Friday, January 15, 2016

john, I'm only carking

Yeah, so this is my Bowie post. Deal with it.

Shock revelation: I was never an enormous Bowie fan. I have some of his music, sure, but it's never been one of the central planks of my regular music listening, stuff I keep returning to. I would guess that whenever I refresh the 200-odd tunes on my 1GB iPod Shuffle (which I primarily use for in-car entertainment) there's more often than not a Bowie song on there somewhere, but not lots, and not always any at all. [Actually, hang on, hang on, let me have a look - my current 172-song selection includes three: Ziggy Stardust, Suffragette City and TVC15] You can get some idea about how serious a fan I was by looking at the Bowie albums I actually own: one reasonably definitive (at the time of its release in 1993) singles collection and the first Tin Machine album. In my defence I should say that while Tin Machine are now generally reviled, the album was widely regarded as a bracing back-to-basics return to form for Bowie at the time, and that some of it still sounds pretty good, opening track Heaven's In Here in particular.

I think there are a few reasons, as excellent as much of the music is, that I wasn't ever a proper Bowie fan. One is that I'm slightly too young - the archetypal super-dedicated Bowie fan would be about ten years older than me, so that they would have been in their early teens at around the time that Ziggy Stardust propelled Bowie to freaky global superstardom in 1972. Another reason is that the constant assuming of different characters for the songs makes the whole thing a little arch and calculated for my taste. I suppose the way I would put it is: my preference is for people to totally be "in" their music, rather than standing an ironic distance away from it and pointing at it.

All that said, I don't think you could name another rock artist who had a greater cultural influence, and he seems (drug-crazed incidents aside) to have been a good bloke who also (despite spending decades in the United States) seems never to have lost his bone-dry British sense of humour. It's slightly surprising, given his facility for slipping between on-stage personas, that he was a fairly ropey actor - my last sighting of him was as a deeply unconvincing Nikola Tesla in the otherwise excellent The Prestige in 2006.

Here's an interview plus a few songs from his appearance on the Dick Cavett show in late 1974, notable for raucous performances of Young Americans and Footstompin' (originally by the Flairs and whose riff provided the basis for Fame, one of my favourite Bowie songs) and also, in the early stages of the interview in particular, a vivid demonstration of how a raging cocaine addiction turns you into an emaciated sniffy twitchy paranoid nutter.


The black rabbit said...

"I suppose the way I would put it is: my preference is for people to totally be "in" their music, rather than standing an ironic distance away from it and pointing at it."

If I may, (going to anyway so there), your words above are excellent. I know what you mean.

The only point in your whole post where I migggghhht disagree is I know at least two people at work who are considerably younger than youz (and meeeez) who are super Bowie fans... and as dedicated as those say born in the late 50s, they'd insist.
This must be repeated en masse up and down the country I'm sure?

Tell me what you had for lunch todaaaaay.

The black rabbit said...

Soz. What I'm trying to (perhaps) suggest is that I'm not sure there is a group of archetypal super-dedicated Bowie fans, defined primarily by age.
You think?
If I had to categorise the archetypal Bowie fan I'd struggle, but perhaps look to people who... I dunno... considered themselves a bit of an outsider first, whatever age... from perhaps 60yo and younger - a lot younger often.

Anyway... I'm glad you posted on Bowie. Thanks for the read.

electrichalibut said...

Yes, I agree about the "outsider" thing - the clever bit of course, is that who doesn't feel that way at 13/14 years old? I just think you might feel a bit more of an immediate connection if you were that age and, say, Aladdin Sane had just come out and Bowie was all over Top Of The Pops.

When I was 13 it was all Duran Duran and Culture Club, which I struggled with a bit. Bowie was still around, but he was a blond-haired orange-tanned guy singing Let's Dance in a bar in the outback by then. Not quite the same.