January has been marked with loss—the deaths of David Bowie and Alan Rickman, the closing of a favorite restaurant. But good things have happened, too: David Bowie’s newest and last album, Blackstar, came out. We celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. And we read a lot of books, listened to a lot of music, and watched a lot of movies.
My first year of college, 1983, was a huge transitional year in my musical awareness. I worked at the university’s music library and I also became a DJ. At work, I was exposed to classical music for the first time, international music like Indian ragas, and contemporary composers like Steve Reich and Edgar Varese. At the radio station, I played music I was more familiar with at first, punk and prog rock were my staples, but I greatly expanded my repertoire every day. At home, I was obsessed with these four albums by Brian Eno:
Listening to them on Hoopla has brought me back to that time.
These albums are pop music and avant-garde at the same time. They contain driving rhythms and multi-textured aural qualities, with glam-rock sensibilities at times, ambient electronica at others. I hear direct influences of David Bowie and David Byrne. I also hear a unique set of songs similar to other music only in what has come after. The vocal timber is what I think draws me the most. Eno’s voice goes from almost sneeringly punk to decidedly New Wave. A frequent contributor to the albums is Robert Fripp, my favorite guitarist of the era.
I listened to these so often, they would be in the soundtrack to my college years if it were a movie, just like in this one: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.
Monday morning I was home, and had somehow avoided watching or listening to the news or going online to check my social media news feeds. When I finally logged in around noon, the first thing I saw was a sad post in my Facebook feed, mourning the loss of David Bowie (born David Robert Jones).
Surely this must be a hoax, I told myself.
Sadly it was not. Over the course of the day, the main thing that struck me was how many people (from completely different walks of life) where in mourning or disbelief over his passing. It takes a cultural icon of a very unique and special stature to garner this sort of grieving from so many different people around the world.
You too have probably engaged with Bowie’s music or art at some point in your life. Today the Eleventh Stack bloggers would like to share their own favorite David Bowie songs or memories, and we encourage you to share as well in the comments section. Farewell, Mr. Bowie — the world is made a little less interesting by your passing.
It’s nearly impossible to choose just a couple of favorites from Bowie’s vast catalog of amazing music, but if I must, these are my current choices. Ask me next week and I may choose different titles.
“Golden Years” (Station to Station, 1976) – This is one of my husband’s favorites, too. It’s hard for me not to play air guitar or otherwise jam to this song. I love the refrain: “I’ll stick with you baby for a thousand years. Nothing’s gonna touch you in these golden years.”
“Modern Love” (Let’s Dance, 1983) – Although the backup singers annoy me slightly, I still adore this song. I had no idea what I was listening to the first time I heard it on the radio, and I kind of hated it and kind of couldn’t get enough of it. It just got into my head, and the more times I heard it, the more I loved it.
My favorite Bowie pop culture moment is when he turned out to be the shape-shifting leader of the Guild of Calamitous Intent on Venture Brothers. I don’t care that he didn’t actually do the voice. It was too awesome for words.
We had a white cat growing up with two different colored eyes that my aunt named Bowie (aka The Thin White Duke). I thought it was such a lame name for a cat. The only thing i really knew about Bowie at the time was that he was the dude wearing tights in Labyrinth that gave me strange and uncomfortable feelings.
Fast forward ten or so years, and Bowie’s music would become an essential part of the soundtrack to the rest of my life. I love so many of his albums, but hold a special candle for Hunky Dory, since it was the first record of his I bought on vinyl as a burgeoning wannabe music nerd.
Special mention should probably go to his 1977 album Low, which I still find haunting and beautiful to this day.
[A tip: the library owns many David Bowie albums on CD, but most of them have a wait list at the moment. However, our streaming service Hoopla has many, many Bowie albums that you can check out right now. If you’ve never used Hoopla and would like some help we’re always happy to lend a hand.]
This cover was clearly inspired by juggalos. And nothing is more terrifying than a juggalo. Nothing.
A remake of Stephen King’s It has been languishing in development hell for years. I first became aware of it in 2009 when I started reading the book (which I’ve yet to finish), but it was reported in December 2014 that Cary Fukunaga, the director of the first season of True Detective, would be helming the remake. If you’ve seenTrue Detective, you know that Fukunaga is more than capable of crafting an unseen horror that is still tangible. While filming of the two-part adaptation is expected to begin this summer, Fukunaga is still searching for the perfect actor to portray Pennywise, the titular It who takes the form of a vicious clown. Tim Curry played the character in the 1990 made-for-television miniseries.
One of the things the Internet loves as much as cats is fan casting. New lists pop up each time an adaptation of a known property is in the works. A simple Google search of “pennywise casting” returns several articles, somedatingbackto2009. The names I’ve seen range from wonderfully inspired (Tilda Swinton, Geoffrey Rush), to downright amazing (Willem Dafoe, Michael Shannon), to uninspired (Johnny Depp, Michael Fassbender) to so far out in left field that they might just be fantastic (Nicolas Cage?! Channing Tatum?!). Not to be outdone, I thought I’d throw my own names into the ring.
Robert Downey Jr He’s also hot right now, thanks to those small superhero movies he keeps making. I feel like he’s versatile enough (extremely versatile) to pull off the killer clown. And he’s never really played an outright bad guy so it’d be an interesting change of pace.
David Bowie Think of the lanky alien from The Man Who Fell to Earth or the tights-wearing, bulge-sporting Goblin King from Labyrinth. There’s a charm that Bowie exudes in those roles that would make his portrayal even more unsettling. Granted, The Thin White Duke might be a bit too old for it now, but clown makeup could probably make his age a non-issue.
J. K. Simmons I will openly admit that I have a man-crush on J.K. Simmons (I think it’s those baby blues). I laughed with him in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films and empathized with him in Jason Reitman’s films, but he terrified me in Whiplash. Shouldn’t an eldritch evil manifested as a clown do the same thing?
Meryl Streep Since Tilda Swinton is in almost every other fancast for this project, I wanted to offer another female name. Streep was wicked in Into the Woods and is obviously a capable actor. However, I feel like casting her might result in a hammy performance, a la Death Becomes Her. That could be scary in its own way, though.
BONUS Matthew McConaugheyorWoody Harrelson I haven’t checked my history books lately so I don’t know if we’re still living in the McConaissance or not, but picture him as emaciated as he was in Dallas Buyers Club, but in clown make up and you’ve got yourself a new nightmare for a new generation. And Harrelson can go from friendly to mean and angry at the drop of a hat. It’d be terrifying to see him go from playful to evil. Given the fact that Fukunaga has already worked with both on True Detective, I’d really love to see what they could cook up here.
Ron Perlman? Christian Bale? Tom Hiddleston? The possibilities are endless! Who would you cast as the demonic clown? Are you looking forward to the remake? Let us know in the comments.
One of my favorite radio DJs, Pseu Braun, once said of the Who that they’re a classic rock enigma, a band equally beloved by geeky music nerd types and by the jocks who stuff them into their lockers. I think the same holds for Bowie. You’re as likely to hear his songs on WDVE‘s morning classic rock rotation as you are on the store stereo at a hip record store. I’m sure that this is partially because, like the Who, Bowie has had a long career. There’s likely to be something in there for everyone.
But what makes Bowie special — and probably the reason why, unlike some of hiscontemporaries, he hasn’t gone into semi-retirement by putting out covers records — is that he has continuously managed to put out records that make fans scratch their heads. It certainly doesn’t always work, at least from the standpoint of sales or critical praise. But it’s always interesting!
So, while you’re waiting for your turn to borrow The Next Day, why not take the opportunity to take a look at some previous milestones in the career of one of (or a few of?) the great rock personas.
Bowie’s earliest stuff is mainly folk psychedelia (like Syd Barrett but not quite as strange), followed by some great glam rock that has continued to enjoy lots of airplay on commercial rock radio. Listening to a decent compilation, like the 2000 Bowie at the Beeb collection of his performances at the BBC between 1968-1972, you’ll begin to appreciate the skill with which Davey Jones became David Bowie, who rapidly morphed into Ziggy Stardust. The 1998 movie Velvet Goldmine is a fun, fictionalized account of these years in which characters representing Bowie, Iggy Pop, and Mark Bolan influence each other.
Bowie released some of his most popular albums in the early 70s. I think Aladdin Sane is the best example from this era — Bowie’s songwriting and voice are at their best, and Mick Ronson’s huge guitar sound is the perfect foil for Bowie’s restrained vocals.
And then, the second half of the 70sbrought an astounding series of groundbreaking, intriguing, and hugely influential records. If the previous albums each represented a big step in his development of a musical style, Station to Station was like a big step onto a space ship. He then followed that up with a staggering statement, three Brian Eno-produced albums known collectively as the Berlin Trilogy. Low, Heroes, and The Lodger were recorded in Berlin in a fit of productivity that, in addition to yielding those masterpieces, also found Bowie helping to revive Iggy Pop’s career.
Bowie was a fixture on early MTV, with big hits from Scary Monsters and Let’s Dance. It was also during the 80s that Bowie gave us what is possibly his crowning achievement, the Magic Dance scene from Labyrinth.
The next 30 years, however, were sporadic. He put out some interesting records – Earthlings and Heathen had their moments, and his VH1 Storytellers is pretty incredible. But he certainly slowed down, which is what makes the new album such a treat.
Image from Labyrinth from the site: labyrinthfilm.com
There are few modern horror movies that I find truly frightening—sure, a few have made me jump now and then, but most don’t stick with me once I’ve left the theater. Rather than rehash a list of spooky movies for the Halloween season, I’ve decided instead to focus on that most sinister of genres: the children’s movie. If you grew up in the 1980s as I did, then you may also have endured some of the bizarre and frightening children’s movies that were made in that era, often involving creepy puppets. Come with me now, on a journey through time and space…
Bastian Bux finds a storybook about a magical world called Fantasia, and soon realizes he’s the only one who can save its inhabitants from a cruel fate. What could be scarier than a flying dragon, a killer wolf-beast, and a swamp of sadness? Why, nothing of course! Even creepier than the actual creatures in this world is the realization that their biggest threat is something called The Nothingness, proving there’s nothing more frightening that existential dread.
A young Jennifer Connelly (Sarah) must rescue her baby brother after he is kidnapped by the Goblin King (aka David Bowie!) Sarah is led through a horrifying labyrinth full of sinister goblins, the Bog of Eternal Stench, and a gang of creatures who try to remove her head. Plus, David Bowie wears tights, and it’s kind of inappropriate.
Did anyone else accidentally watch this movie as a kid? Although I can’t completely remember the plot, I do recall: little Dorothy is in a mental institution where she’s scheduled for electroshock therapy, creatures named “Wheelers” have roller skate wheels for feet, there’s a man with a pumpkin for a head, and an evil witch keeps people’s heads in cases so that she can switch her own noggin out anytime she wants. Who thought this was a good idea for a children’s movie?
From the mind of Jim Henson, this is the story of a race of grotesque birdlike lizards called the Skeksis. A prophecy tells of a Gelfling (a small elfin thing) who will destroy their evil empire, so in their reign of terror they commit genocide and have the entire Gelfling race exterminated. The orphaned Jen embarks on a quest to find the missing shard of the Dark Crystal (which gives the Skeksis their power) and restore the balance of the universe. Some characters die. Kind of heavy stuff for a little kid.
Although not technically released in the 1980s, Willy Wonka was on TV a lot when I was a kid, and I thought it was pretty great. As the story goes, our hero Charlie wins a magic ticket to tour the candy factory of the great (and somewhat sinister) Mr. Wonka. The film is based on a Roald Dahlbook, and so it is a bit of a morality tale: good kids are rewarded, and bad kids are severely punished (or turned into giant blueberries). As Charlie tours the factory with a gang of other lucky winners, the kids are picked off one-by-one until Charlie is the last kid standing and inherits the Wonka fortune. Along the way there are trippy boat rides and oompa loompas. The remake is also creepy, but doesn’t hold a candle to the insane original.
Of course, traumatic children’s movies are not exclusive to the 1980s, as I’ve neglected to mention the ultimate trifecta of depressing animal films: Old Yeller, The Yearling, and of course, Bambi
Lest you fear that strange children’s movies are an American thing, here’s proof that Australians also like to traumatize their children with creepy movies:
What about you? What movies do you remember from your childhood?