David Bowie’s greatest trick: working with the best

The biggest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world that he didn’t exist, and the biggest trick David Bowie ever pulled was to use the talents of others to increase his own creative skills.

David Bowie is rightly hailed as an icon, his music has helped bring culture into the modern era through discussions on “taboo” subjects and through technical innovations. Arguably, however, the most ingenious decision Bowie ever made was to collaborate with other artistic legends, which helped him realize his fluid and pioneering creative vision.

It’s safe to say Bowie’s career wouldn’t have taken off without a little help from his friends. After all, he was introduced to “good” music by his older half-brother Terry Burns, and exposure to things such as modern jazz and beat poetry would have a transformative effect on the direction of his life. Bowie.

This feeling that Bowie wouldn’t have been anywhere without a collaboration can first be seen in how his early years of musical career as Davie Jones and his early years as David Bowie were a complete failure. Before the release of his first album David Bowie in 1967 he had released six unsuccessful singles, either as a group or as a solo artist. The factor that seems to underlie this period is that he struggled for creative direction.

After the commercial failures of his early career, in 1969, Bowie’s manager, Kenneth Pitt, ordered the promotional film. I love you until Tuesday, which was designed to showcase the talents of Bowie, 22, and present him to a wider audience. It was for the film that Bowie wrote his first hit, “Space Oddity”. The track would also appear on Bowie’s second album, 1969’s David Bowie. Yes, he also shared the same name as his debut. Davie Bowie had arrived, or sort of.

One of Bowie’s most enduring songs wouldn’t have seen the light of day without Pitt’s struggles, and wouldn’t have seen the light of day without the brilliant musicians who performed on the track. Tony Visconti added flutes and woodwinds to the track, Rick Wakeman gave the song its spatial Mellotron line, and Herbie Flowers contributed bass. Not only was the song brought to life by these three, but it would also set a precedent for Bowie’s career.

In April 1969, Bowie met Angela Barnett, and they were married within a year. She is widely recognized for changing her style and bringing her to the burgeoning glam rock scene. His far-reaching involvement left Pitt with little influence, much to his dismay. Although he had now established himself as an artist after the success of “Space Oddity,” Bowie felt he lacked a band “for concerts and recordings – people with whom he could personally identify. “.

He formed a group known as The Hype, with John Cambridge on drums, Tony Visconti on bass and Mick Ronson on electric guitar. The group had a stylistic concept and created characters and costumes according to it. The wheels slowly began to move for the formation of the Spiders of Mars. Before too long, Cambridge left after an argument with Bowie and was replaced by Mick ‘Woody’ Woodmansey.

The band recorded Bowie’s third album, The man who sold the world, which was released in November 1970. This saw Bowie take more steps to truly become David Bowie, and while it was not a success at the time, some of the foundations were laid for the years 1972 The rise and fall of Ziggy Stardust and the spiders of Mars, which would be his real breakthrough.

On tour The man who sold the world and its follow-up, the years 1971 Hunky-dory, Bowie formed the concept of the character of Ziggy Stardust by merging the character of Iggy Pop from the Stooges era with the music of Lou Reed, which he described as “the ultimate pop idol”. Hunky-dory also saw bassist Trevor Bolder welcomed into the fold, and after the record’s switch to a more artistic rock style, everything was in place for Ziggy stardust.

Although a conceptual and songwriting masterpiece, Ziggy stardust wouldn’t have been the album it was without The Spiders from Mars. This can be particularly attributed to the addition of arrangements that Mick Ronson wrote, bringing Bowie’s ideas to life. During that first half, Ronson’s impact on Bowie was huge. Think of Danny Whitten and Neil Young, just more important.

Iggy Pop and David Bowie. (Credit: Alamy)

The Dark Follow-up, 1973 Aladdin Sané, saw Bowie become even more experimental, and this time his ideas were bolstered by the expertise of jazz pianist Mike Garson. After the breakup of The Spiders from Mars, 1974 Diamond dogs again rely on the support of other musicians. Herbie Flowers returned to pose the bass, Mike Garson stayed in his role and Aynsley Dunbar, one of the most prominent drummers, took over from Woodmansey.

Famous, Bowie even enlisted the help of the greatest songwriter on the planet, John Lennon, for the 1975 single “Fame”. Young Americans. It became his first number one in the US, and it’s safe to say that without Lennon’s contributions he probably wouldn’t have sold as well.

Moreover, although they are the fruit of a great period of struggle and personal discoveries, Bowie’s next three albums, the “Berlin Trilogy”, Station to Station, Moo and Hero wouldn’t have become the classics they are without the expertise of Brian Eno and Tony Visconti, who together took Bowie’s ideas and turned them into reality.

Although Eno did not sign for the 1980s Scary monsters (and super creeps), Visconti still ran the production, and the musicians he and Bowie enlisted again helped make this the album that marked Bowie’s arrival to a place of personal and creative maturity. Chuck Hammer, Robert Fripp and Pete Townshend were just three legendary musicians to play on the record.

Then, in 1981, Bowie teamed up with Queen for the exceptional hit “Under Pressure”. It followed the massive success of the Queen collaboration with the 1983s Let’s dance, which brought its level of fame to the stratosphere. Co-produced by Nile Rodgers of Chic, it featured contributions from iconic hacheman Stevie Ray Vaughan and Chic bassist Bernard Edwards on the track “Without You”.

At this point, only halfway through Bowie’s career, you can see a clear pattern, and it was one that continued for the rest of his life. As his fame increased, the stature of the musicians he worked with increased. He has also worked with Iggy Pop, Albert Collins, Tina Turner, Lenny Kravitz, Reeves Gabrels, Gail Ann Dorsey and more.

Another interesting facet of this intrinsic relationship with collaboration is that many musicians would return to work with Bowie at different times. He built a bank of reliable musicians to choose from whenever his creative vision needed it.

Basically Bowie was a man of ideas. He was a conceptual genius and brilliant songwriter, whose 3D and fluid concepts could not come to life without the help of others. When he really started out, this reliance on collaboration gave Bowie’s career a stamina that many musicians should envy. He worked with people he understood and who understood him. This elevated his work, creating the icon we all know as David Bowie.

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