Sailor’s Journal Indexed: 200 Musicians

In the early days of bowienet, when he  chatted with fans using the screen name Sailor, David Bowie posted fairly regularly on a page he called Sailor’s Journals. These entries were for the most part not personal reflections but rather accounts of his public life. The first journal entry was August 23, 1998; the last, October 5, 2006. However, there was only one for all of 2005; 3 for 2006, and only 2 after May in 2004.

For this first in a series of indexes to Sailor’s Journals, I offer a list of musicians. These include early influences, musicians he worked with, and new bands. Sailor’s Journals provided a unique platform for bringing these musicians to the attention of his fans — and, perhaps, to recording industry scouts. Whether any attained success because of his enthusiasm I do not know.

Other categories for this series are visual artists, writer and publications, dramatic arts and performance, places, people, family and others, and miscellaneous.

A large (30/167 pages) of the Journal is not by Bowie. It’s by Blammo, a fan selected from the Bowienet community to cover the July 2000 Roseland concerts. I’m not quite sure what to do with these pages. They are approved, likely commissioned in a sense, by Bowie, but they aren’t by Bowie. So they constitute another section.

You will find lots of mistakes, I’m afraid, and I would appreciate knowing about them so I may make corrections. This proved a much more arduous task than I anticipated. Each time I would go through it and correct some mistakes, I made others.

Action,                              11/17/05

Albarn, Damon,              9/14/98; 7/21/03

Alford, Zach,                    8/16/99; 10/21/01

Alomar, Carlos,               8/16/99; 10/21/01; 5/16/02

Anderson, Laurie,           8/23/98, 10/16/98, 10/22/98, 12/4/01

Animal Collective,          10/5/04

Arctic Monkeys,            11/17/05 [Animal]

Arrias, Joey,                     1/23/99, 2/20/99

Atlantis V Avatar           10/29/00

Badalamenti, Angelo,    8/25/98

Baker, Ginger,                4/19/04

Bauhaus,                          9/14/98

Beastie Boys,                   2/1/02

Beatles,                             5/10/00

Beck,                                  5/9/00

Blades, Reuben,             1/13, 17/00

Blur,                                  9/14/98; 7/21/03

Bob and Earl,                   12/26/98

Bolan, Marc,                    5/10/00

Bono,                                 9/8/99

Borneo Horns,                 2/1/02

Bowie, Lester,                  11/12/99

Branca, Glenn,               5/16/00

Brooke, Jonathan,                   12/4/01

Bryant, Dana,                           1/4//01

Broken Social Scene,   10/5/04

Buddy Holly,                    12/26/98

Burnett, T-Bone,            5/14/02

Campbell, Sterling,         8/16/99; 9/28/00, 10/11/00; 2/22/02; 7/21/03

Cannibal & the Headhunters, 12/26/98

Chamberlain, Matt,        5/15/02, 5/16/02; 6/8/03

Charles, Ray                     3/6/99

Chimes,                             1/10/00

Coghlan,  Donal,              12/4/01

Comedian Harmonists,   1/25/00

Cooke, Sam,                    12/26/98

Costello, Elvis,                 9/28/99

Cruse, Julie,                     8/25/98

Cuong,                              10/6/00

Cycowski,                         1/25/00

Dandys,                            7/21/03; 4/12/04

Davies, Ray,                     2/1/02, 2/7/03; 2/28/03

DeLaughter, Tim             4/12/04

DiFranco, Ani                  1/13/00, 1/17/00

Dinger, Klaus,                  1/6/00

Dorsey, Gail Ann,             8/28/98, 11/15/98; 1/24/99, 6/18/99, 8/16/99, 9/17/99, 9/26/99;    1/3/00,  1/17/00, 2/2/00, 5/31/00,  9/28/00;  10/19/01, 10/21/01; 3/21/02; 3/7/03, 6/8/03, 7/21/03

Drepung Gomang Monks,       1/4/01

Duncan Sheik ,                      12/4/01

Dyer, Geoff,                            10/29/00

Dylan, Jakob [JD],                  10/6/00

El Zumbido                              5/25/00

Emerson, Keith                       3/12/99

Eno, Brian                                 9/7/98; 1/6/00; 5/22/02; 4/21/03

Eurythmics,                             1/27/00

Faith, Adam,                             4/19/04

Fanny,                                        2/1/00

Fats Domino,                           12/23/98

Ferry, Brian,                              9/14/98

Frampton, Peter,                      2/8/01, 2/9/01

Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, 12/23/98

Franz Ferdinand,                      10/05/04

Freddie?                                      9/14/98

Freed, Alan,                                3/6/99

Fripp, Robert                              1/6/00; 5/21/02

Froese, Edgar,                            1/6/00

Frommerman, Harry,              1/25/00

Gabrels, Reese,   8/24/98; 9/14/98; 1/24/99, 3/10/99, 3/29/99, 5/17/99, 6/18/99,  8/16/99

Gardener, Ricky,            1/6/00

Garry Farr and the T-Bones,   3/12/99

Garson, Mike,                8/31/98, 11/20/98; 8/16/99; 1/26/00, 9/28/00

Gaye, Marvin,                 12/26/98; 3/12/99

Germano, Lisa                  9/28/00

Gershwin, George,           8/25/98

Glass, Philip,                    1/4/01; 2/1/02

Gnarls Barkley,                9/27/06

Grandaddy,                       10/29/00

Grandaddy’s Sunday,       7/21/03

Grohl, Dave,                       5/16/02

Groves, Lani,                      8/16/99

Gryner, Emm                     1/3/00,  9/28/00

Harris, Emmylou,.              1/4/01

Harrison, George,               12/6/00

Harry, Debbie,                      9/22/00

Harvey, P. J.,                           9/28/00

Haskett, Chris,                       6/18/99

Hawkins, Sophie,                 12/4/01

Henry Rollins Band,             6/18/99

Hinterland,                   11/4//01

Hotel,                               8/16/99

Janes,                               5/16/00

Johnson, Daniel,            4/29/04

Johnson, Robert,           5/27/02

Jones, Bill T.,                   1/13/00, 1/17/00

Jones, Quincy,                9/8/99

Kay, Lenny,                      2/28/03

Kaye, Danny,                  12/23/98

Kelly, Stephen,               7/30/00

Kersels, Martin,             10/29/98

Khan, Rahat Nusrat Ali Khan,  1/4/01

Khechog, Nawang,       1/4/01

Kiedis, Anthony,            9/26/99

Killers,                            10/05/04

Kinks,                              2/1/02, 2/7/03

Kluster/Cluster,             1/6/00

Kronos,                            2/22/02

Lazar, Emily                    4/12/02

Legendary Stardust Cowboy, 5/17/02

Lennon, John,                  5/10/00

Lennox, Annie [Dave?],     9/27/99; 1/20/00, 5/10/00

Lenny P. [sax],                9/27/99

Leonard, Gerry,              12/4/01; 5/16/02; 2/26/03, 3/7/03; 6/8/03

Lewis, Barbara                3/12/99

Little Richard,                 12/20/98, 12/23/98; 3/6/99; 1/10/00

Love, Courtney,                4/12/04

Mann, Pamela Sue,         12/4/01

Massive Attack,              8/8/99

Maurice Williams & Zodiacs,  12/23/98

McKeown, Sue,              12/4/01

Merchant, Natalie,        1/4/01; 5/14/02

Mercury, Freddy,           4/12/04

Michael, George,            10/29/00

Mitch Ryder & Detroit Wheels, 12/23/98

Moby,                                1/4/01

Moore, Thurston,            9/10/98

Neu,                                   1/6/00

Newley, Tony,                   12/26/98

Nine Inch Nails,              12/16/99

Nomi, Klaus,                  1/23/99, 2/20/99, 2/26/99, 1/25/00

O’Connor, Sinead,        11/12/01

Palmer, Holly,                8/16/99, 9/28/00,  1/3/00, 10/6/00

Panasonic,                      5/16/00

Partch, Harry,                 5/15/02

Patti Smith Band,          2/28/03

Peace, Warren, (see Geoff Dyer)   10/29/00

Pegulingan, Semar,       8/24/98

Pink Floyd,                       10/2 9/98

Pixies [Charles],             5/17/02; 10/5/04

Placebo (Robie, Ronan, Molko),       2/18/99,  3/29/99, 3/31/99; 10/19/01

Plank, Conny (producer),        1/6/00

Plati, Mark,    5/2/99, 8/16/99; 1/26/00, 6/2/00; 6/8/00, 9/28/00, 10/11/00; 4/4/01, 7/4//01, 10/19/01; 3/7/03; 6/8/03                    

Platters, The                   12/23/98

Polyphonics,                   4/12/04

Puff Daddy,                      9/8/99

Pumpkins,                        8/16/99

Radiohead News,            7/21/03 [Alex?]

Rakim,                               3/29/99

Razor, Trent,                     8/16/99

Red Hot Chili Peppers,    9/26/99

Reich,                                 1/6/00

Richard, Cliff,                  3/132/99; 4/19/04

Ross, Ronnie,                  4/19/04

Rowntree, Dave,           7/21/03

Russell, Cat,                    6/8/03

Ryder, Mitch,                 12/26/98

Sam and Dave,             12/26/98

Scorchio Quartet,        10/21/01, 2/1/02; 5/17/02, 2/26/03

Seaman, Phil,                 4/19/04

Secret Collective,          11/17/05

Secret Machines,          10/5/04; 11/17/05

Semar Pegulingan,        8/24/98

Sex Pistols,                       9/7/98

Simone, Nina,                 4/23/03

Sinatra, Frank,                7/4/01

Siouxsie Sioux,                8/30/98

Slick, Earl,                         2/1/00, 5/31/00, 6/5/00, 9/28/00, 3/7/03

Slick, Jean,                        2/1/00

Smith, Patti,                      1/4/01; 2/28/03

Sonic Youth,                      9/10/98, 5/17/02

Spiders,                             1/10/00

Spookyghost. See Leonard, Gerry

Staples, Mavis,               5/14/02

Stereophonics,               5/5/04

Sting [and Trudie],        9/27/99                           

Strokes,                            7/21/03

Supremes,                      12/26/98

Talking Heads,              1/6/00

Tamara,                          3/29/99

Tangerine Dream,         1/6/00

Taylor, Vince “Ziggy”,    4/19/04

Tex, Joe                             12/26/98

The Edge,                         11/21/01

Think Tank,                      7/21/03

Thompson, Charles IV [Black Francis], 5/17/02; 10/5/04

Tin Machine,                   9/7/98, 5/10/00

Tomoyasu Hotei,             10/21/01

Torn, David,                     10/21/01; 5/14/,16/02; 4/14/03;

Townsend, Pete,              6/6/00, 10/6/00, 10/11/00; 10/19/01, 11/12/01, 2/1/02; 5/16/02

Underworld,                    3/6/99

Vaughn, Stevie Ray,        5/21/02

Velvets,                             9/28/00

Village Fugs,                   8/24/98

Visconti, Tony,                3/29/99; 1/25/00; 4/5/00;  7/4/01, 10/15/01, 10/19/01, 10/21/01,         2/1/02, 4/12/02; 5/13 to 17/02; 5/22/02, 12/1/02

Waites, Tom,                   9/28/99

Walker, Scott,                 2/15/01

Wallflowers,                   10/6/00

Waterboys,                      10/15/01

Who,                                10/6/00, 10/11/00

Wilde, Marty,                  4/19/04

Wire,                                 5/16/00

Wyclef,  Jean,                   9/8/99

Yauch, Adam                   2/1/02

Young, Neil,                     5/16/02

75≠100: Revisiting Bowie’s “Favorite” Books

How can there be so much confusion about a list of 100 books? The David Bowie Top 100 Books is making the rounds again, this time at BookPeople, who say its source is the New York Public Library, which issued it on January 11, 2016. The NYPL says its source was a 2013 post on the David Bowie Facebook page (gone).* now has 100, noting that when the list first appeared in, it was incomplete. If you search for that site, you will find nothing, but the link that begins with “only 75%” takes you to

The earliest list I can find including 100 books is at, dated September 26, 2013: “David Bowie IS co-curators [Geoffrey] Marsh and Victoria Broackes have released a list of Bowie’s favourite reads.”

Should a list of 100 books include 100 books? 

Not at The Guardian and Telegraph. Twice, first on October 1, 2013, and as a reprint in January 2016 (“This article is 3 years old”), the Guardian published a list headlined “David Bowie’s top 100 must-read books” which included only 75 titles and was said to be from the “curators” of the David Bowie Is show atthe Art Gallery of Ontario.”

The Telegraph listed 75 books on April 1, 2016, as if their publication were news: “And thanks to an exhibition of Bowie at the Running at the Art Gallery in Toronto, Ontario, we have a list from co-curator Geoffrey Marsh of Bowie’s 100 favourite books.” This line suggests that the article is part new (includes Bowie’s death) and part old (the show was not in Ontario in April 2016).

So why did the Guardian and Telegraph headline 100 but only list 75 books? In the online editions, space is not a problem, and in a print edition, the headline or subtitle still doesn’t have to refer to 100 when there are just 75. And, yes, they are the same 75, and the reasoning is transparent.

The oldest two books on their lists are Richard Wright’s Black Boy (1945) and Ann Petry’s The Street (1946). The newest is from 2008. Bowie was born in early January 1947 and died in January 2015.

Why the Culture editors at these two publications decided that Bowie’s favorites were only those published in his lifetime is inexplicable.

Were these Bowie’s favourites?

Marsh’s list was compiled for David Bowie Is. A list of books to place in the exhibit might focus on those published in his lifetime, not because they were Bowie’s favorites, but because they say something about the times in which he lived.

Marsh, in fact, made it clear that while Bowie gave the show’s curators access to his archives, “Bowie would have no involvement at all.”

Let’s look at some of the 25 that didn’t make these major news sites’ lists (for the entire list in chronological order, go to open-book.caAs I Lay Dying, Blast, Dante’s The Inferno, Homer’s Illiad, Lady Chatterly’s Lover, Madame Bovary, Mr. Norris Changes Trains, The 42nd Parallel, The Bridge, The Great Gatsby, The Stranger and The Waste Land

Pretty amazing exclusions, whether they were Bowie’s favorites — or not.

While I can’t see Bowie looking for books published in each year of his life (or nearly so) it’s possible, probably likely, that Bowie provided some of the titles. For years that Bowie had not mentioned a book, Marsh and the archivist could have searched an archival database for books published between 1945 and 2011.  

Most serious readers like Bowie talk in terms of authors, as he has (all Pagel, everything by Ackroyd, and so on); the choices for these authors could be Bowie’s — or not.

As for me, I wouldn’t put my favorites in a box in my archives, unless I had multiple copies (paper, cloth, first, ones I’ve underlined, etc.). I’d keep them with me. I think he might have had multiple copies of his favorites; paperbacks acquired when young and traveling, first editions later.

I hope some day we will know more.

*I believe it first listed 75 until contacted by #BowieBookClub.

Evocation: Billy Collins’ “Embrace”

Last week I came across Billy Collins’ poem “Embrace” — and I learned the rules* have changed, so I can offer it in totality, which is a good thing because you need it all. 


You know the parlor trick.
wrap your arms around your own body
and from the back it looks like
someone is embracing you
her hands grasping your shirt
her fingernails teasing your neck
from the front it is another story
you never looked so alone
your crossed elbows and screwy grin
you could be waiting for a tailor
to fit you with a straight jacket
one that would hold you really tight.

@Billy Collins. From the collection, The Apple That Astonished Paris: Poems. First published 2006; rptd. 2014 by the University of Arkansas Press

It’s a stunning 12-line poem, and immediately I thought of Bowie, and will likely never again watch Bowie do the “parlor trick” without thinking of “Embrace.”

There’s absolutely no reason as far as I know why Bowie would have inspired any of Billy Collins’ work — the connection is in my head. Collins is an American poet, born 1941 in Manhattan, and was America’s poet laureate for 2001 to 2003. I’d describe him as an imagist, with a small i.

I hunted without success for a portrait by Andrew Kent, the photographer who did the black-and-white studies of the Thin White Duke. Maybe there is a Kent still of the “parlor trick,” or perhaps I was just mingling what we know of Bowie in the TWD era and the last six lines of “Embrace.”

I then asked for help from a particularly welcoming FB group of Bowie devotees (not all are) and got dozens of response, but this one of “Heroes,” from the same broadcast as the Bing Crosby and Bowie duet of the “Little Drummer Boy” is in in tone and choreography perfect. The video starts 15 seconds in.


*Quoting more than a few lines of a poem used to amount to academic or professional suicide. But the Poetry Foundation has concluded that a non-commercial blog may do so, if the poem is accompanied by “critique or commentary.” Many other conditions apply and are listed on page 13 of the guide. If a poet objects, then his or her wishes are to be respected. My reasoning is that since 52 of Collins’ poems are on PoemHunter, and the Foundation and PoemHunter are frequently mentioned in tandem on educational sites, Collins would probably not object.

Liminal Lazaruses 3: Do You Want to Be Free?

“This way or no way/ You know, I’ll be free”

Two Lazaruses: a song and a play; a beggar who stays dead, and a youth who walks out of his grave and into legend.

If Bowie’s last works were a parting message to his fans, why were there two of the same name but so different in tone?

I think Bowie was himself unsure, until fall 2015, whether these would be his final works.  It’s widely reported that he didn’t know he was dying until fall 2015, but longtime friend and producer Tony Visconti and others said he had told them he had cancer in 2014.

“The moment you know/ You know you know…”

That disconnect may mean that it wasn’t until the last months that his doctors told him they had nothing left in their bag of tricks, no more chemo, no possibility of surgery, all that could be had been tried, and all had failed.

But what if he had beaten the odds once again? He’d done it before. He was healthier at 50 than at 30, and seemed to be going strong when downed by a heart attack in 2004.

Six years ago, in this blog’s second post, I listed reasons why Bowie mattered to me, including:

“He survived. He came about as close to destroying himself as a man can, but he stopped his fall into the abyss, found something firm to cling to, and clawed his way back to safety. Then he moved on.”

When he released The Next Day, I recalled Bowie’s courage  in performing “Wake Up” with Arcade Fire in 2006, his first post-heart attack appearance.  “The Next Day” begins with the declaration: “Here I am/Not quite dying.” In 2004 he said he would not be writing about his heart attack, and with this line, he seemed to say, let’s get this out of the way at the start.

But I doubt that death was ever far from his thoughts after 2004. Perhaps it never had been. Bowie was a serious seeker, whether following the tenets of Tibetan Buddhism or studying the Gnostic gospels.

There are a number of photos of Iman and a happy David Jones at society events in the 2000s. But the last time Bowie smiled during a performance is, I believe, in ”The Stars Are Out Tonight” video. The video for the song “Where Are We Now?,” the first in advance of The Next Day’s January 8, 2013 release, is quietly desperate.

And then he dropped from view until October 2015 when the ★ video was released. He’d aged.  A lot. He’d lost a lot of weight. A paparazzi caught him arriving at the premiere of Lazarus: A Musical in early December; compared to the others in the scene, he looked jaundiced, more grimacing than grinning. (There are thankfully a few shots from the curtain call, in which his smile looks genuine and his color good — under stage lighting.)

He looks healthier and happier — truly smiling — in the Jimmy King  photos released on Bowie’s birthday, January 8, 2016. The King photos were the last official pictures for public display, but I don’t think they were taken in the last days.  In King’s photos, Bowie is wearing a fedora pulled way forward; if  his eyebrows are there, they are faint. His hair is very, very short. My impression is that these are post-chemo pictures, perhaps from summer 2015, and the chemo was showing signs of working.

Then he was gone. He made it through then holidays, his birthday and the release of ★. When someone told what the family had tried to keep quiet — that he had had liver cancer — I groaned.  I knew what was to come.*meister_des_codex_aureus_epternacensis_001

This time he would not be summoned from the grave. The button-eyed beggar Lazarus dies alone in a godless world. The Village of Ormen is gloomy and grey; its object of worship a bejeweled skull. When the Prophet comes, color briefly returns to the world, but it cannot be sustained.  There are no children or elders; the quakers and shakers attempt to devise a ritual but finally look like nothing more than a far from stellar collegiate dance troupe.

Buttoneyes dies alone and unmourned in what could be a shabby early 20th century nursing home. If the girl who appears is supposed to be an angel earning her wings, she fails to deserve a feather; she’d rather hide under the bed than be in the presence of the dying. The only ornamentation in the room is a tiny jeweled skull replica. This is Lazarus the beggar alone, whose hope for the future is in heaven, for this life is providing him nothing at all. He’s ready to go. This wouldn’t be the first Bowie song about a spiritual wasteland. It holds out hope of a heaven, but not a new life. Just a place where he might be.

Not very reassuring, is it?

Girl: “When you’re stuck between two worlds, it’s only right that you try something — incredible.”

02655rThere could be another end to the story, a “rewrite,” one that suggests a voyage into new worlds or a return to a perfected one. He could set sail; he could become an Immortal, as some legends say Lazarus of Bethany did. 

It’s hard, audacious even, to write about a musical I haven’t seen. But pictures of the show suggest that Thomas Jerome Newton lives in a world saturated wih color. There is music. He has visitors. An angel is sent to help him prepare for departure from a life that has become unliveable; another, Valentine, provides the means for direct action.

Hope, help, free and love are words that appears repeatedly in the script.heic0506b_hst

In the end, there are two changes to “Heroes”:

“We’re free now/ And that is a fact

“Yes we’re free now/ And that is that.”


“We could be saferJust for one day.”

Newton is not of the Earth, not ashes and not the dust of decay. He’s stardust, created, as we all were, in the Big Bang, and has returned to space, for where else is there to go?

Quotations from Lazarus: A Musical by David Bowie and Enda Walsh. London: Nick Hern Books, 2016 .”This way,” p. 7, (“Lazarus”); ” moment you know,” p. 28 (Where Are We Now?”); “stuck between two worlds,” p. 26; “rewrite,” p. 45.

Images: Lazarus and Dives, illumination from the Codex Aureus of Echternach. Top panel: Lazarus begs, dies and his soul taken by angels to rest with Abraham (middle). Bottom: Dives’ (the rich man’s) soul is carried off by two devils to Hell; Dives is tortured in Hades.

Tomb of Lazarus, ca. 1890-1900. Part of the Library of Congress’s  Views of the Holy Land in the photochrom print collection.  LC-DIG-ppmsca-02655

Fairy of Eagle Nebula. Image Credit: NASA, ESA, STScI/AURA

*Usually liver cancers are secondary; cancer cells from other organs metastasize or travel there. Primary liver cancer is associated with hepatitis or cirrhosis. After Bowie’s 2004 heart attack, even doctors were quick to blame his excesses during the 1970s. And so when it was announced he had died of liver cancer these years’ indulgences were again cited as the cause. He probably had done some damage to his liver in the 1970s, but those 35 years mattered. The liver is the only organ that can regenerate itself, and only a fraction needs to be functioning to sustain life. But people — including some medical personnel — have a knee jerk reaction when an illness involves the liver. Say cirrhosis and the assumption is alcoholism; hepatitis, drugs. The stigma patients face is such that the international medical community changed the name of one auto-immune condition — primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) — to primary biliary cholangitis, although the new name is a less accurate moniker. Patients have enough to deal with without the yeah right looks that would come with explanations of this rare condition. Trust me on this. So when liver cancer was decreed, but not confirmed, I thought, here we go again: there will be many teachable moments to come.

Liminal Lazaruses 2: Loving the Alien

“Love the alien as you love yourself; for you were once aliens in the Land of Egypt… “(Leviticus 19:34)

“Thinking of a different time
Palestine a modern problem
Bounty and your wealth in land
Terror in a best laid plan. . . ” (Bowie, “Loving the Alien”)

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” (Emma Lazarus:“The New Colossus”)

In his introduction to Lazarus: A Musical: The Complete Book and Lyrics, co-author Enda Walsh recalls that  Bowie’s first sketch of the musical included

“a character of a woman who thought she might be Emma Lazarus (the American poet whose poem “The New Colossus” is engraved on the base of the Statue of Liberty) — a woman who would . . . help and fall in love with . . . Thomas Newton.” (p. viii)

Emma didn’t make the cut (and yes, I’ve read Michael Cunningham’s fantasy, “Stage Oddity” — I’ll get to that later), but “The New Colossus” appears in The Complete Book and Lyrics after the end of the play and a blank page.*

Is it the name, Lazarus, that links Emma Lazarus, “The New Colossus,” and the musical? Or the theme of emigration, the departure from home to a new land, from which there is little likelihood of return?

I think we can dismiss the name “Lazarus” as nothing more than serendipity.

Being a stranger in a strange land, not so easily.** As Walsh puts it, Thomas Jerome Newton is “the most travelled of immigrants,” that is, an alien (p. viii).

Bowie’s 1985 “Loving the Alien” is not about a man who fell to Earth but instead the seemingly endless back-and-forth battles of “the Templars and the Saracens/They’re travelling the holy land.” The 1985 video has a mid-80s dancing Bowie; the arrangement is curiously bouncy for a song with fairly grim lyrics.

Why the Templars and the Saraceans? Simply through reading widely, Bowie would have come across the Templars, and later when he progressed to Gnosticism, once again, there is a Templar connection. Using “Saracean” is just obscure enough to make the song not about a particular clash in the Middle East.

Primarily, I think too he wanted to play with the word and idea of alien. He’d had 10 years of being an unhuman alien, and now he’s reminding us that not all aliens are starmen.

In 1990, Bowie met Iman,  a Somalian immigrant to the US, and the couple joined the millions of other immigrants who have passed through or settled in New York City. In the early 2000s, Bowie asked guitarist Gerry Leonard to rearrange “Loving the Alien,” and on the Reality Tour, the song is slow, deliberate, somber.

Emma Lazarus, a Jew, was not one of the “huddled masses” of the mid-1800s who arrived in America fleeing the Russian pogroms or genocide of Jews; in fact, her forebearers had been in the US for several generations.

But as a Jew, a people without a homeland, she was also an alien, and was one of the earliest advocates for establishing a Jewish nation — a Zionist before the term had been coined. She too was a liminal Lazarus, suspended between the physical homeland of her birth and the spiritual but as yet unreal homeland of her faith.


*I haven’t found out (and would appreciate a definitive answer) if the poem is included in the program or read after the curtain falls on the play. If it didn’t, and the play is staged again, I believe that will change.

** Exodus 2:22. The main character of Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land is a human raised by Martians for his first 25 years, the sole survivor of a mission to Mars. When an Earth-based expedition discovers him, he is forced to return to Earth, but doesn’t know how to be human. The character’s name: Valentine Michael Smith (there’s both a Valentine and Michael in  Lazarus, for what it’s worth.

Photos are from the National Park Service.lazarus-portraitchains-2


The Liminality of Lazaruses, part 1

Bowie’s Lazaruses (Blackstar’s and the musical’s), Anna Kavan’s, the beggar Lazarus, Lazarus of Bethany: I’ve been thinking about Lazaruses a lot lately.

“I’m a dying man who can’t die”–  David Bowie and Enda Walsh, Lazarus: A The Musical

We know Thomas James Newton can die; he is mortal. That, after all, is why he is on Earth: he came in search of water because his own planet had become too dry to support life. His family is dead. His problem is not that he cannot die but that his life has become unlivable, suicide doesn’t seem to be an option, and his body doesn’t run on the same timetable as humans’. In the last scenes of The Man Who Fell to Earth, Nathan Bryce and Mary-Lou have aged some 20 years, but Newton has not. His liver must be superhuman: he has failed to drink himself to death, while Mary-Lou and Bryce seem well on their way.

I’ve not seen the musical; I’ve only read the screenplay, but my impression is that it ends with Newton finding what he wants, and that is to be free from life on Earth. Any play ending with “Heroes” can’t be as bleak as the videos for Blackstar.

“Mr. Bow did not know how lucky he was and perhaps that was rather lucky as well” —  Anna Kavan, I am Lazarus.

kavanPatti Smith casually mentions Anna Kavan (1901-1968) in M Train — just her name, nothing else. I don’t know if Bowie read Kavan, but he and Smith admire many of the same writers (e.g. Jean Genet). It is hard to overstate how bleak and disturbing it is to read Kavan’s I am Lazarus, a collection of short stories. It’s a slim volume, but a long read.

The title story and several others feature broken people subjected to aggressive medical interventions (inducing insulin shock to “cure” praecox dementia; repeated dosing of paraldehyde for “prolonged narcosis” of neurotics [a visitor describes a patient as a ”shape…who had already seemed to forfeit humanity” (“Palace of Sleep”)]. Others have survived WWII to live with the memory loss, terror, and confusion of PTSD.

All could claim to have “scars you cannot see” — if they had the ability or desire to communicate. Helpless, institutionalized or too shattered to realize they are dead inside, they both are and are not alive and have no way out.

New Testament Lazaruses

Lazarus the beggar and Lazarus of Bethany have two things in common: Both die of illness, and neither speaks for himself.

Lazarus the Beggar  (Luke 16: 19-31)

Lazarus died of leprosy at the gates of a grand house where he begged for scraps from the table of a “certain rich man” and was refused. When Lazarus died, “the angels carried him to Abraham’s side.” The rich man also died and was buried.Lazarus is at rest; the rich man lands in Hades where he is tormented and can see Lazarus.

Now he’s the one begging. He wants Abraham to send the leper over to his side to give him a drink of water, but the rich man is no longer giving the orders, and even if Abraham were to agree, it couldn’t happen: “‘a wide chasm has been fixed between us, so that those who want to cross from this side to you cannot do so, nor can they cross from your side to us’” [31]. Then the rich man decides the beggar should be sent back  to the world of the living so that he can warn his uncharitable brothers what awaits them. Abraham refuses, saying even if he did so, the brothers wouldn’t listen to the beggar.

So much for worldly wealth and power. I find several other interesting things about this. If the rich man recognizes that the man beside Abraham is his beggar, so to speak, would that mean that even though the angels came for him (the rich man is simply buried), the leper appears just as repulsive as he did on earth? Now the beggar is at rest. Were he sent on the rich man’s errand, would he have to repeat the process of dying? Is he not better off dead?

Lazarus of Bethany  (John 11:1-45) 

This Lazarus is the brother of Jesus’s friends Mary and Martha, so he is a young man when he dies after a short illness. He [his body?] is put in a tomb, and Jesus arrives in 4 days, the stone blocking the tomb is  rolled away, and Jesus calls to him. Then “the dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, ‘Take off the grave clothes and let him go’” [44].

And that is the last we hear of him, but there are a number of legends about the rest of his life. Perhaps he was set out to sea and landed in Cyprus, establishing a church in Larnaca where the story arose that he lived another thirty years but 

never smiled except on one occasion, when he saw someone stealing a pot, when he smilingly said: “the clay steals the clay.” He was worried at the sight of the unredeemed souls he had seen during his four day stay in Hades. 

A Gnostic teaching (and we know Bowie was interested in Gnosticism) claims Lazarus and the Apostle John are one and the same, “the only disciple to receive all teachings and initiations of the Holy Gospel, outer, inner and secret,” and that these secrets were revealed to him when Jesus entered the tomb and raised him from the dead.

Once dead and resurrected, can one die again? I’m not sure if the following is limited to one community of Gnostics, but it is intriguing:  

St. Lazarus lives in remote places and wanders the earth in secret, immortal and indestructible. According to legend, he receives one or two disciples in every generation to whom he transmits the inmost secret teachings, serving as a guardian and knowledge-keeper of the Light-Transmission on earth. . . .Though many might think of him as an old man, legend speaks of him as a young and very handsome man, and he is often called the Eternal Youth or the Hermit-Lad.. . .

He is youthful and has a beautiful boyish face, appearing as though he were sixteen, though having pure white hair. His eyes are unearthly in appearance, as though the universe is in them and his gaze seems otherworldly.

Those eyes…laz

Echoes of Cocteau

I was flipping through Jean Cocteau by Patrick Mauries recently and came across this photo of the character Death in his film, Orphée, based on the myth of Orpheus, a poet so in love with Death he follows her into the underworld.


Here we have Death (María Casarès) [photo by Roger Corbeau/Ministère de la Culture/AFDPP].

I was reminded of Thomas Jerome Newton in his homeland costume, and applied a black and white filter:


Not exact by any means, and I don’t know whether Nic Roeg or Bowie had any ideas about Newton’s alien garb. Costume designer May Routh says she wanted the water tubes but conceived them as more like lace; the special effects team interpreted the design differently, making the tubing more substantial.

We know that Bowie was interested in Cocteau’s surrealistic imagery. Heroes‘s “Beauty and the Beast” is a nod to the Cocteau  film La Belle et la Bête, starring Jean Marais, who also played the lead role in Orphée.

Cocteau and Marais were lovers; Cocteau said of his young man: 

“It does not depend only on sensual grace. It flows from the child still at the heart of the mature man. That is the true source of the expressive beauty of his eye, of the way he looks at you, imposes his physical presence.”

Cocteau could as well be describing Bowie.

Cocteau was a sensualist, a painter of murals for churches, and fascinated by angels, who typically were modelled as beautiful boys, like this one, the Angel of the Annunciation at Notre Dame de France in London, England, photographed by Victoria Emily Jones. See her essay and photographic tour of  Notre Dame de France in London, England by clicking the link.

The Annunciation.
©Victoria Emily Jones

What came to mind: the “Look Back in Anger” video.

It goes beyond angels, however. One minute into the video, Bowie rises quickly from his bed,  in much the same way that the poet’s wife is commanded to rise from hers at the minute mark  in this snippet from Cocteau’s Orphée.

When Bowie rubs his hand across the painting, his skin takes on a grotesque appearance as if his face is now a painted facade disturbed. Now, in another film of Cocteau’s, La sang d’un Poète (The Blood of the Poet), a sculptor has a similar fright.  First he does some sketches, but the mouth starts to move. He tries to rub it out, but it transfers itself to his hand. He tries to rid himself of it by pressing it to the mouth of a statue (movie stills).

The statue entices him to break through a mirror to a different dimension and gives him a gun to kill himself. Instead he returns to his reality, and smashes the sculpture.

Smashing through mirrors is common to several Cocteau’s films. Go back to the Orphée  snip and view the last frames.

Tormented Bowie places his angel painting in front of a mirror so he will not have to see what has become of his face, but can’t resist studying his new ugliness. He doesn’t manage to break his mirror or spell and ends up crawling under his bed, instead.

When the artist of Blood of a Poet is on the other side of the mirror, he encounters some strange scenes (movie stills , like this one, featuring a transvestite, Barbette, who Cocteau later wrote about:


That oppish bullseye and strange haired figure is vaguely reminiscent of the set and weird woman of “Strangers When We Meet.”


Here’s another image from Orphée. Flanked by two biker angels, the Poet and Death stroll through the Underworld:underworld

Could this have been an inspiration for the Village of Ormen of “Blackstar”?village-of-orman

Finally there is one more odd Cocteauian echo for today:the similarity to this photograph of Jean Marais dressed by Chanel for Cocteau’s Oedipe Roi:


to this one from Outside: fishman


I don’t know what to make of this.