Bowie 76: somewhere between Mars and Berlin
May 11, 2010 5:09 PM   Subscribe

David Bowie - the Playboy Interview, 1976

In which the Thin White Duke sits down for a few minutes with Cameron Crowe and comes clean about sex, drugs, politics, ego, James Dean, madness and his fondness for good ole Adolph Hitler.

I'd love to enter politics. I will one day. I'd adore to be Prime Minister. And, yes, I believe very strongly in fascism. The only way we can speed up the sort of liberalism that's hanging foul in the air at the moment of a right-wing, totally dictatorial tyranny and get it over as fast as possible. People have always responded with greater efficiency under a regimental leadership. A liberal wastes time saying, "Well, now, what ideas have you got?" Show them what to do, for God's sake. If you don't, nothing will get done. I can't stand people just hanging about. Television is the most fascist, too. Adolf Hitler was one of the first rock stars.


Performing STAY (1976) and FIVE YEARS (1975) on the Dinah Shore Show.

Having a talk with Dinah, Fonzie and Nancy Walker.

The beginning of a nice long chat with Dick Cavett. (1974)
posted by philip-random (42 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Turns out David Bowie only ever made it as far as Finance Minister.
posted by GuyZero at 5:12 PM on May 11, 2010

> Adolf Hitler was one of the first rock stars.

What's that they say about cocaine?
posted by The Card Cheat at 5:14 PM on May 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

That she don't lie, she don't lie, she don't lie
posted by jonmc at 5:20 PM on May 11, 2010 [5 favorites]

The link is missing some words there (not that it mollifies the statement at all): "… at the moment is to speed up the progress of a right-wing ..."
posted by gubo at 5:20 PM on May 11, 2010

Turns out David Bowie only ever made it as far as Finance Minister the highest ranking individual in The Guild
posted by KokuRyu at 5:33 PM on May 11, 2010 [4 favorites]

He was once a scruffy, honey-haired folk singer. Then an adamantly bisexual balladeer. Then a spacey, cropped-red-haired androgynous guitarist backed by a band called the Spiders from Mars. Then a soul singer. Then a movie actor … and finally, a smartly conservative entertainer. [. . .] At 29, David Bowie is...

*hangs self*
posted by DaDaDaDave at 5:34 PM on May 11, 2010 [26 favorites]

The link is missing some words there

Interesting point, gubo. From an alt-posting of the interview:

The only way we can speed up the sort of liberalism that's hanging foul in the air at the moment is to speed up the progress of a right-wing, totally dictatorial tyranny and get it over as fast as possible.

posted by philip-random at 5:56 PM on May 11, 2010

I couldn't tell if they edited the "and the queer threw up" lyric in that Five Years performance (2:57)...or if Bowie slurred the word. What a great song..powerful even in a 20th generation video copy. Somehow I just knew that line wouldn't make it through the mid-70s censors unscathed.
posted by punkfloyd at 6:42 PM on May 11, 2010

It still astounds me that Crowe was 19 or 20 when he wrote this.
posted by hanoixan at 6:44 PM on May 11, 2010

punkfloyd, I think he slurred it, like a lot of performers had to do when they played on these typed of shows (The Rolling Stones come to mind).
posted by piratebowling at 6:54 PM on May 11, 2010

29 years old and he did all that? Amazing.
posted by Liquidwolf at 7:36 PM on May 11, 2010

My favorite Bowie interview was probably the one he did for Rolling Stone which started out with Bowie saying that he'd just seen a body fall past the window. (Yes, it's a hell of a drug. Bowie later claimed that he didn't remember 1974 at all.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:39 PM on May 11, 2010

I remember reading this when it came out.

Sure, I was only nine years old, but I had my own subscription. For the articles, y'know.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 8:11 PM on May 11, 2010

It's a shock to remember when Bowie used to actually be outrageous and subversive, isn't it?
Reading this I kept feeling the urge to tell him to just shut up and catch a plane to Berlin so that he could make Heroes.
posted by jokeefe at 8:13 PM on May 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

philip-random, how dare you post this when I am supposed to be writing a paper and doing other productive-type things!

Also, the Dick Cavett appearance is one of my very favorites. It always amazes me how he can barely string together a coherent sentence during the interview, but then he manages to knock "Young Americans" out of the park!
posted by rebel_rebel at 8:48 PM on May 11, 2010

"What happened to Joni Mitchell?

She's good enough, she doesn't need me crooning about her."

I thought Bowie's music was chock full of profound meaning when I was a teenager. Really loved it and was inspired by it. Then as an adult I learned how it really was, like in this interview. He is, to borrow the British term, a complete nutter. And his work has always been pure affectation. Nonetheless, I still love all those albums, basically everything up to Scary Monsters, but even some of the later stuff like Earthling. It doesn't seem to matter at all whether he was or wasn't "genuine." He hired decent musicians, sometimes really great ones, fired them when it was expedient to do so, and put out music. The rest, apparently, was up to the listener.

I'm particularly amused by his prediction of the record companies' demise, since today, only 45 years later, that seems to be coming to pass. And in fact, I'm pretty happy about that. I'm tired of perfectly sane people cranking out drek and being so celebrated for it.
posted by fartknocker at 10:29 PM on May 11, 2010

An interview that once again reminds me that the work stands on it's owln, we don't have to know a damn thing about Milton, Shakespeare, Brahms, Blake, Dali, Bowie, Abarn, Marr, Felini, Yamada, insert who ever the fuck you want here. Their personalities, thoughts, habits, have little if any relevance to their work.
posted by juiceCake at 10:49 PM on May 11, 2010

Bowie later claimed that he didn't remember 1974 at all.

I've heard him say much the same thing of 1975 and 1976. Chalk it up to madness, I guess, but the kind that delivers. Diamond Dogs, Young Americans, Station To Station -- those three albums alone amount to a world class career for pretty much anyone short of the Stones, the Beatles, Dylan, maybe the Who.

Or as I once heard said of Andy Kaufman, it's not insanity if you can make it pay.
posted by philip-random at 11:19 PM on May 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

About that Dinah Shore interview: I love those Sammy Maudlin snapshots of celebrity. In the little mutual admiration society the host puts together, videoed for all time, Bowie respects Winkler as an artist and Winkler respects Bowie as an artist and Nancy Walker looks on sagely, and then David Bowie and Henry Winkler and Dinah Shore and Nancy Walker all confer on what "Love" and "In Love" really are, and it's settled!

It was better when they just shut up and sang.
posted by pracowity at 11:21 PM on May 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

It was better when they just shut up and sang.

Man, that requires some sort of fair warning.

*** contains medley of hits with Cher that includes a few seconds of Song Sung Blue ***
posted by philip-random at 11:30 PM on May 11, 2010

Yeah, it's Bowie singing his latest hit, "Young Americans", until 1:16, and then suddenly you're hearing David Bowie and Cher duetting on radio hits: "Song Sung Blue" (Neil Diamond), "One Is the Loneliest Number" (Nilsson, Three Dog Night), "Da Doo Ron Ron" (Crystals), etc. Then at 5:03, they're back to singing and dancing to "Young Americans". I never get tired of it. It's the king of hokey 1970s variety show clips.
posted by pracowity at 12:23 AM on May 12, 2010

Cocaine is one hell of a drug.
posted by qinn at 1:33 AM on May 12, 2010

Smashing read, thanks for posting.

"I want to go to bed every night saying, "If I never wake again, I certainly will have lived while I was alive."

I love this man and I always will.
posted by chaff at 1:37 AM on May 12, 2010

I'm particularly amused by his prediction of the record companies' demise, since today, only 45 years later, that seems to be coming to pass.

Bowie, Fripp, Rundgren and Zappa all figured it out to whatever degree. Bowie does has a way of looking like he invented whatever he's talking about, doesn't he? This interview is so wonderfully manipulative.

Great post.
posted by mintcake! at 7:28 AM on May 12, 2010

Also: The first Tin Machine record is fantastic, in case it doesn't come up again.
posted by mintcake! at 7:29 AM on May 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Great find. As others have pointed out, he saved all of his coherence for the music. It's probably the melodic line and the sort of arresting phrasing, but delivery of the line "Don't you wonder sometimes? About sound and vision?" is, for me, one of the most profound sentences ever.

And yet he is fucking bananas.
posted by kosem at 8:26 AM on May 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

I adore Bowie... he was the window into a new world for me when I was a teenager in rural TN in the 80's. The Serious Moonlight Bowie was a gateway drug to the earlier incarnations that were darker and wilder. I've now seen him perform live a dozen times, and had an occasion where I (literally) bumped into him at an after party, too tongue-tied for words.

And despite his manufactured-ness, Bowie is pretty wonderful to his fans. He's probably more hands-on that people would realize, and if you are willing to follow some of his tangential pursuits, he'll take note. When he created BowieArt some years ago, it originally featured artists that he liked in addition to his own work. When my friend Dick was the first person to buy a piece from one of these artists through BowieArt, David called Dick personally to thank him.

Someone recently posted this brief article on Facebook that said Bowie was working on a new album. And I was thrilled! Then I took pause when I realize the scoop was from AARP.

I was clearly born 15 years too early.
posted by kimdog at 9:00 AM on May 12, 2010

Erm... 15 years to late, rather.
posted by kimdog at 9:05 AM on May 12, 2010

Another interesting interview clip, this time from 1977 in the company of no less than Flo + Eddie (originally from the Turtles, later the Mothers of Invention; go figure). Mr. Bowie is looking far healthier, more lucid here than the year (or two) before, and genuinely interested in the flow of discussion (ie: he listens).
posted by philip-random at 9:10 AM on May 12, 2010

he Serious Moonlight Bowie was a gateway drug

If the goverment had any sense they'd make Bowie a Class-A controlled substance.

How many young minds where altered forever by this?
posted by The Whelk at 9:11 AM on May 12, 2010

He does come across as all kinds of crazy sometimes, but he's my all kinds of crazy. Bowie's still the closest thing I've ever had to a hero of any kind. I hope I'll have the chance to see him perform one more time, but something tells me the chances are getting thinner with every passing day. Ah well. He's done his part, many many times over.

Ber: If I'm not mistaken, the device that he used is called an Omnichord. And I totally agree about the performance. In the wake of 9/11, the sight of Bowie sitting alone on-stage with his legs folded, fiddling on a cheap toy instrument, singing (the absolutely beautiful) America in a weary, cracked voice, was a transcendent experience. And then to follow it up with Heroes... well, I cried a lot when I first saw the whole thing.

I will say, 99% of the rest of that Concert For America was horrifyingly hokey. And given the occasion, I'd say that's being generous.
posted by kryptondog at 10:23 AM on May 12, 2010

mintcake!: Tin Machine was a lot better than most Bowie fans are willing to admit, imo. I count their cover of Working Class Hero and Baby Universal among my favorite Bowie songs.
posted by kryptondog at 10:25 AM on May 12, 2010

Then he did Heroes, held back the emotions for about two minutes and then just let it all go. It was freaking astounding.

Mannnnnn if only he coulda got Fripp to reprise the guitar part. This guy is weak.
posted by kenko at 10:44 AM on May 12, 2010

posted by philip-random at 11:24 AM on May 12, 2010

posted by kenko at 1:53 PM on May 12, 2010

Q: You claim you like to work all the time, yet you release only one album a year. What exactly do you do between recording sessions?

Er, has the music industry changed so drastically that an album a year was once considered slow? Holy hell.
posted by kittyprecious at 2:30 PM on May 12, 2010

Genius, insane, drugged up wonder-boy. He knew what he was doing.
posted by wilful at 5:25 PM on May 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Ah, The Bowie.

An inspiration to us when we was young. Not only the interesting songs with strong melodies, but also those shifting personas, which suggested to us that identity is something which you can decide for yourself, and does not have to be imposed upon you.

I had lost interest by the 90's, sorry Tin fans, but the music started to sound kinda brittle to my ears.

In 1999, my friends forced us to go out to a Bowie concert. I was expecting the worst...

But he walked out on stage in bare feet, wearing pyjamas, with an acoustic guitar, he grinned and nodded to everyone, and started strumming the chords to 'Quicksand'...

And then he ripped through his back-catalouge, album tracks from Low and Heroes, covers of Brel and Laurie Anderson, concluding with a rousing encore of 'Moonage Daydream'.

I was stunned, surprised, and grateful. A great artist gives you more than you expect.
posted by ovvl at 5:50 PM on May 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Also, at that 1999 concert Reeves was playing lead guitar, and he sounded pretty good live.

Reeves is a talented guitar player, but I don't like his production style. In studio recording, he layers too many metal guitar sounds on top of each other, and it starts to sound kinda metallic & mushy at the same time. (perhaps kinda like that Chris Thomas Sex Pistols recording). Okay if you like that sorta thing...
posted by ovvl at 6:00 PM on May 12, 2010

its his eyes
posted by infini at 1:05 AM on May 13, 2010

What the hell, just ran across this and this seems like a good place to post it. I had a fourth-generation audio cassette of this back in the day.

Bowie and the Spiders w/Jeff Beck. Jean Genie/Love Me Do. 07.03.1973
posted by marxchivist at 2:43 PM on May 17, 2010

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