The Music Godfather: David Bowie

Nokia

November 2006

As a fanatical explorer of music from around the world, David Bowie will add his unique voice to those of the recommenders and shine light on great new music via his own regular features and podcasts. Essentially, he is Music Recommenders’ Godfather whose perfect credentials include a career that’s encompassed myriad styles from glam rock to Philly soul. Recently his golden endorsement has propelled great new bands like TV On The Radio and Arcade Fire into the public eye.

In addition, renowned filmmaker Wim Wenders (Buena Vista Social Club) has shot a short film about music discovery in which he talks with recommenders including Mona Records in Tokyo, Fat Beats in New York and Hard Wax in Berlin. David Bowie also spoke to Wenders about the project and his own passion for music discovery. To get a taste of the film, we’ve selected extracts in which Bowie recalls his early memories of music, his years in Berlin and New York and explains his passion for the project.

On Music Recommenders…
“For me music has been the glue that’s kept my life together. The way that I write it, everything that goes in comes out somehow, in my music all my influences connect and produce something that I hope is my own expression of what I listen to and what I love… If you come up today and listen to Arcade Fire you’ll hear Talking Heads in there. If you listen to Bob Dylan you’re listening to most of the history of American music and so it is with all of us, we are what we listen to in some ways. I think it’s probably the most exhilarating of the journeys that you can take to just be in a record store and pour through the things that are on offer there and try and enrich your life with those things.”

On Record Stores…
“I got my first job in a record store when I was around 12 or 13 and I would play the records in the shop and give myself an education in blues and early rock’n’roll. I remember one of the first 78s that I bought in that shop was by Big Bill Broonzy, a wonderful blues artist. It was around the same time that I realised that, if you were a musician or songwriter or singer, you could actually earn a living, make money by doing it. So it could be a real job.”

On Berlin…
“When you think of Berlin you also think of classical music but it’s not really the case for me. I spent a lot of time in Berlin in the middle to late seventies and I recorded there. It was home to me for those years and I remember that I was exploring and finding new music there.

I remember very clearly going into a small, hidden record store and finding the albums of Neu! on the Brain label… I thought they were just a wonderful band. I also had a big stack of old 78s that I played all the time on a wind-up record player and one particular favourite was “Tannhauser”, the overture, but played at the wrong speed. I’d play the old 78 at 33 and it really gave the music a new dimension. So my musical life was book-ended by Neu! at one end and Wagner at the other.”

On New York…
“New York, of course, is a cauldron of musical ideas. I spend a lot of time going to clubs and going to see new bands while I’m in New York and spending time in the record stores… Working with the guys in the record stores you can find out that they’re specialists, they live for music and they tend to know exactly what’s going on throughout their particular area really deeply. So you can get hip to new music that way.”

Forthcoming on Music Recommenders
David Bowie will continue to be a presence on Music Recommenders – commenting on the music, podcasting his own selections and expanding on his vision of music discovery – so stay tuned to the Update pages. Also over the coming months you’ll be able to see footage of Wim Wenders’ visits to what we believe are some of the most unique music stores in the world.

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