David Bowie 1947-2016. My Memories. January 12, 2016Posted by Richard Foote in Oracle Indexes.
In mid-April 1979, as a nerdy 13 year old, I sat in my bedroom in Sale, North England listening to the radio when a song called “Boys Keep Swinging” came on by an singer called David Bowie who I never heard of before. I instantly loved it and taped it next time it came on the radio via my cheap radio-cassette recorder. A few weeks later I saw David Bowie for the first time on TV performing this song on the Kenny Everett Video Show and from that moment on I was hooked. His performance was not only funny, but the song rocked and Bowie had a swagger that I just thought was instantly cool. OK, I can never be as cool as Bowie but perhaps I can be cool just by being a fan of Bowie.
I had little money but saved my pennies and eventually bought the “Best of Bowie” K-tel album on cassette (which I still have) to check out his previous work and just couldn’t believe that I loved each and every track. Space Oddity, Life on Mars, Jean Genie, Sound and Vision, “Heroes”, etc. etc. How can one person have so many great songs ?? So began the thrilling journey during the following years of slowly buying his back catalogue, album by album. Hunky Dory, “Heroes”, Diamond Dogs, his first “David Bowie” album, each and every one of them brilliant and I can still remember that feeling of sitting in my bedroom or in the family room back in Sale, listening to each of them for the first time.
In 1980, Bowie released “Scary Monsters and Super Creeps”, his first album release while a Bowie fan. It was stunning and watching the “Ashes to Ashes” video for the first time was an amazing experience. It felt more like a movie than a music video. I was excited that the single made No 1 in the UK charts, a bit like my football team winning a match.
In 1981, my parents bought a record player and the first album I bought on record (previously they had all been on cassette) was “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars”. I remember mum being cranky for playing it so loud but I said I had to, look, it says so on the back cover: “To be played at maximum volume”.
That year , I got my first book on David Bowie for my birthday “David Bowie: An Illustrated Record” by Roy Carr and Charles Shaar Murray. I treasure it still, even though I now have over 70 books on Bowie. Yes, I love music and I love to read.
In 1982, we moved to Canberra Australia but my Bowie odyssey continued. The first album I bought soon after our move was Station to Station. What an album. That first Aussie Christmas, I got the “really” expensive “David Live” double-album and just played it to death. What a great time.
In 1983, Bowie toured Australia during the huge “Let’s Dance” world tour and my parents bought me a ticket and bus ride to see him live in Sydney. I couldn’t sleep the night before and after getting to the Sydney Show Grounds nice and early, managed to get myself to the second front row. I spent hours in eager excitement, reading through the program (they were like mini books in those days) and then the moment when I saw him live for the first time. I was THAT close to him and I know he looked at me several times during the show.
As the years passed, I finally bought all his albums and started making enough money that I didn’t have to sell some books or whatever in order to afford the latest magazine that featured Bowie on the cover. Having some money came particularly useful as his music got re-released on CD format !!
1987, Bowie toured Australia again, this time as part of the “Glass Spiders” world tour. I had my first full-time job but no leave. Tricky, especially as Bowie was playing 8 shows at the Sydney Entertainment Arena. So I bought 2 tickets to each show and spent one of the most wonderful weeks of my life going to work, leaving at around 4pm, driving to Sydney with someone different at most shows and then driving home afterwards to be in bed by 2am to do it all again the next day. Yes, I’m a fully fledged David Bowie fan and yes I loved each and every show 🙂
While many people stopped following Bowie after his Tin Machine period (which I of course loved), I continue to follow his career keenly and just couldn’t wait to buy his latest album, be it “Black Tie White Noise”, “The Buddha of Suburbia” and one of my all-time favorites, “Outside”. The great albums continued on into the 2000’s when he joined forces again with the great Tony Visconti as record producer.
And so came February 2004 and Bowie’s last tour of Australia during his “Reality” world tour. This time I went to both of his concerts again at the Sydney Entertainment arena, now some 17 years since he last toured. He looked and sounded great and it was fantastic to have my wife with me this time to share the experience. I remember as he walked off after the final show I had a deep and sad feeling that I would never see him live again …
A few months later, he had a heart attack while on stage and the tour finished prematurely. Except for the odd single and public appearance he was rarely seen, before he finally disappeared from the scene in 2006. I continued to play and love his music but with rumours that he wasn’t well health wise, I really thought he had finally retired from making music. Or so it seemed.
While on holiday in Hawaii in January 2013, my son said “Hey Dad, Bowie’s releasing a new single”. I thought it was a joke but to my utter amazement and sheer joy, not only had he just released a new single “Where Are We Now?”, but also a new album “The Next Day”. Not only was Bowie back, but the album was just as good as anything he’s done. What a come back.
Last week on Friday (was it really just a few days ago !!), Bowie released his new album, Blackstar and again, I couldn’t contain my excitement. The Blackstar single and video were both stunning as was the follow-up single Lazarus. But I was a touch worried. He looked frail and thinner than he’d been for a while. But hey, this is Bowie, the Thin White Duke, he often looks thin and frail.
On Sunday night I had a dream about Bowie (not surprisingly really as his new songs were going through me mind), but I dreamt he had died (seriously). I was sooooo relived it was just a silly dream. But on Monday at 6pm, as I was leaving work in the car and the ABC news came on the radio, I was shocked, stunned, shattered to hear that David Bowie had indeed suddenly passed away. I just burst into tears in the car park (thankfully it was late and nobody was around) and then my wife rang and then messages from friends and colleagues come pouring in and so life post David Bowie began.
It’s funny how so many people have said to me how I was the first person they thought of after they heard the news David Bowie had passed away. Some people contacted me who I haven’t spoken to in years (and thank you, it really means a lot). I guess I wasn’t a closet fan. But that’s because David Bowie for the past 37 odd years has been a very real, important part of my life, one of my best ever friends even though I never actually (quite) met him in person. But I knew him like a best friend through his music and the incredible cultural influence he’s had on my life and those of so many many others. Hey, we were even both born in South London.
While it’s deeply sad that I’ll never again enjoy that new David Bowie album into the future, how lucky am I to have lived at the same time as the great genius that is/was David Bowie. And though he’s now gone, his music, legacy and wonderful memories will live on with me for the rest of my life. He was indeed the soundtrack of my life. The Starman is finally up among the stars.
Thank you David Bowie. RIP.