My best mate Jacques is a tremendous writer who keeps his talents far too well hidden for my liking. Occasionally, he will leave behind a nugget of a comment but more often his best stuff comes in texts and e-mails.
This morning he posted a comment in response to the original piece on David Bowie that I typed up as I heard the news yesterday morning. It is far too good to be left there in the hope that some readers may stumble on it and so I’m reproducing it is a stand-alone piece. I think it will resonate with many.
I found it tough to write anything sensible about the passing of DB yesterday. I was truly stunned by the suddenness of it, just as we’d been discussing elsewhere his 69th birthday and the merits of another new album. As with everything the great man did, he moved on to some other cosmos with both style and dignity.
Musically he touched me deeply over the years and he was responsible for a, probably the, genuinely seminal event in my musical education. Starman truly was a magical moment that night it appeared on TOTP. So weird and wonderful that it had many of us kids arguing about it as we played in Primary School the next day. (So memorable, this is one of only 3 or 4 moments I can vividly recall from school in those early years). Of course it wasn’t so much the music we analysed, it was essentially the acceptability of a man looking a bit like a woman, the bending of gender. Fair to say that the argument split along the line of me and the girls versus the farmer boys. The die was cast for me – being a bit weird was okay. (And for the record, if ever I really was doing a Desert Island Discs, Starman is in there first, because that’s where the music began for me.)
It was a formative moment, but I’m not going to pretend that I totally “got” the music then or suddenly became a devotee. Hey, I was seven. But it had made a big impression and I always looked out for that weirdo over the next few years, buying the odd single and wishing the north of Scotland of the time was just a bit (well, a lot) more cosmopolitan.
During the punk years, I made a new friend, let’s call him Graham. He was a music collector the likes of which I had never known before, and he had copies of all the Bowie albums. For the first time, I could enjoy the full breadth of his back catalogue. And what breadth. Genuine pop majesty.
Again though, I still wasn’t a devotee. Loved pretty much all that he’d done at that point, but was ever keen to broaden my musical knowledge and experience, and wasn’t going to waste my life listening to the same old stuff over and over. It’s only now that I look back that I realise just how much of my record/cd collection is influenced directly and indirectly by Bowie. Without whom and all that. He’s always been there – a friendly uncle to turn to in times when you need something reliable, something you can trust to still be the friend you always knew. Something, let’s be honest, brilliant.
I never saw him live. I’m not sad about that. By the time I could, he was mostly playing to massive barns or stadia. Not for me.
And I’ll happily stand by the fact that, FOR ME, he hasn’t made a decent album in 30 years. But those 1970s ones are pretty much perfect. And for that I will always truly love him.
The Queen is dead, long live the Queen.