OUR NEED FOR BOWIE IS NEED FOR ORIG­I­NAL­ITY OVER NOV­ELTY

The Gulf Today - - FOCUS - BY MIKE JONES

It is three years since David Bowie died. In that ob­ser­va­tion, it is not the “three years” that seems ODD (THOUGH IT DOES, THREE LEETING years). David Bowie sim­ply doesn’t seem “dead”. And that’s not some ba­nal­ity about his work “liv­ing on”, but be­cause the need for him ex­ists and per­sists.

What is the need for David Bowie? It is the need for orig­i­nal­ity over nov­elty. Ev­ery­one, on some level, thinks mu­sic is some­how not as good now as it was then (it never is, and it al­ways is) — but the point is that we don’t know we need a Bowie (or a Prince or a Leonard Co­hen) un­til such a per­son hap­pens along.

When Bowie did even­tu­ally hap­pen along — there were sev­eral “false starts” — it was not so much his Ziggy Star­dust per­sona but his orig­i­nal­ity, the de­ci­sion to adopt a per­sona at all, that MARKED THE IRST STEP IN THE EX­PAN­SION of post-bea­tles UK pop mu­sic.

In the dark chaos of Brexit there is a dan­ger in draw­ing at­ten­tion to a phe­nom­e­non that is of “UK ori­gin”, maybe a “UK con­fec­tion” is a bet­ter word for it — Bowie was a chef and his larder was pop­u­lar cul­ture.

The in­gre­di­ents came from ev­ery shelf and he threw them into the mix with an ap­par­ently care­free aban­don that be­lied the con­cen­tra­tion driv­ing his out­put. Con­sider the 16-year-old David Jones pos­ing on his band’s, the Kon­rads’, kick-drum.

Here is a band that never made a record, but you wouldn’t know that from the poise and el­e­gance of its sax player.

The bal­ance, the in­sou­ciance, the at­ten­tion to de­tail; not a hair out of place and a gaze that looks through the cam­era lens — blond am­bi­tion.

But a 16-year-old does not have all the ref­er­ences he needs to con­vert am­bi­tion into im­pact. If this is phase one, then phase two is di­alling up the chutz­pah to soak in and syn­the­sise what cuts through the com­mon­place.

The stut­ter­ing bands and record deals, even the hit with “Space Odd­ity”, were never “it”; “it” was Hunky Dory. On Hunky Dory, the band is in place, the hair is blonde and now it is long — but it is not “hip­pie”, it is a New York look, not an Al­ta­mont one, and the key cul­tural ref­er­ence is Andy Warhol.

With Andy Warhol as his “mon­u­ment” (check out the sleeve notes), David Jones re­alised “David Bowie”, and that David Bowie was the point of syn­the­sis of ev­ery as­pect of pop­u­lar cul­ture that he be­lieved cut through the noise; that dif­fer­en­ti­ated it­self through orig­i­nal­ity be­fore its as­sim­i­la­tion into the “nor­mal” and the “every­day”.

What Warhol painted was not fruit in a bowl, but a com­mod­ity made of fruit pro­cessed for con­ve­nience and PROIT. BOWIE SWAL­LOWED THE IDEA AND re­gur­gi­tated it in his ver­sion of a Blade Run­ner fu­ture, one in which hu­mans and cy­borgs co-ex­isted, nei­ther was sure of the dif­fer­ence, and both were the envy of each other.

From this point, cu­ra­tion, as­sim­i­la­tion, syn­the­sis be­came his modus and he con­tin­ued un­til his death — or­ches­TRAT­ING BLACK STAR AS HIS INAL CUR­TAIN with his con­sis­tent, per­sis­tent and trade­mark verve. Strik­ing sim­i­lar­i­ties ex­ist be­tween this ter­mi­nal project and that of Den­nis Pot­ter, and it does not seem a coin­ci­dence.

Pot­ter was to tele­vi­sion what Bowie was to pop­u­lar mu­sic — an orig­i­nal writer who as­sim­i­lated pop­u­lar cul­ture and RECONIGURED AND REPO­SI­TIONED RECOG­NIS­ABLE el­e­ments in new and of­ten jar­ring con­texts, pro­duc­ing new per­spec­tives and sen­sa­tions as he went.

Pot­ter used the work of croon­ers (Al Bowly — Moon­light on the High­way) and fa­mil­iar Tin Pan Al­ley songs (The Singing De­tec­tive) as sound­track ma­te­rial for ex­plo­rations of de­mand­ing ex­pe­ri­ences (for ex­am­ple, his own ex­pe­ri­ence of sex­ual abuse and of chronic ill­ness).

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