This one points the finger on a well-known phenomenon; the love that critics have for the latest fad. It is still a problem today. One of the reasons that I love rock is that it is music that doesn`t follow any trends. Rock is rock – whatever the year and whatever is the latest style of music in fashion among radio DJs. Apart from maybe a short period in the 80s, rock musicians didn`t play rock to conquer the single lists. Rock is a universe of feelings and expressions that a lot of people might like if they got the chance to listen to it. Rock is eternal. I think the one thing that radio programmers totally don`t understand, is that there are several generations and millions of people out there that never get to hear their favourite music on the radio. Instead, they find other outlets, specialised radio channels playing “their” kind of music, concerts and YouTube. Some of us still buy records on vinyl and CD. And we are not only people aged 45+, there are lots of people in the younger generations continuing this great tradition of listening to rock. Eternal music like Bowie`s music – not the latest nursery rhyme appealing to 16-year old girls. Rant over!
Pssst! Wanna know a secret?
By Bob Edmands
Forget about the fact that his six-year-old “Space Oddity” is back in the NME Charts for the third time round, do you wanna know a secret about David Bowie? A real juicy, lip-smacking, all-revealing, red-hot chunk of inside info?
You were intrigued when Bowie revealed he was AC/DC, right?
Wait till you hear this. This`ll knock ya over. Gather round.
The thing is: Bowie`s just had a number one single in the States. With “Fame”. You know that soul riff tucked unobtrusively at the back end of the “Young Americans” album, partly attributed to John Lennon? The same.
Okay, so you can read the Cashbox charts for yourself, wise guy.
But if it ain`t a secret, it`s the next best thing.
Bowie knows about it. America knows about it. But if the British rock establishment, the DJs and the rock press, know about it, they`re not exactly shooting their mouths off.
How else do you explain the widespread indifference towards Bowie`s success? The fact that RCA need to reissue a six-year-old single to get positive chart action in the UK?
Not to mention ignorance of the calibre found in the Sunday Times guide to rock currently on offer in their colour supplement.
Quote from same: “Once instrumental in reactivating the ailing careers of demi-gods (sic) Lou Reed and Iggy Stooge, Bowie now finds himself paradoxically in decline”.
If a number one single in the States is decline, then that certainly is paradoxical.
Alright, so you don`t expect a quality Sunday to be a thousand per cent accurate with ephemera like rock music. But what about yer actual rock press?
When Pete Wingfield`s “Eighteen With A Bullet” was indeed 18 with a bullet in the soul chart, this fact was duly recorded. But what about Bowie? No less remarkably, “Fame” was also on the soul chart. At the time of writing, it moved from 20 to 18.
It used to be that you couldn`t open a British rock paper without Bowie looming large.
Thousand of words of interviews, reviews, analysis, gossip, and abuse poured hot from the presses every week. Quite apart from crotch shots of the Bowie hot pants and the like.
Those days, it was saturation coverage at its wettest. And Bowie was a smaller star, then, too.
So, how come the romance is over?
The superficial answer is simple, if dumb.
Bowie`s in America, see. And the British DJs and the British rock journalists, they`re – well – they`re in Britain.
Get me? Which means that essential rapport is no longer there. See?
In other words, outta sight, outta mind, outta favour. Rock fans are as fickle and parochial as teenyboppers.
Think back: what was the pop music story that Fleet Street covered the week Bowie went to number one in the States? Yep, the Rollers being ignored in New York.
The logic is this: The Rollers are what`s happening in the UK now. Bowie is over the hill in Britain, and regardless of what he`s doing in the States, he`s no longer news.
And, as much as the rock press and the DJs pay lip-service to American music values, that logic applies with them, too.
But this explanation is not entirely adequate.
UK rock acts with American chart action usually gain in prestige back home; success there means more press coverage and airtime and sales here, Robin Trower and the Average White Band being recent cases in point.
It can hardly be claimed that Bowie`s success in the States took people by surprise. “Aladdin Sane” was Top 20 there. So was “Diamond Dogs”. “Ziggy Stardust” has sold steadily enough to go gold. The “Young Americans” album has been on the charts 30 weeks. That went gold, two months ago.
So is there another reason why Bowie is getting an unprecedented cold shoulder at home?
No doubt the hordes of Bowie sycophants felt betrayed when he departed to the States. He was their boy. The creation of their reviews and airplays, their labours of love at the typewriter and the turntable. So screw him if he was jilting them.
One record company theorist put it this way: “There was no longer any point in sucking up, with no one here to suck.”
Was it merely coincidence that the really bad reviews of Bowie product began with his departure to the colonies?
(This writer wasn`t overfond of Bowie in the first place. But, in all honesty, “Bowie Live” sounds like one of the raunchiest live sets since “Get Yer Ya-Yas Out”, and “Young Americans” an even more perfect marriage of rock and soul than the Average Whites).
It`ll be interesting to see the reaction if, say, Bowie tours here next year with his hot new band, his hot new product, and his hot new movie.
All his artistic and career ambitions will have been fulfilled.
Will the prayer mats be dusted off, ready for the lapsed faithful to prostrate themselves again?
I have personally transcribed this from the original paper and you are free to use it as you like. If you use it on your own webpages – please credit me or put up a link to my blog.
This number of New Musical Express also contains articles/interviews with these people: Black Sabbath, Elton John, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Roxy Music, I Roy, Steve Hackett, Milt Jackson, Mason, Larry Coryell.
This edition is sold!