25 Things We Learned At The V&A’s David Bowie Exhibition

The V&A museum’s David Bowie exhibition is a triumph, packed with costumes and one-off artefacts from Bowie’s own collection and curated with great reverence, just like a career retrospective for any great artist should be. A showman like Bowie would approve of its crescendo-like finale too, but you won’t get any spoilers here. Instead, here are 25 things NME learned from the exhibition.


‘The Next Day’ album cover alternatives

Other designs considered for the already-iconic ‘The Next Day’ sleeve featured different disfigured Bowie sleeves. One had ‘Pin-Ups’ with three black blobs suggesting a vague Mickey Mouse shape obscuring the image. Another had ‘Aladdin Sane’ as its base.

Why Bowie killed ‘Nathan Adler Diaries’

1995’s ‘Outside’ was supposed to be part of a series of works known as ‘The Nathan Adler Diaries’, which would be terminated in December 1999. In a handwritten note explaining the copy, Bowie writes, “History is now an illusion, therefore theoretically the future no longer exists. There is only today.”


Massive trousers

Bowie can pull off a very wide trouser leg. A couple of Kansai Yamamoto’s designs for 1973’s Aladdin Sane costumes, including the famous Tokyo top bodysuit, measure about a metre across.


Bowie and Tibet

Supporting Tyrannosaurus Rex in the late ’60s, Bowie performed a mime piece titled Yat-Sen And The Eagle, about the Chinese occupation of Tibet. Mainstream success was still some way off.

Bowie wrote music traditionally

Bowie noted many of his songs in full musical scripture. At the exhibition, you’ll see early tracks ‘London Boys’, ‘The Laughing Gnome’ and ‘Liza Jane’ plus later material including ‘Fame’.

‘Chart artistes’

A ’60s press release promoting Bowie says he “never buys singles but likes to watch live performances by Jimi Hendrix, The Cream and other chart artistes”.

Bowie loves biro

Bowie produced concept sketches for many of his albums – usually in biro.

As you can imagine…

The original artwork for ‘Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)’ is beautiful – and massive.


Warhol on ‘Andy Warhol’

Andy Warhol did not like Bowie’s song ‘Andy Warhol’, and the pair only met – awkwardly – once.

Bowie gets verbalized

In the mid-’90s, Bowie used an Apple programme called Verbalizer to help with lyrics. The software randomly chopped up any sentences that were inputted.

Imagine owning one of these lyric cards

In conceptualising ‘The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars’, Bowie noted short phrases down on playing card-sized bits of white card. Among them, “Ziggy Shines”, “out-hipping them”, “hit record” and “parents’ view point”.


In the written lyrics for ‘Ziggy Stardust’, Bowie writes “He was the nazz / With god-given arse,” though he did, of course, sing the more comfortably-rhyming Americanism “ass”.



‘Fashion’ in its original form

The song ‘Fashion’ originally had an extra verse. “He’s up ahead/Burn a flag/Shake a fist/Start a fight/If you’re covered in blood/you’re doing it right”.

Why ‘Diamond Dogs’ cover was airbrushed

On Guy Peelaert’s original artwork for ‘Diamond Dogs’, the anthropomorphic half-Bowie, half-hound creature had an actual dog’s dick. It was airbrushed from the finished sleeve, but you can see it at the exhibition (if you’re so inclined).


Lost lyrics

Deleted lyrics from ‘Station To Station’ include, “You love like a bomb/You smell like a ghost’.

Lady Bowie

Bowie wore man-dresses on his first trip to the USA. He was refused entry to a drag queen-intolerant LA restaurant as a result.

If you go down to the woods today…

The puppets from the ‘Where Are We Now’ video are shit scary up close. See you in my nightmares, Bowie-bear!

Bowie loves clowns

Bowie described Pierrot – a recurring image throughout his career – as “the most beautiful clown in the circus”.

‘Station To Station’ tour’s original set

The ‘Station To Station’ tour was originally supposed to have a nine-foot high puppet made from found objects on stage. Bowie scrapped the idea for a minimal set with bars of white light.



Can Bowie paint?

Bowie’s Francis Bacon-style Berlin paintings are pretty good, especially one of Iggy Pop.

Coke spoon

Bowie kept a dainty cocaine spoon on his person throughout the recording of Diamond Dogs.

Bowie and Visconti

Bowie’s handwritten production notes for ‘Young Americans’ urge producer Tony Visconti to “go back to 1969”.


Bowie’s technological identity

Speaking about his flamboyant stage shows in the early ’70s, Bowie told a reporter, “I’m the last person to pretend I’m a radio. I’d rather go out and be a colour TV set.”

‘The Elephant Man’

While Bowie was on Broadway in ‘The Elephant Man’, Mark Chapman bought tickets to see the show – and was due to attend the night after he shot John Lennon.

Henson’s Labyrinth request

Jim Henson sent the Labyrinth script to Bowie with a hand-written cover note saying, “You would be wonderful in this film”. And by god, he was!

DAVID BOWIE : New song and video “Stars Are Out Tonight”

david bowie 2013

Bowie and Tilda Swinton play a nicely settled middle-aged couple whose comfortable existence is upended when a celebrity pair – Saskia De Brauw and Andrej Pejic, who’s made to look startlingly like a young Bowie – follow them home from the grocery store and take over their space, both physical and emotional. The couples’ roles slowly reverse, calling into question exactly what Swinton and Bowie’s characters mean at the market when they agree, “We have a nice life.”

The song starts with a slow, heavy backbeat and guttural guitar that dissolve into a propulsive bassline topped with shards of guitar and atmospheric synthesizers, for an effect reminiscent of vintage Bowie. It’s the second song the singer has released from his upcoming album The Next Day, which is due next month. The first tune, “Where Are We Now?” was moodier and more reflective, with a video that revisited some of the places the singer used to frequent in Berlin in the Seventies.

bowie 2 2013


David Bowie to Release Three Singles for Record Store Day

David Bowie to Release Three Singles for Record Store Day

David BowieFrank Micelotta, Getty ImagesThe two singles to come from David Bowie‘s forthcoming album, ‘The Next Day,’ will be packaged together on a limited edition 7″ vinyl single for Record Store Day on April 20.

Bowie’s website is stating that ‘Stars (Are Out Tonight),’ which is being released digitally this Tuesday (Feb. 26), will serve as the A-side, with last month’s ‘Where Are We Now‘ on the B-side.

Bowie now has three releases planned for Record Store Day. Earlier this month he announced a picture disc of his 1973 single, ‘Drive-In Saturday,’ as well as a four-song EP of the two singles he released in 1965, with one side covering the Manish Boys and the other as Davy Jones and the Lower Third.

‘The Next Day,’ Bowie’s first album since 2003′s ‘Reality,’ will be available March 12 in North America, and March 11 nearly everywhere else. It was produced by longtime collaborator Tony Visconti.

Record Store Day was created in 2007 as a way of celebrating independent record stores in the current economic climate. Many artists contribute limited edition releases, most of which are on vinyl, for the occasion. Visit Record Store Day’s website to find out which stores near you are participating.

David Bowie : New Documentary, ‘Five Years,’ To Air on BBC


David BowieHulton Archive, Getty ImagesKey points in David Bowie‘s life will form the basis of a new documentary. ‘David Bowie – Five Years’ will air on BBC Two in May.

“I’m thrilled to be bringing this film to BBC Two,” BBC Two controller Janice Hadlow told NME. “‘David Bowie – Five Years’ promises to be a revealing look at the life and career of one of the modern era’s most influential and innovative performers.”

Named after the opening cut from ‘The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars,’ the film will look at what Bowie did in the years 1971, 1975, 1977, 1980 and 1983 – in addition to his current comeback – complete with unseen archival footage and interviews. Director Francis Whatley has been working on the project since 2001.

After a decade of near-silence, Bowie has seemingly been everywhere since releasing his new single, ‘Where Are We Now,’ on his birthday last month, with a new album, ‘The Next Day,’ to come March 12. His song, ‘Sound and Vision,’ was covered by Beck for a commercial, and his time in Berlin with Iggy Pop is being made into a film. But he has already ruled out the idea of going back on tour.

David Bowie : Hacen muñecos o muñecas de él …



New York City-based artist E.V. Svetova (aka Katyok on deviantART), designs these oddly-beautiful David Bowie dolls. According to her page, she does “all of the customization and painting, as well as most of the garment design and construction.”

Some of these shots are based on iconic Mick Rock portraits of Bowie. Extra points for the mini Kansai Yamamoto knock-offs!

Unfortunately none of the dolls are for sale. 

David Bowie : Usaba pulseras Peruanas en los 70’s

They were the exotic first couple of glam rock, dressed alike in silk kimonos with bleached hair, Angie and David Bowie shocked Britain in the Seventies with tales of cross-dressing, drugs and bisexual liaisons. But their often stormy life together informed the classic Bowie characters Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin sane and the Thin White Duke. Their marriage went on to collapse in acrimonious divorce but it was for Angie that Bowie wrote some of his most tender songs. Here Angie, now 63, shares her views on Bowie’s latest single and reveals the inspiration behind the music.

The fans would take everything they could. Even David’s pair of Peruvian wedding bands, which he wore on his wrists, were often taken from him.

ziggy cucho peñaloza


Bowie usando pulseras Peruanas como Ziggy Stradust 


After his self-imposed silence of the past decade, suddenly David Bowie fans are spoiled for choice.

Not only do we have David’s first new music for what seems like an age, but also a major retrospective exhibition opening next month at London’s V&A.

But as I listen to his new single Where Are We Now? I can’t help but wonder what happened to the musical innovator. I’m not trying to be unkind, but I can’t escape the feeling that the retro-introspective mood of the song has one message – ‘I’m not going to be here much longer, let’s talk about the past.’

Exotic: Angie and David Bowie, pictured in 1974, were known as the first couple of glam rock and shocked Seventies Britain with their wild anticsExotic: Angie and David Bowie, pictured in 1974, were known as the first couple of glam rock and shocked Seventies Britain with their wild antics

There’s nothing about the sound that’s new, either. The subject matter is tired – it’s a nostalgic look back to the last time he was at the forefront of pop music.

And, worst of all, the record romanticises and mythologises a period of David’s career I recall with distaste. What I remember of Berlin – where David lived for three years in the late Seventies – is lots of sitting around nightclubs, with David pretending he was an extra from Cabaret witnessing the rise of the Nazis.

His life then seemed to be all about Romy Haag, the transsexual cabaret singer then making a name for herself as a modern-day Sally Bowles.

To his fans, David was just being another of his characters. But I suspect the main audience for this latest performance was me.

Our marriage was over. My father had fought in the Second World War and David knew that I would have no truck with fascism.

David always pushed the boundaries and I think that by flirting with Nazi Germany, he was – if only subconsciously – pushing  me past the limits of what I considered acceptable.

Critique: Angie Bowie, pictured today, says her former husband's latest single has a 'retro-introspective' mood and the subject matter is 'tired'

In the years before, I had been not only his wife but his stage manager. I looked after security, the costumes, lighting, stage design and the sound. I wanted everything to be perfect to bring his creative vision to life.

Was I a trained professional? No. But I was smart and I was open to new ideas. We knew TV exposure was key if we wanted to sell out the big concert halls.

But the BBC didn’t know what to do with David. Eventually, Starman went up the charts and they had no choice but to put him on Top Of The Pops and the David Bowie phenomenon took off.

When I first met David, I was a student at Kingston Polytechnic. I was already friendly with Lou Reizner and Calvin Mark Lee of Mercury Records. Calvin was convinced David was a star and that his androgynous appeal was right for the times. Lou wasn’t so keen and it fell to me to convince the record label bosses to sign him. Which I did.

After the contract was signed, Calvin asked me to cheer up David, who was nursing a broken heart. We went to dinner and then danced to King Crimson at the Speakeasy Club.

The chemistry was there but I fought hard for months to stop it becoming a romantic relationship. David had lovers everywhere, yet our working relationship developed into something much more. We married in March 1970.

Our son Duncan was born in May 1971 and then we really got busy! We hired guitarist Mick Ronson and The Spiders From Mars came into being. We were on the road constantly and what a time we had!

David and I were fascinated by space travel. He had already written Space Oddity by the time we met and the record was released just in time for the Apollo 11 Moon landing. David, myself and a group of friends clustered around the black-and-white television set as Neil Armstrong made his giant step for mankind.

Space travel inspired much of David’s work. His big breakthrough came when he invented Ziggy Stardust, a character he said would look as if he came from Mars. Starman was the first single from the album The Rise And Fall of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars, in July 1972.

While recording Ziggy Stardust, David decided he wanted to cut his hair. He said: ‘I want it to look different. What if I were to dye it red?’ I bought an armful of magazines and we went through them until David found one he liked. Suzie Fussey, who worked in a salon in Beckenham, Kent, did a lovely job, as you can see on the Ziggy Stardust cover. She later married Spiders guitarist Mick Ronson.

Creative: Angie and David's stormy life together informed many of his characters such as Aladdin SaneCreative: Angie and David’s stormy life together informed many of his characters such as Aladdin Sane
Star power: Davud Bowie's music career took off after he invented Ziggy Stardust, a character he said would look as if he came from MarsStar power: Davud Bowie’s music career took off after he invented Ziggy Stardust, a character he said would look as if he came from Mars

That hairstyle had a definite effect on David. It made him look stronger and wilder and, if possible, even more sexually ambivalent. It needed a lot of maintenance, making him become more self-conscious and narcissistic. It wasn’t long before David Jones had transformed himself into Ziggy, a lithe, red-headed, face-painted, polysexual alien.

The costume he wore on Top Of The Pops – and which will be a key exhibit in the V&A exhibition – was designed by Freddie Buretti, whom we had spotted at a gay disco in London. Freddie was so handsome, wearing white spandex hotpants and a short-sleeved sailor shirt. We quickly became friends and he made all the clothes for our various promotional campaigns.

To make life easier for all the fittings, Freddie came to live with us at Haddon Hall, an Edwardian mansion in Beckenham, converted into apartments. It was David and my first real home together and we transformed it into a grand living space. We decorated it with Burmese sideboards, a Japanese jigsaw desk, and a piano. We went to the docks and bought wonderful silk Chinese and Persian rugs.

At the local antique store on Beckenham High Street, I bought a walnut bed from France with a marquetry headboard. It was a great place to sit and work. David wrote the lyrics for Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust sitting cross-legged on that bed in his yellow Stirling Cooper sailor pants.

Come back: After his self-imposed silence of the past decade David Bowie fans have been treated to new music from the starCome back: After his self-imposed silence of the past decade David Bowie fans have been treated to new music from the star

Watching David write was inspiring to me. He was at his most content composing. Music floated from his mind and fingertips. He would strum the 11 strings on his 12-string Harptone guitar and wander to the piano and play a few bars, then off to forage for rice pudding in the kitchen. After some run-throughs, he would pad into wherever I was and say: ‘Come hear this.’

The tall ceilings and plaster and wood of Haddon Hall complemented the sound of all musical instruments. I felt like we were in a magical place and the melodies and ideas filled us with resolve to be totally successful. Haddon Hall was always full of people. Musicians, artists, designers all gathered.

We had some wonderful, crazy times. One of my best memories was a dinner party with Lionel Bart, the legendary composer of Oliver! David played early studio mixes from Ziggy Stardust. Lionel proclaimed it a rock opera.

I’ll never forget David’s stunned and delighted face as he absorbed the consequences of the compliment. I shopped at Liberty and at Brick Lane in the East End for fabrics. For David’s clothes, I went to Sloane Street and places in Chelsea,  New York – a clothing store called Vintage Hallowe’en and Paradise Bootery.

The Mary Quant lamé  T-shirts in every colour were available at any department store.Strangely enough, I received my greatest compliment at this time. David’s manager Tony Defries noticed that many of the girl fans were copying the way I dressed.

One night, he said: ‘We’ve got seven or eight Angies sitting out in the audience.’ I was astounded. And so was David. I caught sight of one girl. A platinum-haired teenager who was very pretty and had got herself a dark-green woollen dress like the one I had been seen out in only a week before. Even her hairstyle and make-up were identical.

Kansai Yamamoto was one of Japan’s top avant-garde designers. David loved his costumes and insisted on several for the Ziggy tour of Japan and Europe in 1973.

David’s shows were received ecstatically everywhere we went, which was wonderful for him, but very hard on the costumes.

After every show, it had to be rushed back to Kansai’s studio and painstakingly repaired and beads re-attached. The black-and-red leather, hand-painted, short-legged jump suit was a big favourite of David’s.

Costumes have a short life and David needed 30 pairs of trousers and as many jackets at the start of his tours and sometimes even that wasn’t enough. Shirts were lost by the hundreds. The fans would take everything they could. Even David’s pair of Peruvian wedding bands, which he wore on his wrists, were often taken from him.

Outrageous: Japanese designer Kansai Yamamoto designed this striped vuinyl bodysuit for the singerOutrageous: Japanese designer Kansai Yamamoto designed this striped vuinyl bodysuit for the singer

David was fascinated by people who had explored the depths of human experience. He was curious about everything and inspired by George Orwell’s 1984 and Beat Generation author William Burroughs’s The Wild Boys. David met Burroughs in New York, along with Iggy Pop, Lou Reed and Andy Warhol.

In New York, all the components of the Diamond Dogs tour – models and story, stage show and the songs – transformed our hotel suites into studios of theatrical production and design. The lyrics for the Diamond Dogs album were inspired by Burroughs. I wasn’t there when Burroughs showed David how he wrote prose and then cut up each line, throwing them into the air to see where they landed.

David wrote many of the songs for Aladdin Sane on his 1972 tour of America but The Prettiest Star dates back to Christmas 1969. I was staying with my parents in Cyprus when he phoned and sang it down the phone to me. Two days later, I was back in London and our first stop was the recording studio, where Marc Bolan was adding the guitar solo. I was crazy about Aladdin Sane, loved the songs, especially The Prettiest Star. That was the most personal. He wrote it for me.

bowie outfits

But as David became more successful, it also became hard to feel that I was in a relationship with him. He found it difficult to express his feelings. He began behaving increasingly badly and that’s when I began to plot my escape. In the years that followed, David seemed to deny I had any part in his success.

Despite my misgivings about his single, I’m delighted about the Bowie exhibition. The V&A show is an extraordinary collection of more than 300 artifacts – his flamboyant costumes, handwritten lyrics, stage sets and more – and will confirm David’s towering influence over British fashion, art and music during the last four decades.

For six or seven years, we were in it together. It was a quite extraordinary time and such good fun. I’m still very proud to have been involved. I’d never take any credit for David’s music – that’s all his. But the exhibition shows how I helped him deliver his dream.