Category Archives: Scott Weiland

THE DEMISE OF THE MASK (VOL 12)__VEHICLES OF CONVEYANCE___

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If you dig the mix then please feel free to pass & post it along; if you dig an artist then please support them and go out and pick up some of their stuff. Oh, If you dig the blog overall there’s always the “FOLLOW BLOG VIA EMAIL” button somewhere down at the bottom

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__The Demise Of The Mask (Vol 12)__Vehicles of Conveyance___
  • India – Roxy Music
  • 3 Legs (Thrillington version) – Percy “Thrills” Thrillington (Paul McCartney)
  • Higher – Rihanna
  • Cheshire Cat Cry – Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band
  • Wayward – Anon (aka Wynn)
  • It Is Obvious – Syd Barrett
  • 3 Legs – Paul & Linda McCartney
  • The Terror/You Are Alone/Butterfly, How Long It Takes To Die – The Flaming Lips
  • The Best Is Yet To Come – Bob Dylan (composed by Cy Coleman, lyrics by Carolyn Leigh)
  • Let Me Be – Parliament
  • Steer Your Way – Leonard Cohen
  • Sister I Need Wine – Guided By Voices
  • Cool Papa Bell – Paul Simon
  • Fekete Beat – Sarolta Zalatnay
  • Big Black Monster – Scott Weiland
  • Star Dream Girl – David Lynch
  • Wampyr (finale) – Goblin
  • Beware Of Darkness – Leon Russell (George Harrison cover)
  • Bluebird of Delhi (Mynah) – Duke Ellington And His Famous Orchestra
  • The Day I Tried To Live – Soundgarden 
  • Goodbye – Anon (aka Wynn)
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Hello All.

Welcome to Volume Twelve of the MixTape series: The Demise Of The Mask. –(Volume One here)__(Volume Two here)__(Volume Three here)__(Volume Four here)__(Volume Five here)__(Volume Six here)__(Volume Seven here)__(Volume Eight here)__(Volume Nine here)__(Volume Ten here)__(Volume Eleven here)-

I do hope you dig this here MixTape as it features some fine, fine music! There’s a couple of selections from the album Universe. Envisioned and created by an artist that alternately goes by the monikers Wynn, W.Y.N.N., and ANON, Universe is an assemblage of brief bursts, soundscapes, scrapes, sodden ambiance, demented little diddies, digital bumps, bedroom tapes, and soft moments of sweeping beauty. These fragmented tracks all seem to step on each-other’s toes as often as they rub elbows. You can catch Wynn playing live on Sat. June 3rd, 2017 around 9PM at the gallery/performance space Orgy Park:

Located in Bushwick Brooklyn between Wilson and Knickerbocker Ave
237 Jefferson Street 1B
Brooklyn, NY 11237
929 234 1277 (p)
orgypark(at)gmail.com
 Elsewhere on the mix there’s the incredibly funky “Cheshire Cat Cry” by then 80 year old Yoko Ono, featuring Lenny Kravitz and her fluid group Plastic Ono Band helmed by her supremely talented son Sean Lennon. “Cool Papa Bell” comes from Paul Simon‘s last record, the fantastic Stranger to Stranger released  a year ago in June of 2016. I highly recommend picking that one up! You’ll also hear  Leon Russell‘s re-imagining of the great George Harrison tune, “Beware of Darkness.” This version closes out Russell’s second solo album Leon Russell and the Shelter People, released in May of 1971. Along with Russell’s inventive, kinetic take there are Harrison’s incredible lyrics, like:
Watch out now, take care
Beware of soft shoe shufflers
Dancing down the sidewalks
As each unconscious sufferer
Wanders aimlessly
Beware of Maya
 and:
Watch out now, take care
Beware of greedy leaders
They take you where you should not go
While Weeping Atlas Cedars
They just want to grow, grow and grow
Beware of darkness

You’ll also hear two versions of the Paul McCartney diddy “3 Legs.” There’s the original from the 1971 Paul and Linda McCartney record Ram, and then there’s the orchestral Percy “Thrills” Thrillington version. Under this pseudonym, and alongside arranger Richard Anthony Hewson, McCartney served as producer for the record Thrillington, which is an instrumental cover version of the entire album of Ram recorded during the sessions for the album proper itself in 1971. It would be released with little notice 6 years later in 1977, but I think it’s a ton of fun! This mix has got “Fekete Beat” (Black Beat) which can be found on the compilation of Hungarian star Sarolta Zalatnay‘s finest work of the seventies, put out in 2007 by one of my favorite record labels, Finders Keepers and their US distribution arm, B-Music.

Featured here as well is a long, unnerving triptych by The Flaming Lips from their 2013 LP, The Terror. On this record the group strip their usual sound of vivid squiggles and leave it as something skeletal—shards of brittle metal made tactile with silver glitter and a patina of chemical compounds. Lead vocalist Wayne Coyne described the album’s general idea as thus:

“We want, or wanted, to believe that without love we would disappear, that love, somehow, would save us that, yeah, if we have love, give love and know love, we are truly alive and if there is no love, there would be no life. The Terror is, we know now, that even without love, life goes on… we just go on… there is no mercy killing.”

The group’s multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd explained its premise with:

““The terror is that internal feeling you get that you and everyone you love is going to die.””

Yes, this record is not a pleasant listen, yet I still think it’s an incredible piece of work. You can find the lyrics for the three The Terror selections below:

The Terror
However long they love you, we are all standing alone
The terror’s in our heads, they don’t control the controls
I turn to face the sun, we are still standing alone
At last we’ll stand by the terror, it helps us take the controls
We’ll save the last sunshine, the way I long to go
We’ll save the love, you’ll still love, we’re searching through the dark
We’ll save the last sunshine, the way I long to go
We’ll save the love, you’ll still love, we’re searching through the dark
We’ve all tried to come through
We’ve always tried to come through
We all stretched to come to this
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You Are Alone
Hold on, we long for the bell
Our time is showing our respect
Can I handle the decision needed?
And I have to lay on reality’s dream
Oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh
Just as I want your ecstasy appear
Just enough to make me wanna feel
Through the love we sacrifice now
It’s the only sound of your own fear
Oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh
You’re not alone, you are alone
You’re not alone, you are alone
Oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh
Oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh
You’re not alone, you are alone
You’re not alone, you are alone
Oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh
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Butterfly, How Long It Takes To Die
If you’ve ever really seen the sun rise
You will see how many times it tries
If you’ve ever really seen the sun set
You will see how long it takes to die
You can see the butterfly has landed
Landed on your prison plates, you’re out
You can feel it’s trouble making a teardrop
You will see how long it takes to fly
You can see the universe beginning
Making all the sun and the sky
You can see the universe is ending
Making love darker than the night
The penultimate song here on this MixTape is one that has long been one of my favorites by the band Soundgarden: “The Day I Tried to Live.” Recently departed frontman Chris Cornell (R.I.P.) has seemingly always been praised for his stunning vocals, however, I feel that he’s never received the deserved respect for his gifts with phrasing, melody, and poetic craft in terms of his lyrics. These are all on powerful display here on this song released in 1994 as the second single from the band’s fourth studio album, Superunknown. Just listen to the adroit manner in which he curves and pulls the song’s attention grabbing opening of:
I woke the same as any other day
except a voice was in my head.
It said, “Seize the day, pull the trigger,
drop the blade and watch the rolling heads.”

 This song to me (and so appropriately for a fourteen-year-old boy in NYC) has always seemed to be about someone struggling to overcome their anti-social behaviors and the perverse superiority complexes that blossom from them—perverse in that they stem from a territory of mental anguish and depression turned vicious even if withdrawn. It’s a belief that, no, you are not better than anyone, but yes, they are worse than you. (Now that I think of it, this might have been the predominant mood of adolescents in the early 90s, and of the culture that appealed to them, such as supposed Grunge music). The singer here summons the courage to “one more time” go out and “try to live,” even if that life requires him to “wallow[…] in the blood and mud with all the other pigs.” Yes, even if he detests the society he is attempting to join, one that leaves him declaring with a shout:

The day I tried to win
I dangled from the power lines
And let the martyrs stretch
 Even though it all seems so pointless and futile, because:
Words you say
Never seem to live up to the ones inside your head
The lives we make
Never seem to ever get us anywhere but dead
Yes, even though this attempt at life leads to an awful confrontation, a realization that he confesses with:
I learned that I was a liar…just like you…
 Yes, even despite all this the singer tries to live, because the alternative is always and only just a lonesome anguish with your own abysmal brain. Yes, even though at the end of the day he will fail “to live” and dismally wail:
I woke the same as any other day you know
I should have stayed in bed
Yet, you get the sense that the singer will try again tomorrow, that tomorrow it will again be:
One more time around
(Might do it)
One more time around
(I might make it)
This is truly a stunning song on a phenomenal album. The experimentation in musicality, narratives, and odd melodies featured throughout Superunknown are pushed even further on their next record, which has always been (unfashionably, I know) my favorite by them: Down on the Upside. If  down in my basement I can find my copy of both that and Cornell’s first solo studio album, the beautiful Euphoria Morning released in 1999, well then I’ll certainly be featuring them on future mixes in tribute of a talented, sensitive artist that succumbed way too young.
On a somewhat more silly yet no less earnest or appreciative note; at sixteen-years-old as soon as the thin whiskers on my face began to grow a bit thicker and dark I started to shape them with a razor into a disconnected mustache and a sloped tuft on the chin that ran tight along the jaw line, curving up to meet the sideburns. Essentially this is a scruffier version of what is known in Queens by the dysphemism of Puerto Rican Chin Strap. I have more or less sported this same look for roughly twenty years. I would guess that my adolescent friends assumed that this was a result of my admiration (infatuation, I’m sure they’d tease) for the actor Johnny Depp. When news broke of Cornell”s suicide on the morning of May 18, 2017, I suddenly recalled how as an awkward sixteen-year-old boy (as I’m now sure they all are) I really wanted to be sexy and cool (as I’m now sure they all do). From March to November of 1996 (I turned 16 in July) Soundgarden released three music videos to accompany songs used to promote the record Down on the Upside: “Pretty Noose;” “Burden in My Hand;” and “Blow Up the Outside World.”

I can now clearly remember seeing the pensive and handsome Chris Cornell (and his beard) in those videos and thinking something along the lines of, “now that is a cool American male, now that is a sexy American male,” with all the poetic sensitivity yet artistic power and artistic aggression that I believed went into that. Now it might seem trivial or even disrespectful to discuss facial-hair fashion choices in the context of someone’s tragic death, but I will forever be grateful to this wonderful artist whose presence helped a suffering young man feel a little confidant, a little sexy and a little cool.

Again, Chris Cornell thank you and may you rest in peace.
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Well, there’s all this and a whole bunch of other fantastic sounds so go on down and press play !

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—————–======ENJOY YOURSELF____———–

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A MOUTHFUL OF PENNIES PRESENTS:
__The Demise Of The Mask (Vol 12)__Vehicles of Conveyance___
  • India – Roxy Music
  • 3 Legs (Thrillington version) – Percy “Thrills” Thrillington (Paul McCartney)
  • Higher – Rihanna
  • Cheshire Cat Cry – Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band
  • Wayward – Anon (aka Wynn)
  • It Is Obvious – Syd Barrett
  • 3 Legs – Paul & Linda McCartney
  • The Terror/You Are Alone/Butterfly, How Long It Takes To Die – The Flaming Lips
  • The Best Is Yet To Come – Bob Dylan (composed by Cy Coleman, lyrics by Carolyn Leigh)
  • Let Me Be – Parliament
  • Steer Your Way – Leonard Cohen
  • Sister I Need Wine – Guided By Voices
  • Cool Papa Bell – Paul Simon
  • Fekete Beat – Sarolta Zalatnay
  • Big Black Monster – Scott Weiland
  • Star Dream Girl – David Lynch
  • Wampyr (finale) – Goblin
  • Beware Of Darkness – Leon Russell
  • Bluebird of Delhi (Mynah) – Duke Ellington And His Famous Orchestra
  • The Day I Tried To Live – Soundgarden 
  • Goodbye – Anon (aka Wynn)

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[India – Roxy Music]

[3 Legs (Thrillington version) – Percy “Thrills” Thrillington (Paul McCartney)]

[Higher – Rihanna]

[Cheshire Cat Cry – Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band]

[Wayward – Anon (aka Wynn)]

[It Is Obvious – Syd Barrett (art by Storm Thorgerson)]

[3 Legs – Paul & Linda McCartney]

[The Terror/You Are Alone/Butterfly, How Long It Takes To Die – The Flaming Lips (art by Steven Fiche)]

[The Best Is Yet To Come – Bob Dylan (composed by Cy Coleman, lyrics by Carolyn Leigh)]

[Let Me Be – Parliament]

[Steer Your Way – Leonard Cohen (art by Jenny Holzer)]

[Sister I Need Wine – Guided By Voices]

[Cool Papa Bell – Paul Simon]

[Fekete Beat – Sarolta Zalatnay]

[Big Black Monster – Scott Weiland (photo by Brie Childers, 2008)]

[Star Dream Girl – David Lynch]

[Wampyr (finale) – Goblin]

[Beware Of Darkness – Leon Russell]

[Bluebird of Delhi (Mynah) – Duke Ellington And His Famous Orchestra]

[The Day I Tried To Live – Soundgarden ]

[Goodbye – Anon (aka Wynn)]

___________________))))))))))))))))

All the best to you and yours!—  –   ————-______-________ ->BOBBY CALERO[—+=-_________________If you dig the mix then please feel free to pass & post it along; if you dig an artist then please support them and go out and pick up some of their stuff. Oh, If you dig the blog overall there’s always the “FOLLOW BLOG VIA EMAIL” button somewhere down at the bottom.

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THE DEMISE OF THE MASK (VOL. 9)__MEDICINE WHEEL___

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If you dig the mix then please feel free to pass & post it along; if you dig an artist then please support them and go out and pick up some of their stuff. Oh, If you dig the blog overall there’s always the “FOLLOW BLOG VIA EMAIL” button somewhere down at the bottom

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A MOUTHFUL OF PENNIES PRESENTS:
__The Demise Of The Mask (Vol 9)__Medicine Wheel ___
  • La Via Della Droga (M2)  – Goblin
  • Regeneration – Stone Temple Pilots
  • The Clan – Geoff Bastow
  • Mama You Sweet – Lucinda Williams
  • Cold Roses – Ryan Adams & The Cardinals
  • Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain – Elvis Presley
  • Clouds Up – Air
  • Little Rain – The Rolling Stones (Jimmy Reed cover)
  • Hurry Sundown – Little Richard
  • Let’s Pretend It’s Summer – The Brian Jonestown Massacre
  • Earthquake Weather – Beck
  • Me And Jane Doe – Charlotte Gainsbourg (written, performed, & produced w/ Beck)
  • Blue Jay Way – The Beatles
  • Parade of Blood Red Sorrows – Jane Weaver
  • Diode – Andy Votel
  • Shade Lady – Quincy Jones
  • How’m I Gonna Keep Myself Together – Dory Previn
  • Upstairs By A Chinese Lamp / Map To The Treasure / Beads Of Sweat – Laura Nyro
  • I’ll Keep It With Mine – Nico (Bob Dylan cover)
  • 04/27/05 Wednesday – Fantômas (Mike Patton)
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Hello All.

Welcome to Volume Nine of the MixTape series: The Demise Of The Mask. –(Volume One here)__(Volume Two here)__(Volume Three here)__(Volume Four here)__(Volume Five here)__(Volume Six here)__(Volume Seven here)__(Volume Eight here)-

I’ve got quite a treat MixTape here for you. This one features the Stone Temple Pilots‘ tune “Regeneration” from their 2001 record Shangri-La Dee Da; a song I’ve always appreciated for the prog embellishments given to their more typical style of whirl-with-a-sugared-crunch, and for the fact that Scott Weiland‘s vocals here remind me so much of my uncle’s but taken out of the context of his own Candombe-beat-rock-n-roll. You’ll also hear one of my favorite songs by the fantastic Lucinda Williams, “Mama You Sweet.” This is a song that I can marvel at with every listen, how with such precision she spirals through an aggregate of metaphors for grief–she navigates them as each feeds into the next–seemingly trapped but with the only release being to collapse out onto the total, simple truth of the titular phrase: “I love you, Mama you sweet.” Really, this is just stunning songwriting! You’ll also hear from one of my favorite songwriters, the always brilliant and honest Dory Previn; one song each from the married couple of Jane Weaver and DJ/producer Andy Votel; something from the work that Goblin did for the soundtrack of the 1977 film La via della droga (mainly exported as “The Heroine Busters” or “Dealer Connection”); something from one of Elvis Presley‘s final recording sessions, in the Jungle Room at Graceland on 7 February 1976; and The Rolling Stones with a Jimmy Reed cover taken from their joyous record of blues covers released at the end of last year, Blue & Lonesome. Oh, and along with a whole lot of other great tunes you’ll hear a three song portion of the second side of Laura Nyro‘s great LP of 1970, Christmas and the Beads of Sweat, featuring Alice Coltrane on harp and Duane Allman on guitar.

Also below you’ll find a list of things I read (or re-read) so far since January of this year. These are works that I truly enjoyed and/or loved. I highly recommend them all!

I’m currently half-way through The Complete Fiction of Bruno Schulz: The Street of Crocodiles, Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass, translated by Celina Wieniewska, and wow! Schulz’s language has repeatedly made me pause with wonder; it’s just stunning.

I had heard this writer’s name before but what compelled me to find this book down in the library’s basement is having seen The Hourglass Sanatorium (Sanatorium pod klepsydrą), a 1973 Polish film directed by Wojciech Jerzy Has, a beautiful phantasmagorical work, a cinematic poem, which was based on Bruno Schulz’s story collection. The film won the Jury Prize at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival, and has quickly become one of my favorite films of all time.

You can read about it here at the fantastic film blog 366 Weird Movies, and you can watch the whole thing here on Vimeo.

After I finish up this book I plan on picking up a work of literature by one of my favorite painters, Leonora Carrington (her 100th birthday would have been April 6th). Perhaps I’ll read her novella The Hearing Trumpet, or The Complete Stories of Leonora Carrington, which is just about to be published by the small press Dorothy.

And then I finally plan to commit to the brilliant Alan Moore‘s massive (1266 pages) novel: Jerusalem 

But as for what I have read and listed, I’d truly recommend anything you find below!

I do want to make special mention of the graphic novel/comic book biography Pablo by Julie Birmant & Clement Oubrerie, published by independent publishing house SelfMadeHero as part of their great “Art Masters Series.” Here Picasso’s formative years are narrated by his first great love and muse, the artists’ model Fernande Olivier, and the whole work is just beautiful with an intimacy biographies can often lack.

Oh, and remember this month is not only National Poetry Month, but as Mike Patton‘s Fantômas project reminds us, “April is national humor and anxiety month.”

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—————–======ENJOY YOURSELF____———–

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A MOUTHFUL OF PENNIES PRESENTS:
__The Demise Of The Mask (Vol 9)__Medicine Wheel ___
  • La Via Della Droga (M2)  – Goblin
  • Regeneration – Stone Temple Pilots
  • The Clan – Geoff Bastow
  • Mama You Sweet – Lucinda Williams
  • Cold Roses – Ryan Adams & The Cardinals
  • Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain – Elvis Presley
  • Clouds Up – Air
  • Little Rain – The Rolling Stones (Jimmy Reed cover)
  • Hurry Sundown – Little Richard
  • Let’s Pretend It’s Summer – The Brian Jonestown Massacre
  • Earthquake Weather – Beck
  • Me And Jane Doe – Charlotte Gainsbourg (written, performed, & produced w/ Beck)
  • Blue Jay Way – The Beatles
  • Parade of Blood Red Sorrows – Jane Weaver
  • Diode – Andy Votel
  • Shade Lady – Quincy Jones
  • How’m I Gonna Keep Myself Together – Dory Previn
  • Upstairs By A Chinese Lamp / Map To The Treasure / Beads Of Sweat – Laura Nyro
  • I’ll Keep It With Mine – Nico (Bob Dylan cover)
  • 04/27/05 Wednesday – Fantômas (Mike Patton)
,
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medicine-wheel  
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[La Via Della Droga (M2) – Goblin]

[Regeneration – Stone Temple Pilots]

[The Clan – Geoff Bastow]

[Mama You Sweet – Lucinda Williams (photo by Annie Leibovitz)]

[Cold Roses – Ryan Adams & The Cardinals (photo by David Black)]

[Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain – Elvis Presley]

[Clouds Up – Air]

[Little Rain – The Rolling Stones (Jimmy Reed cover)]

[Hurry Sundown – Little Richard]

[Let’s Pretend It’s Summer – The Brian Jonestown Massacre]

[Earthquake Weather – Beck (photo by Autumn de Wilde, 2005)]

[Me And Jane Doe – Charlotte Gainsbourg (written, performed, & produced w/ Beck)]

[Blue Jay Way – The Beatles]

[Parade of Blood Red Sorrows – Jane Weaver]

[Diode – Andy Votel (Water color of Andy by Saydan Aksit)]

[Shade Lady – Quincy Jones]

[How’m I Gonna Keep Myself Together – Dory Previn]

[Upstairs By A Chinese Lamp / Map To The Treasure / Beads Of Sweat – Laura Nyro]

[I’ll Keep It With Mine – Nico (Bob Dylan cover). (photo by Lisa Law, Los Angeles, CA 1967)]

[04/27/05 Wednesday – Fantômas (Mike Patton)]

The Umbrella Academy, Vol. 1: Apocalypse Suite / The Umbrella Academy, Vol. 2: Dallas by Gerard Way & Gabriel Ba

___________________))))))))))))))))

All the best to you and yours!—  –   ————-______-________ ->BOBBY CALERO[—+=-_________________If you dig the mix then please feel free to pass & post it along; if you dig an artist then please support them and go out and pick up some of their stuff. Oh, If you dig the blog overall there’s always the “FOLLOW BLOG VIA EMAIL” button somewhere down at the bottom.

_           _________________   _  ___   _ _________ __________->

THE DEMISE OF THE MASK (VOL. 8)__Bread & Circus ___

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If you dig the mix then please feel free to pass & post it along; if you dig an artist then please support them and go out and pick up some of their stuff. Oh, If you dig the blog overall there’s always the “FOLLOW BLOG VIA EMAIL” button somewhere down at the bottom

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—  –   ————-______________ ->

demise_cvr_8

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Hello All.

Welcome to Volume Eight of the MixTape series: The Demise Of The Mask. –(Volume One here)__(Volume Two here)__(Volume Three here)__(Volume Four here)__(Volume Five here)__(Volume Six here)__(Volume Seven here)-

I’ve got quite a treat MixTape here for you as this one features a triple-play by Hamilton Leithauser: first there’s “We Can’t Be Beat” from the last album by his always fantastic group The Walkmen, 2012’s Heaven; then there’s a selection from Leithauser’s 2014 debut solo studio album, Black Hours; and finally there’s the song “When The Truth Is…” from last year’s stunning record I Had a Dream That You Were Mine, which is a collaborative work with Rostam Batmanglij (the former multi-instrumentalist and producer of Vampire Weekend).

You’ll also hear Aretha Franklin, some Beastie Boys, the lovely “Rainbows In Gasoline” by the duo of Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp Muhl who record together under the moniker of The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger (or GOASTT), and a fine example of why John Lennon was one of the greatest of rock ‘n’ roll vocalists with The Beatles‘ tune “All I’ve Got To Do.”

As well, there are two selections from the Parliament-Funkadelic collective: first there’s a cover of The Beatles by incendiary yet so sweet guitarist Eddie Hazel from his 1977 solo debut Game, Dames and Guitar Thangs, which features incredible vocals by The Brides of Funkenstein (the duo of Dawn Silva and Lynn Mabry, who prior to joining the P-Funk collective were members of Sly and the Family Stone); later on you’ll catch the revolving, kaleidoscopic groove of “Supergroovalisticprosifunkstication” from Parliament‘s 1975 masterpiece, Mothership Connection.

Oh and I can’t forget to mention the rendition of Magic Sam‘s All Of Your Love” done with grit and precision by The Rolling Stones and taken from their joyous record of blues covers released at the end of last year, Blue & Lonesome.

Among a whole bunch of other great sounds this mix also features two figures who are perhaps the most poetic recording artists of Uruguayan music: Jaime Roos and Eduardo Mateo. The song “Viviendo” is from Roos’ third record, Aquello released in 1981. There is a translation done by my father below for those that are interested:

Viviendo (Living) by Jaime Roos [translated by Julio Calero]
I remember you
You’re the One
Who could understand  it
No big deal
That we do not love each other
You could understand it
.
Friend, where abouts may you be?
What seas may you be sailing?
Soon we’ll cross paths
And I’ll find you
Living
You’ll find me
Living
.
You’ll hear
The world was
And will be a marvel, I already know
It could be
My voice
Coming out of a nightmare that’s gone
.
Friend, where abouts may you be?
What seas may you be sailing?
Soon we’ll cross paths
And I’ll find you
Living
where abouts may you be?
Living
Alone, perhaps
Living

Throughout his long career Jaime Roos has continued to make an interesting mix of rock and folk with the more traditional sounds of Uruguay like candombe, milonga, tango and murga. He’s still out there performing and I highly recommend that if you ever have the opportunity you should definitely catch his show!

 Eduardo Mateo‘s “Niña” is a sweet tune done by a pure musician, and its recording comes with an interesting story. By the time Mateo’s phenomenal band El Kinto had officially disintegrated in the early part of 1970 most of Mateo’s friends and associates were already convinced that he had gone completely insane. Despite the fact that these same people viewed him as a musical genius, they did not know what to make of his habits of disappearing for days at a time, either to lock himself up somewhere in a rented room to explore new realms on his instrument while searching for spiritual enlightenment through chemicals, or to wander the streets with nothing but pajamas and a guitar—there was always a guitar, a rare constant in this man’s unhinged life. Once, my uncle saw him walking the streets at night with one foot aligned with the curb, the other with the gutter, so that he was forced to maintain an awkward and drastic limp to his gait—how’s that for a metaphor?!

Speaking of this period in Mateo’s life, Uruguayan singer Verónica Indart had this story to tell:

“The last time I saw him was in the first years of the 1970s. I was

with Héctor, my husband, and Mateo arrived. He entered, he took

up the guitar, and he sat down to play by the window, looking at the

sea for a long while. We listened to him. When he finished, he got up,

he set down the guitar and he went out the door without a greeting.

That was Mateo. He arrived, gave us his music and went on without

greeting us, because it was not necessary” (Lion Production, 2006).

In 1971, for those who were fortunate to have heard Mateo play there was no doubt of that man’s overwhelming talent—mental illness or not; however, beyond a handful of tracks there existed little recorded evidence of it. This would soon change due to the influence of talented singer Diane Denoir, and through the dedication and passion of producer Carlos Píriz. Píriz, a recording technician who had worked for the live, music television show Discodromo had recently started the record label De la Planta along with Jorge “Coyo” Abuchalja, guitarist for the group Los Delfines. The ethos behind this venture was to maintain a Uruguayan label that was dedicated to Uruguayan musicians, providing them with better production, recording techniques, and better distribution than the then norm. Fortunately, through Píriz’s connections, they were able to secure regular studio time at ION Studios in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where the recording technology was far superior to that found in their native country (four tracks as opposed to two at most, for example).

In October of 1971 one such artist they chose to present to the public was the singer Diane Denoir. As she was recording a fair amount of Mateo’s material for her De la Planta debut, she felt it was only appropriate that the artist himself accompany her on some of the tracks. Having convinced Mateo to take the trip, Píriz quickly took advantage of the rare opportunity by persuading him to stay and record a solo LP for the label. However, in spite of Píriz’s optimistic plans to complete the recording in one week, he soon found that dealing with this erratic artist would be an ultimate test of endurance and patience.

The sessions went like this: Mateo had an alphabetic notebook,

and stuck in each page he had bar napkins upon which his songs

were written. If he knew the first letter of the title of the song he

wished to play, he would find the correct napkin, which would help

him remember the melody, so that he could recreate the original idea

he had envisioned when he had composed the song in the first place.

Remembering the songs was only the first obstacle […]. Mateo

would record songs one day, and erase them the next. “The first day

he recorded three or four things,” Píriz recalled. “The following day

he came in and said, ‘erase them. For Mateo, they are all wrong.’

We erased them. And that process of erasing the previous day’s work

continued for four or five days. At that moment, I understood that this

would be the system for the whole disc […]. I decided that I will be the

person who says what was well-recorded, or not, and I began to keep

all the material.”

On other days, Mateo went to ION studios only to say that he was not

inspired, and would return the next day. Then there were the days that

he appeared at the studio, and asked, “What time do we record tomorrow?”

“The same as today, at four o’clock,” Píriz would say. “Okay I am going,

until tomorrow,” was Mateo’s only reply (Lion Production, 2006).

 –

This whole arduous process continued for two months, until one day when Mateo said to the producer that he was stepping out of the studio to buy a pack of cigarettes, and never came back. He had returned to his streets in Montevideo. Píriz was left holding hours of recordings of these fragmented sessions—the only proof that Mateo had even been there. A labor of love, Píriz would then spend the better part of a year assembling these into the album that would be released in December of 1972: Mateo Solo Bien Se Lame.

One of the thirteen brilliant compositions that Píriz extracted from the chaos is the twisted beauty that is “Niña.” Through his dedication, Píriz was able to capture on this record the complex sensitivity of this troubled artist. Seeing as how, other than a rare background vocal here and there, Mateo created every sound on this album himself, his essence truly shines through each composition. There is a translation of the lyrics done by me below:

Niña (Little Girl) by Eduardo Mateo [translated by Bobby Calero]
Little girl that always has a light
showing you what you do not want.
Do not fear the birds
if they say your life with their trills.
It should be that you understand;
that’s why what comes next is what has gone.
Always in a white dress,
you go but beware;
The devils in the guise of angels
will notice you talking.
Does it shame you that you don’t care
what has been soiled?
Yuu…yu-le-lé yu-lé.
__

If you dig the mix then please feel free to pass & post it along; if you dig an artist then please support them and go out and pick up some of their stuff. Oh, If you dig the blog overall there’s always the “FOLLOW BLOG VIA EMAIL” button somewhere down at the bottom

____________———-___=========================================  __=

—————–======ENJOY YOURSELF____———–

—  –   ————-______________ ->

demise_cvr_8

__________———

—————————————–================__^__===================  ===  _ ===== == =   = =  __  _
__________—
A MOUTHFUL OF PENNIES PRESENTS:
__The Demise Of The Mask (Vol 8)__Bread & Circus ___
  • Pick Pocket – Andy Votel
  • I Want You (She’s So Heavy) – Eddie Hazel (The Beatles cover)
  • All I’ve Got To Do – The Beatles
  • Rock Steady – Aretha Franklin
  • Secondary Modern – Elvis Costello & The Attractions
  • Church On Tuesday – Stone Temple Pilots
  • Been & Gone – Annette Peacock
  • Royal Cream / I Am Fire – The Afghan Whigs
  • I Wish I Could Hear My Mother Pray Again – The Staple Singers
  • Medicine For A Nightmare – Sun Ra
  • Supergroovalisticprosifunkstication – Parliament
  • Kissing My Love – Afrique
  • Dub The Mic / Gratitude – Beastie Boys
  • All Of Your Love – The Rolling Stones (Magic Sam cover)
  • Viviendo – Jaime Roos
  • We Can’t Be Beat – The Walkmen
  • Alexandra – Hamilton Leithauser
  • When The Truth Is… – Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam
  • Rainbows In Gasoline – The Ghost Of A Saber Tooth Tiger
  • Que Tristeza – Cal Tjader
  • Niña – Eduardo Mateo
—————————————–================__^__===================  ===  _ ===== == =   = =  __  
bread-circus-1
bread-circus-2
__________—
___    ______________—————__
[Pick Pocket - Andy Votel]

[Pick Pocket – Andy Votel]

[I Want You (She’s So Heavy) – Eddie Hazel (The Beatles cover)]

[I Want You (She’s So Heavy) – Eddie Hazel (The Beatles cover)]

[All I’ve Got To Do – The Beatles]

[All I’ve Got To Do – The Beatles]

[Rock Steady – Aretha Franklin]

[Rock Steady – Aretha Franklin]

[Secondary Modern – Elvis Costello & The Attractions]

[Secondary Modern – Elvis Costello & The Attractions]

[Church On Tuesday – Stone Temple Pilots (photo by Mick Hutson)]

[Church On Tuesday – Stone Temple Pilots
(photo by Mick Hutson)]

[Been & Gone – Annette Peacock (photo by Richard Davis, 1972)]

[Been & Gone – Annette Peacock (photo by Richard Davis, 1972)]

[Royal Cream / I Am Fire – The Afghan Whigs (photo by Piper Ferguson, 2014)]

[Royal Cream / I Am Fire – The Afghan Whigs (photo by Piper Ferguson, 2014)]

[I Wish I Could Hear My Mother Pray Again – The Staple Singers]

[I Wish I Could Hear My Mother Pray Again – The Staple Singers]

[Medicine For A Nightmare – Sun Ra (art by Oliver Barrett)]

[Medicine For A Nightmare – Sun Ra (art by Oliver Barrett)]

[Supergroovalisticprosifunkstication – Parliament]

[Supergroovalisticprosifunkstication – Parliament]

[Kissing My Love – Afrique]

[Kissing My Love – Afrique]

[Dub The Mic / Gratitude – Beastie Boys]

[Dub The Mic / Gratitude – Beastie Boys]

[All Of Your Love – The Rolling Stones (Magic Sam cover) (photo by Kevin Winter, 2016)]

[All Of Your Love – The Rolling Stones (Magic Sam cover) (photo by Kevin Winter, 2016)]

[Viviendo – Jaime Roos]

[Viviendo – Jaime Roos]

[We Can't Be Beat - The Walkmen]

[We Can’t Be Beat – The Walkmen]

[Alexandra – Hamilton Leithauser]

[Alexandra – Hamilton Leithauser]

[When The Truth Is… – Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam]

[When The Truth Is… – Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam]

[Rainbows In Gasoline – The Ghost Of A Saber Tooth Tiger]

[Rainbows In Gasoline – The Ghost Of A Saber Tooth Tiger]

[Que Tristeza – Cal Tjader]

[Que Tristeza – Cal Tjader]

[Niña – Eduardo Mateo]

[Niña – Eduardo Mateo]

.
__________——————– =__^__=___________________———
___________________))))))))))))))))

All the best to you and yours!—  –   ————-______-________ ->BOBBY CALERO[—+=-_________________If you dig the mix then please feel free to pass & post it along; if you dig an artist then please support them and go out and pick up some of their stuff. Oh, If you dig the blog overall there’s always the “FOLLOW BLOG VIA EMAIL” button somewhere down at the bottom.

_           _________________   _  ___   _ _________ __________->

THE COURTESAN & THE BEARER OF THE LOTUS

If you dig the mix then please feel free to pass & post it along; if you dig an artist then please support them and go out and pick up some of their stuff.

_

Hello All! I’ve got a special triptych-MixTape treat for you all today…featuring some bounce, a little wilt, petal melt, and a whole slew of protean tunes to accompany you at the tail-end/entrance of shifting seasons. …Perhaps best used when paired with working on a creative project of some sort or just watering house plants, or by those who suffer from insomnia under the sun.

_____________———-___=========================================  __=

—————–======ENJOY YOURSELF____———–

—  –   ————-______________ ->

_________________________________________________

The Courtesan and The Bearer of The Lotus

______________________________________________

The Courtesan and The Bearer of The Lotus_CVR

 __________—

The Courtesan and The Bearer of The Lotus (Vol. 1)

__________——

The Courtesan and The Bearer of The Lotus (Vol. 2)

__________———

The Courtesan and The Bearer of The Lotus (Vol. 3)

__________——————–

-OR-

__________—

-:VOL. 1 —-(Click to Listen or Right-Click-Save-As to Download)

__________——

-:VOL. 2 —-(Click to Listen or Right-Click-Save-As to Download)

__________———

-:VOL. 3 —-(Click to Listen or Right-Click-Save-As to Download)

—————————————–================__^__===================  ===  _ ===== == =   = =  __  _
__________—
___
The Courtesan and The Bearer of The Lotus (Vol. 1)
  • Love In The Asylum – Dylan Thomas
  • L’Enfant La Mouche Et Les Allumettes (The Child the Fly and the Matches) – Jean-Claude Vannier
  • (Just A Little) Communication – Gabor Szabo
  • Bring Me Coffee Or Tea – CAN
  • Catherine – PJ Harvey
  • I Talk To The Wind – King Crimson
  • ‘Tis A Pity She Was A Whore – David Bowie
  • Black Comedy – Miles Davis [w/ Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams, Ron Carter]
  • Seven – Thundercat
  • Thieves In The Temple – Prince
  • Thieves In The Temple – Herbie Hancock (Prince cover)
  • The Overachievers – Devendra Banhart & The Grogs (Liars cover)
  • Apes And Peacocks (Queen’s Suite pt. 6) – Duke Ellington & His Orchestra
  • Two – Madhouse (Prince & Eric Leeds)
  • Hung Up On My Baby – El Michels Affair (Isaac Hayes cover)
  • Velvet Ditch – The Arcs (Dan Auerbach, Richard Swift, Leon Michels aka El Michels Affair)
  • Smokestack Lightning – Howlin’ Wolf (’69 version)
  • Hello It’s Late – Stone Temple Pilots
  • Almost Fell In Love – crush_DLX (Pop Levi & Bunny Holiday)
__________—— 
___
The Courtesan and The Bearer of The Lotus (Vol. 2)
  • Holy Guardian Angel – crush_DLX (Pop Levi & Bunny Holiday)
  • The Chart – Super Numeri (Pop Levi, Snap Ant, Karl Webb)
  • Tarot Ash – Madlib
  • Sagittarius Silver Announcement/Worm Mountain – The Flaming Lips (Feat. MGMT)
  • Mantra Guru – Madlib
  • The Healer/Hip Hop/Me – Erykah Badu
  • Blues In Orbit [Alternate Take] – Duke Ellington
  • Verdillac – The Doors
  • The Girl Of The Ghetto – (written By Jim Morrison, read Johnny Depp)
  • The Ghetto Walk – Miles Davis (w/ Wayne Shorter; John McLaughlin; Herbie Hancock; Chick Corea; Joe Zawinul; Dave Holland; Joe Chambers)
  • Seven Years In Tibet – David Bowie
  • Curious Child – Prince
  • Wave – Ahmad Jamal Trio
  • Samurai Showdown (edit) – RZA
  • Sleight of Hand – Menahan Street Band
__________———
___
The Courtesan and The Bearer of The Lotus (Vol. 3)
  • Johnny Depp’s cough/Perihelion (edit) – Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
  • Somewhere In The East – George Benson
  • I’ll Give You Everything I’ve Got For A Little Piece Of Mind – Mushroom
  • Second Sighting – The Brian Jonestown Massacre
  • Symphonique #3 (Ode To Venus) – Moondog
  • Cindy Electronium – Raymond Scott
  • Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 (1st movement Allegro) – Johann Sebastian Bach; performed by Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra
  • Arrows – Jane Weaver
  • Blood – Annette Peacock
  • Spectre – Radiohead
  • Dominoes – Syd Barrett
  • Miriam Got a Mickey (Instrumental) – Adrian Younge
  • Till It’s Done (Tutu) – D’Angelo & The Vanguard
  • Letter To Hermione – Robert Glasper Experiment ft. Bilal (Bowie cover)
  • Lucifer Rising Part III – Bobby Beausoleil
  • Heathen (The Rays) – David Bowie
  • Ascent – Miles Davis (w/ Wayne Shorter; Herbie Hancock; Chick Corea; Joe Zawinul; Dave Holland; Jack DeJohnette)
  • Aphelion (edit) – Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross

__________——————– =__^__=___________________———

_

The Courtesan and The Bearer of The Lotus (Vol. 1)

_

[Love In The Asylum - Dylan Thomas [art by Needle Design]

[Love In The Asylum – Dylan Thomas [art by Needle Design]

[L'Enfant La Mouche Et Les Allumettes (The Child the Fly and the Matches) - Jean-Claude Vannier]

[L’Enfant La Mouche Et Les Allumettes (The Child the Fly and the Matches) – Jean-Claude Vannier]

[(Just A Little) Communication - Gabor Szabo]

[(Just A Little) Communication – Gabor Szabo]

[Bring Me Coffee Or Tea - CAN]

[Bring Me Coffee Or Tea – CAN]

[Catherine - PJ Harvey]

[Catherine – PJ Harvey]

[I Talk To The Wind - King Crimson]

[I Talk To The Wind – King Crimson]

['Tis A Pity She Was A Whore - David Bowie]

[‘Tis A Pity She Was A Whore – David Bowie]

[Black Comedy - Miles Davis]

[Black Comedy – Miles Davis]

[Seven - Thundercat]

[Seven – Thundercat]

[Thieves In The Temple - Prince]

[Thieves In The Temple – Prince]

[Thieves In The Temple - Herbie Hancock]

[Thieves In The Temple – Herbie Hancock (Prince cover)]

 
[The Overachievers - Devendra Banhart & The Grogs (Liars cover)]

[The Overachievers – Devendra Banhart & The Grogs (Liars cover)]

[Duke Ellington meets Queen Elizabeth II at Leeds in 1958]

[Apes And Peacocks (Queen’s Suite pt. 6) – Duke Ellington & His Orchestra. Duke Ellington meets Queen Elizabeth II at Leeds in 1958]

[Two - Madhouse (Prince & Eric Leeds)]

[Two – Madhouse (Prince & Eric Leeds)]

elmichelsaffair

[Hung Up On My Baby – El Michels Affair (Isaac Hayes cover)]

The_Arcs_-_Yours_Dreamily

[Velvet Ditch – The Arcs]

[Smokestack Lightning - Howlin' Wolf ('69 version)]

[Smokestack Lightning – Howlin’ Wolf (’69 version)]

[Hello It's Late - Stone Temple Pilots]

[Hello It’s Late – Stone Temple Pilots]

[Almost Fell In Love - crush_DLX (Pop Levi & Bunny Holiday)]

[Almost Fell In Love – crush_DLX (Pop Levi & Bunny Holiday)]

_
The Courtesan and The Bearer of The Lotus (Vol. 2)
_
[Holy Guardian Angel - crush_DLX (Pop Levi & Bunny Holiday)]

[Holy Guardian Angel – crush_DLX (Pop Levi & Bunny Holiday)]

[The Chart - Super Numeri]

[The Chart – Super Numeri (Pop Levi, Snap Ant, Karl Webb)]

[Tarot Ash - Madlib]

[Tarot Ash – Madlib]

[Sagittarius Silver Announcement/Worm Mountain - The Flaming Lips (Feat. MGMT)]

[Sagittarius Silver Announcement/Worm Mountain – The Flaming Lips (Feat. MGMT)]

[Mantra Guru - Madlib]

[Mantra Guru – Madlib]

[The Healer/Hip Hop/Me - Erykah Badu]

[The Healer/Hip Hop/Me – Erykah Badu]

[Blues In Orbit [Alternate Take] - Duke Ellington]

[Blues In Orbit [Alternate Take] – Duke Ellington]

[Verdillac - The Doors]

[Verdillac – The Doors]

The Girl Of The Ghetto

[The Girl Of The Ghetto – (written By Jim Morrison, read Johnny Depp)]

[The Ghetto Walk - Miles Davis (w/ Wayne Shorter; John McLaughlin; Herbie Hancock; Chick Corea; Joe Zawinul; Dave Holland; Joe Chambers)]

[The Ghetto Walk – Miles Davis (w/ Wayne Shorter; John McLaughlin; Herbie Hancock; Chick Corea; Joe Zawinul; Dave Holland; Joe Chambers)]

[Seven Years In Tibet - David Bowie]

[Seven Years In Tibet – David Bowie]

[Curious Child - Prince]

[Curious Child – Prince]

[Wave - Ahmad Jamal Trio]

[Wave – Ahmad Jamal Trio]

[Samurai Showdown (edit) - RZA]

[Samurai Showdown (edit) – RZA]

[Sleight of Hand - Menahan Street Band]

[Sleight of Hand – Menahan Street Band]

_
The Courtesan and The Bearer of The Lotus (Vol. 3)
_
[Johnny Depp's cough/Perihelion (edit) - Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross]

[Johnny Depp’s cough/Perihelion (edit) – Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross]

[Somewhere In The East - George Benson]

[Somewhere In The East – George Benson]

[I'll Give You Everything I've Got For A Little Piece Of Mind - Mushroom]

[I’ll Give You Everything I’ve Got For A Little Piece Of Mind – Mushroom]

[Second Sighting - The Brian Jonestown Massacre]

[Second Sighting – The Brian Jonestown Massacre]

[Symphonique #3 (Ode To Venus) - Moondog]

[Symphonique #3 (Ode To Venus) – Moondog]

[Cindy Electronium - Raymond Scott]

[Cindy Electronium – Raymond Scott]

[Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 (1st movement Allegro) - Johann Sebastian Bach]

[Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 (1st movement Allegro) – Johann Sebastian Bach]

[Arrows - Jane Weaver]

[Arrows – Jane Weaver]

[Blood - Annette Peacock]

[Blood – Annette Peacock]

[Spectre - Radiohead]

[Spectre – Radiohead]

[Dominoes - Syd Barrett]

[Dominoes – Syd Barrett]

[Miriam Got a Mickey (Instrumental) - Adrian Younge]

[Miriam Got a Mickey (Instrumental) – Adrian Younge]

[Till It's Done (Tutu) - D'Angelo & The Vanguard]

[Till It’s Done (Tutu) – D’Angelo & The Vanguard]

[Letter To Hermione - Robert Glasper Experiment ft. Bilal]

[Letter To Hermione – Robert Glasper Experiment ft. Bilal (David Bowie cover)]

[Lucifer Rising Part III - Bobby Beausoleil]

[Lucifer Rising Part III – Bobby Beausoleil]

[Heathen (The Rays) - David Bowie]

[Heathen (The Rays) – David Bowie]

[Ascent - Miles Davis (w: Wayne Shorter; Herbie Hancock; Chick Corea; Joe Zawinul; Dave Holland; Jack DeJohnette); art by Oliver Barrett]

[Ascent – Miles Davis (w: Wayne Shorter; Herbie Hancock; Chick Corea; Joe Zawinul; Dave Holland; Jack DeJohnette); art by Oliver Barrett]

[Aphelion (edit) - Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross]

[Aphelion (edit) – Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross]

..

All the best—  –   ————-______-________ ->BOBBY CALERO[—+=

-_________________If you dig the mix then please feel free to pass & post it along; if you dig aparticular artist then please support them and go out and pick up some of their stuff.

_           _________________   _  ___   _ _________ __________->

A MEAL FOR MEMORY (The Seven-Cent Inamorata)

_If you dig the mix then please feel free to pass & post it along; if you dig a particular artist then please support them and go out and pick up some of their stuff.

Hello one & all! welcome to A Mouthful Of Pennies’ latest MixTape: A Meal For Memory (The Seven-Cent Inamorata). This post feels particularly special to me, for it is certainly one of my personal favorites in terms of my own MixTapes, and I really am quite proud of all I have written below. A labor of love, this sentiment is particularly true of my long, sprawling meditation on the extraordinary and inspiring art of recently deceased David Bowie (R.I.P.). If you have the time I would definitely appreciate your attention to that and any comments you might have.

_________________________________________________

—  –   ————-______________ ->

The Seven-Cent Inamorata


______________________________________________

A MEAL FOR MEMORY_CVR

A MOUTHFUL OF PENNIES PRESENTS: A MEAL FOR MEMORY (The Seven-Cent Inamorata)
 —  –   ————-______________\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/
——————————-(Click to Listen or Right-Click-Save-As to Download)—————–================__^__===================  ===  _ ===== == =   = =  __  _

A Mouthful Of Pennies Presents: A Meal For Memory (The Seven-Cent Inamorata)

  • Flying – Anon
  • Map To The Treasure – Laura Nyro [Live At The Fillmore East May 30, 1971]
  • Soon Forgot -Anon
  • I’m the One – Annette Peacock
  • Soul of a Village Pt. 2 (45 edit) – Joe Zawinul
  • Divider – Scott Weiland
  • Obsidian Currents – of Montreal
  • You Will Not Take My Heart Alive – Joanna Newsom
  • Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune – Claude Debussy [performed by David Robertson conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra, recorded live at the Barbican 11/29/2007]
  • Sweet Thing/Candidate/Sweet Thing (Reprise) – David Bowie
  • Love – Margo Guryan
  • Mythical Kings and Iguanas – Dory Previn
  • Echo In Your Mind – Susan Christie
  • Uncorrected Personality Traits – Robyn Hitchcock
  • Wooden Empire – Noah Georgeson
  • Future Cloud -Anon
  • Old Western Movies – written by Jack Kerouac, performed by William S. Burroughs & Tomandandy
  • Follow The Light – Death And Vanilla
  • (1849) – Annabel (lee)
  • Green Shirt – Elvis Costello & The Attractions

______________———-___=========================================  __=

—————–======ENJOY YOURSELF____———–

—  –   ————-______________ ->

_           _________________   _  ___   _ _________ __________->

A MEAL FOR MEMORY 
-______
-__________
-________________
universe
-_
FLYING – ANON
This mixtape features a few selections (“Flying,” “Soon Forgot,” “Future Cloud“) from the album Universe. Envisioned and created by an artist that alternately goes by the monikers WynnW.Y.N.N., and ANONUniverse is an assemblage of brief bursts, soundscapes, scrapes, sodden ambiance, demented little diddies, digital bumps, bedroom tapes, and soft moments of sweeping beauty. These fragmented tracks all seem to step on each-other’s toes as often as they rub elbows. Considering the album as a whole, I once described it to the artist as “nearly unlistenable,” and I’m still not quite sure if he took offense to my critique. However, that certainly was not my intention as it is the “nearly” that functions as the operative word in my phrase, and it is the “nearly” that makes me return over and over to this fascinating LP.
    The musicianship is first-rate (mostly provide by Wynn himself) and even features accomplished jazz drummer Keith Carlock on a few tracks. Yet, there is something so solipsistic, so insular about this work that attempts to thwart you from getting into a groove with it, but when and if you do it can be a bit like being a solid foreign object tossed about the fluids and vapors inside another’s skull for 48 minutes; which can be both mesmerizing and more than a little disconcerting. There is little of the spectacle to this album and so it does not care about your “enjoyment.” Your enjoyment is not the point.

    Wynn’s explanation to me that Universe was intended as something wholly personal and really just for himself–something of a death-bed project even–at least confirms that I am not completely off-base in my listening. I do recommend that you check it out yourself and see how it makes you feel. I will say that it is exactly this sort of singularity in terms of vision and production that both frustrates and excites me about other work I’m fond of, like Ishmael “Butterfly ” Butler and Tendai “Baba” Maraire’s “weirdo” hip-hop project Shabazz Palaces (who I’ve featured before on a few mixes).

-______

-__________
-________________ -________________ -________________
[painting by Walt Yablonsky]

[painting by Walt Yablonsky]

MAP TO THE TREASURE – LAURA NYRO
-_
Here on A Meal For Memory I use the first two aforementioned Universe tracks to bookend Bronx’s own Laura Nyro and her stunning live performance of her song “Map To The Treasure.” This is taken from her appearance on May 30, 1971 at Bill Graham’s long-gone and short-lived East Village venue The Fillmore East. The reclusive 23 year old singer/songwriter here appears alone with just her voice and her piano, boldly stripping her songs down to their bittersweet essence.

    Gone are all the subtle layers of instrumentation and sophisticated flourishes that do so distinguish her supposed trilogy of albums: the 60s girl-group street soul strut meets avant-garde jazz in 1968’s Eli and the Thirteenth Confession; the intimate, intense, fractured sound made dramatic when suddenly punctuated by Broadway noir horns and strings in 1969’s New York Tendaberry; and the somewhat more casual feel of Muscle Shoals’ Swampers band on Side 1 descending into the exotic on Side 2 with Alice Coltrane‘s aquatic harp and the wail of Duane Allman’s guitar in 1970’s Christmas and the Beads of Sweat.

eli

nytend

christmassweat

It is from Side 2 of the latter that “Map To The Treasure” originally comes. In her unique phrasing, Nyro coos and questions over the scant droplets of her piano: Where is your love? Gone to Spanish Harlem? Gone to buy you pastels? Where is your love? Gone to Spanish Harlem? Gone to buy you books and bells beneath Indian summer?

Then as desire excites and knots the tune–desire for her “pretty medicine man”–she makes her move and lets him know:

For you I bear down

Soft and burning

In the treasure of love

In the treasure of love

In the treasure of love, love

-_____
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UNI info
-__
SOON FORGOT – ANON
Oh I soon soon forgot
It is fun to be here with you
Oh I made you flat
And now we should
Before a thing confused
Too much by flight
Resting now
I’m glad to be so tired
 -___
-______

-________________________________-________________

ANNETTE PEACOCK
I’M THE ONE – ANNETTE PEACOCK
-_
As the carnival wheeze of Wynn’s “Soon Forgot” fades we hit the dissonant but real loose free jazz squall that opens both the title track and album of Brooklyn-born Annette Peacock‘s 1972 release, I’m The One. (including Brazilian percussionist extraordinaire Airto Moreiraand Mike Garson, the pianist that would go on to provide much of the color and motion to Aladdin Sane and Diamond Dogs, as well as David Bowie‘s other brilliant releases of the 90’s and 2000’s, 1.OutsideHeathen, and Reality), it’s as if Peacock and her team had to toss all these sounds into the pot before she could tease out the mutations of soul and blues grooves that serve as the vertebrae for this and much of the other tracks that make up this odd record. An early pioneer of synthesizers, Peacock and her husband, pianist Paul Bley, had persuaded Robert Moog to give them a prototype of his MOOG Modular Synthesizer by convincing him they would demonstrate that his instrument could be used to make serious music and not just novelties and jingles.
bley
Soon after she would innovate the use of the synthesizer to process and manipulate the human voice, which you’ll hear her here use to startling effect–at times to me delirious, bloody, and delicious all at once.
PEACOCKl
 
    In a 2014 interview she described the process behind this innovation as, “It was just a case of working out how to get in there and control the oscillators and the envelopes and then how to control the sound once you had made contact with it.”
Contact! Yes, contact could serve as a great one word signifier for this album as a whole.
    Annette Peacock comes on strong and seductive, informing her inevitable conquest:  
 

I’m the one / You don’t have to look any further / I’m the one / I’m here, right here, for you

ANNETTE PEACOCK2
      
 

     And then with a buzz and ache that comes from a raw territory of feminine dynamism:

Can’t you see it in my eyes

Can’t you hear it in my voice

Can’t you feel it in my skin

When you’re buried deep within me

I’m the one for you

   I love how as she and her team push the R&B boogie elements of the tune to their limits–as if testing the tensile strengths of traditional song structures–the edges begin to glitch, squelch, and blister. Her keen howl burns through the organs and soulful riffs of brass, spiraling further, further, until it all melts. It’s not so much that these synthesized sounds are layered atop, but, as the tune is stretched so thin that it begins to peel, it is revealed that this whole time just beneath the surface lay this stew of fractal patterns and a strange molten nectar being squeezed from burning wires. Typically, I find that synths are applied to a song in order to create glacial tones or gossamer ones. However, throughout the record the affect is more carnal: something as frightening as pulmonary aspiration; or more sensuous, hot breath dragged along the throat, a wet press from the muscles of an inner thigh, the squirm of the viscera, a pulse, squeeze, and twitch from sexual organs.
 
-__________
-____________________-_______

-________________________________-________________

zawinul
SOUL OF A VILLAGE – JOE ZAWINUL
-_
A soft drone of strings and a slight twinge of a horn ushers us into the 45 edit of Joe Zawinul‘s “Soul of a Village Pt. 2” Recorded in a session in 1967, this 45 RPM edit was released in 1968 and taken from the album The Rise and Fall of the Third Stream. The improvisational jazz elements bubble within the classically inflected compositions by avant-garde composer/tenor saxophonist William Fischer. Violas and a cello sway along with the drums as the tingle and pull of Zawinul’s Fender Rhodes dances under Jimmy Owens’ muted trumpet. Of course, the Austrian born keyboardist would take much of what he began to explore here and develop them in astonishing ways in collaborations with Miles Davis (In a Silent WayBitches Brew), and then eventually as one of the founding members of Weather Report (working alongside Wayne ShorterMiroslav Vitouš, Alphonse Mouzon, Airto Moreira, Jaco Pastorius and others).
weatherreport
-_______
-_____
-__________
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weilandmirror
DIVIDER – SCOTT WEILAND
-_
 This lounge act sad tale of two codependent lovers locked and lost in the same impotent spiral–vicious only in its futility–has long been one of my favorite tracks by Scott Weiland.
When she comes divided
She nearly comes alive
scott&mary

[Scott Weiland & ex-wife Mary Forsberg in the May 2000 issue of Jane Magazine. I recently read Forsberg’s memoir Fall to Pieces, and I must say I found it beautiful; very moving, nervous at times yet honest…and actually full with a warm sense of humor.]

weilandxy
Featured on his erratic and stylish solo debut record from 1998, 12 Bar Blues, “Divider” features Weiland’s own work on vibraphone, his brother Michael on Percussion, the fragile hum of a mellotron played by Victor Indrizzo, the lithe and searching work on bass by Martyn LeNoble of Porno For Pyros, and phenomenal Brad Mehldau playing opium parlor piano, which all perfectly apply a graceful sleaze to the lovely slink of Weiland’s vocal melody and lyrics like:
A drinker, he’s a boozer
A junkie, she ain’t shit
Some of them get famous
But most of them just get it
or the recurrent chorus of:

She only cares when her libido is buzzing

Bees only thrive when the honey is there

She knows the way to the script write doctor

She calls him up when the itch gets bad, 
 

and then Weiland informs you of the woefully inevitable:

 
…the itch gets bad…
…the itch gets bad…
 

…the itch gets bad…

-_____
-__________
-_____________

-_______

-________________-________________
Kevin Barnes

OBSIDIAN CURRENTS – OF MONTREAL

-_
With a jettison of the manic weight and vertigo that effectively marked much of their previous records, of Montreal mastermind and ringleader Kevin Barnes explored more of a gentle loll through the sound of 1960’s San Francisco in their 2013 LP Lousy with Sylvianbriar; albeit still a highly idiosyncratic one. The structures are tight-knit and the feel intimate. To my ear one of the most honest and gorgeous moments of the record arrives early with the second track, “Obsidian Currents.” This song comports itself through a plain spoken cadence buoyed about by the lilt and wobble of soft psychedelic-folk.
 
Lousy

[gatefold jacket for the LP packaging designed by the incredibly talented Nina Barnes & Jerrod Landon Porter]

    Highly critical, yet still this tune retains a sweet compassion that the majority of “let me tell you something you might not know about yourself” songs can–by their nature–rarely deliver (think young Dylan, Lou Reed). It is an appeal to a loved one (although ironically, and perhaps more poignantly, that loved one might be the singer himself) about their callous rationale and intellectual detachment. More so it is a warning about the logical conclusion to a mind spent dedicated to only concepts and logical conclusions:
 

There is a virus in your tenets

Don’t be naive, you know it’s true

And if you don’t protect yourself

Obsidian currents

Will devour you

    This “virus” of  “obsidian currents” to my mind serves as a poetic descriptor for the alluring pull and singular end-point of pursuing to “live beyond good and evil” when “you have committed yourself wholly to the dominion of semantics and ideas”: Nihilism.
    Conducting a marvelous investigation with hopscotch-like gambols between the recondite traditions, phenomena, art movements, and demands that have had a force in shaping modern culture, in 1989 music journalist and cultural critic Greil Marcus published Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the 20th Century. At several points within this book he writes:
lipsticktracesjpg
“Nihilism is the belief in nothing and the wish to become nothing: oblivion is its ruling passion.”
“Nihilism can find a voice in art, but never satisfaction. Nihilism means to close the world around its own self-consuming impulse […].”
“The nihilist, no matter how many people he or she might kill, is always a solipsist: no one exists but the actor, and only the actor’s motives are real.”
“When the nihilist pulls the trigger, turns on the gas, sets the fire, hits the vein, the world ends.”
ninatwin

[“In order to change perspective, or more so, to open the gateway to a world unseen –Art knew she had to open the perception through the realm of emotions”, (2015) by Nina Grøttland Barnes, aka Gemini Tactics, aka ANIN TIWN ~ NINA TWIN, ex-wife of Kevin Barnes.]

     On a somewhat lighter note, discussing this particular song in an interview with Rolling Stone Magazine‘s Ryan Reed, Kevin Barnes had this to say: “My brother had a funny vision for that one. He said it was a superhero who got beat by his arch-nemesis, and the arch-nemesis has him tied in this dark cellar, and he’s saying these things to this superhero and forcing him to come to terms with his flaws.”
-__

-______

-______________
newsome

[photo by Annabel Mehran]

YOU WILL NOT TAKE MY HEART ALIVE – JOANNA NEWSOM
-_
And what do you remember most?
The line of the sea seceding the coast?
Fine capillaries glowing with cars?
The comfort you drew from the light of the stars?
It is with these two memorable couplets strung together that Joanna Newsom opens the song “You Will Not Take My Heart Alive” from her latest work of lavish precision, Divers. In an interview regarding her appearance as actor and narrator in Paul Thomas Anderson’s adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s novel Inherent Vicethe conversation turned to the distance between this and 2010’s three-disc opus, Have One on Me: “I’ve been working hard for a lot of those five years on a new idea.”
       This “new idea” having to do with time, the transcendence of, and this statement she made to Laura Snapes of Uncut magazine:
Everyone’s getting older. When I crossed that line in my mind where I knew I was with the person that I wanted to marry, it was a very heavy thing, because you’re inviting death into your life. You know that that’s hopefully after many, many, many, many years, but the idea of death stops being abstract, because there is someone you can’t bear to lose. when it registers as true, it’s like a little shade of grief that comes in when love is its most real version. Then it contains death inside of it, and then that death contains love inside of it.
[cover art Wildflowers 52i by artist and former NASA thermal engineer, Kim Keever.]

[cover art Wildflowers 52i by artist and former NASA thermal engineer, Kim Keever.]

Lauper
    Admittedly, I am still in the process of engaging and fully appreciating Newsom’s new idea.The first time I listened to this album it was at a ridiculously low volume at 4:30am as I fed my nine-month-old son and attempted to not wake my wife. I truly enjoyed what I could hear, but I must also confess that as a whole at the time it all sounded like various alternate takes of Cyndi Lauper performing her 1986 hit “True Colors” (I know that thematically Lauper’s 1984 hit “Time After Time” might seem more aligned with the concerns of Divers but that is just not what came to mind; and this comparison is in no way meant as an insult as I find Cyndi Lauper to be pretty . fucking . fantastic!).
   Yet, even at low volume those opening lines above struck me, and what followed:

And I rose to take my shape at last

from the dreams that had dogged me through every past,

when, to my soul, the body would say

You may do what you like

as long as you stay.

Harp
  This all delivered in the delicate music-box whirl of Newsom’s odd baroque-pop, with its conflict of light and shadow and yet a fluid exchange between the two. The song at first functions as a courtly dance between her lighthearted if somewhat hesitant harp and her elastic soprano, but as it builds in height it also takes on a heft as if to bear the weight of the words. Small patches of glutinous synthesized keyboards enter and leave with an exquisite sense of timing just as frigid droplets pinprick the melodic line. For all it’s obvious antiquated instrumentation and arrangement, I adore how the song truly sounds as if it is being pushed forward in increments by some strange pedal-pump operated mechanism. Newsom hits an operatic height with the line, “Now the towns and forests, highways and plains / fall back in circles like an emptying drain / And I won’t come round this way again / where the lonely wind abides,” then proceeds to move on by digging in with a repeated defiant sentiment that leads us on out:

and you will not take my heart, alive.

You will not take my heart, alive.

You will not take my heart, alive.

You will not take my heart, alive.

You will not take my heart, alive.

You will not take my heart, alive.

You will not take my heart, alive.

You will not take my heart.

[photo by Jay L. Clendenin, 2015]

[photo by Jay L. Clendenin, 2015]

The whole song lasts no more than four minutes and one second, and yet seems so expansive you might forget where you began or realize that it’s now over.
-_____
-__________
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Program illustration by Léon Bakst. In 1912 Debussy’s piece was made into a short ballet with costumes and sets by painter Bakst, choreographed and performed by renowned Ballets Russes dancer Vaslav Nijinsky.

Program illustration by Léon Bakst. In 1912 Debussy’s piece was made into a short ballet with costumes and sets by painter Bakst, choreographed and performed by renowned Ballets Russes dancer Vaslav Nijinsky.

PRÉLUDE À L’APRÈS-MIDI D’UN FAUNE – CLAUDE DEBUSSY 

-_

Translated into English as “Prelude to The Afternoon of a Faun” (first performed in Paris on December 22, 1894, conducted by Gustave Doret), this symphonic poem for orchestra by French composer Claude Debussy (1862–1918) has long been a favorite piece of music for me, just as I relish much of his compositions and “tone paintings.” I will place very little claim towards my knowledge of “Classical” music, but there is something to Debussy’s work–its layered textures, its strokes of color, the way that it seems to both manipulate and accept the immediacy that is inherent in the flux of time–that speaks to me. He had a true appreciation for the sensory nature of man and that it is through a correspondence of those faculties we experience and orient ourselves in temporal existence and in memory. His music is alive. It is a disturbance and it is a pleasure. It is mysterious and wet. It is something you can swim in.
Misty Morning on the Seine [Claude Monet, 1897]

Misty Morning on the Seine [Claude Monet, 1897]

[Claude Debussy (1862-1918), photo taken in 1904.]

[Claude Debussy (1862-1918), photo taken in 1904.]

    In a 1906 letter to his step-son Debussy argued: “Music has this over painting–it can bring together all manner of variations of color and light–a point not often observed though it is quite obvious.” It is with this same sort of fluid mind frame that he attempted to evoke scents in his piano prelude “Sounds and Fragrances Swirl Through the Evening Air.” That work was inspired by Charles Baudelaire’s poem Harmonie du Soir, featured below in translation by William Aggeler:
One illustration by Beresford Egan (1905 – 1984) for a 1929 edition of Charles Baudelaire’s 1857 volume of poetry Les Fleurs Du Mal (The Flowers of Evil).

One illustration by Beresford Egan (1905 – 1984) for a 1929 edition of Charles Baudelaire’s 1857 volume of poetry Les Fleurs Du Mal (The Flowers of Evil).

 ___________

Evening Harmony

The season is at hand when swaying on its stem

Every flower exhales perfume like a censer;

Sounds and perfumes turn in the evening air;

Melancholy waltz and languid vertigo!

.

Every flower exhales perfume like a censer;

The violin quivers like a tormented heart;

Melancholy waltz and languid vertigo!

The sky is sad and beautiful like an immense altar.

.
The violin quivers like a tormented heart,

A tender heart, that hates the vast, black void!

The sky is sad and beautiful like an immense altar;

The sun has drowned in his blood which congeals…

.
A tender heart that hates the vast, black void

Gathers up every shred of the luminous past!

The sun has drowned in his blood which congeals…

Your memory in me glitters like a monstrance!

 .
    To return to the work featured on this mix, Debussy was very engaged with the cultural innovations and mutations occurring in Fin de Siècle France: Aestheticism, Decadence, and Symbolism, amongst various other movements. Debussy himself was regarded as one of the prominent figures associated with Impressionist music, yet he himself rejected that association and viewed it as only some label created by art critics.
[Despite Debussy’s rejection of the “Impressionist” label, one can see why Margaret Lam would state that when considering “Debussy’s vision focused on the colours and textures of sound, rather than the established structures and grammar of music” […] “Claude Monet’s paintings, like Rouen Cathedral, Portal in the Sun, 1894, may be more helpful in understanding the music of Claude Debussy than other types of analysis.”]

[Despite Debussy’s rejection of the “Impressionist” label, one can see why Margaret Lam would state that when considering “Debussy’s vision focused on the colours and textures of sound, rather than the established structures and grammar of music” […] “Claude Monet’s paintings, like Rouen Cathedral, Portal in the Sun, 1894, may be more helpful in understanding the music of Claude Debussy than other types of analysis.”]

Debussy much more aligned himself with the literary school of his period known as Symbolism, and it is from a work by major French symbolist poet Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-1898) that “Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune” takes both its title and inspiration. Mallarmé believed in the essential creative function of poetry (as in the theological sense of “creation”) and in a complexity to art where the audience should have to participate–they must pull meaning out of both the semantic and acoustic surface of his words.
[Stéphane Mallarmé by Edouard Manet (1832-1883). On display at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, France, this portrait was painted in 1876, the year of the publication of Mallarmé’s Après-midi d’un faune, a long poem illustrated by engravings by Manet.]

[Stéphane Mallarmé by Edouard Manet (1832-1883). On display at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, France, this portrait was painted in 1876, the year of the publication of Mallarmé’s Après-midi d’un faune, a long poem illustrated by engravings by Manet.]

     Mallarmé described the heart of his own poem, L’après-midi d’un faune as a “very lofty and beautiful idea,” and it is clear that this syntactically complicated reworking of the Ovidian myth of Pan–with here this Satyr accompanying himself on his reed pipes while recounting (or living) the erotic fantasy of his failed possession of two nymphs–deals with the elemental confusion within desire and memory. The poem begins with the Faun stirring to indulge himself in sensuous, if frustrated, memories:
[1876 Engraving by Edouard Manet for Mallarmé’s Après-midi d’un faune.]

[1876 Engraving by Edouard Manet for Mallarmé’s Après-midi d’un faune.]

These nymphs, I would perpetuate them.
So bright
Their crimson flesh that hovers there, light
In the air drowsy with dense slumbers.
Did I love a dream?
My doubt, mass of ancient night, ends extreme
In many a subtle branch, that remaining the true
Woods themselves, proves, alas, that I too
Offered myself, alone, as triumph, the false ideal of roses.

[1876 Engraving by Edouard Manet for Mallarmé’s Après-midi d’un faune.]

[1876 Engraving by Edouard Manet for Mallarmé’s Après-midi d’un faune.]

After a total of 110 lines the work concludes with the Faun returning to his slumber with a tranquil resignation:

Farewell to you, both: I go to see the shadow you have become.

 

[(considered the greatest male ballet dancer of the 20th Century) Vaslav Nijinsky as the faune, 1912.]

[(considered the greatest male ballet dancer of the 20th Century) Vaslav Nijinsky as the faune, 1912.]

[Lubov Tchernicheva as a Nymph and Vaslav Nijinsky as the Faun [photo by Baron Adolf de Meyer, Vogue’s First Staff Photographer]

[Lubov Tchernicheva as a Nymph and Vaslav Nijinsky as the Faun [photo by Baron Adolf de Meyer, Vogue’s First Staff Photographer]

[Lydia Nelidova and Vaslav Nijinsky entwined.]

[Lydia Nelidova and Vaslav Nijinsky entwined.]

[Vaslav Nijinsky as the Faun [photo by Baron Adolf de Meyer.]

[Vaslav Nijinsky as the Faun [photo by Baron Adolf de Meyer.]

[Still from Charlie Chaplin’s Sunnyside (released June 15, 1919). Nijinski and Chaplin met in 1916 on the set of Easy Street and Nijinsky complimented Charlie on how balletic his moves were. With this fantasy scene of a dance with wood nymphs Chaplin payed homage to Vaslav Nijinski and the ballet he choreographed, L’Après-midi d’un faune (The Afternoon of a Faun). Below you can watch this short silent film written, directed and starring the always fantastic Charlie Chaplin.]

[Still from Charlie Chaplin’s Sunnyside (released June 15, 1919). Nijinski and Chaplin met in 1916 on the set of Easy Street and Nijinsky complimented Charlie on how balletic his moves were. With this fantasy scene of a dance with wood nymphs Chaplin payed homage to Vaslav Nijinski and the ballet he choreographed, L’Après-midi d’un faune (The Afternoon of a Faun). Below you can watch this short silent film written, directed and starring the genius and always fantastic Charlie Chaplin.]

    In 1891 the journalist Jules Huret (1864-I915) interviewed Mallarmé on the significance of symbolism, the obscure play of associations, the sacred magic of evocation in poetry, and the end of naturalism. Here Mallarmé asks, “Is there not something abnormal in the certainty of discovering […]?” He also states:
 .
“To name an object is to suppress three-quarters of the enjoyment of the poem, which derives from the pleasure of step-by-step discovery; to suggest, that is the dream. It is the perfect use of this mystery that constitutes the symbol: to evoke an object little by little, so as to bring to light a state of the soul or, inversely, to choose an object and bring out of it a state of the soul through a series of unravelings.
[…]
“The childishness of literature, up to now, has been to believe, for instance, that choosing a certain number of precious stones and writing down their names on a piece of paper, even very precisely, was to make precious stones. Well, no! Poetry being an act of creation, one must draw from the soul of man states, glowing lights, of such absolute purity that, well sung and well lighted, they become the jewels of man: that is what is meant by symbol; that is what is meant by creation, and the word poetry here finds its meaning: it is, in sum, the only possible human creation. And if, in truth, the precious stones with which one adorns oneself do not convey a state of the soul, one has no right to wear them . . .”
.
    Mallarmé even extends these ideas to musical composition:
“In music, the same transformation has occurred: the firmly delineated melodies of yesteryear have made way for an infinity of shattered melodies that enrich the fabric without making us feel the cadence as strongly.”
 .
[Jim Morrison as the Faune. photographed by Frank Lisciandro, 1970.]

[Jim Morrison as the Faune. photographed by Frank Lisciandro, 1970.]

Or, perhaps, as Jim Morrison wrote in his poem, Ghost Song:

Enter again the sweet forest

Enter the hot dream

Come with us

Everything is broken up and dances

    In the preparatory notes for his highly ambitious but completely unrealized masterpiece Le Livre (“The Book”) (in which he hoped to reveal “all existing relations between everything”), Mallarmé writes: “Mystery and Drama, Drama and Mystery are only the same thing reversed and presenting the one on the surface while the other is hidden inside.” To my mind it is the sentiment behind that statement that is much in play in the intricate pattern of Debussy’s musical evocation of The Afternoon of a Faun, and it is this that makes it such a pleasure to listen to. Debussy’s music was a radical departure from the grand gestures and formalities of traditional harmonic chordal resolution found in the Romantic era, and he sought to create a music with new harmonic and melodic language. In this Debussy could be said to be largely responsible for what we consider modern music, from “classical” to jazz to pop (and that influence can be clearly cited in works from artists as diverse as Charlie Parker and Trent Reznor).
[A design by Léon Bakst for the stage setting.]

[A design by Léon Bakst for the stage setting.]

    With a sinuous melody played on flute, which intimates the sensual grace of the feminine figure, and the gentle swells of strings, horns, harp, oboe, clarinet, and finger cymbals all utilized to be evocative of a mind at drift, I am not surprised that after this composition’s controversial debut Mallarmé wrote a short note to Debussy that read:
 .
I have just come out of the concert, deeply moved. The marvel! Your illustration of “The Afternoon of a Faun,” which presents a dissonance with my text
only by going much further, really, into nostalgia and into light, with finesse, with sensuality, with richness. I press your hand admiringly, Debussy. Yours, Mallarmé.
 .-________________
[I should of course note that Claude Debussy’s 1894 musical composition is here beautifully performed live in 2007 by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by the American-born Grammy winning David Robertson who has served as principle guest conductor since 2005.]

[I should of course note that Claude Debussy’s 1894 musical composition is here on this MixTape beautifully performed live in 2007 by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by the American-born Grammy winning David Robertson who has served as principle guest conductor since 2005.]

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dd-poster

Art by Guy Peellaert, based on a photo by Terry O’Neill [both 1974]

SWEET THING SUITE – DAVID BOWIE

 

-_
blackstar

[designed by Bowie’s long-time graphic design collaborator Jonathan Barnbrook]

[I feel for context sake that it should be noted that these songs’ inclusion on this mix was done prior to the sudden news of David Bowie‘s death on January 10, 2016, two days after his 69th birthday and the release of his final, harrowing, strange, and truly beautiful record, Blackstar (or ★). This parting album is one that continues to elicit a response of real tears while I listen and sing along. With that in mind I’d like to state that this MixTape and all below should not be seen as the total of my eulogy for this incredible artist, as it could not do justice for all that Bowie’s over five decades of art has meant to me throughout the thirty-six year course of my life, nor the resonance I am sure it will continue to have with me. Additionally, David Bowie’s art and his relationship with his attendant spirit of genius are profoundly complex. To paraphrase Walt Whitman‘s Song of Myself, he is large, he contains multitudes. That being so, I’d love for this to be lucid but find that here I am only able to discuss his art in laborious whorls and intellectual flits that I can only hope at least create a mandala of thoughts caught adrift, but resulting I’m sure in deficient generalities and the broadest of terms, or worse a babbling ouroboros. In short, the essay below is a failure and I know full of holes. Yet, I present you the fragments. To be honest, I will likely tinker with this essay some day to be featured in a post of its own where it can accompany a Bowie tribute mix, much like I did for Lou Reed upon his passing. Of course, it should go without saying, all below are facets of my David Bowie, as I am sure you all have numerous ones of your own.]
To you, David Bowie, in memoriam, I can only return your own words, which you placed as the dying invocation of a young Tibetan monk under stars that look so special as his brains spill out into snow that looks so old:
sevenyears
I praise to you; Nothing ever goes away.
_____-_________
Our alienation goes to the roots. The realization of this is the essential springboard for any serious reflection on any aspect of present inter-human life.
 
We are bemused and crazed creatures, strangers to our true selves, to one another, and to the spiritual and material world — mad, even, from an ideal standpoint we can glimpse but not adopt. 
 
What is to be done? We who are still half alive, living in the often fibrillating heartland of a senescent capitalism — can we do more than reflect the decay around and within us? Can we do more than sing our sad and bitter songs of disillusion and defeat? The requirement of the present, the failure of the past, is the same: to provide a thoroughly self-conscious and self-critical human account of man. 
 
We are effectively destroying ourselves by violence masquerading as love. I am a specialist, God help me, in events in inner space and time, in experiences called thoughts, images, reveries, dreams, visions, hallucinations, dreams of memories, memories of dreams, memories of visions, dreams of hallucinations, refractions of refractions of refractions of that original Alpha and Omega of experience and reality, that Reality on whose repression, denial, splitting, projection, falsification, and general desecration and profanation our civilization as much as anything is based.
rdlaing
.
The above four quotations were all pulled from The Politics of Experience and The Bird of Paradise (public library), the 1967 book by radical, Scottish psychiatrist R.D. Laing (10/7/27 – 8/23/89).
.
bowcrop
    Many might have made the remark that David Bowie’s art is a cold, impersonal thing more concerned with a narcissistic surface image and style rather than authenticity (see for example critic Lester Bangs excellent if shortsighted reviews featured in the brilliant collection Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung)(public library).
lesterbangs
Now, I might accede to certain facets of that argument, but only as I believe that much of the true depth of expression in Bowie’s art was achieved through a meditative manipulation with, against, and between exteriors and such modern concepts as the Constructivism art movement; “the reconciliation of ostensible paradoxes” in Hegel’s dialectic; the synthesizing of multiple abstractions through imagism; an odd and somewhat absurd blend of the Theatre of Cruelty developed by Antonin Artaud with the dramatic theory of “making it strange ” or Alienation Effect developed by German dramatist-director Bertolt Brecht; and the disturbed fun one can have with a simulacrum, as demonstrated through Pop art, particularly how it relates to an individual’s desires regarding celebrity and mass society in the condition of industrialization (and of course, coupled with his obviously quick, inquiring mind, these all seem to be interests that he would acquire organically when considering he was raised in a family plagued by psychosis and various mental illnesses, and that he spent his younger years alternately as a junior visualizer at a London advertising firm, studying the theatrical medium of mime under legendary Lindsay Kemp, and seriously considering becoming a monk while learning Tibetan Buddhism under meditation master Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche in Scotland).
Lindsay Kemp in his own stage production of Oscar Wilde’s 1891 play, Salomé [photo by Graziano Villa]

Lindsay Kemp in his own stage production of Oscar Wilde’s 1891 play, Salomé [photo by Graziano Villa]

Bowie as Pierrot for 1980's Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) [photo by Brian Duffy, makeup design by Richard Sharah, costume designed by Natasha Kornilof] Although Bowie's sense of performance was certainly expressive, he always employed an economy of movement that comes from the traditions taught by Kemp.

Bowie as Pierrot for 1980’s Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) [photo by Brian Duffy, makeup design by Richard Sharah, costume designed by Natasha Korniloff] Although Bowie’s sense of performance was certainly expressive, he always employed an economy of movement that comes from the traditions taught by Kemp.

Many of the photos from the session with photographer/designer Duffy were then given to artist Edward Bell for further treatment.]

Many of the photos from the session with photographer/designer Duffy were then given to artist Edward Bell for further treatment.]

    With these ideas about dramaturgy and numerous other art theories in play, Bowie was able to mate them to his idiosyncratic approach to song-craft, which was certainly innovative yet wholly intuitive. Assimilating and modifying his restless enthusiasms, forthright about the varied range and taste of his influences, Bowie would then turn his own singular talents and personality(ies) and those of his calculatingly chosen collaborators towards transforming them into a more personal and peculiar mechanism of artistic expression. In a society where increasingly narrow definitions and allegiances to lifestyle brands are demanded of us this system for songwriting might seem facile, fraudulent, or worse as grasps towards relevancy. However–with his curious immersion into whatever music, art, theater, and literature that caught the interest of his eclectic mind and his teasing of elements from these sources to service as layers and textures in the pursuit of a work all his own–Bowie’s songwriting should be appreciated for what are truly organic methods. To borrow F. Scott Fitzgerald‘s description of his own technique, Bowie’s processes of accretion, expansion, and reduction are more honest about the natural attitudes and non-linear patterns of the hearts and minds of men and women as they search to express themselves down here in “reality.” As transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson said in his 1841 essay Self-Reliance: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall.”
Bowie-Nothing-has-changed
      In her essay in the collection David Bowie: Critical Perspectives, Dr Kathryn Johnson writes: “[…] Bowie continued to mine diverse sources of inspiration and later became adept at assimilating them into new and original work of rare variety and depth. Songwriting, for Bowie, became part of a holistic creative process which also involved visual design and resulted in a ‘total’, three-dimensional vision.”
smile
Considering the later concepts of a “fiction suit” (an apparatus of the imagination that enables us to enter a work of art) as coined by Grant Morrison when creating his brilliant “hypersigil” comic series The Invisibles, and writer Alan Moore‘s statements regarding human beings existing as essentially amphibious creatures (“in the etymological sense of ‘two lives’”) inhabiting the commensurate realms of the solid material world and the world of ideas inside our head–one could take Bowie’s “dimensional vision” as consisting of more than merely three, but incorporating four or more dimensions. His art could be appreciated as a landscape composed by and for his various characters and concepts to inhabit and explore themselves poetically and as a terrain of interaction where we the audience can freely explore our own characters and emotions as well. This of course is possible when an artist has a full regard for language and art, symbols, words, and images as being consciousness altering tools–or magic. This is a conviction that Bowie has enthusiastically demonstrated wholly throughout his long career. Likewise, in this formula for communication, his music–the clusters of notes, its timbre and beat, etc.–should be regarded as characters and concepts too as they contain as much information or more than say a choice in wardrobe, prop, or lyric; thus all this are really emotions, attributes, emanations, or sephiroth if you were feeling Kabbalistic. As Bowie says with a compressed sepulchral croon among other disjunctive images and sentiments that knit through 1993’s “You’ve Been Around” from his oh-so-nearly but disorienting variation on new jack swing LP Black Tie White Noise: this is a permeable zone “Where the flesh meets the spirit world/Where the traffic is thin,” and here in this liminal space we can “slip from a vacant view.”
[David Bowie, Los Angeles February 17, 1993, photo by Herb Ritts]

[David Bowie, Los Angeles February 17, 1993, photo by Herb Ritts]

      I find it both impressive (and obviously somewhat bewildering to write about) that this sort of deep engagement with a work seems to be achieved in part through the distance imposed by artifice and performance (what Prof. Shelton Waldrep calls The Phenomenology of Performance in his book The Aesthetics of Self-Invention: Oscar Wilde to David Bowie) (public library) or by presenting an unexpected frame within a frame that the audience must first recognize and be unsettled by in order to make contact with the work.
Frames from Kubrick's 1968 epic science fiction 2001: A Space Odyssey.

[Frames from Kubrick’s 1968 epic science fiction film  2001: A Space Odyssey.]

Think of the meticulous mise-en-scène, framing, cuts, soundtrack, and the actor’s performances in the films of Bronx born and bred director Stanley Kubrick, an obvious and well-known influence on Bowie. With these films the audience is made constantly aware of the technical aspects of “movie-making” by a master of the form and thus forced to confront certain abstractions, and yet somehow his fastidiously orchestrated work is more powerful, more visceral and intimate than the majority of movies that merely rely on pathos’ overwhelming effect on a passive audience. As Kubrick himself once said, “A film is – or should be – more like music than like fiction. It should be a progression of moods and feelings. The theme, what’s behind the emotion, the meaning, all that comes later.” Or more specifically as Kubrick commented on his own brilliant film A Clockwork Orange, “The story functions, of course, on several levels, political, sociological, philosophical and, what’s most important, on a dreamlike psychological-symbolic level.”
[Final scene from Kubrick's 1971 brutal masterpiece, A Clockwork Orange]

[Final scene from Kubrick’s 1971 brutal masterpiece, A Clockwork Orange]

Rather than an immediate emotional identification (which can be developed later organically by the audience’s active fascination, or not), this discipline demands of the audience a critical reaction.
Young Americans A side.tif
Fascination
Take a part of me
Can a heart beat live in a fever, raging inside of me
Fascination takes a part of me, I can’t help it
 
Got to use her, every time, every time, every time, got to use her
Every time
Fascination comes around
“Fascination” by Bowie & Luther Vandross from Young Americans (1975)
As Hugh Iglarsh writes in his review Rescreening Dr. Strangelove, “It is similar to what Bertolt Brecht describes as the alienation effect, forcing the viewer to see characters in terms of what they represent, coloring the subjective perception of objective reality, and creating the psychological conditions for both detachment and enlightened re-engagement.”
George C. Scott's unforgettably manic performance as the boorish Gen. 'Buck' Turgidson Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

[George C. Scott‘s manic, unforgettable performance as the boorish Gen. ‘Buck’ Turgidson in Kubrick’s brilliant 1964 comedy of frayed nerves, nuclear mutually assured destruction, and sexual frustration, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb]

[the incredibly skilled bassist Gail Ann Dorsey & Bowie in the 1997 video for "Dead Man Walking" directed by the always fascinating artist Floria Sigismondi. The song comes from Bowie's 1997 record of intricate glitch and textured, percussive loops, Earthling , which really deserves another listen by those who haven't in a while

[The incredibly skilled bassist Gail Ann Dorsey & Bowie in the video for “Dead Man Walking” directed by the always fascinating artist Floria Sigismondi. The song comes from Bowie’s 1997 record of abrasive, intricate glitch and textured, percussive loops, Earthling , which really deserves another listen by those who haven’t in a while]

      David Bowie himself has cited this German poet and playwright’s methods as an enormous influence on his creative process and composition.  Particularly, I find his comments in a June 1997 issue of the magazine Guitar Player to be quite illuminating on this subject:
          ….I’m sorry to keep using the word “context”, but it’s a governing principle. Context is almost everything. This is something too pretentious for words, but there’s another attitude that’s very much a part of what I do as a musician and performer. Brecht…[dissolves into laughter].
          Can you believe I said that?
         Bertolt Brecht believed that it was impossible for an actor to express real emotion in a natural form every night. Instead, you portray the emotion symbolically. You don’t try to draw the audience into the emotional content of what you’re doing, but give them something to create their own dialog about what you’re portraying. You play anger or love through stylistic gesture. The voice doesn’t rise and fall and the face doesn’t go through all the gambits you would portray as a naturalistic actor.
          I’ve done that an awful lot throughout my career. A lot of what is perceived as mannered performance or writing is a distancing from the subject matter to allow an audience to have their own association with what I’m writing about. That comes straight from Brecht, who was a major influence on me as a whippersnapper. It applies to any art form. It’s a question of creating a space between your subject matter and yourself as an artist. I sing notes that stand in for emotion. I honestly couldn’t care less about what the subject matter [of the album] is. I need lyrics; I write some lyrics. I guess a lot of subconscious things come through, and that probably says something about me. But it’s almost like lyrics standing in for lyrics: [sings] “Some words go here, and here’s some more words”. That’s enough. It’s almost like when you do an undersketch for a painting. You sketch out what it looks like–a sun here, a house here. That’s fine. The enthusiasm fleshes things out.
      All this creates a multivalence to Bowie’s work. As he describes his own painful jewel of a tune (which likely concerns, Bowie’s experiences with his closest childhood companion, his own schizophrenic half-brother, Terry) “The Bewlay Brothers“:
“[…] there are layers of ghosts within it. It’s a palimpsest, then.”
[From the 1971 Marlene Dietrich inspired Hunky Dory photo sessions with photographer Brian Ward]

[From the 1971 Marlene Dietrich inspired Hunky Dory photo sessions with photographer Brian Ward]

 Bowie’s work is instinctual and empathetic. There are contradictions at work. There are frustrations. Frustration creates narratives. There is a friction. Friction opens possibilities. If nothing else, Bowie’s work is about possibilities.
[One of Jung's numerous illustrations and mandalas for his own The Red Book: Liber Novus; a sort of journal wherein he recounts and comments upon the his imaginative experiences and unconscious visions between 1913 and 1916]

[One of Jung’s numerous illustrations and mandalas for his own The Red Book: Liber Novus (public library); a sort of journal wherein he recounts and comments upon his imaginative experiences, unconscious visions, and encounters with the symbolic language of expression and archetypes between the years 1913 and 1916]

      The founder of analytical psychology (the central concept of which stresses that individuation—or the psychological process of integrating opposites within the psyche—to be the central process of human development) Carl Gustav Jung wrote in 1923: “Since life cannot tolerate a standstill, a damming up of vital energy results, and this would lead to an insupportable condition did not the tension of opposites produce a new, uniting function that transcends them. […] From the activity of the unconscious there now emerges a new content, constellated by thesis and antithesis in equal measure and standing in a compensatory relation to both. It thus forms the middle ground on which the opposites can be united. […] The standstill is overcome and life can flow on with renewed power towards new goals.” This process is of course facilitated by active imagination, which results in the creation of a living symbol of some sort that assimilates and embodies the once adverse forces in the psyche.
He trod on sacred ground, he cried loud into the crowd I'm a blackstar, I'm a blackstar. Another illustration by Carl Gustav Jung for The Red Book: Liber Novus.

[He trod on sacred ground, he cried loud into the crowd I’m a blackstar, I’m a blackstar. Another illustration by Carl Gustav Jung for The Red Book: Liber Novus.]

In her fantastic essay “Crashing Out with Sylvian: David Bowie, Carl Jung and the Unconscious”  Tanja Stark writes:
“A prolific writer, Jung’s theories are complex but at their core was an understanding of life as an ongoing process of Individuation, a psychological journey of emergence, transformation and centered integration of the psyche within a holistic Self through conscious awareness, engagement and balance with the energies of the Personal and Collective Unconscious. Jung held that subliminal essences and universal energies profoundly influenced the lives of individuals and societies and believed the recurring mythopoeic symbolism, imagery and narratives found across cultures in art, myth and religion drew from the powerful energies of this Collective Unconscious. Manifesting in ways such as dreams, visions, art, intuitions, spiritual experience and synchronicities, active attention to these expressions could provide pathways to greater integration and wholeness. In contrast, unhealthy repression, denial or unbalanced inflation of unconscious energies could result in pathology, illness, psychosis and psychological disintegration.”
leroijones
      This repression and denial is what LeRoi Jones (aka Amiri Baraka) depicts as one of the worst sins in his 1965 novel The System of Dante’s Hell (public library). In the brief notes that open this book, Jones attempts to define his concept of a heretic (or Heathen, as Bowie titled his brilliant album of 2002):
[Heathen album artwork designed by Bowie's long-time graphic design collaborator Jonathan Barnbrook]

[Heathen album artwork designed by Bowie’s long-time graphic design collaborator Jonathan Barnbrook]

I put The Heretics in the deepest part of hell, though Dante had
them spared, on higher ground .
It is heresy, against one’s own sources, running in terror, from
one’s deepest responses and insights . . . the denial of feeling . . .
that I see as basest evil .
We are not talking merely about beliefs, which are later, after the
fact of feeling. A flower, turning from moisture and sun would
turn evil colors and die.
[Heathen interior art by Jonathan Barnbrook; based on the 1611 painting Massacre of the Innocents by Italian Baroque painter Guido Reni]

[Heathen interior art by Jonathan Barnbrook; based on the 1611 painting Massacre of the Innocents by Italian Baroque painter Guido Reni]

The contradictions and facades inherent in Bowie’s work could and should be considered as an active attention to his expression, in pursuit of his “own sources,” or a truth of feeling.
[Photo by Markus Klinko for GQ Men of the Year, 2002]

[Photo by Markus Klinko for GQ Men of the Year, 2002]

As Bowie said in a 2002 interview:
 
“Heathenism is a state of mind. You can take it that I’m referring to one who does not see his world. He has no mental light. He destroys almost unwittingly. He cannot feel any God’s presence in his life. He is the 21st century man.”
brainpickings
      In a post for her stunning and always stirring blog Brain Pickings (with its stated intention being to aid us to “tap into our mental pool of resources”), Maria Popova writes: “Creativity is a combinatorial force — it rests on our ability to fuse, usually unconsciously, existing concepts, memories, bits of information, pieces of knowledge, and fragmentary impression into novel ideas that we call our own. A mind of exceptional creativity, then, is a mind brimming with vibrantly diverse bits that can be fused together into a boundless array of possible combinations.” Popova also depicts the creative process as a “dancing in a delicate osmosis of conscious and unconscious work.”
[Beautiful detail of an illustration by the legendary Steve Ditko for his creation Doctor Strange, published by Marvel Comics in STRANGE TALES #138 (Nov. 1965)]

[Beautiful detail of an illustration by the legendary Steve Ditko for his creation Doctor Strange, published by Marvel Comics in STRANGE TALES #138 (Nov. 1965)]

David Bowie in designer Kansai Yamamoto’s “Rites of Spring” costume (photo by Terry O'Neill, Ziggy Stardust UK tour, 1973)

David Bowie in designer Kansai Yamamoto’s “Rites of Spring” costume (photo by Masayoshi Sukita, Ziggy Stardust UK tour, 1973)

I understand how a consumerist public might either be absolutely allured or totally disinterested by a self-aware art that at times could present itself boldly with the warm plane of a four color sci-fi comic book–as the year or two of the Ziggy Stardust project and much of glam rock did–as Warhol’s Death And Disaster series of silk screens do.
[Andy Warhol, Orange Car Crash, 1963]

Andy Warhol looks a scream / Hang him on my wall / Andy Warhol, Silver Screen / Can’t tell them apart at all. [Andy Warhol, Orange Car Crash, 1963]

[Edward Kinsella Illustration of French writer and provocateur Jean Genet for The New Yorker, 2014]

[Edward Kinsella illustration of French writer and provocateur Jean Genet for The New Yorker, 2014]

[Bowie with Cyrinda Foxe, Beverly Hills, 1972, photo by Mick Rock]

[Bowie with Cyrinda Foxe, Beverly Hills, 1972, photo by Mick Rock]

Bowie certainly had an ear towards the American jukebox when composing the rattlesnake muscle and sinew set to dance to a genuine american primitive rhythm & blues that is the November 24 1972 single “Jean Genie,” and likewise when creating the cherry-popping, lip-smacking, subordinate to the beat, Elvis-with-a-vulva swagger that is the February 15 1974 single “Rebel Rebel.” (funnily enough this track can be taken as a rockin’ oldie playing on some antique jukebox in the glitter & doom dystopia Hunger City, where his album Diamond Dogs is set).
[Contact sheet for the late 1973 photo session later used for the February 1974 release of the single "Rebel Rebel"

[Contact sheet for the August 1973 Pin Ups photo session by Mick Rock later used for the February 1974 release of the single “Rebel Rebel”]

[Mick Rock served as David Bowie's official photographer from 1972 to 1973]

[Mick Rock served as David Bowie’s official photographer from 1972 to 1973]

It does seem that for much of the early 70s Bowie was consciously attempting to create music that would “move like tigers on vaseline” (as he sings in 1972’s “Hang On to Yourself.”) He was attempting to make art that captured and released the desiderata of a depressed generation, all the while with face painted in kabuki mimicry that suggests an extraterrestrial alpenglow.

 

[Applying his Ziggy Stardust makeup in May 1973]

[Applying his Ziggy Stardust makeup in May 1973]

I watch the ripples change their size
But never leave the stream
Of warm impermanence and
So the days float through my eyes
But the days still seem the same
And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations
They’re quite aware of what they’re going through
“Changes” – David Bowie (1971)
[Elvis I & II by Andy Warhol, 1963. The original images images of Elvis were taken from a publicity still for the 1960 movie Flaming Star. Based on the 1958 book Flaming Lance by Clair Huffaker, the western film had an original working title of Black Star.

[Elvis I & II by Andy Warhol, 1963. The original images of Elvis were taken from a publicity still for the 1960 movie Flaming Star. Based on the 1958 book Flaming Lance by Clair Huffaker, the western film had an original working title of Black Star and an accompanying Elvis song with the lyrics : Every man has a Black Star / A Black Star over his shoulder / There’s a lot of livin’ I gotta do / Give me time to make a few dreams come true, Black Star]

In the fascinating 1989 work by brilliant cultural critic Greil MarcusLipstick Traces: A Secret History of the 20th Century (public library)–he states that from within the suppressed desires, frustration, and malaise coupled with the economic boom that all ensued with the close of the Second World War, “Pop Culture” was born in the year 1948. If that is true, it should be noted that Bowie née David Robert Jones was born in Brixton, south London on January 8th 1947 (exactly 12 years to the day after the birth of Elvis Aaron Presley in Tupelo, Mississippi). It is indisputable that there were profound cultural shifts occurring during Bowie’s youth. There was for example the emergence of the figures of Marlon Brando, Elvis Presley, and James Dean; or what “Beat Generation” writer Jack Kerouac characterized as America’s New Trinity of Love, writing in 1957 (the year On the Road was published) (and read here by the comedian Richard Lewis):

“Love is sweeping the country.

“While wars and riots rage all around the world, in a vortex that resembles the dying Dinosaur Age of Violence, here within her sweeter shores America is producing a Revolution of Love. Three young men of exceptional masculine beauty and compassion and sadness have been upraised by its reaching hands.
[…]
“The Garden of Eden might come back in its pristine form. The old American Hero fought the Devil; the new American Hero knows that the Devil never existed except in the minds of anxiety. There will be no more tempting of the woman by the Devil and no banishment from the paradise on earth.
[…]
“There is the need all around to be recognized and adored by some other human being, the need all around for kindness, for the ideal of love which does not exclude cruelty but is all-embracing, non-assertive, simply lovely. Not necessarily the Dionysion orgy but the tender communion.”
[…]
Kerouac here does accept the dark entangled in this adoration, but then twists its shape to flood it with light and align it with the more mystic facets of mankind:

“As always when something new grows out of the groaning earth, this earth which is a recent event in the cosmic eternity of light, there are angry complaints raised from all stations. The dryer intellectuals complain that the adulation of the dead James Dean by thousands of American girls represents a kind of unhealthy necrophilia; they point out the fact that 1,000 fan letters a month are still being written to Dean as tho he were still alive, asking for his pictures and asking him to come back because they love him. “Even if you look bad and you’re all cut up from your car-crash, come back anyway.” Yet if Saint Teresa can make us the holy promise that she will come back and shower the earth with roses forever, this belief in the immortal lovingness of James Dean by thousands of eager believing chicks is well-rooted in a reverential mystical tradition that has certainly never harmed the sleeping babe in his crib. It augurs well for the world that it will refuse to believe that in death endeth loveliness, or endeth enlightenment.”

[Tupelo, Mississippi - Sep. 26, 1956, photo by Marshutz Stanley]

[Tupelo, Mississippi – Sep. 26, 1956, photo by Marshutz Stanley]

Or, as Lester Bangs put it twenty years later in his essay for the August 29, 1977 edition of The Village Voice, Where Were You When Elvis Died? (How Long Will We Care?) (and Robert Johnson, too):

“[Elvis] was the only male performer I have ever seen to whom I responded sexually; it wasn’t real arousal, rather an erection of the heart, when I looked at him I went mad with desire and envy and worship and self-projection. I mean, Mick Jagger, whom I saw as far back as 1964 and twice in ’65, never even came close.
[…]
Elvis Presley was the man who brought overt blatant vulgar sexual frenzy to the popular arts in America (and thereby to the nation itself, since putting “popular arts” and “America” in the same sentence seems almost redundant). It has been said that he was the first white to sing like a black person, which is untrue in terms of hard facts but totally true in terms of cultural impact. But what’s more crucial is that when Elvis started wiggling his hips and Ed Sullivan refused to show it, the entire country went into a paroxysm of sexual frustration leading to abiding discontent which culminated in the explosion of psychedelic-militant folklore which was the sixties.
I mean, don’t tell me about Lenny Bruce, man – Lenny Bruce said dirty words in public and obtained a kind of consensual martyrdom. Plus which Lenny Bruce was hip, too goddam hip if you ask me, which was his undoing, whereas Elvis was not hip at all, Elvis was a goddam truck driver who worshipped his mother and would never say shit or fuck around her, and Elvis alerted America to the fact that it had a groin with imperatives that had been stifled. Lenny Bruce demonstrated how far you could push a society as repressed as ours and how much you could get away with, but Elvis kicked “How Much Is That Doggie in the Window” out the window and replaced it with “Let’s fuck.” The rest of us are still reeling from the impact. Sexual chaos reigns currently, but out of chaos may flow true understanding and harmony, and either way Elvis almost singlehandedly opened the floodgates.
[…]
If love truly is going out of fashion forever, which I do not believe, then along with our nurtured indifference to each other will be an even more contemptuous indifference to each others’ objects of reverence. I thought it was Iggy Stooge, you thought it was Joni Mitchell or whoever else seemed to speak for your own private, entirely circumscribed situation’s many pains and few ecstasies. We will continue to fragment in this manner, because solipsism holds all the cards at present; it is a king whose domain engulfs even Elvis’. But I can guarantee you one thing: we will never again agree on anything as we agreed on Elvis. So I won’t bother saying good-bye to his corpse. I will say good-bye to you.
[Photo by Dennis Stock of James Dean looking at records in his aunt and uncle's basement in Indiana, 1955.]

[Photo by Dennis Stock of James Dean looking at records in his aunt and uncle’s basement in Indiana, 1955.]

Time takes a cigarette, puts it in your mouth
You pull on your finger, then another finger, then your cigarette
The wall to wall is calling, it lingers, then you forget
Ohhh, you’re a rock ‘n’ roll suicide
[Photo by Al Wertheimer, Segregated Lunch Counter: Elvis Presley waits for his bacon and eggs at the railroad station lunch counter while a black woman waits for her sandwich, Chatanooga, Tennessee, 1956]

[Photo by Al Wertheimer, Segregated Lunch Counter: Elvis Presley waits for his bacon and eggs at the railroad station lunch counter while a black woman waits for her sandwich, Chatanooga, Tennessee, 1956]

You’re too old to lose it, too young to choose it
And the clock waits so patiently on your song
You walk past a cafe but you don’t eat when you’ve lived too long
Oh, no, no, no, you’re a rock ‘n’ roll suicide
[Marlon Brando, 1948, photo by Ronny Jaques]

[Marlon Brando, 1948, photo by Ronny Jaques]

Chev brakes are snarling as you stumble across the road
But the day breaks instead so you hurry home
Don’t let the sun blast your shadow
Don’t let the milk float ride your mind

You’re so natural, religiously unkind
[Little Richard, by Charles Burns 1992]

[Little Richard, by Charles Burns 1992]

In 1956, Bowie not yet ten, his father would bring home the recent hit singles that made bizarre but wholly thrilling rock ‘n’ roller Little Richard a star: “Tutti Frutti” and “Long Tall Sally.” Bowie later said that he had the sensational reaction of “My heart near­ly burst with excitement. I’d never heard anything even resembling this. It filled the room with energy and color and outrageous defiance. I had heard God.” Even as a little boy his ambition had been set to be “a white Little Richard…..or at least his saxophone player.”
stoptheworld
 Another figure that would weigh heavily as an influence upon Bowie as a boy is the British vaudeville actor-singer Anthony Newley.  A child actor (the Artful Dodger in David Lean‘s 1948 film adaption of Oliver Twist), the seemingly endlessly versatile Newley went on to great success in numerous diverse, creative fields. To name but a few, there was television where he created the surreal 1959 comedy show The Strange World of Gurney Slade; there was film where he starred in Richard Fleischer’s 1967 musical film Doctor Dolittle; he created a bestselling LP of political satire titled Fool Britannia, which starred comedic genius Peter Sellers and Newley’s wife Joan Collins; and in terms of music (with songwriting partner Leslie Bricusse) in addition to landing at least a dozen Top 40 entries on the UK Singles Chart between 1959 and 1962, Newley created the smash 1962 Broadway musical Stop the World – I Want to Get Off, wrote the title song of 1964 James Bond film Goldfinger and “Feeling Good“, which was popularized by Nina Simone, and the soundtrack for the Gene Wilder showcase, the 1971 adaption of Roald Dahl‘s Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. As to why this obviously highly present and talented entertainer seems to be somewhat “uncelebrated” to put it mildly, writer Peter Doggett provides a well put, likely answer: “The British public, however, tends to distrust performers who exhibit more than one talent; they’re seen as pompous, pretentious, arrogant, all adjectives that were thrown at Newley during his lifetime.”
Alongside “Beat Generation” literary figures of speed and motion, the spiritually turbulent “sheets of sound” blown by John Coltrane, and other hip culture introduced to Bowie by his older half-brother Terry Burns, and despite the attitudes of the larger British public, it’s clear to see why this protean pop star would appeal to the ambitions of an adolescent Bowie. (Interestingly enough, coming at a time when he was nearly depleted of creativity Bowie’s only true “mainstream success” arrived in the 1980s by providing a seemingly equally enervated audience a variation of Newley’s polished persona of professional entertainer). Newley for his part once said to the Daily Express in 1963 some of the most poignant words I’ve ever read about performers:
“There must be a hole in a man who gets up on a stage and cries, ‘Look at me! Look at me!’ I am still a paramount egotist forever watching myself. Why? A kid needs all the attention he can get, all the affection. He works for it. He was born with an engaging little face and nothing more. So he uses his cuteness to get love. The process continues throughout his life, into maturity. He sharpens and hones that ability until it is an art. Acting, when you boil it down, is just a plea for approval, for love.”
[Pan by Marjorie Cameron, 1955]

[Pan by Marjorie Cameron, 1955]

 When Bowie was a boy in postwar London another significant shift was occurring within the larger culture concerning where science, the occult, and the public converge, and in how these found novel expressions through art, the literature of science fiction, and the general zeitgeist. Of course matters of the occult and science had long been interwoven traditions (take as just one example the fascinating mid-16th century figure of John Dee, who–when not communicating with angels in the Enochian alphabet with a desire to solve the mysteries of the heavens through mathematics, optics, astrology, science and navigation–served as advisor to Queen Elizabeth I, giving her the notion and coining the term of a “British Empire”). Likewise, science fiction had been embraced by the public for quite some time, many citing Mary Shelley‘s 1818 book of alchemical horror Frankenstein as the pioneer of the genre. Another marvelous example of the occult and science copulating in fiction (and one that proceeds by thirty years H. P. Lovecraft‘s significant innovations in the 1920s & 30s of tales where scientific curiosity leads to the indelible truth of dark, esoteric forces) is Welsh author Arthur Machen‘s 1894 novella The Great God Pan (public library).
[Edward Kinsella illustration for the Criterion Collection edition of 1969 Italian Federico Fellini's 1969 film Satyricon]

[Edward Kinsella illustration for the Criterion Collection edition of 1969 Federico Fellini film Satyricon]

Despite his brief association with the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and being well read and experienced on numerous aspects of mysticism, Machen remained rooted in his own way to the orthodox ritual of Anglicanism. Highly recommended by me, the inception of the horror here in The Great God Pan is a brain surgery performed on a young woman with the idea that reordering our grey matter would open our minds to the strange, sensual, pagan realms that exist just beyond our humdrum one. Yet, despite all these antecedents none of them ever quite had the flavor of “POP” as they would exude during Bowie’s youth, which is to say they were becoming fashionable.
Dark Angel, a portrait of Jack Parsons by his wife Marjorie Cameron, made sometime during the course of their marriage (1946–1952)]

Dark Angel, a portrait of Jack Parsons by his wife Marjorie Cameron, made sometime during the course of their marriage (1946–1952)]

A personage of the 1950s who adopted the title of Frater T.O.P.A.N (initials for a latin translation of the motto “The establishment of Thelema through the rituals of love” and also quite literally a dedication and declaration of “To Pan”) also in many regards might embody best the confluence of the occult and science. Born Marvel Whiteside Parsons but better known as “Jack,” Parsons is often credited as the “true father of the American space race” (by Werner von Braun no less). As the author of Strange Angel: The Otherworldly Life of Rocket Scientist John Whiteside Parsons (public library) George Pendle writes:

“If you were to tell someone you were a rocket scientist during the 1920s and 1930s, they’d have either laughed at you or backed away with a worried expression on their face. No universities taught rocketry courses and there were no government grants allotted to rocketry research. To the public, rockets were pure science fiction, and in established scientific circles, they were even worse, synonymous with the ridiculous, the far-fetched, the lunatic, a byword for insanity.

“It was the very fantastical nature of rockets that first drew the young Parsons to it. Inspired by the stories in pulp science fiction magazines like Astounding and Amazing, he began building simple gunpowder rockets in his Pasadena backyard and peppered the upscale neighborhood with burned out cardboard tubes and flaming paper.”

Through the acclaim and innovation he achieved from his projects and experiments during his twenties, Parsons (not yet 30) and his colleagues founded the Pasadena, California based “Jet Propulsion Laboratory” (JPL, but also thought of a the Jack Parsons Laboratory, which was funded through military contracts throughout WWII, and is still currently a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center where the Mars rovers were assembled and their missions managed). Jack Parsons invented the first rocket engine using a castable, composite rocket propellant, and pioneered the advancement of both liquid-fuel and solid-fuel rockets, all which directly resulted in U.S. space exploration. In addition to these accomplishments, beginning in 1942 Parsons was the head of the “Agape Lodge,” the Californian branch of the Thelemite Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.) created by the notorious English occultist known alternately as “the wickedest man in the world” and “the Great Beast 666,” Aleister Crowley (1875-1947).
[Aleister Crowley wearing the head-dress of Horus making the sign of Pan, circa 1910]

[Aleister Crowley wearing the head-dress of Horus making the sign of Pan, circa 1910]

Before his mysterious death at the age of age of 37 on June 17, 1952 when he was torn apart from an explosion within his home laboratory, Parsons associated socially with various bohemians, eccentrics, physicists, and several prominent sci-fi authors such as Robert A. Heinlein, Cleve Cartmill, Jack Williamson, Anthony BoucherRay Bradbury, and Bradbury’s literary agent Forrest J Ackerman, who also was the editor/creator of the influential magazine started in 1958, Famous Monsters of Filmland.
famous-monsters-of-filmland1

[Published July 1970]

fearbook1970

[Published June 1, 1969 ]

Parsons was not only engaged in the practices of magic and science but was also an an avid fan of writers that could weld these into a narrative whole. The somewhat unconventional Heinlein would regularly host informal meetings of the Mañana Literary Society in his Laurel Canyon home, which Parsons would attend and return the favor by inviting him for some amusement in his own mansion. Liljan Wunderman–wife of aeronautical engineer and JPL co-founder Frank Malina–described Parson’s home as: “It was a huge wooden house. A big, big thing, full of people. Some of them had masks on, some had costumes on, women were weirdly dressed. It was like walking into a Fellini movie. Women were walking around in diaphanous togas and weird make-up, some dressed up like animals, like a costume party.”
Of course the sci-fi writer that would have the largest impact on Parson’s life is the one that would eventually run off with Parson’s money, former mistress, yacht, and go on to found the Church of Scientology: L. Ron Hubbard. The Church of Scientology maintains that Hubbard was sent to Parson’s circle as an undercover agent contracted by the government to assess and dismantle “the black magic coven.” Charismatic for sure, however others found Hubbard to be no more than a con man from the get-go like Darker Than You Think author Jack Williamson, and legendary L.A. crime reporter Nieson Himmel who was roommates with the struggling science fiction writer in Parson’s home and who stated, “He was a guy on the make, I couldn’t stand him. I can’t stand phoneys and to me he was so obviously a phoney, a real con man. But he was certainly not a dummy. He was very sharp and quick, a fascinating story-teller, and he could charm the shit out of anybody.” Aleister Crowley himself would write from England to his OTO successor Karl Johannes Germer (Frater Saturnus) on May 22, 1946: “Suspect Ron playing confidence trick—Jack Parsons weak fool—obvious victim prowling swindlers.”
darker

[Originally published as a novelette in 1940 and then expanded and published in 1948]

When not in his lab feverishly producing technical innovations towards rocket science or hosting debauched gatherings at his spatial home on a stretch of Orange Grove Blvd. once dubbed Millionaire’s Row, Parsons was compulsively engaged in sex magic rituals with his “Elemental woman” and second wife, the incredibly talented artist Marjorie Cameron. Performed with L. Ron Hubbard as scribe and “sorcerer’s apprentice,” the purpose of this “Babalon Working” was to shatter the boundaries of space and time to bring about the incarnation of Thelemite goddess Babalon whose pregnancy would facilitate the emergence of Thelema’s Æon of Horus: a new libertarian age of free love and anti-authoritarianism. This is essentially the plot of the novel Aleister Crowley wrote in 1917, Moonchild (public library), and Roman Polanski‘s disturbing horror film from 1968, Rosemary’s Baby.
moonchild

[dust-jacket illustration by the incredible Beresford Egan (1905 – 1984) for the 1929 edition published by Mandrake Press ]

[the great Brigitte Helm as False Maria/Die Grosse Babylon in Fritz Lang's German expressionist masterpiece of 1927, Metropolis]

[the great Brigitte Helm as False Maria/Die Grosse Babylon in Fritz Lang‘s German expressionist masterpiece of 1927, Metropolis]

Revelation 17 (King James Version)
1 And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters:
2 With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication.
3 So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.
4 And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication:
5 And upon her forehead was a name written:
MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT,
THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS
AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS
OF THE EARTH.
6 And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration.
7 And the angel said unto me, Wherefore didst thou marvel? I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and ten horns.
8 The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.
9 And here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth.
10 And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space.
11 And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition.
12 And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast.
13 These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast.
14 These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.
15 And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.
16 And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire.
17 For God hath put in their hearts to fulfil his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled.
18 And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth.
 (Although with Crowley’s system the biblical horror is twisted upon its head to be almost feminist, where Babalon is a sacred harlot, welcoming all, annihilating ego, a grail or graal used to “flood the world with Life and Beauty”–“For as thy blood is mingled in the cup of BABALON, so is thine heart the universal heart.”)
All this and more of the story can be found in John Carter’s informative and rather fun biography: Sex and Rockets: The Occult World of Jack Parsons (public library), while you can learn more about where Lafayette Ronald Hubbard went from here in journalist Russell Miller’s Bare-faced Messiah: The True Story of L. Ron Hubbard (public library):
Bare_Faced_Messiah_UK_paperback_cover
[Peyote Vision, by Cameron, 1955.]

[Peyote Vision, by Cameron, 1955.]

Parson’s bereaved widow Marjorie Cameron (known as “Cinderella of the Wastelands” and “The Wormwood Star“) would keep to a strange and somewhat itinerant lifestyle, continuing to create art but rarely exhibiting it.
[Marjorie Cameron as The Scarlet Woman, 1954]

[Marjorie Cameron as The Scarlet Woman, 1954]

Two years after Parson’s death Cameron introduced the works of Aleister Crowley to american cult filmmaker Kenneth Anger who would utilize this influence to create his 38-minute avant-garde film Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome, in which Cameron stars as The Scarlet Woman. This film is considered part of his “Magick Lantern Cycle” of cinema that stretches from 1947’s Fireworks to 1981 when he released his decade in the making masterpiece Lucifer Rising (the soundtrack of which would be composed and recorded in prison by Bobby Beausoleil–former guitarist for Arthur Lee‘s band Love and “Manson Family” member responsible for the murder and torture of Gary Hinman.) In the late 60’s Anger lived in London associating with incredibly wealthy patron of the arts John Paul Getty, Jr, and both Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of The Rolling StonesDonald Cammell (who would direct Jagger in the fascinatingly bizarre counterculture crime drama Performance) was cast in Lucifer Rising as the role of the god Osiris alongside singer, actress Marianne Faithfull who would star as Lilith. Anger’s presence within this scene is generally believed to have had a significant influence on The Rolling Stones and their hit from 1968 album Beggars Banquet, “Sympathy for the Devil.” 
[Marianne Faithfull as Lilith in Cairo, 1971]

[Marianne Faithfull as Lilith in Cairo, 1971]

[A glowing, orange UFO soaring past shoulder of the colossal ancient statue of Ramses II in Luxor Egypt from Kenneth Anger's Lucifer Rising]

[A glowing, orange UFO soaring past the shoulder of the colossal ancient statue of Ramses II in Luxor, Egypt from Kenneth Anger’s Lucifer Rising]

[Marianne Faithfull & David Bowie sing Sonny & Cher's "I Got You Babe" for Bowie's last appearance as Ziggy Stardust, the odd cabaret-style one-hour TV special, “The 1980 Floor Show.” Filmed over 3 days in October 1973 at the Marquee Club in London, it was aired late-night on NBC, 16th November 1973]

[Marianne Faithfull & David Bowie sing Sonny & Cher’s “I Got You Babe” for Bowie’s last appearance as Ziggy Stardust: the odd cabaret-style one-hour TV special, “The 1980 Floor Show.” Filmed over 3 days in October 1973 at the Marquee Club in London, it was aired late-night on NBC, 16th November 1973]

Robert-A-Heinlein_Starman-Jones_SCRIBNER_Clifford-Geary
In 1953, when Bowie was 6 years old, a year after Jack Parson’s death, science fiction legend Robert A. Heinlein published the seventh installment in his and publisher Scribner’s Heinlein juveniles series, Starman Jones (the 1952 young adult novel that preceded it was titled The Rolling Stones). Concerning a boy who longs to escape his authoritarian Earth and navigate the stars as a member of the Astrogators’ Guild, it’s easy to see why this book would appeal to the boy David Robert Jones who would grow up to become David Bowie.
[Bowie as a young boy with his mother Peggy]

[Bowie as a young boy with his mother Peggy. By many accounts Bowie was raised in a “cold atmosphere” as his mother was likely preoccupied with her own mental health issues and certainly participated in the strain and tension revolving around the mental illness of her other son, Bowie’s half-brother Terry. Bowie’s childhood friend Dudley Chapman would later say, “It was a very cold household. She’d feed him, clothe him, do all the mother’s things, but there was no cuddling.”]

Concerning the literature associated with the genre of science fiction a pivotal mutation would occur in 1964 when a twenty-four year old English writer named Michael Moorcock took over as editor of the British science fiction magazine New Worlds.

New Worlds 191 New Worlds Publishing, June 1969

[New Worlds # 191, June 1969, cover illustration by Malcolm Dean]

Moorcock would reflect the thoughts and hearts of many at the time, serving as a catalyst for the disruptive, daring literature that had evolved from pulp into the speculative fiction and pop inflected genre-bending forms being produced by those progressive authors gathered under the rubric of “The New Wave.” As Jason Heller writes in his essay Anthems for the Moon:
.
“[Moorcock] used [New Worlds] as a platform for avant-garde science fiction and fantasy. By 1969, New Worlds had become a beacon for transgressive work, regularly publishing forward-thinking authors from both sides of the Atlantic such as J. G. Ballard, Samuel R. Delany, Thomas M. Disch, Brian Aldiss, Roger Zelazny, and Rachel Pollack (under the name Richard R. Pollack).
“All of these New Worlds authors, and many others like them, challenged the predominantly optimistic outlook and linear storytelling techniques of science fiction up to that point. Theirs were not simplistic tales of intrepid explorers such as Heinlein’s Starman Jones. In their place, New Worlds substituted moral ambiguity, sexual fluidity, narrative experimentation, broken taboos, and sometimes even outright nihilism; Moorcock and crew wholeheartedly embraced William S. Burroughs’ incursions into genre-twisting radicalism as an integral part of the sci-fi canon—and the genre’s future.
“Moorcock published some of his own work in New Worlds, and it exemplified his ideal: a style that became known as the New Wave. In particular, his Jerry Cornelius series of novels and short stories—1965’s The Final Programme being the first book-length installment—summed up that wildly transitional period. In them, Cornelius is a mysterious, androgynous secret agent with a knack for sartorial elegance and introverted remove—and in his spare time, he’s also a rock star.”
moorcock

[cover art by Bob Haberfield]

All this digression might just be incidental for sure, but I do think it speaks considerably towards certain pertinent aspects of the culture that had been brewing for quite some time before given to full psychedelic ebullition in what is known as the Swinging Sixties. Although Bowie’s public arrival might most be associated with the 1970s, it should be remembered that it was within the London milieu of this previous era that he came of age and where he first sought with great–if unfocused–effort to make a connection with a chosen career. In certain respects the chrysalis of the sixties served as a pivotal casket and cradle for the artist; Bowie being an artist that produced and inhabited a multitude of these paradoxical zones throughout his life.
London towards the middle of the end for that decade, however, was a Mod scene of Mary Quant mini skirts on models named Twiggy, where freakbeat groups and bands of the British blues boom all tried to make it while shopping the boutiques from King’s Road to Carnaby Street. 
[spread by major fashion illustrator Antonio Lopez for the psychedelia-tinged Intro Magazine, in which “youth talks to youth in its own lingo.” Issue No.1, September 23rd 1967.]

[“Wild-Hair” spread by major fashion illustrator Antonio Lopez for the psychedelia-tinged Intro Magazine, in which “youth talks to youth in its own lingo.” Issue No.1, September 23rd 1967.]

International Times Vol.1 #22 December 15 - 28 1967: 'Are you afraid of the light?'

International Times, Vol.1 #22 December 15 – 28 1967: ‘Are you afraid of the light?’

At the counterculture art gallery and bookshop Indica (co-owned and run by writer Barry Miles, Peter Asher, the brother of Paul McCartney’s girlfriend Jane Asher, and artist John Dunbar, who was husband to Marianne Faithfull; it was here where where John Lennon first met Yoko Ono at her art exhibit there) one could pick up the latest edition of the underground newspaper, International Times (or it). On the street one could pick up a copy of The Process, a glossy and artistically designed magazine that was meant to increase both funds and followers for The Process Church of the Final Judgment. The Process Church were an apocalyptic cult that sought to wrench the world from The Grey Forces of social conformity, mediocrity, and whose goal was for the opposing psychological and spiritual archetypes of Jehovah, Lucifer, and Satan to all be reconciled in Christ. This multi-faceted (and often facetious) religious group was founded by the couple Mary Ann MacLean and Robert “DeGrimston” Moore who had both been “auditors” in Scientology but were declared “suppressive persons” by L. Ron Hubbard in 1965 when they broke off to explore their own version of mystic-psychotherapy based upon their new system: Compulsions Analysis.
With thematic issues dedicated to Sex, Fear, DeathFreedom of Expression, and other topics central to their faith, the Process magazine featured prominent cultural figures like Jagger, McCartney, Charles Manson, and The Incredible Hulk. The Process Church would also offer classes and lectures on telepathy, self-expression, communication, and later astrology, Tarot, and astral traveling. (As an aside, the George Clinton helmed group Funkadelic would release two intense records of lunatic funk–Maggot Brain in ’71 and America Eats Its Young in ’72–that were not only influenced by The Process Church but quoted at length from these magazines in their liner notes).
[Publisher Feral House released a collection and reproduction of 3 Process issues under the title, Propaganda and the Holy Writ of The Process Church of the Final Judgment. This followed their publication of, Love Sex Fear Death: The Inside Story of The Process Church of The Final Judgment, written by Timothy Wyllie, a formative member of The Process Church and the served as the magazine's art director.]

[Publisher Feral House released a collection and reproduction of 3 Process issues under the title, Propaganda and the Holy Writ of The Process Church of the Final Judgment. This followed their publication of, Love Sex Fear Death: The Inside Story of The Process Church of The Final Judgment, written by Timothy Wyllie, both a formative member of The Process Church and who served as the magazine’s art director.]

(Man! looking at these magazines and others like OZ (now completely digitized!) are really making me miss Laris Kreslins‘ and Jay Babcock‘s periodical Arthur, and Alan Moore‘s own Dodgem Logic, which during their runs were the closest equivalents in intelligence, humor, and beautiful graphic design in my lifetime to these fantastic counterculture zine’s!)

[ ARTHUR No. 25/Winter 2006]

[ Arthur No. 25/Winter 2006]

[Dodgem Logic #4, June 2010. cover art by John Coulthart]

[Dodgem Logic #4/June 2010. cover art by John Coulthart]

Despite the influence of flower power and its bleed into the everyday; despite the sudden room for a blooming desire towards self-exploration and an encouraging sense that simply being part of the “Now Generation” was a radical act; despite the psychic turmoil of the times–it should be noted that it was all still constricted by our mundane world of money, power, and manipulative advertisements for stationary, chewing gum, shampoo, alcohol, false eyelashes, etc., etc., … (For a succinct understanding of how liberation is quickly glommed on to by commerce, funneled towards fears of inadequacy and a simultaneous want for a remedy–a product–I recommend this brief overview on Feminine Deodorant Spray).

[Bowie, Lou Reed, Dorchester Hotel, London, 1972. photo by Mick Rock]

[Bowie, Lou Reed, Dorchester Hotel, London, 1972. photo by Mick Rock]

Produced by David Bowie and Mick Ronson, on Lou Reed‘s superb LP of 1972, Transformer, Reed and Bowie sing:

Satellite’s gone up to the skies
Things like that drive me out of my mind
I watched it for a little while
I love to watch things on TV

In the much further strangled age of 1997 with the track “Looking for Satellites” from Earthling, Bowie intones this mantra into the nebulous breach between spirituality and television:

earthling

Nowhere, Shampoo, TV, Combat, Boyzone
Slim tie, Showdown, Can’t stop
Nowhere, Shampoo, TV, Combat, Boyzone
Slim tie, Showdown, Can’t stop
Where do we go from here?
There’s something in the sky
Shining in the light
Spinning and far away
Nowhere, Shampoo, TV, Combat, Boy’s own
Slim tie, Showdown, Can’t stop, (Satellite)
Nowhere, Shampoo, TV, Combat, (Satellite), Boyzone
Slim tie, Showdown, Can’t stop, (Satellite)
Nowhere, Shampoo, TV, Combat, (Satellite), Boyzone
Slim tie, Showdown, Can’t stop
Looking for satellites
Looking for satellites
Where do we go to now?
There’s nothing in our eyes
As lonely as a moon
Misty and far away
Nowhere, Shampoo, TV, Combat, Boyzone
Slim tie, Showdown, Can’t stop, (Satellite)
Nowhere, Shampoo, TV, Combat, (Satellite), Boyzone
Slim tie, Showdown, Can’t stop, (Satellite)
Nowhere, Shampoo, TV, Combat, (Satellite), Boyzone
Slim tie, Showdown, Can’t stop
Looking for satellites
Looking for satellites
Satellite, Satellite, Satellite, Satellite
Looking satellites
Looking satellites
Where do we go from here?
 Montag Stationery (R) Ad for Clark Gum 1967 “A Happening is you and Clark’s Gum Shuffle Shift Party Kit. You’re wearing our kicky Shuffle Shift” begins the ad copy. “You’re listening to a 2-sided stereo LP record of the famous Clark Gum Shuffle. And you’re doing that groovy TV dance! The kit includes illustrated instructions. Send for a Clark shuffle shift Party Kit. Its packed in a turned on fashion carry-all bag and consists of the disposable shuffle shift in your size, the stereo LP with 12 minutes of swinging shuffle tunes, and a super stick of Clark Fruit Punch gum.”

(left) Ad for Montag Stationery, 1967; (right) Ad for Clark Gum, 1967.
“A Happening is you and Clark’s Gum Shuffle Shift Party Kit. You’re wearing our kicky Shuffle Shift. You’re listening to a 2-sided stereo LP record of the famous Clark Gum Shuffle. And you’re doing that groovy TV dance! The kit includes illustrated instructions. Send for a Clark shuffle shift Party Kit. Its packed in a turned on fashion carry-all bag and consists of the disposable shuffle shift in your size, the stereo LP with 12 minutes of swinging shuffle tunes, and a super stick of Clark Fruit Punch gum.”

1967 "Pink is for Girls" advertisement for Lustre Creme Shampoo.]

1967 “Pink is for Girls” advertisement for Lustre Creme Shampoo.]

[1967 Smirnoff Skyball Vodka print ad]

[1967 Smirnoff Skyball Vodka print ad]

[from Seventeen magazine, 1967.]

[from Seventeen magazine, 1967.]

In this time Bowie must have felt what many who do not quite fit do, how “all the fat-skinny people, and all the tall-short people/And all the nobody people, and all the somebody people” often feel : turned on and disgusted. The respected British historian whose academic focus is medieval history and “Orientalism,” Robert Irwin, turned to writing novels at the tail-end of the 70s. Irwin wonderfully captures the strange flavors produced through aimless enthusiasm and experimentation in the late 1960s in his exciting, black-magick-comedy of a novel,  Satan Wants Me (public library).
irwin-robert-satan-wants-me-50542-p
Published in 1999, written in the form of a diary kept by Sociology grad student Peter during the “Summer of Love Under Will” (to twist a central tenet of  Crowley’s Thelema), the book features numerous humorous remarks like:
“Cosmic told me a few months ago that he was hoping the world will end on a Wednesday. After thinking about this for a bit, I asked him why. He said that it would break up the week.”
Irwin has also written an endearing memoir of his youth when he searched for identity in London and Sufi enlightenment in Algeria: Memoirs of a Dervish: Sufis, Mystics and the Sixties (public library). His tale begins with the droll line: “It was in my first year at Oxford that I decided that I wanted to be a Muslim saint. I wish I could remember more.”
dervish
Irwin sets the scene so well within the chapter titled, The Summer Of 1967:
“By now, the sixties (in the sense of colorful clothes, long hair, drugs, tarot cards, the youth cult and the rest of it) were in full flood. […] Kaleidoscopic light shows, dancing in the nude, stoned laughter, silvery dresses and a lot of frivolity. According to Roland Barthes, “Tinsel is better than gold. It has all the qualities gold has, plus pathos,” and Barthes was echoed by the sixties photographer David Bailey, whose Box of Pin-ups declared, “David Bailey is fascinated by tinsel–a bright, brittle quality, the more appealing because it tarnishes so soon.
[David Bailey's Box of Pin-Ups, 1965]

[David Bailey’s Box of Pin-Ups, 1965]

“[…] But the trappings of the sixties gave warnings of their transience. One was supposed to wear flowers in one’s hair, the image of the butterfly was everywhere and a lot of bubbles were blown. The psychedelic moment was only a moment and it was obvious that it could not last. […]
24-prisoner-free-for-all

Patrick McGoohan’s paranoid head-game classic series of 1967-68 television, The Prisoner. “We all live in a little Village…Your village may be different from other people’s villages but we are all prisoners.” – Patrick McGoohan

“The summer of ’67 was very summery. In the TV series The Prisoner, the men paraded around in boaters and blazers and the women carried parasols. It was like that in Oxford too. As Nick Cohn put it: ‘Hippie was largely a summer sport. Bare feet and silks and universal brotherhoods–these things were not created for an English January.’
[Donovan and Jenny Boyd, fall 1967, photographed by Karl Ferris]

[Donovan and Jenny Boyd, fall 1967, photographed by Karl Ferris]

“The sun was celebrated in Donovan’s ‘A Sunny Day,’ ‘The Sun is a Very Magic Fellow,’ ‘Sunny South Kensington,’ ‘Sunshine Superman,’ and ‘Writer in the Sun.’ The summer’s beauty gave an edge to what was going to happen.
velvet
“In March one of the great rock albums of all time was released, The Velvet Underground and Nico, the vinyl embodiment of nihilistic New York cool. The lazy, lush, lulling cadences of the opening track, “Sunday Morning,” are deceptive, for they deal with paranoia.
[…]
[art by Gerald Scarfe for the cover story concerning Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band in the Sept. 22, 1967, issue of Time.

[art by Gerald Scarfe for the cover story concerning Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in the Sept. 22, 1967, issue of Time.

“In June the Beatles released Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. It was the anthem of 1967. In Oxford colleges it was played over and over again and we searched the lyrics for hidden meanings. Beneath all the brassy oompah, there was an undertone of sadness to that record. […] In general, it is striking how many of the pop lyrics were set in the future and looked back to the present from a position of defeat and compromise. […] It was as if regrets were being stockpiled for the future […]. Defeat, the sell-out to maturity and ‘the toad work’ were almost universally anticipated by the lyricists. It was also anticipated that the first love would not last. Even so, as the International Times put it sometime in 1967, ‘If our ideas are squashed in the future we can look back on the ball we had now.’ I did have a ball, but a sad one.”
[The Beatles, by Richard Avedon (August 11, 1967)]

[The Beatles, by Richard Avedon (August 11, 1967)]

Diversifying their approach to songs with both wholly original constructions and organically borrowed, nostalgic musical sensibilities all dressed up in dazzling innovations in sound recording for heightened emotional impact, The Beatles‘ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band truly demonstrated a strange liberation of form for popular music. The record was both an experience and a journey inside the listener. This ambitious album by an experimental pop group had an incalculable impact upon the world. As Ian MacDonald wrote in his exceptional track-by-track assessment of The Beatles’ output, Revolution In The Head (public library):

“When Sgt. Pepper was released in June [of 1967], it was a

major cultural event. Young and old alike were entranced. […]

In America normal radio-play was virtually suspended for

several days, only tracks from Sgt. Pepper being played. An

almost religious awe surrounded the LP. Paul Kantner of the

San Francisco acid rock band Jefferson Airplane remembers

how The ByrdsDavid Crosby brought a tape of Sgt. Pepper

to their Seattle hotel and played it all night in the lobby with a

hundred young fans listening quietly on the stairs, as if rapt by a

spiritual experience. ‘Something,’ says Kantner, ‘enveloped the

whole world at that time and it just exploded into a renaissance.’

The psychic shiver which Sgt. Pepper sent through the

world was nothing less than a cinematic dissolve from one

Zeitgeist to another. In The Times, Kenneth Tynan called it

‘a decisive moment in the history of Western civilization,’ a

remark now laughed at but nonetheless true, if perhaps not quite

in the way that it was intended. As the shock wore off, voices

from an earlier age began to complain that this music was

absolutely saturated in drugs. Not wishing to promote LSD,

the BBC banned ‘A Day In The Life‘ and ‘Lucy In The Sky

With Diamonds,’ while others found drug references in

Fixing A Hole‘ and ‘With A Little Help From My Friends.’

More Bizarrely, ‘She’s Leaving Home‘ was attacked by

religious groups in America as a cryptic advertisement for

abortion.

“While half these claims were spurious, it would be silly

to pretend that Sgt. Pepper wasn’t fundamentally shaped by LSD.

The Album’s sound—in particular its use of various forms of echo

and reverb—remains the most authentic aural simulation of the

psychedelic experience ever created. At the same time, something

else dwells in it: a distillation of the spirit of 1967 as it was felt by

vast numbers across the Western world who had never taken drugs in

their lives. If such a thing as a cultural ‘contact high’ is possible, it

happened here. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band may not have

created the psychic atmosphere of the time but, as a near-perfect

reflection of it, this famous record magnified and radiated it around

the world.”

Throughout the sixties, young Bowie certainly positioned himself as a face on the London music scene, but one whose artistic ambitions and outlets were in constant flux.
Kon-rads
He was only 15 in 1962 when he joined The Kon-rads as a saxophone player and sometime singer under the stage name David Jay. Performing pop songs with a rock-n-roll backbeat, the group mainly played clubs, pubs, and halls in and around Bromley in south east London. Approaching the age of twenty, by 1967 Bowie had tested various styles and attitudes with a more mod or Bob Dylan-like boho-chic appeal while embracing blues and soul-inflected rock music through a series of bands: Davie Jones and the King Beesthe Mannish Boysthe Lower Thirdthe Buzz, and the Riot Squad.
[David Bowie with The Lower Third, 1965]

[David Bowie with The Lower Third, 1965]

Although his performances were respected, not one of his groups were ever able to really land a hit single or get play on the radio. Bowie was also running around at this time with close friend and rival, fellow London mod Mark Feld. Feld would soon morph into the psychedelic-folk artist Marc Bolan before pioneering glam-boogie with his sensational music project, T. Rex (Bowie and Bolan both would come to rely heavily on American producer Tony Visconti when creating some of their definitive work).
[July 1968 debut by Tyrannosaurus Rex: My People Were Fair and Had Sky in Their Hair... But Now They're Content to Wear Stars on Their Brows]

[July 1968 debut by Tyrannosaurus Rex: My People Were Fair and Had Sky in Their Hair… But Now They’re Content to Wear Stars on Their Brows]

[Bowie in 1967, photo by Dezo Hoffmann]

[Bowie in 1967, photo by Dezo Hoffmann]

 On June 1st 1967 Deram Records released Bowie’s first solo record (eponymous, it would later be re-released with the title, The World of David Bowie). This collection was a charming and often silly amalgam of mannered, pop novelty character studies that flirted with the baroque, vaudeville, subversive nursery rhymes, and a distinctly British strain of whimsical psychedelia. Although the album desperately tries to convey that it is coming from a “professional entertainer” it really is pretty passé or at least completely out of step with the contemporaneous trends and sonic innovations from say the likes of Jimi Hendrix with Are You Experienced and Pink Floyd‘s The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. (Yet, I’ve always been quite partial to certain songs of his from this era like the melodious, “Silly Boy Blue“; the thumping gender-bender, “She’s Got Medals“; and the b-side to his insane novelty “Laughing Gnome,” “The Gospel According to Tony Day” a tune that wears its “I’m so hip” heart right out on its aloof sleeve).
tonyday

[released April 14 1967]

Of course the most drastic example of The World of David Bowie‘s dissonance with the times is the fact that this debut was released on the exact same day as Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. I find it telling that Bowie would not release any more recorded music for another two years, not until 1969 and “Space Oddity.” Frustrated, Bowie’s low self-esteem must have truly been wounded by his debut’s poor reception. “Space Oddity” however, would be released to coincide within days of the The United States’ Apollo 11 moon landing, become a No. 5 hit in the UK, and get him awarded with an Ivor Novello Award from the Songwriters’ guild of Great Britain for Best Original Song on May 10th 1970. This not only provided his career with much needed traction but I’m sure the reception for his cinematic tale of desolation gave him the confidence to forge ahead with his vision and create his next two records of disturbing self-analysis and esoteric thoughts delivered eloquently through strangely accessible song structures: The Man Who Sold the World (’70) and Hunky Dory (’71).

 manwhosoldtheworld

I believe that Bowie had been buried under the sixties, but he managed to get way out ahead of the seventies. Bowie’s pursuit of recognition and his search for expression as an artist was not some velleity. He was motivated and moved constantly towards some goal.

[During Marc Bolan's 1969 T. Rex tour Bowie was the opening act, performing his one-man mime routine depicting China’s invasion of Tibet. The Communist sympathizer students booed]

[During Marc Bolan’s 1969 T. Rex tour Bowie was the opening act, performing his one-man mime routine depicting China’s invasion of Tibet. The Communist sympathizer students booed]

Even before The World of David Bowie had failed he had moved on to new avenues of creativity and would continue to do so over the next several years: immersing himself in mime and theater; participating in the creation of the Beckenham Arts Lab where artists of various mediums collaborated; creating the promotional film, Love You till Tuesday, which was designed to showcase the different facets of his talents, and in late 1968 he briefly led his girlfriend Hermione Fatheringale on vocals and guitar and guitarist John “Hutch” Hutchinson in a folk-rock trio called Feathers, which was to also serve as a troupe of sorts performing poetry and mime. 
[Feathers in '68]

[Feathers in ’68]

Again, none of these would bring him much recognition until “Space Oddity” and that itself nearly hemmed him in as a one-hit-wonder.
[Bowie's 2nd record released in Nov. 1969 under various titles, "Space Oddity, Man of Words/Man of Music, and as another eponymous record, David Bowie. Based on sketches provided by Bowie, the cover art was created by his good friend since they were eight-years-old, George Underwood. It's a fight over a girl and George Underwood's 15-year-old fist that was responsible for damaging Bowie's eye, making them appear to be two different colors]

[Bowie’s 2nd record released in Nov. 1969 under various titles, Space Oddity, Man of Words/Man of Music, and as yet another eponymous record, David Bowie. Based on sketches provided by Bowie, the cover art was created by his good friend since eight-years-old, George Underwood. It’s a fight over a girl and George Underwood’s 15-year-old fist that was responsible for damaging Bowie’s eye, making them appear to be two different colors]

[Bowie's sketch for Space Oddity, 1969]

[Bowie’s sketch for Space Oddity, 1969]

As the youthquake began to corrode from the contentment of All You Need Is Love towards the blisters of Helter Skelter, Bowie would intelligently take note of how two other under-appreciated but brilliant artists had shown him a path towards the white light/white heat he instinctively knew he needed to fulfill his artistic vision: Lou Reed, from the Velvet Underground, and Iggy Pop, from the Stooges. (Also my failure to address the enormous influence his ex-wife Angie Barnett had upon him at this time is surely plain rude on my part, but as this is not intended as a biography I do not have time to engage in that complicated relationship here).
[Bowie would go on to co-produce The Stooges' Raw Power ('73), & Iggy Pop's two solo masterpieces, both released in '77: The Idiot and Lust for Life]

[Bowie would go on to co-produce The Stooges’ Raw Power (’73), & Iggy Pop’s two solo masterpieces, both released in ’77: The Idiot and Lust for Life]

[David with Angie & their nearly 3 year old son, future director Duncan Zowie Haywood Jones at the Amstel Hotel, Amsterdam, 7th FEBRUARY 1974.]

[David with Angie & their nearly 3 year old son, future director of the great 2009 sci-fi film Moon, Duncan Zowie Haywood Jones at the Amstel Hotel, Amsterdam, 7th FEBRUARY 1974.]

.
[Danseuses, c. 1959 & Saltimbanques, 1954, by Helen Phillips (3/3/1913--1/23/1995). Phillips created both intaglio prints and worked in bronze, carved wood, and stone to create anthropomorphic figures that are locked in perpetual motion]

[Danseuses, c. 1959 & Saltimbanques, 1954, by Helen Phillips (3/3/1913–1/23/1995). Phillips created both intaglio prints and worked in bronze, carved wood, and stone to create anthropomorphic figures that are locked in perpetual motion]

In the face of opposition,
in the midst of insecurity,
among conflicting directions and ideas,
one grasps an image….
The image is my stability.
                    –Helen Philips, 1948

However, a problem would persist in Bowie’s career until he presented a startling solution in 1972. His mercurial displays of his talents and interests left a potential audience with little to grasp in terms of a personality. Even with the novelties of 1967 it was clear that he was an artist searching for a way to successfully marry theatricality to pop, but was lacking a vehicle that could carry its weird shape. Thus, Bowie was an entertainer without an audience. Perhaps Bowie was more noise than signal, but what was needed was not a slant towards the latter but a fascinating manner with which to carry the voluminous information contained within that noise. His fix for this dilemma should be seen more as an ingenious pop experiment than just a innovative trend in music.

[published by Harper in 2012]

[published by Harper in 2012]

 Peter Doggett has written what is perhaps the most impressive and comprehensive book I’ve read on Bowie’s work of the sixties and seventies, The Man Who Sold the World: David Bowie and the 1970s (public library). This music journalist is also behind the sensitive, thorough, and thoroughly engaging book, You Never Give Me Your Money: The Beatles After the Breakup (public library). In the opening chapter of The Man Who Sold the World Doggett perfectly addresses both what I characterize as a dilemma and Bowie’s shrewd solution. Doggett likewise stresses The Beatles as the dominant mirror and mover of the sixties, but places it in a context of Bowie being the same for his own distinct “long decade” of the seventies. With a deference to Doggett’s talent, I will quote him at length:
“Like the Beatles in the decade before him, Bowie was popular culture’s most reliable guide to the fever of the seventies. The Beatles’ lives and music had reflected a series of shifts and surges in the mood of their generation, through youthful exuberance, satirical mischievousness, spiritual and chemical exploration, political and cultural dissent, and finally depression and fragmentation. The decade of David Bowie was altogether more challenging to track. It was fired not by idealism or optimism but by dread and misgiving. Perhaps because the sixties had felt like an era of progress, the seventies was a time of stasis, of dead ends and power failures, of reckless hedonism and sharp reprisals. The words that haunted the culture were decline, depression, despair: the energy of society was running out, literally (as environmentalists proclaimed the imminent exhaustion of fossil fuel supplies) and metaphorically.
[…]
“What enabled David Bowie to reflect the fear and chaos of the new decade was precisely the fact that he had been so out of tune with the sixties. He was one of the first pop commentators to complain that the optimism that enraptured the youth of the West in the mid-­sixties was hollow and illusory. His negativity seemed anachronistic, but it merely anticipated the realization that Western society could not fuel and satisfy the optimism of sixties youth culture. “Space Oddity” aside, his work of 1969–70 failed to reach the mass audience who heard the Rolling Stones’ Let It Bleed or John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band, two albums that also tore away the pretensions of the recent past. But even those records paled alongside the nihilistic determinism of Bowie’s first two albums in his new guise as cultural prophet and doom-­monger.
“Unable to secure a mass audience for his explorations of a society in the process of fragmentation, he decided to create an imaginary hero who could entrance and then educate the pop audience—and to play the leading role himself. Since the start of his professional career as an entertainer in 1964, he had used his brief experience as a visualizer in an advertising agency to rebrand himself in a dozen different disguises. Now he would concentrate on a single product and establish a brand so powerful that it would be impossible to ignore. The creation of Ziggy Stardust in 1972 amounted to a conceptual art statement: rather than pursuing fame, as he had in the past, Bowie would act as if he were already famous beyond dispute, and present himself to the masses as an exotic creature from another planet.
david-bowie-ziggy-stardust-performance
“Ziggy would live outside the norms of earthly society: he would be male and female, gay and straight, human and alien, an eternal outsider who could act as a beacon for anyone who felt ostracized from the world around them. Aimed at a generation of adolescents emerging into an unsettling and fearful world, his hero could not help but become a superstar. Whereupon Bowie removed him from circulation, destroying the illusion that had made him famous. What happened next was what made Bowie not just a canny manipulator of pop tastes, but a significant and enduring figure in twentieth-­century popular culture. He channeled the momentum of Ziggy Stardust’s twelve months of fame into a series of artistic and psychological experiments that tugged at the margins of popular entertainment, and at the cohesion of his own psyche.
“Between 1974 and 1980, Bowie effectively withdrew from the world around him and created his own microculture—a bewildering landscape in which nothing was fixed and everything familiar was certain to change shape before the observer’s eyes. Bowie’s methods were simple, and devastating: he placed himself into alien environments and cultures (New York, Los Angeles, Berlin; R&B music, experimental rock, ambient soundscapes), turned them to his own devices, and then systematically demolished what he had just created. In each situation, he pushed himself, and his surroundings, to their limits, to see whether they would crack or bend. Then he moved on, relentlessly and compulsively, to the next incarnation.”
[created by Helen Green]

[created by Helen Green]

[art by Erin McGuire]

[art by Erin McGuire]

Yes Bowie was raised within “Pop Culture” and was quite aware of how commerce grew engorged when attached to “Youth Culture.” Perhaps with strong hints of cynicism he played with its facets and drives as a medium. Having placed Vance Packard‘s 1957 account of advertising agency psychologists The Hidden Persuaders (public library) on his list of 100 books, I’m sure Bowie was familiar with these words from Aldous Huxley‘s 1958 essay, Brave New World Revisited (public library):
“The principles underlying propaganda are extremely simple. Find some common desire, some widespread unconscious fear or anxiety; think out some way to relate this wish or fear to the product you have to sell; then build a bridge of verbal or pictorial symbols over which your customer can pass from fact to compensatory dream, and from the dream to the illusion that your product, when purchased, will make the dream come true. They are selling hope.
“We no longer buy oranges, we buy vitality. We do not just buy an auto, we buy prestige. And so with all the rest. In toothpaste, for example, we buy not a mere cleanser and antiseptic, but release from the fear of being sexually repulsive. In vodka and whisky we are not buying a protoplasmic poison which in small doses, may depress the nervous system in a psychologically valuable way; we are buying friendliness and good fellowship, the warmth of Dingley Dell and the brilliance of the Mermaid Tavern. With our laxatives we buy the health of a Greek god. With the monthly best seller we acquire culture, the envy of our less literate neighbors and the respect of the sophisticated. In every case the motivation analyst has found some deep-seated wish or fear, whose energy can be used to move the customer to part with cash and so, indirectly, to turn the wheels of industry.”
[Already in 1939 photographer Barbara Morgan created this surrealist-inspired photomontage Hearst Over the People to express her concern over the media-tycoons power and influence over the people by portraying him as a monstrous, Lovecraft-like deity.]

[Already in 1939 photographer Barbara Morgan created this surrealist-inspired photomontage–Hearst Over the People–to express her concern over the media-tycoon’s power and influence over the people by portraying him as a monstrous, Lovecraft-like deity.]

"First they give you everything that you want/Then they take back everything that you have/They live upon their feet and they die upon their knees/They can work with satan while they dress like the saints/They know God exists for the devil told them so/They scream my name aloud down into the well below" [still from the 2013 Floria Sigismondi directed video for "The Next Day"

First they give you everything that you want/Then they take back everything that you have/They live upon their feet and they die upon their knees/They can work with satan while they dress like the saints/They know God exists for the devil told them so/They scream my name aloud down into the well below” [still from the 2013 Floria Sigismondi directed video for “The Next Day

[film still from Blackstar directed by Johan Renck]

[film still from Blackstar directed by Johan Renck]

Yet, with bowie there is a sincere yearning for some faith to be healed and held up over our world of disappointments, frauds, manipulation, and trauma; there is a true search for what could be called spiritual sustenance.
“I have found over these last few years, that the one continuum that is throughout my writing is a real simple, spiritual search. Everything that I seem to have written, in some way or other, keeps refocusing on the idea that in the late 20th Century, we are without our God. That what we’re heading for is an era where we have to completely demobilize our religious organizations and reinvent God in some form or other. We really have to reinvent God. I think that our religious philosophies trail so far behind the way that we actually live today that we find ourselves in a spiritual void, and I think it affects the young very much indeed. I think that that does intervene with Outside in that way. What it does do to resurrect the theme of Outside is that we continually try and find ritual, but we have no religious order to connect that ritual to. Yet we go through the actions of ritualization. We go though pinning ourselves and tattooing ourselves, developing a pagan, tribal kind of authenticity to a religious life that we don’t actually have. So we have to reinvent God, I think, in our own new way of life to give ourselves another form of spiritual sustenance. And everything I’ve written is about ‘Who is my God? How does he show himself? What is my higher stage, my higher being?'” (David Bowie, Music Paper, 1997)
In an article by Ian Penman particularly regarding the record 1.Outside, “The Resurrection of Saint Dave” for Esquire Magazine (October 1995), Bowie said:
 “My input revolved around the idea of ritual art—what options were there open to that kind of quasi-sacrificial blood-obsessed sort of art form? And the idea of a neo-paganism developing-especially in America-with the advent of the new cults of tattooing and scarification and piercings and all that … people have a real need for some spiritual life and I think there’s great spiritual starving going on. There’s a hole that’s been vacated by an authoritative religious body—the Judeo-Christian ethic doesn’t seem to embrace all the things that people actually need to have dealt with in that way—and it’s sort of been left to popular culture to soak up the leftover bits like violence and sex.”
 ["A bird sings best in its family tree" - Jean Cocteau]

[“A bird sings best in its family tree” – Jean Cocteau]

(To steal the words that the family of itinerant entertainers use to describe all human beings that do not belong to the circus in Alejandro Jodorowsky‘s psychomagical investigation of his own family tree, the semi-autobiographical novel, Where the Bird Sings Best (public library), Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust often seemed to shout intimately, with compassion and humor at his audience: “We are pure and they are false, like slips of paper stacked to look like money.” A major portion of Bowie’s appeal is not that he was radically different, but that he was radically self-expressive.
[The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, plate 11. 1790]

[The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, plate 11. 1790]

At times Bowie’s work does seem to reflect directly a complicated statement made in the Proverbs of Hell section of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (public library) by perhaps the most visionary of Britons, William Blake:
Exuberance is Beauty.
[Surgeon to Queen Victoria and serial killer "Jack the Ripper," William Withey Gull encounters his Masonic god Jahbulon in Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell's From Hell, which explores how this ritual murderer served as midwife to the birth of the Twentieth Century where a male hegemony has societal dominance over women and the rstern, ational, Apollonian conscious mind dominates over the fertile irrational, Dionysian unconscious.

[Surgeon to Queen Victoria and serial killer “Jack the Ripper,” William Withey Gull encounters his Masonic god Jahbulon in Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell‘s From Hell (published in serial form from 1989 to 1996), which explores how this ritual murderer served as midwife to the birth of the Twentieth Century where a male hegemony has societal dominance over women and the stern, “rational,” Apollonian conscious mind dominates over the fertile, “irrational,” Dionysian unconscious.

     “The voice of our Right Brain, the mind’s Atlantis,” as he is called by Alan Moore‘s Sir William Gull/Jack the Ripper in the ingenious graphic novel From Hell (public library), I’d like to momentarily use William Blake as an orientation point for the following, as I try to approach Bowie’s art from yet another tangential angle.
[Art by James Harvey, 2016: "David Bowie taught us how to be. Searching, inquisitive, open, compassionate, curious, provocative, and challenging. Looking back on his life as a whole, though, he taught us how to be."]

[Art by James Harvey, 2016: “David Bowie taught us how to be. Searching, inquisitive, open, compassionate, curious, provocative, and challenging. Looking back on his life as a whole, though, he taught us how to be.”]

Instinctively theatrical, Bowie believed in “creating a sense of the cultural spin by amalgamating all these different threads” as he said on a March 31, 1998 episode of The Charlie Rose Show. Bowie’s mind was spectacularly omnivorous. Perhaps he did make distinctions between Pop and Avant-garde, but he certainly delighted in where the two could meet. Using the immediacy associated with pop and rock mediums, Bowie could deliver a range of strange and powerful emotions and ideas rarely conveyed in popular music.
When the David Bowie Is touring exhibition (an unprecedented access to the artist’s personal archive) arrived at the Art Gallery of Ontario it coincided with the curators (Geoffrey Marsh and Victoria Broackes) releasing a list of David Bowie’s Top 100 Must Read Books.
[Bowie's 1987 poster for the American Library Association's READ campaign to promote literacy.]

[Bowie’s 1987 poster for the American Library Association’s READ campaign to promote literacy.]

David Bowie’s top 100 must-read books
The Age of American Unreason, Susan Jacoby (2008)
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz (2007)
The Coast of Utopia (trilogy), Tom Stoppard (2007)
Teenage: The Creation of Youth 1875-1945, Jon Savage (2007)
Fingersmith, Sarah Waters (2002)
The Trial of Henry Kissinger, Christopher Hitchens (2001)
Mr Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder, Lawrence Weschler (1997)
A People’s Tragedy: The Russian Revolution 1890-1924, Orlando Figes (1997)
The Insult, Rupert Thomson (1996)
Wonder Boys, Michael Chabon (1995)
The Bird Artist, Howard Norman (1994)
Kafka Was the Rage: A Greenwich Village Memoir, Anatole Broyard (1993)
Beyond the Brillo Box: The Visual Arts in Post-Historical Perspective, Arthur C Danto (1992)
Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson, Camille Paglia (1990)
David Bomberg, Richard Cork (1988)
Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm and Blues and the Southern Dream of Freedom, Peter Guralnick (1986)
The Songlines, Bruce Chatwin (1986)
Hawksmoor, Peter Ackroyd (1985)
Nowhere to Run: The Story of Soul Music, Gerri Hirshey (1984)
Nights at the Circus, Angela Carter (1984)
Money, Martin Amis (1984)
White Noise, Don DeLillo (1984)
Flaubert’s Parrot, Julian Barnes (1984)
The Life and Times of Little Richard, Charles White (1984)
A People’s History of the United States, Howard Zinn (1980)
A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole (1980)
Interviews with Francis Bacon, David Sylvester (1980)
Darkness at Noon, Arthur Koestler (1980)
Earthly Powers, Anthony Burgess (1980)
Raw, a “graphix magazine” (1980-91)
Viz, magazine (1979 –)
The Gnostic Gospels, Elaine Pagels (1979)
Metropolitan Life, Fran Lebowitz (1978)
In Between the Sheets, Ian McEwan (1978)
Writers at Work: The Paris Review Interviews, ed Malcolm Cowley (1977)
The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, Julian Jaynes (1976)
Tales of Beatnik Glory, Ed Saunders (1975)
Mystery Train, Greil Marcus (1975)
Selected Poems, Frank O’Hara (1974)
Before the Deluge: A Portrait of Berlin in the 1920s, Otto Friedrich (1972)
In Bluebeard’s Castle: Some Notes Towards the Re-definition of Culture, George Steiner (1971)
Octobriana and the Russian Underground, Peter Sadecky (1971)
The Sound of the City: The Rise of Rock and Roll, Charlie Gillett(1970)
The Quest for Christa T, Christa Wolf (1968)
Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom: The Golden Age of Rock, Nik Cohn (1968)
The Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov (1967)
Journey into the Whirlwind, Eugenia Ginzburg (1967)
Last Exit to Brooklyn, Hubert Selby Jr (1966)
In Cold Blood, Truman Capote (1965)
City of Night, John Rechy (1965)
Herzog, Saul Bellow (1964)
Puckoon, Spike Milligan (1963)
The American Way of Death, Jessica Mitford (1963)
The Sailor Who Fell from Grace With the Sea, Yukio Mishima (1963)
The Fire Next Time, James Baldwin (1963)
A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess (1962)
Inside the Whale and Other Essays, George Orwell (1962)
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Spark (1961)
Private Eye, magazine (1961 –)
On Having No Head: Zen and the Rediscovery of the Obvious, Douglas Harding (1961)
Silence: Lectures and Writing, John Cage (1961)
Strange People, Frank Edwards (1961)
The Divided Self, RD Laing (1960)
All the Emperor’s Horses, David Kidd (1960)
Billy Liar, Keith Waterhouse (1959)
The Leopard, Giuseppe di Lampedusa (1958)
On the Road, Jack Kerouac (1957)
The Hidden Persuaders, Vance Packard (1957)
Room at the Top, John Braine (1957)
A Grave for a Dolphin, Alberto Denti di Pirajno (1956)
The Outsider, Colin Wilson (1956)
Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov (1955)
Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell (1949)
The Street, Ann Petry (1946)
Black Boy, Richard Wright (1945)
Among these titles is George Steiner‘s 1971 work of essays In Bluebeard’s castle: Some Notes Towards a Redefinition of Culture (public library).  It is this book that, as Dr. Kathryn Johnson writes, “first introduced Bowie to an idea that would later become a central tenet of postmodernism: the conflation of ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture.”
steiner
Bowie himself would say that Steiner’s book “was the first thing I read on post-modernism.” In a 2003 interview with Ingrid Sischy he continued, “That book just confirmed for me that there was actually some kind of theory behind what I was doing with my work…I have an undiminished idea of variability. I don’t think there’s one truth, one absolute.” In an ’95 interview with Ian Penman, Bowie shared these thoughts:
“I see no way we can go back, philosophically, to a world of absolutes. Which I feel very comfortable with and I always have done….I think seeing the problems that historians themselves have with revisionism of history it seems almost nonsensical for the layman to even bother to try and analyze history any more in a straight narrative way. In a way history almost ceases to exist—possibly we can’t really entertain the idea of a future in the same way. Which may be not a bad thing.”
bowiemickrock

[1972 photo by Mick Rock of Bowie holding the cover of Hunky Dory released the prior year in December of 1971]

 Steiner perceived Western culture as “irremediably shattered,” or comprised, as Bowie would describe it, of a “pluralistic vocabulary.” Steiner points out that In a world such as this, where cultural references and tastes become personally framed, “much of the mental performance of society now transpires in the middle zone of personal eclecticism.” There is no longer much of a common canon inherited as automatically of value over other cultural artifacts. This being a modern cultural fact, I can’t help but believe that the most visionary of our artists no longer attempted to work within a certain medium but strived to become mediums themselves.
Blake_Jerusalem_Plate_26_copy_E

[Jerusalem: The Emanation of the Giant Albion, William Blake, 1820]

William Blake, who proclaimed “The Eternal body of Man is The Imagination, that is, God himself,” certainly bypassed the conundrum of canon and became a medium of himself. As he writes in Jerusalem: The Emanation of the Giant Albion:
I must Create a System. or be enslav’d by another Mans
I will not Reason & Compare: my business is to Create
[The Archer, avid Bowie on the Station To Station tour at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, Feb 1976. Photo by John Rowlands]

[The Archer, David Bowie on the Station To Station tour at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, Feb 1976. Photo by John Rowlands]

Personally, I believe David Bowie accomplished the same in the end, and this was an aim stated by him in an interview by Stuart Grundy for BBC Radio in 1976:
  “I wanted to turn people on to the new things and new perspectives…I always wanted to be that sort of catalytic kind of thing.” […] “I had to govern everything around that and I just…decided to use the easiest medium to start off with which was rock ‘n’ roll, and then to add pieces to it over the years and so that really by the end of it I was my own medium…I mean hopefully that’ll happen one day…that’s really why I do it…to become a medium […] I guess I was one of the first to come out and say I’m using rock n roll, it’s not my life…I’m only using it as a medium.”
"Jung the foreman prayed at work / Neither hands nor limbs would burst" - "Drive-In Saturday" released as a single off of Aladdin Sane on April 6 1973]

“Jung the foreman prayed at work / Neither hands nor limbs would burst” – “Drive-In Saturday” released as a single off of Aladdin Sane on April 6 1973]

      With respect to the imagination and creativity as the essence of life and becoming one’s own medium as well, this returns my thoughts to Jung and Tanja Stark’s essay. In it she stresses how Jung “encouraged individuals to embark on their own process of engagement with the unconscious to discover their own myth.” Is not a culmination of all his decades of work The Myth of David Bowie?

SOZA16Z-H: Exterior of Étant donnés. Credit: Photo by Jason Wierzbicki, Philadelphia Museum of Art.

[Étant donnés: 1° la chute d'eau / 2° le gaz d'éclairage (or in English, Given: 1. The Waterfall / 2. The Illuminating Gas) is Marcel Duchamp's last major art work. Begun in 1946 and completed in 1966, it was visible only through a pair of peep holes in a wooden door]

[Étant donnés: 1° la chute d’eau / 2° le gaz d’éclairage (or in English, Given: 1. The Waterfall / 2. The Illuminating Gas) is Marcel Duchamp’s last major art work. Begun in 1946 and completed in 1966, it was visible only through a pair of peep holes in a wooden door]

This line of thinking seems to reflect a statement made by the artist Marcel Duchamp (Frida Kahlo once described Duchamp as “a marvelous painter who is the only one who has his feet on the earth, among all this bunch of coocoo lunatic son of bitches of the surrealists). Two years before his death in 1968, in the summer of 1966 the Belgian director, Jean Antoine, filmed an interview with Duchamp in his Neuilly studio where Duchamp states:
“Using painting, using art, to create a modus vivendi, a way of understanding life; that is, for the time being, of trying to make my life into a work of art itself, instead of spending my life creating works of art in the form of paintings or sculptures. I now believe that you can quite readily treat your life, the way you breathe, act, interact with other people, as a picture, a tableau vivant or a film scene, so to speak. These are my conclusions now: I never set out to do this when I was 20 or 15, but I realize, after many years, that this was fundamentally what I was aiming to do.”
[originally Published by New York’s Maecenas Press-Random House in 1969]

[Down the Rabbit Hole by Dalí, originally Published by New York’s Maecenas Press-Random House in 1969]

Recently I was reading the Mark Burstein penned introduction essay to the Salvador Dalí illustrated edition of Lewis Carroll‘s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (public library) and in it he references another quote by Marcel Duchamp that I found intriguing and enlightening. Where as Bowie asked “Where Are We Now?” (on his penultimate, 2013 album, the violent and chthonic The Next Day) Duchamp asked at a March 1961 Symposium at Philadelphia Museum College of Art: “WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
“Therefore I am inclined, after this examination of the past, to believe that the young artist of tomorrow will refuse to base his work on a philosophy as over-simplified as that of the ‘representative and the non-representative’ dilemma.
“I am convinced that, like Alice in Wonderland, [the young artist of tomorrow] will be led to pass through the looking glass of the retina, to reach a more profound expression.”
Where_Are_We_Now_video

[still from the video for “Where Are We Now?” created by Bowie & artist Tony Oursler, released on January 8 2013, Bowie’s 66th birthday: A man lost in time/Near KaDeWe/Just walking the dead/As long as there’s sun/As long as there’s rain/As long as there’s fire/As long as there’s me/As long as there’s you]

    When attempting to analyze Bowie’s “more profound expression”–words seem to fail me. Despite my obvious inadequacy and desultory approach to art theory and critique, I do fully feel the whole of David Bowie’s work. It is a work that is to be experienced and appreciated on a cerebral stage as well as on the more ineffable level of the psyche, or soul, or wherever we call that place that sings out in response to some objet d’art. Bowie was attempting to disseminate exquisite abstractions through an imaginative manipulation of high art, camp, pop, humor, consumer capitalism, spiritual concerns, and the relationships between the more superficial aesthetics and an interior reality. Bowie’s work was one of both the stars and the intestines as they are situated in the soul.
BlackstarBooklet03
starfield
letsdance
I did grow up with a regular radio rotation of Bowie’s tight hits of the 1980s like “Modern Love” and “Let’s Dance,” and at 6 years old my uncle Raul introduced me to Jareth, the Goblin King when he took me to see the fantastic film created by Jim Henson, George Lucas, and Terry Jones (of Monty Python): Labyrinth.
Labyrinth
peterwolf
bing
Likewise I was raised with the yearly presence of the 1978 recording David Bowie Narrates Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf and what in retrospect is the surreal 1977 duet of Bowie and Bing Crosby performing “Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy” for the television special, Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas. I would not learn until years later that around the same period of my childhood Bowie was given unanimous praise for his role as John Merrick in the 1980-81 theatrical run of Bernard Pomerance‘s stage play The Elephant Man, performed the titular anti-hero role for a 1982 BBC television production of Bertolt Brecht’s play Baal, and played Pontius Pilate in Martin Scorsese‘s controversial film of 1988 The Last Temptation of Christ.
Elephant
baal
lasttemptationchrist
Entering my teens I was an intense fan of David Lynch‘s Twin Peaks and knew that it was a David Bowie cameo when we meet missing FBI agent Philip Jeffries in the series’ 1992 prequel film, Fire Walk with Me.
firewalkwithme

“Who do you think this is, there? I found something… and then there they were!”

However, in many ways my first true introduction to him as a living artist was when David Bowie released the album 1.Outside in 1995.
Bowiesmoke
(I had just turned 15 and was obsessed with Nine Inch NailsThe Downward Spiral. Christmas of that year I received as gifts from my parents and aunt the cds, The Best of the Velvet Underground: Words and Music of Lou Reed; The Best of Blondie; and two Bowie compilations, Changesbowie and Essential – Best of 1969 – 1974. Whether an admonitory statement or perhaps a clue towards a key, I’ll always recall how my aunt Stela said to me that wintry day, “You know Bowie is not like the other music we listen to. He’s not a musician. He’s an artist. Es un artista totalmente.”)
Bowiemask
With its subtitle of the Ritual Art-Murder of Baby Grace Blue: A non-linear Gothic Drama Hyper-Cycle, I’ve always found 1.Outside to be quite enthralling, particularly in the insidious manner in which its dense grit and reeling textures work to distress and derange the listener.
outsideera
On his fantastic blog Pushing Ahead of the Dame for a post concerning the three lengthy and improvisational Leon suites that would mutate into OutsideChris O’Leary writes:
Outside would be aptly named. While the album featured some of Bowie’s finest songs of his later years, they were hard to discern. The bizarre quasi-narrative that Bowie created to frame the record was a ruse, just David Lynchian window-dressing, but it also was a crazy quilt of Bowie’s various obsessions—Arthurian legend, Gnosticism, Aleister Crowley, etc.—a stream of associations flooding into the work, as if a dam had burst. Outside was defined by, and consumed with, interpretation and perception. It seemed to be nothing but a frame, a frame that housed smaller frames and circus-house mirrors. Its underlying tension (it’s Bowie’s most claustrophobic album, which is saying something) came from the collision of the public image of “Eno and Bowie” and the pair’s thwarted desires to erase themselves. So Bowie called himself an author, creating a set of characters in a narrative that intentionally made no sense, while Eno wrote a set of science fiction scenarios and made a group of rock musicians act them out.”
[photo by John Rankin Waddell, 1995]

[photo by John Rankin Waddell, 1995]

Bowie’s hand-scrawled notes for this album are on display near the entrance to the The Victoria and Albert Museum’s internationally touring exhibit David Bowie Is, and in them you can read:
“Taking the present philosophical line we don’t expect our audience to necessarily seek an explanation from ourselves. We assign that role to the listener and to a culture. As both of these are in a state of permanent change there will be a constant ‘drift’ in interpretation. All art is unstable. Its meaning is not necessarily that implied by the author. There is no authoritative voice. There are only multiple readings.”
bowie-Heart's-Lesson
To riff off of one of George Steiner’s views, creativity is essentially a diasporic condition. It is exactly this unstable condition that both allures me to Bowie’s work and that makes it difficult for me to write about. He is a moving target (and I a poor marksmen).
david-bowie-berklee-college-music-commencement-speech
As Bowie said in his speech at a 1999 graduation ceremony where he received an honorary doctorate from the prestigious Berklee College of Music:
 
“So it seemed that authenticity and the natural form of expression wasn’t going to be my forte. In fact, what I found that I was good at doing, and what I really enjoyed the most, was the game of ‘what if?’ What if you combined Brecht-Weill musical drama with rhythm and blues? What happens if you transplant the French chanson with the Philly sound? Will Schoenberg lie comfortably with Little Richard? Can you put haggis and snails on the same plate? Well, no, but some of the ideas did work out very well.
[…]
“And then I went on a crusade, I suppose, to change the kind of information that rock music contained. I adored Coltrane, Harry Parch, Eric Dolphy, Velvet Underground, John Cage, Sonny Stitt. Unfortunately, I also loved Anthony Newley, Florence Foster Jenkins, Johnnie Ray, Julie London, the legendary Stardust Cowboy, Edith Piaf and Shirley Bassey.
[…]
“From which I learned that mixing elements of bad taste with good would often produce the most interesting results. So, in short, I didn’t feel comfortable as a folk singer or an R&B singer or a balladeer. I was drawn more and more to the idea of manipulation of signs, rather than individual expression—a concept that really had its start in the late 50s with Pop Art and by the early 70s I found myself making what British writer Simon Fricke described as ‘art pop.’
“It wasn’t so much about how I felt about things, but rather, how things around me felt.”
Head in Box, photo by Albert Watson, 1996

Head In Box, photo by Albert Watson, 1996

[Box On Head, photo by Albert Watson, 1996]

[Box On Head, photo by Albert Watson, 1996]

[Illustration by Joanna Neborsky, 2013]

[Illustration by Joanna Neborsky, 2013]

In December of 2013 The New Yorker published a fascinating piece by Adam Gopnik called TWO BANDS: Duke Ellington, the Beatles, and the mysteries of modern creativity. This article is an examination of the possible fluid exchange between inspiration, creativity, innovation, intuition, excitement, syncretism, eclecticism, and (as Dylan put it) Love and Theft. It does this through the lens of two (certainly in my opinion) geniuses of music, Duke Ellington and The Beatles. However, this is a discussion that I feel could have easily incorporated David Bowie. Of Ellington Gopnik writes:

“Ellington’s ear, his energy, his organizational abilities, the sureness of his decisions are a case study for management school. (Consider the way he fired Charles Mingus for fighting with Tizol, fondly but with no appeal: “I’m afraid, Charles—I’ve never fired anybody—you’ll have to quit my band. I don’t need any new problems. Juan’s an old problem. . . . I must ask you to be kind enough to give me your notice.”) These are not ordinary or secondary gifts. They were the essence of his genius. Ellington had an idea of a certain kind of jazz: tonal, atmospheric, blues-based but elegant. He took what he needed to realize the ideal he had invented. The tunes may have begun with his sidemen; the music was his. This is not a secondary form of originality, which needs a postmodern apologia, in which “curating” is another kind of “creating.” It is the original kind of originality.

“There’s a reason that Duke’s players mostly complained of being cheated only of the dough. Originality comes in two kinds: originality of ideas, and originality of labor, and although it is the first kind that we get agitated about, we should honor the second kind still more. There is wit, made by the head and spun out into life; and work, created mostly by fingers engaging tools as various as tenor saxes and computer keyboards. It is an oddity of our civilization, and has been since the Renaissance, to honor wit more than work, to think that the new idea “contributed” by the work matters more than the work itself.

“What mattered was the band. Duke Ellington was a great impresario and bandleader who created the most stylish sound, and brand, in American music, and kept a company of musicians going for half a century. That this description seems somehow less exalting than calling him a “major American composer” or a “radical musical innovator” is a sign of how far we have to go in allowing art to tell us how to admire it, rather than trying to make it hold still in conventional poses in order to be admired.”

Then concerning The Beatles:

“If one thing stands out as the source of their originality, it is the theft of improbable parts, and the sheer range of their stealing. They must have been the most eclectic band at work in the world in 1960: they imitated girl bands without seeming to understand that their songs were meant for girls, did Goffin & King and Meredith Willson and Little Richard and Marlene Dietrich—all sung with that unique Beatles mix of irony and intensity, John and Paul smiling at each other at the absurdity of being in show business while still making it sound as though it mattered. The eclecticism that distinguishes their late great recordings—so that “Revolver” includes Baroque, Indian, cool-jazz, Broadway-ballad, and sea-chantey styles, and that’s just Side 1—was intuitive from the start. They mixed up Broadway show songs with Latin rhythms, speeded up Roy Orbison licks, and lifted the bass part for “I Saw Her Standing There” straight from Chuck Berry. But then Chuck Berry, as Keith Richards insists in his “Life,” had borrowed many of his riffs from his own piano player, Johnnie* Johnson. Everyone was lifting from everyone; the difference was that the Beatles were lifting more from more people, with less shame. Theirs was a triumph of the eclectic ear, and proof that eclectic ears make electric music.”

Gopnik then knits the two with:

“A Beatles-Duke playlist, folded together, has a common quality (which took me by surprise, but shouldn’t have), and that is excitement. Go from “Please, Please Me” to “Take the A Train,” and you hear the shared fervor of musicians not just making a new sound but listening to themselves as they do. It’s the sound of self-discovery.”

[David Bowie : Face Masks, by David LaChapelle, 1995]

[David Bowie : Face Masks, by David LaChapelle, 1995]

.
equinox
  One way for me to describe Bowie’s work would be to borrow Samuel R. Delany‘s introduction to his own (quite disgusting) 1973 novel of hardcore erotica, most exquisite language, and cartoon, occult pornography, Equinox:
 
“This is an artificial, extravagant, and pretentious book […]. But it is honest before its artifice; and in this age of extravagant expressions, honesty is the last pretension.”
[Bowie performing “Cracked Actor” during the 1974 Diamond Dogs tour]

[Bowie performing “Cracked Actor” during the 1974 Diamond Dogs tour]

Bowie worked where artifice and honesty meet. He was a creative force and held the process of creation in highest regard.
“It’s the process that matters, isn’t it? Rather than getting your information – or redemption – easily and directly you must go through this long stubborn painful trek. As with alchemy, the end result isn’t as important as the long process whereby all the inessential aspects of ‘you’ have been stripped away…” (Bowie in October 1995 interview with Ian Penman “The Resurrection of Saint Dave” for Esquire).
[Bowie's 1995 painting, "Hearts Filthy Lesson"

[Bowie’s 1995 painting, Hearts Filthy Lesson]

[Trump XIV: Art in The Thoth Tarot created by Lady Frieda Harris according to instructions from Aleister Crowley. An alchemical allegory of inner equilibrium between the polarities of silver Imagination & gold Will]

[Trump XIV: Art in The Thoth Tarot created by Lady Frieda Harris according to instructions from Aleister Crowley. An alchemical allegory of inner equilibrium between the polarities of silver Imagination & gold Will]

In an interview with Michael Kimmelman published by the New York Times in June 14, 1998, Bowie is quoted as saying:
[…] the most interesting thing for an artist is to pick through the debris of a culture, to look at what’s been forgotten or not really taken seriously. Once something is categorized and accepted, it becomes part of the tyranny of the mainstream, and it loses its potency. It’s always been that way for me: The most imprisoning thing is to feel myself being pigeonholed
David Bowie's mugshot, dated March 25, 1976 after his arrest for marijuana along with James Osterberg, Jr. (a.k.a. Iggy Pop) by the Rochester, N.Y. Police Department]

David Bowie’s mugshot, dated March 25, 1976 after his arrest for marijuana along with James Osterberg, Jr. (a.k.a. Iggy Pop) by the Rochester, N.Y. Police Department]

    Then when asked to discuss his own work in music, particularly in the 70’s, Bowie went on to say:
We were all pretty excited about letting people know what went into our work, that we weren’t all trying to be Chuck Berry. […] We were excited by set design, by the way we dressed, by trying to create a whole landscape for the music we were making. […] We would talk about the books we were reading, you know, by the Beats and people like that. We would talk about Kabuki theater. We would talk about artists. I was interested in the Expressionists. And there was an awful lot of Dada in what we were doing. I remember being impressed by, you know, the collages… .
[Die Rationalisierung marschiert (Rationalization Is On The March!) by John Heartfield (1927)]

[Die Rationalisierung marschiert (Rationalization Is On The March!) by John Heartfield (1927)]

Roquairol by Erich Heckel (1917)

Roquairol by Erich Heckel (1917)

[Clown am Spiegel (Clown on Mirror) by Erich Heckel , 1958]

[Clown am Spiegel (Clown on Mirror) by Erich Heckel , 1958]

    Kimmelman goes on to ask Bowie about his admitted admiration for German Expressionism (he is well known as a fan of the group movement formed in Dresden in 1905 called Die Brücke, with members such as Erich Heckel and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner):
M.K. […] You mean artists like George Grosz?
D.B. No. I had a thing for Murnau and Fritz Lang. Grosz was too direct for me. I always want a certain abstraction. Art should be open enough for me to develop my own dialogue with it.
[still from F. W. Murnau's 1922 film Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror]

[still from F. W. Murnau‘s 1922 film Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror]

Then asked about his own work in the medium of the visual arts, the following exchange ensues:
D.B. […] painting for me was private, and it really was about problem solving. I’d find that if I had some creative obstacle in the music that I was working on, I would often revert to drawing it out or painting it out. Somehow the act of trying to recreate the structure of the music in paint or in drawing would produce a breakthrough.
M.K. How so?
D.B. It’s very hard for me to put this into words. I’m not quite sure what the process is. It’s a real “Eureka!” thing. I’ll put together a peculiar set of instrumentation, or I’ll combine sounds that are kind of unusual, and then I’m not quite sure where the text should fall in the music, or I’m not sure what the sound conjures up for me. So then I’ll go and try and draw or paint the sound of the music. And often a landscape will produce itself, then I’ll identify locations within the landscape. Suddenly I’ll realize where things go in the music.
M.K. Literally landscapes?
D.B. Well, it’s all figurative art. I call it landscape, but location, I think, is a better word.
M.K. I’m still not sure I understand.
D.B. That’s the trouble talking about art, isn’t it?
[Child in Berlin by Bowie, 1977]

[Child in Berlin by Bowie, 1977]

Bowie's set design model for the 1974 Diamond Dogs tour]

Bowie’s set design model for the 1974 Diamond Dogs tour]

[Preparatory sketches by David Bowie for an unrealized film set in Hunger City, 1974.]

[Preparatory sketches by David Bowie for an unrealized film set in Hunger City, 1974.]

[Preparatory sketches by David Bowie for an unrealized film set in Hunger City, 1974.]

[Preparatory sketches by David Bowie for an unrealized film set in Hunger City, 1974.]

[Bowie's hand-drawn story boards to the video he and David Mallet co-directed for his 1980 nursery rhyme epitaph to the 1970s, "Ashes to Ashes"]

[Bowie’s hand-drawn story boards to the video he and David Mallet co-directed for his 1980 nursery rhyme epitaph to the 1970s, “Ashes to Ashes“]

    One can clearly see that despite a celebrity musician’s need for yet another “hit single,” this depth in dimensions, textures, and characters has long been a central concern for Bowie when creating music by listening to him speak in 1974 during the tour to promote the release of Diamond Dogs, captured on film for the Alan Yentob‘s BBC documentary Cracked Actor.
I always found that my material… I felt that it was more three dimensional. I wanted to give it dimension. I wanted to give it some other dimension other than that of just being a song.
ArtTheoryForBeginners
Again in regard to Blake’s statement of “my business is to Create,” with Bowie’s business there is a real resonance with Eastern philosophical ideas, particularly with Zen Buddhism and Taoism. As Richard Osborne, Natalie Turner, and Dan Sturgis explain in their delightfully informative book Art Theory For Beginners (public library):  “Confucius makes it clear that art is essentially about the activity of doing or making, and this is similar in both Taoism and Buddhism. It is in the actual making of art that perfection lies.”
[One of the works on Bowie's list of his 100 Favorite Books: Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom: The Golden Age of Rock by Nik Cohn]

[One of the works on Bowie’s list of his 100 Favorite Books: Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom: The Golden Age of Rock by Nik Cohn (public library)]

When it came to Bowie’s making he did begin, like he said, with the medium of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Folk, West End Theatre, and Pop forms (and then expanded to include all he could and all that interested him), but he seemed to always understand that wild Dada inherent in Little Richard‘s 1955 phrase Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom!
[Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Parole in Libertà (Words in Freedom), 1915]

[Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Parole in Libertà (Words in Freedom), 1915. Marinetti once said “Poetry is an act.” ]

On July 9th 1916, Hugo Ball, (who–along with his wife Emmy Hennings and several other salient figures of early 20th century art–was one of the co-founders of the “Dada” art movement that was birthed in the Cabaret Voltaire in Zürich) recorded in his diary (Flight out of Time: A Dada Diary (public library)) his reaction to Futurist writer Filippo Tommaso Marinetti‘s latest work of parole inlibertà (words in freedom”):

There is no language anymore…it has to be invented all over again. Disintegration right in the innermost process of creation. It is imperative to write invulnerable sentences.

[Ball reading his nonsense, sound poem "Karawane", Club Voltaire, 1916]

[Ball reading his nonsense, sound poem “Karawane”, Club Voltaire, 1916]

    As music journalist and cultural critic Greil Marcus points out in “The Art Of Yesterday’s Crash” section of his marvelous book Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the 20th Century (public library), Ball’s poetic sentence is just as functional when the first and last words are swapped:

Disintegration right in the innermost process of creation, creation right in the innermost process of disintegration–no one, the dadaists least of all, has ever been able to figure out if Dada was absolute affirmation or absolute negation, only that the absolute was present, as present as Ball’s sentence was reversible.

This chiasmus, I believe, can serve as a fine approach–if not an attempt at summation–of David Bowie’s work as an artist.

[photo by Terry O'Neill, 1974]

[photo by Terry O’Neill, 1974]

In How Art Became Irrelevantan interesting (if at times rather reductive) article for Commentary magazine published on July 1st 2015, Michael J. Lewis wonders how in our modern times one might set out to make serious and lasting art:
 “To make such art—art that refracts the world back to people in some meaningful way, and that illuminates human nature with sympathy and insight—it is not necessary to be a religious believer. Michelangelo certainly was; Leonardo da Vinci certainly was not. But it is necessary to have some sort of larger system of belief, a larger structure of continuity that permits works of art to speak across time. Without such a belief system, all that one can hope for is short-term gain, in the coin of celebrity or notoriety, if not actual coins.
[…]
 “We hear much about art enriching the human experience, which is an agreeable platitude. But it is the other way round. The human experience is needed to enrich art, and without a meaningful living connection to the society that nurtures it, art is a plucked flower.”
[photo by Ellen von Unwerth, Oct. 2003]

[photo by Ellen von Unwerth, Oct. 2003]

Bowie himself has expressed despondent attitudes about the zeitgeist of our modern world, such as this statement in Esquire in 2004:
“The depressing realization in this age of dumbing down is that the questions have moved from, ‘Was Nietzsche right about God?’ to, ‘How big was his dick?’ Make the best of every moment. We’re not evolving. We’re not going anywhere.”
[photo by Markus Klinko, 2002]

[photo by Markus Klinko, 2002]

Yet, Bowie did have a “living connection” to society. He was looking to participate in our culture. As he said in a 2002 interview with GQ, “I suppose for me as an artist it wasn’t always just about expressing my work; I really wanted, more than anything else, to contribute in some way to the culture I was living in.”
[Bowie and Tilda Swinton as the settled couple haunted by a succubus and incubus from the realm of celebrity, in the Floria Sigismondi directed video for 2013 single "The Stars (Are Out Tonight)" ]

[Bowie and Tilda Swinton as the couple settled into their “nice life” but haunted by a succubus and incubus from the realm of celebrity, in the Floria Sigismondi directed video for 2013 single “The Stars (Are Out Tonight)” ]

 One example of this connection–and to borrow the title of the 1990, Alan Tomlinson edited collection of essays that explore the roles played out by consumer culture in our post-industrial leisure society–Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust project was a brilliant theatrical device used to camber the archetypal bombast of rock & roll towards a concern for the concepts of Consumption, Identity and Style: Marketing, Meanings, and the Packaging of Pleasure (public library).
ziggy_Sukita

[photo by Masayoshi Sukita, 1973]

Of course, his art was equally concerned with the usual result of these concepts: alienation. Yes, alienation and the “maladaptive behaviors” (as psychologists call them) that result from the structure of civilization–all the unhealthy patterns you have been taught, all the shrapnel we carry, our Identity Disturbance.
[photo by Brian Ward, May 1971]

[photo by Brian Ward, May 1971]

Bowie also more than flirted with a “larger system of belief.” As he put it with more than a little self-deprecation to Ellen DeGeneres in 2004:
 
I was young, fancy free, and Tibetan Buddhism appealed to me at that time. I thought,  “There’s salvation.” It didn’t really work. Then I went through Nietzsche, Satanism, Christianity, pottery, and ended up singing. It’s been a long road…
[photo by Steve Schapiro, 1974]

[photo by Steve Schapiro, 1974]

[photo by Tim Bret Day for 'Hours...' ]

[photo by Tim Bret Day for ‘Hours…’ ]