Illustration by Antonio Vega
Next week PlayCo starts rehearsals for our collaboration with indie/pop band Sky-Pony, known for their highly theatrical live performances. Many of you may remember our 2012 workshop of their show RAPTURED. That piece has come along way since then and is now re-titled THE WILDNESS. We’re partnering with Ars Nova to present the new version this winter and can’t wait to share it with you. What hasn’t changed is Sky-Pony’s playful blending of rock music with narrative, character and theatrical design.
As we gear up for THE WILDNESS we have been thinking of the many innovators of the rock-theatre experience like Peter Gabriel, David Johansen, and the legendary David Bowie. Like everyone else we were startled to wake up on Monday to the sad news about his death. Bowie started it all and inspired every concept album and theatrical rock performance that came after. He used characters to explore the relationship between music and image while dealing with themes of alienation, anxiety and strangeness. His ability to play with his image, change it, free himself from it and make up a new one sent a message of freedom to all of his audience.
He appeared for the first time as Ziggy Stardust on the British television Show Top of the Pops in 1972 performing “Starman”. Watch the performance that as described by biographer David Buckley, “challenged the core belief of the rock music of its day” and “created perhaps the biggest cult in popular culture”
Thin White Duke
Station to Station (1976) introduced a new Bowie persona, the “Thin White Duke”. “Impeccably dressed in a white shirt, black trousers and a waistcoat, the Duke was a hollow man who sang songs of romance with an agonised intensity while feeling nothing, “ice masquerading as fire”.”1
At the end of 1976 Bowie moved to Berlin to clean up from drugs and to explore his interest in the growing German music scene. The second and best known album of this trilogy is Heroes, which dealt with the Cold War, incorporating ambient sounds from a variety of sources including white noise generators, synthesizers and koto.
Reinterpreting Major Tom
In the song “Ashes to Ashes” (1980), Bowie reinterprets Major Tom, a character who first appeared in his song Space Oddity, as an oblique autobiographical symbol for himself. In this song, the fictional astronaut is described as a “junkie, strung out in heavens high, hitting an all-time low”.
Releasing his finale album, Blackstar, less then a week ago, Bowie demonstrates once again that it is never to late to invent ourselves. Hear his new songs and read about his album in this article in The Telegraph.