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12 January 2016


Robin Carmody

Do you have me in mind, when you talk of Europhiles claiming Bowie as a European?

Robin Carmody

I mean, I think it's more legitimate than in most comparable instances because Bowie's music was much less Anglosphere-dominated in terms of its range of influences and reference points, and he lived quite a lot of his life in mainland Europe ... it's like how Paul McCartney could accept a knighthood because he had a basic respect ("the movement you need is on your shoulder" is pop's most 1945 line) for the post-war British state, and Mick Jagger could accept a knighthood because he had a basic respect for the British state which succeeded it (as his parents would have respected the British state which came before), but Bowie could not accept a knighthood because he was in a third, separate position.

Robin Carmody

"much less Anglosphere-dominated", that is, than e.g. the Rolling Stones or Led Zeppelin, or Tory crawlers like Eric Clapton; even when McCartney or sundry prog musicians aspired towards "Europe", it was the old-established high-cultural canon. The only other artists who did something comparable to Bowie in that respect never had anything like the profile or name with "regular" people, or the new-establishment status. So I think that's a perfectly reasonable case to make - and less contrived than other instances I've seen of people wanting people whose music they like to be on their side (the most extreme example of Getting the Future Wrong I have ever come across is probably Richard Gott's 1969 Guardian piece on the Rolling Stones in Hyde Park, which completely misunderstands their underlying politics and seems, in retrospect, unnecessarily cruel to the political consensus of the day).


"Do you have me in mind, when you talk of Europhiles claiming Bowie as a European?"

No - it's a Facebook group called New Europeans who were talking about a Great European. Certainly the description made sense. I agree - he does fit that description far more than Paul McCartney or Ray Davies could.


Also, Billy Bragg is pointing out that Bowie & Rickman were of the working class boy goes to art school generation. Far too expensive now, and less social mobility.

Robin Carmody

Ah, I thought you were thinking of my Facebook status almost immediately after his death, where I framed his spirit of pluralism very much as what we would need to invoke to stay in the EU.

The thing with Bowie is that his range of reference points and inspirations was so broad that, to some extent, he was whatever you wanted him to be; black American music was also always very important to him, and while recording 'Blackstar' he was by all accounts listening to Kendrick Lamar, about whom many Guardianistas hold views indistinguishable from Mailite ones. So everyone will have their own interpretation; as ever, I'll be the only one to see all sides and not be partisan towards any.

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  • Rosie Bell

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