10 Questions to David Bowie about his Image

Mirabelle

January 1974

Mirabelle: Would you agree in the first place that you have an image?

David: I’d have trouble denying it although it’s really in other people’s eyes rather than mine. People have trouble pinning me down to a description and it annoys some of them.

Mirabelle: So you couldn’t put that image into words?

David: No, not really. You see I’m not David Bowie private individual who dresses up for special occasions like concerts and television shows, takes on this professional image for the public and then takes it off again when I go home. More than anything else it’s me.

Mirabelle: The world really sat up and took notice of you when you appeared as Ziggy Stardust. You don’t appear to have moved far from Ziggy as regards your appearance.

David: Ziggy was a very strong character and I’m not sure I’ve lost him. I quite like the way I look at the moment so I don’t intend to change it. My only reason for changing appearance is because I get bored and in my book being bored is the biggest sin!

Mirabelle: But you were into “image” long before Ziggy.

David: Yes, I’ve always believed there was more to being a singer than standing on the stage and having the girls scream at you. But it wasn’t until I met Lindsay Kemp, my mime teacher that I fully understood how drama and theatre could play its part in a rock show. The make up and the fancy clothes are simply theatrical costumes… nothing more sinister than that.

Mirabelle: Do you ever regret that so much of your publicity is about your image?

David: People must write about me as the feel. I like to think my most important contribution is the music but I’ve got no right to insist that others feel the same way. If someone thinks of me as an important fashion trendsetter, good luck. Just as long as they write about me!

Mirabelle: And the controversial things you come out with from time to time?

David: I say what I think at the time. I don’t set out to shock people but there will always be people who are offended by certain points of view. I can’t think of things like that before I speak. I try to be honest in my opinions.

Mirabelle: Criticism has been levelled at your stage act. People says it’s too bizarre for the young fans who are attracted to your shows.

David: Again, I don’t think that much happens on stage that could shock but you know I think people tend to be over-protective towards young teenagers. These days they can cope with things better and they won’t accept things they don’t like.

Mirabelle: Could David Bowie exist in a grey pin-stripe three-piece suit?

David: I’m sure he could but why should he have to do things that don’t come naturally? I’d feel suffocated and maybe in time I would become a greyer, duller person if I were forced to live in a lifestyle that wasn’t me.

Mirabelle: What prompts you to be permanently on the hop? Unable to pin down as you say?

David: It’s just the sort of mind I’ve got. A butterfly mind that flits from one thing to another. I’ve got an enormous capacity for work and learning but I don’t like to concentrate on one thing for too long. I get the idea, do the work and I’m off to the next. And the amazing thing is, I like to cover as many different fields as possible. Records, stage shows, films, books – everything interests me.

Mirabelle: Just how important is an image to a performer such as yourself?

David: That’s difficult for me to answer but I suppose it is important even though I wish I could say it wasn’t. Obviously I’ve reached a far wider audience and what I do on and off-duty has become of far greater significance because some people think my image makes me newsworthy. As for whether I think that’s a good or bad thing – well, I haven’t made up my mind yet.

Mirabelle: How about the part of your image that has you almost as a recluse – where you don’t talk to anybody?

David: I think you mean don’t talk to the Press. I can’t deny that, I don’t give interviews out like a packet of sweets. I only like talking when there’s something specific to talk about like a new album or something. And I prefer to deal with people I know because I have to admit I’m rather distrustful of strange journalists!

Mirabelle: I guess some people consider you a weirdo. Is it you who is different or the rest of us?

David: I’m different and I sincerely hope every one is different from his neighbour. To my mind, it’s the differences in human beings that make them interesting not the sameness. But whereas I go ahead and act out my fantasies without caring too much about public opinion, most people stop short because they’re afraid about what the neighbours would think.

Mirabelle: Can you see the time when you will revert to what is considered the conventional behaviour and appearance for a male singer?

David: Convention is relative to the age. I’d have been totally shocking years ago. Today I shock a few people. Tomorrow I’ll be old hat. I’ll change over the years but the changes will be natural. I won’t even know about them myself until they hit me. If I found myself thinking along the same lines as most other people, then yes, I supposed I’d be conventional. I don’t deliberately set out to be different.

Mirabelle: Has criticism ever made you think about toning down your appearance or your stage act?

David: Never! That would be a cop-out and dishonest to myself.

Mirabelle: What does your mother think of your image?

David: I think she’s given up on me! But she’s proud of what I’ve achieved. She enjoys reading about me.

Mirabelle: And Angie?

David: Angie is an incredible inspiration! She’s a very creative woman and has influenced me to a certain extent. She’s always there with ideas and encouragement.

Mirabelle: When you look around at other people on the scene, who’s images do you rate?

David: I never think of it like that. I really rate Mick Jagger and he’s a man with a very strong image. You can’t really separate the man from the image and I like it that way because it means the image is merely a blown-up extension of the man beneath it. The same with Jimi Hendrix and others. The one thing I can’t stand are those obvious cardboard characters who jump on any passing bandwagon if they think there’s still an ounce of success to be wrung from it.

Mirabelle: How do other people in the business react to you?

David: I’m loved by some, hated by some and doubtless there are many who never give me a thought. Remember the pop scene is spread far and wide and these days groups go off on tour, or spend months at a time in the recording studios. They very seldom bump into each other in motorway cafes like they used to. We don’t form personal relationships very often. We only know each other through our music.

Mirabelle: Is it possible your image has done you any harm?

David: Yes, in that I might have out off people from listening to the music which they might have got something out of. It’s a shame but I consider that their hang-up, not mine.

Mirabelle: Can anybody make it today without an image?

David: Yes, it’s not easy because you’ve got to shine out of the pile. But music is still the strongest gimmick and I think that’s what the vast bulk of my fans enjoy from me.

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