Bowie’s new look for 1976 when he became The Man Who Fell to Earth, here in a Haywain shirt. Photographed by Steve Schapiro and published on the cover of the Sunday Times Magazine
David Robert Jones 8 January 1947 – 10 January 2016
Every January, two dates stir the souls of Bowie fans: the 8th being his birthday and the 10th the day he died. On the seventh anniversary of his death, Eighties Blitz Kid and pop singer ANDY POLARIS recalls the dramatic influence Bowie had on his early teens in the way that his fan base would also be galvanized by his art to inspire their own creative dreams. This extract comes from a much longer piece at his own website Apolarisview.wordpress.com … Andy writes:
“ Much has been written about Bowie’s Starman performance in 1972. I had begun a fascination with his image a little earlier after the Melody Maker interview, thanks to an older teenager who also had the album, Hunky Dory.
I began to spend the little pocket money I had on buying all the magazines and music papers that featured him, especially on the cover. Fab 208, PopSwop, Music Star, Music Scene and Jackie thankfully were relatively cheap and I began my scrapbook collection. Ziggy Stardust with his bold make-up and glamorous wardrobe (courtesy of Freddie Burretti and Kansai Yamamoto) was unlike anything seen before and blurred the line between sexes. This beautiful creature offered a world of possibilities to this youth already bored with football and the teenybop fandom that dominated our era. Clothes, style, identity – normal teenage rites of passage – all took on a greater importance over the next few years but now helped define a more alternative journey.
Seeking out Bowie’s references in lyrics opened a new door to imagination. His creative output eased my inner void of loneliness and probably kick-started my interest in science-fiction. Humdrum suburbia was replaced by the magical worlds of Alfred Bester, Philip K Dick, George Orwell and Robert Heinlein to a soundtrack of Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane and Diamond Dogs.
Scissors, Pritt Stick or Gloy Gum and a large desk were my 1970s iPad, and all that were needed, as I lovingly read and then pasted articles onto A4 note paper into a hard grey binder. This became a ritual that continued for my teenage life. I never liked to create collages because I hated cutting up articles too much and words were equally important. What Bowie was saying or what people were saying about him seemed as important as the visuals. That shape-shifting style (musically and visually) meant I never got bored and felt that I evolved along with him, my anticipation becoming almost tangible with news of a new release or a TV appearance… ”
Yamamoto’s second-best-ever tear-away garment, 1973: A white kimono-inspired floor-length cape, emblazoned with Japanese kanji letters spelling out “David Bowie” phonetically, but also translating to “One who spits out words in a fiery manner”. Bowie was the first Western artist to use a hikinuki quick costume-change by dramatically ripping off the cape to reveal his leotard beneath. (Photography Asahi Shimbun)
The Japanese fashion designer Kansai Yamamoto – known for styling David Bowie and creating some of Ziggy Stardust’s most flamboyant outfits – died last week of leukaemia aged 76. He went on to be a huge influence on a generation of younger talents from Jean Paul Gaultier to Hedi Slimane and also worked with Elton John and Stevie Wonder. Here are extracts from some tributes…
“ When Kansai Yamamoto first saw David Bowie descending to the stage on a disco ball, he felt a physical sensation that was like a “chemical reaction”. It was 1973. Because a friend had pleaded with him to stop what he was doing in Tokyo and come to New York, the Japanese designer had taken a 13-hour flight and then rushed from JFK airport to a front-row seat at Radio City Music Hall. When Yamamoto saw Bowie wearing one of his colourful outfits, he thought the long journey had been worth it.
He said: “He was wearing all black and then all of a sudden that disappeared and he was wearing full colour. It was very dramatic and the audience all rose to their feet, so there was a standing ovation right at the beginning. I found David’s aesthetic and interest in transcending gender boundaries shockingly beautiful. It felt like the beginning of a new age.” Yamamoto would go on to play a full part in ushering in this new age… ” / Continued at Times Online
LEFT – A fitting for Bowie in Japan, 1973: The elaborate clash of prints on his asymmetric knitted leotard are derived from the tattoo patterns of yakuza (organised crime syndicates). Kansai Yamamoto himself sports a matching mock turtleneck. Plus doughnut rings for wrists and ankles. (Photography Tajima Kazunal) . . . RIGHT – Space Samurai for Bowie, 1973: The metallic-looking suit in padded satin evokes the split-skirt hakama worn by Japanese samurai as armour. Designed by Kansai Yamamoto for the Aladdin Sane tour. (Bowie Archive)
“ Kansai Yamamoto, the unapologetically flamboyant fashion designer whose love of color, unfettered imagination and exploration of genderless dressing caught the eye of David Bowie and helped define the look of his alter ego, Ziggy Stardust, died on July 21 in Japan.
Kansai, as Mr Yamamoto was generally known, was not as well known as some of his more high-profile Japanese fashion contemporaries, including Yohji Yamamoto, Issey Miyake and Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons. But it was Kansai who led the way for a generation of Japanese design talents to make their mark on the Western industry.
In 1971, he was among the first Japanese designers to show in London — a full decade before Ms Kawakubo and the other Mr Yamamoto. His signature aesthetic of sculptural shapes, clashing textures and prints, and eye-popping color combinations attracted industry attention.
Kansai’s debut collection was splashed across the cover of Harpers & Queen magazine with the tagline “Explosion from Tokyo” and his growing profile led to collaborations with the decade’s most important musician showmen, including Elton John and Stevie Wonder in addition to Mr Bowie, with whom he formed a longstanding creative relationship.
“Color is like the oxygen we are both breathing in the same space,” Kansai once said of his work with Mr Bowie… ” / Continued at NYT online
“When David wore my women’s clothes, people
were very surprised. My clothes were designed
to be worn by women. When I think of it,
it was a bizarre thing for him to do”
– Kansai Yamamoto
“ Kansai Yamamoto was known for his singular aesthetic of bold, avant-garde designs, clashing colours and patterns that often incorporated elements from Japanese culture. His long-standing artistic partnership with Bowie would go on to inspire many younger fashion designers, including Jean Paul Gaultier, Hedi Slimane and Raf Simons, and became a major reference for modern gender-defying fashion.
Bowie was attracted to Yamamoto’s ability to design excessive, sculptural pieces which seemed unconstrained by the confines of gender. In turn, Yamamoto was impressed by Bowie’s ability to put this aesthetic in mainstream popular culture. It also helped that Bowie was slim enough to wear sample size. He said: “My clothes were normally made for professional models – this was the first time they had been used for an artist or singer”… ” / Continued at Guardian online
Yamamoto’s favourite creation for Bowie, 1973: The sculptural Tokyo Pop black vinyl jumpsuit with sequinned stripes and bowed legs is the best tear-away garment ever made. It was inspired by hikinuki, the quick-change technique for kabuki actors to be suddenly revealed wearing a different outfit – in Bowie’s case his flame-red skimpy Woodland Creatures jumpsuit on the Aladdin Sane tour. (Photography Masayoshi Sukita)
“Why was Andy Warhol obsessed with canned food?
Every artist has his own thing going on.
I often use Japanese motifs and sometimes wonder
if I’m choosing them because I’m Japanese”
– Kansai Yamamoto
+++V&A video trailer for the new exhibition, David Bowie is
➢ David Bowie is the enigmatic title of a retrospective exhibition of 300 possessions drawn from Bowie’s personal archive displayed at London’s Victoria & Albert museum, March 23–Aug 11. Appropriately, this week his first album in ten years, The Next Day, sits at No 1 in the Official UK Album Chart. It’s his ninth UK No 1 album (though spookily neither of his recent singles releases is anywhere near the singles chart). Before the V&A show launches, ticket sales exceed 42,000, more than double the advance sales of previous exhibitions at the museum. A few tickets are still available by booking online, in person in Kensington, or by phone +44 (0)20 7907 7073.
FROM THE BOWIE COMMENTARIAT
➢ David Bowie, the Return – Tony Parsons, Miranda Sawyer and La Roux’s Elly Jackson discuss Bowie’s music and influence for Radio 4’s Front Row (broadcast March 7, available on iPlayer for a year). Presenter John Wilson is guided through the V&A exhibits by the show’s curators Victoria Broackes and Geoffrey Marsh.
➢ The Duffy Collection of iconic Bowie images – which include three of his most famous album covers – goes on display May 2–June 4 at the White Cloth Gallery in Leeds LS1 4HT. The show documents Duffy’s special relationship with Bowie over ten years.
“ Jon Abbott at graphic design studio Barnbrook said of the book David Bowie Is: “We wanted to create an engaging pop-object for an audience who have come to expect the unconventional” … The book’s body typeface, Priori Serif, is one from Jonathan Barnbrook’s own foundry, Virus Fonts. Drawn by Jonathan Barnbrook and Marcus Leis Allion, the typeface was influenced by British typographers Gill and Johnston, and fittingly it found one of its first outings on the cover of Bowie’s 2002 album, Heathen … ” / Continued at Creative Review
➢ The day that lightning struck Aladdin – In 1973, Celia Philo directed the photo shoot for David Bowie’s album Aladdin Sane. The result was one of the most iconic images ever created. She talks to Stylist magazine, 2013:
“ Sometimes, when you’re doing something that you know is going to be good, it’s because it’s come from an extreme end of the spectrum of experience: either it’s incredibly hard work, or it comes together almost effortlessly. The photographic shoot for the cover of Aladdin Sane happened like magic. Its success was the result of a lucky collaboration of people … ” / Celia Philo, continued at Stylist
Setting out as Swinging 60s Mod: Bowie promo shot in 1966 for his first single on Pye, Can’t Help Thinking About Me, with his band The Lower Third which included producer Tony Hatch on piano. The NME decided: “Absorbing melody, weakish tune”
➢ Iain R Webb: How David Bowie liberated my wardrobe – As a 14-year-old boy living in a West Country village, Webb, the former Blitz Kid and fashion editor and now RCA professor, thought David Bowie’s style statements were a gift. And so have generations of fashion designers. Read feature in The Independent, March 16, 2013:
“ Bowie’s influence on my life has been major, from the fundamental desire to never be labelled or pigeonholed to my profound love of glitter and penchant for a spikey haircut. And I am not alone … ” / Iain R Webb, continued at The Independent
➢ Glam! The Performance of Style (Feb 8–May 12) is a seriously well-curated multi-media show at Tate Liverpool surveying the 1971–75 phenomenon on both sides of the Atlantic, across the whole spectrum of painting, sculpture, installation art, film, photography and performance. The in-depth survey comes in two halves, drawing a clear distinction between the playful subversion of pop music and fashion that characterised the British glam wave, and the American, which was driven much more profoundly by gender politics. Well worth a daytrip to Liverpool.
Berlin 1976: Bowie with moustache, Tony Visconti and assistant engineer, Edu Meyer, taken in the control room of Hansa Studios by Meyer’s wife, Barbara
♫ BBC Radio 6Music celebrates the life and work of David Bowie throughout Easter week, March 25–31. Gems from the archive feature concerts and interviews which have not been heard in 30 years.
♫ 2013, Shock and awe verdicts – Shapersofthe80s rounds up critical opinion on Bowie’s born-again single Where Are We Now? and the masterful new album The Next Day – “beautiful, obsessive and deliciously cruel”.
❚ HERE WE SEE CLASSIC PIX of the early glam incarnations that broke the rules of rock and roll and put the gender-bending David Bowie into the headlines. Since 1972 Japanese photographer Masayoshi Sukita has gone on capturing the prolific flow of creations from the ever-inventive Bowie. This week in London his long-awaited book Speed of Life documenting their 40-year collaboration is launched by Genesis Publications in its 2,000-copy limited edition. Signed by both Bowie and Sukita, it is priced at £360 ($581) for 300 pages which they caption with their own recollections and memories. Bowie says: “It’s very hard for me to accept that Sukita-san has been snapping away at me since 1972 but that really is the case… May he click into eternity.”
Meanwhile in today’s Sunday Times Magazine art critic Waldemar Januszczak recalls his teenage outing in 5-inch platforms when he paid 90p on the door of Starkers in Boscombe, Dorset, to discover the eye-popping mystique of Ziggy Stardust in August 1972 — minutes after Sukita the photographer arrived in Britain and caught Bowie’s shock show at London’s Royal Festival Hall. He described it as “like an astronomer finding a new planet”.
Januszczak writes: “It was Andy Warhol who invented the immensely attractive cultural idea that anyone could be whoever they wanted to be. It became Bowie’s big idea as well. And the tour he set out on in 1972 featured his most determined efforts yet to become lots of people at once: Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, Major Tom, The Man Who Saved the World. That was just the beginning. The bewildering multi-identitied career photographed for us so sympathtically by Sukita-san in Speed of Life features enough different David Bowies to constitute a football crowd…”
➢ Choose “View full site” – then in the blue bar atop your mobile page, click the three horizontal lines linking to many blue themed pages with background articles.
MORE INTERESTING THAN MOST PEOPLE’S FANTASIES — THE SWINGING EIGHTIES 1978-1984
They didn’t call themselves New Romantics, or the Blitz Kids – but other people did.
“I’d find people at the Blitz who were possible only in my imagination. But they were real” — Stephen Jones, hatmaker, 1983. (Illustration courtesy Iain R Webb, 1983)
“The truth about those Blitz club people was more interesting than most people’s fantasies” — Steve Dagger, pop group manager, 1983
“See David Johnson’s fabulously detailed website Shapers of the 80s to which I am hugely indebted” – Political historian Dominic Sandbrook, in his book Who Dares Wins, 2019
“The (velvet) goldmine that is Shapers of the 80s” – Verdict of Chris O’Leary, respected author and blogger who analyses Bowie song by song at Pushing Ahead of the Dame
“The rather brilliant Shapers of the 80s website” – Dylan Jones in his Sweet Dreams paperback, 2021
A UNIQUE HISTORY
➢ WELCOME to the Swinging 80s ➢ THE BLOG POSTS on this front page report topical updates ➢ ROLL OVER THE MENU at page top to go deeper into the past ➢ FOR NEWS & MONTH BY MONTH SEARCH scroll down this sidebar
❏ Header artwork by Kat Starchild shows Blitz Kids Darla Jane Gilroy, Elise Brazier, Judi Frankland and Steve Strange, with David Bowie at centre in his 1980 video for Ashes to Ashes
VINCENT ON AIR 2022
✱ Deejay legend Robbie Vincent returned to JazzFM on Sundays 1-3pm in 2021… Catch Robbie’s JazzFM August Bank Holiday 2020 session thanks to AhhhhhSoul with four hours of “nothing but essential rhythms of soul, jazz and funk”.
SEARCH our 800 posts or ZOOM DOWN TO THE ARCHIVE INDEX
UNTOLD BLITZ STORIES
✱ If you thought there was no more to know about the birth of Blitz culture in 1980 then get your hands on a sensational book by an obsessive music fan called David Barrat. It is gripping, original and epic – a spooky tale of coincidence and parallel lives as mind-tingling as a Sherlock Holmes yarn. Titled both New Romantics Who Never Were and The Untold Story of Spandau Ballet! Sample this initial taster here at Shapers of the 80s
CHEWING THE FAT
✱ Jawing at Soho Radio on the 80s clubland revolution (from 32 mins) and on art (@55 mins) is probably the most influential shaper of the 80s, former Wag-club director Chris Sullivan (pictured) with editor of this website David Johnson
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