Ricochet: David Bowie 1983

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Ricochet: David Bowie 1983
Denis O'Regan
328 pages
ISBN: 9781846149726
Particular Books

1983 was a great year for David Bowie. In the previous two years he bowed out of music for a spell in order to act, debuting on Broadway as The Elephant Man and on television in Bertolt Brecht's play Baal. This move culminated in 1983, when he landed leading roles in two movies. Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, directed by Nagisa Oshima, was a study of captives and captors in a Japanese POW camp in Java, with Bowie cast as the tough-willed lieutenant colonel who refuses to break under torture. Bowie also acted alongside composer extraordinaire Ryuichi Sakamoto. The Hunger starred Bowie opposite Catherine Deneuve as an immortal vampire, with Bowie as her lover of nearly three-hundred years who is abruptly and rapidly aging. Both films are now considered cult classics.

1983 was also the year Bowie recorded one the most popular albums in his illustrious oeuvre, Let's Dance, a buoyantly commercial effort that heralded Bowie signing with EMI. This was a sleek, stylish record that rocked with soul swagger and rekindled Bowie's love of R&B. It was a distillation of the R&B craze that swept England in the early 60s and captivated David Jones and his Brixton mates. On top of that, he embarked on a seven-month tour titled "Serious Moonlight," not only in support of Let's Dance but promoting music live for the first time since his past two albums, Lodger (RCA, 1979) and Scary Monsters. (RCA, 1980) Capturing the magic behind this tour and the travels was photographer Dennis O'Regan, whose photographs adorn the book Ricochet: David Bowie 1983.

Taking its title from a song on Let's Dance, this book contains a gratuitous cache of photographs. Ricochet brings together a stunning collection of over 300 personal pictures, with many published for the first time. Visually, it is a handsome book that is beautifully produced, with first-rate graphics and splendid reproduction. In the period when these great images were made, O'Regan was an artist at the top of his game, with intimate access to a superstar singer at the top of his game, a powerful combination resulting in this amazing collection of images. During this tour, Regan traveled alongside Bowie for nine months, present during each concert with unprecedented access to Bowie's inner world both onstage and off. Rather self mockingly and in retrospect, Bowie has referred to this tour as the start of his "Phil Collins years." This phrase referred to the overexposure and the glossy look that followed this successful period. Yet during the Serious Moonlight tour, which is captured in detail on these photographs, Bowie actually managed to extend his range without sacrificing any of his old charm.

O'Regan's photographs clearly have a language of their own. Regardless of the scenery, every photograph in the collection is a conversation between the lens and the subject without using any words. His photographs capture Bowie's mysterious aura and charisma but also more playful, relaxed moments. We see a jubilant and excited Bowie in various locations and settings, such as press conferences and meetings with fans, from his downtime and meals to travels and sightseeing, to backstage conversations with band members as well as celebrities such as Mick Jagger, Grace Jones, his then-wife Jerry Hall, Tina Turner, and composer/costar Ryuichi Sakamoto, to name but a few. A huge portion of the photographs include excellent concert footage and, most importantly, the communication Bowie had with fans responding to his theatrics and joy.

The book includes forwards by O'Regan and Bowie himself. O'Regan vividly details the circumstances behind the tour, the travels, and the communications he had with Bowie. Since a selection of his photographs was already published in 1984, this book features a foreword by Bowie dating from that year. Bowie authorized every photograph prior to his untimely passing.

Published in various formats—from the exclusive limited edition, luxurious box set with various add-ons to a standard format—Ricochet is a remarkable photo essay about an artist at his inflection point, capturing Bowie's story as well as that of the culture surrounding him. The book coincided with the Loving the Alien box set (Parlophone, 2018) from Bowie's archival reissue series, which gives a strong visual sense of what was it like to work closely with Bowie at the time. There is no question that this book can be appreciated on many levels, and only one of them is from a musical perspective. In many ways, this book is an eye-opener, a reminder of Bowie's huge cultural influence on everyday life, no matter what generation we hail from. 1983 was indeed a very good year.

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