David Bowie was king of the goblins in one of the strangest movies of the 1980s and the king of weirdos in real life. He was a rock star, a pop star, an actor, an artist. He wore outrageous costumes on stage, a sartorial middle finger to gender conventions, publicly flying his freak flag while shrugging at the fame and glamour this brought him. Two new books celebrate Bowie's embrace of subversive subcultures, and the inspiration and comfort that even his earliest interviews and performances gave to his fandom of outcasts and rebels.
David Bowie: The Last Interview presents Bowie's first-ever interview, when he was just 16; his final interview, as part of a BBC show with Ricky Gervais; and several of his most thoughtful conversations in between. Bowie A-Z: The Life of an Icon From Aladdin Sane to Ziggy Stardust is a visual survey of Bowie's aesthetic transformations and influences, from his mime studies in the 1960s to his penchant for jumpsuits and makeup to the alter egos he adopted for the stage.
Below, we've collected our favorite Bowie quotes and illustrations from both books. They offer a little inspiration, a little validation, and a refreshing new way of looking at the world.
On Why It's OK to Not *Love* Partying
"I never really went clubbing very much…Like once a week or something. Which actually, in that time, was not very much. I mean, those kids used to go every night and hang out till seven in the morning. I liked going to art museums and bits of theater, things like that. I wasn't really that concerned with that many clubs." — To Kurt Loder in Rolling Stone, April 1987
On Not Shunning Everyone Who Thinks Differently From You
"To put down a society or the aims of a society is to put down a hell of a lot of people and that scares me that there should be such a division where one set of people are saying that another set should be killed. You know you can't put down anybody. You can just try to understand. The emphasis shouldn't be on revolution, it should be on communication." — To Patrick Salvo in Interview, March 1973
On What to Ask Yourself When You Look in the Mirror Every Morning
"Are you a good friend, a stand-up guy, or a flake?" — To Alexander McQueen, when Bowie interviewed McQueen for Dazed and Confused, November 1996
On Refusing to Let Sexuality Be One's Most Defining Characteristic
"Sexuality and where it is going is an extraordinary question, for I don't see it going anywhere. It is with me, and that's it...Everything you can think about sexuality is just there. Maybe there are different kinds of sexuality, maybe they'll be brought into play more. Like one time it was impossible to be homosexual as far as the public were concerned. Now it is accepted. Sexuality will never change, for people have been fucking their own particular ways since time began and will continue to do it. Just more of those ways will be coming to light." — To William Burroughs in Rolling Stone, February 1974
On Embracing Each and Every Birthday
Kurt Loder: "Has turning 40 made you reflective?"
David Bowie: "No, not at all. Now I feel I can do and say what I want." — To Kurt Loder in Rolling Stone, April 1987
On Using Recording Studio Mishaps as a Metaphor for Life
"Accidents will happen, and sometimes planned accidents work out really well. If there's a bad note, you can layer that note several times with other instruments, and suddenly that bad note sounds like an extraordinary piece of arrangement." — To Vox Pop, March 1987
On Why Women Should Probably Just Be in Charge of Everything (Ahem)
"I cannot think of a situation where a woman could not do an equal if not better job than a man. Possibly, a situation requiring only brute strength may be the exception, but here again, a woman would be smart enough to organize the right person for the job. In that singular case, probably a man." — To Iman in Bust, Fall 2000
On Being Yourself, Instead of Trying Too Hard
"I was never very hot on sophisticated taste when it got too sophisticated. I didn't mind a sense of elegance and style, but I liked it when things were a bit off—a bit sort of fish-and-chips shop." — To Kurt Loder in Rolling Stone, April 1987
On Embracing a Real Netflix-and-Chill Lifestyle
"I don't believe in proper cinema; it doesn't have the strength of television. People having to go out to the cinema is really archaic. I'd much rather sit at home." — To William Burroughs in Rolling Stone, February 1974
On the Difference Between Fame and Fulfillment
"I was more than downcast to find that fame brought nothing more than good seats in a restaurant. There is nothing there to covet. The nature of fame seems to have shifted recently. I understand that it doesn't even get you a Madonna ticket these days. So I won't be recommending it to my offspring. Having influence is more rewarding for feeding ego. Satisfaction and excitement with one's work is the biggest buzz, though." — To Tracey Emin in The Guardian, July 2001
On One Great Fashion Truth
"Wide shoulders are the flared trousers of the '80s." — To Kurt Loder in Rolling Stone, April 1987