Wednesday 21 February 2018

Fancy yourself as a Bowie boffin? Time to go back to college

Daiv Bowie
Daiv Bowie
Eamon Sweeney

Eamon Sweeney

The star is the focus of a UL symposium, writes Eamon Sweeney

David Bowie has had numerous affairs with women and men; he admits he was 'twisted by cocaine'; and he worked very, very hard to develop his hell-raising reputation. His life is full of juicy material to excite even the most serious academic. So it's not entirely unsurprising to discover that the superstar is the subject of an international symposium at the University of Limerick.

The boy from Brixton has done and seen a lot over the years in this colourfully scenic route to academia.

He's also managed to sell 145 million records and influence just about anyone who's anyone in pop, rock and fashion.

Best-selling biographer Christopher Anderson recently alleged that Bowie and Mick Jagger enjoyed a very close relationship. In addition to the oft-quoted anecdote about former wife Angie Bowie catching them in bed, apparently they practically lived together for several months.

Last June, Bowie celebrated his 20th wedding anniversary to former model Iman and his daughter Alexandria turned 12 in August.

When Iman took to Twitter to say that they were watching their daughter in a school play, one follower tweeted: "Imagine David Bowie turning up at your school." Iman responded: "He turns up as David Jones, Dad."

The sordid escapades have been replaced by honours such as a retrospective in the Victoria & Albert Museum and 'Heroes' becoming an Olympic anthem.

Word of the Limerick event has spread like wildfire over fan and news websites in Russia, Poland, France, Portugal and beyond. The symposium's announcement also received more than 8,000 likes on Bowie's Facebook page

Despite his iconic status, Bowie would be puzzled by the academic scrutiny. He once quipped: "I'm always amazed that people take what I say seriously. I don't even take what I am seriously."

And Bowie aficionados shouldn't feel in any way intimidated walking into a lecture theatre, as the event is about having fun and embracing the music.

Dublin Bowie tribute band RebelRebel will perform in Dolan's Warehouse on Friday night, while organiser Dr Eoin Devereux takes to the decks in the Scholar's Bar on Saturday for a special set.

It's also a rare chance to enjoy a 'live' Bowie event, as he has become conspicuous by his absence from a live scene that's increasingly dependent on heritage acts, cancelling his last Irish appearance at Oxegen in 2004 to undergo heart surgery.

"We didn't invite him to Limerick as I understand that he is now living life at a more relaxed pace in New York," Devereux explains.

"Besides, it's probably best not to ever meet your heroes."

In experimenting in so many genres and so successfully straddling pop and the avant garde, he's influenced virtually everyone.

"On all sorts of levels he was an innovator," believes Devereux. "His influences are everywhere -- from Arcade Fire to the Virgin Prunes."

Thanks to the University of Limerick, a former bisexual cocaine addict is now also a fascinating symposium subject.

Strange Fascination? -- A Symposium on David Bowie opens tomorrow. Booking from www.uch.ie and Dolan's Warehouse

Irish Independent

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