Alex Mitchell’s Weekly Notebook – David Bowie’s brush with fascism and the occult

For the record, here are some of the views of the late David Bowie.
• “Britain is ready for a fascist leader. I think Britain would benefit from a fascist leader. After all, fascism is really nationalism.”
• “There is no politician like me. As I see it, I am the only alternative for premier in England.”
• “I believe very strongly in fascism. People have always responded with greater efficiency under a regimental leadership.”
• “Adolf Hitler was one of the first rock stars. I think I might have made a bloody good Hitler.”
• “You’ve got to have an extreme right wing front come up and sweep everything off its feet and tidy everything up.”
His fascist period was the 1970s when pop stars were taking sides: concerts for Bangla Desh were held in New York (1971) with George Harrison, Ringo Star, Ravi Shankar, Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton and in London (1972); The Who headed a benefit concert in South London for unemployed youth; and five Rock Against Racism concerts were organised in London and Manchester with the support of Elvis Costello, The Clash, the Tom Robinson Band, Buzzcocks, Sham 69 and many others.
In Australia, Peter Garrett’s Midnight Oil was formed in 1972, Jimmy Barnes’ Cold Chisel in 1973 and in NZ Tim and Neil Finn’s Split Enz, later Crowded House, came on the scene committed to the environment, banning nuclear weapons and supporting indigenous peoples.
Bowie jumped in the opposite direction. He immersed himself in the occult and fascism buying and hoarding wartime fascist regalia. In one interview he said: “As King Arthur of England I guarded the Divine Articles of Joseph of Arimathea. I will be Xeros, Emperor of Isolar and last existing antibody to survive the Metabloc War ‘A’ in which neutrons will bombard and implode with our perceived solar system. I will be very lonely.”
It sounded as if he was channelling Lafayette Ron Hubbard, the nut job who founded Scientology.
Years later Bowie said he was “off his face on coke” when he made his Nazi remarks. So that’s all right then, is it?
Every hoodlum who ever king-hit some in the street or his wife or girlfriend, subsequently went to court and said he was roaring drunk at the time. An acceptable excuse? I think not; it’s in the-dog-ate-my- homework category.
For me, Bowie wrote one outstanding song, Space Oddity, and we all sang it like mad at parties and in pubs during the 60s and 70s: “Major Tom to ground control etc.”
The truth is that he gathered much of his oeuvre by stalking other stars like Mick Jagger, Johnny Rotten, Elton John and Freddie Mercury, shamelessly borrowing their trail-blazing musical innovations and inflating them with the exhibitionist Bowie touch.
The creator of the fem-drag “Ziggy Stardust” character later admitted: “I was always a closet heterosexual”, adding: “The irony of it was that I was not gay. I was physical about it, but frankly it was not enjoyable.”
The father of two was 69 when he died.

Too much Bowie

My article is not intended to be a criticism of his adoring fans but a critique of capitalist society and its worship of the individual.
Bowie created a cult, and the centre of the cult was himself.
He enjoyed a worldwide fan club who faithfully followed his songs and music for decades: from inter-galactic science fiction, to Nietzschean super man, to gender bender and finally to Cockney nihilist lad.
His fans don’t do his musical genius any favours by ignoring or sanitising his entanglement with the occult, fascism and modish post-modernist ideologies.
The capitalist media’s overblown response to his death showed the value of his escapist presence in modern bourgeois culture.
Acres of space and hours of news time were devoted to his death and scarcely any coverage of two significant pieces of global economic news:
1. Andrew Roberts, Royal Bank of Scotland’s research chief for European economics and rates, issued a client note warning of a “cataclysmic year” ahead. “We think investors should be afraid. Sell everything except high quality bonds. In a crowded hall, exits doors are small.”
2. Albert Edwards, economic strategist for the bank Societe Generale, said developments in the global economy will push the US back into recession. “The financial crisis will reawaken,” Edwards said. “ It will be every bit as bad as in 2008-09 and it will turn very ugly indeed.”
My argument is not that the grim economic news should replace the adoring wall-to-wall obituaries of Bowie. A properly managed media would give us both but with a sense of proportion in their presentation.

Hijinks at Buck Palace

On 9 July 1982 an Irish-born North Londoner Michael Fagan broke into Buckingham Palace by scaling the perimeter and then walking into Brenda’s bedroom.
At 7am he parted the curtain on her majesty’s four-poster bed (Sir Phil sleeps separately in his own bedroom) and found himself under the royal stare of Australia’s head of state.
“What are you doing here?” she demanded before getting out of bed, leaving the room and calling the police. In fact, she called the police twice. On the second occasion she asked them to bring a cigarette for her intruder.
Spike Milligan later observed: “The things a man will do to get a cigarette.”
Fagan’s palace adventure provoked a humungous security flap and the media had a field day. The cops leaked a story that Fagan was a member of the Trotskyist Workers Revolutionary Party and it wasn’t long before a Fleet Street posse descended on the party’s headquarters in Clapham.
At the time, I was editing the party’s daily newspaper and on the Central Committee. We held a hurried meeting and decided to issue a statement denying Fagan had anything to do with the WRP.
My assignment was to greet the motley [my collective noun for a media pack] and issue a firm denial of any WRP association with Fagan.
After they received my message, the pavement press conference quickly terminated and the grumbling hacks walked away complaining that there was “No story”.
At the time I favoured admitting that Fagan had been recruited and belonged to one of our North London branches. We should make clear his palace break-in was his own initiative and had nothing to do with the WRP, and he would now face internal disciplinary proceedings.
I thought it also gave us an opportunity to state our policy of abolishing the monarchy and calling for the Windsor family to be invited to take up useful paid unemployment. I lost that one.
Looking back I would far prefer the WRP be remembered for the hilarious exploit of Mike Fagan rather than its implosion in 1985 amid scenes of treachery, lies and MI5 provocations.


  1. So refreshing to finally receive, after these hot muggy days, a cool ‘critique of capitalist society and its worship of the individual’. Thanks Alex.

  2. Lovely stuff Alex. Bowie mania has alarmed and disappointed me as well. Charming, talented chap and all that but passing fashion and transient coolness – amusement value – trumped any real enduring musical legacy, IMHO. As for the Michael Fagan anecdote – a classic.

  3. Bowie – a triumph of presentation over content. He jumped on every bandwagon passing and, by the sound of it, some from the past e.g. fascism. All he said was for effect. Nothing more nothing less.

  4. Mick Jagger famously said “don’t let Bowie see your new act or hear your new song before the public do or it will be in his next show”

  5. I’d be interested in a bit more detail Oscar . ‘ Famously ‘ ? I’ve never heard that before and I’m a bit of a tragic when it comes to both Bowie and the Stones . I personally believe Bowie was a seminal artist . Obviously he borrowed , but , so what . You only have to look at his main collaborators ; Lou Reed , Brian Eno and Iggy Pop , to get a grasp of his regard in the industry . I think his ‘ fascism ‘ moment was poorly judged theatre . Billy Bragg seems to have forgiven him, and I reckon he knows a bit about music .

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