David Bowie’s androgynous legacy

The new David Bowie exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum was already a hot ticket even before the show opens to the public this weekend. “David Bowie is” shows how, in the 1970s, David Bowie’s passport to fame was his daringly ambiguous gender presentation. But in a piece on today’s BBC asks, did appearances deceive?imgres-2

“These days Dylan Jones is editor of British GQ magazine and very accustomed to living the high-life. But in July 1972 he was an ordinary 12-year-old living with his parents in an ordinary part of Kent. Then one evening, his life changed.”I can picture the exact moment: my father was away and my mother was out in the garden,” he says. “So I was alone in a terrace house in Deal watching Top of the Pops.”Normally it would have been a forgettable Thursday but I was about to be astounded. It was the first time we were exposed to Ziggy Stardust in all his androgynous glory.

“Bowie, with flaming red hair and a skin-tight body-suit, played the song Starman. Last year, Dylan Jones published a book arguing that this remains a crucial moment in cultural history – When Ziggy Played Guitar: David Bowie and Four Minutes that Shook the World. Wasn’t the book’s premise a little overstated? “Absolutely not,” he insists. “In those days Top of the Pops could easily be watched by 14 million people, so the next day Bowie was all anyone was talking about. “It’s not like hundreds of thousands of people all claiming to have seen the Sex Pistols live when they started out: Bowie genuinely did become common currency overnight. “He was a dangerous figure on British TV at a point when television didn’t do danger.I didn’t find David Bowie at all attractive in any physical way. But I loved what he stood for.” Paul Trynka, a recent Bowie biographer, thinks the singer was revealing the genius for remaking his image which the world would see again and again.

“In 1972, there wasn’t the huge media proliferation we have today. That early statement to the music press had barely been picked up by mainstream newspapers.”So TV appearances on TOTP, the Old Grey Whistle Test and even on a news programme like Nationwide became a tipping point. He brought the outrageous into the mainstream.”We don’t know exactly what was happening in his own life – by 1972 he’d been married two years – although certainly he’s of a generation which was more relaxed about experimentation. But David was aware of a British fondness for camp which goes all the way back to music hall. His theatricality didn’t come from nowhere.” Bowie’s costumes are on show at the V&A Museum in London.”

Full story at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-21897627

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