A message about the action man. An unusual note for an exceptionally sad day.
THERE’D ALWAYS BE THAT DAY WHEN DAVID BOWIE BECAME PAST TENSE. AND IT’S TODAY. Terrible words to wake up to, but thank the Starman that radio was set one minute out last night so I didn’t miss the name… And let that terrible realisation dawn during that endless pause of less than a second until the sentence was completed and the news confirmed. It’s obliterating. In the wave of reviews, articles, analysis and dissections there were all those ideas hanging since his final album launched just three days ago. Each day, more to read, disagree with, think about. What if Eno and Bowie teamed up again? Reworked Outside? What about Rodgers, Moroder and Visconti. Every time, Visconti.
Just last night, I was reading Tony Visconti on those songs from the ★ sessions that didn’t make the cut. The promise of new material, maybe very soon? But it was such a brief and tight album, a small selection of brilliant tracks chosen for a reason. But those videos. That musical finally Off-Broadway for the South London kid who always wanted to write musicals. The being a stage reworking of his major film role. For the superstar who always wanted to be an actor, from mime to Brecht and beyond…
Lazarus. No, was never going to think about what that all meant.
Few people I will never meet will ever have the effect on me Bowie has.
There’s no doubt that I would be very different had it not been for David Bowie. This blog, if it existed at all, would be very different. The theatricality, the power for change, the hidden compromise, the surprise, the lyrics, the musicianship (though said he wasn’t a musician), the art (and was most definitely the artist he said he was), the production, the power, the quality, the volume, the intellectualism, the ridiculous, the soul, the glam, the rock, the ‘insert your genre here’. The risk. That’s him. And that was the inspiration. There’s a Thin White Duke hiding in the logo up there, a hint of Pierrot clown. Among other stuff, but it’s there.
Somehow, I managed to see him live three times. On the road during the Reality Tour, after I caught his magnificent Glastonbury return in 2000. Still, the greatest gig I’ve ever been to. (He’d take off that long coat you know, but he’s “too vain”). And then for the third and final time at his last UK gig at the Isle of Wight Festival in 2004. And he played Station to Station.
I don’t believe it. He played Station to Station.
I always had a secret lightning bolt across my forehead, just didn’t know it for a while. Until finally Bowie hit me full on the bolt when I was at art school in the late ’90s. Previously I’d ambled from ‘50s to ‘60s, Buddy Holly to the Beatles. And then slowly splintered with that decade into prog, metal, psychadelic. Into the 1970s and more of the same, then glam then… Suddenly it all stopped. That mini-evolution found one focus, the ultra-evolutionary, the chameleon able to change himself to suit his surroundings or oftentimes, changing them to match him. That would roll on to last Friday.
Back in the 90s I endlessly listened to the old ‘69 to ‘74 collection on a 24 hour bus trip to Barcelona. On cassette tape, of course. I’ve still got that. Hours was the first album of his that I bought on release, in the last year of the 20th century. I could have even downloaded it, the first full album to do that, had I known what downloading is. Six years ago I felt a bit strange from listening to the Station to Station LP too much and had to have a long lie down. I trailed around Berlin following his and Iggy’s mid-70s footsteps five years ago. Five Years. That became this triptych… A journey through Berlin with Isherwood, Pop and Bowie. I always look to layer and draw out links. Just another thing Bowie helped with.
I was hailing his late ‘90s and early 21st century work when The Next Day caught us all by surprise in 2013. I had fun breaking his persona’s down in what’s probably my most read feature. But I also had to rant about him not swamping the Q Awards that year. Last week I was praising Labyrinth, ready for its 30th anniversary this summer.
And last night I was writing my review of ★. Working on the cartoon that I just couldn’t get to work. I was pleased to get some form of Jareth into last week’s Labyrinth retrospective, but now more than ever I can see that was just Jareth and not Bowie. I could never never really get that to work. It never quite felt right.
Now I know why it didn’t work last night.
That review of★ will now transform into something different for a new era of Bowie on Jokerside.
David Bowie is… In the past tense. But David Bowie is.