Bookings are now open for my three 2020 residential writing retreats, co-tutored with RNA Chair Alison May. Details can be found here.
We could be heroes
He was 69 and had just released his latest album, Blackstar. I’m listening to it as I write.
Bowie’s music has been with me all my life, since I was living in a tiny room at university, and first heard someone playing Hunky Dory in a room further down the corridor.
Bowie seemed to be speaking directly to me. We were pretty things, driving our Mamas and Papas insane.
Hunky Dory was one of the very first albums I ever bought. I was a teenager looking to get away from the country music and jazz my parents had played at me as a child …. and then Ziggy Stardust swept me into a whole new realm of music.
A few years later, I saw Bowie on stage during the Serious Moonlight tour and pretty much fell in love. He was a tremendous performer, with charisma and presence.
I confess before that concert I may have smoked a substance of a not entirely legal nature. Afterward, my friends and I sat up late talking about how we would change the world. That’s what teenagers are supposed to do. That’s how the world does change. That’s what artists like Bowie do for us – they open up the possibility of change. They make us think about change. And then change happens.
I stayed with Bowie in the following decades. If a couple of his albums were less than wonderful, the brilliance of the next one would always wash away any sense of disappointment.
Then there were the films. Weird is the word that immediately springs to mind. Compelling too. Like his music, the films were innovative and if there was the occasional miss, there were some quite brilliant bits as well. They also made people think about change.
I really got back into his music with Earthling. The album wasn’t what you might call mainstream or accessible – but grew on me. Then came Heathen. If was possible to wear out a CD… I still love that best of his more recent work. I saw him in concert during the Heathen tour – and fell in love all over again with his talent and his passion.
The music was amazing, but what I admired most of all about Bowie was his willingness to try something new. To take his awesome talent in a different direction. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes it didn’t. But he never stopped trying. He was always the first to adopt new ideas and technologies and ways of getting his music out there.
When it comes to any creative endeavour, there are some who stand head and shoulders above all those around them. Artists who really do change the world. For me, Bowie was one of those. And his loss feels almost personal, because I have so many memories inextricably linked to his music.
It’s really sad to think I will never have the excitement of listening to another new Bowie album… wondering where it is going to take me.
So – thank you David Jones. Thanks for Ziggy, and Alladin Sane and the Thin White Duke and all the music and the inspiration.
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