Monday, January 11, 2016

David Bowie, RIP

As everyone in the world is writing about the death of Bowie, I suppose that I should add a few comments. Let me preface them by saying that Bowie was never an influence on me, neither do I have any music by him.

At summer camp in 1969, I became friendly with a boy called X Banks (I can't remember his first name - I haven't thought of him for years, and of course that summer camp was the only time we met). He played the guitar and taught me my first chords - for some strange reason, only A and G. I wrote some lyrics to which he added the music. At every camp, we had a free day, in which we would be taken to a nearby town and allowed to do whatever we wanted to do for a few hours (eating at a cafe was always a good idea).

If I remember correctly, that year we were near the town of Woodstock (not that Woodstock, although the timing was perfect), slightly north of Oxford. Instead of heading for a cafe, X headed for a record shop: he wanted to buy a copy of a record called 'Space Oddity'. I don't remember whether he found it or whether we listened to it. I think that I bought a copy of 'Brontosaurus' by The Move (edit: wasn't this was in 1970?).

I doubt that I knew this at the time, but 'Space Oddity' was Bowie's tribute to the moon landing, which had taken place a few weeks before the summer camp. We all enjoyed the stylophone solo, probably played by Rolf Harris, who used to display it on his television show.

That was the last I heard of Bowie for a few years, until I started frequenting the youth club in Bristol. There I became acquainted with 'Hunky Dory', but didn't like it very much. A bit later, I saw Bowie 'perform' a song called 'John, I'm only dancing' on 'Top of the Pops': this I very much enjoyed (probably because of the electric guitars) and bought the single; it received heavy play at the youth club.

Again, I didn't hear any more of Bowie for a few years, and what I did hear, I didn't like. Somehow I managed to miss Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane. The 'Berlin trilogy' also passed me by. I love the film clip of 'Ashes to ashes' but don't care too much for the song itself. There was a brief renaissance around the time of "Let's dance" (1984), but again, very little of his music is in a style that I like.

I bought producer Tony Visconte's autobiography several years ago, which devotes a large amount of space to his work with Bowie. This probably caused me to listen once again to Bowie, but once again, the verdict was the same: not my taste.  After all that, I have to say that I enjoy "Life on Mars" - the song, not the television series. The song brings back memories of living in Cardiff for a few months in July-August 1974.

There is no doubt that Bowie was an innovator (or maybe, like the Beatles, an early adopter of a style which he then publicised) and had a huge influence on other musicians ... just not on me.

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