David Bowie: The Last Five Years previewed

Filmmaker Francis Whatley tells us about his new David Bowie doc, which airs on BBC Two this Saturday, January 7

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The last track, “Heat”, kind of foreshadows Blackstar…
But if you notice, he does that on every album. So ‘Queen Bitch’ should have been on Ziggy Stardust. There seems to be a song on every album that should be on the next album. So we look at ‘Sue’, we look at Blackstar from the point of view of how it relates back to the past. Mark Plati has a lovely idea about Major Tom in the “Blackstar” video. You feel, Major Tom’s OK now – he’s relaxed, he’s at peace. Bowie was constantly saying, I don’t look back at the past, I’m just forward thinking. To some extent that’s true, but to some extent it’s a complete lie. I think he was absolutely fascinated by his past, and the mythology. There are obviously musical references to his past, but I think he was fascinated by the mythology.

Like the exhibition.
Who organized that? To have an exhibition while you’re alive, to allow it to happen, suggests there was a tying up of ends. An artist would look after their legacy and their life and how it was perceived. What I think is so extraordinary about Bowie is he got some many different aspects of how the world works. There are some amazing musicians out there but they don’t seem to understand PR, they don’t to understand marketing and they don’t understand advertising and they don’t understand how to present themselves elsewhere. But he understood it all. Because he was so well-read and so well-versed and he spoke to so many people and he worked with the best people whoever they were from whatever field. He got so much. He was a generalist, but he was also a Renaissance Man. He really got it. The idea that he stage-managed his death is not very surprising, really. It’s what you would expect from that man. It’s whether you expect a man who was ill to have done so much and to have done it so well.


Why Lazarus?
He bought the rights [to The Man Who Fell To Earth]. He had them in the Seventies. Then he re-bought them because they ran out, whenever it was, in the 90s? He was fascinated with that character. He identified with that character.

I always thought that ‘alien’ character was the one that lodged itself most permanently into broader consciousness.
It’s the beautiful alien, the remote other. We have a section about growing up in suburbia and he felt an outsider, even then. I think he always felt an outsider because presumable anyone with his talents would feel an outsider. You constantly need to feed off artists and sculptors and filmmakers and musicians and writers and all the rest of it because you’re not content with the world you’ve got, because your brain is so big. He’s so fascinated and interested in everything. The idea of whether he was gay – I don’t know, I don’t really care, I just think he was experimental with everything. So why wouldn’t you be experimental sexually if you were experimental with everything else?


The February 2017 issue of Uncut is now on sale in the UK – featuring our cover story on Leonard Cohen. Elsewhere in the issue, we look at the 50 Great Modern Protest Songs and our free CD collects 15 of the very best, featuring Ry Cooder, Jarvis Cocker, Roy Harper, Father John Misty, Hurray For The Riff Raff and Richard Thompson. The issue also features our essential preview of the key albums for 2017, including Roger Waters, Fleet Foxes, Paul Weller, The Jesus And Mary Chain, the Waterboys and more. Plus Leon Russell, Mike Oldfield, Ty Segall, Tift Merritt, David Bowie, Japandroids, The Doors, Flaming Lips, Wilco, The XX, Grateful Dead, Mark Eitzel and more plus 139 reviews


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