David Bowie Confidential – WIF Spotlight

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Obscure Facts


David Bowie

David Bowie was a man who lived a life filled to the brim with adventure, mystery, and hair-spray. During his time here on Earth, the Starman accomplished more in a decade of his career than most could in five lifetimes. For this reason, even fans of Bowie aren’t aware of the full scope of the kind of crazy crap he got up to during his half-century-long career.

10. He didn’t know how to pronounce his own name, which he had previously changed twice

Born David Robert Jones, Bowie decided to change his name early in his career to Tom Jones in 1965 to avoid being mistaken for Monkees singer Davy Jones. Just a week after making this decision, Welsh singer Tom Jones released his smash-hit It’s Not Unusual in anticipation of the Carlton dance phenomenon of the ’90s. Annoyed, the young singer changed his name again to David Bowie, after the famous American knife – supposedly because, like him, it had two edges.

The problem was, throughout his entire career Bowie pronounced his last name ‘BOW-ee’, while Jim Bowie, the man the knife is named after, pronounced it ‘BOO-ey’. Something the singer wasn’t aware of until he visited Scotland and heard everyone pronounce it “wrong.” Confused, Bowie came to the conclusion that how his name was pronounced wasn’t as important as people knowing it in the first place.

9. He almost died because he ate nothing but peppers for a month

The album Station to Station is considered one of Bowie’s best. Released in 1976 to rave reviews, Bowie himself remained largely oblivious to the album’s success later in life because he spent much of the recording process blitzed out of his mind on cocaine.

Bowie spent virtually the entire recording process in a state of near-psychosis, surrounding himself with ancient Egyptian artifacts and spending much of his time ranting about witches trying to steal his semen. As a side effect of his cocaine-only diet, Bowie largely lost his appetite and subsisted on nothing but peppers washed down with cold milk. This diet nearly killed the singer, seeing his weight drop to below 100 pounds at one point.

The whole experience shook Bowie, who when asked what he thought of Los Angeles after recording the album there, replied simply, “The f***ing place should be wiped off the face of the earth.” Truer words have never been spoken, Bowie. Truer words.

8. He was voted the best dressed Briton… ever

David Bowie changed his appearance and outfit more times than a indecisive Dark Souls player. He donned everything from suits sharp enough to give a the Statue of David a paper cut to custom made couture dresses, just because he could. In a 2013 poll, Britons recognized Bowie’s commitment to constant reinvention by voting him the best dressed Briton in history.

Bowie managed to walk away with nearly 50% of the vote, beating out everyone from Queen Alexandra to Beau Brummel, aka, the man who invented the suit. It speaks to Bowie’s universal appeal and androgynous appearance that a majority of polled Britons felt that he dressed better than all British royalty as well as the guy who invented the concept of wearing a suit.

7. He’s an integral part of the Metal Gear Solid Universe

David Bowie possessed an uncanny ability to alter his physical form like a lizard-man or, if you prefer, man-lizard. Bowie actually changed the way he looked so much that throughout his career he’s inadvertently styled himself to look like every character in the video game series Metal Gear Solid.

As it turns out, this is no accident, and Bowie is a key part of the Metal Gear universe, with key characters and plot points being named after his various alter-egos and songs. As if this wasn’t overt enough, the character Raiden was described as looking exactly like David Bowie in the novelization of Metal Gear Solid 2, while another character called The Fury quotes Bowie as he flies into space and explodes. If this sounds odd, remember that this is a video game series that suggests its main character invented Mountain Dew, Doritos and Axe body spray.

6. He saved the first music video recorded in space

A few years ago real-life spaceman and all-around badass, Commander Chris Hadfield, recorded a cover of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” in space, making it the first music video ever recorded in, well, space. As an aside, has anyone ever noticed that if you type out and say the same word aloud multiple times in a row it starts to sound weird?

Bowie loved the cover and personally thanked Hadfield for singing it, calling it the most moving and beautiful rendition of the song he’d ever heard. The problem was, YouTube kept taking the video down because although Bowie wrote and sang the song, he didn’t own the rights to it. This put YouTube in a unique legal quandary as, although Bowie’s publisher was correct in asserting that it owned the rights to the song, said rights didn’t apply in outer space. And that’s an argument Bowie put forward on Hadfield’s behalf, making him instrumental in making sure the first cover recorded in the upper stratosphere stayed freely available for humanity to enjoy. Speaking of covers…

5. He was annoyed by a Nirvana cover

In 1993 Nirvana covered one of the Bowie’s most famous hits, “The Man Who Sold the World”much to the surprise of the singer who was shocked he was a big enough part of the American musical landscape for Nirvana to even know who he was. After Kurt Cobain passed away, Bowie expressed regret at never being able to pick Cobain’s brain and find out why he chose to cover his song, once saying that simply having the chance to speak to the grunge legend would have been “real cool.”

Although Bowie was ultimately flattered by the cover, he did become somewhat annoyed at its enduring legacy as a “Nirvana song.” Bowie would later note that when he played the song at concerts in the States, younger fans would approach him to talk about how neat it was that he’d covered a Nirvana song. Bowie’s reaction was to call them a “tosser” and tell them to “f**k off.”

4. Christopher Nolan begged him to be Nikola Tesla

David Bowie has had such a commanding screen presence that his cameos often caused the movies he was appearing in to freeze for a moment just to announce that, holy crap, it’s David Bowie. Initially hesitant to appear in movies, Bowie needed to be coaxed into starring in The Prestige by director Christopher Nolan.

According to the director, he never had anyone else but Bowie in mind to play scientist Nikola Tesla, which resulted in him being somewhat upset when Bowie turned the part down. Not willing to take no for an answer, Nolan flew to New York to personally appeal to Bowie, basically begging him to appear in the film. Bowie was swayed by Nolan’s passion and agreed to bless the film with his godly visage.

3. He once played the Elephant Man on Broadway

David Bowie was an astonishingly handsome man, what with his teasing androgynous appearance, cheekbones capable of cutting glass, and soul-piercing stare. Which is why it may surprise you to learn that the Thin White Duke once played a man famous for being so horrendously, upsettlingly ugly he literally earned a living standing completely still and letting people stare at his face: Joseph Merrick, better known by his Wu-Tang name, the Elephant Man.

While little in the way of physical evidence remains of Bowie’s brief tenure as a stage actor, with there only really being promotional photos and publicity stills of Bowie in costume, and a few stray clips here and there, reviews indicate Bowie’s performance was one that cemented his reputation as not just a musician, but a true Renaissance Man who was as comfortable on stage reading lines in a diaper (oh yeah, Bowie’s costume was just a big cotton diaper) as he was playing a guitar. Because apparently just being an internationally recognized sex symbol/rockstar/musical super-genius wasn’t enough for David Bowie.

2. He once finished a set with a lollipop sticking out of his eye

David Bowie’s distinctive, mismatched eyes were a result of a childhood altercation with a friend resulting in his left pupil being permanently dilated. Effectively blind in that eye, Bowie had problems with his peripheral vision, which resulted in him being hit in the eye socket by a lollipop thrown by a fan while performing on stage in Norway in 2004.

The lollipop, which became physically lodged in Bowie’s bad pupil, needed to be forcefully ripped from the singer’s eyeball by a stagehand. An annoyed Bowie chastised the crowd before regaining his composure and joking about how lucky it was that the lollipop hit his bad eye. Bowie then told the crowd he’d punish them by playing an extra long set, presumably featuring the song “The Laughing Gnome” like eight times.

1. He didn’t do any of the contact juggling in Labyrinth

One of Bowie’s most famous film roles is that of Jareth the Goblin King in the film Labyrinth. A question Bowie was asked repeatedly following the release of the film is how long it took him to master contact juggling, a skill Jareth possesses and shows off multiple times throughout the film. Bowie’s response was to laugh and explain that the juggling was actually done by somebody else; specifically, master juggler Michael Moschen.

To achieve the effect that Bowie was able to deftly manipulate a steel ball with his long, slender man-fingers, Moschen hid behind Bowie and put his arms through his Goblin-cape. You know, kind of like what kids do when they’re pretending to be Goro from Mortal Kombat. A testament to Moschen’s skill is that he was able to make an orb of condensed goblin-power dance across his fingertips completely blindIt also speaks to the mystique surrounding Bowie that audiences saw him display a skill nobody had ever seen him talk about or mention before and still assumed it was him, because it does seem like the kind of thing Bowie would be amazing at.

David Bowie Confidential

– WIF Spotlight

Comeback Music Monday @ WIF

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Successful Comeback Albums

The music business is a fickle beast. Taste and trends are always changing, and if a musician doesn’t evolve or continue to put out quality music, they can quickly fall into obscurity. These 10 artists were standing on the edge of oblivion, only to release an album that reignited their careers and secured their legacy in music history.

10. The Next Day


David Robert Jones, better known as David Bowie, first achieved fame in 1969 with his song “Space Oddity.” The theatrics of his albums and his androgynous style made him stick out amongst the English rock stars of the time. He was also known for his eclectic tastes, as Bowie never seemed to settle into any particular genre. Instead, for over 30 years he released a variety of albums that were innovative and influential.

In 2003 Bowie released Reality, which was met with a lukewarm reception and moderate sales. With Reality being his 25th album, people thought that Bowie was done releasing music. What did he have left to prove? His seminal work of the ’60s and ’70s proved he was one of the most talented and original artists of all time. His work in the ’80s and ’90s showed that he understood musical trends, and even decades after releasing his first album he was releasing innovative music.

Then in 2013, he surprised the media and fans alike by releasing The Next Dayafter a 10-year hiatus. The album drew excellent reviews and some critics went as far to say it’s one of the best albums Bowie’s ever released. It also sold well; it was his first number one album in the United Kingdom since 1993. The Next Day was nominated for three Grammys, including one for Best Rock Album, and it was also shortlisted for the Mercury Award, which is given to the best British or Irish album of the year.

9. Van Lear Rose



At the age of 72, country legend Loretta Lynn had nothing to prove after releasing 55 albums in her long, illustrious career. She was one of the biggest country stars of the 1960s and ’70s, and there was even a movie about her life called The Coal Miner’s Daughter. Sissy Spacek won an Academy Award for playing Lynn. Lynn retired from music in the 1990s to look after her sick husband, and while in retirement she sporadically released albums, there was nothing earthshaking. Then in 2004, Lynn decided to work with a 28-year-old producer named Jack White. The two came together after The White Stripes dedicated their albumWhite Blood Cells to Lynn and covered one of her songs. Lynn invited Jack and Meg White to visit her. After meeting them, she agreed to do an album that Jack White wanted to produce. Lynn wrote all 13 songs, while White produced, co-wrote one song, performed a duet and played a number of instruments.

The album, Van Lear Rose, was released to universal acclaim. It peaked at No. 2 on the country charts and No. 24 on the Billboard 200. The album was nominated for five Grammys and took home two, Best Country Album and Best Country Collaboration with Vocals.

8. 2001


Dr. Dre was one of the founding members of the originators of gangster rap, N.W.A. After leaving N.W.A., Dr. Dre released his first solo album, The Chronic, in 1992, and it was critically and commercially successful. He won the Grammy for Best Rap Solo Performance, and the album also helped launch the career of Snoop Dog, who was featured on it.

After his initial success, Dr. Dre became more interested in producing and launching other artists. He released one single in 1996, “Been There, Done That” and was met with a lukewarm reception. By the late ’90s, everyone assumed that Dr. Dre was just going to be a producer and would stop releasing his own music. However, after launching the career of Eminem, Dre released his second album,2001, in 1999. It was a hit with both critics and listeners. It reached No. 2 on the US billboard charts and ultimately went six times platinum. He was nominated for five Grammys, and won two for best Rap Performance by A Duo or Group and Producer of the Year. After proving he can still put out great solo music, Dr. Dre has turned his focus back to producing and promoting headphones.

7. Songs For Young Lovers


Frank Sinatra is an American icon. He had a plethora of hits, and starred in many classic movies. However, things weren’t always going that way. By the end of the 1940s, Americans had become disenchanted with Sinatra. People’s musical tastes were evolving away from what he performed. There were also reports about his ties to the mafia that didn’t sit well with people, and Americans were getting weary of his personal life — he had divorced his wife, with whom he had three children, and had a publicized affair with Ava Gardner. His voice had also gotten much weaker throughout the years. So by the time the 1950s rolled around, he didn’t have any movie contracts or a record label. Basically, most people wrote Sinatra off as being washed up.

Then, in 1953, Sinatra won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in From Here to Eternity. He also signed with Capitol Records, who gave him more artistic control. The first album he recorded was called Songs for Young Lovers, and Sinatra started working with band conductor Nelson Riddle. Over the next 20 years they produced some of the biggest hits of Sinatra’s career. With Capitol, he started recording albums focusing on one theme or mood. While this is common today, the concept was considered risky then. However, Sinatra released 16 albums in this style, giving him newfound fame and securing his legacy in the annals of American pop culture.

6. Brian Wilson Presents Smile


The incredibly talented Brian Wilson is one of the co-founders of the Beach Boys. Their style started off as surfer rock, but under the guidance of Wilson they became known for their sophisticated and artistic approach to pop music. The Beach Boys’ most famous album, Pet Sounds, was released in 1966 and is widely regarded as one of the best and most influential albums of all time.

The Beach Boys planned on following up their landmark album with a record called Smile, but that never happened because of Wilson’s deteriorating mental health. Instead, in 1967 they released Smiley Smile, which they recorded in six weeks in Wilson’s home studio. After this album, Wilson handed control of the band over to his brother Carl. Wilson also shelved Smile, and it looked like it was going to be one of those famous unfinished albums.

Over the next couple of decades, Wilson lived in seclusion while he struggled with his mental health. He was diagnosed with depression and schizophrenia. He had a number of nervous breakdowns and became obese. He also had problems with addictions to cocaine, LSD and alcohol. Then, in the 1980s, he started seeing a psychiatrist and in 1988 he released his first solo album. He also started to work sporadically with the Beach Boys. Throughout the 1990s, he released a few albums that received mixed reviews. But in 2004, 37 years after he started working on the album, he released Smile. It was universally adored by critics and was nominated for three Grammys. Wilson took home his first ever Grammy for Rock Instrumental Performance.

5. American Idiot


Green Day became internationally known after starting a mud fight at Woodstock 1994. Their major label debut, Dookie, would go on to sell 20 million copies and they won a Grammy for Best Alternative Music Performance. After their initial success, Green Day continued to release albums that performed well on the Modern Rock charts, but their other albums didn’t enjoy the same mainstream success as Dookie.

Then in 2004, 10 years after the release of their most successful album, Green Day released American Idiot. The rock opera was a departure from Green Day’s normal three chord California punk songs. Critics and audiences were surprised at the depth of the album from a band most people had written off as a one-album wonder. Critics loved it and Green Day won a Grammy for Best Rock Performance. They gained a whole army of new fans who were too young to know Dookie. In 2015, they’ll be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility.

4. 13


Pioneers of heavy metal Black Sabbath formed in 1968 and released their self-titled debut in 1970. They had a massive hit with their second album, Paranoid, which was released in 1970. The band released eight albums, but by the end of the ’70s they were getting frustrated with lead singer Ozzy Osbourne. Osbourne had developed a drug habit and this led to him being kicked out. After the split, Black Sabbath released Heaven and Hell in 1980 with their new singer Ronnie James Dio, and it was well regarded. Osbourne released Blizzard of Ozz in the same year and it was the start of a very successful solo career. In the ensuing years, Osbourne became more popular than Black Sabbath, even though he was still dealing with drug problems.

After Black Sabbath released their 18th album, Forbidden, in 1995, they stopped releasing new music. In 1997, the band reunited with Osbourne on vocals and played on the Ozz-Fest tour. After the initial reunion Osbourne would occasionally play with Black Sabbath, but he still was focusing on his solo records, Ozzfest, and of course, the reality show The Osbournes.

In late 2011, the band reunited and announced they would be releasing a new album. While it was good news, not many people were clamoring for a new release. Yet, the band released 13 in 2013, making it Black Sabbath’s first album in 18 years and the first with Osbourne in 35 years. Expectations were low, but with the help of producer Rick Rubin they made an album that was liked by criticsand fans alike. It was described as having the same energy and sound of their early albums, reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200, was nominated for three Grammys and won the Grammy for Best Metal Performance. Black Sabbath plan on recording a final album in 2015, which will be followed by a farewell tour.

3. Mama Said Knock You Out


In the opening lines of the title track of LL Cool J’s 1990 album, he says “Don’t call it a comeback / I been here for years.” But people did call it a comeback — one of the best in rap and hip-hop. After the immense success of his debut album,Radio, in 1985, LL Cool J released two albums that were poorly received. By 1990, not a whole lot was expected out of him. People simply thought of him as out of touch or a sellout. Then when Mama Said Knock You Out was released 1990, it showed a revitalized rapper with an edge that had been lacking in his previous two outings. He received positive reviews and sold millions of copies. It re-launched LL Cool J’s career; he would go on to release more albums and star in movies and television shows. The album is now considered a classic.

2. Taking the Long Way Home


Sometimes a comeback doesn’t need to be after a hiatus or slump. In early 2003, the Dixie Chicks had a No. 1 single and were set to go on a sold-out worldwide tour. On March 19, 2003 they were playing in London, England, when lead singerNatalie Maines said, “Just so you know, we’re on the good side with y’all. We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the president of the United States is from Texas.” This was nine days before the start of the US invasion of Iraq.

The comment sparked immediate boycotts, album burnings and condemnation by conservative pundits. When Maines made her statement, rock bands like Pearl Jam were continuously railing against the Bush administration, but while they angered people they didn’t even come close to feeling the wrath that the women who sang country received. A lot of comments were sexist and they were threatened with violence and death. There were massive boycotts of their music by radio stations, and people picketed their concerts across the United States.

Responding to the backlash, the lighthearted pop country band released their most personal album, Taking the Long Way, in 2006. Produced by Rick Rubin, the lead single was “Not Ready to Make Nice,” their response to all their detractors who told them to “shut up and sing.” The song struck a chord with critics and found a new audience because of the ferocity of the defiant lyrics and their passionate performance. Taking the Long Way Home was the biggest hit of their career, winning three Grammys. Their comeback album, which was written about losing fans, re-launched the Dixie Chicks and gained them more fans than they lost.

1. American Recordings


Johnny Cash’s long history of success dates back to his first single in 1955 called “Cry, Cry, Cry.” From there, Cash’s popularity grew over the ’60s and he became one of the dominant forces in country music. But by the ’70s Cash was addicted to drugs and alcohol, and the caliber of his music wasn’t nearly as good. Things reached a low point in 1986 when Columbia Records dropped him after 26 lucrative years together.

After being dropped Cash signed with Mercury Records, but by 1991, he didn’t have a label. No one expected much from a country musician who was in his ’60s. Country music had changed too much and there was no place for him. That’s why it was unusual when he signed with hard rock and hip-hop producer Rick Rubin. Rubin, who had only worked with young bands, produced the first album in Cash’s American Recordings series at Cash’s cabin in Tennessee. The stripped down album only featured Cash on an acoustic guitar, covering songs picked by Rubin and himself. The goal was to bring out what made Cash so unique — his voice. Cash had the ability to sound powerful and vulnerable at the same time. When he sang the lyrics sounded wise, yet humble.

The final product, released in 1994, was called stark and gripping. It was unmistakably Johnny Cash, but an older and wiser version. It did well with critics and was enjoyed by a younger audience whose parents would have even been too young for his music. Cash himself said the late stage of his career felt like the glory days in the 1950s because he was making the music he wanted to make. Cash released six American Recordings, and during this time he had an incredible resurgence in popularity.


Comeback Music Monday