I could not recall if I had seen the 1974 BBC-produced David Bowie documentary Cracked Actor. I think I have a copy of this near hour-long doc on VHS in some cabinet somewhere. Then, the other day, I stumbled across a blog that is streaming the entire documentary on-line. It’s being hosted by the blog A Piece of Monologue. You can watch the entire thing here.
It’s notoriously referred to as a document of Bowie at his oddest, most drug-addled, but, despite the interview by a perplexed local newsman that kicks off the piece, I think Bowie comes off quite honest and straight-forward. There’s already a Bowie-centric website that has highlighted most of the important bits on a page featuring an array of quotes and images from the documentary here.
Bowie was an easy target in these days. He had just retired his glam-rock superstar persona Ziggy Stardust and had moved to LA to record a soul record. His eyebrows still shaved and appearing quite pale and gaunt, Bowie was at the height of his cocaine addiction. In one scene while riding in a limo, he shows great concern at the sounds of sirens, as he violently sniffs.
This image has constantly over-shadowed the creative genius depicted in Cracked Actor. He had just unofficially adapted George Orwell’s 1984 as a concept album and presented it as giant stage production. He provides unobtrusive insight to his William Burroughs-inspired style of writing lyrics with cut-up sentences. He also philosophizes on the psychological impact of doing an alter ego as a performer. It’s a worthwhile documentary that leaves you wondering where are all the smart pop stars nowadays.