The Pretty Things Are Going to Hell (partially found David Bowie music video; 1999)
"The Pretty Things Are Going to Hell" is a song by English rock musician David Bowie, who throughout his life was a leading figure in the music industry and to this day is regarded as one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century. Written by Bowie and collaborator Reeves Gabrels for Bowie's 1999 album 'hours...' , the song was originally included as part of the soundtrack to the film Stigmata earlier that year before being issued as the album's second single (save for in Australia and Japan, where it was the leadoff release).
Concurrently with the song's single release was the production of a music video for it where Bowie encounters four of his "past selves" portrayed by life-sized, mannequin-like puppets: the Man Who Sold the World (based on the British cover photo for the 1970 album of the same name), Ziggy Stardust (the title character from 1972's The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars), the Thin White Duke (the central character of 1976's Station to Station), and the commedia dell'arte character Pierrot (depicted on the front cover of Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) and in the music video for "Ashes to Ashes", both in 1980). Despite having been fully recorded, the video ultimately went unreleased, with only fragments of it publicly available to this day.
The video was directed by Dom & Nic (working name of directors Nic Goffey and Dominic Hawley), shot in September 1999. Bowie hired Jim Henson’s Creature Shop to design the four puppets (allegedly for £28,000). In his website, puppeteer Rick Lyon shared photos and some insight about the production, besides confirming that the video was shelved:
"In early September, 1999, I had the pleasure of puppeteering for a David Bowie music video for a song on his latest album at the time. In the picture at right, you can see me at the far left puppeteering a full-size puppet of Mr. Bowie's Ziggy Stardust persona. He was seeing the puppet for the first time, and was conferring about the length of Ziggy's hair. At the far right, with blonde hair, you can see one of the directors, Dom, who was lining up a shot of Ziggy smoking a cigarette. Just out of the frame at right is John Tartaglia, who was puppeteering Ziggy's hand while I did the head and face.
This video has never been released. I spoke to someone at the production house in Dec. of 1999, and they said it had been shelved. Too bad.
The video was produced by Oil Factory, and the beautiful puppets were built by the Henson L.A. Creature Shop. The lead puppeteer was my good friend David Barclay, and the other puppeteers were the aforementioned John Tartaglia, James Godwin and Eric Jacobson."
In an online chat in October 2000, Bowie explained why he didn't release the video.
"Melissay1: Mr. Bowie, whatever happened to the video you were working on with the Jim Henson Creature Shop for "The Pretty Things Are Going To Hell"?
david_bowie_live: It was abandoned after we found that the puppets ended up looking like puppets.
david_bowie_live: What I mean is it didn't have the east European darkness that Dom and Nick had wanted to achieve. Some of it is downright funny and I'm sure it will make its way onto a video compilation one of these days. To be a source of endless amusement to you all and another form of Chinese torture for myself.
david_bowie_live: You can probably find it on Vidster."
Availability and Legacy
So far, the only fragments of the video that had surfaced are the clips of Bowie performing the song in a theatre. Some stills of the puppets sequence taken by Kevin Mazur were published in different magazines and are easily found on Pinterest. Puppeteer Rick Lyon shared two photos of the Ziggy Stardust puppet. Bowie also posed for a photo with the four puppets as a promo pic.
Despite the video's shelving, the puppets created for it did end up servicing Bowie more thoroughly years later: in 2013, the Thin White Duke and Pierrot puppets were taken out of storage and used in the music video for the single remix of "Love is Lost", promoting Bowie's album The Next Day. Consequently, this marked the official public debut of these puppets, though the other two remained unseen outside of the scrapped 1999 video.
- Wikipedia page on "The Pretty Things Are Going to Hell." Retrieved 07 Apr '21
- Bowie songs article on "The Pretty Things are Going to Hell." Retrieved 07 Apr '21
- Lyon Puppets page about the unreleased music video. Retrieved 07 Apr '21
- Archived page containing a transcription of the David Bowie Halloween 2000 Chat. Retrieved 07 Apr '21