Monday, 18 January 2016

Bowie - some thoughts

Now that the shock has passed, the hoo-ha of the aftermath has died down and I've had time to reflect, I thought it was time to share a few thoughts I have on the great man that was David Bowie. I've had numerous discussions with people about him and read some wonderful, moving articles including those written by my blogging chums who we all know and love. It's made me reflect on what Bowie meant to me and what he left for us.

It was about 07:15, and though I was ready to leave the house, I wasn't feeling particularly well having unceremoniously just brought my breakfast back up. I'd not felt right all weekend so thought I'd pay the GP a quick visit before work. Working in a large NHS hospital, it's a serious matter if you have a bug; you have to stay home. I was convinced I hadn't got anything contagious but wanted to get it confirmed regardless. While I was waiting for the surgery to open, my phone rang. It was my buddy Colin.

"Have you seen the news?" he asked in an exasperated tone.

"No, what's happened?"

"Bowie's dead!"

If I hadn't already been sick that morning, I'm sure those words would have made me heave. Something changed at that moment. I can't explain it, but I felt it. Something really important, something that charged and energised my passions, had just left me. Over the coming hours, as I periodically checked the news as it came through, it still never really sunk in. I couldn't bear to hear his music or voice that day. I played Swervedriver in the car during my journey to and from work. No particular reason - I suppose it was noisy enough to drown out the solemnity of the day's events.

But it wasn't just me. The whole week just seemed different. The blogs I regularly visit - you know who you are - just didn't fizz or glisten in the way they normally do.There was a very sombre mood across the blogosphere. It took the best part of a week for things to start feeling normal on that front again. The day after David died, I played 'Blackstar' for the umpteenth time since it came out just four days before. What a way to leave us. We know it has been widely speculated that he knew this was his death record, his glowing epitaph, his final words. For what it's worth, I have to agree. Bowie staged his death as a work of art as much as any part of his career. This record now seems even more remarkable in this context. On the previous Friday, it was simply a very odd yet interesting Bowie record that grew on me with every listen as more little nuances began to present themselves. Just a few days later, it became perhaps one of the most remarkable records ever released, and arguably the most significant of his life.

The rest of the week was filled with Bowie. I had 'Outside', 'Earthling', 'Heathen' and 'The Next Day' in the car, while at home I wallowed in 'Stationtostation', 'Ziggy' and 'Scary Monsters'. Gradually, I came to terms with it. It had been, however, a very strange week. I don't think I've ever felt as much sadness and grief for anyone I had never met. John Peel's death hit me hard, but not nearly as hard as Bowie's.

David Bowie was unique, an absolute one-off. There was no one like him before, and there will probably never be another like him again. I was having a conversation with a colleague in which we wondered how well Bowie would have done if we snatched him from 1972 and dropped him into 2016. My colleague reckoned he would never have achieved the fame, the notoriety nor the adoration he acquired during that time. He reckoned society, cultures and the musical landscape has changed too much for him to have had much of an impact today. I disagreed. I contest that Bowie had the mind and the artistry to turn anything around. Exactly what 1972 Bowie would have done in 2016 to become the sensation we know, I can't say, but I'm pretty sure he would have done something. Let's face it - had 1972 Bowie not been around when he did, would we have gay marriage, transgender acceptance, sexual liberation to the extent we have it today? Would he have played a part in releasing us further? Maybe.

Yes, the world has changed. On Monday, 11 January it changed even more. The Grand Chameleon of Planet Pop has departed. But we should not continue to mourn. Look at what he gave us. Listen to what he gave us. Be grateful that we existed at the same time as David Bowie. What an amazing thing to have in your life.



  1. I struggled to function in any meaningful way for most of last week and so fell into an unplanned radio silence. I didn't drop by many of my regular blogging haunts either, but those I did visit were unsurprisingly fairly muted in tone. It's a really, really tough one.
    Very nice piece Robster.

  2. Very moving and heartfelt Robster

  3. Wonderfully written and heartfelt Robster. I have sat down to write something and post it to my blog 5 times now. But I just get caught up in it - in the memories, the wonder of discovery, the impact. Not sure I will be able to say what I want/need to say about David Bowie or David Bowie and me. I set about reading his lyrics this passed weekend and pulled lines that spoke to me and cut them up to create a narrative/poem. I think that's what I will post.

  4. Well done Robster, good piece.

  5. Nothing more to add. You've said everything.
    (An aside though - I still get flashbacks to that film every time I see a mention or hear When The Wind Blows - a song that fits perfectly with the movie.)

  6. Most likely no record company today would have given Bowie until his 4th album to become a success

  7. all of what the above folk have already said.