It seems David Bowie was a constant feature of my childhood – and that is no exageration.
My parents gave me this book as a very young kid about famous “david”s. I was only maybe 4 or 5 so this book must have been printed mid 70s or late 70s at best. And this was my first understanding of this character called “David Bowie”. The book presented him as this bigshot music star – but to me – not only was he a megastar with the very same name as me – but crucially, he was a ginger too. That was a stupidly important thing to me. Back then I was often defined more a “ginger” than a “david”.
And in that book he was the only “David” that was contemporary. There was King David from the Bible and Davy from the Monkees (which was a tiny bit cool). And then this Davy Crockett who’s claim to fame was that he had a cool hat.
There was no Lynch or Tennant or Beckett (just kidding) back then. But with Bowie I was entirely satisfied I was in good company.
The next thing I knew about Bowie was this crazy song called “Space Oddity”. I was so young but still quite a bit of a music fan. But this was a song I fucking knew sounded nothing like anything else on the radio. It out-weirded the most experimental of the Beatles – even Pink Floyd – yet it was still so accessible. So manageable for my tiny mind that just wanted to rock but at the same time be taken on a journey like Star Wars. I never used to pay attention to lyrics much until that song. It was my first ever proper story-song.
I remember hearing it at the darkest of night on a car trip home from Ipswich and we were going over the Turbot Street overpass. Everything just conspired that evening to literally take me into an outerspace adventure. And a seriously tragic mystery too. I knew music could do that – with star wars and battlestar galactica – but this was brand new.
And it should be said I was utterly obsessed with space back then. I was next level obsessed.
And I am guessing that song is still pretty unique as an epic pop song set in space.
Then there was “dancing in the street” where he did this hammy duet with Mick Jagger for Live Aid. Just for perspective: Live Aid was almost as important as Star Wars back then. My dad bought that song on a 45 single and I would play it over and over.
Next it was a movie he was in – The Labyrinth. I definitely watched it as a kid but the movie didn’t really hook me and it didn’t make much sense that Bowie was a big deal. Later his “Goblin King” thing was something my generation tried to appreciate. Bowie was more than that to me.
All the while I was older and older and I guess his “hits” were always around. And I guess I just thought of him as “hits”. like everyone else I had that greatest hits collection and he just existed in that era where every major pop star or group was suddenly a “compilation album”.
My favourite movie once I was kinda an adult was SEVEN. And I was so in love with that movie that I had bought a brand new Bowie single – “The heart’s filty lesson”. it was so creepy yet so good. I was pretty impressed that such an old guy could be relevant again.
But it was Wintah who made me listen to a whole proper album of his. Like beginning to end. My Little Lovers bandmates – Wintah and Ben – were massive fans and Ben had this DVD of Bowie performing live. I think he loved “Young Anericans” best. They played it over and over.
And this was before YouTube really had “everything”. If you wanted to see a music video – you pretty much had to buy it.
So I asked Wintah for a Bowie album to devour and he thought about it for a bit and finally said, “Hunky Dory”. So that’s where I got balls deep into Mr Davey Jones.
When I went to Berlin for the first time (and only time) I downloaded all of Bowie’s Berlin albums as research. True Story.
It didn’t really help as far as what to do or what to see – not that I expected that. But it was my soundtrack because this was my very first trip somewhere overseas where I just entirely on my own. There was no Dee and only one mate (susie/sullivan) over there to visit. I was quite a bit scared and needed everthing I could to help me through.
I like to think that Bowie helped me on that journey.
So here we are. Dee and I were yesterday discussing how so many rockstars had died within such a short period. “Who’s next?” Dee asked.
I half-said “ringo” or “keith richards”.
Dee was like, “No way!”
But in my head I remember considering David Bowie, but I was immediately like – “That’s stoopid”.
Just as we were going to sleep on Sunday night Michael messaged me asking if I had heard Bowie’s (just released) new album – I hadn’t.
And to my discredit I had no interest in it. Bowie was my past – not my future. I feel so shit about that because he was probably in the throes of death as I thought that. This morning I wrote back asking if it was “any good”. Not expecting much.
Michael said it was his best album since the 70s. High praise. I really trust his taste but, this day, at 10am Monday January 11, I just forgot.
And then I was home and had had a shower and fed the chooks, collected the eggs, and taken both the recycling and normal bin out. And then I was stacking the dishwasher when I saw 4 messages on my phone. Bowie was dead.
I called Dee straight away. I was almost in tears. What the hell?
Then I dug out all our Bowie records and I put “Heroes” on first. And I cranked that song so fucking loud the floors shook. I didn’t care what the neighbours (or the chooks) thought.
And then I opened the front door and sat on the steps and appreciated it from the outside.
I kinda knew I wouldn’t be alone in my grief today.