Michaelwclark.com

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The late, great David Bowie’s “‘Tis a Pity She Was a Whore”

Poor David Bowie. I think of him often. Anyone who rises that high and then slowly burns out – artistically, I mean – well, it must be hard. Classical composers generally get better with age. But it aint necessarily so with pop stars. I guess pop music is all wrapped up in the hopes, dreams and angst of youth. So when the star isn’t a youth any more, it gets harder and harder to connect.

Bowie’s final album had a beautiful song, “Lazarus,” which to me seemed heavily influenced by an 80s band called The Cure. Most people who remember rotary dial phones have probably heard “Lazurus.” And if they were listening to pop in the 80s, I think they’d recognize The Cure connection.

But today I want to talk about another song on the final Bowie album, “‘Tis a Pity She Was a Whore.”

I don’t like this song very much. When I first saw the title I thought Bowie was just being rough and crude for the sake of it, like a relic from a different age trying to be cool. After all, today we talk about “sex-workers” and the term “whore” is totally inappropriate and probably illegal to use in public.

Image via Wikipedia

Image via Wikipedia

But on Googling the song I found that, as often happens, there was more to Bowie’s work that I’d realized. Turns out there is an English play from 1629 by John Ford called “‘Tis Pitty Shee’s a Whore.” No doubt this influenced Bowie and I have to apologize to his enduring spirit for having judged out of ignorance!

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Elton John – The Diving Board full album on YouTube

I actually heard this through my public library but just discovered it’s on YouTube.

Elton was a pop phenomenon when I was the ripe young age where pop music meant everything. I was pretty “into” some of his tunes. My aunt is an accomplished pianist (finishing second in a piano competition to none other than Glenn Gould). And I remember in Elton’s heyday her saying that he was probably just a “flash in the pan.” Well, I think time proved her wrong on that one.

Elton can really tickle the ivories, as we hear in this album. And the lyrics of Bernie Taupin, with whom he’s co-written for decades, are just as poignant, at times, as some of the best (Rocket Man, Daniel, Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me, Your Song). But this isn’t classic Elton John imo. It’s a nice, soothing, somewhat repetitive album. Like one big song with a few variations.

While listening it felt like I was watching the glowing embers of a once raging fire. Nothing wrong with that. But I wouldn’t pay money for it (other than what was already paid through city taxes). And I probably won’t listen to it again, except maybe for one tune about waking up in Paris.

Elton recently said he just wants to make “beautiful” music now that he’s getting older. I can understand that. But it’s not really me. I don’t think we have to fall into a schmaltzy rut just because we’re older. The other extreme to Elton’s view, of course, is the late David Bowie (whom I also adore). On Bowie’s last lp there were songs like “‘Tis a Pity She Was A Whore” and so on.

Anyhow, I digress. Listen for yourself and make up your own mind. Music is a very personal thing. This is just my reaction to Elton John, a once gifted superstar, now an Americana crooner.


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Alpha Omega

When David Bowie’s last lp Blackstar came out, I remember thinking that I’d get around to listening to it. After a couple of days I thought, Oh, I really should give it a listen. After all, Bowie has been one of my favs since my childhood and early teens. His music resonated through many of my changes.

As a kid I drummed to Pinups. As a teen I grooved to ChangesOneBowie, Ziggy StardustStationToStation and Scary Monsters. And a young man I explored everything else he had to offer, from Low to Another Face. And even though I felt Blackstar would be a dark and jagged lp, I knew I’d have to hear it. It’s just like that with Bowie. Even if you didn’t slice with some of his material – I wasn’t wild about most of The Next Day – you still had to see what the ol’ Jean Genie was up to.

The Collection (David Bowie album)

The Collection (via Wikipedia)

So all this was going through my head when I began working on this tune. After a quick listen to Blackstar, I went downstairs and learned of the sad news that was breaking across the TV screen.

David Bowie has died at age 69.

Returning to Alpha Omega, I gave it an extra dirty mix. Rough, distorted guitars. Not much light. All very heavy. I never knew nor met Bowie. But I was hurting.

After some time I started feeling better and lightened up the mix. I considered dropping the fuzz guitar but decided it had to stay. If this was turning into some kind of nod to Bowie, it definitely needed fuzz guitar.

Anyhow, ’nuff said. Here’s what I wrote at SoundCloud:

This is dedicated to David Bowie. Some call him the Picasso of pop. But I prefer to think of him as the Sibelius of pop. He’s both, actually. And a whole lot more.


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Lazarus (in memory and celebration of David Bowie)

lazarus via Flickr

After an informal memorial for David Bowie (with candles and the song Lazarus) I felt motivated to take this photo. The tin rests on my hi fi speaker. While framing the shot and thinking of Bowie, I remembered that the brass rubbing (from somewhere in the UK) depicted Lazarus. Fitting… but not consciously planned.


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Sad about David Bowie’s passing

English: Duncan Jones with his father David Bo...

Duncan Jones with his father David Bowie at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival for the exhibition of Jones’s film Moon. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As much as I believe in the afterlife, I have to admit that I’m still pretty sad about David Bowie’s passing. It’s a strange thing. Especially for those of us who claim to be “contemplative” or “mystically inclined.” We have certain experiences that lead us to believe there is an afterlife. But when people pass, we feel just like anyone else.

I always had a hard time understanding why Jesus cried when he heard that John the Baptist had been killed. I mean, if he’s the Christ and God, why would he cry? Didn’t he know that John had just moved on to the next realm?

Well, it’s not that simple. Jesus was also fully human. So he felt like the rest of us. At least, that is the Christian story.

English: David Bowie's guitar. Located in Hard...

David Bowie’s guitar. Located in Hard Rock Café Warsaw. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In my case, I don’t claim to be near the level of sainthood, let alone the grand stature of Jesus. And I feel… all that human stuff. Even though I do firmly believe that we pass on to a better place after death. If we’re good at heart, that is. I don’t know about the scoundrels and rogues in this world.

Only God can judge.

Here’s one of my favorite tunes from the “peak” of David Bowie’s career. I used to listen to this after coming home from high school. A few friends would drop by. It seemed so alive and relevant. Loved it and still do.


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David Bowie’s (new) Blackstar

It’s not very often that I like a song and the video. Here David Bowie proves that he’s the high priest of alternative… cool… call it what you want.

Of course, all the women are shapely and cute. And I guess the guys too. Perhaps the last kind of discriminatory “ism” we have to overcome. Still, a really great effort from one of my fav. artists.


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The Next Day – sounds more like yesterday…

Image via Tumblr

This morning I gave David Bowie’s The Next Day another listen. It came out a couple of years ago, but I was going thru a challenging time when the cd was first released, so I thought I’d give it a shot during happier times.

Stress or no stress, my impression is about the same this time as it was the first time: Good… but not great.

Like an old NASA astronaut, Bowie is to be admired. But The Next Day, for the most part, feels really YESTERDAY. The only song I might listen to again is The Stars (Are Out Tonight), which is a nice 70s sounding tune… but not quite hit material. And the overall sound quality of the album is so ridiculously compressed. It sounds like music in a can.

When I was a kid Bowie was the cool freak. Among many associations with his music is walking down Yonge Street in the 1970s, and being fascinated by all the sex, sleaze and futurism it had to offer. Don’t get me wrong, I was just a kid. But Toronto was sleazier in the 70s. Sex workers (then called “hookers,” “prostitutes,” or worse) and strip joints were more visible than in these sanitized days. And a perceptive kid could easily pick up on it. Why else did kids like to go downtown?

Oh yes, pinball and video arcades…

But everything has changed. EDM has taken the place of what artists like Bowie used to do for me. It’s fresh. It’s new. Maybe a bit mechanical. But EDM is really exploring the fringe. New sounds are coming out. Sounds that build on the 70s greats. We wouldn’t have EDM without acts like Bowie, Yes and Genesis (Peter Gabriel version). But, for me anyhow, it’s definitely time to move on.