Thursday, 13 August 2009

He cracked


By the mid-seventies, David Bowie found himself comfortably in the firmament of the fucked up famous, a parallel universe where every thing you say with a smile is hilariously funny, every serious statement incredibly profound, every petulant request perfectly reasonable, every outrageous excess an excellent idea: marvellous for the ego, disastrous for the soul.

'Cracked Actor' is a classic BBC documentary that follows a skeletal and spaced out Bowie as he travels across America on his 1974 Diamond Dogs tour. Knowing that Mr. Bowie lives, a prosperous and happy gentleman, is sufficient reason to find his rambling, incredibly pretentious interview segments amusing, but if we do laugh it's uneasily, scared slightly by the sight of a pale stick figure man staggering uncontrollably at the edge of a great drop.

There are many indelible moments: the waxworks in the desert, the fly in the carton of milk, his protracted explanation of the cut up method he employs to write his lyrics, his bizarre and inconsistent accent, his trousers.

Most incredibly, the concerts he performs in the midst of this obvious mental and physical low ebb look amazing, with Bowie in great form, owning the stage and climbing scaffolding with an alacrity that completely belies his fragile condition.

Unfortunately, the ensuing concert album 'David Live' sounds anemic and flat when deprived of Bowie's visual presence and charisma, which is another reason to be grateful for 'Cracked Actor', that and a glimpse into the mobile hell of a rock star at their height of their fame, the top of their game, and in the depths of despair.

A nice, grainy extract for you here courtesy of someone with a better grasp of technology than me. An eight minute trip into coked paranoia punctuated by really great music from one of rock's great geniuses.


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