Monday, February 15, 2016

BOWIE: Ain't there one damn song that can make me break down and cry

It’s been just over a month and I’m still bereft...and I know I’m not alone. Every day a new article or video clip turns up online, some make me smile, some make me misty eyed, and some just make me sob like a baby.
And that’s ok I think. Grief is a weird thing, it’s difficult to get rid of. And is it really right to get rid of it? I’ve always been a great believer in letting tears flow, it keeps your heart and soul in check. I still cry for my beloved Pop, almost two decades after his passing. Which I guess makes sense, as he was my grandfather and we were close and I loved him.
So why tears for someone you never even met, and surely would have never known? I cannot recall ever grieving in this way before, it’s a little disconcerting. Yet it is there, real and raw.
His death took me – and most of the world – by surprise. That night I was down for the count I don’t mind saying, those first few days numb, and I cried a lot during that first week. The pain has certainly eased since then but it is still there.
On that first awful night I asked a friend why it hurt so much, her response was because he was everything and she was so very correct.
Bowie WAS everything, but until his death you just didn’t really know exactly how everything he was.
I realise with the exception of family, a few close friends, and The Beatles, he was one of my longest and closest ‘friends.’
We first ‘met’ when I was 9. Actually it is highly likely we met prior to that, but my first memory of him is 9. I was watching Countdown as always, and the film-clip to Ashes to Ashes came on. I was immediately drawn to it, despite Bowie was a clown (I don’t like clowns). That amazing song, and that bizarre film-clip rocked my tiny little mind. I recall sitting close to the television (and being yelled at to move back) almost like he was drawing me in. In fact, whenever I see the film-clip for Video Killed the Radio Stars, the little girl drawn to the tele reminds me exactly of that.
Whilst I loved Ashes to Ashes it didn’t make me a fan.  A few years later Dad was given a cassette of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars. He had friends who he exchanged music with. They all had great taste, as did he. Ziggy was on one side and I cannot recall what was on the other side. But I played Ziggy constantly and just loved it. It remains my favourite album of his to this day. My favourite tracks were Starman and of course Ziggy, they have become my absolute favourites over the years.
And then Let’s Dance hit. Now I know this is Bowie lite, but you have to remember what a big deal it was at the time, especially in Australia. He shot film-clips here and toured and was constantly chatting to Molly on Countdown. It was Bowie all the time everywhere, and I loved it. Modern Love was my favourite track. Let’s Dance made me whine until I got my first pair of red shoes, and have always had at least one pair of red shoes ever since. I was 12 turning 13, it shaped my entry as a teenager, much as Starman had to teenagers early in the 70s. Let’s Dance was the first vinyl album I bought with my own money. It’s still one of my prized possessions.
I had some of his other albums on cassette, all played within an inch of their life and long gone now. I actually realised with his passing how poor my Bowie collection was, a handful of CDs and 4 on vinyl. I am rectifying that.
So I became that obsessive teenager, and Bowie was up there of course. I begged to go to the Serious Moonlight tour, there were tears and shouting, but I was too young. Sorrow and Rebel Rebel were my favourite songs during that period. I played them often and on rotation, how painful for those around me. I cut clippings and obsessed about Bowie’s hair (so perfect) and cool baggy suits (so 80s) and how he would be my boyfriend. Of course, being the straight innocent young girl I was, I had no freaking idea about his personas. Well I knew what they looked like but it really didn’t mean anything to me as such, lol. I just thought he was cool, and that’s how cool people were.
So he was always there, always on high rotation, my friend who sang the songs I loved. Of course as a music lover I had other loves during those years, but he really was the one continual force.

When I began full-time work in the library, my very first friend and colleague who was kind to me was the lovely Nolene. Once she knew I loved Bowie we became firm friends and I then knew compared to Nole, I knew nothing about Bowie! She had been a fan from the get go, had seen him live many times and also met him more than once, getting autographs etc. She collected memorabilia, and knew all these interesting facts. She even stayed with Cherry Vanilla when she was in New York on holidays back in the day. She was part of the early Bowie fanclub in Australia. I was beyond impressed and knew we would be friends for life. We still are.
Over the years my love for him grew. I then had access, through the library and earning money, to books, magazines, and the music. And of course Nolene’s encyclopaedic knowledge. I didn’t care as much for his music post late 80s, it didn’t seem to have the edge of his earlier stuff.
The one thing that was missing for me was the live experience and he remained on top of my must see live list for many years until finally in February 2004 there I was with Nolene and her husband Vince at the Sydney Entertainment Centre absolutely beside myself with excitement. What a night it was, a mix of new and old songs. There were so many faves he didn’t play, with a back catalogue as large as his how can you play everything. Sure there were songs I would have loved to hear, but I didn’t care. I was just thrilled to be there, in the great man’s presence. In fact as I whispered to Nole after his opening song, Rebel Rebel, “if I died now, I would die very happy.” In was a great night and re-invigorated my love for him.
I’ve written a lot about Bowie, but never this live experience. I just have never had the words, how do you describe seeing your hero live after all those years. All I can say it made me weep and gave my goosebumps, and he was perfection. I know I was lucky as he has never been back, and now will never ever be back.
I recently had the pleasure of revisiting that concert as such at the wonderful Regal Theatre, they did showed the Reality tour – the one I saw, but form Dublin. Watching him sing the one thing that really struck me was his sheer and utter joy during the performance. You could not wipe the smile of that gorgeous face. His interaction with his band and with the audience, he was just loving every minute of it. That to me is outstanding and incredibly special.
So what is it about one man?
He did whatever the hell he wanted, no fucks given and I love that so very much. He was unusual, different, enigmatic, and charismatic – I’ve always been drawn to the different. They’re my people!
He was an artist in the purest sense of the world, musician, genius, artistic, reader, writer, comedian, visual genius and everything else in between. He liked to call himself a creator.
He seemed like a really nice man. (Drug period aside) He was affable, friendly, funny, fiercely intelligent, and didn’t suffer fools. He was a gentleman and a gentle man.
His influence is everywhere, film, music, fashion, art, history, technology, economics...he’s a cultural icon.
The music! Oh boy, the music. He was genius talented. His voice, that range...he could really really fucking sing! Groove, this was a white man who could actually get his groove on. The soundtrack to my’s as simple as that.
And so my love for him finally accumulated last year when I experienced all I have just described and more at the spectacular David Bowie Is in Melbourne at the ACMI.
This exhibition was the most visceral, stunning, and moving experience in terms of exhibitions that I have ever seen. I think I loved it as much – if not more – than seeing him live.
And so back to his passing. I’ll never forget that moment, unfolding in slow motion as I drove out of the work carpark, the DJ struggling to part with the words. Only two days earlier on his 69th birthday a new album had been released, this could not be. I drove to the carpark next to the library carpark – I was to pick up some groceries. I sat in the car sobbing, and looked up his son on Twitter. I have followed Duncan for years. His tweet from about 20 minutes earlier confirmed it all. I was inconsolable. I dashed into the supermarket, a blubbery mess, and grabbed what I needed. Who can know why!?

They played Young Americans on the radio before moving on to something else while I was trying to calm down in the car. When it got to the end and that crazed lyric, "Ain't there one damn song that can make me break down and cry" I realised every song was going to do that to me on that day.
I then drove home and collapsed on the lounge, phone in hand and sunnies still on my head. I stayed there for hours, watching it all unfold online, sometimes conversing with friends. So many people were in shock. It was extraordinarily shocking. And yet it was beautiful and comforting to see so many people mourning on mass online. I have never witnessed anything like it. How wonderful it was to be surrounded by so many other people, all who felt exactly the same. Other like minded people, weeping and loving and remembering. The stories that were shared and then ever since, the clips, the interviews, the titbits you never knew, the decency of a great man. I believe it will continue for some time.
It took a while, that night, for me to listen to his music. The sound of his voice set me off in ways I just cannot explain. I’m a fairly fragile person, I needed to take care of me and not collapse under the enormity of it all. Silence and the playlist in my mind was all I needed until much later in the evening when I could finally listen. I tuned into Double J and smiled and sobbed into the early hours of the morning.
I’ve caught up on all those saved article, I’ve shed tears. Last week Duncan Jones announced his partner, Rodene was expecting a baby, due in June. His father had known. This still broke me, still does. David loved children, he would have been a really awesome and unique of life.
The one thing I have yet been able to do is listen to Black Star. I just cannot bring myself to at this point, I know I will sometime soon and I am sure I will love it as much as everyone does. I keep looking at the cover, knowing he knew what was ahead when he was creating this last masterpiecce. It’s just too much at this point.
But this I do know, David Bowie will always hold a special place in my heart, much as he always has.

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