cracked actor


During August and September of 1974 the BBC filmed David for a documentary as part of the Omnibus series. The documentary was first broadcast on 26 January 1975 and titled Cracked Actor. This gave UK fans the first real glimpse of what the Diamond Dogs Tour was like via the use of live footage from the performance at the Los Angeles Universal Ampitheater on 5 September.



The documentary starts with a Channel 7 Eyewitness News report featuring footage of David performing at one of the LA Universal Amphitheatre shows followed by an interview with Wayne Satz.


WS: I just wonder if you get tired of being outrageous?

DB: I don’t think I’m outrageous at all.

WS: At all?

DB: No.

WS: Do you describe yourself as ordinary? What adjective would you use?

DB: Um…b… blah… ah… um… David Bowie.

WS: Ah-ha. Well, I’m reluctant to make the judgement about what category you fit into and I’m hoping to prove it.

DB: Good.

WS: Oh no, I wouldn’t be that pretentious but maybe you have a feeling yourself?

DB: No. I’m really very old fashioned. I like moving from one area of writing or performing to another… to keep me excited, to keep me interested, to keep the people who come to see me or buy records interested and excited as well.


Wayne Satz concludes the report in the TV studio where he says, “If you didn’t understand that don’t feel badly because I certainly didn’t. David, I know you’re watching tonight with the BBC film crew and it’s wonderful to have your old fashioned entertainment around, until the Beatles get back together, but it sure would be nice to talk to somebody who’s not being evasive and discussing riddles.”


The documentary continues with narration and interviews conducted by Alan Yentob on the road, in hotel rooms and backstage at the Los Angeles Universal Ampitheatre. This is interspersed with live footage from Hammersmith Odeon 3 July 1973 and the Los Angeles show. Some of this commentary is repeated below.



AY: Since you’ve been in America you seem to have picked up on a lot of the idioms and themes of American music and American culture. How’s that happened?

DB: There’s a fly floating around in my milk and he’s… he’s a foreign body in it, you see, and he’s getting a lot of milk. That’s kind of how I felt - a foreign body and I couldn’t help but soak it up, you know. I hated it when I first came here, I couldn’t see any of it.


AY: What made all of this important to you? I mean, with your background why were you intrigued by all of this?

DB: Um… it was… I mean, it filled a vast expanse of my imagination. I was always pretty imaginative and the imagination can dry up in wherever you’re living in England, often, if there’s nothing to keep it going. It just supplied a need in me… America, became a myth-land for me. I think every kid goes through it eventually but I just got onto it earlier.


 Cracked Actor


DB: There’s an underlying unease here, definitely. You can feel it in every avenue and it’s very calm. And it’s a kind of superficial calmness that they’ve developed to underplay the fact that it’s… there’s a lot of high pressure here as it’s a very big entertainment industry area. And you get this feeling of unease with everybody. The first time that it really came home to me what a kind of strange fascination it has is the… we… I came in on the train… on the earthquake, and the earthquake was actually taking place when the train came in. And the hotel that we were in was… just tremored every few minutes. I mean, it was just a revolting feeling. And ever since then I‘ve always been very aware of how dubious a position it is to stay here for any length of time.


 Sweet Thing


DB: This is the way I do cut ups. I don’t know if it’s like the way Brion Gysin does his or Burroughs does his, I don’t know. But this is the way I do ’em. I’ve used this method only on a couple of actual songs. What I’ve used it for, more than anything else, is igniting anything that might be in my imagination and it… you can often come up with very interesting attitudes to look into. I tried doing it with diaries and things and I was finding out amazing things about me and what I’d done and where I was going. And a lot of the things that I’d done, it seemed that it would predict things about the future or tell me a lot about the past. It’s really quite an astonishing thing. I suppose it’s a very western tarot, I don’t know.


 Moonage Daydream


DB: I never wanted to be a rock ‘n’ roll star. I never, honest guv, I wasn’t even there. But I was, you see, I was there. That’s what happened. No… no it excited me just because it was there, that was enough. I mean, personally I was playing saxophone and I was trying to make up my mind whether I wanted to play rock ’n’ roll or jazz and as I wasn’t very good at jazz and I could fake it pretty well on rock ‘n’ roll, so I played rock ‘n’ roll. And, I found I enjoyed writing. The only thing I was ever really good at at school was composition. Not grammatically, I was always terrible on grammar, but I could always write better stories than anybody else.


 Aladdin Sane


DB: It was my initial fascination with mime and expressing things with facial movements and body talk rather than articulating things. I mean, I’d one as much articulating as I’d felt was necessary with the actual songs and if I was going to present them in more than a single dimension, I mean, if I was going to present them visually then I wanted my body or my muscles to play an active part in the performance. It’s funny that the same, very similar masks to the Kabuki stick masks were then… were used with the English Mummers Theatre. It’s very strange that they should come up with very similar designs for faces. I don’t know what the link would have been but there must have been some link.


DB: That is kind of from the Aladdin Sane album. Aladdin Sane was a schizophrenic. That’s counted for lots of the… why there were so many costume changes, because he had so many personalities that each, as far as I was concerned, each costume change was a different facet of personality. This is, likewise, another Japanese costume. These are all Japanese… most of this stuff is Japanese, most of my clothes are Japanese. I have… I’ve always been fond of Kabuki style clothes. That’s another Aladdin Sane thing. Aladdin Sane, I saw him as… I found light… lightning… a lightning bolt really represented him.


DB: More than anything else I saw that a lot of my songs were very illustrative and picturesque and I felt there were other ways of performing them onstage. I was never very confident of my voice, you see, as a singer. So, I thought rather than just sing them, which would probably bore the pants off everyone, I would … I'd like to kind of portray the songs rather than just sing them. That's really how it started… wanting to portray the material I was writing. I always found that my material… I felt that it was more three dimensional. I wanted to give it dimension. I wanted to give it some other dimension other than that of just being a song.




AY: You saw for a long period, or for certainly over the last couple of years, a lot of kids sort of aping you almost or looking very like you so that they were… they would dress up and put things on very similar to you.

DB: Yeah.

AY: How did you feel about that?

DB: Well, a lot of it came about starting off like that, but over the last year or so it’s changing in as much that they’re finding out things maybe nothing to do with me but the idea of finding another character within themselves. I mean, if I’ve been at all responsible for people finding more characters in themselves than they originally thought they had then I’m pleased because that’s something I feel very strongly about. That one isn’t totally what one has been conditioned to think one is, that there are many facets of the personality which a lot of us have trouble finding and some of us do find too quickly.


DB: Do you know that feeling you get in a car when somebody’s accelerating very fast and you’re not driving? And you get that “Uhhh” thing in your chest when you’re being forced backwards and you think “Uhhh” and you’re not sure whether you like it or not? It’s that kind of feeling. That’s what success was like. The first thrust of being totally unknown to being what seemed to be very quickly known. It was very frightening for me and coping with it was something that I tried to do. And that’s what happened. That was me coping. Some of those albums were me coping, taking it all very seriously I was.


 Space Oddity


AY: Wasn’t it a rather dangerous thing to do, to play the roles?

DB: Well I didn’t know. When you’re that mixed up and I’ve been mixed up man. I mean, really it was… one doesn’t know. One half of me is putting a concept forward and the other half is trying to sort out my own emotions. And a lot of my space creations are, in fact, facets of me I have now since discovered. But I wouldn’t even admit that to myself at the time. That I would put everything… just make everything a little kind of upfront personification of how I felt about things. Ziggy will be something and it would relate to me now, I find. And Major Tom in Space Oddity was something, Aladdin Sane. They were all facets of me and I wasn’t really… I got lost at one point. I couldn’t decide whether I was writing the characters or whether the characters were writing me. Or, whether we were all one and the same.


AY: Would you say that Ziggy was a monster?

DB: Mmm. Oh, he certainly was. When I first wrote Ziggy… I mean, it was just an experiment. It was an exercise for me and he really grew sort of out of proportion, I must admit. Got much bigger than I thought Ziggy was going to be. I didn’t ever see Ziggy as big. Ziggy just over-shadowed everything.


AY: How much of Ziggy’s death have to do with his own personality or with the circumstances in which he existed or with the…?

DB: Yeah, it was… really it was his own personality being unable to cope with the circumstances he found himself in which is being an almighty prophet-like superstar rocker who found he didn’t know what to do with it once he got it. Which is… it’s an archetype really, it’s the definitive rock ‘n’ roll star. It often happens and I was just trying to document it as such.


DB: Yes. I had a kind of… a kind of strange psychosomatic death-wish thing, I think. But that’s because I was so lost in Ziggy, I think again. It was all the schizophrenia.


 Diamond Dogs


AY: It did look as if it was the ghost of Ziggy Stardust you were tying up?

DB: Yes, exactly. That’s what happened. It was trying to get rid of the damn character that was kind of following me around. And… and hopefully… you see I’m very… I’m very happy with Ziggy, I think he was a very successful character and I think I played him very well. But I… I’m glad I’m me now… I’m glad I’m me now. My God I can trot ‘em out!



AY: So David Bowie becomes a soul singer.


 John, I'm Only Dancing (Again)


There is an American tape of this documentary which contains slightly different footage to the UK broadcast. The main difference is that film of David performing "John, I'm Only Dancing (Again)" has been replaced with film of him backstage and in his dressing room:





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