Planet Earth is Blue, and There’s Nothing I Can Do…
It seems hilarious to think that I was six years old when David Bowie released his self-titled debut album, which would have been on June 1st of 1967. Coincidentally, and in an act of incredibly bad timing on Bowie’s part, that was the shared release date of another album you may have heard of: The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. What a way to ensure that your most heartfelt artistic efforts are completely and totally eclipsed by another act! Bad Timing! In hindsight, also hilarious.
Point being that David Bowie has been part of the soundtrack for me since childhood. Surprisingly, in 2014 (four decades on) I learned more about the guy than I ever imagined I didn’t know. First, Showtime aired David Bowie: Five Years, a fantastic documentary spanning five key years in Bowie’s music career that was just one mind-blowing revelation after another. For example, I had no idea that Legendary keyboardist Rick Wakeman played piano all over Hunky Dory. Who even pays attention to stuff like that? Mind blowing. Five Years definitely deepened my respect and admiration for the man, his music and his insane contribution to global pop culture. David Bowie was a Musical Genius!
If you have ears and eyes and you are a David Bowie fan, then you also probably heard about David Bowie Is; the universally critically lauded, career retrospective that became the fastest-selling exhibition in London’s Victoria & Albert Museum’s history. The David Bowie Is exhibition — which featured over 300 items including photos, costumes, artwork, hand-written lyrics, stage props, videos and other items from David Bowie’s Personal Archives toured Toronto, Sao Paulo and Berlin, and Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art — its only stop in the US, among other destinations. At that same time, a documentary film about the touring art exhibition, also called David Bowie Is, had a one-night only screening in various theaters across the country. I saw the film in NYC and it was so exciting that it made me want to spend a thousand dollars just to go to Chicago and see the exhibit. Directed by Hamish Hamilton, the film was an excellent primer and would certainly have greatly enriched your visit, should you have had exhibit tickets at the ready. For those who wwere never able to view the exhibition in person, this film is the next best thing.
In addition to a detailed tour of the exhibition’s key features, the film included tons of back-story and insights from curators Victoria Broackes and Geoffrey Marsh who serve as onscreen hosts and narrators. And let me tell you, they know their shit. One of my favorite parts of the film is a viewing and explanation of extensive, illustrated storyboards that Bowie created for a film to be based on the Diamond Dogs album. It is unreal. You’ll also hear conversations with exhibit-goer-fans, and commentary about Bowie’s far-reaching influence with pop taste-makers such as Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker and fashion designer Kansai Yamamoto, who created the iconic costumes from the Aladdin Sane tour that you’ve been looking at in photos for years.
Everybody who loved him has a David Bowie Story, but I was never so fortunate as to meet him in person or even interview him over the phone, and the only time I saw Bowie play live was when he toured with Nine Inch Nails; a show which I recall absolutely nothing about. So, my story is to recommend watching these two films, if you have not yet seen them. David is gone now, and all we have are our shared memories of him and a life well-lived. Godspeed.