David Robert Jones Curated
English singer-songwriter and actor
CURATED BY :
The 70's in one word?
When did rock become institutionalized?
How was your reaction at the advent of disco and punk music?
How did the collaboration with John Lennon come about?
You drew a lot from sources of 'black music' when you made the "Young Americans" record. Tell us a bit about the process.
You transitioned from a super white-figure kind of musician to kind of an R&B hero. How did you come about that?
Are you religious or spiritual?
Tell us about the David Bowie of 1960s - the time you sort of 'exploded'.
Tell us your first impression about some of your songs.
Do you see music as a competitive business?
Do you think the phase of music has changed over the years?
Do you believe in revolution?
I would like to believe that people knew what they were fighting for and why they wanted a revolution, and exactly what it was within [society] that they didn’t like. I mean, to put down the aims of a society is to put down a hell of a lot of people and that scares me that there should be such a division where one set of people are saying that another set should be killed. You know you can’t put down anybody. You can just try and understand. The emphasis shouldn’t be on revolution, it should be on communication. Because it’s just going to get more uptight. The more the revolution goes on, and there will be a civil war sooner or later.
How was your childhood? Tell us a bit about your parents.
I could never, ever talk to my father. I really loved him, but we couldn’t talk about anything together. There was this really British thing that being even remotely emotional was absolutely verboten. I spent so much time in my bedroom. It really was my entire world. I had books up there, my music up there, my record player. Going from my world upstairs out onto the street, I had to pass through this no-man’s-land of the living room, you know, and out the front hall.
What is your taste in art?
There’s a quality to art at the moment that I can’t come to terms with. It just doesn’t appeal to me. I find it far too comfortable and bourgeois and middle-class. I think it’s generally having a negative effect on David Byrne. He’s probably going through his most uninspired period at the moment. I’m not sure that an art career would have any benefit for me; I’m not sure it’s what I want. I don’t think I want to be a designer-rock artist. It’s almost a social grace to get into the art world, and I’m very wary of it. Art was good in Berlin in the late ’70s—there was a lot more guts to art when the Neo-Expressionists were starting up; it was real slapdash; it has real heart to it—but it seems so cold and heartless in America. It’s a buyer’s market.
When did you decide to join the mainstream?
I went mainstream in a major way with the song “Let’s Dance.” I pandered to that in my next few albums, and what I found I had done was put a box around myself. It was very hard for people to see me as anything other than the person in the suit who did “Let’s Dance,” and it was driving me mad—because it took all my passion for experimenting away.
Who do you hang out with? Who are your friends?
h, my God, who do I hang out with? Let’s take the last few months. The last six months, who have I been hanging around with? Apart from my fiancée, and Coco, whom you probably remember from the deep recesses of the past. Coco Schwab is my best friend. And the band. Most of the time we’ve been in Australia recording, so I’ve been hanging out with surfers and the occasional sheep farmer. You meet sheep farmers in very trendy restaurants in Sydney. Before Australia I was in Indonesia, and I hung out with the village people in north Bali. Ha. Where do you think those people got those crazy clothes ideas? But really, have you been to Bali? My God, do they dress. Every day of the week there’s a celebration.
Some thoughts on hippies, the revolutionary left and the underground?
The truest form of any form of revolutionary left, whatever you want to call it, was Jack Kerouac, E.E. Cummings, and Ginsberg’s period. Excuse me but that was where it was at. The hippies, I’m afraid, don’t know what’s happening. I don’t think there are any anyway. The underground went really underground. Grand Funk, and all these people man are the moderate’s choice of music. Underground is Yoko Ono, The Black Poets. These people scare the hell out of most freaks. They laugh at Yoko Ono, but it’s the whole cliché.
What do you think about capitalism?
Capitalism can be alright, I mean Marx didn’t live to see what Roosevelt did with that Depression. He pulled everybody out of that Depression and everybody hated Roosevelt. He got into office four times. One after the other, with everybody saying, he can’t get in again. Everybody voted for Roosevelt four times and he did a hell of a lot.
How were the 1960s for you?
I really floated around in the ’60s, because I felt comfortable with nothing. But I just tried everything out—I mean, everything. I was just searching for what I really wanted. And I didn’t quite know. And that applied to the arts, as well. It was like treading water all through the ’60s, and when 1970 kicked in, I thought [snaps fingers] We’re here. Right. God, this is exciting. I’m going to go for it now. I really felt it was my time. Then Marc Bolan did it first. [laughs] That really made me angry.
Do you see yourself in rock-n-roll?
I have absolutely no interest in rock and roll. I’m just being David Bowie. Mick Jagger is rock and roll. I mean, I go out and my music is roughly the format of rock and roll, I use the chord changes of rock and roll, but I don’t feel I’m a rock and roll artist. I’d be a terrible rock artist, absolutely ghastly.
Who was your beauty inspiration?
Syd Barrett [of Pink Floyd] was the first person in rock I had seen with makeup on. He wore black nail polish and lots of mascara and black eye shadow, and he was so mysterious. It was this androgynous thing I found absolutely fascinating. Of course, we found out later the guy had mental problems. But there was something so otherworldly about him. He was hovering, like, six inches above the ground.
Who was your style inspiration?
1961 was when I was really into clothes. I left school at 15 and started copying a bloke who used to go up on the train to London with me; Leslie, I think his name was. He was like, top mod of his own area. He wore Italian jackets with white linen jeans. Boy, was that cool! I mean, that’s in style now—it’s very much the L.A. look. But he was wearing it then, and it looked supercool. Chelsea boots, but with fluorescent pink or green socks and eye shadow that matched the socks he was wearing that day. And he had a slight bouffant hairstyle, parted in the middle. He was somehow tough-looking, too, a real heavyweight. But he had eye makeup on! And the jarringness of it was really weird. I thought, I like that—I feel that, not one thing or the other.
What were your childhood dreams?
I had a plan from when I was eight. My father brought home all these American records, 45s with no centers. And he said, “Go on, you can take your pick.” I said, “I’ll just take a few out.” There was this one by Little Richard, and that was it. I was sold. When I heard that, I thought, God, I want to do that. Actually, my ambition at eight or nine years old was to be one of Little Richard’s sax players, and that’s when I got my first saxophone, a Selmer. It was a strange Bakelite material—that creamy plastic with all the gold keys on it. I had to get a job as a butcher’s delivery boy to start paying for it. At no point did I ever doubt I would be as near as anybody could be to England’s Elvis Presley. Even from eight or nine years old, I thought, Well, I’ll be the greatest rock star in England. I just made up my mind.