Eighties Bowie, David Sylvian and Forbidden Colours

Inevitably I got to thinking a lot about David Bowie this week and like many of us, have ended up spending a fair bit on time online looking back at his many guises. One that has thrown me a bit is the early ’80s “Let’s Dance” phase. Early ’70s David Bowie hid behind bizarre “spaceman” characters but by 1983 he had gone seriously mainstream – Or was he playing another character? I heard him say in an interview that he felt far more confident on stage playing a character such as Ziggy but by 36, as he would have been by this time, it looks as if he was confident enough to be himself. Amazingly, after looking pale, thin, malnourished and let’s be honest, a tad weird a decade earlier, he had turned into one of the best-looking guys in the industry (we’ll ignore the teeth). This was the post-New Romantic period and he was very much adopting the sharp, elegant look that bands such as Duran Duran, ABC and Japan favoured.

b2

I am still unsure who copied who, but in 1983 there were a series of events that seemed to tie in and feed off each other. He released the “Let’s Dance” album that year and a string of hits came from it starting off with the title track in March. He had approached Nile Rodgers to act as producer on it and his brief was to “give him hit singles” which is exactly what he did. The year earlier, Duran Duran had been really successful with their album “Rio” also produced by Nile Rodgers, and it seems that he simply wanted to be back on top. A massive world tour followed and I remember my flatmate of the time heading downtown with her sleeping bag in order to queue all night for tickets (no computers or Ticketmaster in those days, we were old school).

We knew that Bowie had a film coming out later that summer, Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, and leading the advance party were David Sylvian (ex of Japan) and Ryuichi Sakamoto (also an actor in the film), who had produced the soundtrack album. The beautiful song Forbidden Colours was released in July 1983 and looking at a picture of David Sylvian now, there is more than a passing resemblance to Bowie at that time although not as suntanned (as he hadn’t been on location in a tropical rainforest).

d syl

The lyrics again are a bit bizarre but the theme is a forbidden love, which is also reflected in the storyline of the film. I do remember going to see it when it came out the following month and Bowie turned in a really good performance. A male colleague from that era had also been to see it and when I asked his opinion he decided that there had been something lacking, in that there were no women in it. That would of course have been because it was set in a male prisoner of war camp!

Forbidden Colours by David Sylvian and Ryuichi Sakamoto:

So, unlike with his earlier creations, David Bowie in 1983 was very much part of the zeitgeist making highly commercial pop music and looking and dressing very much like his younger counterparts. He was back acting, and feeding off the people he worked with. Happy memories of those days – The real start of big ’80s hair (perms and bleaching were de rigueur), bold bright earrings, tanned skin, and lots of white shoes and clothing. Those of us who got on board with the whole look have probably ruined our hair and skin in the process but boy did we feel good when stepping out for a “night on the town”!

Forbidden Colours Lyrics
(Song by David Sylvian/Ryuichi Sakamoto)

The wounds on your hands never seem to heal
I thought all I needed was to believe
Here am I, a lifetime away from you
The blood of Christ, or the beat of my heart
My love wears forbidden colours
My life believes

Senseless years thunder by
Millions are willing to give their lives for you
Does nothing live on?

Learning to cope with feelings aroused in me
My hands in the soil, buried inside of myself
My love wears forbidden colours
My life believes in you once again

I`ll go walking in circles
While doubting the very ground beneath me
Trying to show unquestioning faith in everything
Here am I, a lifetime away from you
The blood of Christ, or a change of heart

My love wears forbidden colours
My life believes
My love wears forbidden colours
My life believes in you once again

Author: Alyson

Whenever I hear an old song on the radio, I am immediately transported back to those days - I know I'm not alone here and want to record those memories for myself and for the people in them. 50 years ago the song "Alfie" was recorded for the film of the same name and I'm hoping that by writing this blog, I might finally work out the answer to his question, "What's it all about?"

5 thoughts on “Eighties Bowie, David Sylvian and Forbidden Colours”

  1. Reblogged this on What's It All About, Alfie? and commented:

    As my computer is still “in the repair shop” I am limited as to what I can do at the moment, so here is the post I wrote on the 16th of January last year which inevitably featured David Bowie as we were still all reeling from the news of his death 6 days earlier. This time however it was an excuse to feature the beautiful Forbidden Colours by David Sylvian and Ryuichi Sakamoto written for the film Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence.

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    1. I love Let’s Dance, it’s a great pop album. A shame hardcore Bowie fans look down their nose at it because of that. I think Modern Love is one of his best songs, particularly the Bowie-does-Michael-Caine intro.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Two very beautiful men! (I’m still shallow!)
    Good luck with the computer repairs and in the meantime I’d still be happy to see the posts I didn’t see this time last year with any updates, as I missed out at the time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Men certainly were spectacular in the ’80s what with the hair and the clothes – A lot of preening went on! Sadly I think part of George Michael’s recent problems had a lot to do with how he had looked of late – He was very conscious of his image and spent a lot of time on grooming so didn’t sit well with him if he didn’t look his best. So sad.

      I see you have just done a great post so will pop over to your place later to have a proper look at it. As for my computer I hope to get it back tomorrow – Only 6 months old but has caused no end of problems whereas the old banger I got rid of never did! Arghhh…

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