I’m happy, hope you’re happy too

  
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. 

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I laughed and shook his hand, and made my way back home

  
I’d like to think I’m savvy enough to see through media agendas. More than that, I know I am. I know which are the right wing papers & which are not. I know who the journalist/activists are. I know who the rabble-rousing journalists are. I know when journalists are chasing a story for salacious reasons & when they are trying to get to the bottom of something that is genuinely in the public interest. I’m not completely beyond influence, no one is, but ultimately I think for myself, I form my own opinions. 
Here’s my opinion on Jeremy Corbyn’s first few days as Labour leader: they have been a dismal, miserable failure. I say that as a sceptical & concerned Labour Party member who didn’t vote for Mr Corbyn but who is willing to keep an open mind, who is willing to listen, but I’m not hearing anything. A couple of half-arsed, lousy speeches, a generic email & a few secondhand tweets ain’t going to do it. A couple of print interviews with supportive, soft-shoeing journalists ain’t going to do it. I want him on my TV. I want to see & hear him state his case & stand his ground preferably opposite as hard-hitting an interviewer as possible (but at this point if he just chose to go round to Russell fucking Brand’s house I’d take it). 

The thing is, I don’t for a second deny the huge victory Mr Corbyn recorded on Saturday, I see that he has, at this point, a sizeable mandate within the Labour Party but part of the arithmetic seems to be passing with little comment. If the party, as reported, now has 600k members, supporters & affiliates then 350k of them didn’t vote for Jeremy Corbyn. Now most of those may well be Labour votes that can be taken for granted but they won’t all necessarily be overly enthusiastic about getting out to campaign. Some of those that voted Corbyn may well have overdosed on the kool aid & be under the illusion the hope & goodness will now see him stroll into Downing St as the nation is spontaneously swept up by his hope-y euphoria but most know that it’s the longest of long shots & to even get close he’ll need to mobilise as many of that 600k as possible to create an enormous army of activists nationwide. Undoubtedly there’s a hell of a lot of unconverted that feel like I do right now. 

It is actually getting to the point where I am getting angry at not seeing & hearing more. Talking to the media, particularly the broadcast media, is not a matter of dancing to someone else’s tune – it’s about communicating. Communicating directly with those you need to hear what you have to say. The 2020 General Election is not decided. It won’t be decided this week but the seeds could be grown one way or another. Corbyn can’t win all the votes he needs this week but he could at least start trying to win the full support of the people who’ll help him get some of those votes. Right now I’m sitting on my hands for the next 5 years but that needn’t be the case. Blind faith, however, ain’t my thing. 

I’ve read that Mr Corbyn genuinely thinks that he doesn’t need to play the media game. He thinks town hall meetings & social media will do the trick for him. Perhaps that’s not his but how would I know?! He’s done zero to suggest otherwise. If he does think that then he’s dead wrong. In particular the impact of social media is massively overvalued. It’s a huge echo chamber where people convince themselves that everyone agrees with them. It won’t do. He needs to get into people’s living rooms. Now. 

Something that has occurred to me in the last couple of weeks is that I’ve never felt the need to absolutely define where I stand on the left wing spectrum within the Labour Party before. I felt that I’d swayed a little left, a little right over the years, it didn’t matter because the Labour Party was a broad church that shared a common cause. The polarising nature of recent weeks has eaten away at just how certain I am of that last sentence. For the record, and not surprisingly, I see myself as a moderate, more Brownite than Blairite. I don’t necessarily think the true Corbynites would like to purge me from the party. Yet. Our new leader has the responsibility of uniting the Labour Party as one. In theory, I’m willing to meet him halfway but, right now, he’s not even taking the time to say hello.