I found myself listening to Young Americans yesterday, and being amazed by it. It may not be Bowie’s best album—I’d give that to either Ziggy Stardust or Station to Station, although it’s hard to ignore Hunky Dory, and Diamond Dogs begs to be included in the conversation—but in a way it’s his most remarkable. Here is Bowie in 1975, coming off the noisy art-rock of Diamond Dogs, right in the middle of his cocaine psychosis era, and he decides he wants to make an album of Philly soul. He’s out of his depth, out of his idiom, out of his country, and out of his mind; and yet somehow he pulls it off. Crazy.
Anyway, without further ado, here are the answers to the birthday quiz:
1. What was David’s original last name, and why did he change it?
David Jones; to avoid being confused with the Monkees’ Davy Jones.
2. Why are his eyes two different colors?
In high school, he was punched in the face by his friend George Underwood, apparently in a dispute over a girl.
3. What was the first instrument he learned to play?
4. Name the author of the 1977 Melody Maker article excerpted here:
I remember David playing me ‘Space Oddity’ in his room and I loved it and he said he needed a sound like The Bee Gees, who were very big then. The stylophones he used on that, I gave him. Tony Visconti turned me on to stylophones. The record was a sleeper for months before it became a hit, and I played on “The Prettiest Star,” you know. I thought it was a great song, and it flopped completely.
But I never got the feeling from David that he was ambitious. I remember he’d buy antiques if he had a hit, when he should have saved the money.
5. Which of the following people were at one time considered for the part David played in The Man Who Fell to Earth?
a. Jack Nicholson
b. Peter Fonda
c. Michael Crichton
d. Herve Villechaize
e. Peter O’Toole
f. Marlon Brando
c and e (Michael Crichton and Peter O’Toole).
6. Which Bowie album had the working title “Planned Accidents”?
7. Which album had the working title “Vampires and Human Flesh?”
8. Which album did he tell a reporter was to be called “Revenge, or the Best Haircut I Ever Had?”
9. The Rykodisc reissue of “Heroes” contained a previously unreleased and untitled instrumental which Bowie gave the name “Abdulmajid.” What is the significance of this name?
It’s his wife Iman’s last name.
10. Which early-period Bowie single was rereleased in the UK after the success of Ziggy Stardust and sold a surprising 250,000 copies?
a. “Love You Till Tuesday”
b. “The Laughing Gnome”
c. “London Boys”
d. “Rubber Band”
b. “The Laughing Gnome”
11. The rhythm section of Tin Machine (and on Iggy Pop’s Bowie-produced Lust for Life) consisted of two brothers who were the sons of a famous comedian. Name him.
12. Which member of Monty Python’s Flying Circus is godfather to David’s son Duncan (a/k/a Zowie)?
13. Name the author of the poem excerpted here:
i listened to the record for 72 hours. day and night.
watching tv and in my sleep. like station to station and
low, heroes is a cryptic product of a high order of
intelligence. committed to survival. the rhythum tracks
are intel-disco. lysis-discos. the disintegration of
brain into lingua the pulse of rhythum. high east
coast wherein all the musicians play w/grace and taste.
the title song is wonderful. it exposes us to our most
precious and private dilemma. he has captured in this
song that desperate moment when one will die for
love. the track is pure. i am waiting for my man.
but i love that song too and what we love we love
repeated. the lyrics are really beautiful. one falls
in love and gets lost in its swirl. one projects far
aware and across the boundaries of space and placement.
we are in dream alive. we are not planets away but
separated by a room or wall of wire. thats all.
heroes is the theme song for every great movie.
made remade or yet to come.”
Patti Smith. Who, by the way, spelled “rhythm” with a u on purpose, in case you were wondering.
I agree 100% re Young Americans. It has this amazingly cool, consistent sound throughout. A little like Avalon — another great record — but more human. “Win” in particular, as I think you prolly know, is one of my favorite songs of the last 400 years.
As far as best albums go, Ziggy is tops, but Aladdin Sane is as good as it gets
haf fun yo
here’s one for you:
Why IS David Bowie David Bowie?
(answer next week)
Hunky Dory for me, Space Oddity has some killer tracks; Letter to Hermione, Memories of a free festival and the title track…
Good quiz, Bill.
Well, here I am back five years (how appropriate, no?) with the answer why David Bowie IS David Bowie.
David Bowie is David Bowie because he is David-fucking-Bowie. Period.