Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Kinda Blue

My brain hurt like a warehouse, it had no room to spare

A while back, I read the story on a blog (and I wish I could remember which one so I could link to it) Kinky Paprika's Shhh/Peaceful blog about Trevor Bolder, bassist for David Bowie's Spiders From Mars band.

According to the story, Bolder had his face painted blue for a performance, but accidentally used permanent paint. Reportedly, Bolder had to go to a specialist in Switzerland for an expensive medical procedure to remove the paint. In fact, the procedure was so expensive, Bolder had to sell his car to pay for it. It mostly worked, but not completely. And that's why, to this day Bolder still has traces of blue paint behind his ear.

I love this story.

And as I said then, it should be repeated over and over.

It's weird and exotic -- involving Bowie, glam rock, and the idea that rockers would risk life and limb to paint their faces for performances. It's truly a glimpse into another world.

But more important, it's completely absurd.

The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars is arguably Bowie's masterpiece. The songs are almost all classics (and almost all have been radio staples for more than 35 years). More importantly, the album as a whole tells a somewhat coherent story (although, in best rock fashion, it's vague enough that every listener can project themselves into it).

Bowie would hopskotch from style to style, persona to persona, for years, before slipping into the role of rock elder. But it was the Spiders -- Mick Ronson's mighty guitar playing and arranging (and some say uncredited songwriting), Trevor Bolder's bass playing, and Mick Woodmansey's understated drums (and Be-Rock-Always name) -- that pushed Bowie to his heights he'd never hit again.

Which brings me back to the paint.

The best part of the story is how it builds on the plausible (face painting, getting the type of paint wrong), layers in exotic details (an exclusive private doctor! in Switzerland!) with the hyperbolic (a procedure so expensive he had to sell his car) before delivering the amazing and oddly detailed fact that puts the ribbon on the story (to this day, he still has blue paint behind his ear).

It's a story of rarified air and rock and roll decadence. A story with a moral. A story that's falls apart almost immediately if you look closely.

Skin peels and chafes and regrows. At about the same rate that Bowie changed his persona in the 1970s.

Hell, if you've ever gotten "permanent" marker or paint on yourself, you know this. Even if you can't wash it off, it comes off with the skin in a matter of days, weeks, or months.

It's doubtful the paint would have lasted five weeks, let alone five months or five years. It's still there more than 30 years? Just not possible.

But still, to this day, we've got a great story of rock & roll excess.

And ultimately maybe that's more important than the facts. Isn't rock and roll all about believing these stories we all know can't be true? When the power chords thunder and the downbeat hits, don't we all willingly throw logical thinking out the window because, deep down, we want to live in a world of myths and legends?


Kinky Paprika said...

That was me spreading falsehoods:

The story is, or was, included on Bolder's Wiki page, which is where I found it.

Holly A Hughes said...

If I were Trevor Bolder, I'd paint blue behind my ears every couple of weeks just to make this outre myth look plausible. For all the reasons you so beautifully suggest....

Alex said...

Yup, Kinky, it was your blog. Sorry for the memory hiccup.

Holly, I trust you'll continue to use your cunning for good and not for evil! :)