Bowie: Scary Ministers (and Cheeky Chips)

16 01 2016

2016 has already been a year of tragedy in the Outer Hebrides’ music scene (see our Lemmy tribute), and now we mourn another much-loved Leòdhasach after the shocking loss of international pop icon David Bowie. 
Born Donald John Macleod in 1947 in the leafy Stornoway suburb of Branahuie, DJ became fascinated by Tibetan Presbyterianism at a young age. He studied the discipline for some time under the watchful eye of a Cheviot ewe (as there weren’t any llamas on the island at the time). However, his patience with mysticism wore thin, and he eventually jacked it in and spent his time studying Jazz chanter.
Donald’s growing interest in music saw him join a series of early 60s rhythm ‘n’ blues combos including the King Frees and promising Hearach band the Mànish Boys, before crossing the Braighe to Point and forming his own outfit – Donald John and the Lower Bayble.  
A master of reinvention, Donald began to experiment with dyeing his hair in the mid 60s. Back in these days, Kenny Froggan’s wouldn’t sell hair dye to coves, so Donald resorted to using various flavours of J*mmy B*ller’s luridly-coloured “Slàinte” lemonade instead. In 1965, inspired by Gress beat combo the Diamond Dogs and their flamboyant guitarist Daibhidh Bàn, Donald applied a Pineappleade rinse. Proudly sporting his new tartrazine yellow hairdo, Donald announced that his new name was “Daibhidh Buidhe”. Predictably the Townies were unable to cope with Gaelic spelling or pronunciation, so it wasn’t long before Daibhidh Buidhe became “David Bowie” and started out in new musical directions.
After several abortive attempts to jump on the Mòd bandwagon, and a singular lack of success at cabaret crooning in the style of Anthony Newallsnursery, Bowie scored a minor novelty hit in 1967 with “The Laughing Genome”, about the Niseachs’ abortive attempts to clone guga. But it was in 1969 that he first captured the zeitgeist conclusively. In a year that saw the moon landings, Stanley Kubrick’s “2001”, and the beginnings of the traditional music tuition movement for kids in the Summer holidays, Bowie released “Fèis Oddity” – a concept single about a botched attempt to send Duncan “Major” Morison into space.
“Ground control to Major Mor-is-on

Fetch your boilersuit and put your wellies on”

Bowie’s reputation grew steadily with the release of acclaimed albums such as “The Maw Who Sold The Wool” (1970) and “Fanky Dory” (1972). At this time he began to work with long term collaborators such as top producer (and BEA baggage handler at Stornoway Airport) Tony Viscount-i, guitarist Mick Rawasamaw, bassist Trevor Ollack and drummer Woody Woodlandcentre. 
Megastardom arrived in 1973 when Bowie developed his first alter-ego; “Ziggy Starmore” – a fictional extra-terrestrial rock hero who designed knitting patterns in his spare time, a persona which he later morphed into “Aladdin Stèinis”. 
Around this time Bowie experimented with religious androgyny, leaving people unsure if he was an FP or a Wee Free, as he wandered around the Ordhuigheans in his knitted uni-sex wellies and outrageous boilersuits. Sadly his bobban Ziggy outfit got wet after an open air gig in the Town Hall carpark and sagged so much he had to dash into Burton’s across the road to preserve his modesty. Bowie emerged from the shop in a dapper suit and tie and his next incarnation, the Thin White Plook, was born.

In this particular style, Bowie released “Young Amadans” and “Mitchells Bus Station to Bus Station” (a concept album about a trip on the West Side Circular) featuring songs described as ‘soul destroying’. 
Bowie also spent several notorious years in East Garrabost, living and working with Iain G Pop – and Brian Eneclete, producing two seminal albums “Hearachs” and “Low-erBayble”. Life in the seedy demi-monde of cold war Garrabost took its toll, however. Bowie grew addicted to a toxic diet of 4 Crown, Woodbines and Hen Suppers, joined the Dawn Squad in the Castle Grounds and released the not very good “(Porter’s) Lodger”.
He returned to form in 1980 with “Scary Ministers (and Cheeky Chips)”. This contained the groundbreaking single “Ash Carts to Ash Carts”, which had a video filmed in front of a bulldozer out in Tawse’s quarry. The video and single heavily influenced the Newton Ram-antic movement. 
Bowie was a great collaborator, producing and writing for other artists and also copying the fleek out of them and kidding on it was all his idea. Some of the more successful ones include:
Writing “All the Tong Dudes” for Mawtt The Hoople”.

Producing “Transfarmer” (1972) for Paddy Reed, the album which many say rescued Reed’s career after he split with 60s avante-garde legends the Bobban Underground. Bowie was often accused of plagiarising Reed’s decadent image and edgy material, and indeed they had a famous catfight in the Macs in 1973 when Reed accused Bowie of nicking 2 of his songs, plus 4 penny chews and a bag of maltesers.

Producing “Maw Power” for Iain G Pop and the Stoodies

Recording Xmas carol “The Little Drum an Aoil Boy” with Bing Crossbost, to raise money for North Lochs Community Centre

Two collaborations stand out above the rest. A productive writing session one summer at Freddy Mer-coorie’s Shawbost àirigh spawned a classic duet inspired by the Queen frontman’s prize Galloway cow and her battle with mastitis; the 1981 hit collaboration, “Udder Pressure”. 
The other stand-out partnership was 1985s “Dancing In The Peats” with Mick Bragar as part of LimeAid, the global charity event to raise funds to enable Parkend beverage firm Sm*th’s to develop a replacement for Z*p-a- Cola (banned due to new EU regulations on creosote). The video was shot entirely at Parkend Industrial Estate behind the Lemonade Factory where nobody could see how woefully inept their actual dancing was.
Despite all his successes, Bowie’s private life wasn’t a bed of roses. He divorced his first wife when he found out her name was spelled Angie rather than Angaidh but later found lasting happiness with Ioman, international supermodel and captain of the Somali ladies’ shinty team.
Bowie also tried his hand at acting when he joined the Stornoway Thespians. He took part in many of their Christmas Pantomimes including “The Man Who Fell To Urgha” and Jim Henson’s Gaelic Fantasy “Abair-ynth” (which featured the Mawppets and a revolutionary puppeteering technique developed in Arnish known as Animacantronaichs). 
His output during the 80s and 90s varied in quality, tone and topic, from 1989’s experimental “Tin Masheer” to the 2002 Sunday Ferry protest album “Heathen” but he returned to form in later years and as a thank-you to all his fans in the Broadbay area released his final album “Backstar” only days before his death.
Bowie often contemplated life beyond the here-and-now and one such quote in particular has been oft-repeated in these last few days; 
“I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be Borsham”



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