Thoughts On Bowie

Sorry, had to get this out of my system.

My first recollection of David Bowie, as I have written about before, was when a DJ out of Detroit played the song “Space Oddity”. This was back in the day of records and during the early part of the song during the buildup, the record skipped. I thought it was just a part of the song. I think I recorded it, but later culled the skipping part out. Too bad. That would be an interesting treasure now. At any rate, based on loving that song I went out and bought “David Live At Tower Theater”.

It was sort of my style back then to avoid greatest hits packages and buy live albums by a group instead, which usually had the same material but provided a different perspective with extended versions and solos. The “David Live” album totally took my head off. I needed more of this.

I was given “Aladin Sane” as a gift.

Aladdin Sane

It changed my life. I hadn’t heard anything like it. Of note, it was the first time a song creeped me out. I got such a weird sensation from “Panic In Detroit”. I have no idea what the song was really about but I got a very isolation feeling and apocalyptic sensation from it. It had a Rolling Stone’s cover too, which tied in with music I was getting from my friend Jeff. It all just wrapped things up nicely.

I recall having “Heroes” on cassette. This was the first time I was introduced to the softer instrumental songs that were part of The Berlin Trilogy. I loved it.

I began to gather many Bowie albums, always relishing the way each was just a little different than the last. Oddly, I never bought “Space Oddity” which was really my way in to the Bowie universe in the first place.

I also found Bowie in movies. I recall renting (a new thing back then) on VHS (not Beta) “The Man Who Fell To Earth” when I was staying with my father for the summer in Mishawaka.

David Bowie in Nicolas Roeg's THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH (1976). Courtesy Rialto Pictures/StudioCanal.
David Bowie in Nicolas Roeg’s THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH (1976). Courtesy Rialto Pictures/StudioCanal.

It was weird and I wasn’t prepared for it. It kinda blew my mind. Bowie played an alien that came to Earth to procure resources for his home planet. He brought higher technology that he patented to make money to build a ship to return in. I need to watch it again. Most of the allegory was lost on me. I wonder how it stands up today.

I also saw Bowie in “Into The Night” with Jeff Goldblum. He just had a small part, but I was sure Bowie was taking over the world of entertainment. Music, movies, and then he went on to the stage with “Elephant Man”.

It was the movie “Absolute Beginners” that turned me into a Bowie collector proper. Unable to find the Bowie songs from the film in the record store, I rented the video and recorded (not well) the Bowie bits. I started a cassette of Bowie nuggets that I recorded from various sources. This was a cherished tape for many many years. Sadly it has disappeared.

The “Tonight” album was not good and it made me scared that Bowie was in a downward spiral of mediocrity.

In 1987, touring for the “Never Let Me Down” album, Bowie had a stop in Milwaukee. Aside from shows at Summerfest I hadn’t been to a real live concert since I was a kid. I bought tickets to this show which was an expenditure for me beyond anything I had ever spent before. A whopping $18.50!

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That was a lot for me to spend on what seemed an extravagance back then. It was an event. I had the album before the show and in all honesty, I wasn’t a super huge fan of it. It was not much better than the “Tonight” album. “Day In Day Out” and “Zeroes” were great, but the rest was kind of lackluster. This was a chance to see Bowie though. I had to.

The show was amazing. Peter “Is that Peter Fucking Frampton?” Frampton whom I had no idea was on the tour, opened the show with some choice licks and then the spectacle began. New songs and old classics mixed together with dancers and pyro and lights and Bowie was in fine form. It was a feast for the eyes and ears and even though I wasn’t in love with the album, I loved seeing the songs performed. They had more life when saw the visuals alongside the music. Plus he played lots of old stuff too.

In a vivid highlight of the me I was to become I wrote all the songs down so I could create a tape of the show songs when I got home. Nerd.

I taped a show that was on TV from that tour. It was before my bootleg days so I didn’t include any information but THAT tape I still have.

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In the 2000’s I was still so into Bowie I purchased the “Dancing In The Streets” single. NOT a fan of the song, and the video for this song, to my taste is horrible, but I couldn’t NOT buy it. The B side was the same song as an instrumental. I didn’t buy many 45’s in my many years of buying records Somehow, amazingly, I still have it.

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His stint with Tin Machine was a surprise. One night I saw them doing “Heaven’s In Here” and it blew my mind. All suits and guitars and rocking. Bowie looked great and I rushed out and bought the CD and was sadly not in love with it. There was some good stuff, but again, like “Tonight” and “Never Let Me Down” there wasn’t that cohesiveness that early albums had. There was a second album that I only learned about recently.

There was a long gap then where Bowie didn’t enter into my world at all, then he absolutely blew it up.

I purchased “Outside” during a shopping trip to an outlet mall. I hadn’t really heard a thing about it, but came across it in music store at Johnson Creek. When we carted bags of stuff back to the car before the next wave of shopping, I chose to sit in the car and wait. From the minute I opened it, I was totally enthralled. I poured over the liner notes and story inside as I listened to it. Amazing. It was edgy, melodic, industrial and complex. This is the Bowie I had been longing for! I turned Norm (whom I often shared music with) from Erdman onto this and he felt the same way. Bowie was back!

However, the next 4 albums (Earthling, Hours, Heathen and Reality) I have been unable to love. They have a few real gems, but I wouldn’t listen to any of them all the way through. I am still trying to assimilate them, but compared to “Outside” they are similar to, for me, his “Tonight” and “Never Let Me Down” phase. Some gems hidden amidst coal.

Then, after what was for me in essence an 18 year dry spell… he released “The Next Day”. Abbey alerted me to a site that was streaming his new album and before I listened I watched the 2 videos that had been released. Sometimes this can be a mistake if the video is terrible, but in this case I liked them both. I recorded the stream and poured over the album over the next few days. Immediately I liked it, then came to love it. This was what I called old man Bowie with still a young man heart. I hear the influence of all his years of albums in these songs. His voice is strong and the music is fantastic. This album has the cohesiveness of earlier albums. I even enjoy the slower tracks. The vocals are affecting and touching and everything about this album gave me that “Bowie is back!” sensation.

I was surprised to see the double 180 gram vinyl a few months ago for only 10 bucks on Amazon. I bought it. It’s now up to almost $30.

My purchase of Blackstar was a fluke really. I was checking out Bowie on Spotify, trying to assimilate some of the 4 albums that I mentioned above as uneven (Earthling, Hours, Heathen and Reality) and I spotted the advertisement in the banner for a new Bowie album and 2 songs available to listen to from it: “Blackstar” and “Lazarus”. They were great. On a whim I clicked on the advertisement. It sent me to the David Bowie official site. There were several vinyl options, some with lithographs included for pretty high dollars. I opted for the simple clear vinyl limited edition.

It arrived on the 9th, Bowie’s birthday.

I put it aside to wait for the right time to open and listen to it.

A mere 2 days later Bowie was gone.

I wrote this the day I heard.

Now I have no idea when I will feel the time is right to open it and listen. I am not listening to it on Spotify so that when I do break it out, for me it will be the first time. Maybe I’ll just get a black vinyl version and save the clear vinyl version for displaying unopened in the man cave.

We’ll see.

You will be missed Mr. Bowie.


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