I’m not quite sure what I’m supposed to do, So I’ll write some love to you

Such horrible news to wake up to this morning. My radio comes on automatically at 7am & I was still half asleep as I half heard. I hoped I was wrong as I grabbed my phone. 

Just so terribly sad. 

I think most of you would agree it’s a strange thing to feel a sense of mourning or loss for someone famous. Someone who isn’t family or a friend. It is strange, of course it is, but as I said in a previous blog Bowie has been ever present in my life, in so many of our lives. I actually don’t remember the last entire day I didn’t listen to at least one Bowie song. His music has been all things to me. Sometimes a comfort. Sometimes an inspiration. It inspires memories – good & bad. He’s soundtracked so much of my life. At least in some way he probably has yours too. 

I’ve been listening to his music all day. 6music has been wonderful. The stories from so many fans on Lauren Laverne’s show were brilliant. To hear so many people were feeling the same was a lovely thing. Of course they were. It’s David Bowie. Twitter has been great to read today too. A spontaneous heartfelt emotional outpouring of shock & loss. But all together. I’ve loved hearing & reading so many people’s personal memories. 

So here is mine, the thought that has been most recurrent today is just how thankful I am for having music that my son & I could enjoy listening to so much together. He’s 8 now & we’ve been listening to Bowie together since he was very small. First it was the Laughing Gnome, then it was Starman. Starman remains his favourite song & he said a couple of weeks ago that he was determined to learn every word off by heart. When it came on while watching The Martian at the cinema, my son turned round and fist-bumped me, we then both silently sang along together to the whole song. Beautiful. We sang Space Oddity together on karaoke on Christmas Day. We have listened to the Ziggy Stardust album so many times on a Sunday morning. So many times. It is special for a father & son to share a mutual love of something, especially music. I am so thankful to David Bowie for giving us that. 

Whatever loss we feel today is nothing to that of his teenage daughter, his son & his wife. I hope the love & loss felt all around the world is some comfort to them. 

He’s gone. I imagine the rawness will last for a while. There’ll never be another new David Bowie song. There’ll never be a new David Bowie album. Such a loss. However, all the music he recorded in his life is here forever. It lives on. It’s ours. It won’t stop being the soundtrack of our lives. It won’t be enjoyed any less. In fact, it’ll most likely mean more. 

Goodbye David. Thank you. We loved you. 

We’ll be listening to Ziggy Stardust on Sunday morning. 


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. 

You’re Squawking Like A Pink Monkey Bird

What rock stars, pop stars, artists, comedians, actors, sports stars, etc say doesn’t matter. What their opinions are doesn’t matter. What their politics are doesn’t matter. At least they shouldn’t matter. Certainly their point of view is no more valid than anyone else’s. The only difference is, of course, that they have a platform & a captive audience.

In a short statement last night, read by Kate Moss at the Brit Awards, David Bowie ended with just four words, “Scotland, stay with us”. If you listened carefully you could just about make out the rumble of the more reactionary supporters of Scottish independence (a fairly large percentage) stampeding to their keyboards alongside the cracking sound of a thousand angry fingers being put through smartphone & tablet screens in the rush to proclaim just how little Bowie’s words meant & how rubbish he’d always been anyway. Anyone who has paid even the slightest attention to the debate over the independence referendum, particularly online, knew in the very instant the words left Kate Moss’ mouth what was to come – just have a look at the comments on Bowie’s Facebook page for many, many, many hilarious examples.

I stand by what I say at the top, rock stars opinions are no more valid than anyone else’s. If you feel your argument is strong enough then you should certainly be able to allow even one of the world’s greatest ever musical icons express their view via a supermodel in just four words without losing too much sleep. However what I read was tweet after tweet after tweet, comment after comment after comment from supporters of Scottish independence on how Bowie’s opinion didn’t matter, on how he was irrelevant, on how he had no right to have an opinion because a) he isn’t Scottish, b) because his permanent residence isn’t in Britain, c) because he dabbled with drum n bass for a bit (Ironically the first few tweets I read were from a few Scottish musicians & comedians that support independence). One might think they protest too much.

It highlights though something that has bothered me for a few months. Bowie is pretty untouchable, his livelihood & wealth is not dependent on Scottish independence supporters & he has not been personally active online for a number of years (at least visibly to the wider world). Bowie can say what he likes about his views on the independence referendum without any fear of reprisals. It is pretty safe to assume that, if he wishes, Bowie will be completely oblivious to the thousands of tweets & Facebook comments attacking him personally, attacking his work, attacking his nationality & attacking his right to an opinion. The same cannot be said for those with a lesser public profile than Bowie who dare to express an opinion about the referendum (Scottish or otherwise). The avalanche of abuse, from what has become widely known as cybernats, that anyone with any kind of public profile (in some cases it could be argued a public profile isn’t even required) if they express support for a ‘No’ vote in the referendum has, in my view, led to a depressing climate where many of these people deem it wise to say nothing at all. Who could blame them? In this age where so many of us engage with social media every day who wants to log in to reams of personal abuse? I’d ask what kind of politics is this? What kind of democratic debate?

Social media has not yet decided any election anywhere in the world but it’s influence grows every year. There is undoubtedly a huge potential for social media to positively benefit political campaigning, sadly that potential appears to be being squandered in the worst possible way where negativity & personal abuse far outweigh attempts to express reasoned political points of view.

I have a fairly active interest in politics, to varying degrees I have followed most of the major political election campaigns in the last few years where social media has played a part, to my mind this Scottish Independence campaign has been the most depressing in how it has seen social media used in the very worst way. The ‘Yes’ supporters have created such a poisonous atmosphere of ‘with us or against us’ that I worry what that would lead to in Scotland in the event of a ‘No’ vote. I worry that there is not enough consideration that, no matter the result, Scotland will still go on the day after the referendum and everyone, no matter what side they were on, will still have to live & work together. This vote, more than most, requires a calm & considered campaign & debate. Thankfully, I think offline there is widely a realisation of this & it is happening. Online should take heed & follow suit.

I’ll probably write a couple of more blogs on my own view of the referendum before September but I’ll finish this blog by declaring my position. Nationalism & Separatism just isn’t my thing – I can’t buy into it. Fundamentally, my view is that we are all one species that all live on a big rock & that rock would be a better place to live if more people shared that view. As those of you who know me are aware I am a supporter & member of the Labour Party, one of the core reasons I am a member of the Labour Party is this phrase, “By the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more than we achieve alone”. The fight for fairness in society is bigger than an invisible border. The voting patterns of the last 30 years in Scotland are more or less matched by those of the North East, North West & Yorkshire, not to mention large swathes of Greater London. Of course Scotland could be an independent country, personally I just believe more people could benefit in the future across the UK if it isn’t.

In the meantime, go & listen to Bowie – he’s amazing.