Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Speed of Life: Discovering David Bowie.

We've all just finished last of the Christmas chocolate and finished our first week back at work, back to reality, back to that groundhog day plateau of Januaryland. It's the 11th of January, a cold crisp Monday morning, I'm on my way to work, like most mornings I had my headphones in, for whatever reason I favoured the radio over my playlist, I remember, there is a piece on LBC about the NHS, it's about 7:20am, the 20 or so second news brief cuts in and the reporter calmly and casually announces "David Bowie has died age 69 after an 18 month battle with cancer", I gasped aloud "WHAT!?", not aware or indeed bothered if there was anyone in earshot to hear me, I stopped in my tracks and sat on a garden wall, I had to take a few moments to let it sink in, I thought, 'surely it's a mistake', I pulled my phone from my pocket and quickly checked the news, google confirmed it. I instantly switched the radio off and put my music on, the first album on my playlist was "The Man Who Sold The World" (this was no coincidence, David Bowie probably contributes to at least 50% of my music collection -ask my wife, she'll agree with a roll of her eyes-) the first few seconds of 'the width of a circle' started to flow into my ears, I turned the headphones as loud as they could go, I still couldn't quite believe he was gone.

now, I was born in 1990, so my Bowie fandom may be viewed as a little unorthodox to those who grew up with his music and saw him live in the 70's and 80's, but let me tell you, being a teenager in the 2000's and listening to David Bowie instead of Eminem or Grime or something else in the charts/clubs at that time was not as cool as it would of been in either the 70's or 80's. My love for David Bowie's music came through a love of music in general, I was never one to listen to 'new' music, I remember seeing the video for 'life on mars' when I was about 7, we'd just got Telewest Cable and it was on one of the music channels, it totally went over my head but I was amazed by what I saw none the less, since then, I always knew I liked this man that looked a bit funny and had a cool name and I would always stop and watch his music videos whenever they came on the music channels on new years eve (that was the only time my parents ever watched music channels).

I rediscovered Bowie in my early teens, whenever I had any spare money I'd either go into the local bookshop or Virgin Megastore and buy a new book or a CD, as it happens there was a book sale at school, I was browsing the table, books as far as the eye could see, mostly novels, crime thrillers, everything had plain covers and all looked a bit serious, then, I spotted a huge thick book from a distance, it had that bloke on the front with the weird name that I liked, it was a book called 'Strange Fascination : David Bowie : the definitive story', I had to have this book, I frantically dug out a pound coin from my blazer's inside pocket, the book was mine!, I shoved it in my bag and ran to my next lesson, I had the book for months before I started to read it, I would just get it out and look at the few pictures it had on my lunch breaks, I would make sure my mates saw me reading it, they'd also give me those rolling eyes I'd later receive from my wife when I talk about Bowie (I do go on), but for me at that time, it was just about being different, I was about 12 or 13, I only really knew a few David Bowie songs, but music still wasn't really a huge part of my life, not until I was around 14, by then I'd read the book, a couple of times, I was convinced this man Bowie was my favourite musician, I'd still only heard a handful of his songs, all the hits, stuff on the radio or TV. One weekend I wandered into town with a group of friends, as usual, we headed to the book shop and then Virgin Megastore, I'd dodge the charts section and just look for an album with an interesting cover, Bowie wasn't even on my mind, I looked up and down the racks, searching for something interesting when all of a sudden I saw that iconic cover of Aladdin Sane, this was about 2003/4, even then it was fresh, new, it felt like it was something that had never been done before, I got excited and snatched the CD from the rack, there was a sale on, '2 for £10' so in typical me fashion I got 2 Bowie albums, the other cover that caught my eye was 'Station to Station'. I can still remember the feeling of walking to the counter to pay, I couldn't wait to get home, I got off at my bus stop and briskly walked home, I ran upstairs put my headphones on and stuck the first CD in the player, I was nervous, I didn't really know what to expect, the song 'station to station' came on, at first I thought "is there no singing?" when that long intro slowly winds up, with Harry Maslin's locomotive chugging away and Carlos Alomar picking away with that haunting guitar, then all of a sudden, Bowie's smokey smooth voice raising the line "the return of the Thin White Duke, throwing darts in lovers eyes", I was covered in goosebumps and to this day that song still has the same effect.

From those 2 albums my knowledge and love of Bowie's discography only grew with time, his music has been a constant throughout my life, one of my good school friends who sadly passed away at 17 had Life on Mars played at his funeral, I had a compilation album on when driving to Devon for the first time ever when I moved out of my parents house in Kent, I even had a 100+ song strong playlist on in the background at my daughter's first birthday party.

so, it is with great sadness and a heavy heart I bring this to a close, when I heard the news on Monday morning it felt like a piece of me had died too, I sensed a collective sigh in the atmosphere as I'm sure many others felt the same way as me upon learning the fate of the starman.

You will always live on through your music and through the lives of all those your music has touched and influenced through the decades, your career was truly pioneering and remarkable, there will never be another like you.

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