, and every enjoyable to do, but now I'm wondering what to do."

When did you first realize that you had a voice?

"Well," he laughs, "a voice, yes … and hope you could get away with it and when it becomes sort of established as an archetypal voice, of that particular type, then it's considered that you have a voice. I sort of did it all hopping on one foot, hoping that I'd get by."

Now really, all this wide eyed innocence, all this chance stuff doesn't convince me one bit … I mean you always were at least a half step ahead of many others, you wore what felt right at the time. I remind David that when I saw him in February 1972, at his birthday party and he made an entrance wearing the gray patterned Ziggy jumpsuit and red vinyl boots, he said then that he hadn't seen Clockwork Orange. Yet, he looked the way that felt.

"Well, I knew that everybody had seen Jason and the Argonauts, and knew about the Harpies, and that was the most outstanding hairstyle I had every seen. I suppose I followed my own indulgences to such an extent that it created a field of its own.

"I feel thoroughly responsible for the state of rock and roll … As Mick once said, the grandfather … of glitter king rock," he laughs. (A laugh, by the way, is a performance. The eyes flash, the head is artfully tossed back, the grin is lovely. It is then that I notice the teeth. Nice new ones?

"What? These? They're my same old fangs."

I thought everyone at MainMan had new teeth.

"I was never at MainMan," David replies with a wicked gleam in his eye as the publicist holds her breath, "and I couldn't afford new teeth, I was so busy paying for everybody else's." Everyone breaks up, this perhaps, has broken the ice at last. "No … they're the same old corroded ones… ")

Continuing the other train of thought, David says, "I was never the glitter king. I just sort of opened up … it was a breaking down of structures. Not very drastically, but it was some sort of token acknowledgment to the avant garde. And it went along from there."

"I would hate to be considered that I was put up against other people in rock, goods heavens, no. If I was in it for that kind of reason then I've failed dismally. But to be able to do it for this long, to preserve and enjoy it, I think is wonderful fun, and I think it's hard. The biggest joy in rock and roll is sort of to be able to acknowledge everybody else's talent and be a fan and get by and make a living at the same time … It's terrific."

Are you a fan?

"Well, the people in it, not it. The personas. It'll do until I can start directing films. I wish I could direct a show. My perfect gig would be to take all the people I like and drag them onstage. I'd like to direct their shows. I can't do that, so I do mine. But if I could, I'd do what I'd tell them to do … My albums … most of them I think are too naive. I even thought so at the time. That's one of the most amazing things about rock and roll, apart from any message or statement or whatever, the thing that people really, really have empathy with is the naivete. And that's why I feel so at home with it. In art generally, the most loving factor of any art form is the naivete. It's nice to know that behind the callous, cold, iceman cometh Bowie that really he's probably pretty uncertain about what he's doing. I think that is poignant, and very tender. I'm a good synthetic. I'm really the first synthetic rock artist. There is no other. Everyone else sort of keeps the faith. I try and keep the counters. I'm very good at that. I'm even better than. . Oh, you fill that in."

So when did you first discover The Grand Illusion?

"Seeing my brother do coin tricks - making them disappear. Then seeing him do it in front of other people, and seeing their faces. Sixpences appearing under the pillow if you put a tooth under it. That kind of thing."

Tell me about The Man Who Fell To Earth.

"It's a good film. Working with Nicolas (Roeg) was a classic experience. It was one of the more important experiences that I've ever had - not on a film level, on another level that I can't explain in such a brief meeting. He has a depth, and a quality as a human being that I admire - and tried to wallow in a much as possible, actually. Tried to soak it up and hope that I took a little of it with me. An excellent man, fabulous.

"Yes… I know where my baskets, and my eggs are, dear." Flash of the eyes, toss of the head, laughter.

Bowie suddenly says, "Oh do put that thing down, my love," (referring to the tape recorder I'm holding), "I mean I don't mind it, but… no matter how many of these things I've done, I'm not in my element.

"I wish I could stay with someone for three weeks, and the sort of… I mean I always feel that afterwards I've done a sorry job. You know, 'Oh, did I tell them enough about myself', 'were they impressed enough', 'do they know I'm a man of many talents'… it's really tiresome.

"Oh well, we've all got our props. You've got that machine, I've got this bottle of beer today."

Then he says: "I wish I was a farmer."


"Something wholesome and invigorating." he laughs.

Which reminds me … Lou Reed.

"To be honest, I haven't heard the last two albums. I heard Metal Machine Music, he brought it over. But hmmm, Edgar Froese I like. Oh dear, this is going to sound like I'm dropping the ultimate unknown names.

"I mean, who do I like? Christ, it all stinks in general. Eno - I quite like Eno. I'd like him to be in lggy's band, actually. How gauche. No, actually, I'm getting lggy an all-black band of ex-basketball players.

"I like Bryan Ferry. He's much better than I am as a writer, I've not seen him onstage for a while, but I thought he had the makings of a good film actor… I'd love to direct him in a film.'

"I think he's the most talented thing to come out of England, whether he knows it or not. I think oh, he's going to hate this but I think he should lose his band. Quickly. They're holding him back in this country, and he better be fast…

"Bryan, dear. There's nobody else."

Tell me about love, David.

"Oh, they're all so sex mad here." More laughter. "It's all they want to talk about."

No - the religious stuff you were on about on Dinah Shore.

"Well, if I started to preach and spout what I really believed in I would be off the program in fifteen minutes. Pure boredom, and I can never find the words for it anyway.

"I'm terribly emotional. I'm everything. I'm spiteful, I'm tedious, then warm and loving and such great company … debonair and charming and a horror. I go off at the mouth and get very tyrannical and then again I'm very philosophical, with my heads in the clouds.

"Heads," he laughs, "now there's the sign of a schizophrenic… 'got my heads in the cloud'… and I want to keep all those. Anyone wants to take those away from me I'll sue 'em.

"I'm getting used to suing people."

When you look back on your projects, do you feel that they're incomplete? Have you ever felt that's it, you've got it?

"No. I can't even brush my teeth without feeling that I haven't done a good job. I always wish I could do it again… ."

When did you first look into the mirror and realise that you were good looking, honey?

"When I was a couple of weeks old." He laughs loudly. "I'm sorry … I don't know … ahhhhh, I do remember. I'm not telling you though. (Laughs) I was naked at the time. Then I got 'round to looking at my face …

"I'd be scared stiff if I ever felt that one of my projects had been totally right, complete," he continues, seriously. "I would be unbearable if I was at that stage, as a person. Wouldn't I just? I mean wouldn't anybody? If they got to the stage where they thought that everything they did was the cat's asshole … "

What do you think when you look back on your various stages - all those costumes?

"How embarrassing. Actually, it's only embarrassing after about the second or third year. The third year when it came out of being cliche to archetype. Then it started looking good again.

"There was a point where you go through all this haziness about 'God, that's the most dreadful thing I've ever seen in my life, how on earth did I wear it', then you go past that and think, 'how incredibly right I was'.

"It was so tentative all the way through, and looking back on it, I remember a photo. Of the four of us - the Spiders - at a table at an RCA press reception. Four photos of really scared little boys wearing funny clothes, and stark light - in fact, that's where I got the idea of bringing back the old Bertolt Brecht lighting. It was so rivetingly news. It looked like news, I looked like a news story.

"Yes, this is the popular music social condition. This is what popular music felt like, not what it looked like, but what it felt like. This dressup and these faces, all looking out … and the photos were taken right in front of them so it was like boom, boom, boom - big pictures of pretty David Bowie in the back, then these four creatures sitting there, absolutely riveting.

"And that's when I realised just how good it was. Not just it, or me, but the thing - what actually went down. That was what it was all about. It was a film, it really was.

"It's now a long time ago, 1972. And I can now be arrogant and self-pleasing enough about it to look back on it and know that I did what I had intended to do. Which was bringing a new movement.

"Whether I was responsible for it or not, I was at least a spearhead. To recognize, and be able to adopt a position where I would be able to drag it through, makes me feel good.

"I've said this elsewhere, but I feel that my contribution to rock-and roll is all done. That was it, creating a whole era, by being responsible, by being the one to take the plunge. If I had really fucked up, it would have been dismal … where would it have gone??

"If I hadn't come over here in 1969 wearing that dress, what would have happened? I mean Alice wouldn't have dressed up - they were a punk band at the time, with a great name. With lyrics all about street fighting.

"Alice and I are very close now, we had dinner the other night. Isn't that lovely," he beams, "having dinner with these people. Because now I do feel like their grandfather. I tell them what to do.

"I never had any competition. Except Marc Bolan, back in England. I had to find somebody I would have friction with, somebody I could compete with, just to get me off the ground. Someone that would give me motivation to do the thing in the first place.

"So Marc was perfect; a friend, gets there before me. I fought like a madman to beat him. Knowing theoretically there was no race. But wanting passionately to do it.

"Now of course Marc and I are best friends. He's one of my closest friends actually… he's the funniest person I know. I never laugh so much — we're gloriously silly when we're together, you wouldn't recognize either of us. It's lovely, super…

"There are some people in rock and roll who are really nice. They relax with me. I don't think they expect somebody to intimidate them as much as I often do. Not purposely, but I have learned how to relax a lot in the past couple of years. And I understand my position and I'm very proud of it, and I think it helps others to relax with me because I know what it is all about.

"I know everything about this business, though how good I am at some aspects of it I don't know. But I know it thoroughly, intimately. And other people no longer have to be anything … and they become different, they don't talk to other people the way they do with me, they open up and bring out these amazing things about themselves. It's fantastic."

The Media, David. Tell me about The Media.

"Oh they're absolute idiots. Well have to get in there and blast open films, television, whatever. Most of it will be done by reversed infiltration and seemingly pandering to a particular aspect, then blowing it apart when you have the position, reputation, prestige, to do that.

To change the media, you've got to own it first, haven't you?

"I've ripped off Picture newspaper, I think it's very good. Good old Andy, he was right, wasn't he? A newspaper with no words.

"I want to bring that out again. Absolutely identical to Picture newspaper, but with different pictures. Mostly of me, at first, until it starts selling. And a lot of whoever's popular at the time.

"And slip in a few things … William Burroughs, Kirlian photography…

"But if I might add eulogy to eulogy, I think the whole theatrical, elusive quality of what's gone down has been the most cutting thing. To cut the shit. It has, and it will - mark my words - produce a new kind of truthfulness.

"Stark. I mean it's stark, for me it's Man Ray … "

Are you putting me on? You know that Richard Robinson and Lenny Kaye formed a band in 1969 called Man Ray. All black and white.

"Oh, that's incredible. But of course, you know that … And the object of my getting around to doing that, to bringing it there … how can you bring it there until you produce an extreme of the opposite psychic movement?

"You can't come out of Dylan into black and white. No way. There's no friction, To cause an art movement, you have to set something up and then destroy it. The whole rock culture has become so self-important that is doesn't realise its incredible strength comes from finding cliches.

"It is now looking for an archetype first; it's looking for a new Dylan, it's looking for a new Lou Reed. It's looking for a new something to prove that it really is a culture. It won't get excited by great mediocrity, because it doesn't understand itself.

"And the only thing to do is what the Dadaists, the surrealists did; complete amateurs who are pretentious as hell and just fuck it up the arse. Cause as much bad, ill feeling as possible, and then you've got a chance of having a movement.

"But you'll only create a movement when you have a rebellious cause, and you can't have any rebellious cause when you're the most well loved person in the country.

"What you've got there is… well, a chance of being the most well loved person in the country."

David wants to play me a tape he's done with lggy. It's fabulous, very tense.

Iggy's voice is amazing, I note.

"Of course," Bowie smiles, pleased. "Why do you think he keeps coming back to me? Iggy's amazing. He really has nothing to do with rock and roll, he's in it by accident. He's just the best… "

You must save him, I say to Bowie, with a smile on my face but meaning it. He grasps my hand, nods emphatically. Accompanies me to the door, and in the most charming way, thanks me for coming.

Basically all art, Bowie feels, is a process of destroying what was set up before. So it was with this interview, in a way.

I had no desire to find the real David Bowie. I fully accept that he is whoever he wants to be at the moment, and adapts totally to whoever he's talking to.

At the end of All About Eve, Phoebe — the girl who has idolised Eve Harrington, played chillingly by Anne Baxter — dons Eve's long silver cape, picks up her Sarah Siddons Award, and looks into a three-way mirror.

Hundreds of her own images look out at her, and one feels that director Joseph Mankiewicz is telling us that there are thousands of them out there.

I keep feeling that there must have been a time when David Bowie looked into a three-way mirror and saw how many David Bowies there could be. He's only just begun.



Bowie Golden Years v2.0 will be launched in 2020

Bowie Golden Years v1.0 created and designed by Roger Griffin 2000
Bowie Golden Years v2.0 under construction 2017-2020

Photographs and texts have been credited wherever possible

this page updated January 17, 2020