opening Metrobolist7

An introduction to Metrobolist: Five Chapters by Michael J. Weller (Home'Baked Books, 2015) was first blogged on the 45th anniversary of David Bowie's The Man Who Sold The World LP release in the USA.

Michael J. Weller’s ‘Metrobolist' tale is a published chapbook series. Five chapters beginning 1946 finishing 2015.

Apart from social media updates and term 'poetry comics' amended to 'poetry c(art)oons', 2015's original post remains the same. It's here.

Mid-2015 there was an idea initiated by Nigel Reeve working for Bowie’s record company to release a limited, signed Metrobolist album: a boxed vinyl recording of David’s nine songs with the American cartoon sleeve as it was conceived originally, speech bubble filled; opening to reveal a surreal Metrobolist6 gatefold photo story from out-of-time schooldays to Bowie 2015 via Keith MacMillan's 1970 Haddon Hall photoshoot. Same yellow US The Man Who Sold the World  back cover with song lyrics and Blue Note Oh By Jingo cartoon trio sans Mercury logo.

Metrobolist7 will explain, in a form of imaginative storytelling, why Metrobolist6 didn't happen, and also, as speculative fiction, suggest how the tale might conceivably end up as parallel alterities—fantasy and actualised document.   

Dedbrickton—imagined district of southeast London.

Unique serial title & number ‘Metroblist6’ is suggested by MJ's fictional character "Mart Cert/Alpha Zee" in June 2015 (Social Reality Earthtime) to acknowledge the publication of  Mike Weller’s Home’Baked Metrobolist5 chapbooks and numerically index the release of Metrobolist as a record album.

In 1970 Metrobolist was the original title Mike Weller and David Bowie agreed on, before Mercury Records decided to disregard their client's instructions. The record company made a mess of material left them to complete— resulting in less options for DB to consider as potential LP presentations in territories other than North America.

Mercury’s UK subsidiary Philips Records subsequently released David’s preference for a selected Keith MacMillan domestic cover photograph for his emerging homegrown, European and Asian audience—to the applause, it must be admitted, of not only David but just about everybody involved in Bowie’s professional management 1970-71.

Despite, or because of Mercury's cock-up, the 'cartoon' or 'wild west' cover always enjoyed a tiny fistful of admirers. Over the years this has turned into a growing number of enthusiasts. And David was the first. Thirty years after the picture was drawn it seemed to grow on him again as time and events passed—and continue to pass.

DB and his New York office gave Metrobolist6 an initial nod in 2015 but that was it.

Sadly, after 45 years, there was to be no reunion or working collaboration between Mick Weller and his old chum making the Metrobolist6 album a social reality.  

David’s poor health was not, however, the only reason ‘Metrobolist6 did not materialize 2015/16.

Back in 2015 other production difficulties emerged. Original lettering, painting and finished artwork had mysteriously vanished from Mercury’s archive years before. The lettrist title ‘Metrobolist’ and comic-book bubble caption had to be hand-drawn again from Mike Weller’s memory (with originals 'lost' and only an old  'Metrobolist' lettering sketch in pencil to work from). A newly agreed hand-lettered album subtitle Nine Songs by David Bowie was added.

These in turn needed digitalizing with the best front and back colour reproduction the Bowie Archive had in its possession. A professional art studio began developing the concept with a quote from David in a companion supplement.

Metrobolist6 was intended to be a high-end gold-lettered boxed vinyl article.

Slow fiction of three colourful cartoon characters

Along with his visual associations page at homebakedbooks, everything the present author wished to write about David Bowie was published as Metrobolist: Five Chapters between 2014 and 2015.

Metrobolist chapters' précis began at this site 2015.  It was inevitable Five Chapters' online posts would need amending and revising after sad news of David's death in 2016. But précised chapters one and two remain here on original date of posting, January 5 2016. 

Although Mick Weller is user and supporter of information junkie Jimmy Wales's Wikipedia project, an honest account of David and Michael's original Metrobolist is not included in its current The Man Who Sold the World (album) article. The present writer tried but didn't succeed to effectively add accurate revision to content -- it was altered back to an earlier patchwrite. Mick's effort can be found buried in the article's 'Cover art' edit history. Wales's free-to-use-and-edit encyclopedia can attract an obsessional wikipedian concern with erroneous detail resulting in a form perhaps best described as uncreative patchwritten wikifiction.

A telephone interview Mike Weller conducted with John Robinson for music magazine UNCUT's February 2020 Bowie Ultimate Record Collection Part 1 (1964-76) is recommended for its insights and historical accuracy. Or as Mick responded to this edition of UNCUT's archive collection—someone's done research at last!

But Metrobolist chapters have never claimed to be anything other than fiction. Imaginative fiction is sometimes the only mode in which truth be told.  Starman Jones made fantasy characters out of experience for the entertainment of himself and his audience. From Ziggy to final identification with vulnerable, ailing, alien Newton -- the character Jones first portrayed in Nicolas Roeg's movie of Walter Tevis's The Man Who Fell to Earth.

Perhaps only the small surviving group of  people who knew David in childhood; and those close to him maybe in later years, are really able to compare the human-being who lived downstairs until 2016, with Mike Weller's character drawn upstairs as  "John Beyond" in a fiction with made-up 16th century actor Kenneth Morris Tapley playing boys and girls in old times.

In his late twentieth century incarnation "Ken Tapley" plays  pop and rock musician "John Dagger", doubling as a cultural vanguardist in New Elizabethan Deamtime Reality. By 1958 Weller's secondary world character demanded someone soon play him for real. In this incarnation Ken Tapley is written and birthed by a  "lady grinning soul" -- glamourous yet obscure handmaiden of suburban 1940s Metrobolist picture houses.

Ken Tapley, preparing for his role as rock 'n' roller John Dagger, in turn playing '70s pop sensation "Glitter Glamm" is blue-suited figure left, accompanied by glamorous lady grinning soul character "Debbie Dagger" centre, and fictional Jinkerman -- revolutionary "Mo Stepniak", character right, disguised as worker struck for fame at "The Firm".



 (Blue Note extract from Metrobolist 4, Home'Baked Books, 2015)

Metrobolist 5. Blessed Boys and Girls

Last chapter of bookwork Metrobolist: Five Chapters. Like chapter 1 in the montage, chapter 5 is something of an exception. Of style rather than content in this instance.


Hand-lettered and vispo'd throughout; chapter 5 takes the form of an "image comic". It takes cue from cartoonist Mike Weller's  characterisations of David Robert Jones 1961 - 2015.

In journey from secondary school to arts lab; an ageing south London observer -- call him Mick for the fiction -- watches an old friend achieve unimagined fame, fortune and an eternal place in the firmament of global iconography.

In Michael Weller's bookworks and spoken-word -- DB is depicted throughout his golden years as characters Ken Tapley (author's own singing fantasy figure), John Dagger (pulp fiction comic book 19th century anarchist rebel and 20th century rock star), Starman Jones (Commander of Cosmic Squad sci-fi) and Glitter Glamm (DB's immortal creation Ziggy Stardust as caricatured by Mick Weller).


In the late 60s, and at the very beginning of the 1970s, David and Mike shared several 'artists union' collaborations, including the decision to share responsibilty for design of DB's third LP. Devised in home counties suburban Beckenham (later caricatured  as "Dedbrickton" by Weller) the North American-released album cover resulted in a failed compromise pleasing no-one.  

Intended experimental visual poetics were submitted by David himself. This collaborative work by Keith "Keef" MacMillan: and two other novice art professionals, inexperienced in dealing with powerful U.S. music industry game-players, was delivered to Mercury. The record company wrecked it.

For David, Metrobolist was the first and last time during a long and phenomenally successful career Jones lost control of the presentation of Bowie's music and image. 




Metrobolist 4. On the Theme of Light and Dark (docu-track)

Chapter 4 opens with quotes from Hanif Kureishi's 1990 novel The Buddha of Suburbia and MJ Weller's 1995 (Social Reality Earthtime) fiction within a fiction The Man Who Drew Too Much.

Set in 1960-1962: this chapter tells the continuing story of Bromley Tech schoolboy creation Joseph Jacob Welles and his  author, the character Mike Weller. Weller is a misfit compared to his model pupil alter ego J.J. Welles. Dreamer Mike is unsuited to technical education whilst Welles excels in the school's vocational science and metalwork needed for future white heat world technology and industry. Illustrator Brian Grimwood and design consultant Aziz Cami succeed in applied art.

And like a classic British comic book schooldays story -- this fictionalized Tech is cast with good and evil characters: Teachers Hampton, Walker, Fairbanks, Sprickle, Choat; antisemitic playground bullies Pugh and Luggan; and of course heroic captains of winning teams in wider society and culture. Bromley Tech depicted here is an aboriginal BRIT School and Hogwarts combined. The school has stars in George Haywood and David Jones. And it is arts -- not technology -- that wins its alumni glittering prizes.

By the mid-1960s future writer-in-the making Karim Amir becomes a first year, joining celebrated older ex-pupils: singer & musician-turned-painter George Haywood; rock musician Chris Hampton -- son of lettering & layout master Oli Hampton; contemporary music composer Roderick Nibayrks; and legendary icon David Robert Jones aka Bowie.

Chapter 4 ends in modern 21st century Croydon with the Tech's scientist alumnus Joseph Jacob Welles an elderly man, wondering over fifty years later, whether it is he -- or his alter ego, elderly poet and cartoonist Mike Weller, who painted a picture for fine art master Clinton Walker's classwork topic 'On the Theme of Light and Dark'.

Did Welles make the character Weller up, or was it Weller who made up character avatar Welles? And which one of them won top marks in Mr Walker's art class with a painting entitled 'The Metrobolist', exhibited in the school's art block during 1961?


Metrobolist 3. A Young Englishman Abroad

Opening with a quote from Philip K. Dick's 1956 novel The World Jones Made and a mock wiki article on Mick Weller's fictional character Ken Tapley -- a fourteen-year old David Jones introduces himself to Michael Weller in this short narrative prose and poetry comic beginning 1961. The chapter closes with their 1969 reunion.


Mike Weller's imagined Ken Tapley emerged from 1950s suburban bedroom scribbles. For two or three years before, Weller's fantasy sat among a tech schoolboy's comic-books, sci-fi pulps, 45 rpms, old New Musical Express papers, film, tv & radio fanzines, annuals, pin-up wank mags; Colin Wilson's The Outsider and Jean-Paul Sartre's 'Roads to Freedom' trilogy in paperback.

Eight years after their first meet-up at Bromley Tech's smokers' corner, Jones meets Michael Weller again at a 'folk lab' held in the back of the Three Tuns pub in Beckenham. David and Mick joke about making up a character named "Ken Tapley" for an 'artists union'.

Mike Weller had forgotten this fantasy -- deleting the character from his soft mind years before, yet still embedded in his hard brain. For In David Jones, since renamed Bowie: Michael Weller recognised Ken Tapley; a young Englishman abroad at Metrobolist.