Starman’s Haddon Hall

@ Haddon Hall, april 1971 alt.jpeg
in the Mr Fish dress, Haddon Hall, 1971

Paul Trynka’s book titled Starman (2011) was written well before David Bowie’s passing away but is probably still the most definitive biography. There have been countless publications since but Trynka manages to cover the complexity and detail of the subject that is Bowie, formally David Jones of Bromley.

Amidst the volume of material in circulation includes certain procedures Bowie employs in his songwriting process. There’s the famous scissor sequence vid in which Bowie gives you a DIY lyric method according to William S. Burrows (see below). Nonetheless, artists aren’t always given to revealing their secrets. They’re even known to mislead. Trynka gives needed perspective focusing on Bowie’s growth as a songsmith, especially during the Haddon Hall period. Rick Wakeman was taken aback on first hearing a swatch of songs Bowie demoed on his Hagstrom twelve-string. “David, you’ve got some blinders”. Wakeman was soon to join Yes but had the good fortune to session for Hunky Dory and the rest is history.

Much has been written on the meaning of Bowie’s lyrics especially during this period. The trippy sci-fi and americana imagery have led to some wild theories. Certainly, he took to UFO spotting on Hampstead Heath and sought out bootleg recordings of such outsider artists as Kim Fowley and Stardust Cowboy. To him the current zeitgeist needed a shake up and who better to do it then him? By the time he entered Trident Studios he hit his stride: “Don’t listen to the words, they don’t mean anything.” (preparing for another vocal take) “I’ve just written them for the American market, they like this kind of thing”.

Trynka describes the Haddon Hall period as critical in Bowie’s development and perhaps the most fertile in his career. One wonders if the Song Five Years has added meaning. Perhaps, but Trynka would have enlightened us given his scholastic rigour.

Dana Gillespie who also signed with MainMan knew Bowie from the early days. As a close confidant, she witnessed the stage persona gradually morph into the fully fledged Ziggy Stardust. She saw something special even in those early years as a fellow singer – a certain theatre in his delivery over and above his contemporaries. Uninhibited he plotted a path untrodden until finally, as the Ziggy persona emerged, his multimedia vision was complete. The writing and lyrics, the symbolic costumery and choreography all came together. The Haddon Hall period saw the conversion from folkie singer to space alien. With Angie Bowie’s critical contributions along with The Spiders, the theatrical juggernaut was unstoppable.

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