by Daniel Wirtheim
1. Performance on “Soul Train”
David Bowie’s performance on “Soul Train” might be my favorite six minutes of white-boy soul music ever. I’m thinking specifically of “Golden Years.” He’s not a very good dancer and quite possibly high on cocaine, but he looks great. Somehow the golden-haired, placid pop star — this was during his Thin White Duke stage — is more outlandish in this performance than he is as Alladin Sane or Ziggy Stardust. It’s in the way he prances around, lifting a bored leg with the rhythm while his face, like a thin, white sheet stained by a pair of nasty teeth, cannot help but betray some serious soul power. It’s great.
2. “And the papers want to know whose shirts you wear”
I always compared Bowie’s “Space Oddity” to Elton John’s “Rocket Man,” which is kind of a natural comparison given the subject matter. While Elton John was sort of wallowing in the familial tragedy of a space explorer, Bowie was drifting towards the outer rim, looking back at the commercial culture that had worked its way into every facet of life including space exploration. And that’s why I’ve always liked the line about the newspapers wanting to know whose shirts Major Tom is wearing.
3. Being a bastion of androgynous culture
Bowie is like a queer person’s Rocky in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Although his punches came from sweet rock and roll, he delivered in the name of sexual experimentation and queer culture with sincerity. Canned Heat and the Woodstock crowd were all about free love but even they were not quite on par with the androgynous Starman. Bowie filled a void and consistently showed how being androgynous is pretty awesome.
4. His left eye
The left is my favorite eye of Bowie’s. It’s the one with the huge pupil, which gives it a darker color than his right and blue eye, the product of a teenage brawl. I’ve often wondered if his ingenuity came from having a wonky eye or if those things just gravitate towards a guy like Bowie.