I can’t write anything about David Bowie. Ridiculously, I thought I’d be able to last Monday, like some emotionless typist churning out ill-researched facts about the inspiration for Ziggy Stardust, or commenting on some of the allegations that surrounded his controversial Thin White Duke years. I can’t write a piece like that about David Bowie anyway. I don’t know enough, I admit. I have, however, found out a lot more about him this past week through the tsunami of content available online. I’m not hating on internet mass grief. I think it’s wonderful, truly gorgeous, that so many people were affected so much by one man who wore glitter and told kids they didn’t have worry what their parents would say if they wore flares, or whatever. I wanted to write this last week, but was too busy reading what other people had to say. I made a collage of the newspaper cuttings I’d collected over the week, and tried to muster up some words myself.
I don’t know if it’s a coincidence or not that the first Brit to walk on the moon did so in the same week that David Bowie died. A man who celebrated other-wordliness and all things cosmic, who rocketed to fame with a song about the first people on the moon. I’ve been poring over photos of the spacewalk all day. It makes me LAUGH. I find it completely and utterly hilarious that there are people floating around in space. And a British person now too! I’m weirdly proud. I feel like I could watch Interstellar again and actually understand it this time. Probably not, though. Although it didn’t even make the headlines it deserved to, possibly by being overshadowed by the only thing bigger than the moon, David Bowie. I phoned my friend about it and he hadn’t even heard about Tim Peake. I don’t know, maybe it’s just because I digest the internet on a daily basis. Maybe he needs to get Twitter or something. I get my news in 14o characters, just as Orwell predicted, and got so right.
I feel kind of hollow today. It’s Blue Monday, and it’s got so dark. I want to wipe my brain clear of thoughts, so only white smushy matter is left.
I’m deeply sad about David Bowie’s death tonight (it’s been a week). It’s an odd feeling, I don’t know, I feel so numb to it. Usually his music would mean so much to me, but after seven days of mass mourning and reading possibly hundreds of articles and anecdotes about him, I don’t feel like I’m feeling it enough. Although saying that, I am listening to him right now though, and – yes – it does sound magnificent. I might not be feeling it in every molecule of my being right now, but I sure did on Friday night in a big house in Peckham with all of my best friends. You can’t feel stuff all the time. But I felt it then. That was it. You and I will rise up all the way, all because of what you are/The prettiest star.
His music makes me feel like settling for average isn’t a high enough shot. A sly look, a cheeky wink – reaching out from his records with a vat of glitter asking me to come and join him. He reaches out to me when I feel like I’m being too hard on myself (Let the children lose it/Let the children use it/Let all the children boogie) in the same way he makes me want to push myself further, too. As if you can push everything creatively, more and more to the point it could burst – further than you think you could, even if it’s not the way that everyone else is doing it right now. His work, his life, the legacy he leaves behind – it’s all proof of that. He seemed to be completely aware of what he was doing, right the way up until his death. He may not have known exactly how much he’d impact British culture, but he exuded such confidence in everything he did – as if every small detail had been a conscious creative choice. There is something so gorgeous about that; meticulously planning something that would pave the way for a new form of popular culture, before tearing it apart, smushing it, stamping on it, getting rid of it. Killing Ziggy Stardust at the Hammersmith Odeon back in 1973 is probably one of the coolest moves by a rock ‘n’ roll star ever. Rock ‘n’ roll suicide. 1950s showmanship with 1970s glam rock. Yes, I was born in the 1990s, before you say.
Bowie wrote music for teenagers. I loved T.Rex so much as a child, it was only right that I’d feel so connected to Bowie’s music through my adolescence. That sentence gives me an immense feeling of satisfaction to write, as my dad went through the same thing during the ’70s. I hope my sons will want to paint their fingernails too. I also love Suede. I love Suede so much. Suede couldn’t have ever been a thing without Bowie (along with so many other things). Brett Anderson’s stage presence has previously been described as “combining Morrissey‘s homoerotic posturing with David Bowie‘s glam theatrics”. Guh.
I’ve written myself into melancholy. I’ll leave you with these things I wrote about two of my favourite Bowie songs, three weeks before his death. You can read the full post, here.
Five Years – The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust, David Bowie
This song, another opener to a smack-banging killer of an album, meant so much to me at one point of my life, that when I listen back to it now it still pierces at my heart because it reminds me so strongly of my last year of school. When everything goes to the bad, we’ll always have David Bowie. My best friend and I were working together on a project: He was the designer, and I the director. We were going through a huge Bowie phase and spoke one day about wanting to incorporate this into our theatre project somehow. Long story short, against the odds, we managed to put together a piece (with the lovely help of our fellow actor friends) that was basically a 30-minute tribute to David Bowie, and all the feels he’d given us. Whatever, if you really want to know the whole story, you can read my autobiography, which will hopefully be released within the next 15 years.
Anyway, this song represents having an idea and seeing it through, just because you really want to see it happen. It felt like a bit of a defiance at a time when I really hated everything; the lyrics were so on point as we worked our little butts off just because we wanted to prove we could pull this off to everyone else: “My brain felt like a warehouse, it had no room to spare”, and, more importantly “I never thought I’d need so many people.”
Working with others can be one of the most enriching things in life, and this song reminds me of those few months working at this project. It gives me the courage to be take a fuck-tonne of risks when tackling something creatively. After all, Bowie seems to have got himself a nice-looking pension by doing exactly that (sorry for my lame dad jokes). My favourite thing about the song is that it finishes just as it started, with a simple drum beat, like nothing’s even happened. Things continue to go on. Well, of course they do, but the difference is is that now everything’s changed.
Aladdin Sane (1931-1938-197?) – Aladdin Sane, David Bowie
D.B makes it twice on this list. He kind of had to really. It’s all his fault because he kept changing his mind about who he wanted to be. But that’s why teenagers are drawn to Bowie as an artist, because we’re all turning and facing the strain of ch-ch-ch-changes. In addition to everything I’ve written above, this particular song had to be on here because of its supreme transformative appeal to take you somewhere else entirely. At 1 minute 38 seconds, I get this weird feeling throughout my body like when you drink three cups of coffee in an hour, and then it just gets better and better and better and so on. When you’re sitting painting your nails with glittery polish on the floor of your box room in a village in the middle of nowhere, this piece of music proves that anything is possible. Right down to your fingernails. After all, you’ve painted those nails in homage to him, haven’t you?