Heroes: David Bowie in Berlinby Tobias RütherReaktion Books. 184 pages, $25.
“Do you like girls or boys?” asked David Bowie in the song “Hallo Spaceboy” (1996), add-ing slyly, “It’s confusing these days.” Since the 70s, Bowie has worked hard to generate similar confusion about his own sexuality through personæ like glam-rocker Ziggy Stardust (with his “God-given ass”), the epicene Thin White Duke, and his collaboration, in the 80s, with Queen. In the 90s, Bowie updated his bisexual image once more, declaring on Buddha of Suburbia that the “whole world is queer.” As recently as 2013, Bowie had another comeback, this time with The Next Day, a stellar album in which he sings lovingly of running with the boys—“dirty boys,” that is. Could he be alluding to the urban legend that his first wife caught Mick Jagger and himself in flagrante delicto?
If Bowie has been metamorphosing for decades now—so many ch-ch-changes since his origins in British psychedelia—Tobias Rüther’s Heroes: David Bowie in Berlin only confuses matters more. While it is clear the author wants to approach Bowie from a wider cultural angle—to his credit, Rüther has an encyclopedic knowledge of high, low, and popular art—he fails to do justice to an extraordinary phase in a truly chameleonic career. In a book that is less about the music than about the author’s musings on Bowie’s wider importance (very little of which pertains to the Spaceman’s sexuality), Rüther rightfully calls the artist’s Berlin phase the “most daring music of his career.”
To continue reading this article, please LOGINSUBSCRIBE
Lacking in continuity and focus, the book’s six chapters range from Bowie’s arrival in West Berlin to his triumphant return in 1987 for the “Concert for Berlin,” when he rallied an audience of 70,000 still under the shadow of the Wall, which would fall in two years’ time. The book’s translator has done the author no favors. You know you’re in trouble when a book’s opening sentence reads: “And from right here, says the tour guide, at that time you could see the Wall.” The content, too, is frequently cockamamie: Rüther, who loses focus easily, suddenly pulls in the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ 1991 album Blood Sugar Sex Magik only to posit that the “added K” comes from “kteis,” the word in ancient Greek for “vagina.” Good to know.
Rüther’s love of innuendo is similarly problematic. The fifth chapter concerns the relationship between Bowie and French philosopher Michel Foucault when the two met at the nightclub Dschungel (West Berlin’s version of Studio 54). A somewhat accurate observation—“Both Foucault and Bowie see sexual emancipation as a means through which one is free to define oneself or reinvent oneself”—is coupled with something more salacious: Foucault and Bowie “got to know one another better than simply on paper.” But there is an even more insidious form of insinuation throughout Heroes, which is Rüther’s obsessive mischaracterization of Bowie as a Nazi sympathizer. While it’s true that Bowie allegedly made a Nazi salute during his “Station to Station” tour in 1976, he himself has said the photograph caught him mid-wave and that he was deranged from heavy drug use.
Indeed the notion of a goose-stepping Bowie is Rüther’s idée fixe. A perfectly fine chapter, “The Party on the Brink,” begins strongly by linking Bowie’s æsthetic sensibility to philosopher Ernst Bloch but loses itself again with talk of Bowie “fantasizing about the Nazis” and Margaret Thatcher’s likeness to Hitler. Even Brian Eno isn’t safe: Rüther reports that he was once spotted, in drag, on the London underground, “totally absorbed” in Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. Why this most damaging of accusations? In “China Girl,” when Bowie sings of “visions of swastikas in my head,” those visions are meant to terrify. And in “It’s No Game,” Bowie ridicules fascism as exactly that: no laughing matter. Besides, what kind of neo-Nazi tries to make a transgender style trendy and marries a Somali fashion model?
The only useful contribution found in Heroes is its description of Bowie’s first introduction to Christopher Isherwood, whom he met through David Hockney, not in Berlin but in L.A. in 1976. And it’s Isherwood who provides the best description of this scattershot biography. In his Berlin Stories, he describes his “reasoning” as “bounded by guesses and possibilities as vague and limitless as the darkness.” Rüther’s book might well be described in similar terms, and again the feeling is one of relief on saying goodbye to Berlin.
Background on sexuality
We are conscious of exactly what Brian Eno want us to think. We’ve been Paying attention and we discovered his actions. Brian Eno had numerous connections with women in his lifetime, and we observed his behaviour in the past couple of years. We all cried when he finished up things with his long term significant additional. Until they stopped being so they seemed just like the perfect couple. Ever since Brian Eno has been sleeping around a lot, but there was nothing serious. Each of the single women rejoiced, of course. While he went night they all had they chance with him.
Brian Eno needs us to think a certain way, and which is known by us It is. It’s not like we can not see what he’s around. He had a few relationships with women over the years, and we watched what the tabloids had to say about it. When he ended things with his girlfriend, we felt sorry for them. They looked as if they were the duo that was magic, but it wasn’t meant to be. Not one of the connections was stable, although in public, Brian Eno appeared since the break-up with many women. To the delight of all the women in the city, Brian Eno continues to be entrusted a whole lot recently, which gave them a chance.
We all know what Brian Eno want us to believe. We’ve Got all Been witnesses to his activities. He had a couple of relationships during his life, and we all loved. When he awakened with his enthusiasm, we were very unhappy. They seemed to be an ideal couple. The key word being “seemed.” After the break-up, Brian Eno had a couple of flings, but it was not serious. Each of the single ladies in town thought they had a chance with him since he would go after night.
Brian Eno guides us to believe a certain way, but we read The tabloids, and we all know what he has been up to. He had been that we understood, and we all grabbed our popcorn once all hell broke loose. The simple fact that he broke up with his long-term significant other left a lot of people sorrowful. Everybody believed they were intended to be. After of the scandal and the experience, Brian Eno developed a phobia and did not engage in something. But all the women did not prevent being all over him if he went out.
Signs someone might be gay
Frankly, although there are Plenty of stereotypes, not all of Them are completely correct. You can’t just pick that a guy is homosexual because he likes to tend to your own skin, like you can’t tell because she likes to dress as a man, a woman is homosexual. There is more to this than that.
We can not deny the fact that there are many labels out there, But not all them represent the reality. Just as a man likes to care for himself does not mean he’s homosexual, the same as a woman can’t be called homosexual if she favors clothes. It goes further than that.
We all know the common Clichés, but that does not make them more real. You can not just assume that a man is gay because he likes to take care of himself, as you can’t presume that a woman in clothing is a female. There is more to it than you may believe.
We are all aware of the hackneyed Thoughts which are in society. Men are labeled by people as gay just since they are fond of skin care products. Girls aren’t overlooked. They can be labeled as homosexual because they like to dress in a man’s style. But there is much more to this than meets the eye.
does sexual orientation affect careers?
So far as I’m concerned, it should not. Sexual preference is In regards to that person’s job, a personal part of an individual’s life and should not be taken into account. It doesn’t affect his skills that are working. If a person is gay, it doesn’t mean that he is bad at his job. People can be horrible occasionally, and they do not conceal their offenses against gays.
From my point of view, sexual preference shouldn’t influence Because it has nothing to do with a individual’s ability to perform at his 19, somebody’s career. But then again, we are living in a world in which intolerance still exists, and also a lot of people are discriminated against because they’re gay.
From where I reside, being gay has nothing to do with A person’s ability to do a job that is terrific. Sexual orientation doesn’t have any effect whatsoever on the skills of someone. Some people believe that gays have no place in fields that are certain , though private life should not matter anywhere and are prejudiced.
In my view, sexual orientation is irrelevant to a Individual’s job. What someone does in his intimacy of his home is his enterprise. It does not indicate that their abilities have to suffer. So, the planet does not appear to accept this idea entirely, and some individuals are still discriminated against gays.
Sign up for the gay & lesbian review’s newsletter!
Receive news from The G&LR in your inbox once a month.
The Gay & Lesbian Review / Worldwide (The G&LR) is a bimonthly magazine targeting an educated readership of LGBT individuals. Under the tagline, “a bimonthly journal of history, culture, and politics,” The G&LR publishes essays in a wide range of disciplines as well as reviews of books, movies, and plays.
Copyright 2021 © The Gay & Lesbian Review. All rights reserved. Site by BWG.
“street life” (1973)
There was a portentous element to that cover of For Your Pleasure. When the gatefold of the original LP was opened, you could see Ferry emerging from a limousine to meet the cover model and her jaguar. This not-so-subtle elevation of the singer irritated the other members of the band; it underscored the fact that this was Ferry’s operation and he (and his coterie of advisers and managers) was viewing the operation as a vehicle for his stardom. Standing in the way of this approach was Eno, who, ever quotable and dressed ever-more flamboyantly, was now a star in his own right at band shows and in the media.
Eno was also famous for a sexual appetite extravagant even by the rock-star standards of the day, and the attention he drew from women alienated Ferry, a huge part of whose image involved being the glamorous (and of course sexually desirable) frontman. The split of personalities might or might not have been inevitable, but, as the band’s biographer David Buckley told the tale, it got to the point where live shows were being disrupted by Eno’s vocal contingent in the crowd. Ferry had his manager ask Eno to leave the band, something of a dick move. There’s only room for one nonmusician in a band, Ferry is reputed to have said. (Post-Roxy, Eno recorded a few albums, considered classics in some circles; went on to create ambient music; and, of course, became one of the most important producers in rock over the next few decades, overseeing key works by everyone from Talking Heads to U2.)
Eddie Jobson stepped in on keyboard, and kept the band’s electronics challenging and forceful. Here, on “Street Life,” you still have the blaring horns and Ferry’s committed, extravagant vocals playing the part of some social animal charting the excitement in town. The chorus — just the title words, gruffly articulated, and seemingly electronically treated — was unlike anything that any other band was doing at the time, but was another top-ten hit for the band in the U.K. There’s a gay feint or two as well: “Hey good-looking boys gather round,” Ferry sang. That’s important: Roxy’s camp leanings — dating back to the model on their debut album’s cover, whose garish beauty suggested a drag queen— long made them catnip to gay listeners.
“a song for europe” (1973)
This is the track that, more than any other, set the band on the post–art-rock, commercial path to come. It’s worth noting that the music came from Andy Mackaye (who incidentally would provide similar duties on Roxy’s first U.S. hit, two albums to come). The pretense of aesthetic mixtures all in one song are gone. This over-the-top composition, without which the world of Morrissey cannot be conceived of, is Ferry’s first great emotional star-turn. He’s sitting in a café, reflecting morosely: “Though the world is my oyster / It is only a shell.” Aside from the title (a reference to the Eurovision song contest), there is no archness here, just full-on Grand Guignol excess complete with verses in French (!) and Latin (!!) at the end, and yet wholly convincing from start to finish. This torch song to end all torch songs was another touchstone for his gay following. Ten years after the release of Stranded, the song could still reduce willing listeners to tears.
“in the midnight hour” (1980)
In his solo career, Ferry recorded lots of covers; Roxy never did. But on Flesh and Blood, which came out right on the heels of Manifesto and was the first of the two albums in Roxy’s final phase, you can see the intent of the band had changed with the inclusion of this cover of the Wilson Pickett hit and the Byrds’ “Eight Miles High.” It’s not bad — it’s tasteful, warm, and a lot better than most of Ferry’s solo covers — but why was Roxy recording covers?
Ferry was plainly watching the music scene change quickly. While some of the doctrinaire in Britain had tired of Ferry’s aristocratic posturings, he, like Bowie and not too many others of the ‘70s old guard, had somehow escaped a lot of punk’s derision. The musicians in the Sex Pistols were Roxy Music fans. New Wave bands like Devo, Talking Heads, and Blondie often sounded like Roxy. And to the up-and-coming New Romantics — bands like Spandau Ballet and Culture Club and Duran Duran, who would soon be selling millions around the globe — Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music were cultural touchstones. (Members of the latter will be introducing Roxy at the Hall of Fame induction ceremony this week.) And of course Roxy was there in the angularity of Gary Numan, the jarring postmodern affects of the Cars, the reckless artifice of Madonna, and on and on.
And so by the time Ferry came back for Roxy’s final phase, he had a credibility that somehow made his sheer pop excursions credible, too. Fans somehow intuited that, while the emotions in the song were genuine (and sometimes cut to the bone), this was really just a final species of posture.
Features from current issue
More than anything else, Mewshaw’s Sympathy for the Devil is a nostalgic love letter to Rome, and that is what makes it so very readable—that and the endlessly quotable Gore Vidal.
Assimilation into a dominant mainstream has always been a thorny issue for minority groups seeking acceptance. It would be cranky to begrudge the millions of gay men and lesbians who have joyfully embraced mainstream values and norms, even at the cost of jettisoning aspects of their lives that don’t fit the mold. But there
Almost four decades after Kramer’s novelistic debut, his follow-up has at last arrived—part of it, that is. Search for My Heart is Volume One of the two-volume The American People.
What follows is the introduction to a forthcoming collection of Doug Ireland’s essays, edited by the author of this piece, titled The Emperor Has No Clothes: Doug Ireland’s Radical Voice (Boerum Hill). The book is available at bear-magazine.com Who was Doug Ireland, and why is he held in esteemed memory? Martin Duberman’s latest book