It’s still light out!
I don’t know what time it is there, but it’s ten after nine here, eleven now, and the sun still hasn’t set… I don’t know if it’ll ever set, when I slept at Richard’s house three years back during the summer solstice it was like that Al Pacino movie set in Alaska, “Insomnia,” you’re waiting for complete darkness and it never comes!
So what have I observed about Londoners…THEY SMOKE!
Once upon a time smoking was cool, now everybody knows it causes cancer. I can understand doing it for a bit when you’re a teenager, that rebellion thingy, but once you grow up…do you not want to grow old? I know quitting sucks, but so does dying. You realize that when the end is near, like so many other truths your parents told you.
And I realized everybody was smoking because I saw them out last night in Piccadilly Circus. I’m used to L.A., where there is no nightlife, where everything interesting is happening at home, and you’re not invited. But there’s definitely a scene in London, and it’s not only there.
But back to smoking… I did see a woman outside a hospital, in a wheelchair, with the drip bag attached, puffing on a cigarette. And no, it wasn’t a “MAD” magazine photo shoot.
Today we started off with a jaunt around Hyde Park. We saw Kensington Palace. The newlyweds with the soon to be newborn are going to live there, I wouldn’t, maybe because the point was made again and again in the play last night, that it’s actually not good to be the queen. Everybody’s got problems, and we want our privacy to work them through.
And then we strolled down to the V&A (Victoria and Albert Museum) for the David Bowie exhibition.
I learned plenty.
Just not what they intended.
The exhibit is schizophrenic, it’s needed to be laid out linearly, from yesterday to today. But you keep wondering why they skipped “Ziggy Stardust” when they’re talking about “The Earthling,” and then you go into a further room and there it is. Huh?
And if you’re a big fan, and I was, you know so much.
But not everything.
First and foremost, BOWIE WAS DYING TO MAKE IT!
Yup, it didn’t happen by accident. His father gave him an acrylic saxophone, he played a twelve string because it looked good. He was in numerous bands before going solo and striking it rich. And in each and every one of them, he was focused not only on the music, but the look, both the fashions and the staging.
And he came from a musical family. Not only was his mother a singer, so was his father’s first wife. Yup, Bowie’s dad John blew $400,000 to $600,000 in today’s money, his inheritance, trying to make his first wife famous.
That’s what they don’t tell you about performers, it’s in their blood.
And I didn’t know that Paul Buckmaster did the strings on “Space Oddity” and Rick Wakeman played keyboard.
But what struck me most about the exhibit was…
You’ve got to soak it up, you’ve got to read, watch and observe. Nobody exists in a vacuum. You need to be inspired, you need to twist and meld these influences into something new.
2. Bowie was a product of his era, when pop stars were king, when television was the best exposure. We don’t live in that era anymore. What I don’t understand is why today’s stars don’t utilize today’s medium, i.e. the Internet. No one wants an album every few years when they’re surfing the Net every minute for new info. Furthermore, when it comes to imaging, everybody’s looking at a mobile handset! Bowie blew it with his new album. He could have taken over the Internet, he could have matched his music to the era, but he didn’t.
You’ve got to:
A. Create and distribute constantly. Perfection is irrelevant. Don’t polish, release. Used to be we had very little music, we saved for albums and played them incessantly, because it’s all we had. Now, we’ve got the history of recorded music at our fingertips, we’re grazers, graze along with us!
B. Mystery is history. We pondered who Bowie truly was, it was part of his magic, now there’s a camera on every corner and everybody’s known. Use this to your advantage! The old pop star is dead, create the new one!
C. Communicate the way your fans do. Tweeting and Instagraming is not marketing or promotion, it’s your art, the same way Bowie’s outfits were.
3. Pop careers are brief. Primarily because radio abandons you. Give Bowie credit, he kept innovating, but radio became static. And without radio, he couldn’t penetrate anybody but his fan base. It’s a harsh reality. Although with the decline of radio, a new reality is being born.
4. They make the point that pop stars used to try and become movie stars, because musical careers were brief and movie stars were kings. But by the late sixties, rock stars were kings. Bowie tried to make the movie/acting thing work for him, it never works for any pop star, not even Justin Timberlake, but it does keep you in the public eye.
I guess what I’m saying is David Bowie was a product of his era.
And his era passed.
So why do you keep playing by his rules? It’d be like trying to dial a push button phone, push the keys hard on a computer, as if it were a manual typewriter…you’ve got to adjust to the new game.
Everything used to be so small, so quaint. You could do a show and build word of mouth slowly. Now, if you’re any good, the highlights of your performance are all over YouTube in minutes. And if you’re not a star, no one cares what you do. Everything’s topsy-turvy, but the business runs like it’s still the same.
And video… Today you make your own. You don’t have to worry about acting. They’re truly advertisements for the rest of your work. And they’re cheap. You can make them for free!
Not that you can’t spend.
But how are you going to spend?
Yes, the biggest disappointment of the Bowie show was it was made for non-fans. You know a fan, he wants to dig deep, he laps up the obscure, he lives for factoids. But there were very few in this exhibit. It was a victory lap for the uninitiated.
Not that that’s Bowie’s fault.
And good for him that he can draw so many people, it was packed.
But we own the music, not the curators or the mainstream reviewers. Music is for fans.
And I can tell you that Ron Davies wrote “It Ain’t Easy” on the “Ziggy Stardust” album, but there was no depth about that production whatsoever. Although I did see some handwritten lyrics, which was so cool.
Remember dropping the needle on “Five Years”?
That’s a feeling not contained in this exhibition.
Then again, that’s music, something you hear, not see.
It all comes down to the music. The imaging is subservient to that.
I would have wanted to hear more from Tony Visconti, more from Ken Scott, more studio pictures, more context of what was and was not successful at the time.
But instead we get costumes from SNL.
Oh, I don’t want to bitch, I just want to give you some perspective.
Let go! Be inspired! Create! Blow our minds!
Human nature has not changed. We want to be intrigued, we want to be titillated, and now, like never before, you can go straight to your audience, there are no restrictions. So I just can’t understand why you’re doing it the same old way.
That’s why music is unhealthy. Because there are no David Bowies.
Mr. Jones had one helluva long ride. You wanna know why? Because he kept adjusting. He kept looking at the landscape and cogitating his place in it. And when he got on top, he went into hyperdrive, he was anything but safe, that’s when he accelerated change, that’s when he truly began to lead.
See anybody doing that today?
The challenge is set. The gauntlet is thrown down.