David Bowie Is Happening Now, Showcase Cinema de Lux, Tuesday 13th August
Having been a David Bowie fan for decades – I wonder how many others reading this remember dancing to ‘Rebel, Rebel’ the day it was released at the Friday Night disco in the Charborough Road Scout Hut? – I intended visiting the V&A’s ground-breaking retrospective, David Bowie Is, this summer. Unfortunately, I didn’t procure a ticket before they all sold out, so I jumped at the chance of seeing David Bowie Is Happening Now, a nationwide cinema ‘event’ screened live from the museum as a finale to the exhibition before it tours abroad.
Introduced by the curators, Victoria Broackes and Geoffrey Marsh, the show featured guests offering insights into some of the 300 key exhibits from the David Bowie archive, including Kansai Yamamoto who designed the ‘Tokyo Pop’ vinyl bodysuit Bowie wore as Aladdin Sane and who became a friend despite their mutual inability to speak the other’s language; Professor of Fashion, Iain R Webb, who described his overnight metamorphosis, having seen that seminal July 1972 TOTP performance of ‘Starman’, from weirdo to Bowie Freak; and the lovely Jarvis Cocker, looking more like a poly lecturer than ever, discussing the impact of seeing Bowie’s extraordinary lyrics ‘looking like they had been scribbled by a 14 year-old girl’.
Perhaps most telling was photographer Terry O’Neill’s story of the day he took the second most recognised rock image ever, namely, that shot of Bowie with ‘that huge dog’: how, when the dog leapt up, everyone ran for cover except our hero, who just stayed still in the pose. ‘He’s a laid back type of cat,’ averred Terry.
From footage of a 10 month old toddler to the 1964 interview with Cliff Michelmore about The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Long-haired Men, from his reaction to the plaudits for his convincing performance in the film ‘The Man Who Fell To Earth’ (‘I rest my makeup case’), to the rendition of ‘Heroes’ at the Concert for New York City post 9/11, it was all there and all lapped up by an audience not just of fifty-somethings like me but packed with younger people too.
The Periodic Table of Bowie by Paul Robertson
The show ended as it began, with sound bites recorded by visitors to the exhibition, including one from a starstruck young woman who gasped ‘I mean, he’s not even dead yet!’ No, and it’s hard to imagine we won’t hear more from our Starman in the meantime.