Friday, September 18, 2015


There was so much amazing surrounding the David Bowie Is exhibition at ACMI. They have ongoing talks and seminars, and are showing movies that have Bowie in them or are somewhat related.

And then there is the ACMI shop!

I bought many amazing things there including a Bowie mask, plectrums, pencils, a tote bag, postcards, and on my second shop an amazing Ashes to Ashes print.

I saw a double movie on the Monday night I was there.

First, Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. This is a seminal live performance shot on tour in 1973, and his last show as that persona. Directed by classic music documentarian, D. A. Pennebaker, it is a thing to behold. It is mostly the show, but is cut with pre-show buzz of those attending, and a very chilled Bowie getting ready. It also has shots of the costume changes in between songs too. Remarkable stuff. But it's about Ziggy and the music, and what brilliance is on show.

I've seen this movie many times before, but never on the big screen. What an utter delight.

His voice is so very good. It seems like a dopey thing to write, I mean we all know he can sing, I've seen him live, I've experienced it. But just watching the film, that is what I took away. His depth and range is outstanding, and he just knocks it out of the park here. The band, especially Mick Ronson, are in fine form. And everyone seems to be enjoying themselves. It has a great line up of songs, including covers by Lou Reed and The Stones.
The second film of the double was The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. I've seen this film a few times, I am a huge fan of Wes Anderson - he can do no wrong in my mind. And this is a visual masterpiece.

But why is it included in the Bowie stuff?

The Soundtrack of course. The movie is full of Bowie songs sung in Portuguese and it is beautiful. I had forgotten how much of the soundtrack was dedicated to Bowie.

The movie follows the adventures of Steve Zissou - played perfectly by Bill Murray - a Jacques Cousteau type character who is down on his luck and chasing a 'Leopard Shark' that ate his partner. The thing about this movie is Wes didn't have the budget for the underwater scenes, so he did a whole range of crazy out there animation and it works on so many levels, most of all visually. It's also got a great cast with Cate Blanchett, Owen Wilson, Angelica Huston, Jeff Goldblum (every movie should have Jeff Goldblum in it) and it's very funny.

The other event I went to was a talk with Melbourne's seminal Bowie expert, the humble, Bruce Butler. Bruce had a fabulous slideshow of photos and candid stories of his life with Bowie. He said he was not a fan, but boy he was. And his life generally was fascinating, yet he was incredibly humble and human about it.

What an hour of amazing, he started off telling the small crowd about how The Monkees made Bowie! He loved The Monkees and we all know it was because of Davy Jones that David Jones changed his name to David Bowie. Bruce believes the name change was part of the mystique and maybe things wouldn't have been the same had he remained David Jones. Maybe!

He took us briefly through his childhood love of records, leading to him getting to a job in a record store and on and on it went. He worked with Aussie bands, Do-Re-Mi, My Friend The Chocolate Cake, Steve Kilbey, Grant McLennon. He produced the show The Factory, is good friends with Molly Meldrum, and set up Virgin Records in Australia...amongst many, many other impressive things. This man is a superstar!

He spoke about his young love of Bowie and how he found out Bowie was to tour Australia for the first time. He and friends lined up at the MCG ticket box roughly a week prior to tickets going on sale. This was unheard of back then. A keen photographer, he has photo mementos of all of these stories, and so he shows us a photo of his friends lining up and Nick Cave - a friend of a friend, and at that stage relatively unknown - dropping by to see what they were up to.

On the day of the ticket sales, the MCG open up another window first, not the window they had been waiting at and people who had rocked up that morning got great seats and they got really crap ones. Not one to let such things pass without a fight, Bruce ended up on the news. Unfortunately the record store - the cult Gaslight records - where he worked part-time saw him, and realised he was not sick as he had told them, and he was called in to talk to management. They understood and he kept his job. Promoters were there and came up to him and exchanged their tickets for better ones.

Here is an except of this tale.

He told stories of that concert, were it rained the entire time, he had front row seats and his photos were amazing. He also ended up in Adelaide and Sydney for the shows. He had brilliant stories surrounding each show, lining up, the people he met, the photos he took, and of course the Bowie experience. We were in the palms of his expert hands, jaw agape...well, at least I was.

He ended up at the Sydney shows via Bette Midler, who he met en route back to Melbourne from Adelaide and told her about his adventures, she told him he should go to Sydney. She said she was with Bowie at The Sebel. She wasn't 'with' Bowie, but obviously knew him. She said there would be a party and he could come. And so he did!

Each time Bowie toured, Bruce was there and met him every time, each time getting more time or closer to the man. He said he was always pleasant and affable, kind and funny. Although he never recognised him from one time to the next. 

The information and photos came rapidly, it was amazing, I tried to tweet or take notes, I was just too in awe of his tales to capture the details. But I can assure you he was fascinating. 

The evening ended with a Q and A session. People asked all sorts of questions. They asked him his favourite single and album, Heroes and Low, which made me think about mine!

I always find it very difficult to choose favourites. I am 99.9% certain my favourite song is Starman. it embodies everything I love about Bowie, the shock (well, he would have been to young people back then), the lyrics, the groove, and the fact it is the one song that has stayed with me. 

To make up a Top Five (Yes, I do try hard to be the female equivalent of Rob from High Fidelity!) I would add Ziggy Stardust, Golden Years, Man Who Sold The World, and Modern Love. A top ten would include Rock and Roll Suicide, Heroes, Ashes to Ashes, Life on Mars, and Sorrow. I think. These things can change. I cannot rate any of these additional 9 songs in 2-10 order!

My favourite album is The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars. But I also love Pin Ups, Hunky Dory, and Let's Dance.

Here is my piece about the actual exhibition.

No comments: