00
עדכונים

מנוי במייל

קבלת עדכונים על רשומות חדשות ישירות לתיבת האמייל
יש להזין אימייל תקין על מנת להרשם לעדכונים
ברגעים אלו נשלח אליך אימייל לאישור/ביטול ההרשמה
*שים/י לב, מרגע עשית מנוי, כותב/ת הבלוג יוכל לראות את כתובת האמייל שלך ברשימת העוקבים.
X

פ.י.מ.פ.

Analyzing Bowie: David Bowie

<-previous

David Bowie`s debut album, the eponymous David Bowie, is not a well-known or highly regarded album. However, there is one thing that it has going for it, because here is the first time we meet the most long lasting, elusive, Protean, weird character he ever created. I am talking, of course, of the character that appears on the cover, and in the album title: David Bowie.

David Robert Jones changed his name to David Bowie on September 1965, apparently following the advice of a successful manager called Ken Pitt, who warned him that there was another David Jones on the rise, the singer who would soon become famous as a member of the Monkees. He took the name from the Bowie knife, and later said he did it because he wanted to be an artist who cuts through the lies to reach the truth. It became the stage name he would be famous for.

It took another year until Pitt assumed the role of Bowie`s manager and set about to change his style. Pitt recognized Bowie`s charisma and creativity and envisioned him as an all-around entertainer, not just a rock`n`roll singer. This was obviously in accordance with how Bowie felt, as he was already beginning to develop a more complex and theatrical writing style and found the confines of British R&B insufficient to express it. The album, which came out on the 1st of June, 1967, presented something completely different from the raucous rock`n`roll and R&B that Bowie did before.

First, the music. The basis is still rock guitars and drums, but they are played low and dominated by brass, woodwind and occasionally strings, in arrangements that have very little to do with rock`n`roll. Bowie actually took a couple of weeks to teach himself orchestral composition, and his arrangements are simple yet odd, with the freshness of someone trying his hand at something new. It is closer to English music hall than to rock, with the occasional other pop style thrown in, like the waltz in `Little Bombardier` and `Maid of Bond Street` or the jugband music in `Rubber Band`. In accordance with the spirit of 1967, the album is also filled with delightful sound effects, reaching their climax in the closing track `Please, Mr. Gravedigger` where there is no music, just sound effects. Bowie`s cockney accent is also more reminiscent of English music hall than of British R&B singers (who usually tried to sound American), and his vocals are more influenced by theatrical singers like Anthony Newley than by rock singing.

The theatricality is found in the lyrics as well. Unlike the egocentric nature of rock, several tracks on the album speak in the third-person, telling a story about some figure. `Uncle Arthur`, `Little Bombardier`, `She`s Got Medals`, `Silly Boy Blue` and `Maid of Bond Street` are all of this kind, and the first three even have three acts, like a theatre play.

But the theatricality is made even more poignant in the first-person tracks, in which Bowie always assumes a character who is telling us gingerly about something he is doing, which is revealed to be rather different from how he describes it. In `Rubber Band`, `There is a Happy Land`, `Love You Till Tuesday`, `When I Live My Dream`, `Join the Gang` and `Please, Mr. Gravedigger`, The narrators all turn out to be delusional, psychotic or hiding some awful secret. This is where we see the Bowie knife at work: by assuming characters we meet in real life and adopting their rhetoric, he cuts through the lies they are living and spreading around.

What distinguishes a Bowie knife, however, is that it is sharp on both sides. Bowie displays this double-edged quality in `We are Hungry Men`, a track built like a dialogue in which both sides are exposed in their monstrosity, and both criticized as leading humankind to its doom. Another track that somewhat shows it is `Silly Boy Blue`, in which both the rebellious boy and the Buddhist order he is part of are criticized.

Thematically, the album already displays some of the themes that would become Bowie trademarks. The opening track, `Uncle Arthur`, provides the basic blueprint, describing a grown up man who is unable to leave his mother`s house. This is a rather clichéd character, but this story of an eccentric Englishman who finds it hard to adjust to society`s norms is the model Bowie expands on into various and bizarre realms: the transgender in `She`s Got Medals`, the lonely man in `Little Bombardier`, the messianic raver in `We are Hungry Men`, the failed disciple in `Silly Boy Blue`, the murderer in `Please, Mr. Gravedigger`. Bowie sympathizes with the outsiders, the ones who do not conform, although he shows the dark sides of their existence as well.

Another characteristic of this outsider position is voyeurism. In `Rubber Band`, `Love You Till Tuesday` and `Please, Mr. Gravedigger`, the singer is standing in the shadows, watching someone else and describing what they`re doing, but in the end we learn more about the singer than about the subject of his song. This mold would reappear in Bowie`s future works, in many different ways.

The album already displays Bowie`s ability to cut into what is going on around him, dress it up and present it in a loving but critical way. The obvious Englishness that pervades every track is meant to put us straight in Swinging London, the capital of the pop world in the mid-sixties. 1967 was the year that youth culture switched from Mod to Hippie, and it is reflected sharply in the album. The Mods` obsession with clothes and external looks, which Bowie was enthusiastically a part of in recent years, here comes off as hollow, in a couple of tracks where the heroes use fancy clothes to mask the emptiness they feel inside: `Sell Me a Coat` and `Maid of Bond Street`. But the Hippies fair no better. Their wish to return to childhood innocence is mocked in `There is a Happy Land` which shows that childhood isn`t that innocent, their utopianism is also mocked in this track and in `We are Hungry Men`, and their spirituality comes off as flippant in `Silly Boy Blue`. Finally, `Join the Gang` shows how the mix of Mod and Hippie destroyed the coherence and purpose of youth culture, while `Come and Buy My Toys` shows how it can be manipulated by the market.

Conformed society is judged even more harshly. At a time when many Englishmen would still emphasize proudly their part in WWII, Bowie provides tracks like `Rubber Band` and `Little Bombardier` which shows people coming back from the war to discover they have nothing to live for. Western society comes off as greedy and overworked in `Come and Buy My Toys`, and as consuming itself to death in `We are Hungry Men`. Some of the individual heroes of the songs may be quite sick, but none as sick as society, which `We are Hungry Men` portrays as a leviathan that eats everything. `Little Bombardier` shows how even people who are good-intentioned fall victim to cultural categorization, to society`s inability to accept the strange and different.

Bowie, then, already puts himself outside any group, refusing to commit to any existing way of life. The Bowie knife will have to cut through all these groups, and try to create something else. One track suggests that it is possible: `She`s Got Medals` tells of a hero who manages to come to terms with her eccentricity and make it work in her favor, escape categorization, fool the system, and live the life she chooses. This is the model that David Bowie, the character who first presents himself to us in this album, will follow.

Uncle Arthur
Sell Me a Coat
Rubber Band
Love You till Tuesday
There is a Happy Land
We are Hungry Men
When I Live My Dream
Little Bombardier
Silly Boy Blue
Come and Buy My Toys
Join the Gang
She`s Got Medals
Maid of Bond Street
Please Mr. Gravedigger

So the album was meant to be a step forward for pop, taking it from juvenile and simple rock`n`roll into something more sophisticated and artistic. But if that was the intent, it failed miserably, because on the same day this album saw light, June 1st 1967, another album came out and changed all the rules. The Beatles` Sgt. Pepper`s Lonely Hearts Club Band used essentially the same ingredients - reflection of youth culture in swinging London, sound effects and clever orchestrations, blending of theatricality and straightforward pop – but they did it much more originally and imaginatively, and with music that rocked much harder. The tables have turned: while until now pop was seen as sophisticated and rock`n`roll as juvenile, from here on rock would be the sound of profundity and sophistication, and the kind of pop that David Bowie offers here would be considered superficial. For the first and last time, Bowie would be out of tune with his times, and for many years later he preferred to make everyone forget that he ever made such silly music. Unlike his subsequent albums, this one was never reissued in all those times he repackaged and republished his back catalogue. It is also one of a handful Bowie albums that would have no impact on the history of pop.

But it did have some impact on Bowie`s career, because it did impress some people. Some radio producers liked what they heard and thought the style was unique, and the result was that Bowie started to be regularly invited to perform on radio shows, performances that helped him promote his next albums. Before the Ziggy period, this was the main outlet for Bowie to peddle his stuff. No less importantly, mime artist Lindsay Kemp was taken by the theatrical flair of the album, and invited Bowie to join his troupe. Working with Kemp would make Bowie an even more all-around entertainer, and was an important step in turning him into the artist we know.

next->

אין לקדם פוסט זה

הוספת תגובה

נשארו 150 תוים
נשארו 1500 תוים

2 תגובות

© כל הזכויות לתוכן המופיע בדף זה שייכות ל אלדינסיין אלא אם צויין אחרת