Sailor’s Journals Indexed, Part 4: Places

Galleries, museums, cemeteries, cities, nations, even a zoo: places in Sailor’s Journals.

For the most part, Bowie lived in New York City for the years covered by Sailor’s Journals. Unless Bowie is discussing a specific observation about New York, it isn’t indexed.

Continue reading “Sailor’s Journals Indexed, Part 4: Places”


Sailor’s Journal Indexed, Part 3: Writers and Publications

More like a half a droplet in the seas than the tip of the proverbial iceberg, here we have the few authors and works mentioned in the brief Sailor’s Journals. There aren’t quite as many authors and books in Sailor’s Journals as you might expect. On the erstwhile bowienet there was a section entirely devoted to books.

Continue reading “Sailor’s Journal Indexed, Part 3: Writers and Publications”

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”

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.