Finding Fame: David Bowie’s Eleven Years To Overnight Creative Success

This week I’ve been watching the BBC documentary, Finding Fame, the final part of a riveting trilogy about David Bowie, this one focussing on how he found creative success.

It’s a sign of how good this trilogy is that it finishes with the early years, rather than doing it in chronological order. Those years are highly revealing.

In 1973, David Bowie became an international superstar with his persona of Ziggy Stardust. But like most overnight successes, it was many years in the making. Eleven, to be precise. With lots of backing bands, chart flops, creative failures, experimentation and exploration along the way.

It’s the story of how David Robert Jones became David Bowie, how Bowie became Ziggy Stardust, and then, at the height of the fame he’d craved for more than a decade, made the surprise announcement “This is the last show we’ll ever do”.

It makes sense of an icon and brings David Bowie down to earth, as it sets Ziggy Stardust free to live in the stratosphere of the never-never.

Told in his own words through previously unheard audio, unseen video, and unpublished text, it also features exclusive interviews with his family, lovers male and female, lifelong friends and relatives, and early collaborators.

They make a fabulous group of people that includes, cousin and lifelong friend, Kristina Amadeus; former girlfriend and muse Hermione Farthingale; former boyfriend and influence, the mime artist Lindsay Kemp, in his last filmed interview; former girlfriend Dana Gillespie; and lifelong friends Geoff MacCormak and George Underwood.

We also hear from producers Mike Vernon, Tony Visconti and Tony Hatch.

And from Woody Woodmansey, the last remaining Spider From Mars.

And oh boy, his influences. Everything from Bill and Ben, the Flowerpot Men, to Anthony Newley.

There’s analysis of his classics like Space Oddity, and the songs he wouldn’t be pulling out as his finest, like The Laughing Gnome.

The BBC is calling it an “untold story” and it is a great example of the most untold story about creative success. That it takes time, a decade or more for most of us. That we make mistakes and get lost and confused along the way and that all of that is part of the process.

And most of all that to grow, we have to, as another, very different artist put it, treat triumph and disaster, “those two imposters”, just the same.

Francis Whately’s award-winning David Bowie three-parter includes also: David Bowie: Five Years and David Bowie: The Last Five Years.

This film, David Bowie: Finding Fame, is a great end to this deep and lovingly made, compelling and insightful portrait of an artist as a young, middle-aged and older man.

See it!

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