He is a genius; one of the greatest and most influential artists of our time.
And we know this because a small cabal of Bowie-philes keep telling us it. These are the forty-somethings who control much of our media. Jonathan Ross and Ricky Gervais are the public face of this shadowy élite, but beneath the surface lies a vast network of Bowie obsessives: producers, authors, presenters, editors, journalists.
They commission each other to write articles and make TV documentaries in which they simper and fawn about their horse-toothed idol. Back in the 1970’s these people were the weird and delicate children who nobody talked to in the playground. So they sought solace in the spindly arms of a ginger-haired clown called Ziggy Stardust.
Ziggy played guitar. He played it left-handed. He looked a bit like Cilla Black. It was a winning combination.
The weird kids had found a friend; a goofy buddy from outer-space. He told them it was okay to be pretentious, po-faced and slightly aloof. It was alright to dabble with make-up, prance around with mime and pretend to be on drugs.
Bowie became an idol for these teenage geeks. Their creepy obsession helped to catapult him from a novelty pop singer to a mainstream star. They slavishly followed his ever-changing costumes and idiotic personas. They bought his tinny music and searched for profound meaning within his meaningless lyrics.
It is the obsessive and needy nature of these Bowie cultists, which makes them so dangerous and deluded – even after all these years. They retain a blinkered devotion to the Thin White Duke which renders them incapable of logic or reason; unable to grasp the concept that Bowie might actually have been a bit shit. Or at least, massively overrated.
Because if you weren’t a child of the 70′s, and don’t have the benefit of looking back through the distorted lens of nostalgia; then you see a very different David Bowie. You see an odd-looking man who, in a 40-year recording career, manged to make five-or-six decent songs. A man whose most memorable performance in recent years has been to get hit in the eye with a lollipop.
Bowie has always been about style over substance. His first job was in advertising; he realised early doors that to market himself he needed a gimmick. Releasing a novelty song about a laughing gnome didn’t work, but dressing as a transvestite Ronald McDonald proved to be just the ticket.
In doing so, he provided the inspiration for the likes of Marilyn Manson, Slipknot, Lady Gaga and a multitude of other average performers who understood the commercial benefits of dressing like a mentalist.
It is bizarre that Bowie is still cited as a fashion icon, usually by baldy old football casuals in white plimsolls. Because when you scan back at his different looks over the years, it is remarkable how he always managed to maintain the appearance of an absolute pillock. Leotards, kimonos, eye-patches, bouffant haircuts, white knee-length-boots; usually all worn at the same time.
And behind Bowie’s costumes and zany characters; there was a void. There was nothing there. It was all just an act; a series of fictional characters. No underlying message or genuine emotion. Just a pompous theatrical performance.
The interviews with Bowie, especially those during the 1970’s, are excruciatingly dull. They pull back the curtain to reveal the dreary middle-class bloke who hides behind the wacky stage persona – a man called David Jones. But if you close your eyes while listening, it could easily be David Brent.
Here are a few of Bowie’s memorable zingers from over the years:
“I’m pretty good with collaborative thinking. I work well with other people.”
“It amazes me sometimes that even intelligent people will analyze a situation or make a judgement after only recognising the standard or traditional structure of a piece.”
“I believe that I often bring out the best in somebody’s talents.”
But Bowie can let his music do the talking. He has, after all, recorded more than 550 songs over a wafer-thin career. The problem is that, despite a purple patch in the mid-70’s, they just aren’t that good. It’s all subjective, but it’s really hard to justify his status as a musical legend.
You can’t compare his musical output to the likes of McCartney, Reed or Marley.
I have tried to like Bowie. I have read/watched/heard so many gushing tributes to his elf-like genius over the years. But they seem to be talking about a different artist entirely. The one I see is that embarrassing bloke and his cringe-worthy posturing alongside Mick Jagger in the Dancing in the Street video.
He’s the same bloke who released those syrupy hits, like China Girl and Let’s Dance. For me, he represents all that was rubbish about music in the 1980′s: Bowie’s affected vocal warbling and the tinny sounding buzz of over-produced saxophones and synths.
And if Bowie wasn’t releasing crap singles in the 80′s; he was inspiring them. The whole of the decade was tainted by the eye-liner wearing groups who had been influenced by the Bowie brand of style over substance; the likes of Japan, Kajagoogoo and Duran Duran.
But none of this matters. David Bowie is a legend. He is a genius. He changed music for ever. He invented punk. He invented the kettle. He inspired everyone who was born AB(After Bowie). He is the power and the glory. Amen.
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