Tuesday, 8 October 2013


The Return of the Diamond Dog et al

First you shock them, and then they put you in a museum. – Jean Cocteau

Ah, the famous red lightning bolt painted on the rouged, snow white tan. It is the zagged face of that cracked actor Aladdin Sane, perhaps the only survivor of the National People’s Gang, post-Ziggy Stardust and pre-plastic soul. It’s impossible not to watch that man. Harry Potter’s little zigged scar cannot possibly compete.

The Art Gallery of Ontario’s four-colour ad in last weekend’s Globe and Mail describes its new exhibit David Bowie is as ‘a multisensory collision of music, art, and fashion about the icon who redefined pop culture,’ or, $30 to look at and listen to some of his old stuff. The same ad occupies an entire page in the current issue of Rolling Stone magazine. Friends of mine and fans of his who have toured the exhibit either very recently in Toronto or previously at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum have gushed nothing but superlatives. For a moment there the other Saturday morning I contemplated the AGO ad in the Globe's arts section and then mentally calculated the costs of a trip from Edmonton to Toronto and back again.

1976: Half-wasted and haunting the bowels of Place Ville Marie at five in the morning, waiting for tickets for Bowie’s Station to Station Montreal Forum gig to go on sale at the Ticketron outlet in Montreal Trust at nine. Getting those tickets to see the lizard aristocrat on stage mattered desperately. They mattered the way Bowie’s songs mattered to a teenaged boy even if the lyrics didn’t make much sense but it was enough to know that the words were somehow important. ‘He says he’s a beautician and sells you nutrition, keeps all your dead hair for making up underwear.’ Of course, that’s what Jean Genies do. ‘This ain’t rock ‘n’ roll, this is genocide!’ This should have been the stuff of Moses’s tablets and maybe Mormoni’s too.

And while the ticket provider and the technology changed, there were more Bowie shows to attend even as my raging hormones and acne receded to more manageable states: ‘Heroes’, Serious Moonlight and then after a very long separation, a welcome return to Reality ten years ago.

Bowie’s output was sometimes similar to music I was familiar with, Dylanesque or Stonsey maybe, but more often than not it wasn’t and that made it all that much more fascinating. And there were still hits. Visually he was unlike anything I had ever seen, an ever shifting kaleidoscope of hair and costumes and stage design. To be a fan of Bowie is to view a photograph of him and immediately know which year it was taken and the relevant album, each chapter of his career is that distinct. For some it was all a bit too much, a bit too weird and it seemed safer to be wrapped in the anonymous cloak of the Doobie Brothers or the Eagles, bands that did not sing about ray guns, electric eyes or televisions that eat girlfriends.

Bowie’s latest album The Next Day was released last March. There was no publicity, no tour announcement nor even a one-off show in a major market. He remains as calculating, wily and elusive as Jagger and Dylan. Unknowable. Did David Bowie is promote The Next Day or vice versa?

Oh, look out you rock ‘n’ rollers, pretty soon now you’re gonna get a little older – David Bowie

Oh God, it’s not Monday but it feels like it. A hero from my teenaged wild life reclusive and reticent and me with all my hairs turned grey. Reconnecting in a museum seems dowdy, dusty and wrong. Absurd to fly all that way. Insane to even think about it. Anyway, Al-Qaeda has made air travel an annoying and expensive hassle for us all. And don't get me started on Air Canada, but I digress... David Bowie is is a show, yes, but not an actual performance. It’s not him, just bits of his debris. Bowie belongs on the stereo in 2013, not in the AGO.

Nineteen seventy-six doesn’t seem all that long ago to me now somehow; Time merely took a cigarette break while I blinked. Tonight, I will pull out some of Bowie’s old albums and enjoy them at maximum volume as per the instructions on the orange RCA labels. If things work out, a little later I'll be crawling down the back alley on my hands and knees, all glammed up, watching out for diamond dogs hiding behind trees. And, God help me, Block Watch parent patrols.

1 comment:

  1. Will have to take the Bowie CD's out for a spin tonight....