My first fave Bowie song was “Modern Love.” I used to have a one speaker boombox and I would push play, record and pause while listening to the radio, un-pausing at the end of each song hoping to catch the first, chunky guitar part. You know if you know what I’m talking about. It took several tries but I finally got it. So if anyone made you a mix tape with this method, they were goddamned serious. Borderline stalker. Anyway, I still did not know who the fuck Ziggy was. Ironically, another song I also got on a mix that year was “Major Tom(coming home).” Yep-same frickin’ year. 1983. Bowie managed to get on the cover of Time magazine, looking very adult, blonde, tan and handsome. A rather tame intro, considering the man himself. Had he not decided to dip his thin, white toes into the mainstream(see what I did there?), I may not have discovered him for several years. That’s the amazing thing about Bowie-had you not fallen for him in real time, there was plenty to look back and forward to-even in death! Apparently, he arranged to release music posthumously, just because he’s a bad motherfucker.
Now, I do not know this bad motherfucker, yet I’ve found myself crying several times since he up and split. In fact, it’s been the first death of a stranger that has affected me in such a way. I’m so not the asshole who is gonna enlighten us as to why this phenomenon is occurring to millions of others as well but I can guess as to why it’s happening to me. It all starts with that mixed tape.
Music is what our feels sound like. Simple and true. Cue boring cliches: it’s the soundtrack to our frickin’ lives! Sure, that’s part of it. Plus he’s been singing in my head since before I had pubes, even. Yes, he serenaded my hairless peaches, inviting them to put on their red shoes and dance the blues. In doing so, so I began to dance with my imagination-that super magical roller skating rink where everyone get’s to make out with unicorns! Or Ziggy Stardust! Or whoever the fuck!
He was also a “weirdo.” When you’re a kid and people call you a “weirdo,” it’s shockingly not cause for celebration. In fact it’s an alienating bummer. Bowie was the loud and proud King of the Weirdos, providing a beacon of light on the peak of Weirdo Mountain for all to plant their freak flags, his long, skinny arms offering snuggles after the journey. He made being weird accessible, and then suddenly not so weird after all.
To me, one of his greatest gifts is his death. I’m not trying to be cryptic here, so pull your collective panties from yer cracks and relax. First of all, that fucker was on a creative ROLL. He co-wrote a play-a frickin’ play!?!-based on a movie he starred in from the 70’s featuring some of his best work along with new material. Oh yeah-and then produced one of his most challenging/rewarding albums ever. Black star is without words. I’m not even gonna try to pin down this sinewy, pitch-black jazzy noir drum freak show that rewards like a new language with repeat listens. The other thing? He died. He didn’t kill himself, or OD, or drink himself to death in some awful hole. I don’t know about you but I still struggle while listening to Elliot Smith or Nirvana or Sparklehorse, etc. There is no stigma attached to Bowie-except of course the stigma of being a total fucking badass. Since his passing I’ve been able to go back and listen to full records of his that I hadn’t before. I had no idea that “Young Americans” was amazing all the way through. “Heroes”-fucking forget about it! “Low”-holy goddamn shit! A true mind-fuck of a back catalogue eagerly awaits that will inspire and blow your tit’s off. Did I mention the movie “The Hunger?” A movie that’s both beautiful and fucking scary, provides whackin’ material and an introduction to “Bauhaus?” I mean, that’s essentially Bowie, right? Created art that was both beautiful and fucking scary, provided whackin’ material and introduced the unfamiliar? To quote Bowie himself, “ain’t that just like me?”
For myself, the scariest question is “who is going to replace him?” I realize that is completely unfair, as he was the individual’s individual, but who even comes close? The sad fact is that over the next 20 years, we’re going to lose a lot of important people in the music world. That’s right-you won’t always have Barry Manilow to kick around. We live in a blink and you’ll miss it culture of rehashed garbage that doesn’t frequently foster long term relationships with artists. For the most part. I know I’m sounding a bit like some old fuckface, reeling in the years proclaiming how “everything sucks now” but in some ways “everything sucks now.” Some of that is of course by design. After the big bang of modern music-yeah, yeah it’s a blanket statement-the big stars inspired other stars who inspired new genres thats inspired new genres, etc, etc, ad nauseam. The saying goes “there is nothing new under the sun.” Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon, Waylon Jennings, Michel Jackson, Kurt Cobain, Lemmy, etc, etc, ad nauseam. Bummer. This is becoming a huge bummer. I’m also getting totally off track. You know what? Let’s leave this to a real music pundit who is far better off at tackling that horseshit of a pickle than I am.
There’s a starman waiting in the sky
He’d like to come and meet us
But he thinks he’d blow our minds
There’s a starman waiting in the sky
He’s told us not to blow it
‘Cause he knows it’s all worthwhile
He told me
Let the children lose it
Let the children use it
Let all the children boogie