I put this story together from a series of answers David Bowie gave to questions I didn’t have an opportunity to ask, at the Sydney press conference, Monday 16 February 2004. It was broadcast Saturday 21 February. The dialogue is book-ended with the songs ‘Changes’ – yes, a bit crass and predictable, but it actually suits the story – and ‘Try Some Buy Some’. I also managed to recycle info for a FilmInk version of the article. You can also listen to the story as you read.
Music: ‘Changes’ - David Bowie
Demetrius Romeo: David Bowie’s been making music for the better part of forty years. His career has been punctuated by embracing various musical genres – from cockney music hall to glam rock to soul to heavy metal – and his bringing to life numerous characters on stage and on record, including Major Tom, Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane. Now David Bowie’s role is as a family man. After ten years of marriage to super model Iman, David’s a dad again, and, he says, he quite likes the role.
DAVID BOWIE: I mean I only got married because I was in a place that felt right about getting married, so I think that the change in me probably started a lot longer before. You know what I mean? I didn’t get married and suddenly I changed, I felt that I was, uh… I just felt that emotionally and mentally, I seemed to have come to a place where I felt grounded and I understood a lot more about myself and my immediate environment and how things are for me and how I react to things and all that. A lot better than I ever did before: and my writing has taken a turn for the positive, which, I think, if I were not married, and if things were as traumatic as they had been over the last few years, and being at the age that I am, I can quite see that I would have easily have found myself falling over into far more pessimistic, negative, even nihilistic frame of mind in my writing. And I do have to be careful; it’s very easy for me. I really swing. I can vascillate between very good moods and very bad moods, you know.
Demetrius Romeo: It seems that the contentment that David Bowie has with being himself in real life coincides with a contentment in being himself on stage. This is an underlying theme of Reality, his latest album, and his current tour. So, does the absence of the colourful characters on the stage and in the music rule them out of David Bowie’s future work?
DAVID BOWIE: I think it’s wise to say ‘never say never’, but I’m very happy as a performer doing what I’m doing at the moment. It’s never been so clean and so unencumbered with anything. It’s just a very simple performance in that way: I’m up with there with my really, really, great, strong band and we’re just interpreting my songs that I’ve done over the last thirty-five years. But I love writing little theatrical things and I can see it in the future as something I might want to do. Whether I’d be in it or not, I don’t know, these days, maybe not.
Demetrius Romeo: David Bowie has had an acting career running parallel to his music career. But, he says, the acting doesn’t seem as important these days.
DAVID BOWIE: I’d love to be a movie star, you know, and have my name on posters and photographs forty foot high and all that. But you’ve got to work so hard at it, the acting and all that you gotta do. And that really takes up time and I don’t think I’ve got a commitment to it, really. It’s great being offered little cameos now, which is generally what I have always been offered. I’ve had a couple of larger roles. But I don’t think I’m serious enough about it, and quite rightly, that’s why I’m not offered a huge amount of stuff to do because it’s not my profession, and it’s just wonderful if somebody like a Scorsese says, ‘do you want to wander on and do Pontius Pilate for five minutes?’ ‘Yes, smashing, what a crack that’ll be just to do that!’ I still choose anything that I do on the strength of the director. If it’s somebody that I really admire, or it’s a new guy and I think, ‘he really looks like he’d be interesting to work with’, I generally go on that. But Russell can sleep safely…
Demetrius Romeo: One place David Bowie does continue to engage in role-playing is in the performance of other people’s songs. Throughout his career, Bowie has frequently recorded cover versions, and there are three on the tour version of his current CD, Reality. One of them turns out to be an inadvertent tribute to George Harrison, ‘Try Some, Buy Some’.
Music: ‘Try Some, Buy Some’ - David Bowie
DAVID BOWIE: Ironically, I didn’t know it was a George Harrison song. Well, I must have known, but it never went in. For me it was the Ronnie Spector single that came out in 1974. And I knew it was the last – I think it was the last – single released by Apple Records at that particular time before it folded. It was just a phenomenal single. It didn’t do anything because I think Apple had run out of money, so they couldn’t promote it. Sounds like 2004, doesn’t it! I truly love the single; I thought it was just a wonderful piece of work. It was only when I was writing out all the data for the album cover that I recognised it as a George Harrison song. Course it is! It rather poignantly became an homage to George without actually trying… oh, you know what I mean.
Music: ‘Try Some, Buy Some’ - David Bowie