Tees Up

A new collection of Glam Rock-inspired tee shirts are now on sale here. Will go well with shaggy orange hair and glitter on your cheeks. As usual they are only $14 for a limited time so get one while they’re hot (pink).

Download: Queen Bitch (Live at the BBC) – David Bowie (mp3)


Dirty Old Town

I look at photos of London from my youth and it looks like another world compared to the shiny capitalist megapolis the city is now. The scars of WWII were still everywhere in the form of old bombsites that had been untouched for decades and become wastelands surrounded by brutalist corrugated iron fences. I don’t think we knew what they were at the time, just that we had all these empty spaces to play in and that the city was a bit shabby, the colour of a smoker’s lungs, with dog shit all over the pavements.

Look at these photos of the East End in the 1960s and you wouldn’t think Swinging London was happening just a few miles to the West. Or these ones from the 1970s where the city often looks like the set of some bleak post-apocalyptic movie.

Many of the buildings were black with soot. Famous landmarks like St. Paul’s, Tower Bridge, and Westminster Abbey in particular were reminders of why London used to be called The Big Smoke.

They’ve since been cleaned up and restored to their original glory, but having grown up with the dirty versions they don’t look quite real to me anymore. With all the centuries of history washed off them they seem more like faux reconstructions at a Disneyland London theme park.

There was a street near us I didn’t like walking down when I was a kid because the tall, dirty-grey terraced houses on either side turned it into a dark canyon that I found a bit creepy. The dusty net curtains and peeling window frames of the houses didn’t help either, nor did the fact that no one seemed to live in these houses because I never saw anyone going in or out of them. Almost every street back then had a dingy house your friends claimed was inhabited by some crazy old person you never saw.

Our estate was built in the 1960s but every flat still had a coal chute by the front door (we never used ours but the chute was handy for getting in when I’d forgotten my key) and some older people on the estate still had coal delivered in big black sacks well into the 70s. To add the extra Dickensian touch, I can still remember the Rag & Bone man clip-clopping down our street with his horse and cart, even an old bloke who used to ride around in a bath chair.

The modern London we recognize today didn’t start to appear until the 1980s. Young, middle-class professionals started buying houses and doing them up, giving the old exteriors a new lick of paint which made formerly dingy streets brighter. Property prices skyrocketed, and new restaurants and shops appeared in response to this influx which changed the character of so many neighborhoods. I lived in Clapham for a while after leaving college and I remember overhearing these two Sloane Ranger girls on the Tube talking about their houses (a major dinner-party topic back then). One said she had lived in Clapham for two years and her friend replied “Oh so you’re one of the originals then!” as if the area hadn’t existed before their kind brought with them the new wine shop and trendy Tapas bar.

I’m not going to romanticize dirt and decay, but at least London was more affordable back then. The remodeled houses, gourmet sandwich shops, and gastropubs are all very nice, but they’ve created a different kind of wasteland.

Download: London Bye Ta-Ta – David Bowie (mp3)


Some new t-shirts on sale. Couldn’t decide between “Glam” Bowie or “Low” Bowie so I went with all of them. I started working on a Bowie design last year so there was going to be one this Spring anyway, I just wish they hadn’t ended up being posthumous.

As usual they’re only $14 for a limited time so buy one now, or two!

If you’ve never heard this version before you should lend it an ear, it’s very different.

Download: Rebel Rebel (US single version) – David Bowie (mp3)

See These Eyes So Red

I tried to finish off some new posts for this week but realized I’m not quite ready to let go of David Bowie just yet. He’s pretty much all I’ve been listening to and thinking about this past week and the earth still feels a little off it’s axis to me.

I don’t have much of anything in the way of Bowie rarities but this one isn’t too common on compilations and whatnot. The original version of “Cat People” produced by Giorgio Moroder in its longer, 6:40-minute form on the movie soundtrack.

Download: Cat People (Putting Out Fire) – David Bowie (mp3)

Something for the Weekend

The 1980 Floor Show was a television special Bowie recorded at the Marquee in London in 1973 for the American music show The Midnight Special. It was never shown in England and still hasn’t had an official release. Mind boggling when you see how good this is, and singing a duet of “I Got You Babe” with Marianne Faithful dressed as a nun is audacious even for him.

Now I’m all sad again.

Goodbye Spaceboy

Well, this really puts Ed Stewpot in perspective, doesn’t it?

Unlike seemingly every other kid who grew up in the 1970s I didn’t have my life changed by seeing Bowie perform “Starman” on Top of The Pops in 1972 because I was only nine years old at the time and, to be honest, I don’t actually remember seeing it. But us kids were fascinated by Bowie who was clearly far stranger than Marc Bolan or David Essex in a way we didn’t really understand yet.

I had no clue about gender-bending or performance art, I just liked the fact that he sang about astronauts and aliens — and looked like one himself — and even though I had no idea what “Life On Mars?” was about (I still don’t really) the words fired my imagination and painted some bizarre pictures in my head. I remember going to the house of a school friend whose older sister had just bought Aladdin Sane and we stared at the sleeve image as if we were sneaking an illicit peek at his Dad’s porn magazines. It was both magnetic and a little bit… pervy. Heady, thrilling stuff when you’re a kid, if a little unnerving.

I was on the right wavelength for him by my teens though. The first album of his I bought was the compilation ChangesOne in 1977 which opened the gates and in the space of about two years I’d bought all the others right up to the newest one “Heroes”.

Digging in to Bowie’s back catalogue was a thrilling adventure, you never knew what kind of experience you were going to get and it’s astonishing to think that at this point Ziggy Stardust was only five years old but he had already covered more water and changed skin more times than most artists do in a career. I saw him live at Wembley on the Serious Moonlight tour in 1983 when he was in smiling, family-entertainer mode playing hit after hit after hit — Space Oddity! Life On Mars! Young Americans! The critics were sniffy but I was in dreamland.

Being another working class kid with an artistic/creative streak myself I had other reasons to be inspired by Bowie and even identify with him a little bit. Art schools like mine were full of his children, kids from shitty towns with blue hair and far-out dreams he had shown they could make reality. The early punk scene was driven by Bowie disciples, as was post-punk, synthpop, New Pop, Goth, and every other 80s act with cheekbones and eyeliner. The million tiny seeds he planted through the 1970s flowered and bore glorious fruit.

But all the conceptual, art-school trappings in the world would mean nothing if the records were crap, then he’d just be Steve Harley or some second-rate New Romantic act. The guy knew how to write a song that hit the heart and hips as well as the head and — something which gets overlooked in all the chameleon/artist/icon talk — he was a phenomenally great singer whether it was the theatrical sneer of Ziggy or the deep croon of the Thin White Duke.

And somehow through all he achieved and experienced he seemed to stay a charming, decent, and funny man. Thank you so very much Mr. Jones, may God’s love be with you.

Download: Somebody Up There Likes Me – David Bowie (mp3)

PS: What kind of person can rally themselves to make an album as good as Blackstar when they know they’re dying? Maybe he really was an alien.

Something for the Weekend

Cher, Bing Crosby, Queen, Lulu. David Bowie could sing duets and make records with anyone yet still keep his artistic credibility. Truly, the man’s coolness is bulletproof.

BONUS: There’s something truly surreal about seeing Bowie on American light entertainment television. Here he is bringing da funk — and some cool dance moves — to Dinah Shore.