I literally don’t remember the time before I was conscious of David Bowie. My earliest musical memory, in fact one of my very earliest memories of anything, was Bowie’s Ashes To Ashes video on Top Of The Pops. It’s still an odd video to watch now so I suppose it must have been sufficiently mind-blowing for it to make a lasting impression on 4 year old me. I’ve looked it up, Abba, ELO, The Village People & Ultravox also appeared on that week’s show, none of whom made a similar impact funnily enough. Bowie has just been there ever since. It’s been a slow ascent however to where he sits in my affections now. Basically there’s Bowie, then there’s everyone else (you’ve all clocked that my blog titles are all Bowie lyrics, haven’t you?)
I’m fairly sure that the first Bowie song I was fascinated by was Space Oddity. As a sci-fi/space loving kid the story of Major Tom caught my attention. In a pleasing parallel, my boy was instantly hooked the first time he ever heard Starman for identical reasons (until recently if you asked him what his favourite song was that was his instant reply – it seems to have been usurped by Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Californication of late, I’m learning you have to let your children make their own mistakes).
A few years later when I was just into my teens I got the Changesbowie compilation from the library & recorded it on to cassette. That was later replaced by the Singles Collection on CD (a CD I’ve now passed on to the boy) & Bowie just continued to be there among a load of 60s & 70s artists I listened to constantly in my teens – Beatles, Doors, Led Zeppelin, Dylan, etc. Then around about 16 I discovered The Smiths, Morrissey was my king – a position he held for a number of years.
Confession time now. In 1995, Bowie toured supported by Morrissey. It was very much my intention to go to the Glasgow date. Morrissey pulled out of the tour the day before in Aberdeen. I didn’t go. Unbelievable folly. Possibly even worse, Bowie played The Barrowlands (THE BARROWLANDS!!!) in 1997, I was offered a ticket on the day of the gig. I declined. My life is basically just filling in the time between moments of idiocy. Thankfully, I did finally see Bowie live in Manchester in 2002. In truth, I’m more grateful for that now than I was at the time. I had been buying his albums piece by piece for a few years by that time but it was still a fairly casual acquaintance. I would never have made the effort to go if it wasn’t for my girlfriend at the time. I have much to be grateful to her for (and I am). That Bowie gig is very near the top of the list. As Bowie says “All you gave, You gave for free, I gave nothing in return” except that ticket signed by Mike Joyce. Thank you – you know who you are.
Given his virtual retirement in 2007, & the seemingly remote possibility of him ever performing live again, I am especially pleased about that 2002 gig. It is in the intervening years that my love of Bowie has truly grown. I couldn’t pinpoint why. It’s Bowie’s music I return to again & again. He interests me more than any other artist. I find there is more depth to his back catalogue than anyone else, more variety, more to discover on repeated listening. Plus, of course, there are the songs I have simply never tired of listening to. I could listen to Moonage Daydream & Heroes every single day for the rest of my life & never tire of hearing them. Both of those songs still have a physical, emotional effect on me every time I hear them. Those are my absolute top two but there are three of four dozen more that sit just behind them, Life on Mars, Space Oddity, Ashes To Ashes, Be My Wife, Five Years, Changes, Sound & Vision, Rock & Roll Suicide, Lets Dance, Slow Burn, Rebel Rebel – that’s just the first dozen.
Then there’s the man himself, effortlessly cool. For decades! Ok, there’s been the odd slip (fascist salute, Lords Prayer at Wembley, drum n bass, Tin Machine) but mostly no one has maintained the profile & image that he has AND continued to make music that stands up to their earlier work. He has remained relevant all the way through (he’s occasionally flirted with irrelevance but it soon passed). At this moment in time there is no musician in the world that could command as much attention at the drop of a hat. His withdrawal from the media & public life has seen the world’s fascination with him rise to a level that I’d say maybe even surpasses the height of Ziggy. No one else has done that without being dead.
So today I bought my long cherished Five Years box set. I now, finally, own Bowie’s first five years of work on vinyl. It is as satisfying as I dreamed it would be. I’ve been picking up a few Bowie albums on vinyl at record fairs for a while now (none of them his early albums) but to own & get to play these mint brand new copies is a beautiful thing. They are like a treasure to me & I will treat them accordingly.
I shall go now & have a coffee in my Bowie mug. The anticipation for the second box set starts here. I’d expect that’ll contain Diamond Dogs, Young Americans, Station To Station, Low, Heroes, Lodger & another 2 live albums. That’s just obscene. The man is a genius. And my hero.