Bowie’s 50th Birthday Bash, Part 6

Next up on this thread is “Moonage Daydream,” which also happens to be the name of Brett Morgen’s recent Bowie feature-film extravaganza. I finally saw it this weekend; of course I loved it, and of course there are a million things I could nitpick about if I were so inclined. But I’m not, as I realize that Bowie is simply too big a subject to be contained in one movie, even one as long and ambitious as this one. Choices had to be made, and Morgen made them, which is every artist’s prerogative.

He used more footage from the 50th birthday concert than I would have expected, though his sequence for the title song is (quite properly) focused on a Ziggy-era performance featuring Mick Ronson. Back in the day “Moonage Daydream” was a showcase for Ronson as much as Bowie, or maybe even more, with epic guitar solos that gave the singer a chance to catch his breath.

The 1997 version is economical in comparison, with Reeves Gabrels acquitting himself satisfactorily in the limited space he’s given. Dave is in fine voice and looks pretty happy, possibly thinking of the first time he conquered the Earth, all those years ago.


“Daydream” is followed by band intros, a round of “Happy Birthday” led by Gail Ann Dorsey, and a cake presentation. Bowie thanks the audience and tells them, “I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise I won’t bore you.” Which was mostly true.


Bowie’s 50th Birthday Bash, Part 5

After “Heroes” David took a break and had “some throat coat and a cigarette,” he says. He seems very British in that moment, though in fact he had already been a New Yorker for several years.

I wrote several versions of the segue from that to Lou Reed’s appearance onstage, but they were all hacky. Suffice it so say, if you were going to pick one person to embody New York City and all it entails, you could do worse than Lou. Even though he was actually from the suburbs, he became one with NYC in a way that Bowie, as an Englishman, never could.

Their first song together is David’s tribute to the Velvet Underground:


For the first half Lou just stands there looking bemused, possibly trying to remember if he wrote this song. Then suddenly the band drops out and Lou is singing over some kind of jungle breakdown. Why? Well why not? It was David’s birthday and he wanted it that way. There’s a great moment where Lou glances down and to his right to check the lyrics, then looks back to his left at David and grins, as if to say “I got it now.”