Staff Picks: David Bowie, David Bowie, and David Bowie


Need a great book (about David Bowie) to read, album (by David Bowie) to listen to, or TV show (feat. David Bowie) to get hooked on? The Flavorwire team is here to help: in this weekly feature, our editorial staffers recommend the cultural object or experience they’ve enjoyed most in the past seven days. And on this sad cultural week whose one silver lining is a collective revisitation of and surge of appreciation for David Bowie’s work, we’re at once mournfully and inspiredly living within Bowie-tunnel vision. Scroll through for our (Bowie-specific) picks, and tell us what you’ve been loving in the comments.

The Man Who Fell to Earth, dir. Nicolas Roeg

Of the thousands of Bowie tributes I’ve seen on social media, one of the first and most indelible was a screenshot from Nicolas Roeg’s 1976 film, the musician’s first starring role, captioned with a simple heart. In it, Bowie’s titular alien responds to a simple question — “What do you do?” — with a smile and a shrug: “I’m just visiting.” Now, as ever, this movie that Bowie neither wrote nor directed still feels like an effortless extension of his persona; the man himself claimed he “just threw my real self into the movie as I was at the time.” Of course Bowie perfectly inhabits the role of an advanced, enlightened, and elegant alien, not just because space was already a well-established part of his iconography, but because Bowie himself, with his mismatched eyes and notorious mid-’70s diet, never seemed quite of this world himself. Add the absurdity of a Bowie-level star making anything this odd and experimental today (American Horror Story: Hotel is fun, but Roeg is working on another level entirely) and you have as vivid an artifact of what made him special as any album. — Alison Herman, TV Editor

Labyrinth (dir. Jim Henson)

I’ve gotta go with Labyrinth, which I saw in the theater as a child. It wasn’t my first exposure to Bowie, but seeing a major pop musician act in a movie was something new (Madonna aside). And he wasn’t playing a rock star or any version of himself, like some sort of glorified cameo. He was the Goblin King. He rolled a sphere up and down his arms. He walked on stairs upside-down. He was both alluring and terrifying. And he wrote five songs for the movie, giving the whole experience that otherworldly but compelling Bowie aura. The poster for the film puts Bowie’s name right next to those of George Lucas and Jim Henson, two geniuses who created entire worlds. David Bowie absolutely belongs in that group. — Jason Ginsburg, Social Media Editor

David Bowie and Mick Jagger — “Dancing in the Street”

This is not a joke. Since Bowie’s gone away, the Internet has been overrun with very (justifiably) serious pieces about the legend’s high art bonafides, and it’s true that he was a genius. He was a democratic, forward-thinking artist who broke ground straight on through his death. He was also a jokester. You can’t be a rock star for four decades without having some fun, which is exactly what “Dancing in the Street” is. The clothes are great, the moves are great, the hair is great. It’s all great. Well, except for the song. The song is kind of awful. But still, you can dance to it. — Shane Barnes, Associate Editor

The “By the Time I Got to New York” Moment of the “Lazarus” Video

This song-and-video combination deserves and will certainly get plenty of whole essays devoted to it. But this particular moment — the first in which we see Bowie standing and posing in a glammy (and familiar) outfit after first appearing blind with button eyes on a hospital bed — is perhaps one of the most illustrative ten seconds about confronting death I’ve ever seen. I’ve come back to it, perhaps masochistically, many times this week.

The shot, which begins exactly 2:00 into the video, starts as a sort of time-transcending explosion, seeing Bowie suddenly ecstatic and wearing an outfit recalling his earlier career and doing coquettish hip-bumps through his nostalgic lyric. But his movements are inflexible and pained and indicative of a disconnect between body and self, and right after a second close-up on his face, after the line “I was living like a king,” his face seems to return to the present, the hip-bumps continuing in emotionally hollowed fashion, as though he were suddenly a hologram or an imprint of himself. Bowie gives such clarity and brevity to a horror that awaits everyone, and though it’s presented in this moment mercilessly, perhaps the greatest favor an artist can do anyone is create bridges from person to person, to show that what we share is our loneliest experiences, to make them, in fact, seem less lonely. — Moze Halperin, Associate Editor

Velvet Goldmine (dir. Todd Haynes)

Like many of my fellow Flavorwire staffers, I spent time this week with Todd Haynes’ Velvet Goldmine, that loose, dreamlike Bowie homage that I basically consider my favorite film of all time. Even as an inspiration/muse who specifically forbade the filmmakers from using his catalog, David Bowie brought out the best in them, forcing them to be more imaginative and less tethered to history. And by creating a mash-up of a film, staging a fake journalistic inquiry into the lost soul of glam rock, Haynes hit more accurately upon the spirit of the epoch and a nugget of beautiful truth about rock music in general than he might have with a straight biopic. I know much of the script by heart, but it’s so dense, my fandom doesn’t stop me from being amazed and thrilled each time I re-watch it. I also have always loved going back and forth between Bowie’s catalog and the film’s Bowie-inspired soundtrack, marveling at the way the best culture bounces off of itself to create beautiful synergy. — Sarah Seltzer, Editor-at-Large

This Performance of “Heroes”

I don’t have much to add to the voices mourning the death of David Bowie, but I will say that it has been nice to come across some older material that I’d never seen or heard before. One great video circulating among my friends is this Tally Brown performance of “Heroes” — I’m sure a lot of you had seen it before, but I never had. Anyway, I think it speaks for itself. — Jonathon Sturgeon, Literary Editor

David Bowie on the Potential of the Internet

Some of my favorite pieces of Bowie nostalgia that popped up in the wake of his death were the incredible interviews he’s given over the years. And my absolute favorite is this gem, in which he schools a befuddled BBC interviewer on the unlimited potential of the Internet. As the talking head wrinkles his befuddled brow, he tries to get Bowie to agree with him that some of the claims about the Internet’s future were unfounded, only to have his own example turned against him. It’s one of the most clear-cut, real-time examples of Bowie’s curious genius, an expression of his prescient perspective on art and culture that left most of us struggling to catch up. The grace he shows as he utterly destroys the interviewer’s preconceived notions is both admirable and impressive to watch. He was truly one of the smartest humans to make pop music. His presence will be sorely missed. — Matthew Ismael Ruiz, Music Editor

Bowie nailing MTV’s lack of diversity in 1983

I remember reading about it in the invaluable oral history I Want My MTV , but to their credit – after a few commenters and blogs began posting about it – MTV re-upped the uncut version of this rather tense interaction between Mr. Bowie and MTV veejay Mark Goodman from back in 1983, and it’s kind of amazing. Keep in mind, this was an interview to promote Let’s Dance, and Bowie’s line of questioning was presumably influenced, in no small part, by conversations with that album’s co-producer Nile Rodgers. But watch how pointedly Bowie makes the statement, and presses it, and listens to Goodman’s stammering excuses and buzzwords (“narrowcasting,” indeed), and gives him those passive-aggressive nods and “hmmm”s and “that’s evident”s. The network’s eventual pivot on this point is mostly attributed to the un-ignorable noise made by Thriller, but it seems like Mr. Bowie helped move them along as well. — Jason Bailey, Film Editor

“Soul Love”

My memory isn’t great in general, but on all things David Bowie, it’s probably more encyclopedic than even I would like. So these past few days, for me, haven’t been a matter of revisiting his music so much as hearing it play constantly, involuntarily in my head. And though I would never have named it as one of my favorite Bowie songs, or even one of my favorite tracks on Ziggy Stardust, it’s been the chorus of “Soul Love” that I’ve heard the most often. “Love is careless in its choosing / Sweeping over cross a baby / Love descends on those defenseless / Idiot love will spark the fusion / Inspirations have I none / Just to touch the flaming dove / All I have is my love of love / And love is not loving,” Bowie sings. But really, I think it’s the vehemence with which he delivers those lyrics more than the words themselves that won’t leave me alone. — Judy Berman, Editor-in-Chief