Archive for the ‘bowie’ Tag

The Next Day: fragments of Bowie

24381732930_4d6c43a3ec_k

Outside 155 Hauptstrasse Schoeneberg Berlin – Bowie’s apartment – 17 Jan 2016

So today is The Next Day – the day after Bowie’s birthday, after the anniversary of the release of Blackstar, the day before the anniversary of his death, the middle day, the limbo day.

As promised in yesterday’s birthday post, The Man Who Rose from Earth, in this one I’m going to gather some of the Bowie posts from across the years of Simple Pleasures part 4. As a blog about Creativity and the quest for Happiness through the Simple Pleasures of life Bowie was always bound to feature as a great creator, an outstanding innovator and a man who worked hard to know himself and find Peace.

So adding to the photo album of my Bowie’s Berlin trip last January and my post on hearing of his death (Blackstar Rising) from yesterday’s post are:

Bowie: The Next Day [11 January, 2016] My reflections on his death

The Berlin Trilogy 1 [16 January, 2016] the first day oy my trip to Berlin in the days after his death

The Berlin Trilogy 2: Where Are We Now? [17 January, 2016]

The Berlin Trilogy 3: Goodbye to Berlin  [19 January, 2016]

Heroes Mystery Solved [27 January, 2016]

David Bowie locations in Berlin [22 January, 2016] a ready-made tour

Heddonism [11 April, 2012] a first-hand account of the unveiling of his plaque in Heddon St.

A Bowie Moment [13 January, 2016] Ziggy Stardust plaque unveiling video

4 for 66 (Happy Birthday David Bowie) [9 January, 2013] 4 of his best songs

Sound & Vision [12 November, 2016] the best of Bowie’s art collection

Cut up by Bowie’s Black-out [20 January, 2016] a Bowie-style cut-up

Where Are We Now? [11 January, 2016] an animation

100 Greatest Songs [12 January, 2008]

***

24049082014_123b015488_k

Outside 155 Hauptstrasse Schoeneberg Berlin – Bowie’s apartment – 17 Jan 2016

Celebrated The Big Man’s birthday yesterday evening by watching David Bowie: The Last Five Years, a new BBC feature documentary commissioned by my friend and former Channel 4 colleague Jan Younghusband. It is an excellent watch, breaking new ground with its focus on his last half decade and last two LPs in an intelligent and insightful way. It was directed by Francis Whately. There are various clips here.

Advertisements

1978 in Music

I wrote about 1971 as the key year in music this time last year and this week David Hepworth has released a book on exactly the same theme. I started thinking about this in 2013 when I had a discussion at BAFTA with Malcolm Garrett, designer of the covers of Another Music in a Different Kitchen and Love Bites (referred to below) – Malcolm argued for 1970. Today my friend & best man Stuart Rubenstein proposed 1978 as an alternative. I don’t really buy it as the most significant year but it was a landmark, dynamic one.

Here are a dozen of the LPs that got my blood racing that pivotal year of my youth and I write this listening to Stuart’s 1978 playlist.

1978 was the year I fully got the punk bug thanks to Buzzcocks who released 2 great LPs during those palpitating 12 months. So in no particular order:

023f296ee6ada0becc00aa830b49d25634c3ce0b

(1) Give Em Enough Rope – The Clash

I trudged through the snow to Loppylugs in Edgware to buy this. I saw the tour at the Electric Ballroom in Camden Town with Mikey Dread and Joe Ely supporting, one of the greatest gigs of my life.

Siouxsie_And_The_Banshees_-_The_Scream

(2) The Scream – Siouxsie & the Banshees

Was transfixed by this band, not least the track Switch. Saw them at Hammersmith Odeon and the Music Machine in Mornington Crescent around this time.

Buzzcocks_-_Another_Music_In_A_Different_Kitchen_-[front]-[www.FreeCovers.net]

(3) Another Music in a Different Kitchen – Buzzcocks

Got this as a Christmas present (at my own request) from someone I didn’t much like. The single from it (which I got first from Smiths in Chichester), What Do I Get, was what opened me up to Punk. The sleeve design was really striking with its silver and fluorescent orange. It was a kick years later to meet its super-talented designer Malcolm Garrett through work. My copy now bears his signature.

Patti_Smith-Easter

(4) Easter – Patti Smith

I was transfixed by the hairy armpit in the cover photo by Robert Mapplethorpe.

51hWYnWq96L

(5) Plastic Letters – Blondie

I had a crush on Debbie Harry as Debbie had on Denis. I saw them for my 2nd ever gig at Hammersmith Odeon, as well as outside their record label, Chrysalis, near Bond Street.

51kn4lfa+FL

(6) Stage – David Bowie

One of the few things outside of punk to catch my attention.

handsworth-revolution

(7) Handsworth Revolution – Steel Pulse

Can’t recall how I came across this but it will have been thanks to the Punk-Reggae axis.

51siK7RY4rL

(8) Public Image – Public Image Ltd

How could Johnny Rotten transcend the Pistols? With a single as startling as anything those bad boys did.

the_doors_-_1978_an_american_prayer

(9) An American Prayer – Jim Morrison & The Doors

I still reckon Jim was a significant and talented poet.

marvin-gaye-here-my-dear

(10) Here My Dear – Marvin Gaye

As intense as records ever get – I pictured Marvin alone in the studio in the dark, laying his voice over and over itself.

26715-raw

(11) Moving Targets – Penetration

Something a little exotic from the regions

Tom+Robinson+Power+In+The+Darkness++Stencil+316808

(12) Power in the Darkness – Tom Robinson Band

My very first gig at Hammersmith Odeon with PJE. I used the stencil which came with this on my school bag.

‘Heroes’ mystery solved

A few days ago when I was in Berlin I wrote this (in a post called Where Are We Now? about David Bowie):

There are a few panels of the Berlin Wall on display on the north side of the place and then a significant stretch of the banal concrete sections in Niederkirchnerstrasse (on the corner of which was the Blackstar poster above). The bands graffitied on that section indicate how frozen in time it is: Blondie, Madness, Lee Perry all get a painted name check. A few more individual sections stand in the grounds of the apartment blocks adjacent to the Hansa Studio in Köthener Strasse. It all helps get you in the ‘Heroes’ frame of mind. I tried to figure out where Bowie might have seen Visconti and his lover from the studio windows but it’s hard to figure as two walls are blank and there’s no obvious spot where the Wall would have been in sight from the front or back of the Hansa building so the lovers’ kiss remains in the imagination (which is probably where it actually was anyway).

Well I was wrong – the spot where the lovers (Visconti and a backing singer) kissed by the Wall was behind the building. I actually snuck through an archway to investigate that Sunday afternoon. A security guard came out of a concealed door as I got to the end of the short tunnel but he must have thought it was not worth the bother and let it go. I walked around a bit in the back garden and car park in search of the spot so I reckon I must have been pretty much bang on at one point.

The mystery is solved in this fascinating video clip (20 mins) from BBC4 in which Visconti recalls the event (about 11 mins in).

David Bowie at the Berlin Wall, 1987

David Bowie locations in Berlin

[Updated 28/1/16]

As promised in my Where Are We Now? post just below here is a list of David Bowie related locations in Berlin which can easily be visited on foot or by foot and public transport:

David Bowie at the Berlin Wall, 1987

  • David Bowie’s 1st floor apartment (shared with Iggy Pop). Bowie lived in Berlin from late 1976 to 1979. – Hauptstrasse 155, Schöneberg [U-bahn: Kleistpark]
  • David & Iggy’s local (gay) bar, now called Neues Ufer, back then called Anderes Ufer – Hauptstrasse 157, Schöneberg
  • Hansa Tonstudio, recording studios where Low and ‘Heroes’ were recorded (in oak-panelled Tonstudio 2) and produced The Idiot for Iggy Pop – Köthener Strasse 38 [near Potsdamer Platz (which gets a mention in Where Are We Now?) – you can only enter with an official tour like the ones lead by Thilo Schmied]. The ‘Heroes’ spot (where “Standing, by the wall … we kissed, as though nothing could fall”) is just behind the studio building, accessible through an arch albeit on private property. The position of the Wall is marked by a double line of cobblestones.
  • The site of the Dschungel night club (as mentioned in Where Are We Now?) where Bowie, Iggy and Lou Reed shook a leg – Nürnberger Strasse 53 = Ellington Hotel
  • KaDeWe department store (also as mentioned in Where Are We Now?) is round the corner at Tauentzienstraße 21-24
  • Paris Bar arty restaurant in Charlottenburg where Bowie & Iggy went for special occasions to hang out with artist types – Kantstrasse 152 [U & S Zoologischer Garten]
  • Brücke Museum where Bowie went to be inspired by German Expressionist art such as that of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Erich Heckel. Otto Müller’s Lovers Between Garden Waals may be a source for the song ‘Heroes’ – Bussardsteig 9 [bus line 115, Pücklerstraße stop]
  • In front of the Reichstag where Bowie performed to 70,000 Germans in 1987, audible to more over the Wall in the East (two years before the Berliner Mauer fell).

To be added:

  • Filming locations for ‘Just a Gigolo’, the movie Bowie starred in in 1978 (directed by David Hemmings).
  • S036 – music venue in Kreuzberg where Bowie & Iggy hung out
  • Bösebrücke – the only other location mentioned in Where Are We Now? (a bit out of the city centre) where the first wave of 20,000 East Germans crossed over in 1989.
  • Joe’s Beer House – a drinking haunt of Bowie & Iggy
  • Unlimited – another of their nightclub hang-outs
  • Lützower Lampe – where Bowie celebrated his 31st birthday with Iggy and Eno and a bunch of trannies.

 

(I’ll add some of my pictures to this in the next few days)

Cut up by Bowie’s black-out

Cut_up_lyrics_for_Blackout_from_Heroes_1977__The_David_Bowie_Archive_2012_Image__VA_Images

Blackout from ‘Heroes’ (1977)

Something happened on the day he died

Karma is keeping quiet for now

Beloved by luscious

Then I’m useless in the evening

Night owls might be more creative

Spiders May Live in Every Room of Your House

Three Scottish boys discovered a strange cache

A Blast from the Past

And Air & Space

Show off your genius

Rock Genius

Because I can

When I Come Around

Millions of songs

We rise and shine driven

After mourning the passing

Black on white

With teachers at all levels

Move Beyond

For the twenty-first century

Cushioned within the box

We are losing all our heroes

People that simply do not exist anymore

The dance sequence is my favourite part

Non-stop pop

Das war noch Musik

Where they trashtalk each other

Fame and offending people

And it was impossible to find

Compulsive ice cream consumption

You just broke the internet

And a bunch of Silicon Valley dudes

Either help them or get out of their way

A “blessing to one another” he noted, chomping at the bit

And an environment teeming with wildlife

That will help shape the island’s future

The worldwide association

And improve trajectories.

burroughs-cut-up

[This was written by taking a phrase from each web page (starting with the lyrics of Blackstar) and then clicking through to an adjoining page and taking something that caught my eye from that and so on… – the pages ranged from an advert for a job on the Falkland Islands to scientific analysis of the benefits of early rising.]

Goodbye to Berlin: Day 3 in Bowie’s Berlin

 

vintage-1977-bowie-low-badge_24341207241_o

Goodbye to my badge

My Low badge, in my life since 1978, decided to jump ship off my lapel – it’s somewhere in Berlin which seems just about right. From Carnaby Street to Kurfürstendamm or wherever on earth it landed – a journey as tidy as the Big Man’s. He had his Mod phase (as in Baby Loves That Way – Davy Jones & The Lower Third) so no doubt made the odd sortie into Carnaby Street and environs in his time.

So headed off badgeless for an early start, a wander along the Spree across a tranquil corner of Museum Island, ice floating in the dark green waters, bright sunshine through sub-zero temperatures. Went as far as the subterranean monument to the burning of books by the Nazis, a ghostly room of empty shelves glimpsed through a small window set in a cobbled courtyard in front of the Law faculty of Humboldt University. Bowie had a weird brush with fascism and Nietzsche in the 70s which it took him a while to extricate himself from, probably coke fuelled. He also had a terrible adolescent German moustache at one point – very rare fashion faux pas.

My main meeting of the day at Doc Campus was over a hill to the north of the hotel. At the brow of the hill on the way over I found a great little record shop and in the little window at feet level was a 7” picture disc of Young Americans which of course I was compelled to spunk my Euros on. Plus a copy of Kraftwerk’s Das Model (Deutsche version) as a nod to Bowie’s inspiration from them, Neu and other Teutonic electronica. And a copy of The Stars We Are LP (nice n cheap) by Marc Almond, a big Bowie infuencee. All zeroed in on in the space of a few minutes (from years of practice) , then on to the gathering…

23842534783_a696148dab_o

Hallo to Young Americans

We reviewed 76 documentary projects of which only one had a direct connection to Bowie – one centred on 60s singer P J Proby who Bowie emulated, probably in a tongue in cheek way, on certain Berlin trilogy tracks and earlier recordings.

Had a farewell currywurst before heading for home. On the plane back I read a telling note from the BBC Talent Selection Group in 1965 following an audition Bowie did for them: “A singer devoid of personality. Sings wrong notes and out of tune.” Just goes to show. How little people know. You need to trust your own instincts.

It’s now 23.59 on the first week anniversary of the Thin White Duke’s trip to the Station on the other side of the Border. Official end to BowieWeek of reflection, mourning and celebration. Concluding it in Berlin was a real privilege.

repatriated---christopher-isherwood-berlin-1940-hogarth-press-edition---a-bargain-at-1_24342262431_o

Goodbye to the old world

 

Where Are We Now? : Day 2 in Bowie’s Berlin

So in the absence of a professional (i.e. Thilo Schmied) I had to opt for a DIY Bowie tour of Berlin to mark the end of this sombre week.

schwarzer-stern---berlin-bowie_24352746821_o

Starting out from Rosenthaler Platz in Mitte I headed west to Friedrichstrasse where last time I was here (a year ago) I picked up a copy of Zeit, a small box set of Bowie’s four Berlin-related LPs – what a difference a year makes. Zeit waits for no man.

I took a small diversion past the Berlin Ensemble’s theatre (Theater am Schiffbauerdamm) where Brecht set himself up in 1954, as a tip of the cap to the Baal EP which showed me another dimension of Bowie in 1982.

Next a walk across Potsdamer Platz to set the Where are We Now? trail in motion:

Had to get the train
From Potsdamer Platz
You never knew that
That I could do that
Just walking the dead
Sitting in the Dschungel
On Nürnberger Strasse
A man lost in time
Near KaDeWe
Just walking the dead
Where are we now, where are we now?

There are a few panels of the Berlin Wall on display on the north side of the place and then a significant stretch of the banal concrete sections in Niederkirchnerstrasse (on the corner of which was the Blackstar poster above). The bands graffitied on that section indicate how frozen in time it is: Blondie, Madness, Lee Perry all get a painted name check. A few more individual sections stand in the grounds of the apartment blocks adjacent to the Hansa Studio in Köthener Strasse. It all helps get you in the ‘Heroes’ frame of mind. I tried to figure out where Bowie might have seen Visconti and his lover from the studio windows but it’s hard to figure as two walls are blank and there’s no obvious spot where the Wall would have been in sight from the front or back of the Hansa building so the lovers’ kiss remains in the imagination (which is probably where it actually was anyway).

Outside the Hansa Studio was a small shrine of candles and flowers, a child’s drawing and an empty wine bottle, as well as a black star. A couple of people stopped briefly to have a look. We listened to Breaking Glass on my phone there outside the building where it was recorded, and to ‘Heroes’. I took a few photos which I’ll upload when I get home – don’t have the gear with me.

Next stop was a bigger floral shine. This one outside Bowie’s old apartment (and Iggy Pop’s) at 155 Hauptstrasse in Schöneberg. That I do have a couple of photos from on my phone – I wonder why we still call it a phone as it’s about the last thing I ever use it for! The photos and messages lay nestled in pristine ice.

shrine-outside-bowie-s-old-apartment-berlin-schneberg_24075744549_o

bowie-s-old-front-door-berlin-schneberg_24361091011_o

Where Are We Now? At his front door

shrine-outside-bowie-s-old-apartment-berlin-schneberg_24335264912_o

Feeling Low

shrine-outside-bowie-s-old-apartment-berlin-schneberg_23816760923_o

There was a small gathering there, a shameless paparazzo getting in everyone’s way without caring, to remind us of the sort of crap DB had to put up with thanks to Fame and how it puts you there where things are hollow. It was an interesting sight to see but itself had a certain hollowness, people wanting to connect but in a slightly chilled way.

We went next door to have a drink to warm up at David & Iggy’s local (now called Neues Ufer). I had a read of Peter Doggett’s rather over-muso The Man who Sold the World: David Bowie and the 1970s whilst having a bet about whether they sell more cheese cake or apple strudel in Ufer. The cheese cake was good. The coffee hit the spot. The candle light added to the vibe. The Jean Genie suddenly put its head above the chat noise as daylight faded.

bowie-s-old-local-berlin-schneberg_23815391134_o

The last leg was over in Charlottenburg.

A man lost in time
Near KaDeWe

I checked out KaDeWe (Kaufhaus des Westens), the largest department store in continental Europe. Then round the corner to the Ellington Hotel in Nürnberger Strasse…

Sitting in the Dschungel
On Nürnberger Strasse

Besides hosting jazz greats from Duke Ellington (the Thin Black Duke) to Ella Fitzgerald, from Lionel Hampton to Louis Armstrong (the Black Star), it was the location of the Dschungel night club, Studio 54 but at Nürnberger Strasse 53. We ordered up some suitably sophisticated cocktails to toast the Big Man containing all sorts of goodies from cinnamon  to absinthe. Got a bit of a buzz on; admired the art deco architecture, fixtures & fittings; and walked on down the road… as we walked past the Gedächnis Kirche (Remembrance Church) the bell tolled six.

Last stop of the day – the Paris Bar, arty hang-out of West Berlin prior to the fall of the Wall, a haunt of Bowie and pals. Now the East of the city is one big arty hang-out. On the wall, subtly placed among the floor-to-ceiling art works, is a slightly faded photo of Bowie beside a modern painting. It was a place for birthdays and special occasions among his circle so a fitting place to round off the day. We did our Desert Island Discs (again) after dinner over coffee – it’s been a few years since the last time and there will have been minor shifts though I haven’t checked back yet. Things move on.

cafe-paris-charlottenburg-berlin---a-bowie-favourite_24075820909_o

I’m going to put the addresses etc. of the above Bowie Berlin spots in the next post in case anyone wants to visit any of them in a DIY kind of way.

Sometimes I feel the need to move on
So I pack a bag, move on, move on
Well I might take a train or sail at dawn
Might take a girl, when I move on, when I move on

Somewhere someone’s calling me when the chips are down
I’m just a traveling man, maybe it’s just a trick of the mind, but
Somewhere there’s a morning sky bluer than her eyes
Somewhere there’s an ocean innocent and wild

[Move On from the 3rd of Bowie’s Berlin trilogy, Lodger – the one that got me a fantastic voyage to Vienna]

vintage-1977-bowie-low-badge_24341207241_o

Not so Low now

The Berlin trilogy: Day 1 in Bowie’s Berlin

snow-in-berlin_23794657874_o

Fortuitous timing – a week to the day after the surprise announcement of David Bowie’s passing I happen to be in Berlin. Where better to conclude a week of reflection on his music and life. I haven’t listened to anything else all week. Yesterday I picked up vinyl copies of Young Americans and Pin-ups at Alan’s, round the corner from my house. Today I flew into Tegel listening to Low and Station to Station, downloaded onto my phone in a somewhat torturous way over Heathrow wifi from Spotify because I left my iPod charging in the bedroom (we always leave one thing behind on every trip no?). From the vinyl frontier to the virtual meanderings of Spotify Bowie music is as resonant as ever.

I got a text at the airport from Thilo Schmied, ex-Hansa engineer and the main man for Bowie tours in Berlin, saying it was a long shot being able to do a Bowie walking tour tomorrow, my one free full day in the city. No worries really because I’ve done my research and reckon I can do a half-decent tour for myself if needs be. I’ll start from Hauptstrasse 155, Bowie’s old apartment with Iggy Pop. If I end up having to Do It Myself I’ll publish the tour here afterwards to help others stuck in similar circumstances. I bought myself a city map in WH Smith so I can plot the key Bowie landmarks on it.

Once installed in The Circus Hotel in Mitte late afternoon, I headed out for a wander. First stop, a T-shirt shop round the corner I remembered from my trip here last winter. A cool Bowie Berlin T on offer with an image from The Man Who Fell to Earth period and the words Berlin Friendship. Aladdin Sane playing when I walked in. A few doors down another fun clothes shop. Wild is the Wind playing when I walked in. Last night Thilo was at a huge memorial gathering at the Hansa studios with over two thousand people.

On the sombre day that was last Monday 11th the German Foreign office thanked Bowie on Twitter for helping bring down the Wall.

Screen Shot 2016-01-16 at 23.24.05

This city takes its Bowie seriously and for good reason.

When Bowie played his landmark gig in front of the Reichstag in June 1987 he introduced his Berlin classic ‘Heroes’, recorded a decade earlier in the city, thus: “We send our wishes to all our friends who are on the other side of the wall.” Those friends could make out the sounds of the song from the other side and their cheering could be heard this side.

“It was one of the most emotional performances I’ve ever done. I was in tears.”

Bowie recalled the show in these terms: “We kind of heard that a few of the East Berliners might actually get the chance to hear the thing, but we didn’t realise in what numbers they would. And there were thousands on the other side that had come close to the Wall. So it was like a double concert where the Wall was the division. And we would hear them cheering and singing along from the other side. God, even now I get choked up. It was breaking my heart. I’d never done anything like that in my life, and I guess I never will again.”

So Bowie and Berlin are intimately linked and the city is a perfect place to celebrate and be thankful for this, in the words of a certain JeSuisDean (derived from elsewhere in relation to other persons):

Screen Shot 2016-01-16 at 23.54.46

 

 

vintage-1977-bowie-low-badge_24341207241_o

An old badge of mine from 1978 accompanying me on this trip

 

A Bowie moment: Ziggy Stardust plaque unveiled

I just found this video of mine (chopped in 2 bits – can’t remember why) from the day the Ziggy Stardust plaque was unveiled by Gary Kemp in Heddon Street, London – 27th March 2012.

Here’s the story of the day: Heddonism

And here are some unsorted photos also from that day

Bowie: The Next Day

I’m sure many people are feeling Bowied out by now with all the media coverage and social media outpourings but I still want to capture the moment (not least for myself), and book-end a sombre day with the reflections that have bubbled up in the last 16 hours on a truly great man.

David Bowie

One Bowie

{This is a picture from one of my old posts (hence the odd caption – I can’t recall the context) but I really love it, so…}

Like many people I immersed myself today in Bowie’s music – drawn initially, of all the 25 long players (studio LPs), to Station to Station (it was interesting where my heart took me when push came to shove). And then to Blackstar because he wouldn’t want us looking back too much. And on to Lodger because …well it got me thinking, why does that one resonate? – it was a moment when he had a significant impact on my life…

1979. I was mainly into punk. One evening I was at home laying across my bedroom floor listening to a radio show on Radio 1 called something like Conversations with Bowie. I think I may still have a recording of it on cassette tape in a drawer somewhere. During the long (two part?) interview, centred on the making of Lodger, his newest record, he mentioned an artist who was making a big impact on him around then but was largely unknown at the time. Egon Schiele. I’d never heard of him, and I knew a fair bit about art (for a 16 year old). He was very little known in Britain then. What Bowie said struck me and I made a mental note which I followed up…

Egon_Schiele_zelfportret

Thin White Bloke: a Bowie-like Egon Schiele

Fast-fwd to four years later >>> I won a travel scholarship (the Morrison Grant) from Girton College, Cambridge to study Egon Schiele’s work in Vienna. It was a significant landmark in my growing up, helping consolidate my interest in art and Modernism as well as providing a colourful independent travel adventure. Thank Bowie for that.

Another Teutonic moment: Exactly this time last year I went to Berlin with Enfant Terrible No. 2 (who loved it – the cafes, the wandering about, the whole vibe). On one of our flâneur sessions we stopped at a big record shop and I came across a box set called Zeit of Bowie’s Berlin period – Low, Heroes, Lodger and the live double LP Stage. I bought it as the perfect souvenir of a beautiful trip. I’m going back this coming weekend (apposite timing given today’s news) with Enfant Terrible No. 1. He was playing Bowie in his room at Bournemouth University last night, pulling a semi-all-nighter for an essay, pretty much when the star light was darkening over in NYC.

Screen Shot 2016-01-11 at 21.57.48

Father & Son

And on the subject of family members, our cat is called Ziggy after Bowie’s Ziggy. I was looking for a pair of names for our pair of cats and the one that found favour after a social media call-out was Ziggy & Stardust. (Her hair’s even better than Bowie’s, well worthy of her name.)

My director showreel when I first went freelance was to the soundtrack of Sound and Vision. I can’t hear that song any more without seeing some of those pictures including an underwater swimmer shot by DoP Jack Hazan (Rude Boy, A Bigger Splash) and Martin Luther King delivering his I Had a Dream speech from within an H shape (which represented the word Hearing).

The last Bowie moment that comes to what is now a somewhat weary mind on this grey day is not either of the occasions I saw him play live – 1983 on the Serious Moonlight tour in Grenoble (we had fun because he was clearly having fun) and 1985 at Live Aid – but set in a North London exam room as I sat my O Level English. We had to write a creative story and mine was ‘inspired by’ (for which read ‘an unsubtle rip-off of’) Please Mr Gravedigger from his first LP (David Bowie of 1967), simply transposed into prose with lots of fancy adjectives. I got an A. I went on to do A Level and S Level English, then literature subjects at university, bringing us back to Girton.

Another half-thought emerges: as I approached those A Levels I grew heartily sick of school and spent the second half of the second year of 6th form in my dad’s house (not where I grew up) shacked up in a bedroom with two things for comfort: a pile of Jane Austen books and two Bowie cassettes: ChangesTwoBowie and Rare. I did no work, just read that pile and listened to that slightly off-beat pair of compilations. All the exam shit worked out fine and it was a suitably intense teenage moment.

Just four and a half moments of different scales where Bowie had a benign and positive influence on my life. There are many others, many associated with particular records or songs – from Let’s Dance in a small bedsit in Chambéry, Savoy when I first cut the umbilical cord from home (at Boulevard des Capucines chez les Pachouds) to V2 Schneider on the jukebox during a Baltic educational cruise aboard the SS Uganda) – many moments of intrigue, delight and inspiration from someone who ultimately is a true genius and by all accounts (many today) a real mensch.

davidbowie00100001

I & eye

24025414600_20e0999b1f_o

Big Ones

24321005515_1034a64683_o

Little Ones

%d bloggers like this: