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The man who would rightly be known as the "Chameleon of Pop", David Robert Hayward Jones, was born on January 8, 1947, in London. He entered the music scene in 1964, when he released his first single, Liza Jane, but Davy Jones and his seemingly endless supply of Mod/R'n'B bands were going nowhere quickly. Even producer Shel Talmy could not work the miracles for young Jones that he had for the Who and the Kinks. Around this time, Jones changed his name to Bowie, so that he would not be confused with the David Jones who was rapidly gaining popularity as a member of the Monkees.
After a brief and unsuccessful attempt to become a family entertainer in the mold of Tommy Ross, which spawned his self-titled debut album, Bowie made his first notable chart entry in 1969 with the Space Oddity single, arriving quite fortuitously in the wake of the Apollo moon landings. The single was followed by an only slightly less-impressive album. However, the next few years saw Bowie nearly squandering stardom to deal with a variety of other events in his life; among them, the sudden death of his father and his marriage to Mary Angela "Angie" Barnett.
The next two years saw Bowie swinging from pole to musical pole as he recorded two more albums, the neo-metal Man Who Sold The World and the considerably lighter (but equally sophisticated) Hunky Dory. Finally, a massive hype campaign was brought to a head with the release of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. International notoriety and superstar status followed over the next year, as well as a world tour. Bowie would record glam-heavy Aladdin Sane before publicly retiring the Ziggy persona at the Hammersmith Odeon, July 3, 1973. Backed by the Spiders, David recorded an album of covers Pinups before embarking on a plan to turn Geroge Orwell's 1984 into a stage show - which ultimately became the Diamond Dogs album.
A two-year flirtation with soul followed, as well as an American tour David Live) and the #1 worldwide hit Fame, co-written by John Lennon, from Young Americans album. By late 1975, following the filming of THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH and the recording of the high-tech soul Station To Station album, Bowie was heavily abusing drugs and seeking a quiet, anonymous retreat. After a successful world tour in the first half of 1976, David moved to Berlin with Brian Eno and proceeded to record the ground-breaking Low and Heroes albums, which he subsequently promoted with another world tour in 1978 ( Stage).
The decade was rounded out by the final (so far) Bowie-Eno album, Lodger, as well as Scary Monsters) in 1980. During this time he divorced Angela Bowie, but capped the year by appearing in the lead role of THE ELEPHANT MAN on Broadway. However, the brutal murder of John Lennon in December caused Bowie to cancel tenative plans for a 1981 tour and disappear into seclusion during the whole of 1981, re-emerging only to record Under Pressure with Queen. 1982 saw him back at work on films, appearing in the critically acclaimed MERRY CHRISTMAS, MR. LAWRENCE, as well as the less impressive THE HUNGER.
After years of contractual disputes, David broke with RCA in 1982 and signed a major deal with EMI. He subsequently teamed-up with producer Nile Rodgers to record what was to be his single best-selling album, Let's Dance. Released in 1983, the title track became a #1 worldwide hit, and the subsequent Serious Moonlight tour swept the globe. Tonight followed a year later, and Bowie appeared in Live Aid in 1985, having recorded a version of Dancing in the Streets with Mick Jagger for the occasion.
The 1980s saw Bowie involved in an ever-widening array of artistic endeavors, including several more films - LABRYINTH and ABSOLUTE BEGINNERS (for which he penned the #2 hit single title track) being some of the more notable. Finally, he released Never Let Me Down in 1987 and embarked on the Glass Spider tour, which, despite negative reviews, sold well.
Bowie shocked fans and detractors alike in 1989 by forming techno-grunge act Tin Machine with guitarist Reeves Gabrels and brothers Hunt and Tony Sales. After their debut album was released, Bowie announced his intention to completely retire his back catalog, and the "Sound & Vision Tour" (a.k.a. "Greatest Hits tour") followed. A second Tin Machine album was released in 1992, as well as a live album ( Oy Vey, Baby).
1993 saw the return of Bowie's solo projects, which included Black Tie White Noise , produced by Nile Rodgers, (and inspired by Bowie's recent marriage to Somalian supermodel Iman) and the soundtrack album for the BBC-2 serial The Buddha Of Suburbia. Bowie's first interactive CD-ROM, entitled JUMP, was also released later in the year, although Bowie admitted his actual involvement with this project was minimal.
Bowie continued his resurgence into 1994 when he teamed-up with Brian Eno (as well as old cronies Carlo Alomar and Mike Garson) for the first time since 1979 to create Outside, an ambitious and largely successful concept album, released in 1995. He then undertook a US tour with Nine Inch Nails during September and October of 1995, before heading to the UK for a two month tour with Morrissey. He stuck to his promise of 1990, and while the "Outside" tour featured some old material, it featured no 'hits' that Bowie had previously performed.
In 1996, Bowie was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (much to his chagrin), and continued his film career with an acclaimed performance as Andy Warhol in Basquiat.
1997 saw a seemingly rejuvenated Bowie as he turned 50 and gave a sellout performance at Madison Square Garden for his 50th Birthday Concert. Shortly therafter, the drum 'n bass influenced Earthling was released, and the European and American tour which followed saw Bowie giving some of his most inspired live performances in small intimate theatres. Among the biggest news items of the year in the music world was a deal referred to as the "Bowie Bond" deal, where Bowie sold $50 million of bonds backed by royalties on his (now fully owned) back catalogue. The sudden emergence led to one British magazine labelling Bowie as the "richest musician" in Britain.
1998 saw Bowie concentrating his time on extra-music activities. He managed to find time to star in 3 feature-length film productions, "Il Mio West", "Everybody Loves Sunshine" and "Exhuming Mr Rice". But the major event of the year was the launch of BowieNet, his own virtual Internet Service Provider.
In 1999, Bowie has already recorded songs with his new proteges, Placebo and participated in a cybercast song contest titled What's Really Happening. A new album is expected late in the year, along with the official rerelease on EMI of all of his back catalogue (which was retired from Rykodisc in mid-1998).
Looking ahead to next year, Bowie will be the first ever performer of 2000, signed for the Gisborne Millennium Concert in New Zealand, the first place in the world to see the sun.
Contributed by Philip Obbard
with additions by Evan Torrie