Posts Tagged With: Rock and Redemption

Rock and Redemption – David Bowie

The Thin White Duke aka The Best Dressed Rock Star Ever

(Note: Some NSFW links included)

I was and truthfully, still am extremely hesitant about writing this blog post given that social media sites are awash with Bowie articles and tributes after his untimely, recent death and I really don’t want to add to the overblown nature of how the media and music poseurs (who never liked Bowie before but suddenly do now) have been reacting. So I’m going to try to keep this as simple as I can. Wish me luck.

Bowie in the famous Masayoshi Sukita pantsuit. Bowie had a love affair with avante-garde Japanese designers.

Bowie in the famous Masayoshi Sukita pantsuit. Bowie had a love affair with avante-garde Japanese designers.

I’m going try to attempt to look at Bowie’s spiritual evolution in a nutshell (a real examination would be worthy of a PhD dissertation), the influence it had on others and then end with how he affected me and the indirect contact I had with him. I know there’s a lot of dirty laundry about him coming out now, but if anything it paints him as an extremely complicated individual and a reminder there really is no such thing as black and white when it comes to individual souls and personalities.

It would seem that from the very beginning, right with the midwife who delivered him, he was acknowledged as an old soul. This doesn’t surprise me in the least. If you look at his earlier work and his obsession with outer space, being an alien and the emphasis on stars, alienation, isolation, being an outsider and of being utterly alone and disassociated from humanity, I think deep down inside he knew he really wasn’t from here either.

Bowie as the Starman

Bowie as the Starman

First Nation’s people maintain that we originally came from the stars, recent theories on evolution and the origins of life seem to confirm it and I think Bowie knew it too in his heart and tried channeling it through his work. All you need to do is listen (or read the lyrics) to songs like “Starman”, “Life on Mars”, “Space Oddity”, “Ashes to Ashes”, “Moonage Daydream”, watch “The Man Who Fell to Earth” or even when he decided to tackle “Elephant Man” on Broadway. The clues and hints are all there if you look for them.

Bowie in all his Mephistopheles-like beauty in the Nicholas Roeg film, "The Man Who Fell To Earth".

Bowie in all his Mephistopheles-like beauty in the Nicholas Roeg film, “The Man Who Fell To Earth”.

This very lengthy and thorough essay is probably the best thing you can read on Bowie’s interest in spiritual matters and the occult. It’s all there. Like lots of English rock stars from the hedonistic 1970s, Bowie was obsessed for a while with the works of Aleister Crowley and Dion Fortune and her book “Psychic Self-Defense”, Fortune’s assertion that the Glastonbury area is intimately associated with the Arthurian legends, how he studied Hebrew Kabbalah and the Sephoric Tree of Life (and even inserted a lot of these ideas in his 10th album “Station to Station”).

The Kabbalistic Tree of Life in Jewish mysticism, with the different energy centers and expressions of God's energy

The Kabbalistic Tree of Life in Jewish mysticism, with the different energy centers and expressions of God’s energy, the 10 Sephirot

This was at the height of his cocaine addiction in the 1970s, which fueled a cocaine-induced paranoia in many areas of his life, when he was going through all sorts of weird phases like his all-white diet (which consisted of drinking milk and snorting coke and eating a few peppers), when he had an exorcism performed on his LA swimming pool by a mysterious New York City white witch named Walli Elmlark, how he stopped performing live for a while because he was convinced someone from the audience was going to shoot him, how he feared flying and would take the Trans-Atlantic Queen Mary 2 ship liner instead of airplanes or the Concorde. Later in life, after he had cleaned up and gone sober, he took to Buddhist meditation, supported the Tibetan cause and married Muslim-Somali supermodel Iman Abdulmajid.

The supermodel and the rock star - and one of the best looking biracial couples in the world.

The supermodel and the rock star – and one of the best looking biracial couples in the world.

I even suspect he had a bit of the earth energy reader himself, meaning I think he picked up on ley lines and places on earth which had higher-than-normal frequencies. His taste in real estate shows that. In the 1980s, he fell in love with Bali, long before it became the obnoxious tourist hub it is today, when it still was considered a spiritual place to be. In fact he re-created a Balinese villa on the exclusive Caribbean island of Mustique.

Bowie in an Indonesian sarong, at his Balinese-inspired retreat on Mustique.

Bowie in an Indonesian sarong, at his Balinese-inspired retreat on Mustique.

When Mustique became too much, he bought a place in the most mystical of all the Greek islands, Patmos, where the Cave of the Apocalypse is and admitted to the island’s charms. (I’ve been there and I can attest to it to). While he mostly lived in New York in the artistic (but now completely gentrified) Soho district, his favorite spot in NYC was Washington Square Park but to escape the summer heat, he also had a mountain retreat in hippy-dippy Woodstock, NY, site of the famous music festival.

Bowie in three version of drag in the "Boys Keep Swinging" video.

Bowie in three versions of drag in the “Boys Keep Swinging” video. Bowie’s female muses which he based these personalities on included Marlene Dietrich, Katherine Hepburn, and Greta Garbo.

Much has been said and written about his sexual experimentation and quasi-bisexual lifestyle, how his gender-bending androgynous personas like Ziggy Stardust or Aladdin Sane, helped many persons from the LGBTQ community to either come out, or accept their orientation or anyone accept their own personal weirdness.

Bowie as Ziggy Stardust

Bowie as Ziggy Stardust

In my opinion, his basic message was that its OK to accept your own inner freak and be comfortable with your own weirdness and uniqueness as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone, you don’t need to justify it to anyone else. After all, there is no such thing as “normal” since normalcy is completely relative. Bowie however made it cool to be different and if you were someone who was different, whether because of your sexual orientation, your ethnicity, your race or even if your interests, tastes and preoccupations were different from everyone else in your cultural milieu. Somehow, Bowie and his music made you feel like someone really understood you and had your back and that it was all OK.

That meant a lot to me. My adolescence was spent in an annoying-as-fuck, socially claustrophobic, peer-pressured, cookie-cutter, affluent, white suburban ghetto of Montreal known as the West Island, where all the girls were generic, indistinguishable, white, blonde, dime-a-dozen idiots with names like “Kelly”, “Jennifer” or “Heather” who had identical clothes, hairstyles and opinions, all the guys were jocks who were into hockey or soccer, listened to Bon Jovi and all the supposedly cool kids hung out at the pool or park and “got wasted”. When you don’t fit that mold and couldn’t stand living in such a dead-end cultural cul-de-sac, Bowie was a Godsend and a sign that real life, real art and real music existed outside of those walls.

Bowie is the only man I know who can pull of a pompadour and a yellow suit of all things, and still manages to look amazing.

Bowie during his GQ phase – Bowie was the only man I know of who can pull off a pompadour and a yellow suit, and still managed to look amazing.

In my experience, it’s the people who corner themselves and their personalities into neat, square boxes, identical haircuts, identical suits and act out what being a conformist “normal” is supposed to look like who end up being the craziest, creepiest people in private – just look at Republicans and Conservatives.

It was also one of the worst-kept secrets Bowie spent A LOT of time hanging out in Montreal during the late 1980s and 1990s. He recorded his 1984 album “Tonight” up in Morin Heights, at Le Studio, about 70 km north of Montreal. He befriended Edouard Locke, creative director of Montreal’s legendary modern dance troupe, La La La Human Steps. Locke and principal dancer Louise Lacavalier were instrumental in choreographing Bowie’s 1990 “Sound +  Vision” world tour.

Bowie during the Sound and Vision tour

Bowie during the Sound + Vision tour

Bowie also liked hanging out in Montreal’s various underground music clubs, notably La Sala Rossa and Casa del Popolo where he first got wind of local musical heroes Arcade Fire which then led to the friendship and numerous collaborations between him and the band later on.

As for me, I came to Bowie indirectly. I was 10 years old when I first heard “Let’s Dance” and freaked out when I watched his naughty “China Girl” video where you could see him having sex on the beach. When I became a teen, all, and I mean ALL my favorite 1980s alternative bands cited Bowie, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, Marc Bolan of T-Rex and Roxy Music as their primary influence. Everyone from Depeche Mode and The Cure to The Smiths to Def Leppard to Bauhaus worshipped Bowie.

David Bowie and Queen's Freddie Mercury backstage during 1985's Live Aid concert. They killed it when the performed 'Under Pressure" together.

David Bowie and Queen’s Freddie Mercury backstage during 1985’s Live Aid concert. (That’s Coco Schwab in between in the blue shirt. She NEVER left Bowie’s side and was literally his right hand person from the 1970s right to the end.)

I also had older cousins who had all his albums from the 1960s and 70s so it made me listen to his earlier stuff with a newer and deeper appreciation. While I was listening to “Hunky Dory”, The Berlin Trilogy or “Scary Monsters”, the suburban cretins in my high school were listening to Poison or Michael Bolton. (I’m also fairly certain Bowie, along with Rick SpringfieldDuran Duran in their heyday and The Professor from “Gilligan’s Island” , molded my preference for very tall, thin, chisel-featured, hyper-intelligent, intellectual but cultured, worldly men. Bonus: The fact that a stunning rock god like Bowie absolutely LOVED women of colour – yes!)

Bowie was in the short-lived band Tin Machine.

Bowie was in the short-lived band Tin Machine.

I saw Bowie twice in concert, first during the “Sound + Vision” tour and then when he came to Montreal as part of the group Tin Machine and I saw him play in a club instead of a stadium or arena. I almost met him once since I used to work as a very prominent rock radio station in Montreal while I was a university student. I was the morning receptionist and Bowie was coming in one afternoon after my shift. One of the stipulations by his manager and personal assistant, Corinne “Coco” Schwab,  was that there should be absolutely no one there, no fans, no extra staff, just a skeleton crew when Bowie came for his interview, which meant that I couldn’t hang around and wait. So I left some of my copies of his various album covers with the station manager to get autographed including a rare copy of his earlier work with his early bands, The Manish Boys and The Lower 3rd. He signed everything except the rare album because it turned out to be some kind of bootleg, which I honestly didn’t know at the time. Oh well.

David Bowie when he was still David Jones. I have a copy of this EP but Bowie wouldn't sign it. I wonder if his fingerprints are still on it.

David Bowie when he was still David Jones. I have a copy of this EP but Bowie wouldn’t sign it. I wonder if his fingerprints are still on it.

I’ve written this before but Aquarius IS the sign for androgyny and nonconformity and I do think on some level Bowie was a forerunner of the incoming Age of Aquarius when gender lines, gender issues and gender identity are going to get even more blurred than ever before. At the end of the day, we’re human, that’s what counts. We just need to treat each other as such. Bowie knew it too. He just used his art and his life to show it.

Rest in peace, Goblin King . (Bowie in the Jim Henson film "Labyrinth")

Rest in peace, Goblin King. Bowie in the Jim Henson film “Labyrinth”.

And if you ever doubt that Bowie wasn’t connected to something otherworldly, have a listen to this. It’s what he chose to be played during his wedding to Iman, a Bulgarian folk-song which sounds like angels could be behind it. He’s probably jamming with them now.

Godspeed David Robert Jones!

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Categories: Ch-ch-ch-changes, Pop culture, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Rock and Redemption: Nikki Sixx of Mötley Crüe

Motley Crue, l to r: Nikki Sixx, Mick Mars, Vince Neil and Tommy Lee

Motley Crue, l to r: Nikki Sixx, Mick Mars, Vince Neil and Tommy Lee

I am going to be very honest. I really dislike hair-metal bands.
I had the unfortunate luck of attending a predominantly white, affluent suburban high-school in the late 1980s when bands like Poison, Cinderella, Queensryche and The Scorpions dominated airplay at all major radio stations and music video channels.

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Mike Myers and Dana Carvey in “Wayne’s World”. I actually knew guys like these…(shudder)

Don’t get me wrong, I like some hard rock. Sometimes when you’re driving along a lonely highway in the summer and all the windows are open, the best thing on earth is to have the likes of AC/DC or pre-1985 Van Halen blaring out of the sound system at full blast. (There are different types of heavy metal and Sam Dunn’s documentaries “Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey” and “Global Metal” delineates them masterfully.)

If you need pumped-up driving music, nothing beats early Van Halen.

If you need pumped-up driving music, nothing beats early Van Halen.

Out of all the hair-metal bands, by far Mötley Crüe had the most notorious, debauched, craziest reputation of the lot. Voted by UK’s Smash Hit’s magazine as the band which readers would most love to see stranded on Mars for 5 years in a row, the Crue polarized music listeners everywhere. People who loved them, REALLY loved them, and people who really hated them did everything they could to get away from their music.

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During the Dr. Feelgood tour, Tommy Lee and his drum set would be lifted up, turned around and then eventually brought out over the audience.

Having said that, one night I was watching an episode of “Richler, Ink” on BookTelevision with Daniel Richler and the genre under discussion that evening was the rock autobiography. Surprisingly, for such a high-brow show, the panel were discussing the Mötley Crüe autobiography “The Dirt: Confessions of the World’s Most Notorious Rock Band”. It was unanimously praised, not so much because of the anecdotes of the Crue’s unbelievable excesses and antics involving drugs, drink, women and more women, but mostly because of the candor, brutal honesty and the very high toll the four band members individually paid the devil along the way. If anything, the book is a sobering reminder of what the rock’n roll lifestyle will do to you if you don’t set any limits.

motley_crue_the_dirt

“The Dirt” is an engrossing read, trust me on this one.

It is an excellent, hilarious and at time difficult read. Apparently when Gene Simmons of KISS finished reading it, he literally dropped everything and ran out to buy the film rights, it’s *that* crazy (and for a womanizer like Gene Simmons to do that, is really saying something…). It’s one of those books, you just need to read in order to believe the rumors circulating around the band. (Note to self: Never drink around Ozzy Osbourne especially when Sharon isn’t around.  Never, ever play with the Ouija Board with knives laying about and Mick Mars is a surprising source of wisdom with hilarious thoughts on reincarnation.)

Tommy Lee was married to actress Heather Locklear for a while but of course, it didn't last too long.

Tommy Lee was married to actress Heather Locklear for a while but of course, it didn’t last too long.

Nikki Sixx, the bassist, was by far the one who was most popular with the ladies, but also suffered the most from drugs and heroin addiction. The fact that he’s even alive is a bit of a miracle. What I also find compelling about Nikki’s narrative, is that it’s quite clear Nikki is one insanely smart dude, a very compelling writer and at the end of the day, a very decent fellow who has his heart in the right place and means well.

Left: Nikki Sixx then, at the height of Motley Crue's popularity and at the height of his drug and alcohol addiction around 1986-87. Right: Nikki, clean and sober, these days.

Left: Nikki Sixx then, at the height of Motley Crue’s popularity and at the height of his drug and alcohol addiction around 1986-87. Right: Nikki, clean and sober, these days.

If you ever toyed with the idea of doing heroin but chickened out but are nonetheless curious to know what living through a heroin addiction is like, mentally, spiritually and physically, then Nikki’s book “The Heroin Diaries” should be at the top of your list. It’s a harrowing read and one that you won’t easily forget. The book cumulates to the night of December 23, 1987, where Sixx was declared dead for two minutes after a heroin overdose, only to be revived by paramedics with two shots of Naloxone. In an interview, Sixx states that after he was declared dead, the ambulance arrived and one of the paramedics in the ambulance was a Mötley Crüe fan. “Apparently, the paramedic took one look at me and said, ‘No one’s gonna die in my ambulance.'” He also recalled having an out-of-body experience while being revived. When Nikki came into the hospital, he ripped the tubes out of his nose and escaped into the parking lot where two female fans gave him a ride home wearing just a pair of leather pants.

Another engrossing but excellent read.

Another engrossing but excellent read.

Nikki brutally describes his highway to heroin hell and what got him there in the first place:
“It was on the Monsters of Rock and Iron Maiden tours that the tedium began. In Hollywood, gigging was a way of life. But gigging was not the same as touring. When you gig, you get to go home afterwards. Touring is an endless parade of anonymity: faceless people, identical hotel rooms, and indistinguishable cities, always changing but always the same…On past tours, I would sit in my hotel room and write postcards to my grandparents in Jerome, Idaho…telling them how lonely it was…But after my reunion with my mother, I did not want to go home anymore, I became crazier and more reckless, subconsciously putting myself on the same self-destructive path my mother had been on. My rock-and-roll fantasy wasn’t just about success and decadence and rebellion anymore, it was also about pain and death…I had always thought that age and success had enabled me to overcome the shyness and low self-esteem I had developed from constantly switching homes and schools as a kid, but in reality I hadn’t changed at all. I had just drowned those feelings in heroin and alcohol. As a human being, I had never really learned how to act or behave. I was still the kid who didn’t know how to play normal games with his cousins….When I rewound everything – running away from my mother, stealing a homeless girl’s clothes, fighting with cops outside the Whisky (a-Go-Go), overdosing at the Franklin – all that misanthropy and self-destruction came down to the same thing, a massive chip I had been carrying on my shoulder because my father had abandoned me “.

Having a heroin addiction often makes you paranoid and Nikki was no different. He often carried a gun around that time.

Having a heroin addiction often makes you paranoid and Nikki was no different. He often carried a gun around that time.

After numerous stints in rehab and even more stints of falling off the wagon, Nikki eventually married Playboy Playmate Brandi Brandt and fathered three beautiful children. That was when he completely became besotted with his kids and wanted to do the right thing for them and for himself and stop the patterns of his past from being passed on to his kids. And that’s when he decided to clean up for real.

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Nikki with 3 of his 4 kids.

“It was my first step toward straightening out all the crooked roads of my past. I never realized before that I had the power to break the chain of secrecy and dishonesty and irresponsibility that I had inherited. And I could do that simply by having a solid relationship with my wife and family, so that my children wouldn’t spend their lives lost and hiding from everything, like I had.”

Looking good: Cleaned up Nikki

Looking great: Cleaned up Nikki

By the end of “The Heroin Diaries”, Nikki comes to this final conclusion:

“What I’ve learned in this life so far is to let the little things go as much as possible and try to swerve to miss the big things. Life is like a long ride to nowhere in particular. We’re bound to get a flat tire somewhere along the journey and it’s never a good time for it to happen…in fact, it’s usually pouring rain or a blizzard when you feel the car jolt from the tire that just blew out underneath you and ripped away at your safety and support. But we don’t have a choice really. We have to get back out, fix the flat, get back in the car and head back out on the highway of life.

There are a few sayings I used to loathe that I now cherish:

1) You gotta give it away to keep what you got.

2) Let go and let God….

Let me explain…

1) To keep my happiness, I’ve got to give away as much as I can. It works. Amazing. A guy who mostly consumed, took and would go out of his way to bust people’s balls using this as a mantra. Amazing.

2) I never thought there was a God (well, maybe I thought I was him), but I know now there is a power greater than myself and that has been a huge part of my sobriety. So I let shit go, and let the man upstairs deal with it. A guy who was a complete control freak, letting go as a way of life…Amazing.

Addiction was my downfall and yet it’s the very thing that has given me a spiritual connection and awareness that I never thought existed. Quitting drugs and alcohol was the hardest thing I’ve ever done and has given me the most satisfaction. I’m actually glad I’m an addict, ’cause through recovery I have the ability to give back.”

Nikki has worked closely with Covenant House to help homeless or troubled kids get off the streets or get off drugs.

Nikki has worked closely with Covenant House to help homeless or troubled kids get off the streets or get off drugs.

Nikki has since branched out from his Motley Crue activities and found other, healthy outlets for his creativity. He teamed up with Covenant House and created the charity “Running Wild in the Night” to help benefit kids who had run away from troubled homes and are living on the streets and are involved in drugs. Running Wild into the Night also provides a creative arts and music program, allowing the kids in this program to discover an alternative to their problems that is better than drugs. Sixx has campaigned for other musicians and other music industry insiders to provide the program with musical instruments and software and has arguably prevented thousands of potential under-aged drug users and rehabilitated teenage addicts from continuing to dabble in the world of drugs, as Covenant House helped almost 78 000 youth at risk last year alone. He’s also dabbled in fashion design, art photography and hosted a number of radio shows.

I think Nikki’s story is really about growing up and growing out of yourself and realizing that life isn’t just about you anymore, but rather our lives are like interconnected circles. One affects the other and that if one circle goes awry, it affects everyone else, like the ripple effect. That patterns of the past don’t have to define our future and that we all have the ability to move forward and that anger and resentment only ends up hurting ourselves.

But…once a rock-and-roll bad boy, always a rock-and-roll bad boy, eh?

nikki-sixx

Categories: Pop culture, Raise your EQ, Rock and redemption | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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