David Bowie Sings “The Jean Genie”

Here’s a clip of androgynous musical brushfire-starting alien pin up David Bowie, and his soon-to-be-erstwhile Spiders From Mars. It’s the recently discovered clip of his 1973 performance of “The Jean Genie” on the British music program Top of the Pops.

The song is taken from the album Aladdin Sane, a record released that very year in April. This song was the lead single, actually released earlier in November of 1972. ┬áThis was the height of the glam-rock period, when colourful costuming and gender-bending stage personas met the vintage Chess blues ‘n’ boogie sound.

This particular clip was discovered recently, and broadcast on the Top of the Pops 2011 Christmas special. Bowie and TOTPs go hand in hand, particularly in this phase of his career. His performance of “Starman” in the summer of 1972 galvanized rock fans all over the country and nourished the seeds of British punk, post-punk, and New Romanticism.┬áBut despite all that, Bowie had his own preoccupations, namely making sense out of America, the fascination and disorientation he felt about it, and then putting it into his work.

So, how is that revealed in this tune? Read more

Happy Birthday Elvis Presley and David Bowie!

Today is Elvis Presley’s birthday! He would have been 73. Or he is 73 today, depending on your opinion about his death. It’s also David Bowie’s birthday today, which is a nice parallel. He’s 61 – 61!

There is story concerning the two artists; that Bowie, during his Ziggy Stardust period, showed up late at an Elvis Presley concert held at Madison Square Garden in full Ziggy regalia and sat near the front row to everyone’s distraction. What a time the early 70s must have been for shows like that, when members of the audience could outdress those on stage, even if the one on stage happens to be Elvis!

Here’s a recollection from Bowie on the matter:

“[Elvis] was a major hero of mine. And I was probably stupid enough to believe that having the same birthday as him actually meant something. I came over for a long weekend. I remember coming straight from the airport and walking into Madison Square Garden very late. I was wearing all my clobber from the Ziggy period and had great seats near the front. The whole place just turned to look at me and I felt like a right idiot. I had brilliant red hair, some huge padded space suit and those red boots with big black soles. I wished I’d gone for something quiet, because I must have registered with him. He was well into his set.”

– Bowie (1996) (Read more from the source of this quote here…)

And what must Elvis have thought? I’d like to think it was something like, “look what’s come of everything I helped to start!”

Happy birthdays, guys!

To celebrate, here are a couple of clips

To view the clips, hover over each of the images and click the ‘play’ icon. Enlarge the viewing window by clicking on the magnifying glass icon.

Enjoy!

Elvis Presley On Stage

David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust

About the Clips

The first one is Elvis during his earliest Vegas residency at the very beginning of the 1970s, which I think is an underrated period in his career. He performs Tony Joe White‘s ‘Polk Salad Annie’, a standard in Elvis’ set at the time, and featuring the scorching guitar work of the great James Burton. This tune graced Elvis’ live album On Stage February 1970 , which remains to be a favourite of mine, and one of the earliest records I remembering heatring. Dad is a big Elvis fan from way back.

The second clip is Bowie performing as Ziggy Stardust around the same time, this time on an historic appearance on Britain’s Top of the Pops show performing his song “Starman”. The performance polarized a nation, with one half seeing a new world of fashion, expression, and a new approach to rock performance, and the other thinking that the world had gone mad, causing many to seek a refund of their TV licenses.