Thursday, January 14, 2016

David Bowie (8 January 1947 - 10 January 2016)

7:15 a.m on Monday 10 January 2016. That was the time of my 'Kennedyesque' moment. A knock on the bathroom door and my wife saying "Did you know David Bowie has died?" Let's be honest as questions go that's up there with the daftest but my Wife knows me well after thirty odd years and it did take me eight months once to casually mention I'd seen three people knocked down by a bus/taxi combination whilst on a visit to Glasgow, so it was rhetorical rather than anything else.

Back in 2013 when I wrote a series of reviews under the title 'Bowie Week' it was as a result of the excitement surrounding his last but one album release, now I find myself writing again just days after his death and the release of his latest and last album, sorry posthumous releases just don't do it for me anymore than extended versions or special collectors editions, so with Blackstar that is the end of a brilliant, glittering and innovative career.

Last Friday's release saw me up and on the computer before breakfast to complete the purchasing of the aforementioned album. Two tracks had already been made available and both sounded like classic Bowie, in the sense that they sounded familiar and yet new at the same time.

I once read somebody boldly declare online that the two things that keep most people excited beyond their daily work and family routines are sport and art and I agree. The spiritual aspect of both cannot and should not ever be underestimated. We all need that outlet and more often than not we shall find it, not necessarily within ourselves nor lived vicariously through others, through the simple pleasure of letting sport and art into our lives.

Reading comments on various media websites and in the newspapers about the over reaction to the death of a pop singer, very little of the comments were of the ironic nature noting that the over reaction was by the media itself. I haven't been running up and down the street outside the office shouting at strangers "he was a bloody genius, yes an overused word but he was!" No, I've been listening and reflecting, listening to his music and reflecting on how it impacted on me during the better part of fifty years that it provided so much enjoyment, occasional bewilderment and sometimes frustration. I've not said to anybody, "Yeah, but man, I loved him more than you".

A public death and the media frenzy that surrounds it are a creature to behold. All those politicians you hoped didn't like music suddenly do, Blair (who didn't mention Bowie once in his 700 page autobiography), Cameron (who didn't include one Bowie song on Desert Island Discs but did include Benny Hill) and of course Boris Johnson who seemingly believed that Bowie was the second coming.

John Lennon, a man whose death was greatly mourned in the pre-Interweb era despite not having released a decent album in almost a decade, summed it up best for me when he said, of The Beatles, "We're a pop band nothing else." You could never tell whether Lennon was being serious or just wilful but you know what he meant.

As I sat alone on Monday night listening to 'Hunky Dory' it occurred to me, almost without thinking and with a genuine brief moment of pain, how many pivotal moments Bowie and his music had played at various stages in my life, the sound of his voice and Rick Wakeman's piano on 'Life on Mars?' transported me back to 1972 and a school disco and I smiled at the memory.

Blackstar will  probably be number one in the album charts this weekend on both sides of the Atlantic, a first which in itself seems a fitting closing curtain on an outstanding contribution to music.

I cannot think of another artist who has spanned so many years and continued to make music that demands the attention of its listener, certainly none of his contemporaries have continually sought to reinvent themselves, the likes of Jagger, Richards, McCartney, Townshend and Davies ran out of ideas around about 1973 just as Bowie was getting up a head of steam.

It was a brilliant career and we shall miss him but we have his music and more than anything, his fashion, his politics or his drug taking, that was what was important.


Span Ows said...

Missed several months :-), very well written. I hope all is well.

You were way ahead of me: I knew of Bowie but just thought he was 'a bit weird' until Heroes (sat in maths class raving with mate, autumn 77). Of course now I know that was from his twelfth album! Luckily it took me back into Low and other masterpieces.

Paul said...

Hi Span,

Thanks for the comment. I'm good thanks, hope you are as well, enjoying all the build up to the 23rd.

Good job I have now joined the 21st century and got a decent phone otherwise I would have missed your post! I really should get back into this when I have a quiet moment.