martes, 1 de marzo de 2016

The Killing And Subsequent Resurrection Of David Bowie™

picture stolen from nydailynews

The first time I saw Bowie on television he did not make the proverbial devastating impact he had on virtually every semi-famous musician pretending to have been inspired by the man. To me he was just another glam freak on our black and white tv screen, with the song he playbacked, Rebel Rebel, never high on my list of favourite compositions. How was I to know that this fake pirate had been one of the founders of the celebration of bad taste which had aroused my first real interest in music, taking me away from mainstream pop to the glitter and glam of hairy men on platform shoes, a realm where music was still considered dangerous to a young man's healthy development?

Almost two years on, I would make up for my failure to see the light first time round. At the high school I was attending there was a basement decorated as a recreational room for senior graders. Admittance, in the minds of us aspiring middle graders, evolved around the willingness to take up smoking. Downstairs, thanks to the thickness of cigarette fumes in the unfiltered air, openly not smoking was an utterly ridiculous statement available only to the most senior of sixth graders, people too cool to even be considered school mates any longer. So I invested in a pack of tobacco and nervously lowered myself down the steep stairs, entering the full sound of Bowie. The basement, a square space with wooden cubes to sit upon under a customary low ceiling, had been originally dedicated to New York music. A record player and a collection of albums contributed to by people with money (considered wildly rich by the vast majority of us high schoolkids who hadn't got a dime to spare), would introduce many of us to Lou Reed, Patty Smith, NY Dolls, Television and the foreign body which had teamed up with the anti everything feel so very attractive to us orphans of the late nineteen sixties, David Bowie.

I quickly got into everything he had published up till then, with a preference for the gloom of Hunky Dory and Diamond Dogs, and I had my first new release thrill with Station to Station. The sometimes difficult but always marvellous Berlin trilogy followed and when I had left school behind, there was Scary Monsters. Bowie wrote the sound track of my teens. Of all the records he had made in ten highly productive years I perhaps liked Young Americans less because it didn't tap into my taste for guitar noise, but all the others were equal favourites, it simply depending on the weather and my ever changing young mood which record I would play that day. In fact, I used cassette tapes with an album on each 45 minutes side, which I played over and over through an old radio amplifier until the sound had completely worn off and I, by now in the position to choose music over food if I so wanted, converted to vinyl, quickly collecting the full series. Bowie was to me what I made of him, a seductively convincing voice, mostly. I remember how I forced myself to buy other artists' albums as well just as not to end up with a 100% monomaniac record collection.

And then there was Let's Dance. The title song was okay and I understood Bowie's desire to cash in on his efforts after being nicely squeezed out of any earnings during his most prolific years, but it wasn't my cup of tea. Especially the spectacle of a new generation of teenage girls idolizing his good looks and supposed sweetness in stead of his dark noise and cocaine abuse, put me and many of my contemporaries off. Suddenly, Bowie had moved on to a different world. I accepted the harsh reality and set my sights on new wave and post punk and that great hero of nineteen eighties' music, Prince. Gradually I would listen less and less to Bowie, feeling his newly acquired mediocreness infesting his older work until one day I couldn't take it any longer and with a youthful sense of drama and exaggeration slowly and deliberately one by one broke all of his records. No more David Bowie for me, no reminiscing his former impact nor anticipating new releases. I freed myself of the image. Bowie, as far as I was concerned, was dead.

I managed to keep Bowie out of sight until the year 2002 (Prince having gone a similar path after belief had smothered rebellion), when a business partner burned a copy of Heathen for me as a birthday present. I wasn't too impressed with his choice for sophistication over excitement, but hearing his voice did make me wander back through time to those electrified happy days of my own personal Bowie mania. I decided listening to some old stuff once in a while wouldn't hurt and soon enough found myself recollecting his back catalogue, this time on cd, meanwhile discovering that at least Black Tie White Noise and Outside were more than decent productions worthy of my undivided attention. Thanks to youtube I also found out he had been touring with a pretty good band since the mid-nineteen nineties. I had perhaps been stupidly harsh on my own dreams.

Then came the heart attack and the final cigarette and I assumed David Bowie, the chain working, chain smoking startist had gone forever. By now I had completely rehabilitated my interest in him, giving the albums I loved the place of prominence they deserved in my private pantheon of favourite musical expressions. I kept playing his music every now and again, with periods of feverish dedication to one or two records of choice not unlike my obsessed cassette years.

All of a sudden, ten years down the road there was another record, apparently made without the help of nicotine and carrying a couple of good songs, though the voice had inevitably lost a lot of power. It was above all a very cleverly made album, composing a carefully balanced amount of rock and rebel around his newly acquired vocal limitations. And behold, two years later, there was even more. A play and a record all at once. But wait, the voice was absent, one of the tracks called Lazarus, his skin looking like he was on chemical abuse, it didn't bode well. And for sure he went the next day, if he hadn't gone already before the release. A deep sadness touched me. The rock god who had slowly become a man making music, had left his body.

Mr. Jones has disappeared but Bowie will probably hang round for a while. The many live performances and curiosities people are uploading like mad these days will take care of that. Don't forget to copy and steal the ones you like! I leave you with this little gem.

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