Monday, 22 February 2016

Ian Smith/Bowie

Michief La Bas head honcho and five-star solo artist Ian Smith introduces a familiar face

as told to Gareth K Vile


David Bowie may seem a cheesy and obvious choice, but it has to be my choice because I have been following his every move and batting of eyelash for about forty years. You’ll hear this story from everyone, from Boy George, everyone who was completely transformed by the Starman appearance on Top of the Pops in 1972. It did change the world for lots of outsider freakos living in grim suburbs of London, who suddenly realised you could be anything you wanted, even something from another planet.

That has informed my thinking ever since; he is an artist of the twentieth and twenty-first century, and has probably introduced more concepts, styles and subversive thinking to the popular consciousness than anyone else. I was thirteen when I got into him, and he was the first person who was mine. I’d had a huge education in popular culture from my brother who was seven years older than me, so I had been (vicariously) a mod, a greaser, this and that on my brother’s coat-tails. But this was for me and has been ever since.

There are tracks on The Man Who Sold the World that mention Winston Churchill, Kalil Gibran, about seven kinds of religion, gangsterism, et cetera et cetera, and you were then inspired to explore all these things. Jung. I mean, who the hell was Jung? And that was in a top ten pop record.

I went with my brother to the last tour in both Wembley and Glasgow, and it was one of the finest moments of my life to share with my brother who had always led me. And when he did numbers like Waterloo Sunset – for me, as a London boy, it was about as close to bliss as I could get.

Everybody knows what he has done on his erratic and interesting journey: it is like having a freakish big brother, and I'm not disappointed in the least that he seems to be settling down now. He has done enough, surely! He inspired me to realise that you could be your own person, dress it up a bit and that was enough. Theatre, art and music, my three favourite things, all in one package that looks brilliant. What more do you want?

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