Jewels: Tatjana always gives the best birthday gifts, but this year she outdid herself by surprising me with tickets to The Sound of Vision; a lifetime retrospective on David Bowie at the V&A. Of all the celebrities I’ve met in my lifetime, I was most nervous about meeting David, because I’d idolized him since I was a kid (something I shared in common with Nick, and we actually discussed the day we met). I wanted to
keep him on a pedestal and didn’t want to be disappointed with the real person. I can’t tell you how wrong I was – he is one of the most kind, gentlemanly, and charismatic people I’ve ever known, and still remains my favorite performer of all time. Like the artist, the exhibition is enthralling even when you’ve known the man for nearly three decades. For Tatjana’s boyfriend, Aaron Kent, it was a revelation, so I asked him to write a guest blog post on his impressions.
Aaron: Several months ago, at the Victoria and Albert museum in London, an exhibition opened on David Bowie’s life, music and his art. The V&A had been given unprecedented access to the David Bowie archive to curate the first international retrospective of an extraordinary career. It features more than 300 objects that include handwritten lyrics, original costumes, fashion, photography, film, music videos, set designs and Bowie’s own instruments.
Knowing what a huge fan Julie Anne has always been, Tatjana immediately booked tickets as her birthday gift to her mother, so Julie Anne could see the show as soon as she arrived in June. I went a few days earlier with Tatjana’s dad, and was blown away.
The show coincided with the release of his latest album, The Next Day, which I loved. While I wish I could say I was a lifelong fan of David’s, most of his work predates me, so I set myself the project of listening to everything he’s ever released to familiarize myself. My verdict? He is arguably one of the most influential artists of all time with twenty-six studio albums, and say what you want about the Beatles or the Rolling Stones, he is also one of the longest running and most relevant in pop history – making this exhibition a must see!
It opens with a stunning montage of David’s formative years. Projected as ‘living’ news papers, which come alive to tell the story of his youth and the start to his career. There is a rather brilliant gem to look out for, which is an interview with a very young David Jones (prior to changing his name) about discrimination against men with longer hair, considering how far he went in pushing the boundaries of gender association and sexuality -this short clip was an early highlight of the tour, and really gave you a taste of things to come.
The next room of the tour was how he broke into the mainstream and exploded onto the music scene with ‘Space Oddity’. One of my favourite parts of this section is a short clip of David meeting Andy Warhol. Warhol apparently hated David’s song on Hunky Dory ‘Andy Warhol’ so the meeting between them is palpably awkward. In the next room is the original album artwork of the Andy Warhol inspired cover for Hunky Dory, next to Andy’s famous Marilyn Monroe portrait. I delighted in the irony that these two incredible men, who in artistic terms are two of the most influential people in modern history, and how they found it so awkward being around each other, despite a mutual appreciation. Considering in later years David would wear Andy Warhol’s wig while performing defiantly, and later play the artist in Julian Schnabel’s film about Jean Michel Basquiat, added a whole other weird level to the story.
The next room covered David’s alter egos, the Thin White Duke, Major Tom, and of course most notoriously the monstrous Ziggy Stardust who almost consumed him – displaying his extraordinary ability to become these characters, not only mentally and physically, but artistically as well. Seeing the legendary costumes up close and personal, and the concert footage of him wearing them projected on all of the walls was a phenomenal experience.
The next few rooms showcase just how explosive and entertaining his legendary live performances were. The most striking part of this is how he basically killed Ziggy Stardust live on stage with his ‘Farwell speech’, which you can listen to if you own a copy of the Ziggy stardust motion picture soundtrack, while listening to his heart crushing rendition of Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicide.
I highly doubt Bowie will ever perform live again, which considering that I only just came to appreciate his immense body of work, leaves me feeling regretful. If you, like me, never saw him live you should definitely see this exhibition before it closes on August 11th. I know Julie Anne saw him live, since Duran Duran toured with David Bowie during the Glass Spider Tour (I’m jealous), and I know how much she loved the exhibition. If you’re not already a Bowie fan, just listen to Hunky Dory, Aladdin Sane, Ziggy Stardust, Scary monsters or Station to Station or Low or really any of his other albums – I highly recommend learning more about his impact on music, theater, fashion, and art.
Jewels: Thank you Aaron, and you may be jealous about my seeing Bowie live, but did you know he gave your girlfriend a teddy bear for her first birthday with a backstage pass around his neck that read “to the cutest #1 on tour”? Not many little girls get to claim having both Simon LeBon and David Bowie sing Happy Birthday to them.