askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
[personal profile] askygoneonfire
 I'm currently going through a Bowie phase so intense it is only rivalled by a three month period in 2005 in which I ate only beans on toast and ryvita and listened only to Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.

I've been scavenging the net, and newly bought 'Starman: David Bowie - The Definitive Biography' for all the ins and outs I need.  I am a big believer in finding the music of an artist before you read up on the mythology and political wrangling that brought them to the fore because it can have such a dramatic impact on your relationship with the music.  This impact isn't always negative (just last year Nailed to History: The Story of the Manic Street Preachers prompted in me a new openness to the Manics commercially disastrous Know Your Enemy) but it can be and I think the immediacy of music in coming through your stereo in a closed room is something that should not be compromised by critical analysis in the first case.

I am struck by the similarity in the story of Bowie's rise to fame with the Manics upward trajectory; from letter writing campaigns, to form coming before substance as they both proclaimed themselves to be - not the next big thing - but the big thing.  I find it fascinating that whilst it takes time - both Bowie and the Manics taking several years from inception to record deal to mainstream recognition - pure, unwavering self belief, self aggrandizement and ruthless ambition is truly the best policy.

As far as my own relationship with Bowie and the Manics goes I think the similarities in their stories are striking; from modest backgrounds, determined to not just transcend those roots but to realise their individual love affairs with rock n roll in it's most idealised form.  Glam rock - 'high glam' as Bowie apparently termed it once, given it was primarily a conceptual statement - of this ilk is borne out of frustration and ambition, and as such is much more seductive than any other music genre I have encountered; perhaps the reason I am only obsessive over these two acts has more than a little to do with that.  Yes, in my youth I donned the uniform of baggy jeans and jumpers for Sterophonics, Coldplay, Travis, Mull Historical Society, Embrace, and Easyworld gigs, but the defining and enduring relationship has and always will be with the glam of the Manics and David Bowie.

Such preening, extroversion, and posturing are at odds with my own natural state.  At my core I am an introvert - and I'm ok with that - but somehow Bowie and, to a greater degree given their continued live presence, the Manics, provide a safe framework within which something in me cuts loose and I am free - eyes blackened with eyeliner, hair glossed and often dyed, short skirts, 'DIY aesthetic', pressed to the front of the stage calling out lyrics with all the simultaneous seriousness and irony required of a good Manics fan.  

Bowie's honest/dishonest declarations on his sexuality and wilful visual confrontation provided me with a much needed touchstone for queer identity when I was a teenager living in a world stripped of any alternative influences or role models.  That his purported bisexuality may have been nothing more than a calculated technique to court publicity is, to me, irrelevant - it provided me an image and a route into a world I inhabit now.

It struck me as ironic when I was watching a late night repeat of Radiohead at Glastonbury in 1997 and the crowd sang to 'Creep', that a song about isolation and alienation could unite so many people without any apparent hypocrisy for them.  That is the remarkable thing about music - it starts off purporting to be about alienation, outsiders and otherness and creates, as it gains momentum, an entire sub culture -membership of which depends on correctly enacting that same 'otherness'.  I do wonder at what point it stops being true - how many of those people repeating the lyrics of Creep like a mantra have any connection to the content? When does belonging obscure identification?

I think that, almost uniquely, glam does have an honesty in its performance because it is founded on artifice.  The whole intention is to create a new reality which stands both in parallel to, and above, the norm.  Followers of glam, recreating themselves to attend gigs, are aping their idols in every respect - stripping it off to go back to work on Monday is in keeping with the artifice.  Many people speak of coming to glam through one defining realisation after a single spectacle - for many with David Bowie I understand it was his 1972 performance of Starman on Top of the Pops that changed their relationship with fashion, sub culture and music.  When that is the case, when one moment draws you in, and you can dress yourself in that moment, I propose that you are recreating the moment of epiphany.  A genre which makes you see the world differently in one move can, therefore, offer you revelation every time you dress.  And you can dress a hundred times, a hundred different ways.

Bowie recognised that - that's why he was able to reinvent himself so many times and why the Manics duplicated so many of his statements (from replicating a certain image in You Love Us (Heavenly Version) from Bowie's Boys Keep Swinging amongst many, many other visual statements).  It's a vocabulary of outrage, confrontation, statement and, above all, freedom.
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askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
a sky gone on fire

June 2017

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