THE JULIO EXCLUSIVE: BOWIE IN THE STUDIO!

Recent Bowie sighting.

While I’m still assembling part 2 of my tribute to Adam Yauch and the Beastie Boys , I thought I’d pop in to drop off The Julio Exclusive: David Bowie is currently in the studio working on a new album!

My father works weekends down in the Manhattan neighborhood of NoLita, where Bowie and his family have made their home for several years now. Learning of this through a friend of friend from the neighborhood (I know, I know, you hear that phrase and want to call bullshit!) who runs a long-standing, popular Italian restaurant in the area—it turns out Bowie has had dinner nearly every night at this establishment (apparently he usually just gets it to-go from here) after putting in a long day’s work on a new album. At first I assumed that the recording was being done at the Philip Glass founded Looking Glass Studios, located only a few blocks north on Broadway and where Bowie (along with numerous others such as Beck, Bjork, The Cure, Lou Reed, Roger Waters, Patti Smith, and TV On The Radio) recorded several of his past albums, including 1999’s, ‘Hours…’; 2002’s, Heathen; and 2003’s, Reality. However, I’ve since learned that unfortunately due to the obscene and ever-increasing cost-per-square-foot of renting in Manhattan, after operating for 17 years Looking Glass Studios was forced to close its doors on February 21, 2009.

If this project comes to fruition, it will be Bowie’s first album since 2003’s Tony Visconti co-produced, Reality (and his 27th album overall). Coincidently, the cover story for the recent February issue of Rolling Stone was an excellent and well-researched article by Mikal Gilmore entitled: The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust, how David Bowie Changed the World.

Essentially, the article functioned as an in-depth retrospective on not only David Bowie’s incredible ascent to superstardom, but also an honest appreciation of this artist and innovator’s influence on culture at large. Amusingly, the article basically concludes by stating that since undergoing an emergency angioplasty in 2004 Bowie has effectively retired and become pretty much a recluse. Now, other than some sparse and sporadic guest appearances on other’s recordings (Scarlett Johansson’s 2008 album of Tom Waits covers, Anywhere I Lay My Head; TV on the Radio’s 2006 album, Return to Cookie Mountain) as well a rare, small-set live performance or two—Mikal Gilmore was correct…that is until now!

I, for one, am very eager to hear what the man has to contribute to the global/cultural dialogue of 2012-13, particularly when it overwhelmingly seems (although I know down in my gut that this isn’t true) that we have finally, fully embraced the words of Mark Hunter’s alter ego, “Happy Harry Hard-on” (portrayed by Christian Slater in 1990’s Pump Up the Volume): “Everything decent’s been done. All the great themes have been used up and turned into theme parks.”

art by Rex Ray, typography by Jonathan Barnbook

Bowie’s last album, Reality, was for the most part a captivating collection of dynamic rock songs and jazz-inflected ballads put on edge through a modern sense of the sophisticated paranoia required to live within a mega-city (I lost God in a New York minute/ Don’t know about you but my heart’s not in it, “Looking for Water”) bumping sentiments with both declarations of indebtedness for familial stability (I’m awake in an age of light living it because of you/ I’m looking at the future solid as a rock because of you, “Never Get Old”) and the poetic observations of a journalist doing his best to remain, if not optimistic, then at least able to take what he sees with a smile (There’s always a moron/Someone to hate/A corporate tie/A wig and a date, “Fall Dog Bombs the Moon”). Similar to his album of the year prior, Heathen, Reality was not another “Bowie flirts with-; inhabits-; pioneers- this genre and that style.” It was, however, a solid LP by a mature, singular talent presenting his exceptional craftsmanship for both songwriting and studio production. Additionally, unlike other contemporary musical masters of commentary-on-the condition-of-the-soul-in-the-post-modern-world—say Radiohead with their sonic probes of existential panic, or Trent Reznor’s disgust and intricate sounds of angst—Reality does contains some rather droll moments, and (as odd as it is to say about Halloween Jack and the Thin White Duke) has an every-man quality to it. No, it’s not his blue-jeans-and-flannel album, but many of the songs could be re-conceptualized as the passing thoughts of a middle-aged man while exiting the subway station and walking to work. No, it’s not his “best” album, but considering that to be so you’d have to compare it to Hunky Dory, Diamond Dogs, and Low—how could it be? It is, however, highly recommended.

For me, one of Reality’s standout tracks has always been the good-humored, kinetic, and reconstructed rendition of Masshole1* Jonathan Richman and his Modern Lovers’ 1972 (released in ’76) song: “Pablo Picasso

———————(Click To Listen)
David Bowie – vocals, guitar, keyboards, percussion, saxophone, stylophone, synthesizer
Tony Visconti – bass, guitar, keyboards, vocals
Sterling Campbell – drums
Gerry Leonard – guitar
Earl Slick – guitar
Mark Plati – bass, guitar
Mike Garson – piano
David Torn – guitar
Gail Ann Dorsey, Catherine Russell – backing vocals

 Like it? Buy it.

1* Masshole is a portmanteau of the words “Massachusetts” and “asshole,” used by in-state residents themselves as a term of affection.

[Quite the ladies’ man, a 61-year-old Pablo Picasso once told his 21-year-old mistress Françoise Gilot that he believed, “Women are machines for suffering.” The two went on to have a relationship that lasted nine years and produced two children, Claude and Paloma (Hudson, 2009).]

Portrait of Françoise Gilot by Pablo Piccaso, 1946

Another favorite from Reality, is its 1st single, “New Killer Star.” Thrust through twitch and glitch layers of sound, accompanied by an eerie, EBow generated loop by guitarist Gerry Leonard—the propulsive rhythm (the perambulating bass/guitar parts always reminding me of the Yukio Kaneoka composed theme music for the 2nd level of ColecoVision’s 1983 game Donkey Kong Jr. [2:01]) serves as a showcase for deftly arranged vocals and some of Bowie’s best lyrics in a career that has endured over four decades.

Below, check out the Brumby Boylston directed video for “New Killer Star” which makes novel use of the nostalgic lenticular-postcard:

See the great white scar

Over Battery Park

Then a flare glides over

But I won’t look at that scar

Oh, my nuclear baby (I discovered a star)

Oh, my idiot trance

All my idiot questions (like the stars in your eyes)

Let’s face the music and dance

Don’t ever say I’m ready, I’m ready, I’m ready

I never said I’m better, I’m better, I’m better

Don’t ever say I’m ready, I’m ready, I’m ready

I never said I’m better, I’m better, I’m better, I’m better than you

All the corners of the buildings

Who but we remember these?

The sidewalks and trees

I’m thinking now

(I got a better way) I discovered a star

(I got a better way) Ready set go

(I got a better way) A new killer star

(I got a better way) Ready set go

(I got a better way) The stars in your eyes

(I got a better way) Ready set go

(I got a better way) I discovered a star

(I got a better way) Ready set go

See my life in a comic

Like the way they did the bible

With the bubbles and action

The little details in color

First a horseback bomber (I discovered a star)

Just a small thin chance

Like seeing Jesus on dateline (like the stars in your eyes)

Let’s face the music and dance

Don’t ever say I’m ready, I’m ready, I’m ready

I never said I’m better, I’m better, I’m better

Don’t ever say I’m ready, I’m ready, I’m ready

I never said I’m better, I’m better, I’m better, I’m better than you

All the corners of the buildings

Who but we remember these?

The sidewalks and trees

I’m thinking now

(I got a better way) I discovered a star

(I got a better way) Ready set go

(I got a better way) A new killer star

(I got a better way) Ready set go

(I got a better way) The stars in your eyes

(I got a better way) Ready set go

(I got a better way) I discovered a star

(I got a better way) Ready set go

(I got a better way)

(I got a better way) Ready set go

(I got a better way)

(I got a better way) Ready set go

Ooo oo oooo

(I got a better way) Ready set go

(I got a better way)

Concerning the song’s message and meaning, which has been received as a cryptic reaction to NYC life post-September 11, 2001, Bowie has said: “I’m not a political commentator, but I think there are times when I’m stretched to at least implicate what’s happening politically in the songs that I’m writing. And there was some nod, in a very abstract way, toward the wrongs that are being made at the moment with the Middle Eastern situation. I think that song is a pretty good manifesto for the whole record” (Outside Organization, 2010).

One afternoon in June 2003, as a 56-year-old Bowie was in the process of completing Reality in time for its September 16th release date, he spoke with Rolling Stone’s Anthony DeCurtis and had this to say concerning the album’s title—and the songs’ intermittent allusions and moods of, if not necessarily posing specific questions in order to determine “what is reality” then at least attempting to sketch-out what these questions could possibly implicate on a more personal level of “reality”:

“It’s the old chestnut: what is real and what isn’t? It’s actually

 about who’s stolen this world. […] I honestly believe that my

initial questions haven’t changed at all. There are far fewer of

them these days, but they’re really important ones.

Questioning my spiritual life has always been germane to what

I was writing. Always. I don’t think that’s changed at all, because

it’s not a question that can be answered. It can only be re-posed

again and again throughout one’s lifetime.

“It’s because I’m not quite an atheist and it worries me.

There’s that little bit that holds on: ‘Well, I’m almost an atheist.

Give me a couple of months. [Laughs] I’m almost there now. I’ve

nearly got it right. There’s just one nagging thing. Once I shave that

off, we’ll be fine and dandy, and there won’t be any questions left.’

“It’s either my saving grace or a major problem that I’m

going to have to confront. […] [Reality] hints at [September 11]

but it’s not really trying to resolve any trauma.” (2005).

            Appropriately, as we are just about to hit the 9 year mark since this interview was conducted, DeCurtis concludes with the question: “What do you see yourself doing in the next few years?” The answer to which is actually pretty insightful to why Bowie has been effectively retired for nearly a decade:

“My priority is that I’ve stabilized my life to an extent now over

these past 10 years. I’m very at ease, and I like it. I never thought

I would be such a family-oriented guy; I didn’t think that was part

of my makeup. But somebody said that as you get older you

become the person you always should have been, and I feel that’s happening to me. I’m rather surprised at who I am, because I’m

actually like my dad! [Laughs]

“That’s the shock: All clichés are true. The years really do

speed by. Life really is as short as they tell you it is. And there

really is a God—so do I buy that one? If all the other clichés are

true… Hell, don’t pose me that one.

“So I’d like to think that in 10, 20 years time, I’ve been able

maintain a responsible and secure harbor for my child to grow

up in, and that I can still retain the closeness that I have with my

son from my first marriage. And that I’m good to my friends

and I’m good to the few members of my family that didn’t top

themselves. And that I can keep that kind of stability. That for

me is my priority.

“Work hopefully would bring more light and joy into that life,

but the life itself is the most important thing. Great if the work

also comes along, if I’m still writing. But if my writing takes a

nosedive and I either don’t want to do it or I feel I’m not good

at it anymore, I’ll just stop. I don’t have a problem with that.”

Then, just after the album’s release, Bowie participated in a question-and-answer type of discussion with comedian Ricky Gervais that touched upon the same issues, albeit with a much more prominent sense of humor:

Ricky Gervais: Both the new album and current tour are called “Reality.” Why is that, and do you think a man like yourself can keep the same reality as the rest of us or didn’t you have that in the first place?

David Bowie: “Reality” was among the first tracks that I wrote for this album and the word itself seemed a reasonable simulacrum for the various topics on the album. A bit of an arbitrary choice really. Of course, the reality thing is completely subjective. It’s all very well for those of us with an excess of cable channels to talk of no absolutes and synthetic realities and such, but some poor sod in South London with no rent money and not enough food to feed his family has a pretty good idea of what reality means to him.

Ricky Gervais: Does David Jones still exist anywhere and would he recognize you?

David Bowie: I will always be fundamentally just a Jones. The moment I close the door behind me, slip off my crushed velvet skateboard shorts and throw myself into our heated Olympic size, three level swimming pool, I think to myself, “Self, is there a Jones next door that I should be keeping up with?” And do you know something? There always is. Though actually it’s the Prestons in our case but you know what I mean (Gervais, 2003).

Oh, by the way, my pops also said to be on the lookout for Peter Doggett’s new book, The Man Who Sold the World: David Bowie and the 1970s.

This song-by-song analysis of Bowie’s creative output from 1969 to 1980 is by the same author of the engaging (again, according to my dad, I haven’t got around to reading it yet) You Never Give Me Your Money, a post-break-up forensic examination of “the battle for the soul of the Beatles.”

Well, I really hope this hearsay of mine pans out, because the world can always do with occasionally hearing Bowie’s point-of-view on things.

—————————————-(Click To Listen

Better take care

Think I better go, better get a room

Better take care of me

Again and again

I think about this and I think about personal history

Better take care

I breathe so deep when the movie gets real

When the star turns round

Again and again

He looks me in the eye says he’s got his mind on a countdown 3-2-1

Forever

I’m screaming that I’m gonna be living on till the end of time

Forever

The sky splits open to a dull red skull

My head hangs low ‘cause it’s all over now

And there’s never gonna be enough money

And there’s never gonna be enough drugs

And I’m never ever gonna get old

There’s never gonna be enough bullets

There’s never gonna be enough sex

And I’m never ever gonna get old

So I’m never ever gonna get high

And I’m never ever gonna get low

And I’m never ever gonna get old

Better take care

The moon flows on to the edges of the world because of you

Again and again

And I’m awake in an age of light living it because of you

Better take care

I’m looking at the future solid as a rock because of you

Again and again

Wanna be here and I wanna be there

Living just like you, living just like me

Forever

Putting on my gloves and bury my bones in the marshland

Forever

Think about my soul but I don’t need a thing just the ring of the bell in the pure clean air

And I’m running down the street of life

And I’m never gonna let you die

And I’m never ever gonna get old

And I’m never ever gonna get

I’m never ever gonna get

I’m never ever gonna get old

And I’m never ever gonna get

And I’m never ever gonna get

Never ever gonna get old

 

Like it? Buy it.

 ———————————-Bobby Calero————

Ref:

Bowie, D. (2003). Never Get Old. [[Recorded by David Bowie] On Reality [CD] Columbia. (2003).

Bowie, D. (2003) (Creator). p4phoenix (Poster) (2006, Aug 9). David Bowie – New Killer Star (MV) [Video] Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?fmt=18&gl=GB&hl=en-GB&v=M_KBqoktTl0

DeCurtis, A. (2005). In Other Words: artists talk about life and work. H. Leonard: Michigan.

Gervais, R. (2003, Sept. 21). Backbeat: Q&A. The Observer. Retrieved from http://www.bowiewonderworld.com/press/00/030921observer.htm

Hudson, M. (2009, Feb. 13.). Pablo Picasso’s love affair with women. The Telegraph UK. Retrieved from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/4610752/Pablo-Picassos-love-affair-with-women.html

Outside Organization. (2010). David Bowie Biography. Outside Organization. Retrieved from http://outside-org.co.uk/2010/12/david-bowie-biography-2/

Richman, J. (1972) Pablo Picasso [Recorded by David Bowie] On Reality [CD] Columbia. (2003).


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6 thoughts on “THE JULIO EXCLUSIVE: BOWIE IN THE STUDIO!

  1. Mike Fig says:

    hey bobby – really dig the journey your writing takes me on – and in this piece in particular; your baited breath of a new bowie album is not so dissimilar to a kid licking the window of an ice cream shop waiting for it to open on a saturday morning. although, i am fully of the belief that this piece ought to be accredited to mr. julio caleo. viva la resistance!

    fig

  2. nick says:

    Talk hard!

  3. […] seems that the rumor I reported here back in May of 2012 has now been substantiated, as this new song precedes the release of Bowie’s first album since […]

  4. I really desired to share this particular posting, “THE
    JULIO EXCLUSIVE: BOWIE IN THE STUDIO! | A Mouthful of Pennies” together with my best good
    friends on facebook .com. I reallysimply just needed to distributed ur
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  5. […] with assorted musicians in an Italian restaurant near a studio in the same area, as reported in the Julio Exclusive – a mouthful of pennies blog post . Then the licensing of the Bowie logo to a series of Primark retro t-shirts in December 2012 and […]

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