When I was about six, I was given my first record player. It was a binatone thing, portable, with mono and auto settings. I only had a few singles and a Reggae chart hits album my dad gave me, so I scoured my mom and dad’s copious record collections to discover new songs. And that’s where I found it. Jean Genie. I hadn’t a clue what it was about, it sounded magical and other worldly, but I fell for it long and hard and it started my love affair with David Bowie that has lasted my whole lifetime. And this morning, on hearing the news of his death, I felt devastated and bereft, like I had lost a member of my family or a true friend. And the tears are flowing freely.
Life on Mars and Heroes are my ultimate favourites, but there are so many songs that I listen to and feel a tingle in the spine. His music is the soundtrack to my life, I hunted for original vinyl during my teen years at the bric a brac market in Great Bridge, feeling like I’d won the lottery when I found The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and discovered Suffragette City. Seeing those clips of Queen Bitch and needing to find a bipperty bopperty hat, discovering a love of Mott the Hoople through their version of ‘All the Young Dudes’, dancing at indie clubs to Rebel Rebel. Just last week, I ordered a new copy of Hunky Dory which came on Saturday – I can’t look at the cover at the moment without dissolving into tears again.
Bowie was unique, brilliant, driven, ruthless and the ultimate musical chameleon. He was never less than interesting, and was a huge influence on all areas of the arts and fashion. ‘Ashes to Ashes’ showed the new romantics how it was done, the Aladdin Sane cover, so iconic, was immortalised in high fashion when Kate Moss was transformed, complete with thunderclap across the face. Kate Bush, Noel Gallagher, Florence and the Machine, Madonna, the New Romantics, Boy George, Marc Almond, an almost endless list all owed a huge debt to his influence, and his blatent sexuality, especially in the 1970s, ensured that things would never be the same again (throwing that arm casually across Mick Ronson’s shoulders on Top of the Pops at teatime in 1972).
Beautiful, unique and brilliant – ‘he’d like to come and meet us, but he thinks he’d blow our minds.’ You did that David, and then some.
RIP to my hero.x