Category Archives: David Bowie

Spirit rose a meter and stepped aside: Celebrating David Bowie

Just one year ago today, David Bowie left us.

I’m nearly incredulous that it has already been a year in one moment, and in the next, I’m shocked that it hasn’t been longer…because it certainly feels that way.

I still read and hear pain when the band speaks of their loss in interviews I’ve seen and read. In one sense, I can imagine how they feel. I don’t know what that day will feel like, and I don’t want to know.  Nearly all of them have mentioned grappling with the mere notion that David Bowie is no longer with us.

I can remember going online that day, and seeing the heart wrenching tweets from friends and people I admire. The loss was palatable, and the space David left will never be filled.

We’ve had a year of Duran Duran touring and incorporating Space Oddity into their shows, celebrating David Bowie. My own daughter (my youngest) thinks that it’s a Duran Duran song because she saw them play it live at her first concert this summer. There is still a sense of melancholy, and great love and respect when they segue from Planet Earth to Space Oddity during the show, with David Bowie, “bigger than life” looking  on behind them. As strange as it might seem, I’ve enjoyed Duran doing the song – sharing their love and influence with the rest of us, letting us in to help in some small way, shoulder their loss. Our loss, really.

This past weekend, Simon took part in a very special show at Brixton Academy in London, on what would have been David’s 70th birthday.  “Celebrating David Bowie with Gary Oldman and Friends” was a show featuring David’s band, along with a myriad of special guests, including Simon, members of Spandau Ballet, Joe Elliott of Def Leppard, and Mr. Hudson. For Simon’s part, he performed “Let’s Dance”.

I didn’t watch all the videos for the show, but you BET I watched Simon’s. If you want to catch any of them, check out NME’s wonderful article and collection of videos, including the entire setlist.  Rest assured, Simon sounded fantastic and strong. While I watched him perform, he seemed so proud to be up there, maybe even reverent. Even from here, I was proud to see him knock that song out of the park.  I thought about how music heals, and how much deep love and respect these musicians have for David Bowie.

People often say that these people never completely leave us, that the music stays with us forever, and it is their gift.  Sometimes that thought comforts and other times, it feels like a huge cliché. I’m not going to lie, the thought does very little to quell my own fear of loss. I learned early on in my life to make sure that the people I love most know how I feel – which is really hard to do when it is a band like Duran Duran. The complexity of the “fan” thing tends to get in the way as much as it brought me to them to begin with. However,  we all do love and treasure them, in very much the same way as they do Bowie. We can only hope they know.

During a year where many of us have lost idols and artists we love and respect, seeing Simon—and all of Duran Duran, really—pay respect to their own idol, has taught me a lot about grace, love and celebrating one’s idols.

-R

I Feel A Void: Lady Gaga’s Tribute to Bowie

Yeah, I saw Lady Gaga last night. After realizing I wasn’t going to be at home in time to catch the beginning and a quick text home, I knew I’d be playing with the fast-forward button on my DVR in order to squeeze in the more interesting parts of the Grammy Awards into my evening TV plans. Rest assured, Lady Gaga and Nile were on the top of that list.

Naturally, I watched some of the rest of the awards show as well. I don’t know about anyone else, but it very much felt like a LACK of awards show, and much more about just performances, which is fine…I guess…but it was strange to be five minutes into the broadcast and have LL Cool J announce that Lamar Kendrick had already won five awards. What the hell?  Maybe that’s just me.

As I continued fast forwarding whenever possible, I finally got to the Bowie tribute. Here is where things get tricky for me. First of all, I wouldn’t dare call myself a huge Bowie fan. I have dear friends who are huge Bowie fans, and it would be unfair to put myself in that same category. I will say that I have become far more of a fan since his passing, and that’s probably a subject for a much different blog post that has more to do with art than fandom. Moving on…

Performing something called a tribute is a very difficult balancing act. The goal of course is to honor the artist. That artist might be honored posthumously, as in the case of David Bowie…or they might be watching in person, as in the case of Lionel Richie last night. Either way, I truly believe that the people performing do so in an attempt to honor.  Do fair justice and respect to the work without making the performance about you (the performer) when it should be about the artist being honored. Make it too much about the person you’re honoring, and it can end up looking like a mockery of the very person(s) you’re trying to honor.

This goes as much for tribute bands, who make a living (or try to do so!) playing onstage in the persona of the band/artist they honor as it would for something like the Grammy’s where a huge portion of the show was dedicated to tributes (like last night). When I go to see a tribute band (I go often and have seen many, from Elvis and the Beatles to Oingo Boingo, Depeche Mode and Duran Duran to name but a few), the acts that are the most successful are the ones that take it seriously without going over the edge into ridiculous. Make too many jokes about the band you’re paying tribute to – and you’ve just taken that down a road that fans will not like. Play too much like your real-self, changing the original music and arrangements to suit your own taste, and you’re just a cover band, which is fine, but don’t call yourself a tribute act. There’s always a fine line to walk, and many bands do not do it well.

So, with that in mind, I watched intently as Lady Gaga’s face appeared on my TV screen and became painted like the Starman. She came on stage with beautiful red-hair and sang incredibly.  Had she just done that: relied on her voice, her obvious love for Bowie’s style, music and art, I think it would have been fine, I really do. But somewhere along the line, either she decided or someone told her that she should try to completely embody Bowie. And that’s where it all went wrong for me. I am not even a huge Bowie fan, and yet I couldn’t help feeling as though I was watching a poorly executed Vegas act in certain moments of the performance. It wasn’t her voice, gosh no. She was incredibly strong and did a beautiful job. It was theatrics that really got me. No one need point out that Bowie himself was theatrical. Believe me, the point has not been overlooked. The problem is, in recreating that drama, it felt very over-the-top, sliding down the steep terrain into mockery. It was pointed out to me by Katy Krassner that she really didn’t seem to be doing that intentionally (and I am sure she wasn’t), but I struggled with how to describe it all.  Campy is the right word. Picture a Vegas lounge act, and I think we’re on the right track.

Here’s the thing, at least for me: Lady Gaga sang beautifully last night. I want to make sure that point comes across. As much as I disliked and was confused by what was going on visually, her voice completely blew me away. I really don’t know that they could have found anyone else to do the job as well when it came to singing the songs. I loved seeing Nile every time he was given precious camera time, and I was thrilled to hear just a few bars of “Let’s Dance”.  I just don’t understand why her voice and Nile’s obvious talent and emotion for his friend weren’t enough without the theatrics.

The difference between Gaga and Bowie comes down to artistry. Bowie just knew how to make it all work together without one overshadowing the other, and he did it with ease. Bowie’s work never really looked like he was forcing it into being a spectacle, in my opinion. Even at the time of his death and in the making of the videos for “Blackstar” and “Lazarus”, he was able to work in those deep, hidden messages without changing the intention of his work. Hell, I fell in love with Lazarus before I even realized what it was truly about. That it ended up being this lasting message to fans about the end of his life on this earth, and the idea that he made his death into this gorgeous supernova which becomes a black star (another word for a black hole) that will live on, just makes me long for more. (I could write and talk for hours about that single album and its artistic references. I mean, the man turned his death into a fucking multimedia event. Who does that?!?) When Bowie sang Starman, for instance, it wasn’t campy or in danger of becoming a late-night lounge act on the Vegas strip. It was just enough without going over the edge. That’s where the real art lies, and for me, that’s what last night’s performance was missing.

I’ll end with this thought: should the day come when it is Duran Duran being honored, I would hope that it would be done with the utmost in care and respect. I don’t need to see a full-mock up of the yacht from Rio, military suits, tigers, leopards, or a scene from Wild Boys on stage to honor them. I simply want to see respect from an industry that has offered them very, very little over the years. I would think that is all any fan would want.

-R

Somebody Else Took His Place and Cried, “I’m a blackstar!”

Has anyone seen the petition going around to stop Kanye West from recording a David Bowie tribute album?

I’ve seen the petition circulating, and while I admit I chuckled at the very idea, I also didn’t consider signing, even for a short second.

Let’s consider what music really is, to begin. Music is a performing or performance art. Whether one is writing the music, performing it, or doing both – art is being created. So then, what’s art? Merriam-Webster says it’s something that is created with imagination and skill; and that is beautiful or that expresses important ideas or feelings.  Herein the struggle lies, and why music and art critics (and appraisers and/or valuation experts) have jobs…who decides what counts as imaginative, or skillful? How about beauty? It’s all pure opinion. Nothing more, nothing less. Sure, there are certain foundations of art that have been (mostly) agreed upon by the masses over the years, even so, it still comes down to basic opinion…and oddly, that opinion can change over time!

Before I continue, let me be forthright: I am not a fan of Kanye West. Unlike many, I don’t find his art to be particularly…well….good. It doesn’t bother me that all members of Duran Duran like him, or that Mr. Hudson worked with him in the past and apparently uttered the words, “Kanye-approved” at least a few times during the recording of Paper Gods. I’m gonna let that go for now. The point is, his work isn’t of my interest, and as someone pointed out last night, he’s gotten along just fine without me to this point…and I him, I might add. That said, like it or not, it’s still art…and my opinion of him is just that. He still has the right to create.

Which leads me to this: who are we to decide what IS or is NOT worthy of being created? That is a very different thing from deciding not to support one artist or another…we are talking about a petition that is saying someone doesn’t even (or shouldn’t even) have the right to create. Who is to say it wouldn’t be another artist or band next…because once that floodgate is opened….who is really going to be able to shut it?

I have no doubt that the person who created this petition didn’t really think it through. In fact, I’d love to find them and interview them for Daily Duranie because I think there’s much to be learned from a short, colorful trip through that person’s head. I’m sure that person, likely a huge fan of David Bowie’s, stood back, shook his head at the idea of Kanye recording a tribute, using David Bowie’s music, and said, “No way.”  I can understand at least that much. After all, I lived through the comments from fans about a certain Duran Duran tribute album last year as I promoted the work here on the blog. People seem to get their knickers in a twist when art they love is reimagined into something entirely different. The trouble is, who are we really to decide what and/or who is worthy to reimagine or become a part of the conversation?? And…if that alone doesn’t grab you, let me stir the pot in another way: What if it were Duran Duran?  Just imagine a scenario where someone decided they were sick of Duran Duran, and didn’t want them to ever cover another David Bowie song, and started a petition?  Here’s the thing: once we allow a petition like this to happen for one artist, it could happen for anyone, anywhere. There would be petitions popping up everywhere limiting who or what could be created or recreated, and instead of art being organically sculpted by the imagination in one’s head – the opposite would be happening. Organizations would be deciding what might be more pleasing to the masses and encouraging that kind of art and perhaps not allowing others. Fascinating.  Doesn’t that sound vaguely familiar to what labels already do???

Interesting.

One more thought – what about David Bowie himself? After all, it is his work we’re talking about, isn’t it? Would David Bowie want a petition to decide who and when his work could be used as inspiration? I doubt it. I highly, highly doubt it. After all, above all else, David Bowie was an artist. A creator. For much of his career, his own work was criticized and known to shock. That’s what art DOES. It provokes a profoundly deep, emotional response.  This petition is effectively saying that after his death, we agree to put his work on a pedestal and not allow anyone else to enter into that narrative unless agreed upon by the masses. That, my friends, is the opposite of art.

This just isn’t a bus I’m getting on. At the precise moment we as a society decide that we have the right to tell someone what kind of art they can create, we’ve completely lost the full definition of what art really IS. If one really wants their voice heard, don’t buy the album – should it really happen, don’t support Kanye West as an artist if one so chooses…but don’t stop someone from being creative, and certainly not in the name of David Bowie.

-R

Duran Duran Celebrating David Bowie

It has been a week.  My thoughts and feelings mirror many of the posts, tweets, messages I have seen, sent, and read since Monday.  I’m exhausted.  Mentally.  Certainly emotionally.  I feel very heavy and like I’m struggling to swim upstream.  This, of course, is common when is grieving, even if that person or persons are not known to us, personally.  This week, the world lost two greats in David Bowie and Alan Rickman due to the horrific disease of cancer and many of us are truly still mourning the loss.  Yesterday, Rhonda blogged about her emotional connection to Alan Rickman and the Harry Potter fandom.  While I do not share that specific fandom, I still get it.  I truly get it.  I understand how tough it is to lose someone who is a significant focus of a fandom one belongs to.  While David Bowie might not have been the focus of Duran Duran fandom.  He certainly had a direct connection.  Since after all, it is probably safe to say that if there was no David Bowie, there would be no Duran Duran.  He inspired them.  He motivated them to not only form a band but to form the kind of band they are.  His influence cannot be measured.  Yet, it remains so evident, so clear in so much of what Duran has done and continues to do.

The love that Duran Duran has for David Bowie is so strong that they have covered his music more than anyone else, I believe.  They love the music so much that they wanted to recreate it for themselves, to show the world how much the songs meant to them, or at least this is how I’m interpreting their choice to cover Bowie music.  Over Duran’s career, they have, in fact, covered 5 David Bowie songs.  One thing I have learned in my  life is how important it is to celebrate someone you have lost.  Thus, it seems fitting to me to celebrate David Bowie and his influence on Duran Duran by checking out those 5 cover songs.

Fame

Duran Duran included their cover of the song, Fame, as the b-side to their second single, Careless Memories, in 1981.

While they did, indeed, play this song live.  I could not find a live clip of it.  Therefore, I chose a montage video.

Diamond Dogs

Duran Duran released this cover on the Japanese version of their Thank You album in 1995.

I do not believe that they ever played this song live.

Rebel Rebel

This cover was played live and during TV/promotional appearances during the Thank You era of 1995.  It never appeared on an official release, which is really unfortunate.

This clip is from 1995 at a Hard Rock Live performance.

Boys Keep Swinging

After the Thank You era, which focused on cover songs, Duran Duran seemed to take a very long break from covering other artists’ work.  They broke out from this break to record Boys Keep Swinging for the album, We Were So Turned On:  A Tribute to David Bowie, released in 2010.  This song was available as a limited edition 7″ vinyl single as well as a download.

They did not play it live much, but they did play it for the Fendi private party in 2010 as seen above.

Here is the recorded version as well:

Starman

Duran Duran played this song live in Greece in the summer of 2012 to commemorate Bowie’s first performance of the song on the UK’s Top of the Pops TV show in 1972.

Personally, I would love to see them perform this one live…perhaps in..say..the summer of 2016!!

The loss of David Bowie is immeasurable.  I, for one, am thankful that his work, his music lives on and that we can all celebrate him forever.

-A

 

 

 

 

Loving the Alien Lives On

I woke up this morning feeling like I’d been run over. I couldn’t figure it out because I went to bed at a reasonable time and slept very well – which is unlike me. Usually I wake up several times, but not last night. I hurried to get dressed, because I was also late…and rushed to get the youngest ready for the day and out the door. At some point before leaving, I looked at my phone and felt that feeling of dread come over me when I saw my news feed still commanded by post after post in tribute to David Bowie.

That familiar sinking feeling returned as I saw so many of my friends clearly in pain and mourning. My heart nearly broke as I read posts from dear friends as well as from people such as Martin Gore (Depeche Mode), Michael Stipe (REM) on Facebook, and even Conan O’Brien, covered on the Huffington Post. Dealing with the loss of a legendary artist like Bowie is tough enough – he really WAS The Beatles of the 80s (as my favorite New Wave experts Lori Majewski and Jonathan Bernstein wrote in their Yahoo! Music article today), but seeing people you love, admire and care about grieve is a different thing entirely.

David Bowie is everywhere today. He’s all over the iTunes music charts, thanks to an-ever familiar surge in “after death” sales that nearly always occurs – and this is nothing to be sad about. I’ve seen a few lament over the fact that it’s taken death for people to buy his art. I say, as an arts appraiser – that this is the market. I wouldn’t look at it as being sad. It’s a silver lining. David’s music will live on. His music, his image, his ability to reinvent himself over and over again and never rest on his laurels, will continue to inspire for many generations to come. That, my friends, is a gift. Be sad that a man died. Be sad that there is no real cure for cancer, or that his wife and children will be grieving long after you and I get on with our lives, but don’t be sad that David Bowie’s music is being discovered by people who may not have paid attention previously – myself included. Last night my husband and I went through our vinyl collection and pulled out some Bowie albums we haven’t listened to in years. Yesterday, I bought Blackstar. Sure, I’d planned to buy it anyway – but hearing he’d died reminded me to get it. So I did.  Today, I’m listening to a greatest hits playlist on Spotify, with songs on it that I’d nearly forgotten about. (As an aside, I’m finding that I listened to FAR more Bowie over the years than I ever realized as I go through his collection….) None of that is bad, in fact, I applaud it.

Still others scoff, saying that today’s generation of music makers won’t be listening to Bowie – they listen to the radio, filled with monstrosity like rap and auto-tuned “fast food” varieties of music that continue to be churned from labels. Artists like that won’t be influenced by true artists like Bowie, and kids who listen to those types of artists obviously won’t be influenced either. I disagree completely. I might not be able to hear it, and I might not be able to see it – but that doesn’t mean the influence doesn’t exist. Just yesterday I’d read a quote from Kanye West of all people, saying that he owes Bowie for much of his musical inspiration.  Kanye is about as far out of my musical realm as it gets, to be fair, but I can’t help but applaud the example. After all, who is to say that some 8-year little girl old didn’t, for example, hear “Lazarus” yesterday when her mom was writing a blog and say “Wow Mom, I love his voice.” and then try to copy the sound herself? Or maybe she saw the video for “Blackstar” and then asked to see “Space Oddity” and marveled over the way he looked and sounded? We just don’t know where the influence will come from, or how it might affect future artists. As cynical as I can be about music, the industry and even art in general at times, I refuse to believe Bowie’s influence won’t continue in some fashion. I think we get ourselves into trouble when we start convincing ourselves that inspiration doesn’t flow from generation to generation, and that nothing from our own era has come through because it was simply just “too good”, and music has gone straight downhill from there.  That’s one slippery slope.

There’s no arguing the fact that music will never be the same. When you lose a family member, there’s no replacing them in the same exact way.  For us, the children of the 80’s, the music lovers, the fans…Bowie was family, whether he was extended family or the head of our musical “household”. Even so, music will go on. Life goes on. The permanence remains.

That’s when it hits me: I must be grieving. That feeling of exhaustion and pain is one I’m familiar with, although I didn’t honestly expect to feel that way from something like this. You see, David Bowie was never a favorite of mine in the way that he was for some of you – and I really do feel for each of you in a way I really can’t put into words. I am so sorry.  Grief has a horribly ironically funny way of sneaking up when you least expect.

A friend suggested I listen to his music, certain that I will find something within to touch me – and I have. His hand, whether by physical touch or inspiration, was involved in nearly everything I love in life. The grief, sorrow and loss of my friends, my heroes, and the people I love is also my own.

-R

Goodbye David Bowie, Starman

RIP David Bowie

1947-2016

In a lot of ways, I’m really not sure there’s anything else for me to write…I am certain I can hardly do David Bowie, of all people, any sort of justice with my writing…but I will try.

I was just tweeting with someone about David Bowie last week. We had watched “Lazarus”, which oddly enough, I found to be one of the most artful videos I’ve seen in a very long time. (No, that doesn’t mean that I think “Pressure Off” is terrible, or that it’s not art. That’s ridiculous!) The video is haunting, and scary, and I thought about it for days afterward.  The figure of Bowie in his bed, a hand reaching from under the bed in a sort of grim reaper fashion, The way we are looking down upon him or he upon us…the video is filled with all sorts of imagery and is definitely an allegory. Who really knew, besides Bowie, that Lazarus would be his goodbye – his parting video shot – at the world? Genius.

The person I was tweeting with at the time had met Bowie, and very much considers him a hero. I pondered that, having read many times over the years that meeting your heroes or idols was always a let down.  I highly doubt that I’d have felt that way upon meeting David Bowie…or members of Duran Duran for that matter. They are people I very much admire. Fallible, beautifully gifted, wonderfully flawed, people. I thought about that as I read with wonder about this person’s experience. I really appreciate reading stories about someone meeting their hero – it’s that fandom researcher in me, I suspect.

There’s really no huge point to this little story aside from the fact that I think to at least some extent, Bowie was to Duran Duran what Duran Duran is to their own fans. I might add, it is heart-wrenching to see idols lose their own hero.

So with that in mind, today’s news – which naturally I didn’t read about until about 8 hours after it was announced, thanks to Pacific Standard Time – must be incredibly sad and devastating to Duran Duran.  Nick shared the following on duranduran.com:

“He fed us pure inspiration, beautifully strange and always unpredictable, yet somehow everything made perfect sense. No other musician was more influential for our generation.

David was a pioneer, an inventor, a space traveller, a superhero, a truly astonishing songwriter and a friend.

It’s hard to imagine that any artist will ever leave more musical and cultural treasure behind.

Thank you for letting us share your journey DB. We’ll miss you more than you’ll ever know.” 

– Nick Rhodes, London, January 11, 2016

Beautiful words. Far better than I could have strung together at such a time, to be sure.

Once again, I found myself tweeting with someone this morning as I sat staring at Twitter saying, “Nooooo….couldn’t be.”   This person, who I am hoping doesn’t mind being anonymously quoted (if you’re reading, your words were perfect. I had to include them.) “[Bowie had] the capacity to change who he was without losing his personality…The main inspiration Bowie left others is that change is not only good, it is essential to artistic survival.

Ever have a light bulb go on so brightly you can’t help but notice what you’d been failing to see all along? It was that moment for me this morning. Admittedly, I never made that connection with Bowie and Duran Duran. (I miss things. Obvious things, sometimes…because I’m too busy reading between the lines!) For all of the strife involved every time Duran Duran puts out a new album and the core fan base has to readjust their thinking, you can’t help but admire them for taking that cue from Bowie. And today they mourn his passing. Idols saying goodbye to their own idol, or hero.  We look to Duran Duran, as we always do, for some way to trudge forward. Nick’s words were a comfort (as they typically are). Yet I feel like we should be consoling them. In the same turn, I realize that if they feel even half as strongly about Bowie as we do them, there is little that can be done to console.

So, as is also typical, I turn to the music. I re-watch “Lazarus”, trying to see the message that is clearly being left behind.  What once haunted me now has me captivated. Of course it is a goodbye. Of course Bowie is trying to tell us his time is limited and that this is his final parting message.

As my Twitter friend eloquently stated, the inspiration that was left behind will live on through artists like Duran Duran. The ability to completely reinvent himself without losing his personality – the essence of what David Bowie really IS  or WAS – will live on and continue to inspire.

What a gift.

-R