As we all get to grips with a world without Bowie, we look back at the Starman's life in pictures
As we all get to grips with a world without Bowie, we look back at the Starman’s life in pictures
David Bowie's talent drew lenses from the very start. Barely had he graduated from plastic trombone to telling his parents he was going to be a pop star and starting his first band The Konrads at the age of 15 before he was being photographed for Boyfriend magazine alongside a model friend on London's Kingly Street in 1963. Note the cracked actor expression, already perfected.
Bowie's development through the 1960s art, blues and mod scene was every bit as restless as his later decades. From The Konrads he shifted to another bluesy act King Bees then to Manish Boys and the Who-indebted Lower Third. A string of singles with these bands, including 'Liza Jane', 'I Pity The Fool' and 'You've Got A Habit Of Leaving', failed to make him a star.
Eventually the artist formerly known as Davy (or sometimes Davie) Jones declared that he'd left music to study mime at Sadler's Wells theatre, but nonetheless stayed with Lower Third until leaving to join the Buzz under the guidance of his new manager Ralph Horton.
The Buzz made just enough of an impact to land this appearance on a TV show at Wembley Studios in 1966, but their single 'Do Anything You Say' failed to ignite, and Horton helped Jones transition to a solo singer under the new moniker of David Bowie, inspired by frontiersman Jim Bowie.
His 1967 debut solo album 'David Bowie' and its pun-riddled lead track 'The Laughing Gnome', with its helium-voiced sidekick from "gnome-man's land", were inspired by the music hall stylings of Anthony Newley, Tommy Steele and The Kinks, and now stand as the off-kilter oddities at the start of Bowie's career.
By the time Bowie was jamming at LA parties like this in 1971, he'd become something of an androgynous sci-fi cult figure. He'd hit the Top Five with 'Space Oddity', from his folky 1969 second album, and appearing in a dress on the cover of 1970's darker, paranoia-stricken 'The Man Who Sold The World'. Blasting off in ten, nine, eight...
Whether or not there was life on Mars, something out of this world definitely touched down in 1971's 'Hunky Dory' album, where subversive pop hits like 'Changes', 'Oh! You Pretty Things' and 'Kooks' rubbed up against odes to Warhol and Dylan and semi-prog curios such as 'The Bewley Brothers'.
Then came Ziggy, beaming down from the '... Spiders From Mars' album to define glam rock, get pictured here onstage at Newcastle City Hall, and then disappear as quickly as he came.
Bowie's brief but devastating glam visitation also produced the Ziggy follow-up 'Aladdin Sane', which referenced the psychological issues of his schizophrenic half-brother Terry Burns, and a 1973 covers album called 'Pin Ups'.
Despite declaring himself bisexual and allegedly having an affair with Mick Jagger, Bowie was a married man throughout the seventies, having met and wed Angela Barnett in 1969.
Ziggy Stardust's interplanetary rock'n'roll story wasn't just about the songs; his outlandish fashions were just as striking, inspired by the Japanese kabuki style and often making him look like a Martian sun god, a colour-mad gymnast or a man-size Slinky.
Occasionally, as here in a New York hotel room in 1973, Ziggy even looked as though he'd crawled, fully formed, from your nan's curtains.
Come the tour for 1974's 'Diamond Dogs', his final glam album, Bowie had transformed himself into Halloween Jack, a street rebel from a dystopian future and, judging by shots of Bowie, Angie and their son Zowie Bowie at the Amstel Hotel in Amsterdam, a part-time pirate.
The 1974 'Diamond Dogs' tour was an ambitious production, featuring a six-tonne stage set of Hunger City skyscrapers, a giant head, moving walkways and cherry-pickers and a multi-mirrored 'asylum'.
Finishing the tour, Bowie would discard glam altogether and concentrate instead on developing his obsession with US soul music for 1975's US hit album 'Young Americans'. He'd call the music 'plastic soul', a phrase originally coined by black musicians in the 60s.
While in the US, Bowie's cocaine dependency deepened to the point where he was living in LA as a recluse, consuming only peppers and milk and obsessively lost in his readings about the Third Reich and the occult. The result was The Thin White Duke, his persona for 1976's 'Station To Station' album and tour, pictured here jackbooting into Rotterdam.
Discussing the positive side of fascism in interviews and throwing Nazi salutes at Victoria Station, The Thin White Duke was a wake-up call for Bowie, who went to Berlin to help quit drugs and ended up creating his seminal avant garde masterpiece 'Low' alongside Brian Eno.
'Low' gradually spawned a triptych of Berlin albums; the follow-up '"Heroes"', released in 1977, was inspired by the Cold War and featured one of his most celebrated songs as its title track. It propelled Bowie back on the road in 1978 for the Stage Tour, which saw Bowie perform in a cage of strip-lights.
Despite being largely recorded in New York and Switzerland, 1979's 'Lodger' completed the Berlin trilogy, while Bowie was also making his name as an actor. Having starred in Nicolas Roeg's The Man Who Fell To Earth in 1976, he took a role as a Prussian officer returning home after WWI in the German movie Just A Gigolo in 1978.
Such was his genius, Bowie managed to turn his most challenging and experimental records into commercial hits, and went on to reach Number One in the UK with 'Ashes To Ashes' from 1980's occasionally scabrous 'Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)'. But his greatest sales came when he hooked up with Chic's Nile Rodgers for 1983's 'Let's Dance'.
Thanks to the classic, funk-drenched title track and songs such as 'China Girl', originally co-written for Iggy Pop's album 'The Idiot', 'Let's Dance' sold seven million copies, became Bowie's biggest global smash and shot him to the upper echelons of the rock'n'roll establishment.
The success of 'Let's Dance' encouraged Bowie to pursue the commercial side of his music, which led to a string of 80s records in 'Tonight' and 'Never Let Me Down' that he'd refer to as "artistically.. probably my lowest point".
Nonetheless, the 80s were something of a golden era for Suave Bowie. He was one of the biggest highlights of the Live Aid concert at Wembley Stadium in July 1985...
... He collaborated with his former flame Mick Jagger on the worldwide hit single 'Dancing In The Street' the same year, his third best collaboration after 'Fame' with John Lennon and 'Under Pressure' with Queen...
... And he became the stuff of every child's Muppetest nightmares as the goblin king Jareth in 1986 movie Labyrinth.
Musically, Bowie continued to swerve. Between 1988 and 1992 he formed Tin Machine with guitarist Reeves Gabrels, an industrial-flecked metallic rock act in which Bowie insisted he was not the star, just another band member. The band were widely slated despite releasing some fine rock tunes such as 'Baby Universal'.
Returning to his solo career in the wake of Tin Machine, Bowie felt creatively unencumbered and spent the rest of his life exploring and experimenting with copious new styles and ideas. Here he's seen in New York promoting 1995's dystopian concept album 'Outside', subtitled 'the Ritual Art-Murder of Baby Grace Blue: A non-linear Gothic Drama Hyper-Cycle'.
His elder statesman standing and hugely influential role in modern rock soon saw him showered with plaudits. Here an adoring Eric Clapton congratulates him at a 1995 award ceremony.
Having dabbled with electronica, drum'n'bass and jungle on 1997's 'Earthling', he collated the mellower 'Hours...' from music he'd originally written for video game Omikron: The Nomad Soul, reflecting his growing interest in the possibilities of technology and the internet. Bowie was one of the earliest artists to embrace downloading and started his own web browser bowie.net.
Reuniting with producer Tony Visconti, who had worked on much of Bowie's legendary 70s output, 2002's 'Heathen' was hailed as a return-to-form even though the man himself, aged 55 at the time, admitted "the young have to kill the old... That's how life works... It's how culture works."
Accordingly, 2003's 'Reality' proved the last album from Bowie for ten years, as he largely slipped from public view following a heart attack in Hamburg in 2004. He re-emerged just three years before his death for two final, acclaimed albums 'The Next Day' and 'Blackstar', keeping a firm, secretive silence throughout.
David Bowie, a bona fide rock giant, icon and pioneer, died from liver cancer two days after his 69th birthday in January 2016, prompting a huge gathering to celebrate his life and work in Brixton and tributes from the biggest names in music. The starman, they hoped, had simply blasted back to his home planet.