Yet another Bowie blog

Soz. But I just started reading Paul Morley’s new biog of Bowie – subtitle “How David Bowie made a world of difference” – and I was struck by a line in his expansive preface: “everyone has their own David Bowie. So many Bowie’s: how do you keep up with them …as he constantly, provocatively moves somewhere else and becomes someone else?”

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My David Bowie was – is – the key creative influence all my teenage and adult life. From mid teens hair style’s to being influenced by “Low” in my ‘later years’ to buy a synthesiser and start to create tonal landscapes.

But the most intensive “My David Bowie” period was my early to late teens, when two musical and cultural influences collided in a blaze of colour, creativity, attitude and noise – Bowie and punk.

(Ironically, as a wannabe punk poet who would clamber on stage between sets at campus gigs and rant angry verse at the bemused students, I penned a ditty called “I hate Paul Morley”. In my late teens my heart was set on music journalism, a Northerner freshly arrived in London penning (unpaid) reviews of London gigs by Northern bands for the NME. Then Paul swept in and made a living doing just that.)

My first memory was Bowie as the soundtrack to an early passion and enduring fascination with the Space Race. As I sat up with my mum to watch grainy footage of the first lunar landing, “Space Oddity” was the soundtrack, though it didn’t become a hit until later.

When his early albums came out I was defying my friends carrying Led Zep albums under their arms and was donning my mum’s fur jacket and playing air guitar to rock & roll pixie Marc Bolan. Then I sat with my family for the Thursday evening “Top of the Pops” ritual (my dad only joined us so he could shout “he looks like a bloody woman!” at the screen periodically) and there was Bowie, arm around Mick Ronson, in a sparkly jump suit singing “Starman”. Then I bought “Ziggy Stardust”. And My David Bowie had arrived. It was going to be great!

“Pin ups” introduced me to a wealth of sixties mod and psychedelia songs I had a missed being too busy with playing football and Action Man in that decade.

“Aladdin Sane” was so-so and then “Diamond Dogs” hit the teenage dystopian spot.

Then the change of direction that was “Young Americans” changed my direction as well. It got me listening to – real – black music and funk and buying “Blues & Soul” magazine. I changed my clothes in favour of Northern Soul baggy pants and penny round collars, started looking old enough to sneak in underage into Manchester clubs where soul classics were spun alongside Bowie and Roxy Music. I even tried to copy his hairstyle, sleeping with my quiff in one of my mum’s hair rollers and trying to dye it blonde. Sadly I didn’t know then that hair bleach and domestic bleach were not the same thing, used Domestos, and most of my quiff shrivelled and fell out.

Then he went to Berlin and I went to college. “Heroes” became my theme song and “Low” the soundtrack to new musical directions and investigations. They still go on. He even influenced how I portrayed my sexuality. Solidly straight, I affected bi-sexuality because Bowie had said it’s ok. My ladies squash team captain girlfriend was so worried she bought me Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours” , no doubt to cure me of all this Bowie, Buzzcocks, Joy Division, The Clash weirdness.

In my twenties and thirties Bowie and I went our separate ways, with me still resolutely playing his seventies string of albums from time to time. It was talking to Dylan Jones, GQ editor and fellow Bowie obsessive, ten years ago that brought us back together (Dylan has also authored a great Bowie book). By then I was learning to play guitar and keyboards and bought a Bowie songbook to start to deconstruct his song writing for myself. Then I bought the synth. Then Bowie arrived again with a new album, then another, then…

Morley’s book rightly puts Bowie as the key influencer and observer of swirling popular culture over the decades of his and my generation’s life, from the sixties to now. So many Bowie’s, so little time.

 

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