David Bowie was a musician, actor, performer and icon. Since he died, I finally got round to listening to all of his albums, several times over. Being most into music for the first time in the ’80s, and only getting more into albums in the second half of the decade, I still love Never Let Me Down, even if no-one else does. All of his first few albums are quite brilliant, especially his first one. Please Mr Gravedigger is quite something, while Come And Buy My Toys is a song that Madonna clearly used in the background for Don’t Tell Me.
However, when it comes to the albums featured in this programme, for me, there’s one or two good songs on each, some reasonable ones, but between the two, while Where Are We Now? felt powerful at first, it soon felt lyrically sparse mostly made up of list of Berlin street names, while Blackstar is overlong, self-indulgent and directionless. I know Berlin was a period in his life which he loved, but as a song… nope; and for the title track of his final album, I guess someone will have to explain it to me because I just cannot get a handle on it whatsoever. I know that won’t be a popular opinion, but then I’ve got used to that for my love of his aforementioned 1987 LP.
Still, from director Francis Whately who also made 2013’s Five Years documentary, there’s also a look at his musical, Lazarus, with Dexter‘s Michael C Hall as Thomas Jerome Newton from The Man Who Fell To Earth, plus Amy Lennox and Sophia Anne Caruso. It also takes in footage from his final tour in 2003, for the album Reality. Going back on stage for the longest tour he ever performed, and at the age of 57, he sadly had to cancel late on due to failing health. Finally, there are earlier portions of archive footage with chat from his backing band and the man, himself.
Everyone who met Bowie wished they had got to know him better and to have found out a lot more about him, but he was a very secretive person, and very self-depreciating, even just referring to himself, when speaking to a doorman, as “David” and nothing more, despite him being one of the most famous musicians on the planet.
OVerall, this is a very engaging documentary but I did prefer the first Five Years one as it covered five individual albums in detail, rather than five consecutive years, even though he kept his private life even more private in later life.
David Bowie: The Last Five Years isn’t yet scheduled for a Blu-ray or DVD release, but you can watch it on BBC2 tonight at 9pm, followed by Nicolas Roeg‘s The Man Who Fell To Earth, and then watch it on BBC iPlayer until February 6th.
Five Years will be shown again on Friday January 13th at 11pm on BBC4, and then on BBC iPlayer soon after.
Director/Producer: Francis Whately