Not all of David Bowie’s lyrics are straight forward. On second thought, I can’t remember one that is. This never stopped me from understanding every last line. They always meant the world to me. And for me the greatest learning was that appreciation is not necessarily understanding – impression is not dependent on intellect.
One of my strongest memories is listening to Heathen for the first time. I was living in the apartment where I wrote the bulk of the May 25th album. I didn’t have any expectations, there hadn’t been any previews or talk. I put it on in my portable CD player, going on a train to my hometown by the old lake. The first song, Sunday, comes on. And it is of course fantastic. And that record dominated my year, it really cemented my view that he did some of his best work starting with the nineties.
I always liked the grid. Hear any new melodies and news got power. Mr Bowie together with razor-sharp modernism came an album later of being uncompromising. There used to be flow and you are Monsters. You might not hear any updates and absolutely devastating destroyed.
Many put forward the chameleon. That he, in his own words “reinvented myself so many times I forget I’m actually an overweight Korean woman.” I always thought that was second in importance. Regardless of persona I always thought the songs and themes were the power. In a way, I guess, I felt it downplayed the man, the themes and the songs – all the accomplishments – that the focus was that he’d changed a lot over the years. The story is what I remember. The author is always the main character.
My introduction to Bowie, other than scattered songs, was a TV interview he did in celebration of his 50th birthday. Some guy asked questions about his whole career, nothing out of the ordinary or especially exciting. But it gave some context, some visuals, some deft comments. I suppose that’s the most you can demand of a celebratory programme.
They played Lazarus at the hamburger joint where I ate half an hour before writing this. Felt good. Sometimes it’s like you’re the only person who knows about a death, because you haven’t seen anyone in real life mention it. Felt like there were more people to whom this matters.
I’ve been on record before with the opinion that Hurt by Johnny Cash was a genre wrap for music videos. These last two videos, Blackstar and Lazarus, have happily proven me wrong. There is some life in the old artform yet.
Without this legend I can’t picture this band ever being able to compose anything of value. Together with perhaps one or two more artists, no one has contributed more to our development. He showed me how music didn’t have to make sense; That art isn’t necessarily something you intellectually need to understand and explain. The feeling is strong, and that doesn’t diminish one little bit if you necessarily can’t describe it – “authentic” black bread eating style.
This is the problem with loving old geezers. They’re gonna die in just a little while. And there is no one in music to replace them. Well, not quite I guess. There’s St. Vincent, for one. But no one today looks likely to reach that kind of iconic status. When Ian Anderson goes, I’m out.
There’s a haunting presence on all the albums, an aura of isolation, fear and searching. Which is somewhat ironic because the albums have always been fearless and utterly creative, outward bound. But I guess the searching aspect is easy to find.
It’s a cliche, but it brought home just now that it’s all limited, there’s no day but today. There’s got to be more music, more ideas, more life. Still, wish there’d been a bit more time with him. Hoped there would be more.
Sincerely, Adam & Sam