Posted: April 22, 2013
If ever there was a master of reinvention on the music scene it has to be David Bowie, pop star and cultural icon.
Our forthcoming online collection Popular Culture in Britain and America II
contains an incredible goldmine of printed and manuscript material, photographs and ephemera covering the 1950s to the 1970s. Included is a wonderful selection of photographs, documents and articles for many of the musicians and singers of the era including one of my pop heroes, David Bowie. Whilst working on the collection it was fascinating to be able to look at the photographs and relive the years when as a pop mad teenager I waited eagerly for a new record to be released by my idol of the moment and looked forward with great anticipation to the weekly edition of “Top of the Pops”. David Bowie was a regular in the 1970s!
David Bowie has never been far away from the public eye in his forty odd years in the music business but it would seem that the world has gone Bowie mad at the moment! He has recently released, to general acclaim, a new album called “The Next Day” after ten years out of the limelight and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London has just opened a sell-out exhibition entitled “David Bowie is.” The television also seems to be flooded with documentaries and features on the star.
David Bowie, born David Robert Jones, 8 January 1947, in Brixton, London developed a strong interest in music and dance from an early age and listened to records by artists such as Fats Domino, Elvis Presley and Little Richard. After attending technical college he formed a succession of bands. A photograph of one of these, The Mannish Boys
, is included in the collection showing the group posing outside BBC Television Centre in Shepherds Bush, London. This is a very different David Bowie from the eccentric figure he was to become, here seen in mod clothes with long straggly hair and not a hint of his future glamour. He had refused to cut his hair to appear on the music programme “Gadzooks! It’s All Happening” and organised demonstrations outside with banners like “Be Fair to Long Hair”.
By coincidence, the BBC Television Centre is also in the news at the moment! It closed in March this year after broadcasting programmes on the site since 1960.
Bowie changed his name from Jones to Bowie after a 19th century American frontiersman Jim Bowie and first caught the eye and ear of the public in 1969 singing “’Space Oddity” which became a big hit. It no doubt helped that the BBC used the single as background music to the Apollo moon landing. A photograph of him performing the song in May 1969 is included in the collection. Dressed in his flamboyant, brightly coloured, shiny top and shorts he cuts a very different figure from the other artists around at the time.
His most memorable persona was as Ziggy Stardust which produced one of his most famous singles, “Starman”, released in 1972. Dressed in wild costumes with dyed red hair he launched “the cult of Bowie” and became a superstar.
In 1974, he moved to the USA and experimented with soul and funk music.
The year 1976 introduced to the public a new Bowie character, the “Thin White Duke”, the title song of his album “Station to Station” and over the next years many other albums were released including “Scary Monsters” in 1980 which featured the much lauded song “Ashes to Ashes” which I love and was one of the songs from the 1980s used in the popular BBC series “Life on Mars”.
Over the next decade his music career languished somewhat and in 2004 he had a health scare when he had a heart attack on stage in Germany. In recent years he has worked with bands such as Arcade Fire from Canada (who I have seen several times and are fantastic) and with the actress Scarlett Johansson on her album.
Now he is back with an inspirational new album and the Bowie reinvention continues!
Like a musical chameleon, changing from one music style to another, it is practically impossible to find a popular artist who has not been influenced by David Bowie. His creativity has had a tremendous influence on not only music but also art, fashion and popular culture, and his contribution will be felt way beyond the 21st century.
Our new collection Popular Culture in Britain and America II
is a great source for other musicians and bands of the 50s through to the 70s, many of whom were inspired by the great David Bowie.
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