The Thin White Duke has passed on to his great reward at 69, and I don’t even know where to start. With the passing of Robin Williams two years ago I reached a realisation that is today becoming more and more concrete – this is what getting older is, and my heroes and idols from my childhood are beginning to succumb to the grasp of mortality. I’ve had many a heated debate over what can be deemed an “appropriate” level of response from Joe Bloggs to the passing of a celebrity and the rules for myself haven’t changed in this regard, I can’t think of a single other thing to do right now but type, so that’s what I’ll do.
My father made sure myself and my brother were fans of David Bowie’s music as early as possible. I’ve written before about that one amazing Christmas that we were introduced head first into Sting & The Police, U2 and David Bowie. I was 8 years old that fabled year but the unique and obscure elements of Bowie were already apparent to me then and went a long way towards his staying power in my listening days that followed. For all of his hits, my mind and preference never strayed too far from Life On Mars and still now today not much more is coming into my mind. I’ve talked about this one before alright and nothing has changed in my opinion. Like a lot of Bowie, it is musically stunning yet lyrically obscure. But it isn’t. And it is. Life On Mars is a song of multiple layers that are there to be analysed – if you want – and it has stayed with me in relevance since I first heard it 20 years ago. I think it’s the single most reason I have been able to determine that Bowie was a true musical genius, even at times when whatever single he released came in a little underwhelming to myself or if my interest wavered in a new album – he wrote this one, he knows what he is doing – is how my brain would work.
The passing of Bowie has hit me as a legitimate and full blown shock if I’m being honest, and if that is evident in what I am writing here I apologise. To be honest, I think a part of me was sure he would never die. Having lived a life of extreme excess through the seventies and eighties, he then mellowed out a little in the nineties. His reward for kicking the madness a little? Just a heart attack of course. Yes, Bowie brought in the early years of the new millennium with a heart attack in 2003, and this effectively brought an end to his touring days (understandably so of course). What I’m trying to say is that there had been plenty of opportunity for Bowie to dice with death and lose. Some part of my brain figured he would even outlive me. Yet here we are today and Major Tom is no more. As far as abiding memories of Bowie go there will never be stronger for me than when myself, my father and brother culminated those years of fandom by seeing him live in The Point.
As it turns out it was his last live performance on these shores, and many others. Bowie had just released Reality which I’m also confident in saying was the best of his more recent output too, and we were gung ho to see him in action on stage with a strong album behind him. We were slightly apprehensive we wouldn’t hear much of the hits with the tour being Reality-focused. Needless to say that was somewhat put to rest when he opened with Rebel Rebel and a few tracks later, Sterling Campbell was drumming us into All The Young Dudes. I doubt I’ll ever forget the look shared between the three of us right there – a look of “this is gonna be something special” and sure enough, two and a half hours later, we discovered we had been right on the money. That gig was nothing short of legendary, and it is there to be experience on his live DVD release of A Reality Tour. Coming right before his heart attack, Reality was the last time Bowie was 100% his old self and he put on a show which 13 years later we still speak of as fondly as we did that night.
The tributes over the next few days will be endless and rightly so. Having watched all his compatriots – John Lennon, George Harrison, Marc Bolan, Freddie Mercury et al – slip into the shimmering ether, Bowie now joins those lost but not forgotten souls. His music will live eternal, of course it will. His legacy and influence will never be touched. The Starman is waiting in the sky.