At the turn of the seventies, the man born David Robert Jones on January 8th 1947, was exploiting the moon landings to get into what was then called the Hit Parade with his space-dream-gone-wrong anthem "Space Oddity". In 1971, he was half-heartedly promoting Hunky Dory, an album so good as to now be considered an all-time classic, but which he was barely interested in at a juncture where his creative energies were focused on The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars. The strangeness of the mouthful of a title of that 1972 work was representative of a unique record which, though a naked tilt for stardom, played with notions of sexuality and artifice never essayed by any previous musician. With Aladdin Sane (1973), he seemed intent on proving he was too profane and knowing to be a pop star, yet too cynical and vain to be a rock star. He stepped out of that (very listenable) contradiction with the 'plastic soul' of Young Americans (1975) and the chilly epics of Station To Station (1976). Miraculously, he sidestepped the scorn of the UK's punk rock movement of '76/'77 by both being absent from the country and producing Low, "Heroes" and Lodger (1977-1979), the 'Berlin trilogy' whose nigh-suicidal experimentalism could in no way be bracketed with the complacency and careerism of the rock aristocracy that had so aroused New Wave fury.

Admittedly, there was a subsequent album trio informed by somewhat less integrity in the shape of 1983-1987 stinkers Let's Dance, Tonight and Never Let Me Down, but Bowie ultimately took hold of himself sufficiently to ensure that that period was not what it seemed at the time: the preamble to the sort of long, slow decline seen with so  many 'heritage' acts. The Tin Machine experiment was an artistic failure, but nobody could accuse someone who was subsuming his stardom into an intellectual heavy metal band of resting on his laurels. Bowie started to haul himself back to artistic credibility with Black Tie White Noise (1993), and if the consensus that his last great album is 1980's Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) has not subsequently been dented, his post-'93 work has always been interesting and, crucially, adventurous.

Bowie On Bowie: Interviews & Encounters

Bowie's career was brought to a rude halt in mid-2004 when he suffered a heart attack. It was a shocking occurence for such a preternaturally youthful-looking man, although the fact that his chain-smoking of Marlboro cigarettes diminishes that shock. It caused the cancellation of the final fourteen dates of the A Reality Tour, which itself had already been marred by an audience member throwing a lollipop in his eye. The ten-year silence that followed was ominous. Pulling out of the hat The Next Day was in Bowie's long tradition of surprising the world.

Bowie has been one of popular music's greatest interviewees since January 1972, when he famously told the Melody Maker he was gay. Although he wasn't yet a big star, it was a groundbreaking moment. Far from coming back to haunt him when he shortly made his stab at teen idoldom, it assisted him. Record-buying youth initially responded with the same revulsion as their parents, then performed a somersault when they gleefully realized that being a fan of Bowie was something with which they could shock their elders, ever the wont of the young.

Over the years, Bowie has pretty much failed to give an uninteresting interview. It might be said that he has habitually used the media for his own ends, whether it be the disputable gay quote, the mischievously headlines-generating call for a new dose of fascism in 1976 or the name-dropping of writers and painters in any number of interviews in an anxious attempt to prove he's not an archetypal rock thicko. Yet he has paradoxically also been honest, declining to be coy about his ambition, his private life, and even his developing ennui. (Who can forget his comment, also in 1976, "I really, honestly and truly, don't know how much longer my albums will sell...And I really don't give a shit!")

This was all assisted by the fact that Bowie became famous at a point in history when rock journalism was coming into its own: the back pages of this quintessential seventies star do not suffer from the opening passages of sixties banality that afflicts coverage of so many musicians of older vintage.

Bowie on Bowie presents some of the best interviews Bowie has granted in his nearly five-decade career. Each interview traces a new step in his unique journey, successively freezing him in time as young novelty hit-maker, hairy hippie, Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, The Thin White Duke, Plastic Soul Man, fragile Germanic exile, Godfather of the New Romantics, Eighties sell-out, Tin Machinist, and, finally, permanently artistically reborn beloved elder statesman of challenging popular music. In all of them, he is remarkably articulate. He is also extraordinarily polite. No clichéd rock mutha, he is a man whose charm almost every interviewer remarks upon. He is also disinclined to the hard-sell: it's remarkable in how many of these interviews Bowie's latest product is barely discussed, Bowie preferring instead to analyze his own past or expound on his latest, often arcane, theories.

These print exchanges are actually of greater interest than Bowie's audio and film interviews. It may be unfair, but it is inescapably the case that it's difficult to concentrate on (for which read: take seriously) his intellectualizing when distracted by the cockney inflections that have remained miraculously intact throughout his globe-trotting and longtime non-residency of the UK. Bowie on film has the added distraction of his eerily un-matching eyes.

These interviews & encounters range across all of Bowie's career - except the last ten years. Bowie's retreat from music-making meant there was nothing to promote. That lack of promotional duty created a Bowie-quote desert from 2004 onward. That he elected album producer Tony Visconti to be his interface with the media upon his comeback suggests that, during his absent decade, Bowie discovered something which previously had not occurred to him: although he enjoyed talking about himself and his art, he didn't need to.

The features herein come from outlets both prestigious (Melody Maker, Mojo, New Musical Express, Q, Rolling Stone) and less well-known (The Drummer, Guitar, Ikon, Mr. Showbiz). It barely matters either way. Whatever the renown of the magazine, newspaper or website, Bowie - the first artist to consistently employ the act of the interview as a means of artistic expression in itself - provides great copy in all.

-Sean Egan

CREDITS

  • "Don't Dig Too Deep, Pleads Oddity David Bowie" by Gordon Coxhill. First published in New Musical Express, November 15, 1969. Copyright © IPC + Syndication.

  • "Oh You Pretty Thing" by Michael Watts. First published in Melody Maker, January 22, 1972. Copyright © IPC + Syndication.

  • "David At The Dorchester" / "Back At The Dorchester" by Charles Shaar Murray. First published in New Musical Express. July 22 and 29, 1972. Copyright © IPC + Syndication.

  • "Goodbye Ziggy And A Big Hello To Aladdin Sane" by Charles Shaar Murray. First published in New Musical Express, January 27, 1973. Copyright © IPC + Syndication.

  • "Bowie Finds His Voice" by Robert Hilburn. First published in Melody Maker, September 14, 1974. Copyright © 1974 Robert Hilburn.

  • "Bowie Meets Springsteen" by Mike McGarth. First published in The Drummer, November 26, 1974. Copyright © 1974 Mike McGrath.

  • "Bowie: Now I'm A Businessman" by Robert Hilburn. First published in Melody Maker, February 28, 1976. Copyright © 1974 Robert Hilburn.

  • "Goodbye To Ziggy And All That..." by Allan Jones. First published in Melody Maker, October 29, 1977. Copyright © IPC + Syndication.

  • "12 Minutes With David Bowie" by John Tobler. First published in ZigZag, January 1978. Copyright © 1978 John Tobler.

  • "Confessions Of An Elitist" by Michael Watts. First published in Melody Maker, February 18, 1978. Copyright © IPC + Syndication.

  • "The Future Isn't What It Used To Be" by Angus MacKinnon. First published in New Musical Express, September 13, 1980. Copyright © IPC + Syndication.

  • "The Face Interview" by David Thomas. First published in The Face, May 1983. Copyright © 1983 David Thomas.

  • "Sermon From The Savoy" by Charles Shaar Murray. First published in New Musical Express, September 29, 1984. Copyright © IPC + Syndication.

  • "Boys Keep Swinging" by Adrian Deevoy. First published in Q, June 1989. Copyright © 1989 Adrian Deevoy.

  • "Tin Machine II Interview" by Robin Eggar. Copyright © Robin Eggar, 1991.

  • "One Day, Son, All This Could Be Yours..." / "Alias Smiths And Jones" by Steve Sutherland. First published in New Musical Express, March 20 and 27, 1993. Copyright © IPC + Syndication.

  • "Station To Station" by David Sinclair. First published in Rolling Stone, June 10, 1993. Copyright © 1993 David Sinclair.

  • "Boys Keep Swinging" by Dominic Wells. First published in Time Out, August 30 - September 6, 1995. Copyright © 1995 Time Out.

  • "Action Painting" by Chris Roberts. First published in Ikon, October 1995. Copyright © 1995 Chris Roberts.

  • "The Artful Codger" by Steven Wells. First published in New Musical Express, November 25, 1995. Copyright © IPC + Syndication.

  • "No Longer A Lad Insane" by HP Newquist. First published in Guitar, January 1996. Copyright © 1996 HP Newquist.

  • "Fashion: Turn To The Left. Fashion: Turn To The Right." by David Bowie and Alexander McQueen. First published in Dazed & Confused, November 1996.  Copyright © 1996 Dazed & Confused.

  • "A Star Comes Back To Earth" by Mick Brown. First published in Telegraph Magazine, December 14, 1996. Copyright © 1996 Mick Brown.

  • "ChangesFiftyBowie" by David Cavanagh. First published in Q, February 1997. Copyright Copyright © 1997 David Cavanagh.

  • "Bowie Retrospective" by Linda Laban. First published on Mr. Showbiz, March 1997. Copyright © 1997 Linda Laban.

  • "Now Where Did I Put Those Tunes?" by David Quantick. First published in Q, October 1999. Copyright © 1999 David Quantick.

  • "Bowie: Most Stylish Man" by Dylan Jones. First published in GQ (UK Edition), October 2000. Copyright © 2000 Dylan Jones.

  • "It Means More To Me Than Any Number Of Hit Albums, This. Thanks Very Much" by John Robinson. First published in New Musical Express, December 2, 2000. Copyright © IPC + Syndication.

  • "Contact" by Paul Du Noyer. First published in Mojo, July 2002. Copyright © 2002 Paul Du Noyer.

  • "David Bowie: Life On Earth" by Ken Scrudato. First published in Soma, July 2003. Copyright © 2003 Ken Scrudato.

  • "Such A Perfect Day" by Mikel Jollett. First published in Filter, July/August 2003. Copyright © 2003 Mikel Jollett.

  • "Do You Remember Your First Time?" by Paul Du Noyer. First published in The Word, November 2003. Copyright © 2003 Paul Du Noyer.

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

MICK BROWN is the author of six books, including American Heartbeat, The Spiritual Tourist, Performance (an anatomy of the cult film classic), The Dance Of 17 Lives, and Tearing Down The Wall Of Sound: The Rise And Fall Of Phil Spector. He writes across a wide range of cultural subjects for the Telegraph magazine.

DAVID CAVANAGH is an Irish-born music journalist who between 1990 and 2013 worked for Select, Q, Mojo, and Uncut. His book about Creation Records and the UK independent scene, My Magpie Eyes Are Hungry For The Prize, was published in 2000. He is currently working on a book about music radio.

GORDON COXHILL started as a  music journalist but went on to become a teacher on the Aegean island of Syros. He wrote at length about his two decades there, and his concurrent travels within Greece, in Passing Thyme, describing them as "more formative" than interviewing many of the biggest stars of the 1960s and 1970s.

ADRIAN DEEVOY is a London-based journalist who has written for a variety of publications including The Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Sunday Times, The Times Of India, Q, GQ, and The Mail On Sunday. He has conducted extensive interviews with Bob Dylan, Prince, Madonna and George Michael.

Back in the day, ROBIN EGGAR was a press officer at RCA Records, where he was allowed to answer the phones the day Elvis died. He then managed punk band the Members and record producer Steve Lillywhite before becoming the Daily Mirror's rock writer. He has written for The Sunday Times, Esquire, You Magazine, The Face, Time Out, NME, The Observer, The Word and Rolling Stone, plus ten books on everything from fitness, adventure sports and Chinook helicopters to sixties sex gods.

ROBERT HILBURN was pop music critic at the Los Angeles Times from 1970 to 2005, when he left to write books. He has since produced two best sellers, a memoir entitled Corn Flakes with John Lennon and Johnny Cash: The Life, the definitive biography of the country music legend.

MIKEL JOLLETT was a journalist and aspiring novelist before, at the age of thirty-one, finding his calling as a musician. He is the frontman of the Airborne Toxic Event. He has said of his time as one of the editors of Filter magazine, "It was just me and my friends Tom, Steve and Greg. None of us knew what we were doing. We'd travel around and talk to bands we really liked. It was great."

ALLAN JONES joined the staff of Melody Maker in 1974 at the age of twenty-two following an application letter that was signed off with, "Melody Maker needs a bullet up its arse. I'm the gun - pull the trigger." He became editor of the title in 1984. He interviewed so many of the great and good in music that his anecdotes were enough to provide a regular, long-standing featured titled "Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before". The latter appeared in Uncut, the movies-and-music magazine he launched in 1997 and remained editor of it until 2014.

DYLAN JONES is the award-winning editor of GQ magazine. Among his many books is a collaboration with a man later to become British prime minister: Cameron On Cameron: Conversations With Dylan Jones. He was the chairman of the Prince's Trust Fashion Rocks Monaco. In June 2013 he was awarded an OBE for services to publishing and the fashion industry. He was once nearly a member of Buzzcocks.

Whether by choice or fate, LINDA LABAN has spent her life listening to music, hanging around recording studios, chasing interviews, and hustling for the best vantage point at gigs. The Boston and New York-based London native's work has been published by SXSWorld, M for Music & Musicians, Spin.com, MTV.com, New Musical Express, Record Collector, Revolver, the Boston Globe, the Seattle Times, the New York Post, Kerrang! and Rolling Stone.

ANGUS MacKINNON is a former writer, mainly about music, and commissioning editor, mainly of nonfiction. He says, "Most of my professional past seems an utterly foreign country to me now." He is now a full-time father.

MIKE McGRATH is host of the nationally syndicated public radio show You Bet Your Garden, garden editor for WTOP News Radio in Washington, DC, and contributing editor and columnist for GreenPrints magazine. In the early 1970s he was a rock and roll reporter - his first interview was with Captain Beefheart; his second with Pink Floyd. He was also an editor at Marvel Comics in New York, where he produced the premier edition of the British reprint weekly The Mighty World of Marvel.

CHARLES SHAAR MURRAY's journalistic career got off to an explosive start: the 1970 "Schoolkids Issue" of underground paper Oz in which he made his print debut led to an obscenity trial for its editors. He joined the NME in 1972 and went on to become a founder contributor of Q and Mojo magazines. His writing has also appeared in the Evening Standard, Guitarist, the Guardian, the Independent, the Independent On Sunday, the Observer, MacUser, New Statesman, Prospect, Vogue, and The Word. He is the author of the award-winning Crosstown Traffic: Jimi Hendrix and Post-War Pop.

HP NEWQUIST is a writer who over the past two decades has written about topics ranging from music to medicine. He was editor-in-chief of Guitar magazine and is currently the executive director of the National Guitar Museum. He is also the author of numerous award-winning books, all of which are featured at www.newquist.net.

PAUL DU NOYER's writing career began on the staff of New Musical Express. He went on to edit Q magazine and in 1993 launched Mojo. Subsequently he wrote books about John Lennon and the musical histories of his own home town Liverpool and his adopted home London. He retired from music journalism after a nine-year stint at The Word magazine and is currently preparing a new book.

DAVID QUANTICK is a music journalist and television writer. He once caused David Bowie to sing part of "The Laughing Gnome" for possibly the first and only time in front of an audience.

CHRIS ROBERTS lives in London and has written about music, films, and pop culture for many years. He has published books on Michael Jackson, Lou Reed, the Gothic arts, Kate Moss, Scarlett Johansson, and Talk Talk, among others. The first album he ever bought was Ziggy Stardust. He has interviewed David Bowie four times.

JOHN ROBINSON is an associate editor at Uncut and a contributor to the Guardian Guide. His features have also appeared in the Guardian, the Daily Telegraph, the UAE National, and Uncut.

KEN SCRUDATO has covered music, travel, hotels, nightlife, art, and the vagaries of culture for many of the top independent US style and culture publications, including BlackBook, Filter, Billboard, the Hollywood Reporter, Flaunt, and Surface. His editors are usually to be found begging him to include a few random facts amidst all the bombastic blather about political and cultural context. He also does travel, event, and hotel consulting.

DAVID SINCLAIR began his career as a musician in groups including TV Smith's Explorers and London Zoo. He became a music journalist for the Times in London, Rolling Stone, Q, and Billboard, and wrote books about ZZ Top and the Spice Girls. Since 2006 he has written, recorded, and released three albums on the Critical Discs label.

STEVE SUTHERLAND is editorial director at IPC Media. He became editor of New Musical Express in 1992, following a tenure as assistant editor at stablemate Melody Maker. His NME editorship lasted until 2000 and - much to his excitement - encompassed the Britpop era. He has described David Bowie as an artist he met who impressed him the most.

DAVID THOMAS is an award-winning journalist with thirty years experience working in Fleet Street, as well as for major magazines in Britain and the US. He has edited The Magazine, Punch, and Sunday Today Extra. He has published nine novels and a dozen non-fiction books under his own name and as Tom Cain, written film scripts, and has been translated into some twenty languages.

After working in accountancy, insurance, and banking by day and writing for ZigZag by night, JOHN TOBLER joined CBS Revords in 1974, where he became ABBA's first UK press officer. He would later write ABBA's official biography and the sleeve-notes to their multi-million-selling compilation ABBA Gold. In 1976, he started freelance work at BBC Radio One, interviewing dozen of acts, including the Eagles and the Sex Pistols. He runs the small independent Road Goes On Forever record label.

MICHAEL WATTS has been a journalist, magazine, and features editor at several major British newspapers, including the Financial Times and the London Evening Standard, and was also a London correspondent for the Los Angeles Times. During the 1970s he wrote about rock and jazz for Melody Maker. Working out of London, New York, and L.A., he covered the greatest music stories of that era for what was then the oldest music paper, from the rise of punk rock and the Sex Pistols to the death of John Lennon.

DOMINIC WELLS was editor of Time Out (London) for most of the nineties, winning four BSME awards for Editor of the Year. In the noughties he was editorial director of AOL (UK) and assistant editor at the Times. He is now a freelance journalist and screenwriter, with his own website www.dominicwells.com. As a teenager he hung pictures of Bowie on his wa-wa-wa-wall, and played Ziggy Stardust every day for two years.

STEVEN WELLS was a quintessentially eighties music journalist, seeing his work as indivisible from the mission to bring down Margaret Thatcher. His career began in the guise of the agitprop poet Seething Wells before he acquired a berth at the NME, for whom he wrote for a quarter-century. He also wrote for The Guardian and the Philadelphia Weekly, scripted radio comedy shows, and authored the novel Tits-Out Teenage Terror Totty. He died of cancer in 2009, aged forty-nine.