“There’s a fly floating around in my milk and he’s… he’s a foreign body in it, you see, and he’s getting a lot of milk. That’s kind of how I felt – a foreign body and I couldn’t help but soak it up, you know. I hated it when I first came here, I couldn’t see any of it.”
Cocaine’s a helluva drug. Curious that it’s easier to obtain now than herb, but that’s not the purpose of this post. Bowie appreciations are DONE. Yep, no stone has been left unturned, and they’re played-out like McQueen mini-essays (of which, this blog pleads guilty), but having been on a documentary kick, watching the great unreleaseds, and withheld studies of a few choice musicians, of which ‘Cocksucker Blues’ and ‘Cracked Actor’ stand tall, and with a bootleg of Bowie’s 05.09.74 Los Angeles Ampitheater performance blasting, self-indulgence wins again. After all, is it possible to tire of images of the great man at this point in his career? Well on his way to becoming an unlikely sartorial inspiration for a generation of British youth more inclined toward beating each other senseless than fey introspection around three years later, in 1974, his transitional phase between glam showman, blue-eyed soul and traces of the Berlin ‘look’ is present when he hits America’s west coast.
Pitched between absolute focus and a visibly burnt-out need to move on at the time of filming, it’s not surprising that David’s vetoed a DVD release of ‘Cracked Actor’ – first shown on BBC2 in early 1975, but if you’re looking for him at his absolute best, the ‘Diamond Dogs’ tour is it. Sadly, this is the only footage of it, because understandably, the artist’s not too proud of his prodigious disco shit habit at this point-in-time. Beyond the sonic side, this is the ultimate example of the Bowie’s self-destruction and restless urge to reinvent to keep ahead of the imitators. They might have brought him to the peak of total destruction, but the drugs probably helped propel that level of genius. At the point in time documented, he’s the coolest motherfucker on the planet. No question.
(Bottom two grabs taken from the infamous ‘coke & milk’ alternate ending of the documentary)
Were you to try to subside on nothing but top quality yayo, milk and red peppers, you’d repel people. Not so, Bowie, skinny enough to slip down a drain, borderline vampiric, yet, as is his way, still that dude. Numerous reports indicate he lived on that diet during the ‘Diamond Dogs’ era, with the addition of nicotine and a YSL wardrobe to compliment the pallor. As an addiction spirals, the artist still governs the zeitgeist. That’s no mean feat. Highlights in the documentary are the moments that reinforce tales of that consumption – a deleted ending, apparently present on a US screening, shows him holding a white bag that’s significantly more than an eight-ball, taking a hearty sniff and lick before downing some dairy. Ron Burgundy might have made an ill-fated choice with his hot weather beverage pick, but it seems even more curious when David’s in the back of a limo driving through the desert, brimmed hat on in the blazing heat, slurping milk and blasting Aretha Franklin, blankly making the above outsider observation using his carton as part of the analogy. Best of all is his lapse into excitable cockney wideboy on clocking a wax museum – “Look! A wax museum. Imagine ‘avin a bleedin’ wax museum out in the middle of the desert. You’d think it would melt wouldn’t you?”
Proto-moonwalking across the stage, making out with a prop skull while wearing some of the flyest sunglasses ever made during a blistering performance of the titular track and including a young Luther Vandross in the backing band, from what’s collated here, this was an immaculately executed show, and as a documentary, it’s not judgmental or too intrusive (bar the aforementioned excised conclusion) when it comes to the obviously troubled subject. That’s a surprise given the sensationalist era in which it was screened. It lets Bowie do what he does, contradicting himself, occasionally slipping into introspect before coming alive onstage. An official release on DVD/Blu-Ray would be welcome. The following month, the ‘Diamond Dogs’ tour would become the ‘Soul/Philly Dogs’ tour, with Eddie Floyd and Ohio Players covers in the set, but the same elements of expressionist, ambitious theatre in the staging of the shows, and the next incarnation, embracing those adopted elements fully.
In his Thin White Duke phase just prior to ‘Low’ during recordings made a year later, that diet might have altered, but Bowie was still fond of one type of the white stuff, but for some serious sniffs and jitters, his December 1974 Dick Cavett interview makes the chats caught by Yentob and company seem comfortable by comparison.
The dystopic views espoused on ‘Diamond Dogs’ owed a lot to old Bill Burroughs, so it seemed natural to bring the two together, as ‘Rolling Stone’ did earlier that year. Opiate wisdom versus cocaine babble makes for an engaging conversation, especially on matters of Warhol. It’s reprinted here, and in the excellent ‘Rolling Stone Book of the Beats.’ The accompanying photoshoot is good – it’s worth noting Bowie’s ‘A Clockwork Orange’ tee, worn long before kitschy practitioners of plastic cultdom pumped ’em out everywhere. No piece on this period could work without a bunch of images, plus, for good measure, a killer shot of the great man post 1976 drug bust (hence the much Retweeted mugshot) flanked by his bodyguard and a Sunday Times magazine cover from the same year.
Enough of the weak potted history. The paragraphs above were just an excuse to chuck these pictures up on the site: