My musical generation succeeded that of the Rolling Stones and the Beatles. We thought we had a new perspective on what rock could do. I was never much taken with the hippie credo of the '60s, but artistically there was a collage effect, a kitchen sink of mixed media that was devastating on the sensibilities. We took from the '60s the idea that we really didn't need some of the old values anymore.
This shift led to the pluralistic decade of the '70s: the beginning of real experimentation, perceptually, musically, socially, culturally, artistically. We were coming to the discovery that we didn't have to live by absolutes; we didn't need one God, one religion, one political system, one sexual orientation. That was the sea we were adventurers upon. I've always thought of the '70s as being the start of the 21st century.
An outcome we can see already is that the singular voice, the authority figure or star or icon, is no longer needed. Punk was making that point in the mid-'70s. Today there is a more tribal interest, which you see perfectly in the dance raves that draw 40,000 to 50,000 young people around Europe. The parameters are set by the bands' music, but the entertainment and feeling of the whole event is from the audience. At concerts in the '70s, people would relate to me, watching singly from their own spaces. Now I'm playing to an audience that has a kind of nerve center within itself.
In 1969 my single "Space Oddity" was saying, "I'm opting out; I don't want any part of this; it's your problem; I'm going to create my own world." The isolationism I was feeling then is not part of youth culture today. I think the new community, as I call them, are very, very together. There's not this "we can try for the moon" feeling; young people know getting along with the guy next to you is accomplishment enough.
I lived in Berlin off and on from 1976 to 1979. I remember going back to do a concert beside the Wall in 1987. There was an unseen audience on the other side that was quite as large. They were very vocal, disregarding the guards. You felt something was afoot, although one never dreamed it was going to be so dramatic.
I'm an incorrigible European. I think it's the future, and the rules are somewhere in the wreckage of what we have now. We've yet to discover them, especially morally and spiritually. I don't believe in a fin de siècle with everything crashing down. The challenge is to create a new set of values that are not élitist.
Rock star David Bowie first made his mark on the charts with "Changes" in 1972, and has recorded 30 albums
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