Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Rock N' Roll Chameleon

I don't hide it, I think David Bowie is probably the coolest person alive. I think the only person that comes even close to him in coolness is Beck and that is pushing it since Beck hasn't been around half as long as Bowie.

Bowie's been called the rock n' roll chameleon because of his ability to change along with music trends year to year ... decade to decade. But I don't think this analogy is altogether accurate because a chameleon changes itself based on its environment, the reptile doesn't change its environment. While Bowie does. Bowie may not have created glamour rock or acid rock nor did he introduce an element of theatre into the show (Peter Gabriel probably did that) ... but he made these things cool. When he did these things ... others could follow.

It is obvious from reading this that I have been a big fan most of my life so it is not often that I learn anything new about the Thin White Duke. Today, I learned a few.

* As a boy, Bowie's first instrument was the saxophone. He wanted to play for Little Richard's band. He still plays on some tracks today. I knew he played, I just didn't know it was his first.

* I knew the name of his early bands back in the early 60's were The King Bees, The Mannish Boys and The Lower Third. But what I didn't know is that the lead guitarist of The Mannish Boys was a young guitar player named Jimi Page which you hopefully recognize as the lead axe from Led Zepplin. I could imagine that The Mannish Boys is lifted from the Muddy Waters song but I have no proof of this.

* Bowie has always had some great guitarists on his records and tours with him. The three most famous of "Bowie" guitarist are probably Mick Ronson, Carlos Alomar and the vibrator wielding Reeves Gabrelle who are basically just famous for playing with him, but Bowie has also done work with such greats as Peter Frampton, Nils Lofgren and Stevie Ray Vaughn. What I learned today is that Stevie Ray was an obscure unknown musician before he played on the Let's Dance disc and toured on the Curious Moonlight tour. Stevie turned some heads.

* One of his eyes is partially blind due to a fight he had with one of his best friends in childhood. He has little depth perception in this eye (not sure which one) and little distinction of color. Something to think about next time you see him running around on stage or see something that he painted. I know that his eyes are different colors but I don't know if this has anything to do with this accident.

* He took his name from John Bowie of Alamo fame, the creator of the Bowie knife. Why I don't know. This was news to me. I know he had to change his name because his was already taken by Davey Jones of the Monkees and god knows, one wouldn't want to be mistaken as a Monkee.

* He is currently working on a rock opera based on the graphic novel, The Watchmen. Wow!

And proof that coolness begets coolness, I just discovered that Beck sampled a guitar riff off of Bowie's song Win on one of my favorite Beck songs, Debra. I will have to listen closer to this now.

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