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  • Artist Disillusionment: Narrowly averted. After the Glass Spider Tour, Bowie seriously considered focusing on his hobby of painting instead of music, having found so little lasting satisfaction in trying to please the fans Let's Dance had brought him. Reeves Gabrels convinced him that he could learn to love his work again if he just focused on what made him happy, and from there the seeds of Tin Machine were planted...
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  • Author Existence Failure: In January 2016 of liver cancer, causing a worldwide outpouring of grief. Despite originally intending to be his final album, Bowie changed his mind after recording it and made demo recordings of five new songs for what he intended to be its follow-up, but he died before he could complete it.
  • Awesome, Dear Boy: Inverted when he turned down the role of Max Zorin in A View to a Kill because he hated the script and didn't think it would be fun to work on ("I didn't want to spend five months watching my stunt double fall off cliffs"). Played straight with several of his film roles, which he usually picked over other, more conventional star vehicle offers because he wanted to work with their directors, performers, or simply liked the concepts.
  • Breakthrough Hit: "Starman". In the U.K., his Top of the Pops performance of this song, complete with some Faux Yay between him and guitarist Mick Ronson, is as fondly recalled as a superstar-making moment as Michael Jackson's performance of "Billie Jean" on Motown 25 is everywhere else. The 1973 reissue of "Space Oddity" was his U.S. breakthrough (with "Fame" proving his staying power by topping the charts two years later).
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  • Cash Cow Franchise: While he stopped touring back in 2004, didn't release any new material until The Next Day nearly a decade later, and died just three years after that, the bulk of his back catalog is still in print and often receives elaborate reissues (particularly his Glam Rock works), there's a good deal of merchandising surrounding him, and new documentaries and/or books about his career (especially the latter) come along every year. The David Bowie Is retrospective of costumes and other memorabilia from his personal archive smashed attendance records at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London in 2013 and toured the world's premier museums well into 2016.
  • Channel Hop: One of the most well-known examples with a solo artist. The sheer amount of labels Bowie operated under is fairly staggering, to the point where it's made his back-catalog the source of quite a few legal quandaries over the years (most notably with his pre-Space Oddity material, as illustrated with the infamous shelving of Toy). In order, Bowie has operated under the following record labels:
    • Vocalion Pop (1964)note 
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    • Parlophone Records (1964-1965)note 
    • Pye Records (1966)
    • Warner (Bros.) Records (1966)note 
    • Deram Records (1966-1967)
    • Philips Records/Mercury Records (1969-1971)note 
    • B&C Records (1971)note 
    • RCA Records (1971-1982)note 
    • EMI (1983-2001)note 
      • EMI America Records (1983-1987)
      • Virgin Records (1993-2001)note 
    • Rykodisc (1989-1992)note 
    • Victory Music (1991)note 
    • Arista Records (1993-1997)note 
    • Columbia Records (2002-2017)
  • Creator Breakdown:
    • Low was written and recorded while Bowie was starting to wean himself off cocaine, and while his marriage to Angela was showing fissures that would soon lead to divorce. That set the tone for both the album and its title.
    • And this was the album where Bowie was recovering (it has been described, not inaccurately, as "a cocaine come down put to music"). His previous album, Station to Station, was recorded in Los Angeles while Bowie was suffering a full-blown cocaine-induced psychotic breakdown. He claimed in interviews that he remembered nothing about the recording other than describing the guitar sound he wanted on the title track to the session musician, but there are many stories about his behaviour at the time.
  • Dye Hard: His dark blonde locks were dyed very red to help complete Ziggy Stardust's look in 1972; even after he dropped the character he would stick with predominantly red hair until the end of The Thin White Duke's reign in 1976. He would briefly return to being a redhead during the Earthling era before reverting back to dark blonde.
  • Executive Meddling:
    • With The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, RCA Records execs liked it, but also wanted a song that they could push as a single. So Bowie wrote "Starman", which replaced a cover of Chuck Berry's "Around and Around" on the album and turned out to be the song that made his career.
    • Part of the reason why Tonight and Never Let Me Down continued to try and appeal more to fans of the pop rock-oriented Let's Dance was because of pressure from EMI Records following Let's Dance's runaway success. Never Let Me Down is an especially bad case in the sense that Bowie wanted to return to his rock roots for the album after the poor reception of Tonight, but his indifferent attitude towards the production gave EMI free reign to stuff in as much flourish as they desired. The end result was an album widely seen as unnecessarily bombastic, overproduced, artificial (even more so that Tonight), and conspicuously dated-sounding. To the day he died, Bowie regarded Never Let Me Down as one of the biggest mistakes of his career, and longed to get a chance to redo it (which eventually came true in the form of Never Let Me Down 2018, albeit over two years after his death).
    • The original version of 1. Outside was roundly rejected for being a collage of electronic experimentation, free jazz and wounded singing that went on for stretches of up 20 minutes per song. The only section that seemed to survive the original sessions was "Segue: Ramona A. Stone/I Am with Name", which was edited down from the lengthiest jam.
    • Bowie's 2015 single "★" was cut down from "over 11 minutes" to a length of 9:57, as Apple's iTunes Music Store did not allow singles over 10 minutes in length. Bowie was adamant that that song had to be the lead single from the album of the same name; he still could have used the full version for the album, but he thought having two versions of the song would be "confusing". Tony Visconti, Bowie's longtime producer, called Apple's policy "total bullshit."
  • Fan Nickname:
    • His crotch has been deified and named The Area by fans. It has its own website and religion.
    • Bowie himself is called "The Dame" in the British music press. This dates back to The '80s and the height of his mainstream success, and was initially used as a putdown (according to journalist Charles Sharr Murray). Likely inspired by the "Dame" character in British Pantomime, who is a comic old woman played by a beloved, famous Large Ham male performer in drag. The name of Pushing Ahead of the Dame, the blog run by music critic Chris O'Leary that features in-depth essays on every song Bowie ever recorded, is a pun on both this nickname and a line from "Queen Bitch".
  • Flip-Flop of God: Bowie was famously inconsistent on pretty much everything he thought about regarding himself and his work; he once stated in an interview that "I change my mind like I change hats; I fluctuate between one opinion and another continually."
  • Irony as She Is Cast: Played Celibate Hero Nikola Tesla and Hollywood Tone-Deaf Thomas Jerome Newton and Jack Celliers.
  • Keep Circulating the Tapes
    • Just a Gigolo never had a DVD release beyond Germany, and VHS copies date back to The '80s and are tough to find.
    • The BBC production of Bertolt Brecht's Baal he toplined in 1982 has never been released on video anywhere, and the tie-in EP never had a standalone CD release. However, two of the five songs can be found on official best-of sets, and the entire EP is available on the Re:Call 3 compilation CD included with the A New Career in a New Town [1977-1982] Boxed Set.
    • No reissue of Never Let Me Down includes "Too Dizzy", at Bowie's personal request. The song also does not appear on the Loving the Alien box set which otherwise features his complete recordings from 1983 to 1989, including a non-album tracks set. Bowie historian Nicholas Pegg theorizes in The Complete David Bowie that Bowie sees it as Old Shame since it's a Silly Love Song that can be interpreted as a rapist's monologue: she's reluctant and already has a lover, but the singer is determined to make her his...
    • While most of his music videos have been officially released on various formats, a few slipped through the cracks — including the handful of videos he made with Tin Machine. The videos from the first album can be seen legally on YouTube via VEVO, since EMI uploaded them, but since Bowie and co. did Tin Machine II on another label, those videos are MIA.
    • Tin Machine II itself is an example of this. The album received little to no reissues after its initial release in 1991, largely owing to the fact that the label it was released on, Victory Records, went defunct in 1994, and the commercial disappointment of the album seems to have demotivated any other labels from trying to put it out again. The only re-releases Tin Machine II has seen were not only few and far-between, but also exclusive to Japan and Russia for whatever reason. This was finally averted on July 17, 2020, when the album was given its first major reissue on both silver vinyl and CD via sister reissue labels Music on Vinyl and Music on CD, respectively.
    • The 1985 RCA Records CDs are an odd example of this trope. While Bowie's 1969-1980 albums have definitely seen plenty of reissues over the years on every format imaginable, the RCA CDs in particular seem to be in hot demand on the secondhand market. This is largely on the basis of them being the most problem-free CD releases of Bowie's albums prior to the Parlophone remasters throughout the latter half of The New '10s. While they're sourced from later-generation tapes and suffer from the issues typical of such transfersnote , they're seen as more tolerable compared to the thin-sounding Rykodisc remasters (which were actually highly praised at first— if only because they sounded different than the RCA CDs— but have since become the subject of greater scrutiny) and the Loudness War-afflicted Virgin/EMI remasters. Even after Parlophone released their own remasters of the majority of Bowie's studio albums, there's still a considerable number of people attempting to hunt down surviving copies of the RCA CDs, which are highly unlikely to see any re-pressings due to RCA losing the rights to Bowie's back-catalog in 1988. The only repressing of an RCA Bowie CD to date was with the inclusion of the 1985 West German Station to Station CD in the 2010 deluxe edition release of that album.
  • Limey Goes to Hollywood: Bowie moved to the U.S., ultimately settling down in Los Angeles, after the release of Diamond Dogs to work on courting American audiences (the Ziggy Stardust period was merely a cult success there); the Diamond Dogs Tour solely toured North America. During this period he recorded Young Americans and Station to Station and filmed The Man Who Fell to Earth (a British production shot in the U.S.)... the downside was his Creator Breakdown unfolding during all this; he didn't think well of L.A. for a long time afterward.
  • Limited Special Collector's Ultimate Edition: Several of his albums have received this treatment, but none more so than Station to Station in 2010 — the Special Edition included an additional two discs containing his much-bootlegged Nassau Coliseum concert from '76. The Deluxe Edition...oh my...all for an album that has a less than 40-minute run-time and six songs.
  • Magnum Opus Dissonance: His entire career is rife with this, as the songs/albums he wrote for art are generally in the shadow of those he wrote for commerce. However, the first and biggest example for him would be a little song he slapped together out of boredom... he was actually embarrassed by it. "Space Oddity", his first hit— and still popular to this day.
  • Missing Episode: Toy, which would have come after 'hours...'.
  • Money, Dear Boy:
  • Name's the Same: He was born David Robert Jones. He changed his name to avoid being confused with Davy Jones of The Monkees.
  • No Budget: The video for "Love Is Lost" cost only $12.99 according to the official press release! The life-sized puppets? They were actually created for an unreleased 1999 video (see What Could Have Been below) and taken out of mothballs in 2013. The three-person crew included himself!
  • Old Shame:
    • He disavowed his 1967 album in general. The 2014 greatest hits album Nothing Has Changed, which had Bowie's input in selecting the tracklisting, includes a charitable selection of pre-"Space Oddity" tunes (including his first single "Liza Jane"), but "The Laughing Gnome" is nowhere to be found.
    • He regreted sticking with the style of Let's Dance for as long as he did.
    • He wasn't happy with how Just a Gigolo (1978), his first film after The Man Who Fell to Earth, turned out — "Listen, you were disappointed, and you weren't even in it. Imagine how we felt."
    • The Thin White Duke period was this in some ways due to his flirtation with fascism during the period, which he later disowned. He doesn't seem to have had a negative opinion of the music of Station to Station itself though, despite not remembering much about its recording process.
  • One for the Money; One for the Art: He did the Pepsi ad in 1987 because he needed the money to help fund his Glass Spider tour; indeed, he said it's probably the only reason anyone would do an ad.
  • Playing Against Type: He made his Broadway debut as the title character of the play The Elephant Man in 1980. While he didn't use prosthetics (as per the play's instructions, he distorted his body language and voice instead), the gentle grotesque definitely contrasted to his usual bold, sexy image. In Jazzin' for Blue Jean, dorky Vic is also absent Bowie's usual charms, and is deliberately contrasted with Screamin' Lord Byron, a more conventionally Bowie-esque figure, albeit one who's Played for Laughs.
  • Promoted Fanboy
    • Tilda Swinton has been an avowed Bowie fan ever since she saw The Man Who Fell to Earth, and in the 2013 video for "The Stars (Are Out Tonight)" she got to play his wife.
    • Bowie himself was a big fan of the Velvet Underground since before their first album even came out, and ended up producing frontman Lou Reed's solo album Transformer.
    • Likewise with Devo, Bowie became a near-instant fan of them from hearing their demo tapes in 1977, and ended up providing additional production on Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! alongside Brian Eno; Bowie also contributed backing vocals to the album, but these went unused (Mark Mothersbaugh still has Bowie's recordings on-hand though, alongside production embellishments by Eno that also went unused).
    • Obviously Trent Reznor, Bowie being Reznor's idol, and the two of them toured in 1995. Reznor even credited Bowie with inspiring him to get sober.
    • A mutual instance for TV on the Radio; Bowie was one of the band's earliest boosters, having fallen in love with their 2003 Young Liars EP, which had been passed along to him by a mutual friend. Bowie took to the band, gave them advice on the mixing for their debut album Desperate Youths, Blood Thirsty Babes and appeared as a backing vocalist on their 2006 single "Province". Dave Sitek, the band's guitarist and producer, once quipped about his appearance on "Province" that "I never expected to be in a situation where I’m at a mixing board asking David Bowie to enunciate a consonant."
  • Reclusive Artist: He was once so accessible that he regularly communicated with his fanbase via his official website at the Turn of the Millennium. But then he slowly became this. He had not released a new album since 2003, his last tour — one cut short by a heart attack that required multiple bypass surgeries — was in 2004, and his last live performance was in 2006. A few film/TV roles and guest appearances on other artists' albums later, and that was all. He only seemed to surface for the odd premiere or charity fundraiser, and didn't grant interviews. In The New '10s, it was generally accepted by fans and the music press that he quietly retired to raise his family, preserve his health, indulge in his hobbies (he painted, sculpted, and was an avowed Book Worm), and enjoy the fruits of his labors... which made January 8, 2013 something of a Wham Episode for everybody when the website was relaunched, a new album announced, and a video for its first single released. The Next Day was a huge hit, but he still would not grant interviews — longtime producer and friend Tony Visconti has said Bowie ruled out the possibility completely — and would not be going on tour to support any new releases. His only guest appearance afterwards was as a backing vocalist on the Title Track of Arcade Fire's Reflektor in 2013, and public appearances were nonexistent (with even his attendance of the premiere of Lazarus only becoming known after people noticed him there first). Any chances of this changing ended with his death three years later.
  • Short-Lived Big Impact: Not Bowie himself, but his band Tin Machine. They were only active for roughly four years (1988-1992) and put out just two studio albums and a live record within that time before dissolving, with Bowie returning to his solo career afterwards. However, in hindsight, the band has been noted for being a major influence on 1990's Alternative Rock and especially grunge; an account from Tin Machine producer Tim Palmer attests that when he was working with Pearl Jam as the mixer for Ten, he walked into the studio one day to find the group listening to "Heaven's in Here". This retrospective realization has been credited as a major catalyst in the band becoming Vindicated by History, having gone from receiving lukewarm responses from fans and critics to being considered one of the most important bands of the late 80's.
  • So My Kids Can Watch:
    • Twice. He narrated Peter and the Wolf in 1978 because his son was a fan of the work. Decades later, his daughter was a SpongeBob SquarePants fan, hence his voicework in the "Atlantis Squarepantis" special as Lord Royal Highness.
    • He performed on Bing Crosby's last Christmas special partly because his mother was a fan.
  • Throw It In!: While recording the title track for "Heroes", Bowie, Tony Visconti, and Brian Eno had Robert Fripp record three separate takes of the song's iconic guitar line. Just for the hell of it, they tried playing the three takes together, liked the way it sounded, and the rest is history.
  • Troubled Production: Being an artist who always had a heavy amount of ambition, it's only inevitable that it would sometimes result in him biting off more than he could chew and paying the price for it.
    • The first leg of the Diamond Dogs Tour in 1974 was rough going for him. It was an early example of Scenery Porn in rock tours with its colossal, skyscraper-dominated "Hunger City" set — which obscured his band and backup singers, who were not happy at being marginalized for most of the show and would sneak out from behind the buildings as he performed. Beyond the big budget the show required, those backing performers weren't getting their checks on time, a symptom of larger problems Bowie was having with his spendthrift management, whom he would soon part ways with, but not without litigation that lasted him the rest of The '70s. All the while, Bowie's problems with illicit substances firmly took hold of him. A memorable incident at one show had the cherry picker arm that carried him in a chair over the audience for "Space Oddity" get stuck, leaving him to crawl down it to get back to the stage while audience members grabbed at him (according to producer Tony Visconti, who witnessed it firsthand). On another occasion, the show's staff outright forgot to lower the cherry picker at the end, leaving him stuck up there, alone, for a good while after the concert had already finished, before his team remembered about him and sheepishly returned to a very cross, very snarky Bowie. Tellingly, the second leg of the tour dropped the set altogether, and his next two tours took far more minimalist approaches to staging. The BBC documentary Cracked Actor followed him on this tour, and is legendary not only for being the only source of good-quality footage of the tour, but also for vividly capturing Bowie's frantic state of mind during this period.
    • David Live, recorded near the end of the first leg of the Diamond Dogs tour, had some additional troubles of its own:
      • Bowie's backup band learned of the intent to record the shows at Philadelphia's Tower Theatre only a few hours before the first one. Since recording a live album had not been provided for by their contracts, they threatened to walk out, and stuck to their guns when Bowie's initial offer was too low. Finally, after he promised them $5,000 each, they agreed to play. However, the bad taste the whole experience had left in their mouth affected their performances to an extent that is audible on the album.
      • But at least those performances were audible. As the album's notes admit, some of the backing vocals had to be overdubbed after recording since the singers were often too far from the microphone, and later it was divulged that this issue had affected some of the sax parts as well.
      • Many critics have also taken issue with Bowie's new arrangements of his songs, and his heavily strained singing (probably a result of the already-stressful tour combined with the effects of cocaine abuse). Bowie admitted in retrospect that the cover image makes him look dead. Despite these shortcomings, the album is still essential listening as it captures Bowie as he transitioned from the Ziggy Stardustnote  sound and persona of his Glam Rock period to the more soul-influenced sound of Young Americans.
    • Bowie was in much better shape mentally and financially come 1987, thanks to the huge success of the mainstream-appealing Let's Dance and the Serious Moonlight Tour of '83. But according to Paolo Hewitt's retrospective Album by Album, EMI America wanted the money train to keep rolling (1985-86 had him focus on film work following the tepid reception of Tonight, itself the result of Bowie feeling pressured to follow up Let's Dance ASAP) and in 1987 pressured him into recording and touring again, resulting in the infamously reviled Never Let Me Down. For the Glass Spider Tour meant to support that album, Bowie took another shot at Spectacle, with Scenery Porn and a small troupe of dancers who interacted with him throughout in colorful vignettes. The giant set turned out to be problematic at outdoor venues, particularly in Europe: unusually rainy weather hurt the English and Spanish shows, and venues that decreed that the show was obligated to start before sundown made the lighting effects hard to appreciate. Among the many incidents on the tour:
      • A lighting engineer fell to his death from the scaffolding before the Florence, Italy show.
      • At Ireland's Slane Castle, a fan died trying to swim the River Boyne to get backstage.
      • Fans who couldn't get into the stadium in Milan, Italy rioted, though this was resolved peacefully.
      • In Dallas, Texas, Bowie was accused of sexually assaulting a fan at his hotel; while he was cleared of the charges, an ad he did for tour sponsor Pepsi was pulled.
      • All along, audiences in seats further out from the stage could hardly see what Bowie and his troupe were doing. The tour was his most highly-attended yet, but he put up with bad reviews (especially in his native England) that called it overblown, as if the poor response to Never Let Me Down weren't enough for him (the few good reviews the tour did get were from writers who attended the rare nighttime show, when the visual effects could actually work as intended). What's more, he was frustrated that the audience he was trying to appeal to didn't understand/appreciate his artistic flourishes and older/less-popular songs closer to his heart. Tellingly, over the course of the tour, several of the new songs were cut. Exhausted by the end, he considered giving up on music altogether. But guitarist Reeves Gabrels convinced him to create only for himself again — leading to Bowie's Hard Rock period with the group Tin Machine.
      • The Glass Spider Tour is still joked about by fans who regard the bulk of The '80s as a colossal Dork Age for him, though (thanks in part to the official video of the Sydney, Australia shows, which shows his work in the best light) there are those who regard it fondly. It was rumored for years that Bowie and his crew destroyed the Glass Spider set by lighting it on fire in a field after the final show in New Zealand (as a means to relieve to the stress the tour had provided). It took until 2016 for that rumor to be refuted: the set was just placed in storage in an Auckland warehouse.
  • Typecasting: Most of his roles, be they goodies or baddies, human or inhuman, are linked by a cool, mysterious aura — the trailer for The Hunger referred to this as "cruel elegance."
  • What Could Have Been
    • He was preparing a musical version of 1984 as a post-Ziggy Stardust project, but couldn't get the rights from Orwell's widow; some of the songs he wrote for it were recorded and released on Diamond Dogs. A 1980 New Music Express interview revealed he actually worked on a surreal, partially-animated film based on the album, intending to release it Direct to Video.
    • In 1973, it was announced he was going to play Valentine Michael Smith in a film adaptation of Stranger in a Strange Land.
    • He was announced as a cast member for the 1976 film version of The Blue Bird (perhaps as Fire — the only major role fit for someone his age), but didn't like the script enough to go through with it.
    • "Golden Years" was written for Elvis Presley, but he turned it down, which explains its uncharacteristically doo-wop sound compared to the rest of Station to Station (fun fact: Presley and Bowie were both born on January 8).
    • He worked on a musical score for The Man Who Fell to Earth with Paul Buckmaster, but it didn't pan out. Aside from a bass part that, played backward, was incorporated into the Low track "Subterraneans", none of this music has been made available. It would have included a song called "Wheels" (referencing the train imagery in the film).
    • He wanted to be in The Eagle Has Landed but the director went on record as saying his audition wasn't good. Other could-have-been movie projects in the late 1970s included:
    • David Hemmings, who directed Bowie in Just a Gigolo, also filmed one of his 1978 concerts, but Bowie wasn't happy with the result and it was never released.
    • There is evidence that Mark David Chapman, the man who murdered John Lennon, considered murdering Bowie, who was also in New York City at the end of 1980 (performing in The Elephant Man on Broadway). He apparently made a choice between killing Bowie or Lennon— what if he'd gone with the former? Or much worse, decided to kill both men?
    • Related to the above, he planned to tour in 1981 in the wake of Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps), but pulled the plug after Lennon's assassination and the discovery that he was also on Chapman's hitlist.
    • He bid for the rights to Metropolis in the early '80s, but was outbid by Giorgio Moroder. As the trope page for the film puts it, "God knows what he...scratch that, probably even God doesn't know what Bowie would have done with Metropolis."
    • His busy schedule in The '80s not only forced him to drop out of the title role in the Faerie Tale Theatre adaptation of The Pied Piper of Hamelin (Eric Idle took over the part), but also kept the Doctor Who producers from casting him as Sharaz Jek in "The Caves of Androzani" (the Fifth Doctor's final serial)!
    • As noted above under Awesome, Dear Boy, he was offered the part of Zorin in A View to a Kill but turned it down.
    • His participation in Live Aid was supposed to include a live trans-Atlantic duet with Mick Jagger on "Dancing in the Street", but this proved technologically impossible; instead, they made the infamous video for it that aired during the broadcast. Also, Bowie's set was going to include five songs rather than four, but he chose to give up the time so a montage of video footage of the suffering Ethiopians the concert was benefiting could be aired instead.
    • Was the original choice to play Lawrence Jamieson in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, which was initially conceived as a vehicle for him and Jagger to reteam. Bowie had to back out due to him being signed onto The Last Temptation of Christ at around the same time, while Jagger was already committed to Running Out of Luck.
    • He was sought for the title role in Hook but turned it down — he probably came closer to being in a Peter Pan movie than Michael Jackson ever was.
    • Shortly after the release of Never Let Me Down, Bowie expressed interest in making a follow-up more in the vein of his Berlin Trilogy. However, these plans were dropped as a result of the immense critical and fan backlash to both Never Let Me Down and its associated Glass Spider tour, which instead led to the creation of Tin Machine as a means of breaking Bowie out of his artistic slump. Supposedly, the tracks "Lucy Can't Dance" & "Pretty Pink Rose" and a cover of "Like a Rolling Stone" were originally planned for inclusion on this aborted album, but were eventually repurposed in different forms on later projects.note  Bowie would eventually make a Spiritual Successor to the Berlin trilogy in the form of 1993's The Buddha of Suburbia, but the one that was intended to follow Never Let Me Down never really came to fruition.
    • 2. Contamination and 3. Africaans, the planned continuations of 1. Outside, were never recorded (supposedly some of 2. Contamination was recorded onto tape, but will never see daylight).
    • A Concept Video was shot for "The Pretty Things Are Going to Hell" (hours...), with Bowie encountering several of his past personas as "played" by life-sized puppets, but he wasn't happy with the result and it remains unreleased. Two of the puppets— the Thin White Duke and Pierrot— got their closeups in 2013, when he reused them for the "Love Is Lost" video.
    • In the lead up to the 30th anniversary of Ziggy Stardust in 2002, he considered such ideas as a stage musical about the character or outright reviving him on the concert stage, none of which came to pass.
    • Toy was intended to be the album between hours... and Heathen and it would've featured re-recordings of various early and obscure material in his back-catalog, including singles and B-sides from 1964-1970, a Ziggy Stardust outtake, a track from his 1967 debut album, and a track from The Deram Anthology, plus four new songs: "Uncle Floyd", "Afraid", "Hole in the Ground", and "Toy (Your Turn to Drive)". "Uncle Floyd" and "Afraid" were later re-recorded for Heathen (the former being renamed "Slip Away"), and a few other tracks appeared in the U.K. or Japan as B-sides. In the spring of 2011, roughly a decade after its cancellation, Toy was leaked online and generated enough press that it was formally reviewed by Classic Rock magazine. Perhaps in response to this, the deluxe edition of the 2014 Nothing Has Changed later included the Toy versions of "Let Me Sleep Beside You" and "Shadow Man" plus "Toy (Your Turn to Drive)", though the full album remains without an official release (possibly due to rights issues).
    • He declined to cover one of Peter Gabriel's songs for his Scratch My Back companion project I'll Scratch Yours, where each of the artists he covered covers one of his songs in turn. We got Brian Eno instead.
    • In 2011, rumours of a 2012 Farewell Tour with a reformed Nine Inch Nails surfaced, only to be revealed as an April Fools joke.
    • The world might have come to call him Sir David Bowie, but he turned down the opportunity to be knighted.
    • He was asked to perform at the 2012 Olympic Games, but declined. That didn't stop ""Heroes"" from serving as the unofficial theme song of the British athletes, and several of his other songs were incorporated into the opening and closing ceremonies.
    • In the late '70s and The '80s, he frequently expressed a desire to direct movies as well as act in them. Although he did receive co-director credit on several of his videos, he never would direct a feature. (His son Duncan Jones, on the other hand...)
    • The creators of The Venture Bros. tried to get Bowie to voice himself, but never heard back from him/his agent.
    • Chris Martin of Coldplay asked Bowie to sing backing vocals on one of their songs, but was turned down because it "wasn't one of his best."
    • Just before Bowie died of cancer in 2016, James Gunn and Kevin Feige were planning to ask him to cameo in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
    • As mentioned above, the Title Track of was initially planned to be over eleven minutes long, but was cut for release because of iTunes' limitations on the length of a single, and Bowie did not want to confuse listeners by releasing two versions of the song.
    • While the album was already a pretty big What Could Have Been due to being the start of an Orphaned Series, Brian Eno revealed that towards the end of his life, Bowie was talking with him about 1. Outside and considering revisiting the album (and, we might infer, possibly resuming work on its abandoned sequels). One can only imagine what he might have come up with had he lived long enough to do so.
    • Prior to Bowie's death, Bryan Fuller said that he was considering to cast him as Robert Lecter in NBC's Hannibal.
    • After his death, Tony Visconti said that Bowie was at the time demoing a follow-up to during his last months. He recorded five demo tracks for it, and it's possible they'll eventually see release, but even if we hear them, we'll only be able to guess what the finished product would have sounded like. Given what a radical reinvention Blackstar was, there's hardly any question that it would have been amazing.
    • In a Reddit AMA posted after Bowie's death, Harmonix said that they created an avatar based on him for Amplitude, but the avatar was removed from the final product due to technical issues.
    • Shortly after his death, Dominic Monaghan confirmed the long-standing rumor that he'd auditioned for a role in The Lord of the Rings. The most popular speculation is that he wanted to play Elrond.
    • At one point Bowie was asked to appear As Himself for the Flight of the Conchords series episode "Bowie", but turned it down due to already appearing as himself elsewhere around that same time. The role eventually ended up being filled in by Jemaine Clement himself, which oddly enough worked in his favor for later roles.
    • Bowie had long teased writing an autobiography, and apparently made several attempts throughout his career. One such project was David Bowie: Object, in which he would have told his life story through 100 objects. The project ultimately fell through, but found a spiritual successor in the David Bowie Is... exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. Bowie was not involved with that project, but did allow its curators access to his extensive personal archives, and apparently most of the items that Bowie had set aside for Object wound up being selected for the exhibit.
    • He was set to reprise his role from Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me as Phillip Jeffries in the 2017 revival of Twin Peaks, but his death prevented it from happening. However, prior to his death, he gave his blessing to allow David Lynch to reuse footage of his character but on one condition: To have him being redubbed by Nathan Frizzell.
    • He was offered a role in Atomic Blonde as one of the interrogators in the framing story, but turned it down, likely not wanting to risk dying before all his scenes were filmed.
    • He was considered to play Neander Wallace in Blade Runner 2049, but died before he would accept it. Jared Leto eventually played the character.
    • He offered Rick Wakeman a permanent spot in his backing band, but Wakeman decided to join Yes instead. Tony Kaye, the man Wakeman replaced, played keyboards on Bowie's 1976 Isolar tour.
  • Word of God: "All the Young Dudes" is not a song celebrating youth according to Bowie but the very opposite.
  • Working Title: For his albums:
  • Writing by the Seat of Your Pants: On many albums, Bowie went into the studio with a few chord changes and wrote the songs on the hoof ("Heroes" was being written as it was recorded). Averted, however, on Hunky Dory, on which Bowie carefully crafted the songs on the piano before entering the studio.

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