David Bowie Five Years Documentary Review

David Bowie Five Years Documentary Review: Showtime airs documentary of Bowie’s most striking musical incarnations.

Many artists are inspired by David Bowie’s need for constant reinvention, but he remains peerless in his pursuit of shedding his skin to esoteric artistic heights.

And his chameleon-like career gets a through examination on David Bowie Five Years, a 2013 BBC documentary that airs on Showtime, Friday August 1st, and will be repeated throughout the month.

Even casual Bowie fans will find this documentary compelling, and Bowie diehards will be thoroughly captivated. The film recounts the five most noteworthy “changes” (sorry) of the artists’ storied career.

“Five Years” is a song from the opening of Bowie’s classic 1971 ‘Ziggy Stardust’ album, and the movie follows suit as that album’s genesis and Bowie’s Stardust persona is first examined.

The film goes on to document his soul music period (showing Bowie working with the late Luther Vandross), his Berlin electronic fueled period, and lastly his metamorphosis into 80’s dance pop, with the “Let’s Dance” album.

The film is interesting in that Bowie’s commentary in the film is somewhat muted. It’s left to his collaborators to fill in the blanks. Keyboardist Rick Wakeman recounts working with Bowie on his glam ballad “Life on Mars”, noting Bowie’s left of center approach to writing music.

Animated guitarist Carlos Alomar notes his first meeting with Bowie; “he was the whitest man I’ve ever seen” and does a guitar track overlay at how they constructed the soundscape for “Fame.” Indeed, it is those moments of sonic exposition from collaborators like Earl Slick and Nile Rodgers that provides crack for music nerds such as myself.

Ambient music pioneer Brian Eno, producer Tony Visconti and guitarist Robert Fripp are especially engaging while recounting their studio experimentation for the Bowie albums  “Low” and “Heroes” albums. Fripp in particular is a hoot, with a mad scientist recount of his contributions.

But the man behind “Sound and Vision’s” knack for visuals isn’t neglected. Bowie even storyboarded his videos like the dour epic “Ashes to Ashes” in striking detail.

The biggest gripe with “Five Years” is it’s brevity. It clocks in at only 60 minutes, and leaves you wanting more. Perhaps there will be a future “Five Years” installment to explore other areas in Bowie’s career, but this documentary is a fascinating glimpse behind the curtain that the enigmatic artists rarely lifts.

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About SLIS

Middle Aged Gen-Exer obsessed with Alternative rock, metal, cult movies, comic books and cable TV.

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3 Responses to David Bowie Five Years Documentary Review

  1. HGPrice November 22, 2014 at 4:05 am #

    incredtible B.S. the film never mentions that Stevie Ray Vaughn contributed to the writing and played the guitar parts on the hits Lets Dance & China Girl.,

    • SLIS November 22, 2014 at 9:45 am #

      I was also surprised by Vaughn not being mentioned, that was definitely a curious omission.


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    […] The term chameleon-like has been used endlessly to describe his work, but how else to classify his multi-faceted career? […]

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