I’d been listening on and off all day to tributes from the great and good, but tops for me was a barmaid this evening at the Norfolk Arms in Ringinglowe. “No one had a bad word to say about him”, she said as she pulled me a pint.
I got home to this FB comment by Carin:
Yes, you can be a human being and, yes, you can be successful, creative, mesmerizing, thoughtful and provocative without stomping all over people and leaving them in shreds. My world, and this world, will be so much more empty without him.
January 12. Thinking that was me talked out on the matter I went to bed, only to wake up with more to say. I was not too young to choose Bowie who, half a generation older than me and half a generation younger than my war baby heroes, hadn’t milestoned my boyhood with his hits. I was in my late teens in ’69 when he topped the charts with Space Oddity – only to fade for a while from view, just as Springsteen would do a few years later. Next thing I noticed was Hunky Dory, a work of unusual brilliance as any fool could see.
In the decades to follow its creator went from strength to strength, from self invention to self reinvention. But I kept only half an eye on him. No question: had I been born ten to fifteen years later he, not Lennon or Dylan, would have lit up and guided my childhood and adolescence. Since I wasn’t, I admired him at a distance, aware of how good he was but seeing him as not really my bag. Classy though he and his music were, his lyrics – and for all my love of melody and harmony, it’s always for me been in the end about the words – struck me as clever rather than deep; they didn’t explore the human condition as my rock idols (and his) had.
But yesterday, with half an ear to a radio switched on most of the day, I got with the message. Look at this clip of the man in Tokyo delivering Rock ‘n Roll Suicide. Half way in, see how he first swivels his guitar one hundred eighty degrees then puts it down altogether. Anyone else doing that – the artist known as Prince excepted – would look pretentious or corny. Bowie looks great.
Bowie didn’t explore the human condition through his lyrics; not really. As Major Tom or Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane or Man Who Fell to Earth & Sold the World, Thin White Duke or Dying Lazarus, he was the human condition. He was the message; was the work of art. Everything this courteous and wittily reflective man did spoke of style, innovation and dazzling chutzpah and there’s been nobody, nobody, remotely like him.