Mercury Prize 2013: David Bowie Favourite, I Think He's Rubbish

David Bowie's comeback album has been nominated for the Mercury Prize, but is it just me who think he's a bit naff?
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David Bowie's comeback album has been nominated for the Mercury Prize, but is it just me who think he's a bit naff?

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And we know this because a small cabal of Bowie-philes keep telling us it. These are the forty-somethings who control much of our media. Jonathan Ross and Ricky Gervais are the public face of this shadowy elite, but beneath the surface lies a vast network of Bowie obsessives: producers, authors, presenters, editors, journalists.

They commission each other to write articles and make TV documentaries in which they simper and fawn about their horse-toothed idol. Back in the 1970’s these people were the weird and delicate children who nobody talked to in the playground. So they sought solace in the spindly arms of a ginger-haired clown called Ziggy Stardust.

Ziggy played guitar. He played it left-handed. He looked a bit like Cilla Black. It was a winning combination.

The weird kids had found a friend; a goofy buddy from outer-space. He told them it was okay to be pretentious, po-faced and slightly aloof. It was alright to dabble with make-up, prance around with mime and pretend to be on drugs.

Bowie became an idol for these teenage geeks. Their devoted support helped catapult him from a novelty pop singer to a mainstream star. They slavishly followed his ever changing costumes and idiotic personas. They bought his tinny music and searched for profound meaning within his meaningless lyrics.

It is the obsessive and needy nature of these Bowie cultists, which makes them so dangerous and deluded - even after all of these years. They retain a blinkered devotion to the Thin White Duke which renders them incapable of logic or reason; unable to grasp the concept that Bowie might actually have been a bit shit. Or at least, that he’s been massively overrated.

Because if you strip away all the misty-eyed nostalgia, you are left with a musician who, in a 40-year recoding career, has made five-or-six decent songs. His most memorable stage performance in recent years has been to get hit in the eye by a lollipop.

Bowie has always been about style over substance. His first job was in advertising and he realised early doors that to market himself he needed a gimmick. Releasing a novelty song about a laughing gnome didn’t work, but dressing as a transvestite Ronald McDonald proved just the ticket.

In doing so, he provided the inspiration for the likes of Marilyn Manson, Slipknot, Lady Gaga and a multitude of other average performers who understood the commercial benefits of dressing like a mentalist.

The whole of the 80’s was tainted by the eye-liner wearing groups who had been influenced by the Bowie brand of style over substance

It is bizarre that Bowie is cited as being a fashion icon, particularly by elderly football casuals. When you look back at his different looks over the years, it is remarkable how he always managed to maintain the appearance of an absolute pillock. Leotards, kimonos, eye-patches, bouffant haircuts, white knee-length-boots; usually all worn at the same time.

And behind Bowie’s costumes and zany characters; there was a void. There was nothing there. It was all just an act; a series of fictional characters. No underlying message or genuine emotion. Just a theatrical performance.

The interviews with Bowie, especially those during the 1970’s, are excruciatingly dull. It pulls back the curtains to reveal the mundane reality of the character behind his wacky stage persona - a boring bloke called David Jones. If you close your eyes, it’s like listening to a David Brent style office manager.

Here are a few of Bowie’s memorable zingers from over the years:

“I'm pretty good with collaborative thinking. I work well with other people.”

“It amazes me sometimes that even intelligent people will analyze a situation or make a judgement after only recognising the standard or traditional structure of a piece.”

“I believe that I often bring out the best in somebody's talents.”

But Bowie can let his music do the talking. He has, after all, recorded more than 550 songs. The problem is that despite a purple patch in the mid-70’s, they just aren’t that good. It’s all subjective but it’s hard to justify his status as a musical legend.

As a child of the 80’s, my memories of Bowie are radically different to those who know him from the 70’s. I remember him for his cringe-worthy posturings alongside Mick Jagger in the Dancing in the Street video. That and a smattering of syrupy hits, like China Girl and Let’s Dance. His music represented all that was rubbish about 80’s music: the overproduced thin sounds of synths and Bowie's affected vocal warblings.

And if he wasn’t releasing crap singles; he was inspiring them. The whole of the 80’s was tainted by the eye-liner wearing groups who had been influenced by the Bowie brand of style over substance; the likes of Japan, Kajagoogoo and Duran Duran.

But none of this matters. David Bowie is a legend. And whether he is or not is never going to be an issue. Bowie knows, better than most, that you create your own reality. And this particular version has been decided for us by his Taliban-like followers.

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