On this day in 1976 Bowie gave an interview in which he said that Britain would benefit from having a dictator and that he would be good at it. He also said that Hitler was the first rock star and that Hitler drew more fans than Jagger. Then there were the stories about his Nazi salute, the detention of Bowie’s train (yes he had a train) as it crossed between Russia and Poland. Lots of Nazi memorabilia, books, etc. were confiscated.
So what was it with Bowie at the time?
Bowie had been interested in Buddhism for some time (yes, this is relevant, honest). From there he moved (descended?) into an interest in the Occult, accompanied by an ever growing consumption of cocaine.
From a general interest in the occult came painting mystic symbols on the walls of his house, burning candles, and reciting rites to protect him from the evil ones who were trying to get to him. He also began to retain his hair and nail clippings and urine in bottles in the fridge so that they could not be used in magic rituals against him. In other words serious chemical induced paranoia.
From there he became aware that the Nazis were heavily involved in the occult. (The idea that they hunted the Ark of the Covenant is not just an invention of the Indiana Jones film’s writer). It is this interest in the occult that drew him towards the Nazi symbolism. It is even possible that he got to Nazi symbols via an interest in the Kabala.
The quotes ? Not quite as they were reported at the time, it would seem, Yes he said that Britain would benefit from a dictator, a socialist none not a fascist one, he also said that he thought that he would be quite good at the job………. Hitler the first rock star? If you think of Hitler in the terms of the public rallies and adoration of the crowds, then yes, you could make some sort of comparison. However, you really have to be off your head on something to think that comparing Hitler with anything other than the spawn of the devil is a good idea.
So there you have it, paranoia, caused by ingesting the whole of Columbia’s export trade on his own, and spiralling interest in the occult, combined to encourage Bowie to make some outrageous comments and act as a cretin.
Mind you there were some upsides for Bowie. It would seem that the comments broke just before the Bowie tour reached England. Ticket sales were poor before the comments, sold out afterwards. Remember, he had previous for playing the media. There was the Hunky Dory tour, poor sales up until the “I’m Gay” interview in the music press and, hey presto!, tickets sales soar.
So, what is the truth? Probably, drugs and a descent into paranoia. If you do not inhabit your brain for a length of time you are likely to do some strange stuff.
As for the Nazi salute. I saw the clip some time ago and went to look at it again but it has been taken down on YouTube. However, there is an equally shocking clip featuring a Nazi salute by Ringo! (Or he may just be waving to his fan).