These articles are RePosted from a user named “AlaDINsaNE” in alt.fan.david-bowie
Part Thirty Three
I tell my kids that when I was their age, my boy is 13 and my daughter 18 by the way, oh, how rude., they do have names, Michael and Nico, I tell them I did not have a home computer. They look at me and you can just tell what they’re are thinking. Why, are you crazy? How could you NOT have one. There is a look of horror as they realize that meant life without Nintendo and or the Net. No calculators either I add. How did you do your math then is the look. No channel changers, no remote controls for anything actually. You can’t mean you did it by hand, get up every time to change a channel or switch CDs? There were no CDs. They believe we had dinosaurs walking around when I was their ages. To those of you who are reading this and in your late teens, your twenties or early thirties you may not remember that there was once a world without MTV. You never consider that, do you? Why should you anyway, you grew up with it, and besides, there really is no reason to. Well, until now that is, because the history of MTV is crucial to understanding the importance of what Bowie did in 79. First of all though, do any of you know when MTV started?
Stage was a surprise in Britain, it went to number five on the charts. Elsewhere though, Bowie’s sales were either flat or declining. March of 1979 found Bowie once again in America, New York to be specific, along with him was Tony Visconti. Bowie wrote the lyrics to Lodger during this time, and together with Visconti also did the final mix to the album. Lodgers was finished.
For those of you who still doubt the marketing abilities of Tony Defries, here is one more thing. He understood how “fickle” the “public” are, prone to blindly follow trends and easy to manipulate. “Video is the way to sell records,” he stated in the early seventies, and once again he was proven right. The answer by the way is 1981, prior to that there WAS NO SUCH THING AS MTV. It is difficult, yes even for me, to imagine a world that was void of music videos because they are so prevalent now. They are EVERYWHERE you look. Even so they are a relatively “new” medium, because prior to 81 they were few and far between, and this is something that you must understand. Nobody, save a few, made them. Record companies, marketing and advertising agencies, as well as most artists saw NO VALUE in them, either as an artistic medium, or a marketing platform. It was determined they were not worth the cost.
This point I agree is arguable, but the first foray into what could be accurately described as a “music video” was in 1967, done by the Beatles. The videos were made for Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields Forever. The Beatles themselves were the reason the record companies invested their funds into these videos, as well as the feature films based around The Beatle’s music such as Yellow Submarine, and did not do so for other artists. You see, The Beatles made incredible profits for their labels, therefore almost any expenses incurred to promote them could be justified, and this was not true of other artists. The world would not see another music video until late in 1975. This one made by the band Queen, and directed by Bruce Gowers, on a 5,000 pound budget. The video Bohemian Rhapsody earned fantastic royalties, even so, video never caught on. What caught Bowie’s eye were the very few bands who tried mixing film and music in clips lasting a few minutes, Devo being one. The power of TV to sell music had long been recognized by the music industry executives, though not through the use of music videos. The first musical broadcast goes back to 1930, a performance by composer George Gershwin. The real marketing power however came from the “dance shows” such as Dick Clarke’s American Bandstand, a staple for teenagers since the sixties, and Your Hit
Parade. Bowie had experimented with film in the late sixties, while still managed by Kenneth Pitt. This was for a self produced special designed for TV. The film, titled Love You Till Tuesday, consisted of visual impressions of some of his songs such as When I’m Five, Space Oddity, The Ching A Ling Song as well as a few others. There was also a mime routine included, and this is the only known film in existence showing Bowie performing mime while studying with the renowned Lindsay Kemp. It is worth seeing.
Let me pause the authors story for just one minute to relate one of my two “six degrees of David Bowie” moments. I once worked as Assistant Stage Manager on the production of the musical, Godspell, at our community theatre. The director was Todd Farley. Todd studied under and toured Europe with famed mime, Marcel Marceau. Linda Kemp also studied with Marcel Marceau and David Bowie studied with Lindsay Kemp. That’s five degrees but I have a second instance where I can get from me to Bowie in three! I’ll save that one in case AlaDINsaNE touches on that episode in future articles. Now back to the story.
Devo caught Bowie’s attention in 1977, and in 1979 Bowie convinced the “suits” at RCA, between rounds of their ongoing battle I imagine, to underwrite the financing that would enable Bowie to produce three music videos from tracks that appeared on Lodger. How significant was this? Well, look. This was in 79, TWO YEARS BEFORE MTV EVEN EXISTED, NOBODY WAS MAKING MUSIC VIDEOS. Do you see now what a truly significant move this was on the part of Bowie and RCA once you start looking back on history. Bowie is NEVER credited for his contribution to the advent of music videos. Why? Because people don’t learn their history, and this is exactly why this fact is overlooked by THE MAJORITY of Bowie fans. COMPLETELY MISSED! I hear Bowie fans constantly spouting off on the fact that they consider David Bowie to be a genius. I say to them, “What about his contribution to the medium of music videos?” The reply, “What contribution?” Yeah, right, he was only one of the founders of it. No big deal I suppose. Well, maybe to you, I thankfully happen to be a lot different though.
Here we have Bowie once again demonstrating a powerful example of his abilities as a multi faceted artist, able to use not one, but many different mediums in order to convey his personality and thoughts to his audience. Bowie was an innovator, and one of the pioneers that actually began “rock videos,” and as before the ENTIRE MUSIC INDUSTRY eventually caught on and followed his lead. This is another prime example without question of David Bowie being YEARS ahead of his time. It is also a prime example of the power of Bowie’s work, and don’t you EVER underestimate that fact, because it would leave you looking rather silly. Why? Well, if you think for a minute at what Bowie did in 79 with regards to video, as he did with music on Low and other pieces of his work, he literally CHANGED THE COURSE OF MODERN MUSIC FOREVER. How many others have had such an impact on music as Bowie has? I count none.
Bowie chose David Mallet to direct all three videos. Mallet had experience from American TV, he worked on two innovative “dance music” shows in the sixties, Shindig and Hullabaloo. When Bowie hooked up with him in 79 he was the director of Kenny Everett’s series, which Bowie appeared on the same year. Now, I have a serious problem at times, and that is with “credits.,” ones that appear on films, albums, or anything else for that matter. Why? Well, I am just too fucking curious, that is why. See, you read a credit, maybe it says something like this for example, “Director – David Mallet, Co-Director – David Bowie.” Sorry, that is just NOT good enough for me because it is not explanatory enough. You see, I want to know EXACTLY what EACH ONE contributed to the project. In this case I have used as an example, I WANT TO KNOW EXACTLY WHAT BOWIE DID, how much, and what was it really that he contributed. If you think that I am TOO curious, well, sorry, because that is how I happen to “learn” things, and I won’t ever apologize for using my brain. I know a few who should try it sometimes. It is because of this curiosity that I watched the three videos from Lodger quite a few times over the past three days. It was during this time that I started to wonder about how much input Bowie had in the making of them, because I had no idea. I did not know whose ideas were
used to write the “story lines” for example, Bowie, Mallet or someone else. Who came up with the theme for the sets? Did Bowie have any input as to how the parts were acted, or filmed. As a person who attempts to understand the entire scope of Bowie’s talents, these are extremely important questions to me, and ones that surprisingly I had never considered before. These questions arose only because of writing Images.
You know me, I am relentless, and this was no exception. Nothing remains unanswered if I can help it, so away I went the other day. The “vaults” were opened, a process I now do alone, as I was sure the answer to all my questions lay somewhere inside. I do not go through my Bowie stuff anymore with anyone else around who is not a die hard, and the reason is that my girlfriend, as well as most of my friends, will no longer tolerate it. The fact is that as I go through decades of what they call “that stuff,” and, I find items that I have not seen for some time, a few I forgot I even had.” The sheer “excitement” of rediscovering many of these important artefacts causes me to want to “share” their value with others. Hey, have I ever shown you this picture? See, a press release photo from 76, Slick AND Ronson together? The reply, ” I think so.” Well, look. Oh, fuck, Rolling Stone, 76, Cameron Crowe interview with Bowie. I am going to read you THE WHOLE THING. It’s great. Now, listen. The David Bowie Black Book. Here, I’ll show you something. Page 101. There, see.? That is MY FAVOURITE picture of Bowie, look at the hair. The reply, ” I have seen that. You show it to me every week.” Oh, do I? Sorry. Hey, 87 tour program. Did I tell you how much I hated that fucking tour. “Yep, two or three times a day.” See this 76 program? Try and find one of these. Oh, you can get the program, but try and find the envelope they came in along with it. See, DAVID BOWIE – ISOLAR. It took me over twenty years to find one. After that show in 76 I went right past the program vendors and out the fucking door. Idiot, eh? I paid $30.00 for this one, I would have paid $500.00. “Knowing you, you would have paid a lot more if you had to,” they say. How do you know? “You tell me that every day pretty much.” ReallY? That much? Oh. Can you believe this, some guy on our newsgroup sent me this as a present, a 78 tour program from Australia. He just gave it to me. “I saw it.” When? “Once last week, three times the previous week, and around twelve times last month alone just for starters.” Hmmm? Look! “I know, a Glass Spider promotional frisbee.” I showed you that? “Many times.” Ahhhh, Station To Sta…. “Japanese pressing,. Right?’ Well, uh… “And you have an original on vinyl, and a Ryko, and a Ryko AU20 Remaster, and the standard RCA issue CD, and every other pressing of that album that is know to exist in the known universe, and you have six CDs and two vinyl copies of the Nassau boot because you would commit suicide if you ever lost it. I know, make sure you are buried with the AU20, the Nassau, Rotterdam and Cleveland boots. Oh, and the 76 tour program.” I told you all this already I guess. “Yeah, several million times.” Well, curiosity they say killed the cat, and mine was no where in sight as the boxes were opened, in a ritual reminiscent of what one would expect to see if something priceless was handed to the unworthy. The mood was one of reverence and humility as I rummaged through countless fucking boxes, piles of magazines, newspapers, and every other known source of Bowie interviews in the hopes of finding some comment from Bowie on the making of the videos from Lodger. Finally, three o’clock in the morning, September 1980, New Musical Express. The search had ended.
It isn’t much, but it is enough. I had no idea, as I said, to the extent of Bowie’s contribution to these videos, or if everything was left in fact to David Mallet. What I read was sufficient enough to cause me to never look at one particular video the same way again, I now have a much greater respect for it after what I learned. The role that David Bowie had in the making of the videos on Lodger seems
to me now to have been a lot larger than I had anticipated. It seems that Mallet’s expertise was needed basically from a technical perspective, in order to be able to put BOWIE’S IDEAS on to film. I am getting a little ahead of myself here, but I want to bring this up now. This interview reveals little about Bowie’s input on the Lodger videos, except that the ideas were Bowie’s, and Mallet was left in charge of how to express what Bowie wanted to on video. What really got my attention however was when Bowie went on to talk about his work with Mallet on the Ashes To Ashes video, and it is this video that I will never look at the same way again. It has always been my favourite Bowie video in the first place, but truthfully I never really gave Bowie the credit he personally deserves for it. I was under the impression, for some unknown reason, that the story line, direction, and the film sequences were probably the work of many, and Bowie’s role a lesser one. I could not have been more mistaken, and I will let Bowie explain. Here is an except from that interview for you that I have taken from the New Musical Express. The words are David Bowie’s, so here you go. “The three video’s that were done for Lodger were co-directions inasmuch as I gave David (Mallet) complete control over what I wanted to put in there. But this one (speaking about the Ashes To Ashes video) I story – boarded myself, actually drew it frame for frame. He edited it exactly as I wanted it and has allowed me to say publicly that it was my first direction. I’ve always wanted to direct and this is a good place to start – to get some money from a record company and then go away and sort of play with it.” I admit that even though I think that I am quite aware of David Bowie’s abilities, I was surprised when I read this. It is fascinating to me how a video of this calibre, which I consider one of the best music videos ever made by any artist, was taken from a CONCEPT, to a SCRIPT, and then ACTED and DIRECTED in, and after to a FINAL EDIT BY BOWIE HIMSELF, and this was his FIRST ATTEMPT. All I can say is MORE PLEASE.
I hate music videos. I hate MTV, and I hate all music video channels. MTV, MINDLESS AND TOTALLY VOID is what it should stand for. It is a fucking insult to anyone who has an ounce of intelligence. Music TV my ass, it DESTROYED MUSIC. It is a BLIGHT, a PLAGUE, and an INSULT to art. MTV is for the brain dead where art and intelligence are concerned, oh, and this IS NOT MY OPINION either. Prove it? My pleasure. When it comes to studying any art form there is one common perception that must be shared by everyone, regardless. What is that? INTERPRETATION. This applies to music, painting, sculpture, architecture, dance, and any other form of artistic expression. What is created by an artist has a meaning, it is an expression, a form of communication. Art is designed to cause a reaction by evoking EMOTION in those who view it. Art is not only viewed, but FELT as well, that is if it is worth anything. Listen to Warszawa. What does it mean to you? In all probability each person gets a different experience listening to it. I have experienced a wide variety of different emotions from the same piece of music. One of the greatest joys a person can get from the appreciation of music is the fact that through individual interpretation music can become personal. The best way to illustrate this is to ask you about your own personal experiences with music. Mostly all of you have certain pieces of music that are “deeply personal” to you in some way or another. The ones I am referring to are those that made an emotional impression on you so deep that they really mean something to you. Sometimes we may hear what an artist writes and then say to ourselves, ” What that song says is EXACTLY how I FEEL, I could have written that myself. He understands things the way I do.” Music can often help get us through the “rough spots” we experience in life. It can bring joy if it reminds us of something good, because we associate it with certain experiences or moments in our lives. Likewise, it can bring us sorrow, even pain..
I ask you this simple question. Why can a piece of music be deeply personal to you, and the same piece mean nothing special to me? The answer is interpretation, and because we are each different as people, we interpret art in our “OWN” unique and individual way. Now, lets use Teenage Wildlife here, just because I really like it. Hear that Buffer if you are reading this? To me this song invokes feelings of a loss of innocence as one matures from adolescence into adulthood. When we are younger we have hopes in a world that looks bright with prospects, adventure. It is something to seize, to leave our stamp on. Unfortunately, reality sets in, you find yourself in a jungle, and it is every man for himself. Instead of prospects, the goal is survival. The world you discover is not what you thought, it is mean. To you it may have been what was playing in your car when you picked up a girl on a date that you didn’t think would go out with you. You got up the nerve, and expecting a rejection, you asked and she agreed to go out with you. What’s more, it really worked out, you stayed together. Every time you hear Teenage Wildlife it reminds you of the time she got into your car, and how happy and terrified you were at the same time. If you are Buffer, a friend of mine, when you hear Teenage Wildlife then you turn off your CD player and go and bitch and complain on the news group about how much you loathe that song, only to have me tell you that you are quite mental. Now, suppose THE FIRST TIME you heard Teenage Wildlife was on TV when you saw the video for it. This is all hypothetical of course. The video depicted a high school, and a group of rather “straight” kids, more the “art” type who would pursue things with an intellectual flavour, rather than weapons. This group is being relentlessly harassed by another group in the school who harbour a vendetta against these people, and who are determined to lay something of a “shit kicking” on them, if they can get them in an isolated area. The video has depicted a cat and mouse game between these two groups from the beginning, however the ones “hunted” find an escape route every time they seem to be cornered. One day however one of the boys stays behind after school, it is late and the building is almost deserted, sitting at a desk in a room alone he glances up at the window in the door. It is there he sees a face, the face of one who has been chasing him for so long. This happens as you hear the line, “What shall I do? They wait for me in the hallway.” Then he realizes that he is trapped. “They move in numbers, they’ve got me in a corner. I feel like a group of one. Oh, no. They can’t do this to me. I’m not some piece of Teenage Wildlife.” The scenes in the video play out as the intended victim, “Howls like a wolf in a trap,” only to see his assailants enter through the now broken door. The first hand to strike him causes him to, “Fall to the ground like a leaf from a tree,” catching a glimpse out the window on the way down, ” Looks outside at that vast blue sky.” Now, I need not progress any further with a story line here, you get the idea.
There are of course many different ways in which we can gain exposure to a piece of music for the first time. However, unlike before, the way a piece is interpreted now depends not only on our own imaginations, but is controlled to a large extent by the medium that brought us the music. The “freedom” of thought which allows each person to interpret what they hear in their own unique and individual way, is also restricted to a great extent by the way music is delivered to us these days. I have fabricated this Teenage Wildlife video “story line” for a reason, I want to illustrate a point about two mediums most commonly used to broadcast music, and their effects as to the way we receive it. You have never heard Teenage Wildlife. Your first exposure to the song comes one night while you are sitting at home watching MTV or some other program with an identical format. You happen to like what you hear, how couldn’t you, and so you pay close attention to the video that is playing. The song happens to come up in conversation one day, and the person you are talking to asks you what is the song about. What is you answer? The person who asked will be given by you no
doubt, a brief synopsis of what you saw in the video. The person who asked will now know that the David Bowie song Teenage Wildlife is about a conflict between two different groups of teenagers. You know this because that is what you were “told” it was about.
There is no comparison. You are either listening to the radio, at a friend’s house or you just purchased Scary Monsters and this is you first listen. Robert Fripp’s guitar grabs you and holds you while Bowie asks, “How come you only want tomorrow?” “Wow,” you think. Several minutes later Bowie declares, “Each to his own,” the instrumental tracks overlaid with stunning falsettos of “WILD” fade and the song ends. You may listen again. You may listen many times, you may read the lyrics. What is this song about? The answer is what makes the music we adore “personal” to each one of us. It is entirely up to you what it is about. You can defend music videos and MTV all you want, I could care less, but you will never convince me that MTV has not damaged music and those who watch it. To those like me who are disciplined to use video shows for finding “information,” tours, new releases and news, then it is relatively safe. I pity those however who are on a steady diet of MTV because you are exposing yourself to something which causes atrophy of the mind, and this is dangerous. Unfortunately it isn’t difficult to find people who have been stricken with this avoidable condition, if you just look around you, they are everywhere.
What MTV has basically done is robbed your thoughts. It has also stolen the adventures that lead to wonderful new discoveries when we listen to something. How? Well, you don’t think for the simple reason that you do not have to, MTV has removed every reason to use your mind because it TELLS you what to think. The songs which appear on MTV are exactly about what the video TELLS YOU THEY ARE ABOUT. What is terrifying to me is that the messages conveyed in ninety nine percent of these “works of art on celluloid,” rates as some of the most mindless drivel that I have ever encountered. I am at a loss as to how people can watch this shit day after day. Really at a loss. Sex. Women.. Yep, tits, ass, beautiful hair, full lips and all dressed up the same. The skill that costume designers must posses in the music video industry is how to get the least amount of clothes on a women so that all of her “attributes” are visible, yet cover enough so that the video does not get rated as pornographic and banned. The women’s “equal rights” organizations are hypocrites because they are “selective” in who they target. The magazines like Playboy, Penthouse and Hustler, as well as companies and advertising agencies who feature scantily clad females in their publications and advertising campaigns all come under attack. Does the music video industry? No. Why is that, because as far as I can determine they are the WORST offenders of portraying women as “objects.” Most women in these videos have probably been “manufactured” for the most part by the Dow Chemical Company who manufacturer 44 D’s, and are walking testimonials to the things that can be accomplished by the practitioners of plastic surgery. The bodies of these women are displayed in such a fashion so that they are viewed as “toys for boys,” and not as that of a “person.” In an attempt to further enhance the image of these women as “toys,” they are in most cases portrayed as having only enough of a brain to maintain life support. These “women,” when adorned with the most minimum amount of fabric legally allowed radiate one message only. The message is, “I bet you want to fuck me,”
Getting people interested in fucking something is an example of a brilliant marketing strategy used by the record labels, who are responsible for these videos. It isn’t just the women. Have you noticed that most front men for bands these days are “cute.” I have. If not, then make up and wardrobe try
their darndest to “fix” the problem. There is a reason for that as well, it is so they also send a message. The message? Well, it’s, “I bet you want to fuck me.” First, I want to make it perfectly clear that I have no information at all from any research or studies that have been done by the advertising industry to support what I am going to say. It is my opinion and I base it on what I feel is common sense. I believe that the average person will devote much of their time and, pay close attention to things that they want to fuck. I also believe that the average person will allot a sizeable amount of their available cash to be used to purchase icons of things they want to fuck, if for some reason they are unable to get their hands on it. You see, the sex drive of teenagers and those in their twenties, the segment of the population targeted by MTV, will make them tuned in to these videos if they “like” what they see. In an effort to “get close” to the things they like, people will spend large amounts of money on icons which resemble these things, such as records, pictures, posters, videos and magazines. Record labels for The Beatles, Bay City Rollers, Backstreet Boys, Jennifer Lopez, Britney Spears, Spice Girls, and thousands more have used sex to sell the work of the artists they have under contract. Again, I do not get it. How can one watch this stuff for extended periods of time on a consistent bases. Boy loves girl, girl loves boy, girl gets boy, boy gets girl, boy leaves girl, girl leaves boy, girl cheats on boy, boy cheats on girl, girl misses boy, boy misses girl. On, and on and on it goes, the same redundant stories over and over again, and the only difference between them is that the cute boys and half naked mindless women are rotated for each video. Doesn’t this endless repetition become “tiring” after awhile? My exposure to these video stations is not governed by choice, but more because my mind can only take so much abuse.
The freedom of thought is the greatest tool an individual possesses because it allows a person to “go anywhere.” The progress made by scientists, inventions, medical breakthroughs, a better understanding of the universe and space exploration itself are all made possible by one thing, free thinking. Music, dance, theater, film, literature all have their roots in the same place, the realm of free thought. Free thought is the ability which allows us the gift to interpret music and the arts and it is decimated by MTV. Now, hear me out on this. You may think that I am over reacting to the effects that MTV has on people by destroying free thinking. Let me tell you that you would be quite correct, if it was ONLY MTV, but unfortunately this is not the case at all, and far from it as a matter of fact. There are many powerful things that we are exposed to on a daily basis which are just as bad, and in many in some cases much worse, than MTV. If you add up all of these things which have a detrimental effect on an individual’s ability, or their freedom to “stretch” out their imaginations, then you have a very serious problem. I am of the belief that this problem is not one that we are heading for, but one we already have. I believe also that the gravity of this problem is not benign, or one that is temporary when left unaddressed. My opinion is that instead this problem is an acute one and it is getting progressively more critical because for some reason it does not appear to be recognized as a problem in our society. What terrifies me however, is that I think this problem has been recognized, and as a severe one, yet the response has been to simply ignore it. If anyone wonders why this is such a concern to me, and should be to most, is the fact that with the loss of free thinking eventually comes the loss of “individuality,” and when these two are lost it means the demise, and eventual end of creativity. I do not believe that I have to go into the ramifications that a loss of creativity would have on society as a whole. The problem has already manifest itself quite clearly I believe in the arts, as I do not believe we have anything even close to the amount of quality output from artists compared to twenty years ago. There isn’t much “new” anymore, in any area, yet whole civilizations used to be built with the arts as their centerpiece. Bowie quipped in an interview I
have from 1981 saying, “Art is dead, so what the Hell can we do about it anyway.” I will not bother to explore the things that I am convinced have deeply harmed free thinking in our society as I could write a book about them, and truthfully I would really like to do that one day.
I greatly admire the artists who are able to successfully merge their music with film or video. The art of showing a collage of images in conjunction to music stimulates both the visual and audio senses, and can result in a very powerful emotional experience for the viewer. Now, I can hear some of you shouting that I am a hypocrite, accusing me of self contradiction because earlier I said that I basically loathed most music videos. Well, I do. What I am referring to are visual images that are used to create sensations while still leaving room for individual interpretation. Where as music videos tell you what to think by dictating a story, these “films” only add to the experience of individual interpretation by adding a visual experience. What is wonderful is that in most instances the visual images presented ARE ALSO open to individual interpretation. There are so few artists who do this so it is not easy to find names, but let me try. Okay, now. Hmmmmm? Let me see. Ummmm. There, David Bowie, that’s one. Have you seen the Heroes video?
To be added to again……………
Posted 18 June 2002