From the early 70s on, David Bowie has been an icon, from his simply spell-binding music and brilliant lyrics to his awe inspiring sense of grandeur and theatricality.
Last week I went to the ‘Who Shot Rock And Roll?’ exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum, a rather captivating exhibit of the best photographers in rock ‘n roll.
The best part was a slide-show featuring some 50 or so shots from L.A. photographer Henry Diltz, who photographed everyone from The Monkees to Jackson Browne and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.
But, the very best parts were a series of early shots of Bowie and a video-version, by Mick Rock of all people, of the song “Life on Mars.”
Now, I loved that song in last year’s “Life On Mars” TV show, but watching Bowie in his Ziggy Stardust persona, singing what must be on the best songs ever written on a gritty film-to-video transfer, was nothing short of transformational. I saw yet again, the power of his music.
On top of that, I just finished what I think, arguably, must be the best-ever Bowie biography, “Bowie: A Biography” (Crown) by Mark Spitz.
Before reading this, my favorite music bio was David Ritz’s “Divided Soul,” which chronicled the sad story of Marvin Gaye. Beautifully written it was, but this Spitz (not Ritz) book is light years — Ziggy years if you will — better.
With fantastically researched and fresh interviews with almost every significant journalist Bowie has ever spoke to, it’s utterly on the mark.
It goes back to beginning to post-war England. David Jones is an R&B-loving kid torn between suburban comfort and the fast, tough London of the ‘60s.
He is reincarnated as a utopian hippie mime and ascends in the ‘70s to become one of the most influential cultural figures of the last half century.
I particularly loved the early characters in his evolution: Mime king Lindsey Kemp and early manager Ken Pitt, who wrongly-used Judy Garland as a career model.
The infamous manager Tony Defries and his pack, including Cherry Vanilla and Tony Zanetta are all here.
I actually got to know some of the “Main Man” posse (which Spitz claimed Iggy Pop coined) in those early halcyon days, and let me tell you, they made a mark.
Say what you will, DeFries not only made Bowie a millionaire, but a cultural icon.
When Defries got him signed to RCA, he brought Bowie from the U.K. to New York and brought him to the Warwick Hotel.
An entire Elvis Presley/RCA catalog was included in his room. Bowie was on the same label as Elvis! Amazingly, they share the same birthday, Jan 8.
The book chronicles his first meeting with Andy Warhol, Lou Reed, Danny Fields, Mick Rock and Iggy Pop. Warhol is beautifully portrayed in the 1996 movie “Basquiat” with Bowie playing Warhol!
The creation of his breakout character, Ziggy Stardust, is just plain fascinating. The tome is so well written in many ways it bristles with the energy of the times.
Everything’s here, all his characters, all his albums. In case you wondered, my favorite Bowie tracks are: “Wild Is the Wind,” “Time Will Craw,” “Absolute Beginners,” “This is Not America” and “Ashes to Ashes.”
Brilliant artist … brilliant book!
Nancy O’Dell Exit a Sign of the Times
“Access Hollywood’s” Nancy O’Dell has left the show after 13 years. I bring this up because I know her and she has remained one of the more level headed anchors, in my opinion.
Her exit has to do with the show’s recent turn toward more sensationalistic headlines. Access’s daily TGIF segment (This Gossip Is Fact) is really rather silly. But, in this day and age of ratings, ratings ratings, and not necessarily good content, what can you do?
It’s a shame, but one more turn of the screw to how quickly and easily all the good people are being forced out. I predict and hope I am right that she will enter into some sort of interview-type program.
She’s become a celebrity favorite and that alone gives her a step-up on most of the competition. She gives as good as she gets. Best of luck Ms. O’Dell.
Tavern on the Green: End of an Empire
How sad that Tavern on the Green on Central park in Manhattan has closed. I knew owner Warner LeRoy before he passed and though he was not day at the beach, you had to give him his due for creating a thoroughly New York-institution.
Between that and his Russian Tea Room, (not to mention Maxwell’s Plum) he had that level of service pretty well tied up in the city.
Warner was the son of legendary filmmaker Mervyn LeRoy, who was involved in the creation of “The Wizard Of Oz.” Some mementos of that film were the first things you saw when you first walked in Tavern.
When I recall of all the events, numerous charity functions and dinners I’ve been to there, I feel sad. It’s another poignant reminder of just how this town is changing and not for the better.
Memento Mori: Percy Sutton
I would be remiss in not mentioning the passing of Percy Sutton, from Inner City Broadcasting, a leading force in restoring The Apollo Theatre and a major force in New York City politics. He was Manhattan Borough president for an unprecedented time and provided Malcom X with legal representation.
One his radio stations, WBLS, featured Frankie Crocker in his heyday and became a major force in the music business. Crocker not only played and programmed terrific music, but also helped introduce disco as a relevant music genre.
Crocker was an amazing man in almost every way. I remember he lived up near 68th and Third Ave. for a time, and when I was with him, there was never a dull moment. He held court at Studio 54 like he ran the place, and I seem to remember her on a white horse more than once, or twice. Greta days indeed! Rest easy, Percy.
Roxy Music Reborn on DVD
I’ll never forget the first time I listened to Roxy Music with Bryan Ferry and Brian Eno. I was completely entranced, not only for their spectacular music, but also for their equally spectacular theatrical presentations.
Ferry may not get as much recognition as George Michael and others, but he was a true trend setter. Eagle Rock has released “More Than This – The Story Of Roxy Music.” It was originally broadcast on the BBC in late 2008.
The DVD contains nearly half an hour of additional unseen material plus three previously unreleased live tracks from the series “Dock Rocks,” including “Both Ends Burning,” “Editions Of You,” and “Do The Strand.”
Watching it, I understood thoroughly for the first time just how avant garde they were, and how they certainly set the standard for the whole coming-in-a-minute, glam-rock era. They were much imitated, but never equaled.
Interviews with the members are totally fascinating and especially the ones with Ferry, who started in art school and learned his lessons well. I was never that familiar with early works like ‘Strand,” and, now I clearly see how formative they were.
I fully got into Roxy with their later works, including “Love Is the Drug” and “Avalon,” and Ferry’s own “Slave to Love” and “More Than This.”
Ferry’s been a style-icon for years. No one wore a black jacket and tie better. Watching this instantly reminded me of Roxy’s musical importance. It’s a superlative disc.
Names In The News:
Jordan, Angelo Babbaro, Armando, Vinny Rich, Eric Martin, Race Taylor, Tim Gleason, Tom Cuddy, Jordan, Sara Belle, Harrison Jordan, Keisha Nicole Eremic, Chris Gilman, Julian Medina.