ONE FINAL PIECE ON DAVID BOWIE

David Bowie and Mick Ronson's infamous Starman performance.

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.

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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.

 

11 thoughts on “ONE FINAL PIECE ON DAVID BOWIE

  1. I couldn’t write any more than the very brief snippet I posted yesterday. I still can’t. Everyone has said it and more. All I will say is that I really envy those of you old enough to remember Bowie back in those early days. Like you Jacques, I was nine when I was first struck by the great man, but that was from seeing the video of Ashes To Ashes. That Starman performance is the stuff of legend, but I was barely walking at that point.

    As and when I have something to say, maybe I’ll do an article. It’s still too raw and painful though. Until then, I have most of his back catalogue in the car. Blackstar today. Astonishing to the end.

  2. Jacques is right regarding influence. I listened to my brother’s Bowie albums when I was young and then sought out the works of those he worked with, and so did my bother, but we both went in different directions. So while I later sought out the works of Lou Reed, Brian Eno and Robert Fripp my brother was listening to Tina Turner, Brian Ferry and Queen.

  3. Guy – Ever since those pre-teen days, he’s always been a Queen to me. It wasn’t (consciously at least) anything to do with sexuality, but rather the seeming grandeur and flamboyance of the man that my young eyes saw before me. It’s kinda stuck. And the Smiths nod was an added bonus.

    I should also say that just because I didn’t appreciate his latter output, that doesn’t negate his ongoing cultural impact, inspiration and influence for me. A true giant.

  4. For many of us, rock music is the closest thing we’ll ever have to religion. Bowie was our patron saint of the outrageous, the innovative, the challenging, the exciting. His catalog between 1970-1980 is canonical scripture, of sorts. Our sort.

  5. I like to think that I’ll be able to assemble a few thoughts at some point, but to be honest, like so many it seems, I’m really struggling at the moment. ‘I Can’t Give Everything Away’ came on the radio this afternoon and I honestly thought for a moment that my legs were going to buckle beneath me.

  6. He was always there, as you said Jacques. When I started listening to music it seemed as if everyone was influenced by him. Those that weren’t still respected him enormously. He was a giant, his career too huge and nuanced for me to be able to write about in any meaningful way. lol give me an obscure 80s Glasgow band from the 80s who released 2 songs and I will wax lyrical….. But for my all time hero I am and will no doubt remain so in awe of him as to be lost for words.

    I listened to Blackstar today, the track not the album. I can only say that from an art point of view, he bowed out perfectly. I feel I have to qualify that in saying that if that sounds trite in light of the personal pain and discomfort he must have been experiencing with his illness, I am glad for him the suffering is over now. But for us, he was always there…..and now he is not. He was so fine.

  7. “FOR ME, he hasn’t made a decent album in 30 years.” – Blackstar would easily stand up against some of the late 70s albums (which is extremely high praise in my book).

  8. Just for the (new) record. I haven’t yet heard Blackstar the album, though friends (and the media) tell me that it is indeed very good. I shall try it when things are a bit less raw. My words were chosen carefully though – he continued to write songs, many of which I liked, and be as influential and challenging as ever. However, for me there wasn’t a full album worth of material that really wowed me. My intention was to be honest, and not pretend that I was a huge fan of that later stuff, but to be clear that, despite that, there will be few artists who will touch me as deeply. That is all.

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