At the time of this article, David Bowie had released three albums without too much success. In December of the year 1971 he would release his fourth album, Hunky Dory, his most successful album yet and an album that would be recognised as one of his best. His signature song “Life on Mars?” would feature on the coming album, a song that may be one of music history`s most recognisable among the millions of songs created.
Great work there, Mr. Bowie.
Confessions of a disillusioned old rocker
By Steve Peacock
In something like rock, which is dominated at the moment by people who are either concerned with gaining respect and recognition for the validity of their intentions or with defining the problems within and around itself, the odd clown doesn`t come amiss. You have to be able to laugh at yourself, and if you don`t there has to be someone around to give you`re pretentions a bop with a purple pig`s bladder – otherwise you never find out which are pretentions and which work.
But the trouble with most of the rock and roll clowns is that they rarely relate too much to rock and roll – like Freddie and the Dreamers, who were basically stand-up comics with music. The Bonzo Dog Band worked, because they mixed their insanity with perfect parody and a sharp insight into the subjects they chose to ridicule; if you heard them doing a blues or something, it was so right that it helped you step back and revalue all those white suburban bands singing about the cottonfields.
In a slightly different way, David Bowie works on the same principle. Listening to the tracks he has recorded for his next album and seeing him on stage, you know that he is a writer and performer of considerable skill; but off stage Bowie the person has no illusions.
“I`m not writing very deeply at the moment,” he says as he sits in the opulent surroundings of his manager`s office in Regent Street. “I`m just picking up on what other people say, writing it down, and making songs out of it. I`m not thinking for myself any more, because I decided that everything I write sounds very much like what everybody else writes. So I decided to cut out the middle-man – me – and go straight to the source of what I`m talking about.
“I`d rather retain the position of being a photostat machine with an image, because I think most songwriters are anyway: I don`t think there are many independent-thinking songwriters, they`re all very heavily influenced, far more than in any other form of writing.”
Because it`s such a fast-moving thing? “Because it`s such a disposable medium, that`s why. Because you can say things and if they`re not studied or talked through great analytical study, they`ll survive for a few weeks and seem quite prophetic, and quite studied and deep. That`s the fun of the pop-biz, it`s so un-serious and un-together – an art form of indifference, with no permanent philosophy behind it whatsoever.
“I don`t listen to rock music, you see. I`m not very musical and I find music just a platform for my own fringe lunacies of thought. I think very methodically and very much like anybody else off stage – in quotes – but on stage I just give it the benefit of the doubt and give it everything I`ve got that happens to be tucked away in the recesses of my mind. My songwriting is certainly not an accurate picture of how I think at all.”
Was there any way he felt he could present such a picture? “It`s not really worth it because I`m incredibly ordinary. I don`t think that people want to pay good, hard-earned, capitalist money to know what I really think. In fact I don`t know why you bother with me when you`ve got John Lennon who is an astounding person – I mean as a guy; possibly the last remaining existentialist that`s around, definitely not a hippy, could possibly be a beatnik. He`s old school, and I adore him because of that, because I`m very influenced by the old school. My brother turned me on to all that – Kerouac and all those – before… before flower-power hit me.” He laughs at the memory.
“You see, I always thought life was wonderful, I didn`t realise everything was so bad until everybody told me. They`re all so serious today.”
LOT OF FUN
So why was he in it at all? “Well I`m not you see, I`m in the very fortunate position where I don`t consider myself in music, so I don`t have to worry about who I compare with or who I`m like, because I`m not like anybody else. So I have a lot of fun just being me. I don`t study it, and I`m not an avid follower of anything much. I never have wanted to consider myself in the rock business too much.”
He feels he`s in a good position, with managers and people who pay his rent and expenses so he can spend time with his wife and child, write songs, make records, and generally mess about doing things that interest him at the time. He wouldn`t say that the idea of dedicating himself to rock music, gigging every night and doing all that bit, appealed to him.
“It must be increasingly obvious,” he says, “that it`s just a road to nowhere. It`s become the new extension of factory work, or no-one joins the army any more, you join a group, and you have roadies that are sergeant-majors and you go out on fatigues to gigs, and wear a uniform. And our Achilles heel is our brainpower, which is practically non-existent, and centres entirely around sex and drugs. I understand it`s very lucrative if you make it.”
Once upon a time, David Bowie was a rock and roll singer. He didn`t much like singing other people`s songs, though he doesn`t mind now, so he started writing his own. So he was a songwriter.
“I suppose I`m a disillusioned old rocker. I`m sure that if I`d made it I would have adored it all – all the gold lame and everything, it would have been fabulous. Then I found myself in a mime company, that made me a clown, and I came out of it a clown/songwriter.”
I have personally transcribed this from the original paper. Any errors in the text from the original magazine may not have been corrected for the sake of accuracy. If you have a music-related web-page where this fits – please make a link to the article. With credits to the original writer of the article from all of us music fans!
This number of Sounds also contains articles/interviews with these people: Alun Davies, Roger McGuinn, Rev. Gary Davis, Judy Collins, Ottilie Patterson, Gentle Giant, Black Sabbath, Moby Grape, Henry McCullough, Marc Bolan, Yes, Led Zeppelin, Family, ELP, Jethro Tull, Grease Band, Osibisa, Strawbs, Pink Floyd, Mimi Farina.
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