We’re taking a trip back to 19970 when David Bowie was not quite the superstar he would become and instead cut a frustrated figure. Even through this letter, he sent to Bob Grace, the caustic sarcasm is there for all to see.
There are certain stages to David Bowie’s career that everyone can agree on. There was ‘Space Oddity’ Bowie, Ziggy Stardust, The Thin White Duke and so on. But often forgotten is the Bowie after ‘Space Oddity’, not yet Ziggy and still trying to find his way. And there’s good reason.
At that time, Bowie was still finding his way. ‘Space Oddity’ had seen him win an Ivor Novello award and be widely lauded as a songwriting powerhouse. But following on from the single’s success Bowie struggled to assert himself creatively. He was cut adrift from his purpose and largely wrapped up in the glamour of swinging London.
The whole mood left Bowie bereft of any clear direction. Knowing Bowie’s work, one will understand how unusual a moment that is for the Starman. Usually so in touch with his artistic pursuit, in 1970 Bowie was a ball of sarcastic and unmoved rhetoric, capable of making snowmen feel the chill.
It’s even more curious when noting the recipient of the letter, Bob Grace, had only just signed the singer to a five-year deal with Chrysalis Records. Having possibly asked for a letter update every so often from the singer, Bowie seemingly replied with his famed dry wit, where he not only updated him on his current situation but provided a short sharp look at his past too.
“I was born in Brixton and went to some Schools thereabout and studied Art,” begins Bowie in the letter that wouldn’t be out of place on Blue Peter. “Then I went into an Advertising Agency which I didn’t like very much. Then I left and joined some Rock ‘n’ Roll Bands playing Saxophone and I sang some which nobody liked very much.”
Bowie continues with the same dry humour, “As I was already a Beatnik, I had to be a Hippie and I was very heavy and wrote a lot of songs on some beaches and some people liked them. Then I recorded ‘Space Oddity’ and made some money and spent it which everybody liked.”
Bowie finally concludes the letter with the same deadpan energy, “Now I am 24 and I am married and I am not at all heavy and I’m still writing and my wife is pregnant which I like very much.” Despite signing the letter with LOVE DAVID, the tone of the line sound so akin to a sarcastic teenager that we couldn’t help but giggle.
You can find the letter below and Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’ below that.