When Bowie was proclaiming his love for Hitler, hundreds of thousands of youth were declaring their detestation of racism and fascism
I must confess I was never star struck by David Bowie. He and Starman were the left overs of the
1960’s. Bowie was one of the stars of
glam rock, a musical form that ended up with Garry Glitter. Ziggy’s music was an ephemeral mix. For sure he had talent but his music was
essentially derivative, a mix of styles but little that was innovative. There were no really great songs, more
glimpses of a possibility of something. Bowie was a man of his time but one who
ultimately reflected the more reactionary of moods and styles.
It is noticeable how, in his death, Bowie has been hailed as the ultimate
rebel by the BBC and the corporate media.
It suggests that his rebellion was one of style not substance.
In his famous Playboy interview of September 1976 he declared, quite
absurdly, that ‘Rock stars are fascists.
Adolf Hitler was one of the first rock stars.’
Bowie in his glam rock phase
PLAYBOY: How so?
BOWIE: Think about it. Look at some of his films and see how he moved. I
think he was quite as good as Jagger. It’s astounding. And boy, when he hit
that stage, he worked an audience. Good God! He was no politician. He was a
media artist. He used politics and theatrics and created this thing that
governed and controlled the show for 12 years. The world will never see his
like again. He staged a country […] People aren’t very bright, you know? They
say they want freedom, but when they get the chance, they pass up Nietzsche and
choose Hitler because he would march into a room to speak and music and lights
would come on at strategic moments. It was rather like a rock ‘n roll concert.
The kids would get very excited – girls got hot and sweaty and guys wished it
was them up there. That, for me, is the rock ‘n roll experience.
And in that paragraph alone, Bowie summed up his own superficiality. Hitler was a ‘media artist’ – not someone who
was prepared to sentence 30 million Russians to death by hunger.
David Bowie dabbled with neo-nazism
during the mid-1970s – he was quoted as saying
that “Britain could benefit from a Fascist leader”, and talked of speeding up
“the progress of a right-wing totally
dictatorial tyranny”. Bowie also gave a Nazi
salute to fans at Victoria Station from a car, though he denied it and claimed
it was a wave.
Bowie in the 1960’s
In an interview
with Playboy in September 1976 Bowie declared that
“Britain is ready for a
fascist leader… I think Britain could benefit from a fascist leader. After all,
fascism is really nationalism… I believe very strongly in fascism, people have
always responded with greater efficiency under a regimental leadership…Adolf
Hitler was one of the first rock stars…You’ve got to have an extreme right
front come up and sweep everything off its feet and tidy everything up.”
‘David Bowie has made a career out of reinventing himself, both physically and musically,
but his most controversial persona was his Thin White Duke character from 1976,
a self-described “emotionless Aryan superman” that Bowie developed
for his Station to Station album. Around this time, Bowie would make
several pro-fascist comments during interviews, including praises of
nationalism and Adolf Hitler, culminating in a famous photograph of Bowie allegedly giving a Nazi
salute. In later years, Bowie would blame his actions during this time on his
heavy drug use and commitment to the Thin White Duke persona.’
an interview with New Musical Express in August 1975 Bowie declares that rock and roll is dead, not an entirely novel
prediction. When asked if he seriously
meant that he responds
“Absolutely. It’s a toothless old woman. It’s
NME: So what’s the next
BOWIE: “Dictatorship,” says Bowie. “There will be a political figure in the not too distant
future who’ll sweep this part of the world like early rock and roll did.
“You probably hope I’m not right. But I am. My predictions are very
accurate … always.”….
“You’ve got to have an extreme right front come up and sweep everything
off its feet and tidy everything up. Then you can get a new form of liberalism.
“There’s some form of ghost force liberalism permeating the air in
America, but it’s got to go, because it’s got no foundation at all….
“So the best thing that can happen is for an extreme right Government
to come. It’ll do something positive at least to the cause commotion in people
and they’ll either accept the dictatorship or get rid of it.
But there was another side to the 1970’s and it wasn’t represented by Bowie but in the reaction to the growth of the National Front in the mid-1970’s and the racist proclamations by musicians such as Bowie and Eric Clapton. It was the formation of Rock Against Racism in 1978, with its massive concerts in Victoria Park in London and Manchester that opposition to racism found its voice. And Bowie was nowhere to be seen or heard.