MoPop Unveils “David Bowie: Starman” By Mick Rock

Mick Rock celebrates the life and talent of David Bowie in his newest show, “David Bowie: Starman” opening at MoPop Seattle tomorrow, July 1st. David Bowie released his final album, “Blackstar” on his 69th birthday, January 8, 2016 and sadly died two days later from cancer. Four generations of fans mourned his passing.

He was one of a kind, with a voice that could soar from baritone to a falsetto. “Rolling Stone” called him “a consummate musical chameleon . . . a folksinger, androgyne, alien, decadent, blue-eyed soul man, art-rocker and a modern pop star, with each persona spawning a new league of imitators.”

The Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) adds to this string of adjectives with a rare photo exhibition of the famous rocker, titled “David Bowie: Starman.” Get tickets and more info here.

Opening July 1st, it features 65 of Mick Rock’s photographs shot between 1972 and 1973 at a time when Bowie was redefining glam rock as the androgynous alien rock star Ziggy Stardust–the breakthrough record that made Bowie a star.

David Bowie in Kansai Yamamoto leotard. Photo by Mick Rock

David Bowie in Kansai Yamamoto leotard. Photo by Mick Rock

Born David Robert Jones in South London, he changed his name to David Bowie (after the infamous knife) to avoid confusion with the Monkees’ Davy Jones,

Bowie merged music and fashion in a myriad of creative identities while remaining true to himself.  He was theatrical and flamboyant–his showmanship is legend. His style and unconventional artistry set him apart.  It was said that his songs were a salve for the alienated and the misfits of the world. Bowie put it this way. “It’s always time to question what has become standard and established, he said. “Tomorrow belongs to those who can hear it coming.”

He patterned the clothes, hair, and makeup of his space-alien alter ego Ziggy Stardust on the Malcom McDowell character in A Clockwork Orange, and on William Burroughs book “Wild Boys.”  There is a plaque outside the pub in London where Bowie first created the Ziggy Stardust character. Bowie performed there when it was The Three Tuns. Now it’s called The Rat and Parrot.

Rock’s photos capture Bowie’s creativity and charisma– from dressing room shots of his transformation into Ziggy Stardust and live performances to private moments between gigs. The exhibit includes rare performance footage and interviews with Bowie, as well as early music videos directed by Rock. The gallery will also include oral history interviews and an audio tour narrated by Rock, who shares intimate accounts of his experiences with Bowie.

He considers himself “a guardian of Bowie’s image,” and Bowie obviously agreed. He believed Rock understood and conveyed his true feelings of himself and his music. Rock also produced and directed the seminal music videos for Bowie: “John, I’m Only Dancing,” “Jean Genie,” “Space Oddity,” and “Life on Mars.”

David Bowie. Life on Mars, 1973 by Mick Rock

David Bowie. Life on Mars, 1973 by Mick Rock

Described as “The Man Who Shot the Seventies,” Rock’s photos of other music icons–Lou Reed, Queen, Iggy Pop, and Blondie’s Debbie Harry–will also be on display. Rock was also the subject of the recent documentary, “SHOT! The Psycho Spiritual Mantra of Rock.”

Bowie also made his mark as an actor. He played the lead in Nicholas Roeg’s 1976 film, “The Man Who Fell to Earth” as–you guessed it– an alien. Four years later, he portrayed Joseph Merrick, who’d been deformed by a medical condition, in Broadway’s “The Elephant Man.”

Drawn to unusual characters, Bowie took the role of a vampire in 1983’s “The Hunger,” the Goblin King in 1986’s “Labyrinth,” Pontius Pilate in 1988’s “The Last Temptation of Christ” and Andy Warhol (about whom Bowie had once written a song) in 1996’s “Basquiat.”  In 2006, he portrayed Nikola Tesla in “The Prestige.”  He even voiced the character of Lord Royal Highness in US cartoon “SpongeBob SquarePants” in 2007.

His albums, especially after his 1972 breakthrough “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars,” were treated as events.  And his hit songs, including “Changes,” “Fame,” “Heroes” and “Modern Love,” bercame revered pop anthems that have inspired generations of fans and musicians.

FYI:  David Bowie shared a birthday with another musical icon—Elvis Presley. Same day, January 8th, but different years. Elvis was born in 1935, and Bowie in 1947.

In addition to the Bowie exhibition, Steve Fisk, co-producer of Nirvana’s “Blew EP,” in collaboration with Seattle-based interactive producer Bill Ronan will compose an original exhibition soundtrack and create a multimedia installation that blends the sound and vision of Bowie’s glittery space-alien persona.

About Mick Rock  .  .  .

Rock was instrumental in creating many key rock ‘n’ roll images, such as album covers for Syd Barrett’s “Madcap Laughs,” Lou Reed’s “Transformer” and “Coney Island Baby,” Iggy and The Stooges’ “Raw Power,” Queen’s “Queen II” (recreated for their classic music video “Bohemian Rhapsody”) and “Sheer Heart Attack,” The Ramones’ “End of the Century” and Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll,” among many others. He was the chief photographer on the films, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,”  “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” and “Shortbus.” He recently shot special stills for the new TV version of “Rocky Horror.”

Rock’s recent subjects include Snoop Dogg, Father John Misty, Lenny Kravitz, Janelle Monáe, Jimmy Fallon, The Black Keys, Karen O, Ellie Goulding, Alicia Keys, Michael Bublé, Daft Punk, Perry Farrell, Mötley Crüe, TV On the Radio, Pharrell, Josh Groban, Flaming Lips, Nas, Rufus Wainwright, Kings of Leon, R Kelly, The Black Lips, Queens of the Stone Age, and others. Get more info on Mick Rock here.

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About Starla Smith

Starla Smith is a career journalist, writing features for such publications as The New Yorker, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Daily News, The Des Moines Register, Vibe and a prize-winning Gannett Newspaper. She helped launch Theater Week Magazine and eventually became its publisher. As a regular contributor to Playbill, her interviews and photos were featured in Playbill and Playbill-on-line. Smith was featured in the New York Times "Style" section for her "Word Portraits," specialized tributes, speeches, and presentation profiles. And she covered theater and features for City Search, Digital City, and the Tena Duberry WOW! Radio show. She previously served as astrology guru for Out Magazine, and she hastens to assure her readers that "Starla" is indeed her real name.

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