Celebrity Studies David Bowie Special

The latest Celebrity Studies journal includes an article by Dene October on the management of fame and how persona might take on a life of their. It’s something we look at in an upcoming seminar. It’s free to access to Fan Cultures students, so please do have a look. And Like. Retweet. Reblog. Please do.


The latest issue of prestigious journal Celebrity Studies is just released. Even better news, it is a David Bowie Special.

Navigating with the Blackstar: The Mediality of David Bowie, includes ‘Transition transmission: media, seriality and the Bowie-Newton matrix’ by Dene October (the teaser to which is on the left).

Volume 10, 2019 – Issue 1 is available through subscription directly with the publisher or free through affiliated universities here.

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FASHION SESSION 8 — Styling your pitch: presentations




Section A presentations [I HR 30 MINS *]



            * approx. durations

Section A presentations











– a research question (what is your investigation about / what is your focus / why are you asking the research question)?

– research methods (your research question will lead you to make research choices, including your methodologies … you should explain these)

– key authors and texts (you should introduce and evaluate key thinkers/texts you rely to expand your knowledge of the subject area and use in support of your analysis)

– artefacts/images relating to your elected fandom (these are what you use in your argument, not just for decoration).




On completion of this unit you will be able to:
Express your opinions as a result of informed, structured research from a variety of sources (Research)
Engage in constructive and informed critical argument and debate (Analysis)
Identify the key issues, themes and critical debates surrounding the subject of design and cultures (Subject Knowledge)
Construct an argument and demonstrate an awareness of a range of communication techniques, research methods and writing skills (Communication and Presentation)
• Evidence engagement with the principles of personal and professional development (Personal and Professional Development)














THE 5 Ws


Anatomy of an Academic Essay

Part 1: The Skeleton

Opie, J. (2014)

We are going to use the analogy of anatomy to help describe the structures of an academic text and how its elements work and join together. This should help you construct your essay. Each part will grow from the previous part, and be ‘fleshed out’ as it goes along.

Preface (the conception) Before the start of any writing you need to bring it to life by setting yourself a number of questions that you would like to answer. There are six types of questions you can ask of your subject: What? Why? When? How? Where? Who? And it is up to you to ask the right question so you gain informative and thoughtful answers (see Rudyard Kipling’s poem ‘I Keep Six Honest Serving Men’)

A simple structure of any academic essay looks like this:

  1. An Introduction (The Head)
  2. Section (The Body)
  3. Section (The Body)
  4. Section (The Body)
  5. Conclusion (The legs)
  6. Bibliography (The feet)

An Introduction (The Head) The brain of the text and shows you have eyes and ears and a brain and tells the reader that you know what you are talking about. It helps the reader understand why and how the essay was conceived and structured.

Sections can have titles to differentiate it from the other sections of the essay (The Body) Text and Images form the guts of the text and this is where you challenge what you have read and create your arguments. You describe, analyse and situate, contextualise what it is you are investigating.

A Conclusion (The Legs) This is what makes the text run and be articulate and animated and makes it stand up to scrutiny. It is where you can demonstrate what you have learnt.

A Bibliography (The Feet) This is what good academic writing always stands up on. Without a good grounding, which a bibliography gives to any academic piece of writing, the text will fall and collapse into naïve argumentation. It shows that you have gathered information and then been able to write from your experience of reading high quality texts. It shows the amount and depth of your systematic research. Visit citethemrightonline for all the information you need to know to be able to cite your sources and create your bibliography.

Referencing images Gillian Rose, Professor of Cultural Geography at The Open University writes ‘once you have found your images […] you need to be able to reference them in as clear a manner as you would reference any other source material. (Rose 2012, p. 48). For detailed guidance on setting out your image references visit citethemrightonline.

Part 2: The Head

Title As Helen Sword the author of, Stylish Academic Writing (2012a) argues, ‘“Snakes on a Plane” is an inviting title; “Aggressive Serpentine Behaviour in a Restrictive Aviation Environment” is not.’ (Sword 2012b)

In this analogy the head is the introduction, this page explains how and why it should be structured in this way.

An Introduction should tell the reader why you have chosen to write about the subject you have spent so much time researching. It both tells us why you personally choose it and why you think it is important to you and your thinking about the subject. This is sometimes called the rationale and can be if you wish, a separate piece of writing. 
Then you then should describe and explain to the reader what it is you have chosen. At this stage you need to decide how much detail you wish to go into about the subject. If you are going to have a chapter on the history of the subject then you can keep this brief. If this is where you situate your subject in its various contexts and histories then you can elaborate more at this point. Do not make it too long otherwise it should be in a section on its own after the introduction.

You then tell the reader how you went about this study/research and the reasons why you chose these particular methods to investigate and explore your subject. Tell how it was systematic, as all research needs to be to have any validity. This is sometimes called the methodology section and if in a longer piece of writing might have its own section after the introduction. In this text you will have to explain why you chosen the three ways of analysing your chosen subject and how you think they will help you think more deeply about it and what it means.

You need to let the reader know who helped you with the research for this text? Have you interviewed anybody about your subject? Who are the main authors who have written about your subject?

You need to tell the reader what is going to actually happen in the essay and when and why you have structure or ordered in this way. This will help the reader navigate through your essay and set them off on the right foot.

Snakes on a Plane (2006) Still from the film. Directed by David R. Ellis [DVD]. Los Angeles: New Line Cinema

Use images at this stage to help the reader understand more fully what it is you are talking about. They also allow you to save your words for the more important task of analysing and evaluating the research you have carried out. Place your images in the text at the point where you are discussing them, ensure you reference your images and place the caption next to the image.

Part 3: The Body Text

In this analogy the body is comprised of sections, this page explains how and why it should be structured in this way. After the title and the introduction comes the main body of your text. If you break it down into sections each one could answer a different question:

Introduce each section to remind the reader what it is they are about to read and why you have written the section in the way you have. You can conclude each section with a summing up of the main points you have discussed and if possible evaluate them as to their worth to your overall argument(s). It helps the reader to have (snappy) titles for each section.

Introducing authors You need to tell the reader who the author is before you use their words or ideas. It demonstrates that you know who the author is, and why they may be important to your understanding of the subject. Therefore, the first time you mention them, state their first name and last name and if you mention them again, you can just use their last name.

Example The American artist and writer Joe Brainard (1975) wrote a memoire of growing up in the 1940s and 1950s. The American writer Paul Auster described I Remember as ‘a masterpiece . . . one of the few totally original books I have ever read’ (http://www.joebrainard.org/bio_main.htm, no date). In one of his entries, Brainard (1975, p. 43) wrote ‘I remember wishing I knew then what I know now’.

The Reference List for the example above would include these two references: Brainard, J. (1975) I Remember. New York: Granary Books.

Joe Brainard (no date) Bio Available at: http://www.joebrainard.org/bio_main.htm (Accessed 16 September 2015). Remember for detailed guidance on setting out your Reference List and Bibliography visit citethemrightonline.

Part 4: The Conclusion

Conclusions can mirror the introduction and help the reader understand clearly what it is you have tried to argue in the body of the text. It is the place where you can shine and show how much work you have done and how your thinking might have changed by doing the research for the essay.

Conclusions keep the essay running: According to Tips for writing a good conclusion (2014) “Like introductions, conclusions are important because they leave an impression. Since the conclusion is the last thing your audience reads, it may leave the most lasting impression. An effective conclusion should make readers glad that they read your essay.” (Jacobi, 2014)

Conclusions are strong muscular pieces of writing. “An effective conclusion will often: Push beyond the boundaries of the question or subject. Elaborate on the significance of your findings. Highlight the most important moments of your argument. Demonstrate the importance of a particular idea. Propel your reader to think about your subject in new ways” (Ibid)

“Strategies for writing effective conclusions: Give yourself time away from the text before you create the conclusion. Play the “So what?” game: Read back your text and questions to yourself and then ask, “So what?” Your answers will help you write a conclusion that emphasises the broader significance of your subject. Free write your conclusion in the form of a letter or email (to yourself or to a friend). Writing informally can help free your thinking and help you focus on the big picture. Think about what you have learned about the topic as you have gone through the process of creating the text.” (Ibid)

“Ineffective conclusions: “So This Is What I Just Said” Simply summarising exactly what you already said without adding anything in terms of the significance of your subject or the big picture is easy, but also not very interesting. “We Shall Overcome” An overly emotional declaration is not very appropriate for an academic paper, and often falls into cliché.” (Ibid)

Ibid is short for ibidem, meaning ‘in the same place’ is the term used to provide an endnote or footnote citation or reference for a source that was cited in the preceding endnote or footnote.

Reference List for Anatomy of an Academic Essay

Holewa, R. (2004) ‘Strategies for Writing a Conclusion’ LEO: Literacy Education Online. Available at: http://leo.stcloudstate.edu/acadwrite/conclude.html (Accessed 5 March 2014).
Ingham, M. (2014) Writing Design (Re-WritingRe-Design) https://writingdesignctslcc.wordpress.com/ (Accessed 9 November 2014).

Jacobi, T. (2014) ‘Tips for writing a good conclusion’ Writing@CSU The Writing Studio. Available at: http://writing.colostate.edu/files/classes/7998/File_B4A54838-­‐
FC40-­‐1691-­‐86BB6F50FA6B3141.pdf (Accessed 5 March 2014).
Rose, G. (2012) Visual Methodologies: An Introduction to Researching with Visual Materials. 3rd edn. London: Sage. Sword, H. (2012a) Stylish Academic Writing. Harvard University Press: Harvard.

Sword, H. (2012b) ‘Seven secrets of stylish academic writing’ The Conversation. Available at: https://theconversation.com/seven-­‐secrets-­‐of-­‐stylish-­‐academic-­‐writing-­‐7025. (Accessed 5 March 2014).



This September I lost Mum. Although she had been very ill in the past, and I had rehearsed for the worst many times, her death was completely unexpected. Numbly, I set about arranging a non-funeral ceremony, and also found myself writing the article below.

theincrediblejourney196.jpgIt started out as a eulogy, but after I’d posted it I worried it was only a fan piece and, worse, one about me, not Mum.  So I wrote a fuller non-religious service, which took place in beautiful sunshine and included three of her favourite songs. This time I remembered Mum for all the goodness she brought to the world, and wrapped the eulogy around a more-fitting example from popular culture, her favourite book: Sheila Burnford’s ‘The Incredible Journey’.

But I kept coming back to the first draft, the one you about to read (thanks for being so patient) partly because it is more raw about my feelings and memories. And partly because people got back to me.

Since its publication, I have been contacted by many strangers, a lot of them Doctor Who fans, who similarly recall watching the show in the company of people they have since lost. Although the tones of their expressions differed greatly, some academic, some nostalgic, the content had a similarly about it.

First off, and no surprise really, all were conventional offers of condolences, an etiquette whose importance I admit I underestimated, for I did find this aspect comforting. Secondly, the majority responded with stories of their own, usually about loved ones who had passed. These stories typically reunited the dead and the living through the recollection of significant events. Finally, every single person who wrote to me identified as profoundly important the theme of television as a source of vernacular memory.

That little idiot box in the corner, which a generation watched guiltily, is also the centre of  so much family-ness. Part of the Gogglebox culture where television’s stories are shared and retold in conversations. Television is not a mere mediator of our stories, it harvests them; it’s storytelling skill lies in its placement in our lives, reflecting back our domestic realities, an everywoman who sits and watches while we watch.

As one stranger put it to me, about her and her father, You reminded me of our own memories watching Doctor Who together.

Television memories are those where the popular and the personal are entwined, times when we sat down together, reflected in the green screen, memories that don’t seem significant and are all the more precious for that.

Here, then, is that blogpost dedicated to Mum.


If you come here a lot, I owe you an apology. Publishing the blog every day has become a habit, and a convenient way to promote the thirteen writers of the Doctor Who and History book. But last week my Mum died. Last week I thought I’d never publish the blog again. Then I remembered the many times Mum kept me company while I watched my favourite show. Suddenly it seemed fitting that I should restart the blog with this post, remembering the times I watched with mother.

Screenshot_2017-10-23-19-48-13.pngThat’s her in the photograph. It was found in a recently recovered personal archive. Black and white like the Hartnell and Troughton Doctors. It reminds me how careless we can sometimes be with old media. With memories. Even when the subject is so beautiful.

Mum, it’s nearly on .. hurry please.

I am standing on the threshold between the living room and the kitchen, beckoning Mum to come sit down please .. please .. please. The best show in the world is moments away, and Mum is still washing and cleaning. So I am frantically giving her ten-minute, five-minute, ten-second warnings.

Mum, it’s about to start ..

Mum, you’re missing the theme tune ..


She won’t want to miss the Doctor, I tell myself. And I haven’t missed an episode since that bleak and fogbound London street (my first encounter with the city I now live in) became billows of abstract cloud and soared into my imagination. And because I love Mum, I don’t want her to miss a single second of the show and it upsets me when she dawdles, and because I don’t want to miss a single second either.

She encourages me to run along and watch, and promises she’ll be there soon. Very often she is too, and sometimes she sits all the way through, quietly watching. Sometimes I watch her watching the show, and sometimes I notice her watching me watching.

20171023_194558.pngBut there are times she is too busy to join me. And then it feels like there are two universes: Doctor Who and a banal planet where we are housebound. By the time Jon Pertwee falls from the TARDIS and is confined to Earth, things are going wrong between my dad and her. By the time the Doctor takes a TARDIS trip to medieval England, in The Time Monster (1973), she is a single parent, a tough thing to be in the Seventies. And the house is devouring all her time by this point. Still. I’m pretty sure Pertwee is her favourite Doctor, even though she is watching the show less and less.

I wonder now if Mum had been enacting the concerns of another Doreen (the Liberal politician and television producer, Doreen Stephens) who headed BBC’s Children’s Department from 1964 before leaving for ITV where she commissioned another childhood favourite, Catweazle (1970-71). Stephens was worried about the middle-class protectionism of Watch with Mother (1953-75), and felt it was quite wrong for parents to guide children into watching purely educational, rather than entertaining, programmes.

Of course, the truth is simpler and more beautiful. Sometimes you watch something to enjoy sharing it with someone special.

20171023_194711.pngWhen the truth finally comes out, it isn’t much of a surprise. I am in my twenties when Mum asks me if I still enjoy that “children’s programme”. She tells me she had always found what we now call the ‘classic series’ too slow and discursive. She likes shows where real life happens, namely the soaps (she later becomes a big Emmerdale fan). And the American detective series, Columbo (I am, this moment, imagining how Peter Falk would have played the Doctor). Coming up to date, she favoured Strictly Come Dancing, and therefore occasionally caught sight of what we now call the ‘reboot series’. This was too quick for her – everything seems to happen all at once.

In truth, Mum was always out of step with the Doctor. Really she had no time for the show at all, except inasmuch as it became a convenient medium through which she could understood me better. And so she would randomly ask after what was happening in a given series, and (more importantly) whether I was enjoying it.

It was a conversation point; she already knew the answer. Childhood passions have a habit of becoming adult obsessions. My childhood collection migrated from toy cupboard to fan hoard, and she boxed off the non-Doctor Who stuff to goodwill. When I became a university lecturer, and ran an option in Doctor Who studies, although many others were incredulous, it made complete sense to her. I know she very was proud of my research and writing and how my passion and fandom gave me the opportunity to express myself.

There are few constants in life. But sometimes we take even these for granted. There was a bit in the Eighties when I was busy with adult things, exploring my own life and loves, and put Doctor Who to one side. I regretted doing so later. Sadly, this also applies to Mum. I saw her a little less in young adulthood. I left them both waiting for the return of the prodigal son; luckily neither waited too long.

We are fellow travellers, my Mum, the Doctor and I. We travelled virtually to other planets, and physically, to another continent. We were ten dollar migrants to Australia, where I got a rare second chance to revisit all the early Hartnell stories (roughly a year after the BBC transmitted them) including my personal favourite, Marco Polo. I wrote about that story in the Doctor Who and History book because it feels like it is about our adventures too. It took us four weeks to cross the Mediterranean and Arabian Seas, and finally the Indian Ocean, while Marco’s caravan took seven weeks to cross Cathay (in the serial).

Mum had many qualities. She was a great cheerleader. She was a down-to earth farm girl. She had that quintessential English beauty, was mistaken for young Princess Elizabeth on more than one occasion and, to her utter embarrassment, won a beauty competition. But she wasn’t a fan of travelling away from home and immediately regretted doing so (maybe that’s why she was a little suspicious of the Doctor’s flights of fancy). Much later, just as Marco eventually won Kublai Khan’s permission to return to Venice, my father relented and we dematerialised from Australia, falling back to England much the same time as Jon Pertwee’s Doctor.

The Doctor rarely mentions his mother. The Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann) remembers her as human. In the audiobook, ‘Seasons of Fear’ (2002) he recalls how she sang him the Zagreus nursery rhyme. And how his mother watched as his father held him aloft to see the stars (‘The Eight Doctors’ novel by Terrance Dicks, 1997). According to Russell T Davies, the unnamed Time Lord in The End of Time (2009-10) might actually be the Doctor’s mother. But my favourite reference is from ‘A Big Hand for the Doctor’ (Eoin Colfer, 2013), where the First Doctor has a vision of his mother asking him to tell her all about his adventures.

‘Stay here, my little Doctor. Stay here with me and you can tell tales of the worlds you have visited. I so want to hear your stories.

She is so pretty, he thought. Just as I remember her.

Mum wasn’t a fan of Doctor Who, it turns out. But she was a fan of me, of course. So she frequently sat through twenty-five minutes of flight and fancy, nodding, smiling, tutting at all the nasty terror, cooing too, always one eye on her son.

And I will keep telling her about my adventures, yes. And many of those adventures will doubtless also include the Doctor. And I would give anything for a long evening, a boxset and her company. Or better still, to imagine that all this is just the interregnum between adventures.

To all of you with mothers in the Whoniverse, snuggle up a little closer to them. Don’t plan to do it in a timey wimey way. Do it right now. Put The Time Monster on and, through one eye, watch with mother.

For Mum. My watching companion. Always.


MEMORIES OF A BOWIE CONFERENCE: 21. You’re exactly who I want to be with


Sam Coley “Bowie’s Waiata” Radio documentary, memory and fandom

SPEAKER Coley teaches at Birmingham City University and is a radio documentary producer for BBC, Xfm, and Radio New Zealand among others

nzSYNOPSIS Explores the meanings behind the fan-sharing of “Waiata”, as well as the radio documentary from which it is taken, which looks back 25 years at the Maori reception of Bowie during his Serious Moonlight tour in 1983. Asks about the significance to the fan and practitioner and explores the ways in which this production of memory has been shared and repurposed through a process of reappropriationhealthyBowie

KEY POINTS Shortly before his first concert in Wellington, Bowie was invited to visit Takapuwahia Marae in Porirua, the first rock star officially welcomed onto a Maori Marae. 25 years later in the RNZ radio documentary Bowie’s Waiata, members of the Ngati Toa tribe and professionals involved in the tour were invited to look back on an event Bowie described as “one of the most hospitable experiences of my life”. One of the features is a song Bowie wrote especially for the occasion, Waiata. A Waiata is a reciprocal song – you sing a bit, I sing a bit back. The song was shared by Bowie’s international fan community via Facebook and YouTube technologies. Consumed in this way, these works prompted further reflections and memories, which were recorded online and shared between listening communities

With Coco Schwab receiving Maori welcome speech / a healthy looking Bowie on his Serious Moonlight tour / main image by Helmut Newton (1983)
Waiata radio documentary broadcast on Radio New Zealand 2008, visually rendered.
Waiata radio documentary broadcast on Radio New Zealand 2008, visually rendered.

KEY QUOTE ‘fans have taken matters into their own hands by producing original content that is primarily designed to be consumed within fan communities’


MEMORIES OF A BOWIE CONFERENCE: 20. You’ve got what you wanted but you’re on your own


William Garvin David Bowie & T S Eliot: unreal cities, aliens, androgyny & “them cawkney voices”

SPEAKER William Garvin’s first poetry collection, No Exit, was published by Arthur Shilling Press(2010)

SYNOPSIS Attempts to place David Bowie’s work within a literary context have invoked the iconic figure of William Burroughs, whose cut-up techniques, inspired by Dada poet Tristan Tzara, were to radically influence Bowie’s lyrical output. This paper compares Bowie to T S Eliot, who taught Burroughs at Harvard and who created a series of fragmentary narratives exploring urban alienation. 

KEY POINTS The channelling of myriad voices & perspectives references the works of others and each has been accused of plagiarism, raising questions about authorship. Both were defined, in their earlier works by the ‘unreal city’ London, and were inspired by its music hall tradition. The lives of both should be seen as multidisciplinary artists, Eliot was an editor, dramatist & critic, while Bowie works within show business, mime, art criticism etc. T S Eliot’s The Wasteland has Tiresias, the blind hermaphrodite prophet at its core. Bowie could be considered a contemporary Tiresias; androgyne rather than hermaphrodite.

Bowie with Burroughs / The 'unreal city' of Diamond Dogs / 'London Boys' (1965) from unreleased Toy album (recorded 2001, leaked 2011) / Button-eyes / The 'real' London mourns 'our Brixton boy'

buttonsKEY QUOTE ‘Bowie could be considered a contemporary Tiresias, his permanently dilated left eye a mere signifier of visual impairment if nothing more, but a prophet nonetheless, using Allen Ginsberg’s definition; not so much someone who predicts events so much as someone whose work speaks directly to the future’

NEXT UP You’re exactly who I want to be with. Sam Coley

MEMORIES OF A BOWIE CONFERENCE: 19. I’d rather stay here with all the madmen


Richard Mills Anti-Heroes: The Influence of Vince Taylor and Syd Barrett on David Bowie’s Music and Lyrics

SPEAKER Richard Mills is Programme Director in Cultural Studies at St Mary’s University College, London and writes on Irish themes

SYNOPSIS Taylor and Barrett’s rise to stardom and their decline into physical and mental collapse was the basis for Bowie’s damaged and fallen rock star archetype Ziggy Stardust, the central character of his concept album of excess and insanity. This paper examines the importance of these two figures to Bowie’s art; and how Bowie’s professionalism left us with art and (after Judith Butler’s concept of performativity) a performance of madness.vt

KEY POINTS Black Leather Rebel, Vince Taylor’s legacy to Bowie’s work was not only the figure of Ziggy, but a succession of broken characters. Taylor’s image resonates through a continued fascination with pop stardom and madness: two central themes of Bowie’s life and work. Bowie’s work is ‘the traumatic subject as a performance’. Like Barrett and Taylor there is real anguish in his work, but Bowie’s professionalism and his robust constitution translates this fear into a performance of trauma. Being in this show biz tradition, he never succumbs to the prolonged psychosis of Barrett/Taylor; he learns from these cracked actors serious lessons in the art of performance. Barrett and Taylor left us with a very small canon of work and plenty of psychotic incidents. Whereas Bowie has left a huge canon of superlative work which concurs with Foucault’s dictum, ‘Where there is art, there is no madness’. Barrett and Taylor’s legacy is just the opposite. There is plenty of ‘madness’ and a small artistic legacy.

David Jones with his brother Terry / Vince Taylor / 'All the Madmen' live at the Veterans' Stadium Philadelphia, 1987

KEY QUOTE ‘… it is not the paeans to madness which are the key to th[e] album[s] [Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane]; it is the line from Cracked Actor ‘You sold me illusions for a sack full of cheques’. Again, here is the self-conscious and post-modernist recognition that art is a performance, and the role that Bowie adopts in these two albums is the cracked pop star, the lad insane: but the artist behind these albums is self-aware about an ‘illusion’ which pays in ‘a sack full of cheques’’

Syd Barrett's 'Arnold Layne' (1967) performed by Bowie and David Gilmour Live at the Royal Albert Hall 2006 

NEXT UP You’ve got what you wanted but you’re on your own. William Garvin



Vanessa Garcia How Superficial! : David Bowie in 21st Century Literature and the Art of Surfacing

SPEAKER Garcia is an artist and journalist. She is the Founding Artistic Director of Krane theatre/arts company

SYNOPSIS Writers such as Dana Spiotta, Hanif Kureshi, Steve Erickson, and Irvine Welsh, reference Bowie, creating characters connected with Bowie ‘s personas. The paper argues that what these writers are doing is using mixed media, embedded within their writing, to create a surface that implies depth. By ‘surfacing,’ these writers are saying (as Jonathan Lethem writes in his novel about the music scene of the 90s, You Don’t Love Me Yet): ‘You can’t be deep without a surface.’ Bowie becomes the perfect vehicle to observe the phenomenon of how the contemporary artist learns to live on the surface becoming, so to speak, ‘superficial’ while still drenched in the residue of subversion.

vasurfacesKEY POINTS In Dana Spiotta’s novel Stone Arabia, a character gets a birthday cake in the shape of Aladdin Sane. Like other contemporary novels (eg Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad), this is all about ‘surfacing’ as an artist in the 21st century. It makes perfect sense that David Bowie makes an appearance.


Demo version of Lady Stardust 1971

'Sweet Thing' from the Philly Dogs Tour at Universal Amphitheatre, Los Angeles, 1974

KEY QUOTE ‘Mixed Media is really quite complicated. It’s not just about saying: ‘I paint and write, or sing and dance…’ In the 21st century, it means something much more layered that has something to do with how we read the world on screens combined with our visual past, art history, and the melding of one media with another media’

NEXT UP I’d rather stay here with all the madmen. Richard Mills

Memories of a Bowie Conference: 17. Let’s face the music and dance


Richard Fitch. Caricature as Apolitical Style: Bowie and the manipulation of social norms

SPEAKER Richard Fitch is an independent legal and political philosopher

SYNOPSIS Theoretical reflection on Bowie is dominated by the questioning, in a post-modern style, of identity, with the character of Ziggy as the focus of attention. This paper attempts to open up space for an alternative philosophical and political engagement with Bowie and his work by exploring his manipulation of social conventions and norms, whether in his songs, performances, or in declarations such as representations of his sexuality.

KEY POINTS Dissent in popular music usually proceeds by attacking existing social and political norms in the name of a more authentic normativity expressive of higher values, or of a subculture. But Bowie situates many of his songs outside any conventional world, in spaces where norms no longer bind people. He seems sensitive to the political problem that while music can help dissolve oppressive social norms, this action alone will only lead to chaos not liberation. This is why Bowie uses the more peaceful tactic of caricature rather than the simple denunciation that can be found in Punk and other protest music.

'New Killer Star' (Steven Lippman NYC Version)

KEY QUOTE ‘A true outsider is not outside some thing. Rather they recognise that any inside was always nothing more than a social illusion. Bowie demonstrated this with his own illusions and caricatures. But if you go on to believe his illusions and caricatures then the point is lost. The outsider who simply apes the illusory belief of the insider is inside not outside the illusion’

Tony Visconti, Glen Gregory, Woody Woodmansey perform 'Saviour Machine' in 2016 /Duet with Kristeen Young: Saviour (Breasticles, 2003)


NEXT UP My set is amazing, it even smells like a street. Vanessa Garcia

Memories of a Bowie Conference: 16. JUST THE RING OF THE BELL IN THE PURE CLEAN AIR


Paul McCullagh Time May Change Me: Alone in Berlin 2011 – Never Get Old

SPEAKER McCullagh is a Reader in Computing & Mathematics at University of Ulster

SYNOPSIS McCullagh sets his personal experience of running in the Berlin Marathon against a backdrop of sensor technology, personal area network communications, and debates in future assisted health and wellbeing, as well as personal recollections of David Bowie, which becomes a soundtrack to the question of age and time frames. As this unfolds during the Berlin marathon, David Bowie’s 1970s Berlin trilogy becomes the soundtrack to the story. The story tries to convey the feeling of running with 40,000 people and yet being ‘alone’; except for the Bowie soundtrack and acoustic feedback from a technology-mediated ‘virtual’ coach. It reflects upon the Hans Fallada novel, Alone in Berlin, where Otto, a German citizen, begins a futile anti-war propaganda campaign, after losing his son in battle. Hallucinations, caused by dehydration, heat and exhaustion mutate the ‘coach’ into Otto’s Gestapo interrogator. FALASDMcCullagh completes the marathon, as his futile attempt to deny the ageing process, in a similar time to that he recorded in the first Belfast marathon in 1981. 35,000 ‘Heroes’ also achieve their goal, but the remainder succumb to their personal interrogation. The story examines the ageing process, advances in ambient assisted living technology, and contrasts societal changes in Berlin with McCullagh’s home town of Belfast, over a 40 year epoch.

KEY POINTS Ambient technology can support wellness, Never get old.

Never Get Old (Last Call With Carson Daly, 2003)

KEY QUOTE ‘In the future, the treatment of chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease cannot be sustained by the health system. We are at a crossroads. It is important that we embrace the wellness paradigm. Technology can help.’

NEXT UP. All my idiot questions. Let’s face the music and dance. Richard Fitch

Memories of a Bowie Conference: 15. I Could Make it all Worthwhile


Julie Lobalzo Wright The Extraordinary Rock Star as Film Star: David Bowie in The Man Who Fell to Earth

SPEAKER Julie Lobalzo Wright wrote her thesis on male music stars in British and American cinema and has a chapter in The Music Documentary: Acid Rock to Electropop (Routledge 2013)

bowiecannesSYNOPSIS Challenges the perceived failure of rock stars to become cinematic stars by focusing on one example where all the elements of the rock star image fit within the cinema and examines Bowie’s excessive music star image and performance, in The Man Who Fell to Earth, particularly focusing on his queer alien image.

KEY POINTS Rock stars are a difficult fit within film star theory. Dyer’s assertion that stars must “stay broadly the same” (Dyer, 2004) can be at odds with music stars consistently changing their image. bingWhile David Bowie embodies these tensions, his first starring role in The Man Who Fell to Earth (Roeg, 1976) is one of the few examples of a rock star successfully crossing over. His star has also occupied a space at the margins due to his androgynous, queer image.

At the Cannes International Film Festival (1978) / 
With Bing Crosby (1977)
'Star' with live footage (1972)
KEY QUOTE ‘Bowie’s moderate success as a crossover star in the cinema is due to three main areas associated with his music star image: visual transformation, emphasis on performance and his non-naturalistic, 'alien' image. All three areas are encapsulated by Bowie’s queer iconography, especially his androgynous persona. These areas all intersect in The Man Who Fell to Earth and are part of the reason his star image was such a perfect fit for the character of Thomas Newton. However, these areas also contribute to his inability to become a significant film star.’
Russell Harty interviews a television set about David Bowie fame and fandom (1975)

A Strange Fascination?: Conference Report by Julie Lobalzo Wright

NEXT UP. Just the ring of the bell in the pure clean air. Paul McCullagh.