It was hard thinking of a title for this entry. I know, I know, two entries in one day, how’s that for unprecedented? Well, I have reason, and that reason is to share with you just why it is that I am besotted with one musician in particular. Those who know me will already know who I’m talking about.
When I was 15, I saw Labyrinth for the first time. It turned out to be the first of many, as it happens, and I soon lost count (when you watch a film at least once a week, that kind of just happens). But it made me sit up and really listen to David Bowie for the first time. Oh, of course I knew some of his music before, but it was that fabulous film that really cemented what can only be called my obsession with David Bowie.
In the summer of that year, I saw him at Milton Keynes Bowl. It was one of the hottest days of the year and I heard later that a good number of people passed out through heat exhaustion. The next time I saw him was the night before my 21st birthday, in 1995, at Wembley Arena, and I was in the 14th row, so about as close as it’s possible to get without sitting in his pocket. (I can’t honestly say the thought never occurred to me, but I’m hardly the only one.)
I didn’t see him again until he played the Montreux Jazz Festival in 2002, but as we didn’t have tickets, we stayed in the foyer and watched on the little screen. So I was kind of there and I count it as one of only three times I’ve seen him in 21 years. Ye gods, that makes it an average of only once every seven years, which is kind of scary.
Anyway, this is not about how many times I’ve seen God play live. And yes, that is honestly how I refer to him. My musical tastes are wide and sometimes a bit strange, but whatever I do, wherever I go, whatever happens, I always end up back in the same place, and he’s always there, waiting for me. It’s hard to believe he’s 64 now. When I ‘started out’ he was 43. And, like Morten Harket, he never lost his looks, though I did prefer it when he had wonky teeth, as it was part of who he was. Still, I guess it was his decision, and his decisions are always perfect. Hm. Perhaps that’s not actually the case. I know he was pretty brutal with the people he performed with in the past. It’s how he got where he is. Not many people can get as far as he has without losing a few friends along the way. But he seems like the kind of bloke you’d love to sit and have a beer with, because he’s not remotely intimidating, despite his god-like status in the music industry. That’s not to say I wouldn’t crumble if I ever met him, because I probably would. And he’d probably laugh, because he has a wicked sense of humour. So, after I’d picked myself up off the floor (do you think David would do it for me???), that’s when I would talk to him and hope my tongue didn’t tie itself in knots trying to get the words out.
See, this is what I mean when I say sometimes words are just not enough. It’s utterly impossible to convey just how David Bowie’s music makes me feel. Every album makes me feel something different, but at the same time, it’s like coming home all over again. I might not watch Labyrinth for ages, but then when I do, it’s like sinking back into an old sofa and grasping a hot cup of coffee. It’s a comfort, a way to relax, of not having to think (though that’s probably because I’ve seen it so many times, I practically know it backwards).
One of my favourite songs is Absolute Beginners. The film it was written for is… let’s just say it’s a bit weird, but it’s great for its weirdness, because it was meant to be. It never set out to be a social commentary (though if you don’t see its political messages, you must have been watching it blindfold), and was meant as entertainment. It’s a musical, nothing heavy. But watch it anyway, because it’s beautiful in its own way, too.
There are many talented people in the music industry. There’s a lot of shit, too, of course, which you often have to sift through to find the gems. But David Bowie is in a league of his own. He defies genre restrictions, he does exactly what he wants (if he doesn’t, it shows), and if it’s not a commercial success, it doesn’t matter, and even if it is, he himself might not be happy with it. Them’s the breaks. But whatever he does is brilliant. Some people said Tin Machine, the band he formed to ‘take a break from being a front man’ (yeah, right) were crap. Even he himself now takes the piss out of his lyrics from that time. But I rather liked it and I still do. It set him on the path out of inertia (which was what the Glass Spider tour did to him in 1987, even though I love that, too) and back on the road to his old, experimental, weird, slightly off-the-wall but always extraordinary self.
OK. Words may not be enough. But if I want to describe why I love David Bowie, they’re all I have.