David Bowie Has Killed Himself Again…

David Bowie Has Killed Himself Again…

…only this time, he won’t be coming back.

David Bowie made a career of killing himself off and rebirthing into something new, different and unique. But on the evening of Sunday the 10th of January, 2016, two days after celebrating his official day of birth and releasing his 25th solo studio album, “★”, he died one last time. And for real. Never to return.

And whilst that still hasn’t sunk in, I feel compelled to put into words my feelings, scrambled as they are, trying to process the fact that today is the first day in my life, and the lives of many other fans, friends and family, that this great human, this incredible, luminous being, hasn’t been around.

I don’t recall the first time I became consciously aware of David Bowie. Unlike the generation before me, who in 1972 were teenagers or older, I wasn’t privy to the incredible mind-fuck that was Ziggy Stardust. I hear tales and recollections of the impact it had on their lives, on their parents, on society as a whole and I can only sit there, completely envious, and try to experience it vicariously through their wistful memories. As I grew up in 1970s England, tucked away in East Anglia, I recall being fond of “The Laughing Gnome” that got regular airplay on the kids radio or of seeing images of some flame-haired, strangely dressed individual that just seemed odd to me at the time. I was particularly impressed, however, that he sung about the Norfolk Broads, a place where I lived and played for many years. But it was when “Ashes to Ashes” dropped that I finally took notice. By this time, I was tuning in more and more to pop music, being more aware of what was what. And finally, with this song, followed by “Fashion”, I became acutely aware of David Bowie and his allure. I bought “Fashion” there and then. In fact, the more I think about it, I think I bought it from a kid at school whose Mum used to restock jukeboxes. Every so often he would come into school and dish out old 45’s that had been removed. But some he would sell, to make a few pennies to spend in the village shop. And I think that’s how I got my first David Bowie record, which I still have to this day.

David Bowie - Fashion

From this point, I was a fan. And, as it would happen, the next album, “Let’s Dance”, was to be his biggest commercial success and it felt to me like I’d gotten on board at about the right time. Little did I know of the wealth of back catalogue, nor of the creative slump that would follow.

That’s how I discovered Bowie. And such is the depth of his oeuvre that it takes an awful long time to fully discover him, musically. As I type this, I am listening to Ken Scott’s 5.1 mix of the legendary Ziggy album and aside from finding this difficult to write due to the heavy sadness that has filled my head today, I can’t help but be distracted by Bowie’s amazing lyrics. So clever, insightful, witty, crazy, bonkers, visionary, prophetic, intelligent… you get where I’m going. As “Five Years” fades out to Woody’s drums, I am reminded that David is gone again. In fact, all of today, I have been sad, confused, lost and thoughtful, struggling to work or accomplish anything. Briefly, I’ve been distracted enough to make progress, only to glance at my phone, or the incessant feed on social media and be reminded of the loss we’ve all suffered today, and the pain, once again, returns.

I was woken this morning, not by my alarm clock, but by my wife, sobbing, hugging me and breaking the news to me. In my dreams, someone had been insisting that I visit someone else before they died. Coincidence, I know, but how odd to wake to that news after that dream. I was instantly reminded of December 9th, 1980, when I woke to the sound of my mother sobbing as the news of Lennon’s death filtered through breakfast radio. That too was a devastating day and a devastating loss. But Bowie is different. Despite having a band, or a production team, he was always singular. And he had prevailed far longer, was far more prolific in the studio and on tour and commanded a far larger and more diverse audience, in my humble opinion.

David-Bowie-Tis-Pity-Shes-A-Whore-770

Bowie’s influence is far reaching. If you weren’t impacted or influenced by him directly, those who did influence you were probably influenced by Bowie. You can probably trace every musical artist of note since 1972 back to Bowie. He’s like a ground-zero of pop music. He is a rarity, someone whose name will be spoken quite comfortably with the likes of Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Beethoven, Mozart and Picasso. He wasn’t just a pop star. He was a teacher, a companion, a muse and a leader. He innovated, filled spaces with his creativity, and if the space didn’t exist, he created it and filled it with his genius. I truly believe we still don’t know the extent of his “powers”. There is likely more to come from this man, through revelations, memoirs or some such. He was often referred to as other-worldly and with reasonable cause. But the amazing thing about him was that despite the fact he seemed to be not of this earth, he was exactly like every one of us and he became our voice and inspiration. The miracle of David Bowie is that he was human after all. And we all wanted to be like him. In doing so, we all sought out our own unique identities and felt less awkward about them. We wore the clothes we wanted, sang the songs our parents hated and grew our hair long. Because Bowie showed us we could. He never told us to be or do anything. He simply opened our eyes. Through the medium of music, fashion, words and photography, he shed light on our existence and showed us the opportunity and excitement that had previously lay hidden, banished or dormant. Without Bowie, punk would not have had the licence to be as uniquely extravagant as it was and, in turn, would not have inspired the likes of Westwood, McLaren and Ant to dress flamboyantly and, in turn, would not have allowed this shy, Norfolk boy of Anglo-Italian descent to wear make up, hair braids, frilly shirts and earrings, aged 10, around a village where my father ran a respectable business. My Dad called me a “poof”, hated everything about it but Bowie’s indirect influence on me, via Adam Ant, made me not care one bit.

Over the years, I have grown incredibly fond of Bowie’s musical catalogue. It is such an incredible body of work that will remain unsurpassed for centuries to come, if at all. There is such rich diversity and originality in there. And sure, over the last 49 years, there have been high points and low points, but the peaks have far outweighed the troughs. That incredible run, from “Hunky Dory” to “Scary Monsters” is unbelievable. Because of that, we can forgive him the occasional “miss”, and even then, with age, those albums have matured and become easier on the ear. Maybe he just reached a little too far ahead of himself on those and we are only now catching up.

His final album, which only came out four days ago, was another career high. Despite the lyrics and the content of the two videos released in advance of the album, nobody guessed it was his own, planned, hand-written epitaph. So swept up in its brilliance we were, that nobody, until today, understood that “Lazarus” was his goodbye, both lyrically and visually. At the beginning of the video, Bowie emerges from a wardrobe, or some might say a closet. We see him in a hospital bed, eyes bandaged with buttons where his famous bi-coloured pupils would be. A strange figure lurks in the room, under the bed, at the foot of it at times, trying to reach out to him. The cancer, maybe? A flurry of activity from a now unmasked Bowie sees him dancing, the way only Bowie can, and writing furiously as if possessed to do so, finally retreating backwards into the wardrobe and closing himself in. Marry this imagery to the lyrics and it is as clear as day that “Lazarus” was his farewell.

Look up here, I’m in heaven
I’ve got scars that can’t be seen
I’ve got drama, can’t be stolen
Everybody knows me now

Look up here, man, I’m in danger
I’ve got nothing left to lose
I’m so high it makes my brain whirl
Dropped my cell phone down below
Ain’t that just like me

By the time I got to New York
I was living like a king
Then I used up all my money
I was looking for your ass
This way or no way

You know, I’ll be free
Just like that bluebird
Now ain’t that just like me
Oh I’ll be free
Just like that bluebird
Oh I’ll be free
Ain’t that just like me

And then there’s the closing track, “I Can’t Give Everything Away”. When I played “★” in its entirety on my radio show on Friday, I commented on how this song had a powerful sense of release, particularly in the chorus. It builds tension (“I can’t give everything, I can’t give everything”), and then delivers the release (“Away”). It just conjures images of a bird launching in to flight. The bluebird from Lazarus, maybe? I even feel compelled to describe the feeling it gave me as somewhat orgasmic.

I know something is very wrong
The pulse returns the prodigal sons
The blackout hearts, the flowered news
With skull designs upon my shoes
I can’t give everything
I can’t give everything
Away
I can’t give everything
Away
Seeing more and feeling less
Saying no but meaning yes
This is all I ever meant
That’s the message that I sent
I can’t give everything
I can’t give everything
Away
I can’t give everything
Away

Bowie knew he was dying and, like every other thing in his long and brilliant career, he had complete control over his destiny. Everything was planned, every song, every visual, just like he had done, over and over again. He had killed Davy Jones, and gave birth to David Bowie. He created Ziggy, Aladdin Sane, the Thin White Duke, the alien in human form, the Pierrot. He killed them all, so that the next one could live. And so, when it came to the last, the one he couldn’t kill but would die nonetheless, he made sure of a fitting exit, with music and imagery, and turned his death into his final performance, as all great performers do. He departed quietly, stage left, leaving his audience in tears, bursting with admiration, fulfilled by his artistry and crying for more. But tonight, we will all go to sleep knowing that there is no more. And we will cry again…

I’ve seen this quote flying around the internet quite a lot today, attributed to everybody and nobody. I am merely repeating it here because it helps alleviate the grief, albeit a little…

“If you’re ever sad, just remember… the world is 4.543 billion years old and you, somehow, managed to exist at the same time as David Bowie.”

And we should all be eternally grateful for that.

Finally, I wanted to maybe create a playlist of my favourite Bowie tracks, but there was no way I was ever going to create something fitting enough. This tribute, in both sound and vision, by Radio Soulwax (aka the Dewaele brothers who are also known as Soulwax and 2ManyDJs), was made 3 years ago. It’s a wonderful homage to David’s work, not only under his own name, but that which he did for others. A solid hour of David’s music, mixed and mashed to perfection with an incredible video to match. If, like me, you’re struggling to choose what to listen to today, such was the depth of his oeuvre, this may well satisfy your needs…

RSWX presents Dave from Radio Soulwax on Vimeo.

Thank you, David. The world owes you everything, you beautiful human being.

  • Posted on January 11, 2016 - 7:24 pm
  • By Rob Puricelli
  • Posted in
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comments so far
  • Christopher says:

    Dear Failed Muso,

    Thank you very much for sharing this post.
    It hits me right in the heart and gut.
    The only other musical losses that have caused this much sadness and grief for me in the last 20 years are James Brown and George Harrison.

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