1969–1973: Psychedelic folk to glam rock

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Posted on Mon, 06/15/2015 - 8:28am
by Ron Wallace

Member since: Sat, 01/24/2015

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Space Oddity to Hunky Dory

Because of his lack of commercial success, Bowie was forced to try to earn a living in different ways. He featured in a Lyons Maid ice cream commercial, but was rejected for another by Kit Kat. Love You till Tuesday was a 30-minute film featuring performances from his repertoire and was intended as a vehicle to promote the singer. Although the film was not released until 1984, the filming sessions in January 1969 led to unexpected success when Bowie told the producers, "That film of yours—I've got a new song for it." He then demoed the song that provided his commercial breakthrough. "Space Oddity" was released on 11 July, five days ahead of the Apollo 11 launch, to become a UK top five hit. Breaking up with Farthingale shortly after completion of the film, Bowie moved in with Mary Finnigan as her lodger. Continuing the divergence from rock and roll and blues begun by his work with Farthingale, Bowie joined forces with Finnigan, Christina Ostrom and Barrie Jackson to run a folk club on Sunday nights at the Three Tuns pub in Beckenham High Street. This soon morphed into the Beckenham Arts Lab, and became extremely popular. The Arts Lab hosted a free festival in a local park, later immortalised by Bowie in his song "Memory of a Free Festival". Bowie's second album, Space Oddity, followed in November; originally issued in the UK as David Bowie, it caused some confusion with its predecessor of the same name, and the early US release was instead titled Man of Words/Man of Music. Featuring philosophical post-hippie lyrics on peace, love and morality, its acoustic folk rock occasionally fortified by harder rock, the album was not a commercial success at the time of its release.

Bowie met Angela Barnett in April 1969. They married within a year. Her impact on him was immediate, and her involvement in his career far-reaching, leaving manager Ken Pitt with limited influence which he found frustrating. Having established himself as a solo artist with "Space Oddity", Bowie began to sense a lacking: "a full-time band for gigs and recording—people he could relate to personally". The shortcoming was underlined by his artistic rivalry with Marc Bolan, who was at the time acting as his session guitarist. A band was duly assembled. John Cambridge, a drummer Bowie met at the Arts Lab, was joined by Tony Visconti on bass and Mick Ronson on electric guitar. Known as the Hype, the bandmates created characters for themselves and wore elaborate costumes that prefigured the glam style of the Spiders From Mars. After a disastrous opening gig at the London Roundhouse, they reverted to a configuration presenting Bowie as a solo artist. Their initial studio work was marred by a heated disagreement between Bowie and Cambridge over the latter's drumming style; matters came to a head when Bowie, enraged, accused, "You're fucking up my album." Cambridge summarily quit and was replaced by Mick Woodmansey. Not long after, in a move that resulted in years of litigation, at the conclusion of which Bowie was forced to pay Pitt compensation, the singer fired his manager, replacing him with Tony Defries.

The studio sessions continued and resulted in Bowie's third album, The Man Who Sold the World (1970), which contained references to schizophrenia, paranoia, and delusion. Characterised by the heavy rock sound of his new backing band, it was a marked departure from the acoustic guitar and folk rock style established by Space Oddity. To promote it in the US, Mercury Records financed a coast-to-coast publicity tour in which Bowie, between January and February 1971, was interviewed by radio stations and the media. Exploiting his androgynous appearance, the original cover of the UK version unveiled two months later depicted the singer wearing a dress: taking the garment with him, he wore it during interviews—to the approval of critics, including Rolling Stone‍ '​s John Mendelsohn who described him as "ravishing, almost disconcertingly reminiscent of Lauren Bacall"—and in the street, to mixed reaction including laughter and, in the case of one male pedestrian, producing a gun and telling Bowie to "kiss my ass". During the tour Bowie's observation of two seminal American proto-punk artists led him to develop a concept that eventually found form in the Ziggy Stardust character: a melding of the persona of Iggy Pop with the music of Lou Reed, producing "the ultimate pop idol". A girlfriend recalled his "scrawling notes on a cocktail napkin about a crazy rock star named Iggy or Ziggy", and on his return to England he declared his intention to create a character "who looks like he's landed from Mars".

Hunky Dory (1971) found Visconti, Bowie's producer and bassist, supplanted in both roles, by Ken Scott and Trevor Bolder respectively. The album saw the partial return of the fey pop singer of "Space Oddity", with light fare such as "Kooks", a song written for his son, Duncan Zowie Haywood Jones, born on 30 May. (His parents chose "his kooky name"—he was known as Zowie for the next 12 years—after the Greek word zoe, life.) Elsewhere, the album explored more serious themes, and found Bowie paying unusually direct homage to his influences with "Song for Bob Dylan", "Andy Warhol", and "Queen Bitch", a Velvet Underground pastiche. It was not a significant commercial success at the time but was ranked number 58 by voters on the All Time Top 1000 Albums list.

Ziggy Stardust

With his next venture, Bowie, in the words of biographer David Buckley, "challenged the core belief of the rock music of its day" and "created perhaps the biggest cult in popular culture". Dressed in a striking costume, his hair dyed red, Bowie launched his Ziggy Stardust stage show with the Spiders from Mars—Ronson, Bolder and Woodmansey—at the Toby Jug pub in Tolworth on 10 February 1972. The show was hugely popular, catapulting him to stardom as he toured the UK over the course of the next six months and creating, as described by Buckley, a "cult of Bowie" that was "unique—its influence lasted longer and has been more creative than perhaps almost any other force within pop fandom." The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972), combining the hard rock elements of The Man Who Sold the World with the lighter experimental rock and pop of Hunky Dory, was released in June. "Starman", issued as an April single ahead of the album, was to cement Bowie's UK breakthrough: both single and album charted rapidly following his July Top of the Pops performance of the song. The album, which remained in the chart for two years, was soon joined there by the 6-month-old Hunky Dory. At the same time the non-album single "John, I'm Only Dancing", and "All the Young Dudes", a song he wrote and produced for Mott the Hoople, became UK hits. The Ziggy Stardust Tour continued to the United States.

Bowie contributed backing vocals to Lou Reed's 1972 solo breakthrough Transformer, co-producing the album with Mick Ronson. His own Aladdin Sane (1973) topped the UK chart, his first number one album. Described by Bowie as "Ziggy goes to America", it contained songs he wrote while travelling to and across the US during the earlier part of the Ziggy tour, which now continued to Japan to promote the new album. Aladdin Sane spawned the UK top five singles "The Jean Genie" and "Drive-In Saturday".

Bowie's love of acting led his total immersion in the characters he created for his music. "Offstage I'm a robot. Onstage I achieve emotion. It's probably why I prefer dressing up as Ziggy to being David." With satisfaction came severe personal difficulties: acting the same role over an extended period, it became impossible for him to separate Ziggy Stardust—and, later, the Thin White Duke—from his own character offstage. Ziggy, Bowie said, "wouldn't leave me alone for years. That was when it all started to go sour ... My whole personality was affected. It became very dangerous. I really did have doubts about my sanity." His later Ziggy shows, which included songs from both Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane, were ultra-theatrical affairs filled with shocking stage moments, such as Bowie stripping down to a sumo wrestling loincloth or simulating oral sex with Ronson's guitar. Bowie toured and gave press conferences as Ziggy before a dramatic and abrupt on-stage "retirement" at London's Hammersmith Odeon on 3 July 1973. Footage from the final show was released the same year for the film Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.

After breaking up the Spiders from Mars, Bowie attempted to move on from his Ziggy persona. His back catalogue was now highly sought after: The Man Who Sold the World had been re-released in 1972 along with Space Oddity. "Life on Mars?", from Hunky Dory, was released in June 1973 and made number three in the UK singles chart. Entering the same chart in September, Bowie's novelty record from 1967, "The Laughing Gnome", reached number six. Pin Ups, a collection of covers of his 1960s favourites, followed in October, producing a UK number three hit in "Sorrow" and itself peaking at number one, making David Bowie the best-selling act of 1973 in the UK. It brought the total number of Bowie albums concurrently in the UK chart to six.

 

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David Bowie - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia : taken from - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Bowie https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/