a space oddity

by Art Chantry:

everybody loves david bowie. he’s the ultimate statesman of the weirdo brigade. he’s a guy who has been there, done it, got the tshirt, and cashed in. he has more indie cred than anybody earth – so much he can NEVER spend it all. i can’t think of anything (and i mean ANYTHING) he could do that would ruin his prestige. he could eat a baby on stage in a baptist church while endorsing rick santorum for emperor and still be applauded. everybody would just assume it’s an artform and think he was a genius. he is a superman. these are just the facts, jack.

---..., just pointed out that the reason RCA tried to sell bowie as a space alien was the only thing they could relate his presentation to was funkadelic - all his costumes and glitter and snazz. that's as close as the corporate mind could figger it. think she's right.---AC

but, that wasn’t always true. when he first toured america (to promote his ‘ziggy stardust’ LP) ,he couldn’t get arrested. he was some british corssdressing alien freak show that only dorks and “fags” would go see (in the language of the era). even though he had many LP’s already released in his native england and many many hit singles and was a huge pop phenomena over there, in amercia he was an an unknown joke.

a guy i knew in high school – he was a classic jock – secretly told me he went to see david bowie on his first amercian tour. but, it was a secret – he didn’t want anybody to know he had gone. however, he really needed to talk to somebody about it. so, he chose dorky but smart ME. everybody thought i was a weird gay kid or something (i dunno). but, scott had to unload what he saw on my shoulders.

in tacoma, in the very early 1970′s (i graduated in 1972) high school was like the proto stages of slackerdom. the jesus freak movement was the hip thing (everybody was buying ‘jesus christ, superstar’) and everybody was stoned to the gills. my experimental federaly funded high school was small (only a year old) and acid had just invaded the northwest. we all started high school with crew cuts and by the time we left we had hair down to our butts. we even had a riot – complete with tear gas and cops busting heads – on our campus. so, the idea that this jock kid would go see bowie was not weird in the wider world, but in our shcool, he was afraid everybody would think he was gay (well, it WAS tacoma, ya know. it was very different world back then).

scott the jock was the only person i’ve ever met who saw that first bowie gig in seattle. it was at the paramount theater and scott said there was only like 100 people there – mostly the local flamboyant drag queen community (like “the whiz kidz”). i had a simlar experience when i went to see t.rex at the same venue a couple of years later. the audience was an odd mix of hipster teeny-boppers and poodle-dog bewigged burly drag queens. a very young nikki sixx (passed out in the men’s room) took a swing at me when i checked to see if he was still alive. you know, THAT kind of a crowd – fucked up and weird. poor scott had never seen anything like it before (of course.)

apparently bowie entered the stage on a suspended crescent moon lowered from above. that was about all scott could blurt out before his eyes glazed over and he wandered off. man, i would have given my left eye to have seen that – a big empty (presumably cold) antique vaudevile house full of drag queens with the spiders from mars on stage blaring away while ziggy stardust slowly lowers to the stage on giant cornball crescent moon swing. what an image!

this is an ad from an old rolling stone (don’t know the date. any help with that?) for his premiere amercian tour. it’s so primitive. the RCA folks had ZERO idea what to do with david bowie. the best those corporate nerds could come up with was to emphasize the ‘alien being’ aspect of him and promote him as some sort of invasion from outer space. pretty lame, eh? dig that spacey ‘computer type’ they used on the headline! so very ‘sci-fi’.

of course, the master himself (bowie) soon stepped up and took control of his own narrative and the rest is history. but, at this point, this is bowie lost in the dark, searching for a path. lord knows the record corporations didn’t have a clue. they hadn’t worked on anything this PLASTIC since the monkees!

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