Velvet Goldmine

It's no secret that I am a gigantic David Bowie fan. He is truly iconic, and my love for him, his influences, his music, his art, his self reinvention are what shaped my love of music into the ecclectic taste I have today and the ultimate respect that I have for those who do music "properly".

I get a lot of stick for my hatred of the X-Factor, my frustration with the majority of the "music" in the charts and with the way the music industry functions nowadays. I cannot compromise on quality though and force myself to love something that is not in my eyes deserving of sitting side by side on my CD shelf with the gods of punk, rock, soul, pop and all of their twisted cousins.

When a new band comes out or a new song takes my fancy I often think "will this stand the test of time?" and if not "does it define this time in my life, who I am, what I feel and will I look back on it fondly as a product of the time?" that's what makes a good song for me. When Florence and The Machine's new album came out it didn't capture me the way Lungs did, an instant favourite that I could listen to over and over and over again. But because I love her, I'm listening to it anyway, convinced it will be a "grower".

There is no way in hell that anything that a manufactured band like... I don't know Westlife or JLS or whoever the hell that Bruno Mars guy is or any moron from The X-Factor will stand the test of time. We won't make movies about them (I'm glossing over the Spice Girls movie here...) or analyse their fashion style or confuse our parents trying to emulate them. People won't write lovingly crafted words about their musical influences. It's shit music, it's not art and it's not a part of modern culture that I want anything to do with.

I love music that has soul, that expresses something, that is inspirational. Something that has preferably been written by the person singing it, or FOR the person singing it (Prince for example wrote many wonderful songs for many other artists - all marvellous because he understood what would suit them, David Bowie wrote All The Young Dudes for Mott The Hoople and they practically sang it better than he did). Something sang by a person who can sing without an over-reliance on the voice synthesizer. Someone who shed blood, sweat and tears to get into the industry, someone who paid their dues and gets to perform with integrity. Not some product of a marketing campaign, a production team, a handful of stylists... someone who sets their own style and influences the world.

So when The Boy came home on Sunday morning from a drunken boy's night in Madchester, a time I spent watching Purple Rain, listening to Sonic Youth or the Velvet Underground and reading Rilke with a glass of wine he joined me in watching Velvet Goldmine with his hangover.

All the way through the film, which I've seen many times but only recently bought on DVD I was pretty devastated to realise that he didn't get any of the references.

"You do realise that Ewan McGregor is channelling Iggy and the Stooges don't you?"


"Yes!" a quick google search reveals Iggy contorting on stage, shirtless and androgynous in silver lame or black leather trousers, eyes ringed with guyliner and peering through long bleached hair. Ewan captured him perfectly with a dash of Mick Ronson and Kurt Cobain thrown in. (not that Kurt Cobain has any reference to Glam Rock, far from it he was the king of grunge but in the late 90s when the film was made we all still loved Nirvana passionately, and his spirit of "live fast, die young and leave a good looking corpse" struck a chord in me as I watched the character of Maxwell Demon attempt to do just that.)
And speaking of Mick Ronson - the scene in which Brian Slade goes down on Curt Wild's guitar was a recreation of David Bowie and Mick Ronson who famously did just that. Possibly a bit obscure for a non-Bowie worshipper but like I said... the references are there.

"Did you notice all the David Bowie and Marc Bolan references? Or that they based Curt Wild's character on Iggy and Lou Reed? Not only their look and their style of music but Iggy grew up in a trailer and Lou Reed was sent to EST for being gay so there are literal references too"


And this is what got me. How can we live in a world where someone can watch a film and not be aware that it's named after a David Bowie song, a song he wrote about exploring bisexuality, that the characters are styled for the glam rock era that he and Marc Bolan et al fostered (In fact Iggy, Bowie and Lou Reed were all part of the same record label, MainMan which further ties them together), that the songs featured are authentic songs from the era - Gary Glitter and T-Rex are perhaps more obvious but I bought the soundtrack back in the 90s and couldn't believe all of the collaborations - Roxy Music, The Stooges, Cockney Rebel... I loved Brian Molko from Placebo and he was FABULOUS in the film. I didn't even mind when he brought out 20th Century Boy, despite my pathalogical hatred of most cover versions because he really did T.Rex justice. Bowie is severely missing from the soundtrack but I don't think he agreed for his music to be used, something that would have transcended the film to a higher plane. Even without him it still manages to encapsulate that time in history, lovingly and ethereally.

When Ewan McGregor later made Moulin Rouge I felt that his involvement made up for the lack of him in Velvet Goldmine, that the pairing of T-Rex and Bowie on the soundtrack came full circle. It's a pleasure to watch and to listen to for someone who appreciates these kind of collaborations.

And it's magic the effect that music has, how could someone not appreciate a tribute to the friendship between Marc Bolan and David Bowie? Their performances together and separately inspired so much of the film; axwell Demon was of course a tribue to to David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust persona, the references to the Velvet Underground (Maxwell Demon's bad were called the Venus in Furs, a VU song) they even named the guitarist Finn in homace to Mickey Finn from T.Rex. The parallels between Bowie and Bolan were always beautiful, both with manufactured surnames, both chose their children's names to rhyme (Zowie Bowie and Nolan Bolan), both equal contributors in this world of glitter, sequins, androgony and sexual expression.

The only part of the film that sparked any recognition for The Boy was when the little girl read "Antagonish" - a poem that inspired Bowie's The Man Who Sold The World.

But of course he didn't get that reference either. Or appreciate the Citizen Kane style of filming and Oscar Wilde peppered dialogue. He didn't even see the cameo of Andy Warhol and Marilyn Monroe.

Am I a massive nerd for loving to find these references? Probably. I love sewing together people who are worthy of recognition. As a child I could tell you the name behind every Disney voice that I loved, what else they had done, how they had integrated facets of their personality into the character. I could look at a painting or an illustration and see the influences. I could listen to the lyrics of songs and pick out hidden meanings and references and that's one thing about David Bowie that I love. The very fabric of history is weaved about his lyrics - artists, film stars, fashion icons, novellists, films... he wrote about what inspired him and he in turn inspired me to express myself in this lateral way.

If there is any lesson that modern artists can take, it's that they have some fucking big shoes to fill.

Ziggy played guitarrrrrraaaaarrrrraaaarrrrrr.

Title: Velvet Goldmine by David Bowie