A Lad Insane: Panning for Stardust
Words: Major Tom Alexopoulos
Photography © Mick Rock
Words: Major Tom Alexopoulos
Photography © Mick Rock
“The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench; a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side.” ― Hunter S. Thompson
There have been volumes written and dozens of films produced, about this cracked actor’s journey throughout his lifetime and since his death. But there are a few very dark interviews with friends and family members that really knew him. There are also multitudes of hidden elements in the mines that colored and affected David Jones’ life and works. How one perceives them is another story. When Jones discussed Bowie, the public only got one side of the picture, the image he wants you to perceive; then, now, and tomorrow, and rightly so.
One question is, how and what did he see, hear, live and feel to create what he did, and share it with the world? The press says Jones was a chameleon. He is so much more. He’s also a mirror, an alchemist, and one hell of a story teller and innovator. His influence and legacy cannot be understated. Many around the world love Bowie. But, some were and are very pissed off at him, while a few forgave him after he died.
Jones lost millions of dollars in sales, royalties and future collaborations due to corporate vampires and mismanagement but he fought on in a business that very often makes more money when you’re dead, often due to non-performance clauses in record contracts. He took John Lennon’s advice and fired them all, sued them, but lost some of his major court battles. Lennon was in one of the most ripped-off bands on the planet. David soon retained legal, tax, banking, art, stock market, and eventually, internet advisers to try and put Humpty Dumpty together again. It was a pre-Elon Musk kind of thing.
Jones was finally in more control of his productions, his money, everything from start to finish, to this very day. There’s also a heavy, ongoing buzz under the radar, that even his death was planned or assisted to coincide with his birthday and the release of his swan song. If true, a dignified last curtain call was also his right. A Freudian slip can slide your ass into another cosmos.
“He always planned everything! I think he staged his passing rather well.” Said Angie Bowie while sobbing on live TV.
David Jones was intrigued by humanity, he lived in various cultures, studied their cults and religions, their art forms, and their customs. Living in Berlin, the US, S.E. Asia and Japan gave him a unique worldly canvas on which to create on. He was deeply loved and respected for his willingness to learn, explore and share. His participation in the global awareness and fight against the AIDS genocide was monumental. Pete Townshend wrote:
“We have also lost a wonderful clown whose combined sense of mischief and creativity delightedly touched our hearts. David Bowie was my Salvador Dali. He was also one facet of my perfect Ace Face.”
David’s boyhood friend and future touring / recording colleague, Warren Peace (Geoff MacCormack), stated: “He was involved in theatre, design, the arts, music and choir since age eight. It’s what some children did at that time, and David excelled. One day, to my surprise, I heard him singing on the radio. We knew he would make it.”
David could and would mirror the accents of almost anyone he spoke to. He absorbed everything. He often remained in character both on and off stage. He learned hands-on from the best. He was very well read, well traveled, and marveled at how intentionally dumbed-down people have become.
The hip press didn’t get it, or they chose not to. David worked manically to become one of the top international artists of the 20th Century, flowing into the 21st . You cannot count the number of artists that have been inspired to emulate him in one form or another, and you can’t ignore the number of artists’ careers he helped re-launch, either. See Iggy Pop, Ian Hunter, and Lou Reed.
His restless drive for perfection and creating his next brand new image and production drove him to leave others behind. He pulled the life support system plug on Ziggy and the Spiders live on stage, leaving the band wondering WTF just happened. His former wife, Angie, his previous band mates and producers speak about his very temporary professional and personal relationships. Based on several accounts, it was Angie who did much of the early heavy lifting to get David where they both agreed he belonged. From costumes to his creating the almost first ever rock concert set designs. He really wanted to produce theatre for Broadway, but didn’t know how. His dream was triggered after seeing the Who perform the rock opera Tommy. Angie did the corporate street hustling, even getting the record company to fork over the money to make David’s R&R theater productions a reality.
Although panned years later, the press admitted that the Glass Spider tour influenced other major artists’ concert tours such as Britney, Madonna, the Stones and U2. In return, once David finally got there, he was supposed to help Angie with her career. She says it didn’t happen. “When he was done with you, he’d toss you aside.” After months of very costly court battles, their open marriage was ended in early 1980. He paid her $750 thousand dollars and won custody of their son, Zoe. The word on the street was that David saw their relationship as like being married to a blow torch. They never spoke again.
There may have been other reasons for David’s fight or flight, too. Reasons and subjects that are referenced in his albums, art, videos and films. His often brilliant works showed his dark, cold side, which he had the strength to openly admit. He came from a cold, mental illness challenged English upbringing. The phrase, ’Doctor. Heal thyself..’ comes to mind. Add to that the pain suffered by his hero, Terry, his older half-brother. It was Terry who turned David on to jazz, black music and rock.
Once back from the military, Terry took David to see Cream perform, but the flashing lights and high volume triggered him. They ran outside into the street, as Terry saw everything open up and being consumed in flames from Hell as he felt himself being sucked away. His British military combat illness was diagnosed as schizophrenia, the catch-all disease of the day. Shell shock is a term coined to describe the now P.C. post-traumatic stress disorder many soldiers are afflicted with during war. It’s a reaction to the intensity of bombardment, fighting and carnage. It produces helplessness, panic attacks, fear and terror, hallucinations, or an inability to reason, sleep, walk or talk.
Another Jones blood relative was hit by a car, sustained severe head injuries, and was never the same. The doctors said she suffered from schizophrenia. That label was deeply branded into at least three of his family members. David was terrified of being dealt that genetic card at the casino table of life. As Robert De Niro said: “Eventually, the house wins it all.” And in David’s mind, it was just a matter of time.
Terry was in and out of institutions. David and Angie would sometimes visit and take him out, but realized that they couldn’t properly care for him, especially if he stopped taking his meds, but maybe he didn’t like what the pills were doing to him. He would disappear for weeks at a time, blend in with the homeless, and then return. It’s a vicious cycle. He would bum change from staff and visitors for booze and cigarettes, telling everyone that his brother was a famous star, and that he would pay them back when his brother would visit. A few staff members knew he was telling the truth. Everyone else suspected Terry held late night dice games with Elvis, Santa Clause, and the elves from Compton.
In a failed attempt to put an end to his psycho-horror show, Terry jumped out of a hospital window while on medication, permanently damaging and disfiguring the left side of his body. These things are referenced in various Bowie works. After the jump, David paid Terry his last visit. Months later, Terry easily walked out of the building, went to the railway station, and dove in front of an oncoming train. David did not attend the funeral.
Rick James was not kidding when he said: ‘Cocaine is a hell of a drug!’ Angie was a heavy drug user and an enabler. David’s years-long white line fever binges nearly did him in. They were both a few french fries shy of a Happy Meal. The Bowies were convinced that the inlaid mosaic dolphin at the bottom of their L.A. swimming pool would change positions at night. So, they first called in a new age witch, who did the chants, screams and dances. She failed, but got paid anyway for her performance. She might still be on Tik Tok but don’t quote me on this. Finally, they invited a Greek Orthodox priest to perform an exorcism of the entire house. While that worked in a movie, in real life the solution to their problems was right under their noses. They moved out shortly thereafter. The dolphin’s whereabouts remain unknown.
Throughout his career, David was several steps ahead of himself, making up for lost time, working with the best of the best, solidifying his international legacy, and blowing minds. Back when he wanted to create a killer U.S. Soul band, his then girlfriend and back-up singer took him to the Apollo in NYC to hand pick a crew. Truth is often stranger than fiction. Life may imitate art, but the inverse can also true. I’ve met some of his close friends and protégés, and saw him live in concert, twice. His videos and recorded music don’t do him justice. His essence and presence easily filled the stages. He had that X factor to a nuclear degree.
A couple of people I know did have face time with him. During the Glass Spider tour, Vinnie, a friend from the hood, made some demo Bowie tour T-shirts. He met David at the hotel where he liked a couple of the designs, and a deal was made.
Last spring, another friend and I attended a pool side BBQ sit down in Spata, Greece; with low flying jets buzzing overhead. It was hosted by Louisa, a Greek/Brit whose family mistook me for someone from a three letter agency who dropped by between ops. I was armed with Greek wine. They all did the sign of the cross when I pulled it out from under my black leather trench coat.
Louisa’s friend Allison, a Brit in Athens, was also on hand. We were talking about great concerts we had seen, and Bowie’s name came up. Allison said ”I met him. They were shooting some scenes for The Hunger for a few days in my dad’s bar. In between scenes, Bowie would come upstairs to my brother’s flat, and we listened to music and hung out. My brother brought out all his Bowie LP’s to have them signed. But, David refused to sign the bootlegs!” She reached in her purse, and pulled out a few Kodak color prints of her, her bro, and The Man Who Fell to Earth. Jaws dropped and the steaks were burning.
In 1988, although I was invited to do a video interview with the Thin White Duke and his new band, Tin Machine, in Scotland, my move was blocked and put on a meat hook by my major TV station manager at the time. He listened to my pitch, looked smugly at me, and yelled: "Who the fuck is David Bowie?" I looked back in anger, and walked out.
Thinkbabymusic © In—Print Issue #10, 2022
(Major) Tom Alexopoulos is a Greek, American journalist, producer, and radio presenter, also known for his residency at AIR 104.4 FM, Athens, as well as his long—standing editorship at Thinkbabymusic. Photo: David Bowie, 1972 © Mick Rock. "The Rise of David Bowie. 1972–1973" Hardcover, 2015: Barney Hoskyns (Author), Michael Bracewell (Author), Mick Rock (Photographer).