This gorgeous suite of articles, newspaper clippings and memorabilia (at the end of this post) was gifted to me by Dublin raised writer Emily Abrahamson, bound in a red foolscap ring binder encased in a cardboard box brimming with posters that had adorned her bedroom wall so many decades ago. I had stayed in her apartment in Mulberry st, New York in 2011, above what used to be the old Ravenite Social Club, the infamous Mafia hang out, completely oblivious to the knowledge Bowie was virtually a neighbour, or that he was secretly recording The Next Day at the Magic Studio nearby.
I’d met Emily via her brother then indie director Lenny Abrahamson on twitter, who was trying to find someone to rent his sisters place at the time. Curiously the first image I took from Emily’s apartment of a church below had Bowies Lafayette / Mulberry street apartment in the pic. But I wouldn’t find that out till the following year, when I headed over to Ireland in 2012 to present an exhibition as as part of “Strange Fascination” – the first International Academic Symposium on the influence of Bowie across Popular Culture through the Popular Music and Popular Culture Department at University of Limerick, Ireland.
From make-up tips and tour reviews to teen magazine posters and hand written lyrics, Emily’s collection is a portal into the world of a young Bowie fan in the 70s and includes faithfully transcribed articles in blue biro script and a 1973 Bowie fan club card from her childhood friend Sharon Bacon. It is an unfettered example of the naive charm and heady obsession of early youth, as it grows into the creative appreciation of the adult.
The Earls Court Concert Reviews
Abrahamson’s collection includes the very British review of the ‘ Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars’ 1973 Earls Court concert by a slightly frustrated Richard Green, and makes adorable reading with its gently literal critique of what was, in fact, a rather shambolic event. “…apart from the behaviour of the first night audience, which could be put down to bad manners, the tour has been, and still is, a total success, marred only by one piece of conning – a four page programme costs 30p.”
This was a diplomatic review for a teen magazine audience. The ‘bad manners’ Richard Green referred to actually included naked hooligans brawling, hurtling bottles and urinating in the aisles, causing Bowie himself to plead for calm in a the midst of what was by all accounts a pretty disastrous affair.
NME suspended with politeness publishing a patronizingly scathing review by Nick Kent that concluded with the following lines:
“And there he was: the little man in the red spaceman suit, exhorting his aficionados to “give me your hands”. It was beautifully symbolic in a way because this gig was a formidable bunch of nails set in the potential coffin for which the whole Bowie mystique will soon be placed and solemnly laid to rest. And all the costume-changes and mime-poses in the world won’t compensate for that, sweetheart.”
With the ‘shock’ retirement of the Ziggy Stardust persona at the Hammersmith Odeon concert a mere 7 weeks ahead, it was a bizarrely prescient observation on one level, and yet, as history would show, so very very wrong.
The assent of Bowie in the musical charts was mirrored with a proliferation of articles in the print media. An editors dream, the man gave great copy in articles that ranged from shock to awe. Ziggy clones and interpretive homages to the glam bam captivated youth culture in the early seventies, as glitter became the new tie-dye.
Teenage girl fashion magazines were filled with colourful pictorial spreads demonstrating how to pull off Ziggy Stardust style and it seemed this time the boys were taking notice too. Bowie’s theatrical mix of sound and vision was never more overtly expressed, or emulated, than through his Ziggy persona, piercing the UK psyche with a diamante sword. Yet as the pop cultural phenomenon grew around the man, it was a Damoclean blade, hanging so precariously over his head that would ultimately lead to the death of Ziggy.
Bowie Down Under
The great southland with its vast martian-esque interior, ancient inhabitants and new architecture, cast its spell upon Bowie who spent significant time living and recording under the Southern Cross. The film clip to Lets Dance was famously shot between outback and urban locations and explored ideas of culture, modernity and identity.
Just a little too young to see Bowie under the Serious Moonlight, (Abrahamson’s Brit published booklet of this period is below) I travelled 11 hours with a teenage boyfriend to see Bowie’s Glass Spider Tour at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre in 1987. Seventeen years later and Bowie brought Reality back to Brisbane, one of the last time he played Always Crashing in the Same Car.
In the month before I left for New York to stay in Mulberry Street, I was rear-ended by cars crashing into mine on three separate occasions. I knew it was weird. But that was just a harbinger of what would unfold over the coming years.