“I have always had a repulsive need to be something more than human” David Bowie
Last year NME conducted a poll to crown the ultimate icon of its lifetime. Bowie came third. A respectable place yes, but it could be argued that his influence was overlooked. Outraged by this I brought the debate to the arena of a sixth form common room. The topic inspired such enlightened quotes as: “he might of been an icon in the 70’s or something, but people have forgotten about him now”; “I can’t see how his influence has lasted” and “I don’t even know what he sounds like”.
I began to wonder, were they right, had Bowie really been forgotten?
But this was a year ago now, and times have been changing. After a decade of almost complete silence and minimal public appearances, Bowie burst back into the worlds eye in January with surprise new single Where Are We Now? His new album The Next Day debuted at number 1 in the UK album charts selling 94,048 copies in its first week.
And then there’s David Bowie is… the V&A’s exhibition that broke box office records with over 50,000 advanced tickets sold! A journey through the mind of a master, it is less of an exhibition than a sensory experience. With unprecedented access to his archives, the exhibition had over 300 never before seen pieces, from original lyrics to personal photos and artwork.
David Bowie is inside.
When you arrive you’re met by one of many original costumes: no glass, no barriers, all that’s stopping you touching it is the force field of respect. It is a visual feast, a mix of technological genius and iconic items. You are drawn to a mirrored chamber; within it Ziggy Stardust’s legendary debut Top of the Pops performance is reflected so many times over it saturates the minds eye. At the exhibits heart is the costume that shocked the world and changed the future of music, its stance pointing right at you.
David Bowie is daring you not to reassess everything you have seen before.
It’s dark, like a chasm of time, and surrounding you the most eclectic mix of influences: from Oscar Wilde to the moon landings. A periodic table of Bowie maps the world he has composed, showing the links between those who influence him and those he has influenced. It reads like an encyclopedia of post enlightenment culture with Bowie at its centre.
David Bowie is “the prettiest clown at the circus”, Hamlet, androgynous alien Ziggy, the Thin White Duke, Halloween Jack…
And then you are engulfed in his performance, each wall is covered in a projection and he is performing for you. All of his defining moments are fused in this room. “This is not only the last show of the tour, but it’s the last show that we’ll ever do” Ziggy announces, erasing himself like a Cheshire Cat with a final performance of “Rock n’ Roll Suicide. “When I first played here in 1971 this had just been released” he notes before his performance of Changes at Glastonbury in 2000, unsettlingly aware of his own cultural relevance.
Performance after performance and each one as powerful as the last, you are locked into him, mind and soul. It has been 45 years since Bowie’s debut album but in this momentous year it is clear that his influence is as significant as ever.
David Bowie is everywhere.
“David Bowie is Happening Now” a Nationwide Cinema event takes place on the 13th August.
For more information go to http://www.vam.ac.uk
By Rebecca Lewis
Rebecca’s blog: http://musicismyradar.weebly.com/music-news.html