Philip Hoare’s RisingTideFallingStar: David Bowie, Cosmos-politan, 2

cometbowie
Woodcut of Great Comet of 1577 over Prague

David Bowie died during the evening of January 10, 2016 in New York City, but much of the world was sleeping, and so woke to the news on the 11th, the news traveling like a cross-continental comet. 

He was cremated, according to the death certificate filed with his will, on January 12 in New Jersey; the will directed that if it were not possible to cremate his body in Bali “in accordance with the Buddhist rituals,“* his executor should scatter his ashes off the island’s coast.

Smoke rising; ashes falling.

Philip Hoare notes in RisingTideFallingStar that Guglielmo Marconi believed that his transAtlantic radio transmitters “might also pick up the cries of sailors long since drowned in the Atlantic” (39). Thomas Jerome Newton, the alien in The Man Who Fell to Earth, recorded an LP, The Visitor, in hopes of radio play that would allow his wife, if she were alive, to receive a message from him on their home planet. He wouldn’t be making the journey home.

My feeds have been nearly all Bowie for the past three days and will continue into tomorrow. 

I wonder if all these transmissions, bouncing between towers, betwist satellites, are being received by the starman, as Hoare calls him.

Hello, Spaceboy.

Everyone Says Hi.


Part of a continuing series of posts in response to Philip Hoare’s RisingTideFallingStar, which will be available in the US in April 2018.

 

*I imagine that international air rules would require embalming, making the rites awkard at best; George Harrison was cremated in the US before being scattered in the Ganges.

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Sailor’s Journals Indexed, Part 7: Performances. And a Caveat.

Sailor’s Journals may seem voluminous from this series of posts. It is not. If you read it straight through it might take 3 hours. So say 6 to write. Six hours of journaling in the 69 years of such a complex man as Bowie simply is not much at all. Like a single cell in the body, perhaps.

Continue reading “Sailor’s Journals Indexed, Part 7: Performances. And a Caveat.”

Sailor’s Journals Indexed, Part 2: Songs & Albums

Here’s a list of songs and albums mentioned in Sailor’s Journals.

Many fit into one of several divisions: songs that influenced a young Bowie (the topic of his journal entries for Christmas Week 1998) and those he was working on during the period covered by the journal entries, most notably, those from Hours and Heathen. There are a number of entries covering the composition and recording of Heathen. 

Some titles and mentions, especially those for Toy, are derived from context rather than found in the entry.

Italics are for albums; regular type (yes,without quotation marks) are songs. In the case of Ziggy Stardust, it was usually a toss-up if the song or its album should be indexed.

A Foggy Day in London Town,      8/25/98

Afraid,                                                5/23/02/, 5/27/02

After All,                                            12/23/98

Ascension,                                           1/18/01

Ashes To Ashes,                                12/23/98

Black Tie White Noise,                      11/12/99

Bleed Like A Craze Dad,                    8/28/98

Boys Keep Swinging,                         2/20/99

Break Out,                                           12/26/98

Brown Sound Mix,                             10/29/98

Buddha of Suburbia,                            8/28/98

Cactus,                                                   5/15/02, 5/17/02, 5/22/02

Can I Get a Witness,                             3/12/99

Can’t Help Thinkin’ About Me,          12/26/98; 9/17/99, 1/3/00

Chameleon Chronicles Vol.2,             5/25/00

Come See About Me,                          12/26/98

Cracked Actor,                                     11/12/99

Crazy,                                                      9/27/06

Dance, Dance, Dance                           12/26/98

Diamond Dogs,                                       5/10/00,10/21/00

Directly From My Heart,                     1/10/00

Dogman Go Woof,                                 3/6/99

Earthling,                                                 8/31/98; 9/16/98; 1/24/99

Eighteenth Letter,                                   3/29/99

Epsilon in Malaysian Pale,                    1/6/00

Evening of African Dance,                     2/7/03

Everyone Says Hi,                                  5/16/02

Fabulous,                                                  1/10/00

Fiji,                                                           10/29/00

Fishermans’ Blues,                                10/15/01

Hallo Stranger,                                        3/12/99

Harlem Shuffle,                                     12/26/98

Heathen,                                                10/15, 21,19/01; 11/12/01, 2/1/02, 4/12/02, 5/13/02; 6/8/03

Here’s Little Richard,                            1/10/00

Heroes,                                                   10/4/00, 2/1/02

Heroes,                                                    5/22/02

Hours,                                                     9/26/99

Humming ,                                              12/4/01

I Took a Ride on a Gemini Spaceship,          5/17/02; 5/22/02

I Would be your Slave,                        2/22/02; 5/17/02

I’ve Been Waiting for You,                  5/16-17/02

Inchworm,                                             12/23/98

It Doesn’t Matter Anymore,               12/26/98

It’s Getting Back,                                  12/26/98

It’s So Easy,                                            12/26/98

Jimmy’s Shrinking Song,                      1/3/00

John, I’m Only Dancing,                      2/18/03

Join The Gang,                                    12/26/98

King’s Lead Hat,                                     1/6/00

King’s New Clothes,                           12/23/98

Kissing the Roof of Heaven,               12/4/01

Krautrock,                                               1/6/00

Land of a Thousand Dances,           12/26/98

Let’s Dance,                                  5/9/00, 10/29/01, 2/1/02

Lightning Strikes Again,           2/20/99

Listen With Mother,                 12/23/98

Little Bit Me Little Bit You,       5/25/00

Little Richard 2,                          1/10/00

Little Wonder,                             8/16/99

Lodger,                                          5/17/99, 9/17/99, 5/9/00

Lonely Avenue,                            3/6/99

Low,                                                1/6/00, 5/22/02

Mother,                                          8/31/98

My Way,                                         9/8/98, 9/10/98

Neil Young,                                    5/17/02

Oh For The Wings Of A Dove, 12/20/98

One Fine Day,                              9/27/06

One More Heartache,              12/26/98

Only You,                                   10/29/00

Outside,                                        8/16/99

Penny Lane                                 5/25/00

(Please) Stay,                             12/26/98

Purple People Eater,                12/22/98

Reality,                                        2/6/03; 4/14/03; 6/8/03

Repetition,                                  9/17/99

Right now, right now,              3/6/99

Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust… and the Spiders from Mars, 8/31/98, 9/22/98, 2/20/99, 2/11/00; 11/5/02

See-Saw,                                12/26/98

Seven,                                        5/9/00

Silly Boy Blue,                          1/4/01

Slip Away,                           5/22-23/02

Slow Burn,                              5/16/02

Something in the Air,            9/17/97

Sound Bomb [Burroughs],  10/29/98

Space Oddity,                         10/11/00, 5/22/02, 2/18/03

Station to Station,                    1/6/00

Station to Station,                  5/31/00

Stay,                                            6/8/00

Sunday [Grandaddy’s] ,         7/21/03

Survive,                                   9/26/99, 12/16/99

Sweet Thing,                           5/10/00

Take It With Soul,                12/26/98

The Man Who Sold the World,   2/20/99

There Must Be an Angel,              1/20/00

Thursday’s Child,                  6/16/99, 8/8/99, 8/16/99, 9/26/99

Tin Machine                            9/8/98

Toy,                                           9/28/00, 10/3/00, 10/29/00, 4/4/01, 4/7/01

Turning Japanese,                 9/27/06

Tutti Frutti,                            12/23/98

TVC15,                                      2/20/99

Two Way,                                12/23/98

Ugly Duckling,                        12/23/98

Under Pressure,                       4/12/04

What Kind Of Fool Am I?,     12/26/98

Without You I’m Nothing,    2/18/99; 3/31/99

Young Americans,                  7/30/00

You’re Holding Me Down/I’ve Got A Buzz,  5/25/00

Ziggy Stardust                      9/25/98, 5/17/02

Sailor’s Journals Indexed, Part 1: 200 Musicians

I am deeply grateful to Noel Barretto for his help in improving this. See comments.

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.

Continue reading “Sailor’s Journals Indexed, Part 1: 200 Musicians”

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.”

and

“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

 

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.

orphee_4116152

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:

man-wfte

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:

barbettesang

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

strangers

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:

marais

to this one from Outside: fishman

 

I don’t know what to make of this.