DAVID BOWIE TRIBUTE: Hot Press was granted an audience with the Thin White Duke in 1999

Stuart Clark still hasn't calmed down after meeting his childhood hero in U2's Clarence Hotel...

Wowed By Bowie

A new album, an exclusive gig and opinions on Velvet Goldmine, the Internet and life, love and happiness. STUART CLARK meets the legendary DAVID BOWIE.

JOURNALISTIC OBJECTIVITY, my arse! There's no way anyone who bought The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars in 1972 for £2.19 can meet David Bowie without going all wobbly.

In town for what could very well be the most expensive beer promotion ever - conservative estimates put the bill at around £500,000 - the still wafer-Thin White Duke is in celebratory mood having been told that hours... has just gone in to the UK album chart at number 5.

Not as all-conquering as his record company might have liked, but good going for a bloke who was once famously dismissed as a second-rate Tommy Steele.

In fact, if you're an unpleasantly plump journo who had to beg his bank manager for the money to buy an Everton season-ticket, you'd have every reason to be jealous of the Jones boy.

Never mind being fabulously rich and talented, this is the bastard who's spent the past decade living a life of matrimonial bliss with Iman.

"I'm really a very happy guy," he says with a grin that isn't so much shit as sewage farm-eating. "20 years ago, I wouldn't have thought I'd have got to this point where I feel, well, reassured about life. "

Living legends are a lot like busses. You wait an eternity to meet one, and then two come along almost simultaneously. Having got full value for money and a trip to Stranraer out of Joe Strummer last month, my expectations of Mr. Bowie are obscenely high. He doesn't disappoint the 52-year-old not only answering our questions with genuine gusto, but shooing away an over-zealous PR woman who keeps insisting that our time's up.

"I don't believe in public perceptions too deeply," he proffers in response to a question about Bowie-the-legend. "As far as I'm concerned, David Bowie is the sum of however many people are thinking of me at any given time. The perception belongs to them. I have no control over it."

"For many, many years at least the last 15, I've led a very informal and natural lifestyle, in as much that I don't have an entourage. I don't work like that. I go shopping. I make sure that I'm not imprisoned."

So he knows what the price of a loaf of bread is?

"No, he laughs, I pay by credit card. I never check. That's a fringe benefit of being a rock god."

To make up for the headlines that his life of drug-free monogamy have deprived them of, the tabloids have taken to exhuming ever-more outrageous stories from Bowie's past. As indifferent as he is to what's written about him, there must be a temptation to clear up any confusion over his relationship with Mick Jagger, or whether that was really a Nazi salute he delivered at London's Victoria Station.

"I've approached it (an autobiography) on several occasions, but it just keeps turning into a piece of fiction, which is maybe the best way to do it! The one thing that's a possibility, if I can find the time, is taking all the apocryphal stories and turning them into a stage piece. Y'know, create a new person out of the myths and rumours."

Another idea he's toying with is becoming the curator of his own on-line museum.

"I have so much stuff, it's unbelievable. Even in my out-of-my-nut stages I seem to have not thrown anything away. I probably have more than anybody else around if that definitive book would ever come out. I think it's much more likely that I'll end up archiving completely on the net. Just assemble the stuff that's collected over the years. Like a presidential library but for rock stars."

How does he rate the current crop of fly-on-the-walls, kiss-and-tells and never-met-him-in-my-lifes?

"On the whole, disappointing. It's got to the point where the cut and paste is being cut and pasted, which makes for some really strange juxtapositions. I've yet to read one that's made me go, Yeah, they've got it. There will be, though, I'm sure."

Bowie is equally dismissive of Velvet Goldmine, Todd Haynes' retelling of the Ziggy story which was mainly noteworthy for the way it bombed at the box-office.

"I knew it was going to die before it was made," he claims. A third of the way through the script, it had lost me completely. I didn't understand what was going on. There's an old axiom in film which is, If it's not on the page, it ain't on the stage. There was a real problem with the writing, so I was quite happy to let it pass.

Did Haynes get any of the dynamic between characters right?

"None at all. Not even remotely. There wasn't anywhere near enough shopping, which was a fundamental part of the early 70s. They were such humourless bastards in that film. Perleeeeese, get a life."

The good news for fans who still get a stiffy when they hear the strummed intro to Starman, is that Bowie is currently working on no fewer than three Ziggy spin-offs.

"The theatre piece is about Ziggy's interior values his close intimates, how he thinks and what his perception of the world really is," he divulges. "The cinema project is an objective piece about how he's viewed and perceived by his audience. The internet piece is like, 'who's his mum?' It's sort of factground, and startlingly info-packed maps and photographs."

"Will I be in the film?" he continues. "No, I think my days of portraying him are over. We"ll do a massive casting call for the lucky lad, but I'm going to remain on the other side of the camera."

I don't think I'm being unduly nostalgic when I say that Bowie performing the aforementioned 'Starman' on Top Of The Pops rates as one of rock 'n' roll's defining moments. Indeed, you only have to look at Suede and Gay Dad to see that Ziggy is still alive and walking among us. Does his creator reckon that there's anybody around today who's worthy of such slavish adoration?

"It sounds self-interested, but rather than a group or a person, I really do think it'd be the internet. I'm quite sure that if I was in that 13 to 16 age-bracket, I wouldn't have time for anything else. It's such a Pandora's Box that I d be absolutely glued to it. I'd be a hacker, probably."

Where does his surfing usually take him?

"Into famous people's bank accounts. No, I go on to my BowieNet website and do clean-ups every morning. Not because I'm addicted, but because I want it to be the most cutting-edge artist site. I get up very early, 6 o'clock usually, so I don't mind putting in the time.

"We haven't gone gung-ho on selling things online. I much more wanted a community, an interactive thing. That's why I pushed and promoted the idea of feedback. I ask the questions of the users, just as the users ask questions of me. They contribute their own ideas, their own visuals and their own ideas for text.

"One thing we want to change over time is that BowieNet started off as being about me, because I was a gateway to the whole thing. What I want to do is make it more music specific. David Byrne has written a piece for us, Lou Reed has done something and Frank Black is working on something. Over time, it won't just be an archive and resource network."

Does he ever look at the porn?

"I'd never dream of doing that!" he deadpans before letting out a chuckle that can only be described as Sid James-esque.

BowieNet has proved to be a nice little earner with the Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees baseball clubs both coughing-up eight-figure sums for the use of its template. Another cause for fiscal celebration was the Bowie Bond issue - the temporary leasing of his back catalogue to private investors which raised $40 million. Did the young Davey Jones ever think that he'd end up among Britain's Top 200 earners?

"Never in my wildest dreams. I wish I could take credit for it but it wasn't my idea. When it was first mooted, I said 'God, can it work?' Then I asked, 'Is it legal?' More than the money - which I'd have made over a longer period anyway - the important thing is that the songs will eventually come back to either myself or my family.

"Of course, I could do the same deal all over again. Somebody's got to service the catalogue and I'm not sure that I've got the ability, or organisation, to do what is a 24-hour-a-day job."

Seeing as we're talking songs, which one is he most proud of?

"Warszawa from Low, partly because it was the first instrumental I ever recorded. I remember hearing the finished result and thinking, 'What a beautiful piece of music.' That's not a pop song, that isn't!"

It's all a matter of taste of course, but to these ears, hours . . . is the best thing Bowie's produced since 1983's occasionally brilliant Let's Dance album. Not that he did it any favours by stating in the press blurb that, "I wanted to capture a kind of universal angst felt by many people of my age." Thankfully, there's nothing even remotely menopausal about tracks like 'Seven', 'If I'm Dreaming My Life' and 'Something In The Air' which are very much written in the first person. Are we right to assume that it s largely autobiographical?

"No, it was written from the perspective of, I guess, a faux novelist. The short story aspect of songwriting always appealed to me. I veered away from it over the years and got a lot more experimental in the lyric writing, so they're not necessarily quite so straightforward. But I think bringing it back to my age and my generation is important for me now."

While living legends are supposed to be above such trivialities as chart placings, I get the impression that it would be quite a different David Bowie we'd be talking to now if hours . . . had landed outside the top 20.

"It was really heartening, at the NetAid show last night, to see kids singing along to tracks from the new album like 'Survive'. Half of the appeal with 'Earthling', 'Outside', and going earlier, 'Scary Monsters', was the textural sound. But this one, I won't say we put the arrangements second, but the idea was that they'd be supportive of the lyrics. It wasn't all guns blazing. It works on a more simplistic level."

Musical merits aside, taking Earthling on a jungle safari appears to have lowered the average age of his audience.

"I don't think it mattered because there are very few young kids who listen to drum n' bass. It was talked about a lot in the newspapers, but you just have to look at the charts to see that it really rated nowhere. In fact, it had a ceiling on it as soon as it started."

Despite hours . . . barely being out of nappies, Bowie is already giving serious thought to the follow-up.

"The next musical project will very definitely be with Tony Visconti," he confides. "Tony and I are very excited because we don't know what it s going to be like. I think I'll put it back into experimental mode again, but who knows? It's really interesting going into the studio because I never quite know which of my writing methods I'll use.

Does this mean that we're about to witness the same productivity which saw Aladdin Sane, Pin-Ups, Diamond Dogs, David Live and Young Americans come out within two years of each other?

"The only restriction on me is the record company. It's very hard with corporate companies to bring out more than one every 18 months, because they want to milk the new album as much as possible. It causes problems for artists like myself, and probably Prince, who have an abundance of material and nowhere to put it. I find it disheartening, and I've got to have a talk with Virgin to see what we can do about it.

"I do see a way out on the internet. It takes most people five hours to download an album, which is ridiculous, but there's definite possibilities in doing it a track at a time. If I had an array of everything I've written on-line, you could choose through samples the ones you want, and burn them in to a CD. That is a way to go. It's not for everybody because some writers, like Scott Walker and Bryan Ferry, are very slow and craftsmanlike."

No longer able to contain her irritation at us overrunning, the Virgin UK PR lady grabs Bowie by the lapels and screams, "For fuck's sake, you've got a soundcheck to do!" Well not really, she's politeness personified, but you can see the intent in her eyes.

As you'll already have gleaned from Peter Murphy's Pulitzer Prize-nominated review, the HQ gig is the best sex you've ever had multiplied by Ray Houghton's winning goal in Stuttgart. I'm not a man who gets moist easily, but when Drive-In Saturday arrives on the scene, that's it, where's me hankie?

I'm not the only person who takes this as a cue to abandon his dignity - Julian Lloyd-Webber glam stomping his way through a version of 'Rebel Rebel' which would make anyone want to sprint down to Miss Selfridges.

At times like these, you can almost forgive him for Tin Machine!

 

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Astronaut performs Bowie classic from outer space

Chris Hadfield is the first person to record a music video in outer space...

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Catholic League attack Bowie's latest video

It seems the veteran artist can still conjure up controversy.

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David Bowie unveils controversial Next Day vid

The Thin White Duke's run of cinematic promos continues...

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Bowie breaks silence on new album

... In the form of a cryptic 42 word description of The Next Day

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The Stars (Are Out Tonight)

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The Sane Event

The classic image of David Bowie from Aladdin Sane is part of a major visual celebration of the singer at the Victoria and Albert Museum...

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David Bowie Goes No.1 In Ireland

The Next Day goes straight in at the top of the Irish album chart...

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David Bowie: The Next Day

Brilliant comeback from rock icon...

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David Bowie's Wife Hints at Upcoming World Tour

Supermodel Iman makes comments that suggest a Bowie world tour...

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About A Bowie

It had been years since anyone had heard from David Bowie, the rock icon who seemed happier to fade away rather than burn out. But suddenly, in January, came a new single with his first album in a decade to follow. Stuart Clark reflects on the Thin White Duke’s remarkable career, and then talks to his right-hand man, Dubliner GERRY LEONARD, about 2013’s most-anticipated return.

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David Bowie streaming new album

Check out The Next Day ahead of its official release date...

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David Bowie's back: New Hot Press in shops today!

Inside we've got a David Bowie feature, Johnny Marr, Cillian Murphy, Stereophonics, James Blake, Passenger and Gabrielle Aplin...

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WATCH: New Bowie video

Tilda Swinton stars in the promo for 'The Stars (Are Out Tonight)'

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Where Are We Now?

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Track of the fortnight: David Bowie

We've also reviewed new music from Little Green Cars, ASIWYFA, Atoms For Peace and Femmepop...

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Bowie Producer Opens Up On New Album

David Bowie's long-time producer Tony Visconti has spoken about new album The Next Day...

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LISTEN: Bowie is back

He has a new track you can listen to now and a new album coming in March.

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When Hot Press met David Bowie

Stuart Clark sat down with the legendary singer in 1999...

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Celebrate Bowie's birthday

As the Thin White Duke turns 65...

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Bowie set to release Live In Dublin DVD

Those in attendance at Bowie's Point shows last year will soon be able to relive the memories on DVD

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David Bowie

Normally I’m of the opinion that God’s a bit of a bastard, but today all he/she/it has done is smile on the House of Clark..

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Bowie to headline Witnness 2004?

Good news for Glaswegians today may signal great news for Irish fans tomorrow, as David Bowie confirms for T In The Park

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Bowie takes Dublin by Storm

The 16,000 fans who attended David Bowie's Point Theatre gigs (pics Roger Woolman) will be able to see themselves on the telly next year. Yup, the Thin White Duke has decided to immortalise the Dublin leg of his Reality World Tour on DVD.

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Reality

Instead of trying to be self-consciously cutting edge, Bowie spends most of his 26th studio album belting out orthodox rock ‘n’ roll songs with a band that includes long-time friend, producer and vibemaster Tony Visconti.

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Play it again, Dave!

Well, ok then: Second David Bowie date announced for Dublin's Point Theatre

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David Bowie to play Dublin

The still-Thin White Duke brings his 'A Reality Tour' to The Point

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Remember this classic album: David Bowie's The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars

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Remember this classic album: David Bowie's The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars

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Everyone Says Hi

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The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars

Although this 30th anniverary edition of the album doesn't actually add a lot more to the already expanded edition released over ten years ago, it does remind you again of its classic status

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Heathen

Heathen may not be the spectacular return to form that some people are claiming, but it’s certainly a far more cohesive affair than its predecessors, Earthling and …hours, which both buckled under the weight of their experimentation.

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All Saints - Collected Intrumentals 1977-99

Drawing heavily on his Berlin, post Thin White Duke period and the albums Heroes and Low in particular, All Saints is something of a mixed bag.

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Bowie At The Beeb

Hey pop pickers, get a load of this. 37 classic performances from the thin white duke, recorded at the then fledgling BBC Radio 1 studios between 1968 and '72, as the whole world went Hunky Dory.

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Wowed By Bowie

A new album, an exclusive gig and opinions on Velvet Goldmine, the Internet and life, love and happiness. STUART CLARK meets the legendary DAVID BOWIE.

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Buddha Of Suburbia

KATE BUSH: “Moments Of Pleasure” (EMI); DAVID BOWIE: “Buddha Of Suburbia” (Arista)

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Bowie - The Singles Collection

DAVID BOWIE: "Bowie - The Singles Collection" (EMI)

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Scary Monsters and Super Creeps

Just one theory, that's all. Just one… David Bowie, a man of many facets, facades, both factional and fictional.

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