Clearly, David Bowie is not the "homo superior" he once claimed and many believed him to be. That claim and belief were based on Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust, two records of startling genius which will be among the great albums of the Seventies. But since then Bowie has disappointed even his most rabid devotees. Aladdin Sane was frustratingly uneven, Pinups was trivial, and now comes Diamond Dogs, perhaps Bowie's worst album in six years.
is a remote man whose mind remains mysteriousbut two considerations are worth entertaining. First Bowie's earlier records did not sell particularly well in the U.S. despite his successes in England, which certainly must rankle so vainglorious a man. And this may have prompted Bowie to hope that if America didn't eat him up when he was good, it might when he was bad.
From Aladdin Sane on, Bowie has tended to pander to what he thinks the public wants and to imitate those who have been more successful than heAlice Cooper and Mick Jagger, for instance. He has deliberately cheapened himself and his music.
Secondly, as it continues to elude him, Bowie has become more and more obsessed with superstardom and its trappings, which is why he has dropped his forename and now styles himself, in emulation of Garbo and Brando, simply Bowie. Hunky Dory and Ziggy were conceived with care in solitude; since then Bowie's energies have been directed toward stardom at the expense of his music, which he now seems to regard almost with contempt.
Why else would he elect to play lead guitar on Diamond Dogs? Guitarist Mick Ronson was always one of the best things about Bowie and for Bowie to replace him is like Mick Jagger filling in for Keith Richard.
Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust were great because of the challenges they presented. Bowie dared listeners to confront a novel and alien sensibility; dared them to reexamine their smug sexual assumptions; dared them to question their comfortable relation to rock 'n' roll, which had become merely a commodity little different from mayonnaise or aluminum siding. He promised that music could again matter, as it had before Dylan, the Beatles and so many others maundered into what was at once middle age and second childhood. In short, Bowie challenged us and our music, both mired in a deathly complacency, to change:
Look out you Rock'n Rollers
Turn and face the strange
Pretty soon you're gonna get a little older.*
Bowie was never very specific about the nature of these changes, but at least he saw their necessity, and the proof seemed in the puddingin the zest, energy and originality of Hunky Dory and Ziggy. What made the challenge so inviting were Bowie's prodigious talents as a writer, arranger