by Robert Colvile / Telegraph
9th January 2013
The emergence from seclusion of David Bowie – the man many call the David Miliband of pop – has excited a certain stirring in middle-aged hearts. Acres of newsprint have been devoted to his comeback. The Today programme has cleared the decks for two successive mornings, the better to educate its listeners about the life and times of the Thin White Duke.
We have been treated to exhaustive analysis of every line of the new single. The album cover has been lauded, panned and lauded again. Bowie’s years in Berlin have been exhumed so thoroughly you can probably download a day-by-day timeline. There were even pictures of a young Nick Clegg dressed as Ziggy Stardust – red wig, white make-up, the full Ronald McDonald – and reminders that he chose Life on Mars as one of his Desert Island Discs (along, inexplicably, with Shakira’s Waka Waka (This Time for Africa), the official theme of the 2010 World Cup – still on the playlist, Nick?).
All in all, it’s really rather sad. I don’t mean Bowie’s comeback: I’m delighted to see him back. But as a child of the Eighties, for whom Bowie’s undoubted musical accomplishments will always play second fiddle to his childhood-defining turn as Jareth the Goblin King in Jim Henson’s Labyrinth, there’s something rather self-indulgent, even tragic, about these pre-mortem eulogies.
It’s like the hoopla around the recent Rolling Stones tour, or even U2’s most recent album, when the BBC prostrated itself before Bono and chums as if they were Christ and the apostles. Give Baby Boomers a chance to touch the hem of their heroes’ robes, and judgment and balance go out the window. And because they control the commanding heights of the culture, the rest of us are fed on their diet – swept up in the endless attempt to restore lost youth.
Bowie’s album may turn out to be a work of genius. Or it may turn out like almost every other recent record by almost every other Sixties or Seventies icon: agreeable, perhaps even rewarding, but a colossal let-down compared with the music that set the world on fire in the first place.
Still, at least there’s one silver lining to Bowie-mania: it might just shut the Dylan bores up for a while.
The Oscar nominations are announced today, and there’s a lot of excited talk about Skyfall being the first Bond film with a shot at Best Picture. But there’s a bigger story here: its potential nominations for music, cinematography and sound.
You see, when making the movie, Sam Mendes hired three of the unluckiest men in Hollywood. Greg Russell, the sound mixer, has been nominated for 15 Oscars. Thomas Newman, who wrote the score, has been up for 10. And the great British cinematographer Roger Deakins, who brought the same visual panache to Skyfall as to No Country for Old Men and True Grit, has been short-listed for nine. All told, the trio have been nominated 34 times, without a single statue to show for it.
In interviews, the three betray no shred of bitterness: no matter how many times they’ve been disappointed, they claim they’re still happy to dress up in black tie and head along. But with Deakins in particular having replaced Peter O’Toole as the greatest living reproof to the Academy’s judgment, it’s surely time for them to get their long overdue reward.
My complaint about being denied a rare steak by a restaurant for food safety reasons – due, I was relieved to find out, to staff error rather than company policy – has prompted similar horror stories. The worst was from Tom’s Kitchen at Somerset House in London, run by culinary Wunderkind Tom Aikens: a friend was forced to order her burger not just medium, but well done. You might as well serve up low-fat ice cream, or butter the bread rolls with Flora Light. On behalf of food-lovers everywhere – please, just stop.