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David Bowie turns nasty - click opera
February 2010
Mon, Sep. 25th, 2006 12:00 am
David Bowie turns nasty

For boomers of a certain vintage -- people who were teenagers in the 1970s -- David Bowie has so infiltrated our idea of what it means to be a successful human being that we look into the mirror every morning only to feel a surge of disappointment that it isn't his extra-terrestrially intelligent and beautiful face staring back at us. (Some of us wouldn't mind his back catalogue, his gorgeous wife, or his heaps of money either.)

For those of us who feel this way, Bowie's cameo appearance last week on Ricky Gervais' UK comedy series Extras was particularly poignant. We've already noted on Click Opera how the young Gervais tweaked his eyebrows into suspiciously Bowiesque shapes as the singer in big-in-Manilla 80s pop sensation Seona Dancing. Like everyone from my own peer group of Scottish musicians (Paul Haig, Paul Quinn, Edwyn Collins, Roddy Frame, Billy McKenzie), Gervais was part of Generation Bowie. And one thing I'm sure we all share is a recurrent dream in which we meet our idol.

Bowie's appearance in Extras unfolds like a dream sequence. He's sitting in a London pub (as if!) chatting up a somewhat gormless girl with anecdotes about surgery and Decca Records. Gervais has to bribe his way in, but it takes his brash girlfriend to drag him over to Bowie's table. The conversation that follows is predictably buttock-clenching, as Gervais proceeds, with typical English self-deprecation, to give a dismal account of himself as a sadly compromised comedian.

We expect Bowie to be generous, positive, encouraging and enabling -- he'll send Gervais away re-inspired. That's how he always appears in my dreams, anyway: like the most supportive parent you could imagine. Instead, the dream turns to nightmare. Grim-faced, as though incarnating Gervais' highest and most dashed aspirations for his own career, Bowie starts improvising a song. "Little fat man who sold his soul," it begins, for all the world like one of my more vicious songs from Stars Forever ("butcher, philanderer, murderer, coprophile", went poor Maf's song -- and he paid for this, just as Gervais is paying Bowie).

As the whole room joins in with ever-more-cruel suggestions, it only gets worse for Gervais:

Chubby little loser, national joke
Pathetic little fat man
The clown that no-one laughs at
They all just wish he'd die
He's so depressed at being hated
Fatso takes his own life
He blows his bloated face off...

Like an out-take from Hunky Dory, the song ends in a cathartic singalong of "See his pug-nosed face, pug pug, pug pug..." as Gervais sits, suitably ruddy and pug-nosed, strung out somewhere between utter humiliation and chuffed amazement that his hero is actually singing a song about him, no matter how crushing.

I tried to imagine what Bowie would sing about me in a similar nightmare. Out of sheer humiliation, I've put it under the cut. Sing along if you must. Bastards.

Bowie (Tentatively, to Momus's face): Presbyterian would-be, with yellowy teeth...

Momus: Sorry?

Bowie: (Turning to piano):

Presbyterian would-be
Who wants to be me
Already a has-been
WIth an eye that can't see

You're remarkably ugly
You should never leave home
And your songs are as twee
As my own "Laughing Gnome"

Bowie (Speaking): No, wait, no "Laughing Gnome" references...

(Singing again)

Remarkably ugly
Inelegant man
As twee as a Belle
And Sebastian fan

Don't give up the dayjob
Your column in Wired...

Linda: The twat'll say he's resigned the day he gets fired!

Bowie: I like that, Linda! Very good!

Momus: Yes, very good Linda, I like that too!

Bowie (Singing):

You're just a big copycat
Playing my game
But nobody likes you
You'll never have fame

And it cuts like a knife
How it's all gone so wrong
Take revenge for your life
In Presbyterian songs

Crowd: And we all sing along...

You've made a new album?
We don't give a fuck!
Want to be a contender?
You're bang out of luck!

Bowie: Perverted old wannabe
Losing the plot
Look in the mirror
I am who you're not

When I look in the mirror
At least I see me
Not a thin scruffy Scotsman
With yellowy teeth

See his yellow teeth!
(Teeth teeth, teeth teeth)
See his yellow teeth!

(Repeat to fade)


Sun, Sep. 24th, 2006 12:41 pm (UTC)

i think if david bowie's new album sounded anything at all as inspired as yours it'd be a much bigger problem for you!

there are few artists i would be glad to slander my name. for instance if bjork sung i was short and no-good i would still be wearing a huge smile and googly eyes

Sun, Sep. 24th, 2006 12:42 pm (UTC)

maybe you too ;-)

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Sun, Sep. 24th, 2006 12:47 pm (UTC)

Ha, yes, I've seen them!

He always had his playful, silly side, though. Have you heard "Don't Sit Down" from Space Oddity?

ReplyThread Parent

(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand
Picky Broad
Sun, Sep. 24th, 2006 01:11 pm (UTC)

I doubt you would ever stoop to doing anything so awful as contributing vocals to a movie called Cat People.

& I doubt also you would bite Klaus Nomi's style temporarliy to bolster your cool quotient.


Mon, Sep. 25th, 2006 01:32 pm (UTC)


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Sun, Sep. 24th, 2006 01:58 pm (UTC)
bowie as lounge singer

quite lovely. thanks for the link.

NOT Greta Garbo
Sun, Sep. 24th, 2006 02:42 pm (UTC)

...as a part of the "David Bowie generation" I find it odd how set appart from the "rest of us" he is, as far as the definition of the word "genius" goes, he is so much less than so many, and yet he's always projected himself, best foot forward.. so as the age and time and occasional unempressive song, or album comes along, its hard to ignore him.

He's rightfully an actor; perfect place for him as well. I feel though for as good as Bowie is, or how much I really liked him in my youth (including many reoccurring dreams from the ages 14-25, now has been demoted to the status of a security guard, giving me the wink, as if I was the only one who could possibly know who he was, where as everyone else, didn't.)

David Bowie's last most remarkable contribution to music was as a participant in the sound track for "Lost Highway", and the only reason I actually got that was not for Bowie, but rather for the four tracks by Barry Adamson...

I personally wouldn't want to know what my favourite idols would think of my foolish "worship" of them, and yet, I've been honoured by one fine moment where one, not only remembered me but said I inspired his work. All via a totally non-sexual, non-corporial relationship (at least non-corporial at first); had I been treated in the way of your nightmare, or in the way Ricky Gervais was, I don't think I could have awoke to my life in the same way the day after...and yet of course, the feelings are mixed.

There has always been a sense of irony with Bowie, for me its been ever since I saw "Labrynth"; I don't see anyone with out a sense of humour doing anything like that ever.. and yet, wasn't he so elequently costumed? No wonder I had dreams about him! But would Bowie actually be so cruel to Momus? How could he?

Its cool to look inside the paranioa of other's minds, I see it cool that you could actually share this, it does make one "cringe" thinking about it.

Funny thing is, I can't see a likeness in Bowie compared to Momus, and I say that having been a Bill Nelson fan for many years and often hearing everyone compare him to Bowie, only not as good.. (which really annoyed me) so the words of Bowie to Momus only makes me think of how many sarcastic words he may have for his contemporaries, those who came out of the same movements at the same time? Would he easily have said (even fictionally)of Bill, he was a "Bowie Wannabee"?

..."perhaps better on Guitar or Piano, but never will see/ the day you have as much money as me"
"saw Brian Ferry, on a train platform/ going first class as always, but for as big as Be Bop Deluxe was, you haven't enough money, for a first class ticket, today.."
"Brian said, "who?" and "thank you" and went along his way"


Funny thing, it reminds me of the Elton John, meeting Pete Shelley at the music hall of fame awards..

Elton:I'm a great fan of yours..
Pete: Really? I've got a friend who's a great fan of yours, she has an apartment in Nice, just like you..
Elton: Oh really, pardon me, *walks out of the cue as a bathroom stall has opened up*

*passes Pete, silently as he's washing his hands*


Sun, Sep. 24th, 2006 08:54 pm (UTC)

David Bowie's last most remarkable contribution to music was as a participant in the sound track for "Lost Highway", and the only reason I actually got that was not for Bowie, but rather for the four tracks by Barry Adamson...

Angelo Badalmenti's tracks on that album were pretty good too. If they had replaced the Marilyn Manson and Rammstein songs with more Jobim, it would have been a great soundtrack.

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Sun, Sep. 24th, 2006 03:34 pm (UTC)

Ouch. Cruel.

That said, there's no need for having yellowing teeth these days. That's what teeth whitening and veneers are for...

Sun, Sep. 24th, 2006 06:56 pm (UTC)

<< there's no need for having yellowing teeth these days. That's what teeth whitening and veneers are for... >>

eh, whitening and veneers take time and money. Why not just popularize yellow teeth?

In fact, the sooner they figure out how to REALLY do artificial teeth, I'll be the first in line. Dental maintenance is such a hassle.

These are George Washington's dentures.

I think they're beautiful.

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Dave Nold
Sun, Sep. 24th, 2006 03:47 pm (UTC)

I was a Bowie fan back when the album Space Oddity wasn't called Space Oddity. Saw him in a small venue in '73. Bought everyone of his albums. Then he lost me at Let's Dance.

These days I'm waiting for the second season of Extras and Occy Milk to arrive on these shores. I'm glad to see Bowie is comming along for the ride in Extras. Today I'm more interested in Karl Plkington than Bowie.

Sun, Sep. 24th, 2006 03:54 pm (UTC)

The only thing that confuses me about David Bowie is actually not about him at all so much as all the people who insist that he's been uninspired for a while.
I love the cruelty of this whole article, haha.

Mon, Sep. 25th, 2006 11:49 am (UTC)

feste punze....niceeeeeeee.

ReplyThread Parent
Sun, Sep. 24th, 2006 04:10 pm (UTC)

Marvellous. The best tune Bowie has come up with for a decade at least.

Your own lyrics made me wonder what would be written about me - made me shudder to think of it.


Colin Marshall
Sun, Sep. 24th, 2006 04:50 pm (UTC)

Being an "outsider" apart from the musical and artistic mainstream seems a large part of your identity. When it comes down to it, would you actually want to live in a world where your material consistently reaches the top of the charts? I know that sounds like a silly question, considering how much more financial comfort such popularity would entail, but do you feel that with -- oh, I don't know -- Coldplay-grade stardom, you wouldn't exactly be Momus anymore?

As Mark Haddon said about the chart position of his first novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time: "I'm just suspicious that too many people liked it. All the books I really like are loathed by some people. It's like, you want to be Radiohead and then you think, shit, I've accidentally turned into Coldplay".

Sun, Sep. 24th, 2006 05:25 pm (UTC)
immaculate obscurity

Momus, when will there ever be a special comment section for those who place your blog entries in the context of your entire back catalogue (and try to cleverly quote from it in their comment)?

ReplyThread Parent

Sun, Sep. 24th, 2006 05:06 pm (UTC)
That self deprecating wretch Momus!

What a fallen hero Momus is. I bet he doesn't know it gives him clumsy grace (http://imomus.livejournal.com/61980.html).


Sun, Sep. 24th, 2006 05:57 pm (UTC)

your lyrics are clever.

Sun, Sep. 24th, 2006 06:44 pm (UTC)

<< we look into the mirror every morning only to feel a surge of disappointment that it isn't his extra-terrestrially intelligent and beautiful face staring back at us. >>

Hahaha! Such a funny image, Momus looking in the mirror wanting to be Bowie!

I saw Bowie perform an acoustic duo with Pete Townshend once. Bowie was hilarious, cracking jokes, teasing Townshend; completely at ease with his guitar and his audience.

(Some of us wouldn't mind his back catalogue, his gorgeous wife, or his heaps of money either.)

Oh don't be disingenuous, momus. We all know you don't want money.

Sun, Sep. 24th, 2006 06:57 pm (UTC)

just a friendly reminder that not a fortnight ago, you were the *star* of my own fanciful dream, and David Bowie had merely a momentary cameo, a man in the elevator dressed in gold lamé, humbled and a bit afraid of you!

&I second Adam's notion that I would be secretly giddy if you [or Bjork] wrote a slandarous song about me. though a nice one would be...nicer.

Mon, Sep. 25th, 2006 12:30 pm (UTC)


ReplyThread Parent
Sun, Sep. 24th, 2006 11:13 pm (UTC)
The fame and the girl and the money

I just watched it on the telly.

Strangely, perhaps, a friend of mine appears in this episode of extras.

For boomers of a certain vintage -- people who were teenagers in the 1970s -- David Bowie has so infiltrated our idea of what it means to be a successful human being that we look into the mirror every morning only to feel a surge of disappointment that it isn't his extra-terrestrially intelligent and beautiful face staring back at us.

You're spot on here. I was born in the year of Ziggy Stardust, and have discovered David Bowie more than once in my life. If, at any point in my life, anyone ever compared me to Bowie (for instance in demeanor or some other thing), I always took it at the highest possible praise. Unfortunately, I have also had the tendency to think, "By this age David had already made Hunky Dory" or whatever was appropriate to the age I was at. I watched my life unfurl in a manner sadly lacking the glamour of Aladdin Sane...

I thought David Bowie in The Man Who Fell to Earth was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen.

It seems so unfair that Mr Bowie should have both the artistic integrity, and - as Mr Philip Larkin might say - should also have blarneyed his way to getting the fame and the girl and the money all in one sitting.

Most of us have to choose (even then we're lucky, I suppose) - Integrity or fame? Integrity or money?

By the way - the mention of integrity and fame in Extras is interesting when compared to the following interview with Ricky Gervais about David Bowie.

By the way, did you see the documentary on The Fall the other day? Quite fascinating.

Sun, Sep. 24th, 2006 11:47 pm (UTC)
Re: The fame and the girl and the money

"By this age David had already made Hunky Dory"

But Bowie's falling-off does provide some comfort for middle age. You can start thinking "By this age David was making Black Tie, White Noise", and feel pretty good about whatever it is you've just made.

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Mon, Sep. 25th, 2006 09:27 am (UTC)
never mind...

hi nick
well, never mind, i still think momus is great, and have done since (adopt bowie microphone stance and deliver in his scott walkeresque way) "nineteen eighty fouuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuur!",
spencer from england :)

Mon, Sep. 25th, 2006 10:27 am (UTC)

Hmm, not heard much Bowie for a long time, but I am enjoying listening to your album at the moment (bought about an hour ago at Sister Ray in Berwick Street [London]). You may be a snaggle-toothed, grey-eyed yellowbeard but your album at least is a delicate and introspective thing (at least, tracks 1 to 6 are; not heard the rest yet...) - and it's no Black Tie, White Noise, either, thank goodness!

Mon, Sep. 25th, 2006 10:57 am (UTC)

they love momus at sister ray. i remember once trying to flog the first palais schaumburg album, quoting momus. 'but momus likes him...' they said: 'we love momus, but holger hiller, japanese bird and all, nobody else likes him.' tell me easter's on friday they didn't want either. in comes shane mc gowan, totally pissed.
that's london for you, rasta. i started on my memoirs. my regards to toop at budgens crouch end and the boys at audio gold and all the feste punzes on the underground on the way to the office.

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Mon, Sep. 25th, 2006 03:28 pm (UTC)

It´s a fine song, you should ask him to sing it. Maybe he could do an all-hate&deprecation album next time. Perhaps thus I´d like it and would care to listen to it. Today Bowie is out my wish list except for his beautiful wife.

Mon, Sep. 25th, 2006 04:07 pm (UTC)

I think momus' heart has taken to pining for old japan. 5 of the last 7 entries are about it, and one of the other two is a further meditation on another entry about Japan.

Do it, man, just come back. Put your heart into studying Japanese, and stop making due with the the runaways and wannarunaways. Make tokyo home again.


Tue, Sep. 26th, 2006 01:17 am (UTC)

why are your teeth yellow?

alin huma
Tue, Sep. 26th, 2006 11:11 am (UTC)

One of the most vivid dreams i've ever had i was helping david bowie make a cd-rom , he was hopeless and i was a bit of a multimedia guy at the time. a few days before that i'd been serioulsy shocked by the evil graphics on the inside sleeve of the 'outside' album, which he apparently did himself.

Butts McCracken
Wed, Sep. 27th, 2006 06:41 am (UTC)

haha. that post really made my day, thanks.


Sun, Oct. 1st, 2006 09:11 pm (UTC)

Avoid the alluring comfort of self-deprecation, Momus!


Mon, Oct. 2nd, 2006 10:24 am (UTC)

I'm sure we remember Mr Bowies peggys were quite ramshackle at one time.

How about "See a Scotsman with English teeth"

I enjoyed that episode of Extras very much, and wondered how much success DB would have if he released the track commercially. I would love it to be issued as a vinyl single with Neil Hannon singing My Lovely Horse on the flipside.

The whole episode was a nice slant on fame and it's shades of dark and light, the scenes in the other pub with the creepy fans was more unnerving for me. I have occasionally been a bit like that fan I am ashamed to say.


Wed, Nov. 15th, 2006 04:37 am (UTC)

Bitter much?