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David Bowie

'I loathed it' – what David Bowie learned from his brief spell in adland

By Christopher Mcquade, work experience

January 11, 2016 | 3 min read

In July 1963 a young David Jones (still to undergo the first of his transformations and become David Bowie) enlisted in the only nine-to-five job of his illustrious career – working as a junior visualiser/paste up artist with Nevin D Hirst Advertising at its office in New Bond Street, London.

Having failed every O level except art, his job there included drawing sketches and pitching ideas to his superiors for potential ad campaigns.

The music icon, who died last night aged 69, lasted less than a year in advertising and resented the constraints the position placed on his artistic ability, as he would later lament in interviews.

In ‘Starman: David Bowie -The Definitive Biography’, the late star is quoted as saying of his time in advertising: “I loathed [it].

“I had romantic visions of artists’ garrets – though I didn’t fancy starving.”

During a 1975 interview, he would go even further, saying: “It was diabolical, I never realised being an artist meant buckling under so much."

But despite his disdain, Bowie's brief spell in adland may have had some influence on his illustrious career, and talent for self-promotion.

In Peter Doggett's 'The Man Who Sold The World: David Bowie and the 1970s', former Bowie bandmate with the Kon-Rads, David Hadfield, said: "His main contribution [to the band] was ideas. He had thousands of them, a new one for every day – that we should change the spelling of our name, or our image, or our clothes.

“He also came up with lots of sketches of potential advertising campaigns for the band.”

After the Kon-Rads, Bowie would go on to carve himself a reputation as a global superstar with a keen handle on image and a taste for reinvention, performing as Ziggy Stardust and a host of other persona.

And he never lost his knack for generating publicity, as he showed with the shock release of the single 'Where Are We Now?' on his 63rd birthday with no warning or fanfare.

Whatever he really felt about the ad business, it didn't stop Bowie from appearing in a range of commercials over the years, promoting everything from Pepsi to Louis Vuitton.

The star's death after an 18-month battle with cancer was announced this morning by his son Duncan Jones. Luminaries from music, design, politics and beyond have since paid tribute to his creative legacy.

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