The latest program at the College of Art in Memphis, Tennessee, commenced today taught by John Michael McCarthy. The six week course, titled "The Film Class That Fell To Earth," was inspired by a visit to the college by David Bowie 35 years ago in February 1973.
The night before, Bowie had played at the city's Ellis Auditorium on the Ziggy Stardust tour, playing two sold out shows at 7 and 10 pm. The next day he toured the college at the invite of teacher Dolph Smith. Accompanied by Mick Ronson, Woody Woodmansey and rock photographer and Andy Warhol cohort Cherry Vanilla, who was working as his publicist at the time, Bowie spent a couple of hours looking around the campus. McCarthy saw a photo of the visit, taken by Vanilla, when he was a student at the college in the eighties, and was inspired by it to start the course.
This being Memphis, he was particularly taken by the idea of basing the course around Bowie because of parallels he saw with the city's most famous former resident, Elvis Presley. Bowie and Presley share a birthday, January 8th, and both recorded for RCA. Other connections include the fact that Elvis began his concerts with the Strauss music from 2001: A Space Odyssey, and that he felt that the glam rock movement that Bowie spearheaded in the seventies was very much inspired by the flashy stage outfits Elvis was using at the time.
Students on the course will learn to make a short, 15 minute rock and roll film using Bowie as a metaphor. McCarthy said "in a figurative sense, I want the students to cut their hair and dye it orange." At the conclusion of the course, the films will all be aired at a public showing.
Here's the man himself on that famous 1973 tour.