I once asked John Lennon what he thought of what I do. He said, “It’s great, but its just rock and roll with lipstick on.”
David Bowie was a genius marketer who knew well that a guy sometimes needs to put on some lipstick to get the attention he deserves. This is a list of things he did with intention of capturing his audience interests—and imagination.
- Created work relevant to the times and events that surrounded him. “Space Oddity” was inspired by Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and it was released a few days ahead of the Apollo 11 moon landing on July 20, 1969.
[“Space Oddity”] was written because of going to see the film 2001, which I found amazing. I was out of my gourd anyway, I was very stoned when I went to see it, several times, and it was really a revelation to me.”
- Declared himself gay during an interview with Melody Maker magazine in 1972. He later corrected this fact, although acknowledged that it was a great tool for self-promotion
It’s true—I am a bisexual. But I can’t deny that I’ve used that fact very well. I suppose it’s the best thing that ever happened to me.
- Created a gay, androgynous persona—Ziggy Stardust—to liberate and reinvent himself
I wanted to imbue Ziggy with real flesh and blood and muscle, and it was imperative that I find Ziggy and be him. The irony of it was that I was not gay. I was physical about it, but frankly it wasn’t enjoyable.
- Played a “blowjob guitar solo” with Mick Ronson and distributed photos to newspapers, which got him a great deal of attention
Mick was the perfect foil for the Ziggy character. He was very much a salt-of-the-earth type, the blunt northerner with a defiantly masculine personality, so that what you got was the old-fashioned Yin and Yang thing. As a rock duo, I thought we were every bit as good as Mick and Keith or Axl and Slash. Ziggy and Mick were the personification of that rock n roll dualism.
- Drew inspiration from musicians who made performance an essential part of their act: Little Richard, Vince Taylor, Iggy Pop, Velvet Underground, etc.
Vince Taylor really became one of the building blocks of the Ziggy character. I just thought he was too good to be true, he was of another world, he was something else, and he was definitely part of the blue print of thus strange character that came from nowhere.
- Became a staple of pop culture by appearing in movies always playing characters that reinforced his on-stage persona.
I get offered so many bad movies. And they’re all raging queens or transvestites or Martians.
Overall, Bowie knew to give people what they wanted, be it controversy, sexual liberation, performance, costumes… in one word: Entertainment. He also knew to acknowledge when he had gone too far.
[I]t seemed obvious that the way to make money was give people what they want. So I started giving people what they wanted. And the downside of that is that I think it dried me up as an artist completely. Because I wasn’t used to doing that.
This last quote really summarizes David Bowie’s views on self-promotion
When you think about it, Adolf Hitler was the first pop star.