“Where the fuck did Monday go?” sang the great man on his last gift to us all in the shape of the album Blackstar, where indeed? Same could be said of large parts of this last week since the bombshell news filtered through on twitter and the BBC that quite genuinely knocked me for six.
When my good friend and Bowie fan Brian phoned just a few minutes later, in shock himself, I simply couldn’t even speak. The day was a right off and a melancholy mood descended for the rest of the week that I couldn’t shake. I didn’t want to share this with all the news stories and other fans, this was just too much, too personal, so the dogs got longer walks and I wore headphones playing his music as I tried to recover.
What self indulgent twoddle that sounds like, even to me, but the mood was real and I guess I am now writing this to try to rationalise why the death of David Bowie, a distant rock star old enough to be my dad, had such an effect.
I’ve been aware of the music of David Bowie pretty much all of my life, I can remember Space Oddity buzzing around my head during my early years c. 1975 at Mossfield Infants School and then admiring the bizarre visuals of Ashes to Ashes on Top of the Pops in 1980. My interest in music grew as a teenager, awakened to things a little different by Adam and the Ants and then when Let’s Dance hit the charts in 1983 I was sucked into what would become a lifelong appreciation of the work of David Bowie. Fan boy since ’83.
The more I explored the record collection at Swinton library, the more I found relating to Bowie. Each album was dutifully borrowed, copied onto cassette and then played relentlessly. To this day there are parts of Young Americans that skip in my mind the same way the record skipped when being illegally copied. So my formative teenage years were lived to a constant backing track of Bowie’s music and I devoured anything available to read – which meant books and magazines in those days. RCA kindly re-released a box set of 20 Bowie singles for which I saved up pennies and purchased from the Debenhams record department on Market Street, this kick started a collection of ’45s that continued until ’45s ceased to be released.
As Bowie moved on to Tonight and Never Let Me Down he took me along for the ride, now with paper rounds and market jobs to fund purchases. Having missed the Serious Moonlight Tour in person, just a bit too young to be aware and organised enough to secure expensive gig tickets, I was over the moon when The Glass Spider Tour was announced. Seeing the man perform live at Wembley and Maine Road in 1987 are treasured memories and many of the new songs performed remain special to me despite negative comments and reviews from those less informed.
Tin Machine happened as I went to University, now this was something to treasure. The cassette was played every single day in my Mini for the commute between Morecambe and Lancaster and was genuinely worn out to the point where it no longer plays. Still love it to this day and recently saw the great Reeves Gabrels at a small gig in Leicester just to get close to it.
So the critics didn’t like much from David during the late ’80s and ’90s but each album was purchased and added to my internal playlist and every tour apart from Earthling was visited at least once. I still wear my tour T shirt from Heathen performance in Manchester to this day. Better received in 2000’s with Heathen and the out of the blue joy of The Next Day – all were added to my regular Bowie playlists and have been enjoyed, its nice that cassette tapes don’t wear out these days! I always find that whichever album you might choose to play there is always at least one song that is just perfect and would make any fans top 40 – I’m Afraid of Americans on Earthling for example, just exceptional.
So I had just spent the weekend adding the new tracks from Blackstar to my internal jukebox when the bombshell news hit the streets. The album doesn’t make for easy listening but that has never really been the point, when the magic clicks you find yourself with even these newest of songs hooked into you head for the day.
Thankyou David for all the music. My heart bleeds for those closest to you who, especially Iman, Duncan and Lexi.