“Fame” With a Degree of Malice

John Lennon and David Bowie

 

Fame is a song recorded by David Bowie, initially released in 1975. It reached Number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 during the week of 20 September 1975. The song is included in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.

With the Young Americans sessions mostly concluded by late 1974, the material was delayed while Bowie extricated himself from his contract with manager Tony Defries. During this time, he was staying in New York, where he met John Lennon. The pair jammed together, leading to a one-day session at Electric Lady Studios in January 1975. There, Carlos Alomar had developed a guitar riff for Bowie’s cover of Footstompin’ by The Flairs, which Bowie thought was “a waste” to give to a cover. Lennon, who was in the studio with them, sang “ame” over the riff, which Bowie turned into “Fame” and he thereafter wrote the rest of the lyrics to the song.

Bowie would later describe the song as “nasty, angry”, and fully admitted that the song was written “with a degree of malice” aimed at the Mainman management group with whom he had been working at the time. In 1990, Bowie reflected: “I’d had very upsetting management problems and a lot of that was built into the song. I’ve left that all that behind me, now… I think fame itself is not a rewarding thing. The most you can say is that it gets you a seat in restaurants.”

Fame became Bowie’s biggest hit to that point in the U.S. It was his first number one hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, as well as his first to break the top 10, but would only reach number 17 in the UK.

Bowie would later claim that he had “absolutely no idea” that the song would do so well as a single, saying “I wouldn’t know how to pick a single if it hit me in the face.”

 

To watch the music video of Fame ´90 directed by Gus Van Sant, please take a gander at The Genealogy of Style: https://www.facebook.com/The-Genealogy-of-Style-597542157001228/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

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River

Keanu Reeves and River Phoenix in My Own Private Idaho (Gus Van Sant, 1991)

 

Young and strong Hollywood son
In the early morning light
This star fell down
On Sunset Boulevard
Young and strong beautiful one
One that we embraced so close
Is gone
Was torn away
Let the youth of America mourn
Include him in their prayers
Let his image linger on
Repeat it everywhere

With candles with flowers
He was one of ours
One of ours

Why don’t you let him be?
He’s gone
We know
Give his mother and father peace
Your vulture’s candor
Your casual slander
Will murder his memory
He’s gone
We know
And it’s nothing but a tragedy

Lay to rest your soul and body
Lay beside your name
Lay to rest your rage
Your hunger and amazing grace

With candles, with flowers
You were one of ours
One of ours

I saw cameras expose your life
I heard rumors explode with lies
I saw children with tears
Cry and crowd around the sight
Of where you had collapsed that day
Where your last breath and word
Had been sighed
Where your heart had burst
Where you had died

I saw how they were lost in grieving
All half-believing you were gone
The loss and pain of it
Crime and the shame of it
You were gone
It was such a nightmare raving,
“how could we save him
From himself?”

Natalie Merchant

Track from Tigerlily (her first solo album after splitting from the 10,000 Maniacs)

1995

Dylan and The Drugstore Cowboy

“I wouldn’t advise anybody to use drugs – certainly not the hard drugs. Drugs are medicine. But opium and hash and pot – now, those things aren’t drugs. They just bend your mind a little. I think everybody’s mind should be bent once in a while.”

Bob Dylan

The Playboy Interview by Nat Hentoff, March 1966

 

Matt Dillon (as Bob) and Kelly Lynch (as Dianne) in Drugstore Cowboy (Gus Van Sant, 1989)

 

Reportedly, the roles of Bob and Dianne were offered to Bob Dylan and Patti Smith. Bob and Patti had been friends since 1975

Tom the Priest’s Prediction

“Narcotics have been systematically scapegoated and demonized. The idea that anyone can use drugs and escape a horrible fate is an anathema to these idiots. I predict in the near future right-wingers will use drug hysteria as a pretext to set up an international police apparatus. I’m an old man and I may not live to see a solution to the drug problem.”

Line from Drugstore Cowboy (Gus Van Sant, 1989)

 
 

William S. Burroughs (as Tom the Priest) and Matt Dillon (as Bob Hughes) in Van Sant’s breakthrough picture Drugstore Cowboy, based on an autobiographical novel by James Fogle.

Beyond Our Understanding

Stadium Arcadium (2006). Art direction by Gus Van Sant

 
 

 
 

Storm Thorgerson was asked to design Red Hot Chili Pepper’s Stadium Arcadium cover. Thorgerson provided at least three possible covers for the album, however, his ideas were ultimately rejected and a simple cover featuring yellow “Superman” lettering and a blue background with planets was utilized instead. Thorgerson publicly denounced the chosen artwork, stating:

 

What lay behind the cover behaviour of Red Hot Chilli Peppers was beyond mathematics, certainly beyond our understanding. For the Stadium Arcadium cover they elected to feature the title in ‘superman’ lettering which was already old fashioned in itself, plus some “planetary embroidery” and that was it! It was trite, dull and derivative completely unlike the music, which was colourful, eclectic, imaginative, positive, and endlessly inventive. I am not often inclined to publicly criticise the work of others for I see little purchase in it, but there is, in this instance a vested interest, for the Peppers turned down our offerings in favour of this piece of unadventurous graphics. How could they? And here are three of our suggestions for your curiosity, and for my petulance.

To watch the music video for Dani California, please take a gander at The Genealogy of Style‘s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Genealogy-of-Style/597542157001228?ref=hl

A Wyoming Story

Close Range: Wyoming Stories. (Scribner, 1999). Hardcover of the first edition. It is the second story collection by the author of The Shipping News. Includes watercolors by William Matthews and it’s signed by both Proulx and Matthews on the title page.

 
 

Brokeback Mountain is a short story by American author Annie Proulx. It was originally published in The New Yorker on October 13, 1997, and was subsequently published in a slightly expanded version in Proulx’s 1999 collection of short stories, Close Range: Wyoming Stories. The story won an O. Henry Award prize (third place) in 1998. The New Yorker won the National Magazine Award for Fiction for its publication of Brokeback Mountain in 1998. The collection was named a finalist for the 2000 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction.

Screenwriters Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana adapted the story for the film of the same name, released in 2005. At that time, the short story and the screenplay were published together, along with essays by Proulx and the screenwriters, in Brokeback Mountain: Story to Screenplay. The story was also published separately in book form.

 
 

Still from Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee, 2005)

 
 

Two young men who meet in Wyoming in 1963 forge a sudden emotional and sexual attachment, but soon part ways. As their separate lives play out with marriages, children and jobs, they reunite for brief liaisons on camping trips in remote settings over the course of the next 20 years.

Brokeback Mountain is a story told by an omniscient narrator. The narrative is realistic in tone and employs description, metaphor and dialogue to examine the actions, thoughts, emotions, and motivations of its main characters.

The narrative is mostly linear; the story describes events in sequence from a beginning point in time, the year 1963 when the characters are introduced, to the end of the story some 20 years later. Other than the title location, the settings are actual locations in the United States, and the characters are described as real people living in a specific milieu. The story adheres to conventions of modern dramatic fiction; its literary devices serve to present a portrait of recognizable people in familiar situations, without supernatural or metaphysical allusions (while other of the Wyoming Stories do include passages of magical realism).

The story is an episodic examination of conflicts arising from the characters’ interaction with each other and other people in their lives. The story condenses passing years and significant events into brief passages, and employs dialogue to reveal character and conflict:

 
 

They never talked about the sex, let it happen, at first only in the tent at night, then in the full daylight with the hot sun striking down, and at evening in the fire glow, quick, rough, laughing and snorting, no lack of noises, but saying not a goddamn word except once Ennis said, “I’m not no queer,” and Jack jumped in with “Me neither. A one shot thing. Nobody’s business but ours.”

 
 

According to Proulx, her inspiration for the characters did not come from real life, though she mentioned one incident in which she noticed a middle-aged man in a bar, who appeared to be watching only the men playing pool, which led her to consider the life of a typical western ranch hand who might be gay. Regarding the setting, Proulx stated:

 
 

“ Rural North America, regional cultures, the images of an ideal and seemingly attainable world the characters cherish in their long views despite the rigid and difficult circumstances of their place and time interest me and are what I write about. I watch for the historical skew between what people have hoped for and who they thought they were and what befell them.”

 
 

About the story’s main characters, Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist, Proulx said they affected her long after the story was published, and the film version rekindled her feelings for them — an attachment that she had previously rejected. In an interview in The Missouri Review, Proulx called the notion of falling in love with fictional characters “repugnant”.

 
 

Heath Ledger (Ennis Del Mar) and Jake Gyllenhaal (Jack Twist)

 
 

Proulx has praised the faithfulness of the adaptation of her story into a feature film. Before the movie was made, she called McMurtry and Ossana’s adaptation “an exceptionally fine screenplay.” Later, she praised the film as “huge and powerful,” writing that she was “knocked for a loop” when she first saw it.

“ I may be the first writer in America to have a piece of writing make its way to the screen whole and entire,” she said. “And, when I saw the film for the first time, I was astonished that the characters of Jack and Ennis came surging into my mind again… ”

Nearly all of the dialogue and descriptions from the original story were included in the screenplay. Few major differences have been noted. Most of the changes involve expansion, with brief mentions of the character’s marriages in the story becoming scenes of domestic life in the film. The narrative sequence is nearly identical in story and film: both begin with Jack and Ennis meeting in 1963 and end with a scene of Ennis 20 years later. One example of adaptation of the story’s dramatic arc arises from a significant memory (of the men embracing by a campfire): it appears in the film as a flashback in the same sequence as Jack recalls it in the story.

Before Ang Lee‘s adaptation, Gus Van Sant had wished to make an adaptation starring Matt Damon and Joaquin Phoenix. Among the reasons it never made it to production included Damon’s refusal to make a “gay-cowboy movie” immediately after starring in a “gay movie” (The Talented Mr. Ripley, Anthony Minghella, 1999) and a “cowboy movie” (All the Pretty Horses, Billy Bob Thornton, 2000). Damon later named Brokeback Mountain as the “movie [he] didn’t do that [he wishes he] had.”