Happy Birthday, Mr Bowie

On Monday evening, I finally got to see Nicolas Roeg’s The Man Who Fell to Earth. This 1976 film was the fourth that Roeg had directed and I’d already seen and enjoyed his previous three: Performance (co-directed with Donald Cammell), Walkabout and, in particular, Don’t Look Now. I was also interested in seeing David Bowie in the title role of Thomas Newton, an alien on a mission to bring water back to his dying planet. Like Roeg’s previous films, it’s never completely clear to the viewer what exactly is going on; information is kept from the audience, little is properly explained and scenes that we believe take place in the present are intercut with scenes that may occur in a different time and place. Generally, everything comes together, more or less, at the end. I believe that Don’t Look Now is a superior film, but I quite enjoyed The Man Who Fell to Earth and Bowie’s performance was one of the film’s highlights. It was quite clever of Roeg to cast Bowie as the alien. The singer had constantly reinvented himself over the previous decade and these reinventions would have made him more suited to this role than many of his contemporaries in the music world. More importantly, the persona of his most famous creation, Ziggy Stardust, and the recurring theme of space travel in his songs also came in handy for his role as as a travelling spaceman

Today, thirty four years later, David Bowie celebrates his 63rd birthday. I’ve put together a few songs about him, some covers of his songs as well as his versions of other people’s tunes. The lyric of the opening track by the band Alberta Cross, ATX, concerns Bowie’s character in The Man Who Fell to Earth. If you enjoy Bowie Eyes by Dutch band The Very Sexuals you can download the rest of the album for free from their website. Cranky do a pretty good imitation of Bowie’s voice and manage to cram in a few references to his songs in their lively little number. The Flight of the Conchords’ parody is just one of many hilarious pisstakes on the first album by the comedic New Zealand duo. A Bowie Medley by Mike Flowers kicks off a dozen Bowie covers that begins with a reggae version of Modern Love and concludes with an unusual choral version of Space Oddity. Finally, the man himself takes on The Velvet Underground and the Pixies. Happy birthday, Mr Bowie

ATX – Alberta Cross

David Bowie – Disconcerts

Bowie Eyes – The Very Sexuals

David Bowie Cries For No One – Cranky

Bowie – Flight of the Conchords

Bowie Medley – The Mike Flowers Pops

Modern Love (Bowie cover) – The Sunshiners

Let’s Dance (Bowie cover) – M. Ward

Boys Keep Swinging (Bowie cover) – A Camp

Young Americans (Bowie cover) – Danny Michel

Five Years (Bowie cover) – Polyphonic Spree

Life On Mars (Bowie cover) – The Divine Comedy

Kooks (Bowie cover) – Tindersticks

Be My Wife (Bowie cover) – Richard Walters & Faultline

Suffragette City (Bowie cover) – Seu Jorge

Oh! You Pretty Things (Bowie cover) – Au Revoir Simone

Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide (Bowie cover) – Black Box Recorder

Space Oddity (Bowie cover) – The Langley Schools Music Project

I’m Waiting for the Man (VU cover) – David Bowie

Cactus (Pixies Cover) – David Bowie


38 thoughts on “Happy Birthday, Mr Bowie

  1. Pingback: 1. Outside – A Noir Album « The Venetian Vase

    • I haven’t seen Labryinth but I think I’ll check out some of the other films that Mr Bowie appeared in to see how they compare

  2. I still remember when Bowie and Bing
    did “The Little Drummer Boy” on Kraft
    Music Hall in ’73 or ’74. Talk about
    an unlikely duo that made a classic,

    I always thought that Prince owed
    a great deal of influence to Bowie,
    though he dressed like Hendrix.

    • I agree that Bowie’s collaboration with Crosby seemed a bit unlikely, but their version of Little Drummer Boy is not a bad Christmas tune. I never thought about the similarities between Prince & Bowie, but it is likely that Prince’s performing style and music were influenced by Bowie

  3. Thanks for a great post–a nice opportunity to think about a fantastic career. My only suggestion–you could have included some Iggy in the list of songs–maybe China Girl?

    • Thank you, Thomas. I actually had to leave off a lot of songs that I liked as I wanted to keep the running time under 80 minutes. A track that nearly made it was a version of China Girl by a band called The Rhonda Harris

  4. David Bowie has been an all time favorite of mine. Underground was one of the first songs of his that I listened to and with a super music video for the time it was made; not to mention under pressure as well with him and queen. Bowie simply rocks!


  5. Pingback: Return to Sender « Town Full of Losers

  6. Happy Birthday David Bowie I watched the Man Who Fell to earth.

    The collection of bands below will keep me busy

    The next film is Avatar looks so impressive

  7. Perhaps the best asset Mr Bowie had to appear in the film ‘The Man who Fell to Earth’ were his eyes. I know loads of aliens with dual coloured eyes. They all love music especially Mr David Bowies

    • Yes, Sandra, I believe he actually has two different coloured eyes, although I don’t think that was so obvious in the film

  8. Your collection of Bowie work and tributes here is impressive. I am enjoying all of them. Very apropro for a birthday celebration.

  9. Pingback: Bowie’s B-day Blog « FemBot

    • Each one of Roeg’s first four films is deliberately confusing. I think they make a bit of sense at the end, though

  10. I’m glad you like the links, Illumeateight. You should check out the Flight of the Conchords. Two series of their sitcom have been made and they have also released two albums. The first one contains a few more great tunes. I haven’t read the Tevis novel, but I’ll definitely check it out

  11. That must have been an interesting film to see when you were in high school, Sittingpugs. Even as a pop star, Bowie always stood out visually. He made a few more films after this, but I don’t think he ever reached the heights he did in this film

    • Oddly enough, my first viewing of that film didn’t leave me as unsettled as when I rented it in my early 20s. I had taken film theory and criticism classes by the time I saw it a second time, so I probably “understood” and consumed it on deeper levels. In other words, I wasn’t just admiring the main character’s aesthetics.

      When Scott Weiland, the lead singer of Stone Temple Pilots, went solo and released the music video for his song “Barbarella” from his Twelve Bar Blues album, I thought to myself, “Ah! The Man Who Fell to Earth!”

  12. Thank you for pointing out those errors, Michael. I mixed it up Don’t Look Now with the title of the Dylan documentary (By the way, you’ve got a typo on your spelling of “look” ;-) I’m sure you can appreciate how easy it is to let those get by)

    Technically, my second error was mathematical. I guess it only feels like 25 years ago

    I’ve updated both errors. Thanks again for spotting them and alerting me to them, Michael

  13. Thanks for this post and all the awesome links. An avid Bowie fan, I saw this film many years ago. I think I may have actually read the Walter Tevis novel on which it’s based first. It’s a powerful piece of science-fiction, and ironically, very clear and concise narratively (it may be in the range of 200 pages). It’s a dismal take on the stranger in a strange land scenario. No victorious outcome as in Avatar or other such stories. The Flight of the Conchords parody is especially hilarious – I hadn’t heard that one before.

  14. Sixty-third birthday wow.

    I saw The Man Who Fell to Earth when I was in high school. It came on public television very late one night. I remember being completely entranced by Bowie’s red hair and bone structure.

  15. you have two typos you called Don’t look now don’t llok back and you said that this was nearly a quarter of a century later (since) the man who fell to Earth buddy its’ 34 years

  16. I didn’t know about Nomad Soul, Mr Malcon, but I’m not surprised that he’d be involved in a computer game

    I’d say it would be difficult to stalk him, Joy, as he’s a master of disguise

    • Ibid to that. I have loved him since I discovered him in 1972 when I was a young gay teen struggling to cope. No one in the US much knw who he was back then….especially in the south. I had memorized every word to every song from the Ziggy Stardust album by the 3rd day I owned it… you know teen swoon, that sort of thing. Back then he was screwing mick jagger and married to some supermodel chick – I think he named his son zowie – oh the good old days of us boomers. Sigh….

  17. Have you ever heard his tracks for the PC game “Nomad Soul”? I bought it years ago when I found out Bowie had songs for the game, AND also “starred” in it. And the game itself was really original.

    Still, “Life on Mars?” remains my absolute favourite, it’s so eerie. Kudos for reminding.

    Wherever the Chameleon is, happy birthday.

Comments are closed.