I remember the first time I saw his face was in August 1980. My parents had gone out for the night and left my grandparent to babysit us. They liked the Generation Game and a few other Saturday night TV shows, so we all had to sit and watch together. My grandfather used to turn the tv on for a show he like and then turn it off again, funny how people used to do that back then. When they were clicking between the 3 channels to find what they were looking for, they landed on BBC2 which was showing the video to 'Ashes to Ashes', there he was, David Bowie.
I found the video and the music quite disturbing; I was only 9 years old and had never seen anything like it. The image of Bowie dressed as the Pierrot clown, walking in in front of the JCB while Steve Strange and co, dressed as nuns, are bowing as they walk, I found quite unsettling at that age. It reminded me of something you’d see in an old Doctor Who episode or Quatermass (both of which I also found disturbing at 9 years old.
“Ashes to ashes and funk to funky - We know Major Tom's a junkie - Strung out in heaven's high - Hitting an all-time low”.
Cut to March 1983, I was 12. My parents didn’t have much money when we were growing up so Summer holidays were taken along the West Coast of Scotland in guest houses or static caravans. That year it was Girvan in Ayrshire. One Saturday my Dad took us to a little café for lunch. I ordered a scotch pie with beans and a cup of tea, I remember the smell of pastry, fat and people smoking, there was a little radio on a shelf with a long ariel sellotaped to the wall. Just as my food arrived, I heard the opening bars to Let’s Dance…all the chatter and hum of the café disappeared and all I could here was this song, that rhythm, that voice.
A little neural fuse was connected that day and I was a Bowie fan from then on in. Even to this day when I hear Let’s Dance, I can see, smell and here everything in that little café.
“Put on your red shoes and dance the blues - Let's dance - Dance to the song they're playing on the radio - Let's sway - While colour lights up your face - Let's sway - Sway through the crowd in an empty space”.
I got the ‘Let’s Dance’ Album for Christmas that year, I got the Tonight album the following year and began a lifelong appreciation of David Bowie and his music.
As I got older and could go to record shops, I was shocked to find that the Bowie that I knew was mid-way through is career…there had been many different ‘Bowies’ before I’d even heard of him!
Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, The Thin White Duke….
Lots of catching up to do. I found that my personal favourite Bowie era is the ‘Low’ album from 1977, by then his 11th studio album…track 1 ‘Speed of life’ is one of my favourite pieces of music of all time.
He defined eras in music, he fronted movements and influenced generations. Even if you are not a Bowie fan, you are likely a fan of artists who have been heavily influenced. For me that was Japan, Talking Heads and Simple Minds. Even through to more modern favourites of mine, Arcade Fire and Queens of the Stone Age…they all openly claim that it was all about Bowie.
So, a little tribute to a monumental artistic icon, a legend of which there are few like, if any. The very definition of reinvention, constantly evolving, experimenting, embracing 'changes'...
What’s your favourite Bowie track….? Ask me twice and I’ll give you a different answer each time.
Today I’ll go with Heroes because every time I hear it I fill up. But I’m already thinking its Moonage Daydream, or it is Starman or...(?)
Sleep soundly Mr Bowie - thank you for the music...
“We're nothing, and nothing will help us - Maybe we're lying, then you better not stay - But we could be safer, just for one day…”