Obituary: David Bowie
David Bowie, musician, actor and icon, died on January 10th, aged 69
IN JULY 1969 men walked on the moon, a technological leap all but unthinkable 50 years before. Three years later they abandoned it, and have renounced all return ever since. What boosters saw as the great opening act of the space age turned out to be, in effect, its culmination. Within a few years presidential corruption, economic stagnation, military ignominy and imagined catastrophe had warped post-war America’s previously impervious belief in progress, a belief that had resonance across the then free world. After Apollo, the future would never again be what it used to be.
David Bowie’s greatest years began nine days before Apollo 11 touched down in the Sea of Tranquillity, with the release of his single “Space Oddity”; they ended 11 years later, with the single “Ashes to Ashes”. Over that decade he used imagined futures to turn himself into something contradictory and wonderful—an epitome of alienation with whom the alienated flocked to identify. In doing so, he laid bare one of the key cultural shifts of the 1970s: the giving up of past dreams.
大卫•鲍伊最辉煌的时期始于阿波罗11号降落在静海的九天前，那天他发行了单曲“Space Oddity”，并在11年后随着单曲“Ashes to Ashes”的发行为该时期划上了句号。在这十余年间，他借助幻想中的未来，将自己转化为某种矛盾和美好的结合体——作为排斥于主流之外的象征，他受到了无数从他身上寻找自我认同的被排斥者的追随。借此，他赤裸裸地揭示了70年代最重要的一项文化变迁的本质：放弃过去的梦想。
Mr Bowie’s future-fixation was most obvious in his appropriation of the themes of pulp science fiction, of space travel and aliens from other planets, of “Ziggy Stardust” and “Life on Mars”. Other impresarios—most notably L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of the Church of Scientology—had ransacked the genre for mythologies of personal growth. But none did so with Mr Bowie’s sense of dress and theatre, his sexual thrill, his salesmanship and his understanding of what his fans wanted to hear. His alien allegories made the possibility of change—the heart of the future’s appeal, especially for adolescents—a matter not of remaking society or piling up technological progress but of revealing, or remaking, yourself. The difference between the future and the past lay not in it, but in you.
鲍伊对于未来的执念最明显的体现是他大量借鉴了“纸浆科幻”①*小说中的主题，譬如太空旅行和外星人，譬如“基吉•星尘（Ziggy Stardust）”和“火星生活(Life on Mars)”②*。尽管其他经理人为了编造“个人提升”的神话早已将该文学流派的价值榨取殆尽（当中最著名的当属山达基教会③*的创始人 L•罗恩•贺伯特[L. Ron Hubbard])，但鲍伊的衣着品味、舞台表现力、性吸引力、自我营销能力和对于自己歌迷想要听什么的深刻理解可谓前无来者。他的外星寓言让改变成为可能，而改变正是“未来”的吸引力核心所在——对青少年而言更是如此。“未来”不意味着重新改造社会，也不意味着积累技术进步，而是启示或重造你自己。未来和过去的区别不在于未来本身，而是在于你的内心。
1. “纸浆读物 (the pulps)”即指通常在街头书摊可以买到的粗制滥造的廉价杂志。
2. Ziggy Stardust是大卫•鲍伊一度使用的艺名，其同名单曲收录在1972年的专辑《基吉•星尘的崛起与陨落以及火星蜘（The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars）》中；Life on Mars是鲍伊1971的一首单曲。
3. 山达基教会 (Church of Scientology），又称科学神教和科学教派，是一个富有争议的宗教/商业组织，在不同国家分别被视为合法宗教、盈利组织、邪教不等。创始人贺伯特人生经历丰富，一度也是纸浆科幻文学作家，后来杂糅了科学、心理学分析和宗教哲学等思想创造了自己的一套宗教理念，该宗教的前身是一个旨在帮助“个人提升(personal growth)”的系统。
The proof was in the playing. Mr Bowie grew up as David Jones, a sharp-toothed kid from dull suburban Bromley whose parents held no aspirations for him. Through a talent born of yearning he had transformed himself into Ziggy Stardust: extravagant, flawed and sexually polymorphous, tottering on platform shoes and hiding behind a mask of paint. “Nijinsky meets Woolworths” Mr Bowie called him: a character who ran through 73 different outfits in 21 months. If he could so transform himself, what could make-up and attitude do for you—especially if you had outcast Ziggy, your leper messiah, to sexily show you the way?
1. 这里的尼金斯基是指俄罗斯传奇芭蕾舞演员瓦斯拉夫•尼金斯基( Nijinsky, Vaslav, 1889～1950)，被誉为“舞蹈之神”，外形阴柔俊美，颠覆了传统的芭蕾舞模式，但个人拥有严重的精神问题；而沃尔沃斯则是F. W. Woolworth Company，始于美国纽约的一家百货公司，2001年后更名为Foot Locker，专注运动服和运动鞋的销售。
2. “被排斥的弥赛亚”原文leper messiah作为歌词和Ziggy的自称出现在Ziggy Stardust的同名歌曲之中。
He thinks he’ll blow our minds
Mr Bowie had taken a while to attract attention. Stuck in 1960s London, he picked up a saxophone and considered jazz, then flitted between bands; he moved from mod to Buddhist, from rocker to folk artist, hanging around London’s Soho with its sex shops and music clubs, exploring sexual ambiguity. Despite the success of “Space Oddity” his early albums drew little attention. It was only with the fifth, “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars”, (1972) that millions of teenagers in semi-detached houses just like the one back in Bromley took him to their hearts and turntables.
Through these years and after Mr Bowie’s focus on the future was clear in his relentless reinvention of himself and his music: always wanting to see what was next, ceaselessly leaving the places he had lived and the music he had played for what was to come. “I can think of no other rock artist” wrote Charles Shaar Murray, a rock journalist, “whose next album is always the one I’m most looking forward to hearing.”
Some called him a chameleon, but he was the reverse. Chameleons change hue to blend in with their background; he changed to stand out, and dared others to mimic him. He was never afraid to murder his darlings. Ziggy was killed off in 1973 as he finished an exhausting worldwide tour at London’s Hammersmith Odeon; he was being too much imitated, and Mr Bowie always had to be one step ahead. One successor was Aladdin Sane, a zigzag of painted lightning across his face; another, the most troubled, was the Thin White Duke, an aristocratic cabaret singer in black trousers, waistcoat and white shirt, needing only a skull to play Hamlet.
有人把他叫做“变色龙”，但他恰恰相反。变色龙改变自己的颜色是为了融入背景，他改变自己的颜色却是为了脱颖而出，并向他的模仿者发出挑战。他从不畏惧杀死自己的宝贝，在身心俱疲的1973年世界巡演的结尾，他在伦敦的汉默史密斯剧场（Hammersmith Odeon）宣布，Ziggy已死；他已经被模仿得太多，而鲍伊必须永远领先他人一步。下一位继任者是Aladdin Sane，一道闪电形状的彩妆划过整张脸；另一位继任者，也是最苦恼不安的一位，则是 “瘦白公爵”(Thin White Duke)，一位贵族做派的卡巴莱歌手，穿着黑长裤黑背心和白衬衫，离扮演哈姆雷特就只差一个骷髅头了。
The tragic garb was well judged. As he dashed from persona to persona, station to station, so the worlds he pushed into became darker. Shaped by the threat of nuclear war, the cultural imagination took a catastrophic turn in the 1970s—one ever-present future was no future at all. Mr Bowie was there at the turning point; his song “Five Years” says more about impending annihilation than a shelf full of reports from the RAND Corporation. Spectacular levels of cocaine abuse also shaped this nihilistic trajectory. Settled in Los Angeles from 1975, he stayed up for days on end, sitting cross-legged behind black curtains, surrounding himself with black candles and painted pentagrams.
His diet was “red peppers, cocaine and milk”; always slender, he became skeletal. He would work madly on a song for a week, only to realise that he had got no further than four bars. Nicolas Roeg had originally been set on Peter O’Toole to play the titular alien in his film “The Man Who Fell To Earth”. But on seeing television footage of Mr Bowie sitting utterly isolated in the back of a limousine he knew he had his not-quite-man. Mr Bowie, true to form, remembered almost nothing of the filming. There is no alienation like drugged alienation, and perhaps no worse place to experience that than “the most repulsive wart on the backside of humanity”, as he described the City of Angels.
他的饮食是“红辣椒，可卡因和牛奶”，本来就修长苗条的他变得骨瘦如柴。他经常连续一周疯狂地写歌，最后发现自己翻来覆去只写了四个小节。尼古拉斯•罗伊格本来想在他的电影《天外来客（The Man Who Fell To Earth）》中让彼得•奥图扮演那位名义上的外星人，但当他在电视上看到鲍伊与世隔绝般独自坐在豪华轿车后座的镜头时，他知道他找到了自己的天外来客。鲍伊倒是一如既往地对拍电影的事几乎一点都不记得了。毒品作用下的与世隔绝和所有与世隔绝感都不一样，要体会这一点，或许除了洛杉矶——用他的话来说就是——“人性背面最令人作呕的湿疣”之外，没有其他更好的地方了。
In “Space Oddity” Major Tom, floating in a most peculiar way, had been an isolated spaceman; by “Ashes to Ashes” his isolation was a junkie’s. Mr Bowie later said that this funereal nursery rhyme (only his second British number-one single) served to wrap up the 1970s. In the 1980s he reconnected, refashioning himself into a much more straightforward, and less interesting, pop star and something of a Thatcherite poster-boy; embracing consumerism was another side of his celebration of the individual over all else. He found huge audiences in America with “Let’s Dance” (1983); he sang a camp cover of Martha Reeves & the Vandellas’ “Dancing in the Street” with Mick Jagger for Bob Geldof’s Band Aid. His skills were still there, yet his sense of daring had faded. For the first time since Ziggy, he no longer drove the cultural agenda; like many an ageing rocker, he found himself seen as part of the establishment he had spent his life wrong-footing.
在“Space Oddity”中那位“用最诡异的姿势漂浮”的汤姆少校是一位隔绝于世的宇航员；到了“Ashes to Ashes”，他的与世隔绝变成了瘾君子那种隔绝感①*。后来鲍伊声称，这首适合葬礼播放的儿歌（只不过是他第二首获得英国榜单冠军的单曲）可以用来概括整个70年代。到了80年代，他重新回归世俗，把自己改造成一个更明快直白、然而也不那么有趣的流行明星形象，风格类似撒切尔阵营的海报男模；对消费主义的拥护只是他一贯鼓吹“自我高于一切”的一个方面。他借助1983年的“Let’s Dance”在美国赢得了大量歌迷；他为鲍勃•吉尔道夫(Bob Geldof)的Band Aid ②*与米克•贾格尔（Mick Jagger）合作翻唱了玛莎与文德拉合唱团（Martha Reeves & the Vandellas）的“Dancing in the Street”。他的技术依旧，但就如同许多其他老牌摇滚明星一样，尽管他一辈子都在与主流划清界限，他发现人们已经将他视为乐坛元老中的一分子。
1. 在Space Oddity中的主角“汤姆上校(Major Tom)”的结局在Ashes to Ashes中被以儿歌般的戏谑方式唱了出来，原来汤姆上校是一位瘾君子，销魂到犹如神游太空，接着又坠入无底的深渊： Ashes to ashes, funk to funky/ We know Major Tom's a junkie/ Strung out in heaven's high/ Hitting an all-time low
2. Band Aid 是鲍勃•吉尔道夫创立的一个慈善演出，主要参与者是英国和爱尔兰的音乐人，演出筹集的善款主要用于援助非洲。
His better work in the 1990s, 2000s and 2010s, like the late work of many artists, seemed more a response to his own earlier achievement than a reflection of the world outside—but the stature of that earlier work, and the fact that it had done much to shape that world outside, still made the last albums far more interesting than those of most of his peers. Most poignant was his 27th and last, “Blackstar”, released on January 8th. The video for the track “Lazarus” shows him singing “I’ll be free—ain’t that just like me?” before walking backwards, trembling, into a wardrobe, and pulling the door closed. He had choreographed his own death—a step ahead, as usual, and a profound shock for a world that had been unaware of his cancer. Within days “Lazarus” had been watched 17m times, and “Blackstar” topped the charts. His producer, Tony Visconti, confirmed that it was Mr Bowie’s “parting gift”.
他从90年代，00年代，再到10年代的较好作品，和许多艺人的后期作品一样，与其说是映射外面的世界，不如说是对自己早年成就的一种呼应——但他早年作品达到的高度，以及他的作品极大地影响了外面的世界这一事实，还是足以让他的作品比大部分同期艺人来得要有趣得多。当中最为悲伤深刻的是他的第27张，也是最后一张专辑《Blackstar》，发行于1月8日。在歌曲“Lazarus”的MV中可以看到他唱着“我将获得自由——这不正是我的风格吗？（I’ll be free – ain’t that just like me?）”，接着颤颤巍巍地倒退着走进一个衣柜，然后将门关上。他已经编排好了自己的死亡——还是和以前一样，永远比他人先走一步，留给对他的癌症毫不知情的世界一个沉重的打击。在短短几天内，“Lazarus”的视频被观看了1700万次，《Blackstar》也登上了榜单首位。他的制作人托尼•威斯康提（Tony Visconti）证实，这是鲍伊送给世界的“临别礼物”。
INFOGRAPHIC: David Bowie’s genre-hopping career
Just for one day
“Blackstar” in fact harked back to his greatest period: the one, in the late 1970s, in which he escaped from Los Angeles to Berlin and laid the future to rest in a grave of strange, powerful sound. He chose Berlin to save money and live in a place where he would be unknown. Despite his fascination with Nietzsche, it was the city’s cultural ferment, not a dalliance with fascism, that induced him to stay. He and Iggy Pop, a drug-addled rocker who was part-muse, part-playmate, part-protégé, shared a flat in Schöneberg.
《Blackstar》实际上回到了他最伟大的时期：70年代后期。这时的他逃离洛杉矶去了柏林，把未来埋葬在诡异而充满力量的音乐里。他选择柏林一是为了省钱，二是为了到一个没有人认识他的地方。尽管他对尼采的作品非常着迷，然而引诱他留下的是这座城市动荡不安的文化，并非指的是法西斯主义。他和伊基•波普(Iggy Pop) 在舍嫩贝格合住一套公寓，这位沉迷毒瘾的摇滚艺人既是他的灵感来源，又是他的玩伴和门徒。
In earlier days Mr Bowie had planned his albums meticulously; now he and his collaborators, including Mr Visconti and the remarkable Brian Eno, worked on the fly in the studio, the lyrics assembled with scissors-and-paste montage—or left out altogether. Much of the music was bleak, its synthesisers industrial, its guitars angry, its words disturbing. Take “Breaking Glass”: “Baby, I’ve been breaking glass in your room again. Listen. Don’t look at the carpet. I drew something awful on it”—presumed to be a reference to the pentagrams of Los Angeles.
早年的鲍伊会一丝不苟地雕琢每一张专辑；如今的他与合作人，如威斯康提(Visonti)和技艺出众的布莱恩•伊诺（Brian Eno），会在录音棚里快手快脚一顿忙碌，像蒙太奇剪切粘贴一样完成歌词——或者干脆就留空歌词。这些音乐大多阴暗晦涩，充满工业风格的合成器效果，愤怒的吉他咆哮，以及令人困扰的歌词。例如“Breaking Glass”中唱到：“宝贝我又在你房间里打碎玻璃了/听着/不要看地毯/我在上面画了可怕的东西”——这里指的可能是洛杉矶的那些五角星图案。
But in this darkness there was grace. Freedom and honesty characterise the Berlin recordings, the veneer of masquerade abandoned. He had a sense, he said, “of closing the blinds and saying, ‘Fuck them all’.” And in a city as freighted with history as any in Europe, he felt he had at last captured “a sense of yearning for a future that we all knew would never come to pass”.
It is no accident that his greatest song of this period, “‘Heroes’”, both celebrates its protagonists’ potential and constrains it: while everything might be possible, it is all “just for one day”. It is an embrace of the present that acknowledges the passing away of future dreams, but in its intimate immensity absorbs the sadness of that loss. It is, like much great art, universal precisely because of its response to a particular place—and time.