I’ll stick with you, baby, for a thousand years.
Nothin’s gonna touch you in these golden years.
David Bowie, Golden Years
David Bowie For a Thousand Years
It was croissant Friday, payday, and I was treating myself to the usual croissant. At 7 a.m., upon entering my favourite patisserie, I caught the tail end of Bowie’s song, V2 Schneider. I hadn’t heard it in years: since the wasband decommissioned my turn table in fact. The next song was Golden years and memories came flooding back. My eyes started to tear up thinking about the song. I sang it to junior when he was little. It was the song I listened to it when I felt all my friends had abandoned me. When I listened to it when I felt immortal. Mr. Bowie was on my side.
David Bowie died January 10th, 2016. Oddly, the same date as my grandfather, who died in 1998.
With him, another piece of my past died as well. Bowie, like Joe Strummer, was a huge part of the musical soundtrack of my life. There isn’t one part of my life that I can’t point to a David Bowie song to sum it up.
There will be many ebullient tributes to David Bowie, mine included.
It’s well deserved. The imaginative and ever evolving musical landscape that he created spanned a huge period of time and across so many genres. I don’t think anyone else in musical history has left such an eclectic catalogue.
And I love all of it.
Some of his music, I could listen to anytime, like Let’s Dance or Earthling. Some of his more challenging music like Outside or Heroes, I listen to in darker moments.
What I loved most about David Bowie was how he always rode the wave just before it was about to curl.
In the early 70’s, he was performance art, then came Elton John and others. In the mid-seventies, he went into synthesizer music, then the synth-fueled New Wave movement followed in the late seventies. He went into ‘Plastic Soul’ and was followed by a whole gaggle of non-black soul singers.
When Tin Machine came out, it was music with a hard driving, punk attitude. Bowie called it grunge and said it was the next big thing. Shortly thereafter, Nirvana made it big.
Attitude by Bowie
I have an album from every era, although his Berlin material was the soundtrack to my disenfranchised 20’s. When the rest of the world was getting into over produced synth pop and studio “bands”, Bowie had me imagining standing in East Berlin looking at the gun towers. Through him, I discovered Iggy Pop and his Berlin tunes. Bowie and Pop were on heavy rotation on my mixed tape I had in my Walkman (yeah, remember those). With those tunes providing the soundtrack to my imaginary Berlin on the damp coast, I had attitude to spare.
Looking back, I must have looked odd in the pastel 1980’s Vancouver where Miami Vice colours ruled: Long black shiny coat, bleach blond short hair, ray bans, black velvet mini skirt with white shirt, black Beatle boots.
Earthling was an album that brought me back to life because the music is kick ass, in your face. It made me feel like a young punk again.
Whenever the man came to town, I had to be there.
1983 Serious Moonlight
Not only did I go to BC Place show, with Peter Gabriel and the Tubes, I was at both Coliseum shows, one which was taped live. It wasn’t a big production type show with dancers and huge screens. It was just excellent musicians, brilliant back up vocalists, dressing in all manner of costumes creating damn good music.
1991 Tin Machine at the Commodore!!
What an amazing show! Intense, full-throttle rock blasting at you in a very small venue. The antithesis of what Bowie had done before. Anyone who came expecting Let’s Dance left pretty quickly. Only us punkers stayed and slammed.
1997 Heathen, Plaza of Nations
This was a very special concert. We were just 500 souls and himself in the open air venue. This was as close as I ever came to touching him in person. What an amazing concert. Mr. Bowie was relaxed and having fun. The band was incredibly tight and sharp, all of the members much younger than their leader..
The final tour through Vancouver was the Reality tour, Macy Gray was the back up. It was one of the rare occasions that the wasband actually did something nice for me. He bought us floor seats. My hero had aged but he was still the coolest being on the planet. Plus the music was amazing. I knew all the songs and could have stayed up all night listening to him play them..
As I got older, my patience for attending concerts dwindled; I’d rather stay home with a glass of wine than press flesh with all the great unwashed people in the arena. Only he could get me out of my comfy socks and into the human fray.
Every concert was good. Never a dull or boring moment – ever.
The Parting Gift
It’s been many months since Bowie died. It feels odd holding his last album, Blackstar, in my hands. Normally I would have been the first to own the latest Bowie album. But not Blackstar.
Bowie’s voice is slightly tremulous and I have to wonder if it’s because he was so ill that he was frantic to finish this album. The songs are still interesting and electronic based. I can hear shades of the Berlin albums in it. Very atmospheric. As always, the words are important.
In his previous albums, he seemed to always have a persona, a part that he was playing. I’ve pretty much followed his example in most of my jobs.
The Parting Persona
On Blackstar, it feels like he was only putting on part of a persona, that maybe some of it was the real him. A parting gift from a well-loved friend.The package is beautiful, black, shiny, and elegant. It’s like looking at his funeral cortege going by, knowing that life as I know it will sound different without him.
It makes my cry. My hero has died. What do I do now?
The World’s Largest Rock Band plays Rebel Rebel.