New Zealand invasion Flight of the Conchords was one of the most innovative shows on television. In many ways, it was similar to the original Tenacious D series. It came at the right time for American audiences. In one episode, the two characters played tribute to the many sides of musician David Bowie.
When the show hit the air, it was clear that the main joke was an underlying innocence. Despite being on HBO, the series often held back on language or sketchy situations, meaning it could have been made for teens. The innocent comedy is similar to Will Ferrell’s comedy, The Office, or Buster Keaton when the subject isn’t trying to be funny.
Jemaine and Bret are two young New Zealanders who are trying to make it as a small band in New York. Their digi-folk band is unlike anything else from the era, which makes it both comical and occasionally catchy.
David Bowie Tribute On Flight Of The Conchords
In a 2007 episode called “Bowie,” Bret is upset that he’s such a small guy for a photo shoot. That night, a version of 1972-era David Bowie shows up and recommends he wear an eye patch to make himself stand out. When that doesn’t work, another version of Bowie comes back to offer more advice.
“It’s not Jemaine, it’s 1972 David Bowie from the Ziggy Stardust Tour.” When asked about the two sides of David Bowie, the musician said his interest was in Kabbalah and Crowleyism. “That whole dark and rather fearsome never-world of the wrong side of the brain,” said Bowie.
In the scene, Jemaine Bowie wore the makeup, the slick-back hair, and carried an acoustic guitar in a red and white stripe suit. “This is a dream, Bret. It’s all part of your freaky dream,” he over-emphasized. “Am I freaking you out, Bret? Is this a freaky dream?”
After some unusual back-and-forth, Jemaine Bowie told Bret not to worry about his body image and suggested an eye-patch. Another one of Bowie’s personas also wore an eye-patch to perform. “Oh the media monkeys and the junkie-junkies will invite you to the plastic pantomime. Throw their invites away,” he suggested.
”It’s 1980 David Bowie…from ‘Ashes to Ashes…’”
Later in the episode, another David Bowie persona arrives while Bret is trying to sleep. “Bret! It’s 1980 David Bowie, from the music video ‘Ashes to Ashes.’” Like the video, Jemaine Bowie wore the same unusual clown-ish outfit from the video. In white makeup, a cone hat, and bright clothing, he floated over Bret.
Bret informed this version of Bowie that the eye-patch made him lose his depth-perception, which caused trouble on stage. “I missed my chair. Sat down and fell on the floor,” he added. Jemaine Bowie said he too had some trouble and would occasionally walk into doors while wearing the eye-patch.
After another unusual question about the real Jemaine, the duo talked about being outrageous as a musician. “You’ll know what to do, Brett. And you’ll know exactly when the time is right.”
Jim Henson, George Lucas, and David Bowie
Finally, a third version of Jemaine Bowie arrived by walking across the wall horizontally. “It’s 1986 David Bowie from the movie, Labyrinth,” he said. Like the movie, his hair was teased like a rock star and he wore eye make-up along with a suit from the film.
“So, you showed your penis to the man from the greeting card company,” said Jemaine Bowie. “I didn’t mean something like that. I meant something like, I don’t know, wear make-up.” Bret then informed his hallucination that he was wearing make-up, but it wasn’t on his face. “I meant on your face, Bret.”
After revealing that the hallucination didn’t have any more advice, he said he was late for a party and would not return. “I’m already twenty minutes late.” When asked about the party, he replied “It’s in space, Bret. It is quite freaky, isn’t it?” Then he stood up and headed to the party.
Ironically, this gave him an idea to make a song called, “Bowie’s In Space.” The lyrics went, “Hey Bowie, do you have one really funky sequined space suit? Or do you have several ch-changes? Do you smoke grass out in space, Bowie? Or do they smoke Astroturf?”
There are rumors that the series will return for a one-hour special on HBO in 2018.
The Many Personas Of A Rock Icon
As for the real David Bowie, there were as many personas as there were popular songs that helped catapult the star to stardom. One of his best personas was likely Ziggy Stardust. In the early 1970s, the musician had a distinctive thunderbolt across his white face, with a red mullet and tight jumpsuit.
The musician described his other persona as if it were another person. “He was half out of sci-fi rock and half out of the Japanese theater,” he said. “The clothes were, at that time, simply outrageous. Nobody had seen anything like them before.” But he never stayed with one persona for an extended period of time.
Bowie got to a point where he couldn’t keep writing for Ziggy. Instead, he wrapped the look and the tone after two albums. Then, he moved on to Halloween Jack. This character looked a little like Ziggy, but his spiked mullet was different and he also wore an eye patch, platform heels, and often had a scarf around his neck.
This look came around the time of Diamond Dogs in 1974. Soon after, he dressed and acted as Thin White Duke. In 1976, his tenth album appeared and so did the Duke. This time, he ditched the mullet and went for slick-back hair. He wore a lot of scarfs and waistcoats.
Finally, there was Major Tom. Ziggy Stardust is likely the most well-known look but Major Tom actually came first. It was referenced in his song “Space Oddity,” which came out in 1969. In the video, there is a cosmonaut lost in space in a silver jumpsuit and black helmet. He dressed as Major Tom once again in 1980 for “Ashes to Ashes.”
What is your favorite look from musician David Bowie?