I am not really sure where to go with this post so bear with me. I had something already planned this morning, but I have to say when I woke up and turned on the television, the news hit me pretty hard. As a result I am sorta rerouting all power towards a post talking about my love of David Bowie. I think the part of the news that shocks me the most is the fact that this weekend I had my own mini Bowie odyssey. On a complete whim the song Heart’s Filthy Lesson popped into my head, which is from the era when David Bowie and Trent Reznor were collaborating on a ton of different projects. Which lead me to listen to the entire Outside album again… since in my core I am still wired to care about albums as this complete vehicle. Bowie particularly…. created experiences… and if you were not listening to the entire album… preferably in order you were missing out on the total picture he wanted to leave you with. It feels so damned strange to be writing about him in past tense because for the most part my entire life I have loved him. Granted I am too young to have experienced his really “shocking” Ziggy Stardust period, but I have this vague ephemeral impression of him existing in the background as I ran around playing with my Star Wars toys.
The first era I can really remember being a fan was during the 80’s with China Girl and Let’s Dance… both of which songs loaded with meaning and disguised in a candy coated pop exterior. That was the thing with Bowie music… it worked on so many different levels. There was something pleasant and easy to swallow…. but it burned a bit on the way down. So if he wrote about something… it was often as an indictment of a practice. He had this way of taking something and wrapping it in so many layers, that it was often a puzzle to unravel what exactly he was meaning. Hell as I listened to album Outside this weekend I found myself googling all sorts of side phrases that exist along with the songs… but not really part of the narrative. Each of them taken together added up to building this atmosphere of the world that the album existed in. Things like “Paddy? What a fantastic death abyss!” Just sprinkled there without explanation… only serving to add to the allure of the tapestry being created.
I think the thing that always consistently impressed me about David Bowie, is the fact that he could seemingly transition between different phases of his life and different personas…. and make it feel as natural and thoughtful as if the other face was always lying there just beneath the surface waiting for its turn to come out. There are a lot of artists that are known for re-inventing themselves as the times changed… Madonna for example has been this great and malleable chameleon. Bowie on the other hand was something different… for lack of better words… its like he never changed but was always evolving. There is this sameness to all of David Bowie’s music… even though most of it sounds nothing like the rest of his catalog. Listening to any Bowie song… is in essence listening to all of them. Every single one seems as carefully crafted as the last, and each one tries so hard to reveal something inside of yourself… and at the same time about the times you are listening to it in. In the middle the thoughts and feelings you have when you listen to the music…. somehow get encoded in the experience as well.
Listening this weekend, each time I changed songs… an experience that I had to that song played clearly in my head. Not all of them were amazing experiences… and a lot of the early 90’s were spattered with the confusion and loneliness of being a sensitive teen, but still there was this experience that I revisited again through the music that was very much worth having. There is this period of Bowie that often gets forgotten… that happens to be my favorite. During the late 80s… 88/89 to be specific Bowie did this side project called Tin Machine, and there was just something about the sound that fit perfectly to whatever I happened to be going through at the time. Granted this is the exact same time I am listening to pretty much nothing but Pretty Hate Machine… but there was just something about the music that spoke to me. I remember skating to Under the God, the above song… and it blended nicely into the confused soundtrack of DRI, The Cure, and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers that are also often gracing the beat up spray painted “boom box” that sat ramp side. That is the thing about the music… there are all of these touchstones… where specific albums mean specific things to me… and all of them are important.
I am very much still processing the news, and at this point I heard it roughly an hour ago. Bowie has been this supernatural force in my life, and always been one thought a way during a good chunk of it. There are so many things that I cherish… and probably the biggest is the fact that above anything else he was an individual. He was also really damned sexy, and has this way of making the what seemed like the strangest outfits seem completely normal. If I had to describe him it would be something like “classy as fuck”, but not in the normal ironic sense of that phrase…. but legitimately he was almost painfully classy. The above video is somewhat non sequitur but whatever…. even though that isn’t Bowie voicing himself in Venture Brothers… it outlines the clearly super hero person the man had. The world is going to suck without him in it. Most of the time when a celebrity passes…. I have no real feelings. This man however… he was important to me… he did important things… and produced important art. This one… is going to hurt for a long while.