Copy
View this email in your browser

Too Much to Dream
Brett Morgen extends Bowie's dislocation by
spinning out his lack of context


listen to audio narration here (3 mins) 

Moonage Daydream, Brett Morgen. Universal, 2022.

IN A GLUT of music documentaries where overlong counts as serious and talking heads sling clichés, we should be glad about Brett Morgen’s Moonage Daydream. It lets David Bowie do all the narrating, delivers riveting concert footage, and boasts a detailed audio design by Bowie’s longtime collaborator Tony Visconti. Like I Walk the Line, or Almost Famous, you hate to complain about movie sprawl when they nail the music, but at 2hrs 15mins this film will lose viewers simply because of its length. I looked at my watch after two hours, and I liked it.

Is it too much to expect music documentaries to adopt a structural narrative? Even casual observers can suss how much Morgen glosses over, including defining collaborations with Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, John Lennon, a messy divorce, a rabid cocaine habit, and a dumbfounding rock star death on the day of Black Star's 2016 release. (Morgen's Montage of Heck also pretended Kurt Cobain's addiction didn't figure.) At this moment in film history, our consensus around who controls the story requires fixed points. You don't need to create a comprehensive or even finely detailed timeline, but stick in a few dates, and trace a few threads, otherwise you open yourself to reactionaries who want to seize the narrative towards their own ends. "Everything is rubbish, and all rubbish is wonderful..." makes a nice tagline, but it's not an organizing principle. Going strictly didactic or complete freakout calls your credibility into question, and even when the freakout feels like the right move. You shouldn’t wear out your viewers with a musician they adore.
 
Moonage Daydream, Brett Morgen. Universal, 2022.
In "All the Young Dudes," Bowie defined himself by clinically detaching from the 1960s while borrowing key stylistic ingredients: psychedelia, misdirection, and all that Jimi Hendrix sci-fi twaddle. Here, Bowie seems like a pure product of his predecessors instead of a sleek attack on rock orthodoxy. Mostly, he seems giddy trying to explain his own half-baked notions. Bowie’s blather charms pretension itself, and now rhymes with that old Firesign Theater bit, Teslacle’s Deviant to Fudd’s Law: “If you push something hard enough, it will fall over…” Like Marx, or Freud, Nietzche gets name-dropped in inverse proportion to those who read or understand his quotations.

Bowie's lightning-bolt trademark lit up his cheeky grin; his bemused contempt enthralled TV interviewers. All this layered glamour freed up pop stories, but it took years to decode. Rock critic Chuck Eddy pointed out how his sci-fi characters meant more to a 1970s audience cracking old binaries. All of Bowie’s moves felt more unhinged without a containing frame of reference—so how best to describe to people born after 1990 or 2000 that his mission forged a clean break from the 1960s? Some dreams you don’t want to end, others turn into reruns before you awake.

more about Bowie's Sound + Vision box when Tim's next book arrives, see 
timrileyauthor.com
more on David Bowie 
On Bowie, Rob Sheffield. Dey Street, 2016. [see Bookshop]
The Accidental Evolution of Rock'n'Roll, Chuck Eddy. Da Capo, 1997. [see Bookshop]
Sound + Vision, David Bowie, Ryko, 1989. [listen on Spotify or Apple Music]
Brett Morgen on IMDB
Tony Visconti on Discogs


clips
A Rock Critic's Guide to Classical Music
Booked on Rock podcast: history, authorship, and the deluge


coming soon
RJ Smith on Chuck Berry
Lenny Kaye on Lightning Strikes
Jason Gross, editor of Perfect Sound Forever

newsletters
Music Journalism Insider
Platform and Stream
Rock's Back Pages
More newsletters on the riley rock index


riley rock report
twitter feed: @timrileyauthor
deep links: youtube
Buzzsprout: audio segments
RSS: https://feeds.buzzsprout.com/1923124.rss
https://timrileyauthor.com/#mailchimp

Twitter
Twitter
Facebook
Facebook
Website
Website
YouTube
YouTube
Instagram
Instagram
Email
Email
clicks for industry!
Copyright © 2022 timrileyauthor, All rights reserved.
You're a subscriber of timrileyauthor or you've been sent this email from a subscriber

Our mailing address is:
tim_riley@emerson.edu

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.






This email was sent to <<Email Address>>
why did I get this?    unsubscribe from this list    update subscription preferences
Tim Riley Author · 108 Fairhaven Rd · Concord, MA 01742-3518 · USA

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp