NOTE: DATE CHANGE - the event David is speaking of appears to be happening on the 16th instead. We still don't know where.
Is David M. even more alienated than I am?
David is brilliant, funny, and sometimes, um, a little unsettling as a performer, but he's totally unique and talented. He's also not so well-appreciated, these days. People will come out in droves to see other figures in the first generation of Vancouver punk do a show - not that NO FUN was ever really punk - but the last show I saw of David's had eight die-hard fans there who were not with the band, including myself and my girl. Granted, it was a Ukrainian Christmas-themed show where David performed a number of his Christmas songs two weeks after Christmas had passed - which is expecting a lot from Vancouverites, maybe - but it was also a vastly entertaining experience. Mind you, his more timely Dec 23rd concert at the Railway had at least a few dozen people in the audience, so he's not THAT under-appreciated; and the Straight had me do a feature on his well-received Khats fest appearance last year...
But still, this is a guy who is not getting his due. I mean, the first time I wrote about him, for The Skinny some ten years ago, it was apropos of the experience of turning up to see him at one of his monthly shows at Chapters Robson where I was the only person in the audience, ferchrissakes, at least until a woman turned up and joined us who proved to be his wife. I've been to a lot of concerts in my day, but never elsewhere have I been to a public performance where the ratio of performers been one-to-one. While I've heard a few disapproving groans from audiences at his more off-colour moments, I've never seen anyone go to one of his shows and not have a good time. I do not entirely get it, why he doesn't have more fans.
Anyhow, David is doing a "small salute" to David Bowie this Friday. The venue remains to be determined. I mistakenly described it, when shooting him some questions about it via email, as a tribute show. This is David's reply:
DAVID M: It’s not a “tribute”, it’s a “small David Bowie salute”. I’m not much for tributes (see “Tribute To NO FUN”), benefits (see my song “Tsunami Benefit”), or other self-serving venue-fillers, though they do provide good value for money for audiences, provided they don’t just sneak in or get on the guest list.
My original thought was a way to do one particular David Bowie song that I didn’t think anyone had ever tried to do in the way I had in mind. After that, I thought that the various David Bowie songs I’ve worked up over the years might add up to 40 minutes or so, and I’d never just played a bunch of his songs one after the other before, so there was that. And then I figured that after a modest little set of David Bowie songs, watching “The Linguini Incident” would be fun and cheerful for any sad David Bowie fan who had or hadn’t seen it. That already added up to a little evening somewhere, even before considering enjoying other items from my vast Bowie audio/video collection (official releases only, YouTube is so common), which suggested a small event, easily arranged right here in the Levellers common room, possibly even just in my apartment for a few people who wanted cheering up.
I prepared what I thought was a suitably humble poster (leaving off any specific venue information so as to stay off any Yelp “Neighbourhood Spotlight” e-mailings) and posted it on Facebook. There was an immediate “I’ll be there wherever it is” reaction, so I’m considering an alternate way of doing my “small David Bowie salute”. I see that LanaLou’s is having a Bowie karaoke night tonight, which should attract a hard-drinking crowd. Maybe any local David Bowie-related event, even mine, can’t help but be crass and cheesy.
Anyhow, all will be revealed shortly. Answering your questions:
1. When and where did you first arrive at Bowie?
1) I first heard of David Bowie by reading John Mendelsohn’s Rolling Stone article about him in 1970, when “The Man Who Sold The World” was released in the States. Bowie was in America, wearing a dress, promoting the album, and the article made him sound interesting. But I didn’t actually hear him until “Hunky Dory” came out in early 1972, and was available in Canada. I spotted it on a record shopping trip to Kelly’s in New Westminster with my friend (and first bass player) Mike McKenzie, and we both thought it was great, with no hype whatsoever. Then “Ziggy Stardust” came out that summer, and that, too, was great, and that fall RCA reissued Bowie’s first two albums (including “The Man Who Sold The World”) in the now-familiar Ziggy-photo covers, and they were great in their own, different, ways. Then David Bowie was everywhere.
2. Did you ever have a "glam" period yourself, putting on makeup or such?
2) The song “Do The Girl” (it’s on “Snivel”, but it was first recorded in 1975 for the initial NO FUN album) is about the early 1970’s phenomenon of chubby bearded heterosexual rock musicians putting on glam clothes and make-up. This was very common at the time, and hopeless for those musicians. Bowie was inimitable, and very thin and pretty. Teaching fans how to dress is probably the most important function of rock stars, and no rock movement ever succeeded if fans couldn’t dress up for it. I did dress up as the Rocky Horror Picture Show guy one Hallowe’en in the early 80’s, though.
3. Are you going to be mutating any of the Bowie songs on the tribute - into Gorgo ads or "Elf Toymaker" or such - or will this be straight-up?
3) We’ve done lots of Bowie Gorgo ads over the years, including some medleys of them (“Lime Spider Tour”, “Glass Gorgo Tour”, “Lime + Vision Tour”), and I’m not ruling anything out yet. There are NO FUN songs, like “Do The Girl” and “It Pays To Be Glam” that would be relevant, and my new song “So Long, Hey, Kid” is meant to work both ways, as a “My Way”-style kiss off and as a fond farewell to someone that’s gone. There are other Bowie-infused cover songs I do like “So Young” (Suede), “Rent” (Pet Shop Boys), “Heartbeat” (Jobriath), and Rufus Wainwright’s “Vicious World” and “Vibrate”, and those would fit. But I’m thinking that just the Bowie songs makes it more different for me, and there’s a mood to doing it that way which seems worthwhile to me.
4. Do you have any favourite Bowie memories or stories? Ever see him live? Ever meet him?
4) I saw Bowie at the Coliseum on February 2, 1976, at the Gardens in Iggy Pop’s band on April 7, 1977, at B.C. Place on August 9, 1983, at the Coliseum on September 12, 1983, at B.C. Place on August 15, 1987, at the Coliseum on March 15, 1990, with Tin Machine (at what was their final show) at the Commodore on December 21, 1991, in Tacoma at the Tacomadome with Nine Inch Nails on October 24, 1995, and at the Plaza Of Nations on September 6, 1997. All of these shows were great, and memorable. Some even have stories (like being with the girlfriend I was breaking up with in the medical room when the show started on September 12, 1983). We almost got backstage at Tin Machine, but as we were waiting in front of the stage long after the show, local rock writer Greg Potter was being so loud and unpleasant that they threw us all out. Penny was INCENSED. And, of course, there’s the May 20, 1990 Railway Club (“Meet rock superstar David Bowie”) matter, covered on “No Fun: The Beatles Of Surrey” a couple of days ago [editor's note: where?]. I never had a more meaningful Bowie moment, though, than the day in 1997 when I played a version of “Absolute Beginners” (just singing and guitar) at the wedding of my dear friend Kent Lindsay (who requested the song) as they came up the aisle. I really hammered the “the rest can go to HELL” in that nice little Anglican church, rather than swallowing it. My perspective was different than anyone else’s that day, but I’ll always remember it.
5. What are the most meaningful Bowie songs/ albums for you?
5) As I said, I am about as well-versed in the David Bowie oeuvre as anyone you’ll meet who isn’t a professional about it. So I like it all, even the maligned parts of his career, as aspects of a whole. I know his major albums so well that I hardly need to play them (this also applies to the Beatles with me), but there’s lots of other stuff to listen to with Bowie. After he went from the World’s Biggest Cult Hero to “Let’s Dance” Stadium Rock Superstar, he did some albums that people don’t like much (even Bowie hated “Too Dizzy”, which he removed from “Never Let Me Down” after its initial pressing), but I listen to them all regularly. I’m even going to rebuy sometime (on iTunes) all the pointless 12” singles from the 80’s that Penny ended up with after we broke up. Anyhow, David Bowie never made a “better” album than the first two I heard (“Hunky Dory” and “The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars”), but I’ll recommend a few individual songs that others might not: “Atomica” (from the deluxe “The Next Day”), “Fall Dog Bombs The Moon” (from “Reality”), “The Pretty Things Are Going To Hell” (from “...hours”), “The Buddha Of Suburbia” (from the album of that name), “Get Real” (bonus track on “Outside 1”), “Dead Man Walking” (from “Earthling”), “Goodbye Mr. Ed” (from “Tin Machine II”), “Bus Stop” (from “Tin Machine”), “Beat Of Your Drum” (from “Never Let Me Down”), “That’s Motivation” (from “Absolute Beginners”), “Chilly Down” (from “Labyrinth”), “Tumble And Twirl” (from “Tonight”), “Shake It” (from “Let’s Dance”), “Alternate Candidate” (bonus track on “Diamond Dogs”), “God Knows I’m Good” (from “Space Oddity”), “Ching-A-Ling” (from “Love You Till Tuesday”), and “Let Me Sleep Beside You” (original version from “Early On”).
That’s quite enough.
NOTE: DATE CHANGE - the event David is speaking of appears to be happening on the 16th instead. We still don't know where. But see his Facebook page for more, I guess!).
AND ONE MORE TIME: No, it's on the 16th, it looks like! Venue TBA.