Remembering the Music Legend: David Bowie


Celebrating the life and talent of the unique musical force that was David Bowie

Released in 1964, David Bowie's first ever recording was Liza Jane which was credited to Davie Jones with The King-Bees. He later made the decision to change his name to Bowie and, after playing in a variety of pub and club bands, released the self-titled debut album David Bowie in 1967 which included the single The Laughing Gnome.

Bowie's first UK hit was 1969's Space Oddity which was used by the BBC in their coverage of the moon landing. Bowie sold in the region of 140 million albums throughout his five-decade career and continuously challenged the pop-music world with his unique creative flare and subversion of gender specificity.

I suppose for me as an artist it wasn’t always just about expressing my work; I really wanted, more than anything else, to contribute in some way to the culture I was living in

David Bowie, GQ, 2002.

On 17th March 1972 and 22nd June 1973, David Bowie performed at Town Hall during his Ziggy Stardust tour promoting the studio albums The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars as well as his sixth studio album, Aladdin Sane. Bowie was one of the many legendary musicians to have performed at Birmingham's iconic Town Hall which has also hosted the likes of Led Zeppelin, Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison (supported by The Beatles) and Black Sabbath.

David Bowie

Bowie's final album Blackstar was a collaboration with Donny McCaslin, the leader of a talented New York based jazz group. McCaslin had been recommended to him by Maria Schneider, the composer and jazz-orchestra conductor with whom Bowie had worked closely with in 2014. McCaslin was present at Symphony Hall on the day that Blackstar was announced and was a key member of the Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra during their residency at Symphony Hall in November 2015.

During the collaboration on Blackstar Bowie encouraged McCaslin and his quartet of jazz musicians made up of Jason Linder, Tim Lefebvre, Mark Guliana and Ben Monder to work without restriction, giving them the freedom to express their own style and creativity. Dealing with themes of loss and death, Bowie passed away just two days following the album's release with some believing it to be a final creative farewell to his fans.

I don’t know where I’m going from here but I promise it won’t be boring.

David Bowie

What is your favourite Bowie album and why?

'Although many regard the late seventies “Berlin Trilogy” as his creative high point, for me the run of Bowie albums in the early seventies – from Hunky Dory through to Diamond Dogs – are a pretty much unbroken run of brilliance, with Aladdin Sane being my personal favourite. Amongst better known tracks such as The Jean Genie, the album includes a re-recording of early (flop) single The Prettiest Star, here made more muscular and mournful by the guitar playing of Mick Ronson, and it concludes with the spectral beauty of Lady Grinning Soul. I don’t think I will ever tire of it.'

Nick Reed, Chief Executive Officer

'Any new collaborative project will always provide some interesting (but hopefully successful) challenges for those involved, and for me, the Let’s Dance album co-produced by Chic’s Nile Rodgers is where my ears are drawn to during Bowie’s incredible career. A break from the Visconti years, and a different direction (some may say more mainstream/accessible) for Bowie, it is by no means a weaker link in the musical lineage of Bowie. I like most tracks that have a ‘groove’ to them and the title track certainly has that in abundance. Nominated for the Grammy Album of the Year in 1984, it lost out to Michael Jackson’s Thriller – so a fair contest I think. There is probably no better way to describe the album than the way Bowie did in an interview - "a rediscovery of white-English-ex-art-school-student-meets-black-American-funk, a refocusing of Young Americans'

Chris Proctor, Programme Manager

'My favourite album is Lodger. So difficult to stick to one album but you can’t beat the mood of the last in the Berlin trilogy. For me it waved goodbye to the 70’s and looked forward to so much that broke into the mainstream in the 80’s. It opened me up to a world of travel and mystery, experimented with form with the help of Brian Eno and still had some great tunes like ‘Boys Keep Swinging’ and ‘Look Back in Anger’. The cover was brilliant too, in which a hospitalised and eerily flattened Bowie is showing his vulnerable side, something he returned to in his last albums. The mix of synths and guitars was never bettered.'

Antony Pickthall, Head of Marketing & Communications

'Hunky Dory for me! As a teenager I discovered Suede before I discovered Bowie and that led me to discover their original inspiration! I loved the colour and confidence and swagger of it'

Annette Bowery, Graphic Designer