In reply to:
But what you're essentially saying here is that more or less every artist is always defying expectations because there are so many different expectations, so many different people/fans.
No. Most fanbases are a lot more homogenous than Bowie's. Back in the days when I was an Iggy fan and hung around his Usenet newsgroup, it always struck me how incredibly homogenous it was. That makes it pretty easy to please. Iggy pretty much just has to go on stage topless, jump around, pull a few faces, drop his pants, shout the songs, and they're as happy as pigs in shit.
I presume that's what Bowie meant by his Iggy comment. Iggy is now a stage weirdo, the living stereotype of what a "wild man of rock" should be in the eyes of the mainstream. He couldn't play the role more perfectly if he had gotten Steven Spielberg in to write the script.
By contrast, there's Johnny Lydon (Rotten). He's getting boos from the usual "Sellout!" brigade of dullards for going on crappy reality TV programme "I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here" right now. Presumably they just want him to be Johnny Rotten '77 for the rest of his life.
In reply to:
I was also thinking more about defying expectations in a postive way
And I guess like most people you define positive as "stuff I like".
I suppose the most shocking thing Bowie ever did was Ziggy and the whole "I'm gay" thing. It's easy enough to shock and defy expectations when you're unknown. You just have to stand out from what's around. Ziggy was absorbed into the mainstream within a year and just became the latest manifestation of stage gender play. So Bowie did the next most shocking thing he could do - retire him at his peak. Then more personas. Thereafter, he starts to be pigeonholed as "weird persona guy" or "weirdo who changes his do and look every album". By the end of the 70s, he was on his way to becoming the cliche that every other major figure in rock and pop ended up as.
So by "going mainstream" in 1983, he was doing absolutely the most surprising and shocking thing he could do at that point. The tactics may have been mundane - tone down the sexuality, blonde up the image, put on a suit, do some warm dance pop rock - but the overall change of strategy was genuinely surprising. Everyone was expecting an album like "Vampires Of Human Flesh" with a dark Goth underbelly. Bowie defied their expectations by giving them its polar opposite.
The older you get, the harder it is to shock. We've seen all the tricks before, so they shouldn't surprise us. Yet some fans seem genuinely surprised by Bowie's "negative" partial retreat into the mainstream after a mid 90s spent making deliberately contrary albums. They apparently expected him to continue doing that till he died - making stage weird albums, playing smaller, sorry, "more intimate" venues every tour to the same aging faces, settling for the cosy life of the cult artist with his adoring fanbase who will continue to adore him so long as he gives them what they expect and doesn't try to appeal to those they perceive as outsiders.
Some artists spend their entire careers chasing the mainstream, changing in any way they need to appeal to American housewives as you call them. Others spend an entire career appealing only to their own cult. Both artistic straightjackets are as confining as the other.
And that ain't what Bowie's about.
"What was the point of that In America movie? That only an inbred cretin would even think about going to live In America??" Fiona O'Kearney, 19/01/2004