Taking his name from the knife that American mountain men used to carve out a nation, David Bowie has always seen himself as occupying the cutting-edge of musical expression. Before he became Bowie, before he was the Thin White Duke, even... [more]
Taking his name from the knife that American mountain men used to carve out a nation, David Bowie has always seen himself as occupying the cutting-edge of musical expression. Before he became Bowie, before he was the Thin White Duke, even before Ziggy Stardust, David was a humble saxophonist playing in a variety of mod/pop bands up until 1966, when the first of his alter-egos emerged, hungry for fame. "The Man Who Sold The World," Bowie's full-length debut, is a strong candidate for the first glam rock/heavy metal album (Mick Ronson on guitar). "Space Oddity" (1969), was Bowie's -- as Ziggy Stardust -- next influential big hit: one great leap for Bowie and for the evolution of twentieth-century pop.
Ziggy's 1972 U.S. tour brought a new kind of spectacle to the concert stage, with elaborate Japanese-style costumes and a truly unearthly, alien feeling that reflected the social and cultural alienation felt by his audience. That same year, Bowie worked the press and the public into a frenzy by announcing that he was gay. He also produced Lou Reed's album "Transformer," and Mott the Hoople's "All The Young Dudes." In 1973, Bowie sicked the "Diamond Dogs" on the disco-ridden Western world, drawing on George Orwell's "1984" and prefiguring "Bladerunner" and the coked-out '80s of Bret Easton Ellis. "Young Americans," released in 1975, included a last-minute collaboration with John Lennon, which resulted in the number one U.S. single, "Fame." Glitz may have prevailed over artistic integrity in this round of the great Glam vs. Apocalypse conflict, but Bowie soon evened and then reversed the score, rediscovering his unique artistic voice while starring in the unsettling sci-fi film "The Man Who Fell To Earth," and doing a Brechtian-style act on his "White Light" tour. In Berlin, Bowie collaborated with Brian Eno on two self-consciously surrealistic albums, "Low" and "Heroes," both cut in 1977.
In keeping with the reactionary spirit of "Low," Bowie teamed up with Iggy Pop, the cream of the punk rock pond-scum, on the latter's "Idiot" and "Lust For Life" albums. During the '80s, Bowie and his words were once again made flesh as he starred in several unconventional films, including "The Hunger" and "Labyrinth." His musical work during the decade, save for a few songs with depth, was basically a landslide of glossy, innocuous, and ultimately vapid pop tunes as Bowie cruised on a sea of nascent MTV kids. Finally, in 1988, his frustration with innocuous pop drove him to form Tin Machine. Bowie's new band was an early explorer of alternative music (they even did a Pixies cover). Bowie soon moved on to a new, post-alternative project with Eno. This was the 1994 album "Outside," which, with its up-to-date commentary on tech nouveau and millenialism, more or less brought Bowie back into the chartreuse light. Bowie's most recent musical project was a drum 'n' bass single, "Telling Lies," which was only released on the Internet. Though known mostly for his music and film, Bowie is nothing if not versatile. His rigorous artistic vision includes contemporary art; he is an editor on the prestigious and influential British art journal, "Modern Painters." [show less]