Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Regarding David Bowie

My teen years began in late 1979.

My love affair with popular music started around that same time.  It was around then that I became aware of the Rolling Stones, the Who, the Police... and David Bowie.  (My love of the Grateful Dead didn't start until college.)

I always thought of Bowie as "City Music" (kinda like I still think of Steely Dan that way.)  I grew up in a very small town, and this was long before the internet.  I heard Bowie on WMMR, and this was in his "I'm more drugged out then you'll ever be" phase.

An example of this is the Fashion video.

David Bowie adjusts his nose in the Fashion video

I had a friend who was two years ahead on me in high school.  We worked together at Burger King, and he introduced me to a lot of music.  He then went to art school.  I went to visit him one day and there were pictures of Bowie everywhere- in many different incarnations:  Ziggy, the Thin White Duke, and the aforementioned drugged phase.  Everyone in Art School LOVED Bowie.  They all seemed so cool to this little hick.  It made me wonder if I was ALLOWED to like Bowie.  After all, I was so provincial.

Then came 1983, and Bowie, like a lot of things in the early 1980s, changed.  He cleaned up his act and suddenly was the epitome of style.  And with his new album Let's Dance, he was the hottest act alive.  His Serious Moonlight tour sold out around the world.

Everyone loved Bowie- not just the cool kids anymore.  In fact, he was on the cover of Time magazine.  I still have a copy of that issue.

Bowie seemed to change at will.  I remember visiting South Street in Philadelphia, then a haunt for art students, punk rockers and other social outsiders, and seeing a huge portrait of Bowie as he appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone.  It was painted on a shop window.

All of this made a major impression upon me.  I didn't feel cool enough to like Bowie, but I did.  And he could change so effortlessly.  So maybe I could too-  if I only had the courage.

To this day, I still feel that if a person claims to "Know" music, they must like David Bowie... or they just don't know music.  But of course, times have changed.  Bowie put out his first record in a decade last year.  How many teens know him at all, never mind enjoy his music?  To them, he's just an old man.  Old music.

Bowie 2014

Or is he?

You see, just as in 1980, I am hopelessly out of touch.  Unlike then, when I had great radio and this new fangled thing called MTV to open my mind to new music and therefore new ideas, there is nothing like that any more.  It's all corporate.  I still love listening to new bands but damn if they don't all sound the same any more.

David Bowie taught me that it was OK to be different, and that even if I was the skinniest geek on the planet, I could still find a home in Music.

And you know what?  I'll bet some younger people still listen.

The other day I drove a coworker in her early 20s to the hospital from work.  She'd hurt her knee.  In my car I was listening to the Changes Bowie CD.  I offered to turn it off, as I figured she wouldn't want to listen to it.  Now she is a stylish young woman- very "rockabilly" if you will.  She's been offered modelling jobs and seems to be in touch with her generation's music.  And she told me she LOVED David Bowie.  I smiled.  We listened to Bowie all the way to the hospital, and, later, all the way back to work.

I guess there is hope for the world after all.

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