Bowie: A teenager’s and beyond perspective tribute by Kevin Thompson
Like many, my first exposure to David Bowie was the Space Oddity video in 1969. He didn’t seem to be from our world; an egregious, red-haired creature with different coloured pupils certainly contributed to that assumption. This was in fact a statement that we now had a creation we could follow, whichever planet he came from.
Just the reality that your parents thought of him as ‘that poof singing on the telly’, drew testament to his creativeness, sexuality and art for our generation. His individuality and anti-establishment facade became a blueprint for what a decade later, would be the height of punk. He made it OK to wear make-up, bright clothes and platform shoes. Suddenly, everyone of my age, both male and female, wanted to look like Bowie and Mick Ronson (the Spiders’ guitarist). School, however, took a different approach, sending pupils home for their homage and replication.
I went through the 70s catching odd glimpses of Bowie, as I was a little more into glam and bands such as T-Rex, The Sweet and Slade all vied for my attention and my money. This all changed, however, as one of my peers at secondary school, lent me a copy of David Live in1974, from there I was transfixed. I delved into his back catalogue, playing Space Oddity, The Man Who Sold The World and Hunky Dory to death on my monotone record player. Songs such as Changes and Width of a Circle showed a breadth of song writing, possibly only rivalled by Marc Bolan in that era, although the songs were darker and not as elfin. This period also saw him gain friends from the modern American rock scene such as Lou Reed and the artist Andy Warhol, about whom he penned a song.
His Magnum Opus appeared in the form of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust in ’72, the album took a direction towards concept, songs such as Starman, Moonage Daydream, Hang on to Yourself and Ziggy Stardust itself, showed an artier and more dimensional side to his craft. The time had arrived to attract the older, more serious rock fan. The album was even made into a film released in ’73 and directed by Pennebaker, in which Bowie announced he ‘was breaking the band’.
He followed this by releasing Aladdin Sane, Pin Ups (an album of covers) and Diamond Dogs. His chameleon tendencies again rose up in the form of Aladdin Sane and The Thin White Duke. He was adept at reinventing himself to keep the music alive and fresh. He flaunted with black America on Young Americans and Station to Station, showing that soul music could be sung by white people given the right musicians and songs.
Bowie then looked to Europe for inspiration, in particular, Germany. His next albums, the successful Low and Heroes, which contained the hit of the same name, and apparently, inspired the demolition of the Berlin Wall, merged influences such as Kraftwerk and the avant-garde Faust. He collaborated with Brian Eno to create these two masterpieces. Bowie transgressed the normal boundaries for this, adding lyrics, not normally attributed to this genre, as well as pulsating, haunting rhythms to create an experience that was certainly not linear.
His brief flirtations with heavier rock, funk and drum ‘n’ bass didn’t bring commercial success, although again, he showed standing still and producing popular music for the masses, wasn’t for him.
Without Bowie, we may not have had bands such as Depeche Mode, and a host of other guitar and electronic based 80s music. That is how great his contribution was, he inspired people to be who they wanted to be and take the path they wanted to take.
Even at the time of his death on the 10th January, Bowie at 69, had just released his 27th studio album Blackstar, showing us that he was still as relevant today as he was yesterday. People are saying the track Lazarus predicted his own death but only he knew if the time had come.
To me, Bowie will always be Ziggy, Aladdin Sane and The Thin White Duke, a man who defined my youth, trampled on all my concepts of music, sent me on a spiralling roller-coaster and gave me some of my fondest memories of that era. I will always remember grabbing that copy of David Live, running home and playing it over and over.
Thank you David. RIP.
David Bowie (1947 – 2016)