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!
You can click on the images to enlarge them.
As your tattoo says Michael, “We told you so”. 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.
According to Sound On Sound, 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.
Wiki says that 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 (didn’t Ken Pitt describe db’s penis as “large, weighty” in The Pitt Report?), 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 Randomiser 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, time do fly” ( – that quote courtesy of bowienet).
66. Gillette Supermax Pro 1300 Hairdryer.
This hairdryer was found on Google Images, but we’re pretending it’s one of Suzy Ronson’s which accompanied Bowie 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.