As mentioned recently in this post, I’m currently winding my way through Sean Egan’s collection of interviews with ol’ Ziggy, “Bowie on Bowie.” I was struck yesterday by a particular passage. During a chat circa 1989 with all the members of the star-crossed Tin Machine, Bowie unleashed this somewhat surprising revelation.
Q: Have you listened to very much hardcore?
Bowie: Thrash metal I *LOVE*. Or Speed Metal. It's actually been around America for a while. It kicked off in about `78 or `79 in California. It's become the California sound in a way. Now New York has picked up on it. Actually, I say I love it, it depends on who the band are.
Seems like ol' Dave might have been confusing his chronology and his terms (although, to be fair, with so many sub-genre qualifiers like "hardcore," "thrash," "speed-metal," one might forgive him). And if he's talking about "thrash" or "speed-metal," I don't believe that really got started until about 1981 or so. If it's hardcore -- as in "hardcore punk" -- he's referring to, he may be correct, although some might strenuously quibble with his assertion that it "kicked off" in California.
I wonder if this was inspired by his then-recent stint of sharing camera time with Cro-Mags founder Harley Flanagan and other members of the NYHC gang during the video shoots for that first Tin Machine album (as I discussed here). Regardless, I love the notion of Bowie “loving” all things thrash, as much as it’s sort of a mental disconnect.
To be fair, Bowie’s always been a remarkably open-eared individual. Several years back, I remember spotting the great man himself grinning approvingly from the balcony at Webster Hall during a rafter-shaking performance by the Secret Machines (as I documented on this prehistoric post).
Bowie was also usually pretty clued into what was happening at the moment, whether consciously or not. Witness his early championing of Devo, his dalliance with Klaus Nomi, and Bob Gruen’s shot of him below of hanging out at the Mudd Club with the late Linda Stein, Danny Fields and the brothers Ramone. One wonders what sort of chat Bowie had with Dee Dee.
Inspired by that quote, I tried of find any evidence of Bowie checking out any thrash bands, but came up largely empty (although I did find a fairly amusing cover of “Let’s Dance” by funereally Teutonic metal band, Atrocity). If Bowie ever went to check out anyone like Anthrax or Exodus or Slayer, I couldn’t find any pictures of it.
Perhaps he was just trying to beef up Tin Machine’s wafer-thin cred with the metal crowd at the time (who largely ignored Tin Machine, as did most of the rest of the world). Personally speaking, I still really like that first record. Can’t say I ever heard its sequel.
Regardless, this seemed like a good excuse to exhume both Bowie’s Tin Machine turn at the Ritz on East 11th Street (featuring fleeting cameos by New York hardcore alumni Harley Flanagan and Stephen from False Prophets). It would be in this very same room pictured sixteen years later that I’d spy Bowie in the balcony at that Secret Machines gig.
And, lastly, here’s Bowie and Trent Reznor doing “I’m Afraid of Americans,” paying homage to Scrosese films like “Taxi Driver” and — WAIT FOR IT — “After Hours.” This is one of my most favorite NYC-centric videos ever.