What’s up, y’all? This past Jan. marked the fifth anniversary of Mr. David Bowie’s death (also, his 74th birthday was on Jan. 8), and anyone that’s been rockin’ with this blog for the past four and a half years knows how much I love that man. However, I started my blog after Mr. Bowie passed, so I never had the chance to give him a proper tribute. With that being said, I wanted to to write about a post celebrating the extraordinary life of one of my favorite people by listing some of my favorite David Bowie moments (there’s way too many to name them all) in no particular order. Besides, after my rant about the debacle that took place at the Capitol last month, it wouldn’t hurt to discuss a somewhat lighter subject. Let’s do this thing!
And yes, I meant for this post to be finished way before now, but y’all know me.
The Mugshot That Looks Like a Headshot
Sometime in 1976, Mr. Bowie and his BFF Iggy Pop were busted in New York for marijuana possession, which blows my mind for a multitude of reasons. Firstly, he was busted for having weed on him during the height of his notorious cocaine addiction (good thing he wasn’t using the white pony when the cops found him). Secondly, the fact that he was even busted for having weed is a trip—as is all previous marijuana arrests now—considering that the psychedelic plant is quickly becoming legalized throughout the US. I get that being in possession of weed was considered a serious crime then, but it’s so doggone tame now. And third, and most importantly, when Mr. Bowie was being processed, he took the most beautiful mugshot I’ve ever laid eyes on. He even managed to outdo Prince.
Every thing about that mugshot came together: the sepia tone of the photo, the hair, the wardrobe, the “bitch I’m fabulous” look on Mr. Bowie’s face—I love it all. Plus, Mr. Bowie didn’t smile in the picture, and he has my utmost respect for that. I hate when folks smile for mugshots (here’s lookin’ at you, Bruno. I still love you, though). You’re going to jail, boo! Why the hell are you smiling?
By the way, while writing this post, I learned Mr. Bowie actually made a statement after his arrest, and the footage was uploaded to YouTube (Ms. Chi Wah Soo, a woman that was also arrested alongside Mr. Bowie, also broke her silence about the incident after 40+ years). Check it out!
Damn near everything in Labyrinth was iconic (except for the green screen used in the Fireys scene. It aged like milk), but “Magic Dance” was one of the best—if not the best—scene in the film, hands down (the “As the World Falls Down” dream sequence comes in a very close second). The song is just so catchy! Plus, I love the part where Mr. Bowie throws the baby in the air and lets one of the goblins catch him. Something about that just astounds me. I actually adore kids, by the way. Also, who doesn’t love the first few lines?
You remind me of the babe.
The babe with the power.
The power of voodoo.
Remind me of the babe!
Also, if it weren’t for “Magic Dance” we wouldn’t have this piece of early YouTube/social media gold:
“Heroes” Performance in Berlin, 2002
It took a minute for me to like the song “Heroes” (at one point at time, I thought Mr. Bowie was just senselessly hollerin’ on it), but it eventually grew on me. “Heroes” wound up being one of my favorite David Bowie songs, but Mr. Bowie’s 2002 performance of the song while in Berlin was the absolute best version of it. I believe the reason I love this particular show is because Mr. Bowie’s love and happiness seems to shine through it. By this point in his life, Mr. Bowie found true contentment with his life and his career, and it was apparent in his later concerts (hence, the reason he was such a Chatty Cathy during his shows!). Also, the wind blowing through his hair and the Heathen era suit he donned made him look ethereal and otherworldly.
A Prayer For Freddie
After losing Freddie Mercury in 1991, Mr. Bowie performed at The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert the following year. During his set, Mr. Bowie got down on his knees and recited The Lord’s Prayer for Freddie, as well as for other friends he lost. I watched this gesture on YouTube about 11 or 12 years ago, completely floored by the act. I recall lot of folks in the comments section giving Mr. Bowie all kinds of hell, saying they missed the Bowie that didn’t worship any type of deity and simply “believed in an energy form.” Personally, I thought it was beautiful. Say what you want about me, but seeing Mr. Bowie send up that prayer to his friend had to be one of the most heartwarming things I’ve ever witnessed.
The Entire 1974 Dick Cavett Show Interview
In mid to late 1974, Mr. Bowie made an appearance on The Dick Cavett Show to promote the upcoming Young Americans album. It was during this period that Mr. Bowie was in his transitional Halloween Jack/Plastic Soul era, and the extreme change in his appearance—as well as musical style—was jarring, in both a good and bad way. He was sporting orange hair and what one might deem a “normal,” yet stylish outfit, but he weighed approximately 98 lbs. and touted a cane. Mind you, Mr. Bowie wasn’t even 30 yet, and he needed assistance in holding his thin frame up.
His emaciated body was thanks to his special diet at the time: milk, peppers, and cocaine. Remember when I said Mr. Bowie’s weed arrest came at the height of his cocaine addiction? Well, that addiction first became evident during this 1974 interview. The entire time, Mr. Bowie was fidgety and at times he would speak out of his head, hence the “black noise” theory (although seeing all the other crazy shit that’s been going on in the world lately, I’m now only 75% to 80% skeptical that black noise actually exists).
However, there were times during the interview that Mr. Bowie would still prove that despite being in the stratosphere, he was still highly intelligent (i.e.: When Dick asked what books Mr. Bowie read, and he answered, “This week?”), and he still managed to bring the house down during his live performances. As I said before, Mr. Bowie’s musical style changed, and since he was venturing into “plastic soul,” as he referred to it, all his past and then-current songs had an R&B flavor to them. My absolute favorite had to be Mr. Bowie’s version of “Footstompin’.” Ms. Ava Cherry (Mr. Bowie’s girlfriend at the time) killed that dance! Plus, if you notice, King Luther Vandross himself is one of the background singers (Luther was a part of Mr. Bowie’s group during the Plastic Soul era)! The Dick Cavett Show appearance was one of the most interesting interviews I’ve ever seen, and remains so to this very day.
The Starman Arrives
By 1972, Mr. Bowie had been doin’ his thing for years, but he hadn’t quite received the recognition he deserved. The “Space Oddity” single and eponymous album made people take notice, but Mr. Bowie’s follow up, The Man Who Sold the World, wouldn’t be looked upon as the classic as it is for another few years. The Hunky Dory LP (which is one of my favorite Bowie records) received critical acclaim, but it still didn’t place Mr. Bowie into superstar status. All that changed with a fateful night on Top of the Pops (think a British version of American Bandstand).
On July 5, 1972 (nine years before my birthday), Mr. Bowie appeared on Top of the Pops and performed “Starman,” his hit single from the iconic The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. As the audience and folks at home watched Mr. Bowie sing with his Ziggy haircut, perfectly applied makeup, white polished fingernails, and otherworldly jumpsuit, with his arm slung over the late, great Mick Ronson’s shoulder, they fell in love. After that night, Mr. Bowie was thrust into rock superstardom and he never fell back down to earth (see what I did right there?).
Around the same time period as The Dick Cavett Show appearance, Mr. Bowie agreed to have a documentary of his then-current life filmed by Alan Yentob. The project was entitled Cracked Actor, named after the song featured on Mr. Bowie’s 1973 Aladdin Sane album. I tell y’all what…if that wasn’t a fitting title for this movie, I don’t know what was. Throughout the film, we see Mr. Bowie frazzled, coke-addled, and disillusioned with his life as a superstar. Not only that, we get our first clue of Mr. Bowie’s disenchantment with Los Angeles, which is where he was touring when the documentary was filmed (“There’s a feeling of unease here”). For those of you that don’t know, Mr. Bowie hated LA. He once stated that the entire city should be wiped off the map.
Cracked Actor chronicles Mr. Bowie at one of the lowest points of his life. As a matter of fact, there was even a deleted scene where the crew caught Mr. Bowie using cocaine in his dressing room. Needless to say, he was none too happy when he realized the cameras were still rolling in that moment.
So why is this one of my favorite Bowie moments? Firstly, it shows Mr. Bowie in his rawest form. There’s no fluff. The documentary is what Ali from Euphoria would refer to it as, “the real shit.” Secondly, like The Dick Cavett Show appearance, the music was on point, despite Mr. Bowie’s personal life deteriorating. I loved the soul infused performances of “Moonage Daydream” and “Diamond Dogs,” and I’ve always had a soft spot for the live version of “Cracked Actor.” However, my favorite track has to be the version of “Sweet Thing” Mr. Bowie sang during the tour. That was pure perfection. What’s a trip is that although the transitional Halloween Jack/Plastic Soul era was one of the darkest points of Mr. Bowie’s life, it’s also the time period that featured some of his best music.
Another good thing about Cracked Actor is that it caught the attention of filmmaker Nicolas Roeg, who correctly deduced that Mr. Bowie would be great as the lead in the now legendary film, The Man Who Fell to Earth, which is not only my favorite David Bowie flick, but one of my favorite movies, period.
Sir Roland Moorecock!
In the early ’90s, HBO had a hit sitcom entitled Dream On, that detailed the exploits of divorced book editor Martin Tupper (Brian Benben), his ex-wife Judith (Wendie Malick), and teenage son Jeremy (Chris Demetral). Circa 1991, Mr. Bowie guest starred in the season two premiere episode, “The Second Greatest Story Ever Told,” as film director Sir Roland Moorecock. Sir Roland was a character that gave zero fucks, and used his razor sharp tongue to cut down anyone at any time, including children. I remember watching this particular episode when I was about 9 or 10 yrs. old and crackin’ up the entire hour (it was a two-part episode). Mr. Bowie’s comedic timing was perfect, his chemistry with the other actors was strong, and he stole every scene. I hate he didn’t come back for any other episodes, but then again, the one-time appearance makes it even more special.
I never forgot about Mr. Bowie’s guest role on the show, and in the spring of 2009, I was fortunate enough to come across “The Second Greatest Story Ever Told” again. I found it even funnier as a adult (I’m certain that’s due to me understanding all the sex jokes the second time around). Mr. Bowie’s one and only starring vehicle on Dream On remains my favorite episode of the series. Sadly, Dream On is no longer available on any platform today, so I don’t have any clips to feature in the post. I uploaded an entire video with Mr. Bowie’s scenes to YouTube a few years ago, but it was partially blocked. Anyone residing in the United States or Canada is unable to view it. *cough* Use your VPN, y’all! *cough*
The Thin White Duke on Soul Train
In the 1970s and ’80s, Soul Train reigned supreme. The dance series even managed to beat out long running competitor American Bandstand in terms of ratings and caused Dick Clark to try to create a watered down, discount version of the show, but Don Cornelius wasn’t havin’ it. So it’s no surprise that one of the coolest men ever to walk the face of the Earth graced the Soul Train audience to promote The Man Who Fell to Earth, as well as Station to Station. I must admit, the interview portion was a bit awkward (Mr. Bowie later admitted he was drunk while on the show), but as usual, he killed the music performances (despite messing up the lip sync a few times. Mr. Bowie always had trouble remembering his own lyrics). Mr. Bowie wasn’t the first Caucasian artist to grace the Soul Train stage—actually, he was number six—but he was certainly one of the funkiest.
Gettin’ Down on Mick’s Guitar!
In the book Moonage Daydream, Mr. Bowie chronicled his life during the Ziggy Stardust era with a vast array of pictures and sentimental anecdotes. According to Mr. Bowie, early on in the Ziggy years, Mick Ronson was trying out guitar gimmicks to perform on stage but none were panning out. Mick eventually settled on playing the guitar strings with his teeth, which gave Mr. Bowie a wild idea…
That fateful night, Mick raised his guitar to start his “guitar gnawing” routine, and without warning, Mr. Bowie ran over to chomp on the guitar as well. Mick just stopped what he was doing and continue to let Mr. Bowie gnaw at the strings. Mr. Bowie went on to say that Mick’s arms got tired and he lowered the guitar down to his groin…and Mr. Bowie kept munchin’. Photographer Mick Rock snapped the famed photo that was later featured in Melody Maker magazine, and Ziggy officially reached iconic status. From that point forward, the routine was known as “guitar fellacio,” and Mick and Mr. Bowie did it nearly every show.
There’s no video footage of Mr. Bowie and Mick actually doing the guitar fellacio routine. The closest thing is the following clip from a show in show in Dunstable, circa 1972. Check it out!
Mr. Bowie Calls Out MTV On Their BS
I know I said these David Bowie moments are in no particular order, and I meant it…but I had to save the best for last.
Cool factoid: MTV and I are exactly a month apart in age (we’ll both be 40 this year. Yikes!). My mother and I watched the station non-stop for years, but during the network’s infancy, there were very few artists on MTV that looked like us. The only black people to be found on MTV back in the day were Lionel Richie, Prince, and of course, Michael Jackson. However, in the words of ?uestlove, in order to see them you had to sit through four to five hours of The Police, Duran Duran, Flock of Seagulls, REO Speedwagon, and Rod Stewart. Thankfully, my mom and I loved all those guys (and still do), but that’s beside the point. The network was clearly discriminating against other popular black artists like Cameo, Rick James, Marvin Gaye, Zapp & Roger, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Midnight Starr, etc.
In 1983, Mr. Bowie sat down for an interview with Mark Goodman, one of the MTV VJ’s at the time, and he inquired why MTV wasn’t playing any black artists. Mark attempted to justify MTV’s biased programming with a million excuses, even going so far as to mention that “MTV [was] a rock music station,” and that “kids in the midwest may be scared of Prince” (considering that interview took place before Purple Rain was released, it looks like Prince didn’t get the airplay he deserved until the following year). Last time I checked, Prince was from Minnesota and Rick James’s music had rock infused with R&B and funk. Either way, the channel was known as MTV, not RMTV (Rock Music Television).
Mr. Bowie saw through Mark, and he let it be known that he wasn’t here for the foolishness. Every time Mark came with some BS, Mr. Bowie shot him down with the utmost class and intelligence, forcing the network execs to take a long, hard look at their prejudice. The cherry on the pie was the close up of Mr. Bowie’s face at the end of the conversation, clearly showing that although he was willing to end the discussion, he could still see Mark’s excuses for the network’s refusal to diversify its programming for what it was…discrimination.
This is one of the many reasons I will always love David Bowie.
I still you miss you, King. Rest in power.
—Written by Nadiya
To all David Bowie fans out there, what were your favorite Bowie moments? Did you agree with the list? What would you have included? Which moment would you have left out? Let me know in the comments section!