BOWIE OBJECT – Exclusive Preview!

Mindful of the controversy that surrounded the leaking of TOY online, I thought long and hard about whether or not to post this preview of BOWIE: OBJECT.

If it exerts pressure on David and/or his publisher to get the book out, then I think it can only be a good thing and I feel justified in doing so. Does David really believe that the leaking of TOY was a bad thing? In the absence of any new music, this brief extract is a fascinating and highly revealing insight into David’s life & work which will make his fans happy.

Two points to bear in mind:

1) This sample material was submitted to the publisher in advance of the contract being signed, and nobody other than David and his editor can be certain whether these texts or images will be included in the final version of the completed book (but this is a similar issue to the leaked version of TOY which did not contain completed mixes or a finalised running order)

2) I am obviously not prepared to name the source who provided me with this material, but I am happy to take down this post upon request should anyone feel their copyright has been infringed. Just message me via the blog, no need for any nasty solicitors’ letters!

3) For the attention of Michael Stimson, also known as Mist, who still can’t or won’t accept this is a hoax, I MADE IT UP! All of it. The pictures are from Google Images and the text was 100% invented by me, apart from the bits lifted from Wiki. Got it, Mist? There’s no “element of truth” in this, apart from the fact that Bowie was reported to have begun work on a book with the same title many moons ago. But he has nothing to do with this, ok? All of it was written by me, none of it was based on any fragments of manuscript or any ideas by anyone else. I know you don’t like being wrong Michael, but you gotta accept it, dude. Didn’t your ever so reliable contact in New York confirm it was a hoax? Or was he too busy watching the band rehearse for their select European dates?  Amazon states that a different book, entitled “Objects” by David Bowie, will be available in October 2014, but I must stress that I know nothing about that book and it certainly has nothing to do with what I’ve written below. Perhaps Bowie is now trying to hoax me? Maybe Mist can clear it up for us as his track record in this matter is pretty good.

You can click on the images to enlarge them. :)

22. Minimoog.

Eno gifted this keyboard to me at the end of our sessions for the album that would become Low at the Chateau d’Herouville in the fall of 1976.

The tilting control panel is truly iconic, the wood finish superb, the feel of the dials top-notch, and the 44-key (F to C) keyboard is a delight — it certainly beats any vintage Model D I’ve played for both speed and responsiveness. Though it weighs in at a hefty18kg, its ergonomics are quite superlative. At its inception, the Minimoog was surprisingly close to being the perfect solo synthesizer; indeed there’s arguably no serious rival for the role even today. Yet soloists demand to express themselves and there the Mini had obvious shortcomings: its keyboard lacks velocity and aftertouch, while the pitch-bender and modulation wheels never felt like the final word in performance control. Nevertheless, without becoming lost in the enigma that is the Minimoog, let’s agree that it must have possessed special qualities to set it apart from the crowd for so long — even from others in the Moog stable.

Moog had constructed his own theremin as early as 1948. Later he illustrated the mechanics of a theremin in the hobbyist magazine ‘Electronics World’ and offered the parts in kit form by mail order which became very successful, albeit of limited value to even the most esoteric composers. The Moog synthesizer, on the other hand, was one of the very first electronic musical instruments to be widely used across many popular genres. I only met Bob Moog on one occasion and we bonded not over music, but over the common mispronunciation of our respective surnames. Bob always pronounced his surname – and that of his eponymous electronic progeny – to rhyme with ‘vogue’.

The motifs for all of the instrumental sequences on Low were mapped out on this Minimoog. My fading memories of those sessions are dominated by images of Eno hunched over the keyboard turning dials by imperceptible fractions, as amazed and delighted by the sonic textures he was producing as were Tony V and myself:

Do you know it has a logarithmic one volt-per-octave pitch control and a separate pulse-triggering signal?” said Eno, breathlessly.

I said, Brian, if you hum it, I’ll sing it…”

39. Female Mimics Magazine.

Purchased on my first ever trip to New York from an underground bookstore close to Warhol’s second Factory in the Decker Building at 33 Union Square. Five bucks was a hell of a lot of money back in 1971, but I guess that cover image must have lodged itself in my subconscious for now that I see it again, I’m immediately struck by its influence on the Boys Keep Swinging video.

You’ll see it’s volume number two; now, if any completists out there have a spare copy of number one, do please let me have your PayPal address.

50. Wiss Haberdashery Scissors.

“When you cut into the present, the future leaks out.” – WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS

Long before computer programs existed to juxtapose arbitrary segments of text, I employed the same methods as those trusted by literary innovators such as Burroughs (who had been introduced to cut-ups by the painter Brion Gysin), T.S. Eliot and Tristan Tzara: namely scissors and paste.

Being large, weighty haberdashery scissors, it’s entirely possible these may have originally belonged to Natasha Kornilof, though I really cannot say for sure. Natasha created stagewear for Freddie Mercury and for myself over a number of years – the Ashes To Ashes pierrot being perhaps the most iconic, but she also designed and made the clothes I wore for the 1978 tour and for the Glass Spider tour. Certainly these actual scissors were in my box of tricks when I first began to experiment with cut-ups writing material for the Hunky Dory album around 1970, and I’d done a television recording of one of Lindsay Kemp’s shows shortly before that for which Natasha had overseen the costumes, so the chronology fits. I’m often accused of stealing ideas, but here and now I freely admit to past thievery in a more literal sense, though I’m happy to say I did eventually curb my natural kleptomaniac tendencies.

I’d like to be able to say that the texts I cut up were obscure occult works and philosophical treatises, but that would be fibbing. I remember cutting up speech bubbles from Marvel comics, paragraphs from Georgette Heyer and other ephemeral library fodder, fashion editorials from newspapers, and much more besides. It was all pretty unremarkable stuff, but for me, the inspiration offered by a juxtaposed image or a sudden, unexpected turn of phrase is incomparable.

The very first song I recorded where the lyrics had been formed using this process would have been either The Bewlay Brothers or Life On Mars? but I do remember it was the latter which gave me a true sense of how important a creative breakthrough the cut-up technique would be for my lyric writing. Thereafter, these scissors quickly assumed talismanic properties and I used them to greater or lesser extents on pretty much every album right through to Scary Monsters; I got them out again during the writing of Heathen in preference to using the Verbasizer program on my Mac. Cutting paper and physically rearranging words and phrases is a more satisfyingly tactile process than tapping at a keyboard.

These are not, however, the scissors seen in the BBC’s Omnibus documentary and used to demonstrate the assemblage of the Moonage Daydream lyrics; that sequence must have been recreated later in a London studio because they weren’t even my bloody hands!

64. Prototype Ziggy Stardust Boots.

Before I came under Japanese influence, the costume for Ziggy was largely based on the uniform of the Droogs in A Clockwork Orange which was another contemporaneous obsession of mine. I wanted to devise a multicoloured version of the Droogs’ monochrome ensemble of white jumpsuits and black boots. Prototype footwear was made by a chap called Stan at Greenaway & Sons in Penge, South-East London. Unfortunately though, these prototypes proved unsuitable: the patent leather was far too rigid to wear on stage as it restricted the mobility in my ankles, added to which the iridescent finish (described by Mick Ronson as looking like “a melted down bowling ball”) was quite dramatically out of keeping with the rather more muted colours of the costume fabrics.

I think it must have been dear old Lindsay Kemp who recommended Anello & Davide, so legendary was this historic London firm in the firmament of dance. Not only had Anello & Davide made bespoke theatrical footwear for generations, but I believe it was they who had been responsible for adapting the traditional Chelsea boot for The Beatles by the addition of the higher Cuban heel of a flamenco boot. Anello & Davide used to be located diagonally opposite English National Opera at the lower end of St Martin’s Lane, but last time I was in London I noticed that the site is now occupied by a ubiquitous coffee shop chain.

Anello & Davide created the boots I wore on stage which were made from a softened leather in darker, matt colours with a much thinner rubber sole, plus those all-important sweat-proof, non-rust eyelets. But the unworn “bowling ball” prototypes have remained in my closet, hoarder that I am, for nigh on forty years. “My, my, the time do fly”.

66. Gillette Supermax Pro 1300 Hairdryer.

This hairdryer was one of Suzy Ronson’s which accompanied me to the Café de Paris after Ziggy was laid to rest at Hammersmith Odeon. Suzy suggested I take it to tart myself up in my suite before coming down for the party, but unfortunately the diffuser had become detached somewhere between Hammersmith and Piccadilly -  and a diffuser, as any good coiffeur will tell you, is the secret to the fluffy-on-top style that Ziggy wore. I washed, dried and re-dried my hair countless times, eventually resorting to lacquer and even soap to combat a bad hair day of near catastrophic proportions. Even now, I can’t look at the photographs taken that night without shuddering.

“Not only is it the last hairdryer of the tour…”

83. Black Satin Eye Patch.

I’ve seen it said that I adopted the eye patch for a while in 1973 because of light-sensitivity symptomatic of the anisocoria in my left eye. To this I say pish, twaddle and tosh: the truth is altogether more prosaic. A nasty case of conjunctivitis on the day I was due to record a promo for a Dutch television show necessitated a hasty cover-up. We toyed with a blindfold (referencing the G.F. Watts painting ‘Hope’ – guitar replacing lyre) and a monocle with a violet lens (referencing Elizabeth Taylor), but the eye patch beat them hands down for piratical swagger and I grew rather fond of my latest sartorial affectation, wearing it again many times over subsequent months for photoshoots and television recordings – perhaps on the Russell Harty Show? Someone will correct me, I’m sure; most probably Kevin Cann.

90. Garden Gnomes.

A Haddon Hall housewarming gift from Ken Pitt. Not the original Laughing Gnome (although Ken’s delightful accompanying note did refer to the smaller of the pair as being “his brother whose name was Fred”), but nor is this one a leering, Hogarthian Toby Jug-with-legs as so many modern garden gnomes tend to be.

Unlike their indolent fishermen cousins, the original gnomes modelled in Germany and Austria were always depicted as industrious artisans (harking back to their origins in Teutonic mythology), hence the apron and the hand held busily aloft. This little fellow has a hole in his left fist where presumably he once held a hammer or chisel, but which comfortably holds half a dozen incense sticks too – and that’s precisely what we used him for at Haddon Hall. Perhaps not what Ken had in mind when he sent them, but hell, this was 1969, maaannn. The gnomes perched on a teak coffee table for the duration of our tenure, ankle deep in ash by the time we departed.

I like to think that his facial hair may have partly influenced The Spiders’ bass guitarist, Trevor Bolder.

33 Responses to “BOWIE OBJECT – Exclusive Preview!”

  1. joethelion Says:

    A brilliant coup! fascinating and a real pleasure to read. Let’s have more posts like this and less of the trolls.

  2. la_belle_GITANES Says:

    wowwwwwwww THIS is what I want from a Bowie website!!!!!!! how did you get it Steve?????

    • SafetyZone Says:

      “Bob Moog and I bonded over the mispronounciation of our respective surnames” – why, how many ways can you pronounce ‘Jones’? seriously tho, kudos to steve for majorly scooping all the other db sites.

  3. This is so cool and all I can say is WOW!!!

    I hope there are more of these posts. I applaud your efforts to augment the whole Bowie fascination with this site. Some of the early posters are trolls clearly out to cause a problem.

    More of this PLEEEEASE

    • Being a regular visitor to almost ALL Bowie-sites I thought I had seen it all. This is refreshing and new. I can understand David wanting to do this. I suppose ‘it’s a moving world’ as they say.

      Very very very COOL indeed.

      I hope David gets around to finishing this particular project.

      Brilliant and well done to you guys at Bowiemyth. I recall tracks from TOY being leaked and it was like Christmas. It’s Christmas all over again.

      Thank you

      Robin

  4. The_Croaking_Man Says:

    I waited for ages to try to get a copy of Starman today at the record shop, I lucked out and felt peed off. Just came across this and it’s way better than a copy of Starman. I notice that there are copies of Starman on ebay for silly money already.

    This has made my day. I want it made clear that I really appreciate people who share like this. I don’t have much money and I fear that my life will end before I get to see Bowie live in concert. I love it when people open up their storage closets.

    I wonder if David still has the Diamond Dogs set? It would be like owning a section of the Berlin wall, nevermind a piece of it.

    • Anonymoususername Says:

      I dont know about the set (how practical would that be to store?), but he still has the props and costumes as some were reused on the Serious Moonlight tour.

    • SPACE-CADET Says:

      Yeah the whole record store day sucked, loads of shops breaking the rules, selling on eBay etc etc. wonder if this will be the last one? on a positive note, the eBay price of ‘Starman’ has been steadily decreasing with the last few going for around £25-30 & will probably fall further. I don’t resent paying that as it would have cost me £35 to take a train to somewhere that was actually stocking the Bowie single.

  5. Roger_Dalton Says:

    David has such a way with words. He is a good egg, it is interesting to see another side of him. The interviews around album releases always got boring as it was scripted and repetative, this feels from the heart and all the better for it.

    Well done Bowiemyth for this amazing post.

    • SPACE-CADET Says:

      Yeah its good to read what he says when he’s not in an interview situation. Much more thoughtful & considered and great to hear his thoughts & reflections on the early part of his career. I mean when was the last time he talked about Haddon Hall (if ever!) ?

  6. UncleArthur Says:

    Just want to reiterate what other people have said and to applaud admin for getting hold of this and posting it. Even if this material doesnt end up in the finished book, its still a massively entertaining read, very insightful too and whets my appetite for the “official” release of the book. Let’s just hope that BOWIE:OBJECT isnt another one of those projects db loses interest in, like the other two parts of the Nathan Adler trilogy.

  7. Rock_Rock Says:

    I agree with all the above posts. I think David can still surprise us with his insights and knowledge. I recall an interview in which he said “I will never write a biography, it would spoil the legend” I can understand that his public persona maintains the private one. The more people believe the press, the more his private life remains private.

    I hope the book gets published and a whole side to the legend is explored in some depth.

    Rarely does anything pre 69 get a mention. I rather hoped after TOY that David might open up about the early days, the sessions, the failures, the frustrations of trying to crack it when the 60s saw an explosion in culture and music that was never to be repeated again!

    I guess people of David’s age who lived with the fear of armegeddon and the stimulation of the whole cultural shift might forget that they were young in an amazing decade. I can understand why they all wanted to get stoned!

    Thankyou so much for allowing us to share Bowie-Objects with you.

  8. nanette_jerome_newman Says:

    would be interested to read more Bowie thoughts on Ken Pitt. are they still on good terms or did Bowie cut him off after The Pitt Report was published?

    • SPACE-CADET Says:

      Yeah Bowie normally cuts off people who have dished the dirt or revealed any personal stuff about him. Personally I think Ken Pitt was friggin useless. Think about everything that was going on in the music scene in the late 60s and what does Pitt do? Get him a TV ad for ice cream and suggests he puts together a cabaret show with Beatles songs in it! If David had stuck with ken Pitt he would have ended up on Crackerjack and The Two Ronnies, no doubt. Worse still, Pitt would have considered that a success :)

      • That's_my_baby, lost_that's all Says:

        I have always thought Ken Pitt just liked David hanging around to have a pretty boy in his company. That reference in The Pitt Report about David’s penis is so uncalled for – what has that got to do with the price of Pang Yang Pickle…?

        David would have ended up in 70s shows like Thriller and The New Avengers, The Return of the Saint whilst Lew Grade sat smirking with Ken Pitt in a public loo offa Putney High St.

        just a thought

  9. Tiny_Tim Says:

    Very tasty bit of posting methinks.

  10. hiya_Cath Says:

    I had the very same Gillette in the very same blue :-)

  11. Treasure Trove, its the Yard Sale of the Century!

    • SPACE-CADET Says:

      Yeah agreed richeille – tho if the alzheimers reports are to be believed, its amazing he can remember where any of this old tat came from in the first place!

      • Is this a recent project or something new, by that I mean is it already finished and ready to roll?

        I will love to own this book.

  12. Adam&Joe Says:

    “Though it weighs in at a hefty18kg, its ergonomics are quite superlative.”
    …Shouldn’t that be SUPERLATATIVE?

    Anyway, this is superb hotpoop!!

  13. Smashing

  14. Pretty cool post.

    • SOME OF YOU MAY HAVE SEEN THE COMMENT EARLIER TODAY SUBMITTED BY “sailor” WHICH READ “This is a hoax. DB” I LOOKED UP THE IP ADDRESS OF THIS POST AND IT ORIGINATED IN ABERYSTWYTH (WALES). NOW I KNOW BOWIE IS A GLOBETROTTER, BUT IT IS STRETCHING CREDULITY SOMEWHAT TO BELIEVE THAT HE IS CURRENTLY IN ABERYSTWYTH. ACCORDINGLY, I HAVE REMOVED THE POST IN QUESTION. THANKS TO EVERYONE FOR MESSAGES OF SUPPORT BOTH PUBLICLY ON HERE AND IN PRIVATE, VERY MUCH APPRECIATED: LOVE ON YA.

  15. A very enjoyable preview, this is the David Bowie book I’ve been waiting for, not a straight autobiography, more a journey through his career where the props, significant and sometimes, not, inspired the author and enlighten the reader.
    I’d buy the porosus crocodile leather bound, diamond encrusted, limited to one per quinquennial edition for sure (and stand it in steel next to the cabinet)

  16. Glass_Spider Says:

    I must have missed something. So is “Sailor” David Bowie?

  17. This is amazing stuff – what a coup!

  18. This is simply fabulous

  19. Great insight. Can’t wait for the rest.

  20. Fantastic !! When and Where can I get this book !!!

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