Sep 262012

Townsman trolleyvox asked if we could talk about this 1969 promotional film for David BowieLove You Till Tuesday. Time has come today, and while we’re at it feel free to talk about a 1976 film starring Bowie, Nicholas Roeg‘s The Man Who Fell to Earth, which I finally watched all the way through.

My main thought about the promotional film is that the ’60s could not contain Bowie. He had no available space to occupy. Everything he tried to do in a ’60s vein, including whimsical gnome pop, UK pop balladry, and soft-shoe/mime routines, had already been done better by Syd Barrett, The Bee Gees, and Davey Jones (The Monkees’ Davey Jones, that is), respectively. The scenes with him playing alongside his buddies are really awkward. David did not play well with others. He had to be his own man. He had to help shape the next decade. It was a matter of survival.

Speaking of matters of survival, Bowie is really good in The Man Who Fell to Earth. I’ve mildly enjoyed him in other small acting parts, but he does fall into self-consciousness more than a real actor should. In Roeg’s film he gets to play a variation on his musical character. He’s even an alien space traveler who misses his wife and is named Thomas. (No word on whether he ranked as a Major on his home planet.) As an added bonus, I got to see way more of Candy Clark‘s acting talents than she was able to display in a movie from my childhood that did much to shape me: American Graffiti.

When I was younger Roeg’s visual-heavy style left me unsatisfied, but since seeing this movie and re-watching Walkabout a few months ago I’m willing to see him as more than a Thinking Man’s Ken Russell. Maybe I’ll revisit Performance or Don’t Look Now or even the one about Einstein and Marilyn Monroe.  Jeez, I’m turning into Buskirk!

(Speaking of turning into a fellow Townsman, I’ve been listening to the Grateful Dead station on Sirius as I drive from Detroit to Ann Arbor and back on a current business trip. I’m starting to see where BigSteve and geo are coming from now and then—not that I find myself liking too many new songs, but when faced with live Dead shows and Mickey Hart solo recordings versus all the absolute mediocrity of stations like Deep Traxx and Underground Garage at least the Dead have a center that’s meaningful to them. Unless you’re my man hrrundivbakshi perhaps you haven’t heard mediocrity until you’ve heard some Deep Traxx by ZZ Top. They also played an album cut from Steely Dan that made me appreciate the standard hit song by them I heard on some other station featuring some weird ’70s AOR, including the satellite radio highlight of my trip so far: Jefferson Starship‘s “Call On Me”!)


  19 Responses to “Time Has Come Today: Let’s Talk About David Bowie’s Love You Till Tuesday Promotional Film (and The Man Who Fell to Earth, while we’re at it)”

  1. 2000 Man

    I don’t have time to watch Bowie right now, so I’ll comment on the second part. I had satellite, then dropped it after a few years because it was nothing I couldn’t get for free with any regular radio. I liked Underground Garage, but a few months ago I had it again for a week after a girl totaled my beloved Element. Underground Garage had the same damned playlist two years later! That’s Kid Leo, Program Manager, for ya. That dude has zero imagination. The Deep Cutz or whatever it is don’t play particularly deep cuts. Unless Little Feat and Dave Mason are deep, and I always thought they should be deep sixed at this point in history. Some music should just fall by the wayside, a relic of a time long gone (Foreigner, Styx there’s millions).

    The worst was the dedicated stations. I never even listened to their Stones station more than once or twice. I have all those songs, and more, so I don’t need it. The Elvis station hasn’t changed since the first day of Sirius, and something available in cars shouldn’t be allowed to have a Grateful Dead station. No wonder so many tracks seem to be flipping over these days. Their drivers are listening to Grateful Dead and falling asleep.

    Oh, and to toss a bone HVB’s way, that new song by ZZ Top, Gotsta Get Paid is really good. I mean, I couldn’t believe how much I liked it!

  2. ladymisskirroyale

    Big Audio Dynamite gives the quickest synopsis of “The Man Who Fell To Earth” in “e=mc2”

    Time to move along and re-watch “Don’t Look Now.”

  3. misterioso

    Good post. Oh, you’re pushing my buttons, Mod.

    –I’m not sure if your account of Bowie in the 60s is on target or not, but one thing is for sure: he didn’t get his act together until The Man Who Sold the World or, maybe more clearly, Hunky Dory. It’s like that crappy early song of his: “I Did Everything.” He was trying everything in the 60s and could not find his place. The fact that he became such a dominant force for solid decade in the 70s is like Sammy Sosa going from wispy singles and doubles hitter to power behemoth, only without the juice. Or, a different kind of juice?

    –saying Roeg is the “Thinking Man’s Ken Russell” is to say that he is the Brain Dead Man’s Anyone Else.” I mean, how low are we setting the bar? Based on the various movies of his I have seen–quite a few, I’m afraid–the only one that is of any worth if Don’t Look Now. Weird, creepy, effective, and Julie Christie. Performance? Strictly of interest as a curiosity. The rest, including Man Who Fell (though I agree Bowie is good), are mostly pretentious twaddle. I mean, Castaway is so bad that Russell might have directed it–Oliver Reed is even in it. His movies are not as ghastly and unpleasant as Russell’s, of course. But, then, whose are?

    –I think it is soooo cool that you’re mellowing on the Dead, man. Some of their stuff is even better than ZZ Top deep trax? High praise! I’m sure you’re right that “a center that’s meaningful to them.” What about the rest of us who aren’t stoned? Not so much.

    –But you are spot on about Deep Traxxzzzzz. Deep sleep. I mean, goddammit, if I’m going to hear a Molly Hatchet song on the radio (and that’s a big if), it damn well better be Flirtin’ With Disaster and not some lp cut. You with me?

  4. Mr. Mod, what are your thoughts about the early ’80s channel on Sirius? Sometimes our rental car will have satellite radio, and that channel — whatever it’s called — has Elvis Costello and Squeeze for me, the Cure and Depeche Mode for my wife, and the Smiths for both of us. Hang on, I think I may have already answered my question.;)

  5. After seeing a chunk of that Bowie video, I have to agree with your initial reaction that Bowie had nowhere to stand in the late 60’s. I find it discouraging that a guy who could dream up the androgynous spaceman of the 70’s was so damn SQUARE. I mean, after Richard Lester and Peter Cook and all that, for him to do schlock like that “When I’m 5” without even a wink is plain sad. But I kind of liked the military-ish “Rubber Band”. I had to give up at the mime, but the ass-grabbing trou may be a signpost for Bowie’s later costume changes.

    And I’m alright with Deep Trax, it is better (or at least more) than the standard classic rock fare if you don’t want to dive into those Deadhead/All-Elvis,Beatles,Stones/Outlaw Country stations. But I only hear those things rarely so I don’t have time to suss out the formatting which would then begin to bother me.

  6. Ha! I abhor Your Generation’s mixing of My New Wave with what my (not) cool friends considered any form of “hair gel music,” to name only one term we may have used. The marketing asshole who decided that Thompson Twins belonged in the same category as Elvis Costello should be hanged.

    I did try one of those stations. Bigger man that I am these days, I would have welcomed a song by The Cure. Instead I heard Bow Wow Wow (boy, they sucked – and all through the last 30 years I’d somehow “remembered” they “weren’t bad”) and The Vapors’ “Turning Japanese.” Hearing that song again, a song I never really liked when I should have been able to like it, I felt a surge of pride in knowing that I still thought it sucked. The only part worth hearing yesterday, as was the case so many yesterdays ago, was the ascending Thin Lizzy-like guitar figure toward the end. Terrible song. I can think of 2 songs that work despite the horrendous use of the stereotypical “Chinese” riff – that Hoagy Carmichael song I love from To Have and Have Not and “Kung Fu Fighting.” My message to future generations of songwriters is to avoid that riff.

    Speaking of Thin Lizzy, I heard a really bad Thin Lizzy song on deep Traxx. I forgot they used to play second-rate crap by second-rate bands on the radio when I was a teen.

  7. alexmagic

    I don’t have time at the moment to give the video its due, but one thing to consider in the difference between ’60s Bowie and ’70s Bowie is the Bolan Factor. Electric Warrior and Hunky Dory are recorded around the same time, and “Kooks” on Hunky Dory – which I love – is possibly the final appearance of soft shoe, Davy Jones-esque Bowie.

  8. I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea, that I am complaining about the fact that didn’t “like” Deep Traxx. I LOVED the fact that it got such a rise out of me. I had some really good laughs listening to that station. It’s just that, compared with the Dead station, I found *less* to merely “like.”

  9. Yes, I’ve read that Bolan thought Bowie ripped off much of his act. Could be – and thank god. There aren’t close to 30 Bolan songs I can love, although “Get It On” NEVER gets old for me. That may be the best song of its genre, and I mean a genre even more specific than “glam.”

  10. ladymisskirroyale

    Interesting. But not Bowie.

    Mod, I think you put it very well: Bowie doesn’t know how to be in this music. It looks like he’s trying to fit in rather than stand out, and when I think of Bowie, I think of his singularity (even when copying styles, he makes them his own somehow). It’s frankly embarrassing to see him cavorting around in front of a white or black screen (I kept thinking he needed the Jack Wild HR Pufnstuf treatment to make it WEIRDER) and acting out the music lyrics (like a 5th rate Anthony Newley)

    Bowie’s voice is odd, and therefore it should be highlighted rather than hidden away behind some chamber pop scrim. Regarding fashion and playing with others, he could have taken some lessons from Spinal Tap and emulated “Listen To The Flowerpeople” for folk singalong pastiche.

    Here’s a 1990’s version of the same sort of stuff Bowie was doing, but done better. Doesn’t it sound like Bowie?

  11. That’d be “Hong Kong Blues,” then covered by Beatle George on “Somewhere in England” (currently on my turntable; how fortuitous). Don’t go kickin’ old Buddha’s gong!


  12. ladymisskirroyale

    Ok, first Thompson Twins. I can understand your dislike of them – they are certainly rhythm section/african beats lite.

    But Bow Wow Wow???!!!! What do you mean they suck? Which song are you referring to? “Do You Want To Hold Me” is one of my favorites from the 80’s (with some nice guitar, too), and “See Jungle” has wonderful bass and burundi percussion. “Orang -outang” is one of Mr. Royale’s favorites.

  13. dbuskirk

    The Mod knows me too well, I was just taking a break from Ken Russell’s THE BOYFRIEND when side one of the laserdisc ended to find this semi-defense of THE MAN WHO FEEL TO EARTH. What a perfect screen debut for Bowie as the weary outer space traveler! I can understand people not enjoying the film, it sets you up to believe this all-knowing alien is going to overcome his earthly oppressors, but instead he falls prey to the vices of Capitalism. Not an idea that puts butts in the seats. I did write at length about the film, if anyone is curious…
    All the Ken Russell/Nicholas Roeg stuff seems more intriguing to me today, Paul Thomas Anderson should hope he ends his career with such a large a string of curious misfires as Roeg & Russell do.

  14. It wasn’t one of those or “I Like Candy.* Good, my memory of them being pretty good isn’t wrong. Whatever song it was sounded like kiddie mush.

  15. Great Phawker piece, db. I did not, however, feel the movie was setting me up for any kind of transcendence. In fact, I thought the deck was stacked against Newton from the start – and I liked that. I also liked that fact that his character was simply his character. If that movie gets made today critics (and publicists) would make links to Newton being a nod to Steve Jobs or some other contemporary figure. I like how the entire story, although set in then-contemporary times, is not really a nod to any current events. If it came out this week, for instance, it would somehow be read as having something to do with the economy or whatever. In films from that period in the ’70s stuff just was what it was, to use a contemporary phrase I can’t stand.

  16. That’s apt. I’ve never heard any Tyrannosaurus Rex stuff that I’ve liked at all. It all sounds like dingy Donovan.

  17. dbuskirk

    ” In films from that period in the ’70s stuff just was what it was.” At the risk of going overboard into the theoretical, I’m not sure art of such purity is possible. All art depends on shared understandings and assumptions we’ll culled from our experience in the world. What facts and beliefs are being assumed inherently make art political, historical and in discussion with the world around it.

  18. Happiness Stan

    I’ve always been rather fond of Love You Till Tuesday, and could never stand the Man Who Fell To Earth, although I’ve sat through it several times.

    The Clan Happiness all have a soft spot for Labyrinth, though.

    One of my exes was in the Ashes to Ashes video, having happened upon the filming of it early one Sunday morning while out walking the dog.

    My best friend is fond of recounting an anecdote wherein he escorted a young lady over a bridge on the way home from school one day when she found her path blocked by a drunk and aggressive Oliver Reed who was in the town filming.

    I have it on good authority that I once stood next to David Bowie all the way through a Jonathan Richman gig, although I didn’t realise it at the time.

  19. Excellent Bowie discussion, RTH. Though why was it accompanied by a banner ad promising to “Boost your testosterone to get you feeling even better?”

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