Personalities | David Bowie | Seventies | Rock
One of the great chameleon figures in rock, David Bowie has also been among the most influential. Born David Robert Jones on 8 January 1947, his earliest records with The King Bees, The Mannish Boys and The Lower Third were unsuccessful. In 1966 he changed his name to David Bowie and combined his songwriting with an interest in stage and visual arts.
The Rise Of Ziggy Stardust
It was not until 1969 that Bowie caught the British public’s imagination with the quirky ‘Space Oddity’, which became a Top 5 hit soon after the first manned moon landing. Despite fuelling publicity with his androgynous image, Bowie’s career continued to stutter with The Man Who Sold The World (1971) and Hunky Dory (1972) until he created the messianic rock star character Ziggy Stardust. A glam-rock concept album, The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars (1972) formed the basis of a theatrical live show and was a Top 5 UK album. Such was the interest in Bowie that Hunky Dory was revived and got to No. 3. His band – Mick Woodmansey (drums), Trevor Bolder (bass) and especially Mick Ronson (guitar, keyboards, vocals) – were dependable sidekicks.
Aladdin Sane, produced by Tony Visconti who played a significant role in most of Bowie’s albums through the 1970s, topped the UK charts in 1973. But just weeks later – on 3 July 1973 – Bowie dramatically killed off Ziggy live on stage in London (recently released on DVD).
After an interlude with Pin-Ups (1973), a covers album, Bowie returned with Diamond Dogs (1974). The album’s bleak, Orwellian theme and the extravagant stage show he devised gave Bowie his American breakthrough, encouraging him to relocate there. Another stylistic switch based around the soul sound of Philadelphia completed Bowie’s American triumph with Young Americans (1975), which brought him a US No. 1 single with ‘Fame’ (co-written with John Lennon). By Station To Station (1976) Bowie’s stage persona had metamorphosed into the ‘Thin White Duke’. During this hectic period Bowie also found time (with assistance from Ronson) to produce seminal albums by Lou Reed, Transformer (1972), and Iggy Pop and The Stooges (Raw Power, 1973), write and produce Mott The Hoople’s ‘All The Young Dudes’ and star in the film The Man Who Fell To Earth (1976).
Frazzled from the perks and pressures of fame, Bowie retreated to seclusion in Berlin later in 1976, studying art and working with pioneering electronic sound musician Brian Eno. The resulting Low (1977) was another radically different musical direction, exploring new instrumental and vocal sounds. It was the first of a trilogy with Heroes (1977) and Lodger (1978). His reputation ensured their success although some fans and critics were getting confused.
Bowie relocated to New York to record the paranoid Scary Monsters (1980), updating ‘Space Oddity’ with ‘Ashes To Ashes’. He also collaborated with Queen for their ‘Under Pressure’...
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