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Scary Monsters: Chop Suey Celebrates “Rock’s First Chameleon” With Bowie Tribute

Posted by October 27th, 2005 No Comments »

Scary Monsters: David Bowie Cover Night on All Hallow’s Eve
October 31 @ Chop Suey
By Adam Lawrence

Covering the songs of David Bowie should be as synonymous with Halloween as the Great Pumpkin or UNICEF.

Forget the diminished returns on his albums in the last few years, or the ill-advised Public Offering of his song catalog. Even if Bowie’s career stalled after Ziggy Stardust, we’d still be talking about his effect on the Theater of Rock 35 years later.

Fact is, David Bowie is rock’s first, and best, chameleon. Bowie isn’t even his real last name. When Bowie, as Ziggy Stardust, first touched down in 1970, neither he nor his fans could possibly predict the staggering impact a guy in makeup and glitter could make on popular music. To his detractors, he was merely another long-haired hippie, but Bowie understood the envelopes he was pushing. Rock music wasn’t just an exercise in going into the studio and churning out album after album. To Bowie, playing music meant playing a character as well, and a song could quickly become as evocative as a painting.

Scary Monsters: David Bowie Cover Night on All Hallow’s Eve
October 31 @ Chop Suey
By Adam Lawrence

Covering the songs of David Bowie should be as synonymous with Halloween as the Great Pumpkin or UNICEF.

Forget the diminished returns on his albums in the last few years, or the ill-advised Public Offering of his song catalog. Even if Bowie’s career stalled after Ziggy Stardust, we’d still be talking about his effect on the Theater of Rock 35 years later.

Fact is, David Bowie is rock’s first, and best, chameleon. Bowie isn’t even his real last name. When Bowie, as Ziggy Stardust, first touched down in 1970, neither he nor his fans could possibly predict the staggering impact a guy in makeup and glitter could make on popular music. To his detractors, he was merely another long-haired hippie, but Bowie understood the envelopes he was pushing. Rock music wasn’t just an exercise in going into the studio and churning out album after album. To Bowie, playing music meant playing a character as well, and a song could quickly become as evocative as a painting.

When Bowie grew tired of playing the same androgynous spaceman over and over, he slipped into a more comfortable costume – the Thin White Duke. As the Duke, Bowie explored his R&B roots, bringing horns and other elements of funk into his repertoire. A few years later, he was mimicked himself, as Ziggy gave birth to countless glam acts and self-aware misfits who would never have put their foot in the door if not for Bowie.

Through the years, Bowie has played many roles: Visionary, freak, genius, statesman, clown, and each role he played came with a costume.

That said, whoever came up with idea for Scary Monsters: David Bowie Cover Night deserves an extra bag of candy corn this year. The event will feature a host of great local bands paying homage to Bowie through songs from all points of his career. And to top it all off, the cover is by donation and all proceeds go to Hurricane Katrina relief.

To give you, dear reader, an idea of what to expect, we’ve asked the participating bands to pitch in their two cents on what Bowie means to them, and why they chose the songs they’ll perform come Halloween.

Matt Garman, Promoter
David Bowie is one of my all-time favorite rock and roll songwriter/performers. I love him for the same reasons everyone else does: groundbreaking compositions, near-perfect songwriting, fearless ingenuity, overwhelming charisma, and outrageous image-making. He’s beautiful, weird, funny, and he’s married to Iman. He has one gray eye that is only noticeable in photos. He wrote concept albums about aliens invading the Earth and futuristic art-crimes. It’s highly likely he’s slept with Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, Mick Jagger, Trent Reznor and at least one of the members of the Arcade Fire. He worked with Brian Eno. He made Hunky Dory.

Scary Monsters: David Bowie Cover Night to benefit victims of Hurricane Katrina began with a phone call from a friend of mine at NW Nightlife Support. She proposed a benefit show, I proposed a cover night, thinking Bowie all along. Chop Suey’s response: “Bowie. Halloween! Scary Monsters. Ageless. Timeless. Beautiful. Weird. See you there.”

Matt Kristiansen, Half Acre Day
Half Acre Day chose “Space Oddity” because of a deep collective interest in astronomy; throughout our respective schooling, each member was known for taking up space. We were also known for being odd. The choice was obvious… there was nothing we could do.

Cameron Nicklaus, The Pale Pacific
As an 11 year-old kid watching Labyrinth, I was both mesmerized and frightened by Jereth, the Goblin King, while at the same time in love with Sarah. Truth be told, I was more interested in my monthly Young Astronauts of America newsletter than music, but the combination of fear, awe, and love I felt watching that movie opened a door in my heart that Bowie easily walked through.

Jasen Samford, Speaker Speaker
David Bowie doesn’t stick to one particular form or style of music, yet he always rocks. Whether it be his good old-fashioned rockers or ballads, Bowie always seems to get it right.

It is so common these days to hear bands finding “their sound” and sticking to it. For this show, Speaker Speaker decided to mix it up a bit, stepping outside of their up-beat rock n’ roll element with “Changes,” while doing what they do best and rocking “Queen Bitch” and “Suffragette City.”

Kirk Bentley, Pleasurecraft
We chose to do “Rebel Rebel” and “China Girl.” We all remember watching Bowie do “Rebel Rebel” at Live Aid and it was amazing. The crowd was going completely berserk and he looked great. That performance seems to encapsulate that dandyish Bowie persona for some of us in the band – glamour, fashion, gorgeous melodies and hooks in a head-on collision with that giant rocking guitar riff through the whole tune. The pulse, push and energy of “Rebel Rebel” feels like a great night out at the best club throwing the best party on Saturday night. It’s the party you want to be and be seen at.

“China Girl” on the other hand exudes an entirely different vibe but still has a lot of the same feelings attached. For us, the glamour and sexiness of this song are undeniable, along with the images from the video. Vocally, there is a crooning element that we always find attractive. Musically, we felt we could transform this into a Depeche Mode-style European dance tune – dark, mysterious and infectiously dancey.

Peter Marchese, Voyager One
David Bowie is one of the Holy trinity of seventies glam rock for us (including Roxy Music and T. Rex) so we thought it would be fun to cover “Heroes” even though it’s technically past his glam period. Heroes the album is just so adventurous and forward thinking for the time. I love that half the record is just weird instrumental stuff and the other half is experimental pop songs.

Colin Johnson, Mercir
“Starman” was one of the first Bowie songs I ever heard. I’m a bit of a late-comer to David Bowie, having heard the track for the first time in 1995. Having grown up on a healthy dose of classic rock radio, Bowie’s unconventional approach to songwriting was a startling discovery for me. Enthralled with his early (and more straightforward) Ziggy Stardust-era songs from the two-disc Singles Collection, it took a few more years of musical development to fully appreciate groundbreaking albums like Diamond Dogs, Station to Station, and my all time favorite Low.

As a musician, artist, theatrical performer, and fashion chameleon, Bowie continues to be a source of inspiration for the band and me personally. What I admire most about Bowie is his ability to adapt and change personas with ease and credibility. Though his commitment to change sometimes left his casual listeners behind, he challenged his hardcore fans to think about music in new ways. Like our other heroes, Beck and Bjork, Bowie was always light years ahead of his time. For all the talk about how he forever changed the course of rock & electronic music history, his impact is perhaps at its greatest at its most personal; he’s helped countless bands like us challenge ourselves as artists.

Sean Wolcott, Izabelle
While we love the Ziggy era, “Jean Genie” and “Watch That Man” are highlights of Aladdin Sane, with Bowie’s usual weirdness/brilliance mixing with what may be his most rock n’ roll album. Bowie described the record as “Ziggy in America.” The raw, Stooges-esque mutated blues quality of the songs is great, while being very traditional but progressive at the same time. “All The Young Dudes” is Bowie’s “Hey Jude.” What more can be said?


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