Monday, January 11, 2016

RIP Thin White Aladdin Starman Hero

I managed to avoid what might have been one of the greatest disappointments of my life. A friend of mine had agreed to purchase Bowie tickets for a gig at Birmingham Town Hall. The friend was not reliable and kept telling me he had left them at home. Eventually my friend Keith and I arranged to meet him outside the Town Hall before the gig. He never showed. It was June 1973. Last month at school.

There was a tout. Although the sums will seem odd to you, we paid 50% and 75% over the marked price; £1 tickets for £1.50 and £1.75. We got in. It was a great, great gig; a performance and a cabaret. No support. It had an interval, during which I left my Upper Gallery seat and sneaked into the standing area at the back of the stalls. At one point Bowie's all-in-one gown was pulled apart, by two roadies, revealing a skimpier garment. He wore it on Top of the Pops once. My father-in-law's harrumph lives with me to his day.

I wasn't an early adopter of Bowie. Starman was my in:

There's a Starman
Waiting in the sky
He'd like to come and meet us
But he thinks he'd blow our minds
There's a Starman
Waiting in the sky
He's told us now to blow it
Cos he knows it's all worthwhile 
He told us
Let the children lose it
Let the children use it
Let all the children boogie.

Bowie leant on guitarist Mick Ronson as they shared a mic in a pose that only asked questions about sexuality but answered none.

The other side of the vinyl single was the excellent Suffragette City, re-introducing wham bam thank you ma'am to the vocabulary of youth culture after a short break.

I met the current Mrs T shortly after that gig. She was one of a group of girls' school sixth formers who played Hunky Dory all the time. Andy Warhol was my favourite track.

Tributes today have used the word 'reinvention' to describe what Bowie did. In fact he seemed to me to write lots of new and innovative music, never restricted by the limits of any one genre, and he developed a character to show off that music on stage and, later, on video, each time.

We saw him again at Bingley Hall, Stafford in 1975 on a short tour. The sound system was so muffled it was two minutes in before we knew he was playing Heroes. The second half of the set was heard from the medical room as a hot day and a mosh pit got the better of my sister.

I guess he fell off my radar a little until the mid-eighties and then the amazing new sound of Let's Dance stuck Bowie back in the serious limelight.

From then on, every time you wrote him off he re-appeared. I heard his new album last Friday and it sounded amazing. The lyrics to one track, Lazarus, a character in John's Gospel resuscitated by Jesus, suggest that even death can sometimes be played with.

The stars of my youth were all only a little older than me. Which means that those who provided the soundtrack which pulled me from teenager to young adult are now departing.

When things like this happen, all too often, I play this song by a man who died too young about a man who died too young.

And looking for clothes to wear this morning I saw my brightest trousers. They are blue, blue, electric blue. Had to wear them. Later, pulling up at traffic lights, I heard a pedestrian whistling Life on Mars. This death is ubiquitous.

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