Not quite loving the alien


Posted by in May's Magazine

A few years ago, after reading his morning tabloid, my late step-dad announced some shocking news: “Jim Bowie’s had a heart attack!” I tried to grasp, with some confusion, exactly what he was meant replying, “I’m not surprised, the sight of dozens of angry Mexicans running towards you wielding loaded muskets and sharpened bayonets would be enough to give anyone a heart attack!”

It soon became apparent that the man he was im Bowiereferring to was not the famed American frontiersman (after all, he’d been dead since 1836) but a completely different Bowie – the London born singer, David.

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I must confess that I am not, nor have I ever been a David Bowie fan. I didn’t really dislike him, or his music I simply just didn’t get him. And even two years after his death, I still don’t; a fact that continues to bemuse and baffle many of my friends. Even though there are those who sacrilegiously describe him as pretentious and self-indulgent. A touch of the “Emperor’s New Clothes” regarding his many invented personas. Well, who am I to say!

Following his death, the emotive tributes and eulogies appeared for the most part genuine and unending. “He was a true innovator, a creative musical genius and a serious artist…” ran some of the praise coming from fans and critics alike, as his music was played constantly and hundreds of candles were lit to his memory.

Profound and deeply held emotions pointed towards the unique impact he had for so many. “He was my idol, my inspiration, my hero”, or “He guided me through my teenage years”. Well, to be honest, I don’t remember him guiding me through my teenage years. Come to think of it, I don’t think anyone did. Although on reflection, I was probably more inspired by “Duke Wayne”, than “The Thin White Duke”.

I suppose I was a teenage absolute beginner, when I first became aware of David Bowie (formerly plain David Jones) during the early 1970s. Alongside the likes of Elton John, Rod Stewart and Bryan Ferry, he helped those boys to keep swinging as they shaped the mood, sound & vision (a great title for a song there!) and style of that decade’s music. That is until the punk rockers rudely crashed the party, leaving it all in ashes…to ashes.

All the young dudes at my school, looked at the strange androgynous one with sheer open-mouthed awe – as someone who had indeed fallen to earth from a distant planet. Yet, I (for whatever reason) stubbornly refused to succumb to his extra terrestrial hypnosis.

Around the time he died, I recall meeting up with some friends (all massive Bowie aficionados) in a local Leith hostelry, where we discussed the significance of his passing, as well as his continuing musical legacy. After consuming several drinks, the late Mr Bowie’s influence on 20th century popular culture was being carefully and minutely dissected.

Then with tongue (a little) in cheek, I put in my tuppence worth. “I just thought of him as a Glam Rocker, no better or worse than say, Alvin Stardust, Marc Bolan, Mud and Sweet. They all had a tendency to wear heavy make-up and sparkly outfits altough I’ll grant you he did sing about a spaceman and a laughing gnome.” (Lawrence, Lawrence, are you at the wind up? – Editor.)

You could have cut the silence with a knife, as my pals regarded me with a frightening blend of acute, outraged indignation, as if I had just brazenly insulted a sacred deity.

We then moved on to his music and stage image, and how he was perceived as the very first performer who enthralled an enraptured audience with his aura of ambiguously defined sexuality. I mulled this thought over for a few seconds, trying hard to identify where that now left the likes of Danny La Rue, Dame Edna and Marlene Dietrich?  Oh well, you can’t win them all.

One of my pals attempted to (gently) guide me towards a more enlightened appreciation of Mr Bowie’s overall contribution to music. “You don’t understand, he constantly changed image, mood and style, he was always musically reinventing himself.” That may well be true, but you could also apply the same words to the likes of Kylie Minogue!

As you may have guessed, dear reader, he was preaching to the unconvertable. The allure of Mr Bowie continues to escape me.

So where are we now? Well not so long ago (strangely, out of curiosity) I took part in an online music quiz in which you had to identify 20 songs by the self-same Mr David Bowie – no pressure then – and guess what, to my great surprise, I got every single one correct!

Which just goes to show that, inadvertently, Mr Bowie’s musical oeuvre had sneaked into my psyche without me even realising it. Suffice to say I wasn’t exactly dancing in the street at this outcome, however, I did feel a tad hunky dory latter on when I considered all that untapped knowledge I had in the tank!

Pic Credit: 1972 USA Ziggy Curtains, wwwdavidbowie.com

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