Glam

All posts tagged Glam

Bowie

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

Just days ago, music lovers and critics alike rejoiced with the release of David Bowie’s highly anticipated new album, Blackstar. But few knew this would be his last great masterpiece.

On Friday, Jan. 8, Bowie turned 69 and simultaneously released an exceedingly ambitious and artistic record, adding to an already colorful catalog. With Blackstar, Bowie channels the surrealistic minimalism if his late 70s works such as Heroes and Low, while giving it a modern darkness. The advanced singles “Blackstar” and “Lazarus” saw Bowie taking on a strange new persona, equally intriguing and mysterious.

Days later on Jan. 10, the news of his death following a lengthy battle with cancer, sent shockwaves across the world. Millions of fans young and old have voiced their love for the recently fallen star. Through his art and dozens of personas, Bowie was larger than life, showcased by his mysterious last days and romantic death.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-JqH1M4Ya8

Bowie’s career has undergone its umpteenth renaissance in recent years, beginning with his surprise comeback for 2013’s The Next Day. It was a quieter album, indicating a older yet hungry artist still managing to channel what made him great. Although the album had no smash radio hits, it struck a nerve with a new generation of indie rockers, while long-time die-hards were equally pleased.

With The Next Day, Bowie has proved his unique ability to remain contemporary despite hailing from the golden era of Classic Rock Radio. Since his swearing off touring over a decade ago, the Thin White Duke has rarely made any live appearances. However, his hefty discography and wide spanning influence (Iggy Pop, The Psychedelic Furs, Nine Inch Nails, Placebo and Arcade Fire to name just a very few) have kept him both relevant and respected in nearly all circles. And it comes as no surprise with a career as staggering and intricate such as that of David Bowie’s.

1967-69

The musical journey of David Bowie is one of humble beginnings. His early singles and self-titled album were a collection of mere typical 60’s folk rock and baroque pop, much in the vein of Bob Dylan and early Beatles. Cutesy love tunes made up most of his early repertoire, although writhe with his signature charm. But by 1969, change was in the air. Mankind turned toward the sky as the first human took his first steps on the surface of the Moon. Inspiration struck, and a “Space Oddity” was born. Bowie’s first smash hit single saw the beginnings of many personas, alter egos and overall realities he would come to perfect.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYYRH4apXDo

1970-72

By early 1970, the Psychedelic and Art Rock that was dominating the musical landscape was shifting and splintering. Glam Rock had risen as a more pop-friendly yet equally-sophisticated counterpart. With the rise of artists such as T. Rex and Roxy Music, androgyny was all the rage. In the center of this was David Bowie, who had now traded in with folk-y acoustic guitars for thunderous hard rocking electrics, ready to dominate a new era of Rock and Roll. His albums The Man Who Sold the World and Hunky Dory perfectly encompassed his strange new direction. The success of early 70’s radio hits “Life on Mars?” and “The Man Who Sold the World” set the stage for what would change the history of Rock and Roll and popular culture from thereon.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7Bd3iJSFyE

1972-74

With the release of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, Bowie not only perfected Glam Rock, but the art of the concept album and alter ego as well. The success and continuing influence of that record stands head-to-head with that of any by the Beatles, Rolling Stones or Pink Floyd. The Ziggy Stardust persona was larger than life and otherworldly, yet terrifyingly human and vulnerable; one trait Bowie seemed to carry with him throughout his life. He followed Ziggy up with the equally dynamic Aladdin Sane and Diamond Dogs, taking his high-concept art to uncharted territory in popular music, all before ditching it completely reinventing himself.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LaqMwE5NKaM

1975-76

The sounds of Philadelphia Soul Music influenced Bowie so heavily, that by 1975 he had traded in his signature make up for a soulful crooner. Young Americans saw the massive success of “Fame,” a songwriting collaboration with John Lennon, and his first major U.S. hit. He even landed a gig on the up-and-coming national television sensation Soul Train to perform the aforementioned track.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lD3etldXtTU

1977-79

The late 70s saw a darker time, both musically and personally for David Bowie. Punk Rock had risen and killed off nearly all of his early 70s contemporaries. Although his music would come to inspire many early punk and New Wave outfits (New York Dolls, Ramones, The Damned, Blondie), it didn’t look as though Bowie had the momentum to keep up with the angst-filled movement. As he retreated to Berlin to kick some substance abuse issues, he teamed up with Roxy Music mastermind Brian Eno for a trilogy of what would become his most complex and dark work. Beginning in ’77 with Low, his new Art Rock sound wasn’t ready to tear up Top 40 radio, but certainly indicated a huge artistic evolution. Artists such as The Talking Heads and Sonic Youth would go on to hail it as extremely influential. Later that year, Heroes, spawning the hit single of the same title, would boast a massive hit featuring the virtuosic guitar talents of none other than Robert Fripp of King Crimson. 1979’s Lodger would conclude this era of experimentation and artistic expansion.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tgcc5V9Hu3g

1980-82

By 1980, Bowie returned to Top 40 with Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps). Propelled by the smash hits “Fashion” and “Ashes To Ashes,” Bowie adopted the sounds of New Wave and Post-Punk; genres that in many ways were pioneered by his previous works. He seemed to fit right at home, connecting with new and older generations of Rock fans.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CMThz7eQ6K0

1983-93

Bowie tried his hand at pop music for 1983’s Let’s Dance to an astounding outcome. The now former Glam rocker had recruited Chic guitarist Nile Rodgers and a young Stevie Ray Vaughn for this magnum opus, yielding favorable results and scoring some of the biggest hits of his entire career with singles like “Let’s Dance” and “Modern Love.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N4d7Wp9kKjA

Bowie would continue this sound throughout most of the 80s to mixed results from fans and critics. However, his role as Jareth, the Goblin King, in the children-targeted film The Labyrinth, had yet again propelled him to an iconic status, after becoming a cult favorite among 80’s children and beyond.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ViftZTfRSt8

1995-98

By the mid 90s, Alternative Rock was the dominant musical force both in Top 40 and underground circles. And at the forefront of mid-90s alt-rock where Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain and Nine Inch Nails mastermind Trent Reznor. Before Cobain’s passing, his iconic cover of “The Man Who Sold the World” as one of his last live performances sparked a renewed interest in Bowie. Reznor, also at the top of his success, wasn’t shy about Bowie’s influence either. By 1995, Bowie had released the industrial-tinged Outside, and hit the road with Nine Inch Nails. Bowie and Reznor went on to collaborate on the soundtrack for the 1996 film, Lost Highway, and on Bowie’s 1997 album, Earthling. Through their collaborations, Bowie yet again found relevance among a new generation of audiences.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gPVrFIP0CMs

1999-2004

Always staying three steps ahead, Bowie made history in 1999 with his album Hours…, marking the first album to ever be released exclusively through the internet. His following albums, 2002’s Heathen and 2003’s Reality were both moderate successes, bridging the gap between contemporary fans of Radiohead and Death Cab for Cutie and his classic rock audience. Following a massively successful world tour in 2004, Bowie announced his retirement from touring and focused on small projects. It seemed as though Bowie had all but retired completely with little new music released in later years.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a8NBpfkpyZw

2013-16

Much to the delight of fans young and old, Bowie announced his return with the critically-acclaimed album, The Next Day, in early 2013. Its highly anticipated follow-up, Blackstar, served as a bittersweet swan song for a man of so many notable accomplishments. Groundbreaking both sonically and visually, Blackstar will undoubtedly live on as a final gasp of inspiration, of what any artist, young or old, hot or not, can accomplish.

https://youtu.be/kszLwBaC4Sw

Ian Curtis of Joy Division.

Ian Curtis of Joy Division.

By Jennifer Elizabeth Rose (Social/Cultural Writer and Music/Arts Historian)

The often misunderstood (or mystified) Goth genre has roots in the darker and/or unexplored Glam Rock and of the course early modern European historical definition. While many rock journalists have cited Jim Morrison the first Gothic Rock singer with his low, intriguing baritone vocals and previously unexplored lyrical themes which were often disturbing both psychologically and artistically in the 60’s, The Velvet Underground achieved the complete backdrop instrumentally and via arrangement including stylistic contributions.

Lou Reed, singer/songwriter, along with Sterling Morrison, the explorative guitarist and velvet-voiced songstress, Nico probably had more in common with darker art rock of their day but this is in fact why they were astounding as an ensemble to the genre’s infancy.

Into the 70’s, Nick Cave and The Birthday Party continued to travel the uncharted territories with his own brand of improv and perceived madness. And while Ian Curtis of Joy Division did much of the same, he examined personal and rugged emotion, no matter the sort. The depressed Goth myth can begin here unfortunately.

Obvious Jim Morrison influences in lower vocal register were apparent, staggered lyric-focused melodies (like Reed’s) were also highlighted. But instrumentally, The Birthday Party and Joy Division embodied not only the “sound” but also arrangement which as again revamped but with a focus on bottom register as a whole (i.e. bass guitar and other instruments which include a lasher/velvety bottom end or even guitars with deeper timbre). These elements were explored and solidified. The style and name of the genre was being defined.

In September of 1979, Tony Wilson, journalist and host of the British show, So It Goes, used the term Gothic to define Joy Division’s stark and eerie style.

“Dancing music with Gothic overtones.” he explained.

By the time contemporaries such as the longstanding Sisters of Mercy which spanned, and spawned many other subgenres such as Goth-Industrial and Goth Metal. Eventually, contemporaries such as Souxsie and the Banshees and The Cure added their elements and developed their more otherworldly, ethereal take on the genre lyrically and instrumentally. Often sporting an odd mash up of the darker corners of the Glam Rock movement and a sort of Post-Punk irony, the aforementioned acts delivered and stamped Goth Rock into the psyches of any sub or sub sub-genre.

While some sub-genres are often thought of when many people nowadays think of “Goth,” there is no substitute for the root and its purposes; examining universal dark themes (not evil, but dark).

Dark is defined in the Free Dictionary as “Lacking or having very little light: a dark corner. b. Lacking brightness: a dark day. 2. Reflecting only a small fraction of incident light.” Such is the very definition of Goth in ANY medium dating back to Medieval and Renaissance visual art and architecture.

While acts such as Bauhaus are often praised and many worthy modern Goth acts (especially Industrial acts) such as ThouShaltNot are overlooked, modern dark ambient and ethereal examples especially from the Projekt Records label are strongest overall “GOTHS.” Acts such as Black Tape for a Blue Girl, This Ascension and Unto Ashes, as well as the solo projects from Mortiis from the Black Metal band, Emperor, own this era of the genre and have kept it strong and genuine since the 90’s via label owner and musician, Sam Rosenthal.

In addition to my “Picks of the Week” which spanned a proto- Goth to 80’s Goth timeline, I also offer for your consideration the aforementioned classic acts and the following modern often overlooked examples of the best of the genre. Enjoy! And do try and pick up or legally download these independent artists’ records.

Black Tape for a Blue Girl – Across a Thousand Blades

This Ascension – Mysterium

ThouShaltNot – Without Faith