Monday, 11 January 2016


David Bowie 1947-2016

If you’re going to be a fucking rock star, go be one. People don’t want to see the guy next door on stage; they want to see a being from another planet. – Lemmy

The first time I saw David Bowie perform was in 1974. He trod and writhed on the stage sometime during Talent Night at the F.C. Smith Auditorium, a venue my Montreal Jesuit high school shared with Loyola College. ‘Bowie,’ in Aladdin Sane make-up and his mother’s clothing, mimed ‘Suffragette City’ and ‘Cracked Actor’ in front of a full rock band, their amps turned off.

‘Bowie,’ whose given name was Pat, was a couple of years ahead of me; I didn’t know him but I did play football with two of his younger brothers, both of whom were tremendous running backs. Seems Pat’s hips were better suited for dancing. Somehow Pat met Sue, one of my stepsisters, and they began dating. (As it transpired, my older sister knew Pat’s older brother as they were in pre-med together and shared the same circle of friends.) Pat was relieved that there was at least some Bowie in our mixed and matched home, my copy of David Live.

It’s fun when an older, more worldly music nut takes one under his wing: Well, the Stones are great, but you need to buy Bowie’s earlier stuff. You don’t have any Mott the Hoople either, you need that. What’s with all this Rod Stewart solo shit? You don’t have any Faces?

My mother and her husband travelled frequently which meant my three stepsisters and I had the run of the downtown townhouse. Shockingly, the young people would throw parties. My stepfather had goofy beer steins, giant ones reading I BET YOU CAN’T. We’d pour six beers into them and then top them off with vodka. Glug glug. Pat and I would hold dance-offs; he’d do Bowie and I’d do Jagger, microphone floor lamps were damaged. Once the alcohol sweat had dried, chipping golf balls over the high backyard fence into four lanes of speeding Montreal traffic seemed like inspired genius.

I remember Pat and me hustling down to A&A Records to buy ‘Golden Years,’ the advance Station to Station single. We spun it on a turntable at maximum volume as soon as possible. We looked at each other: Disco? We played it ten times; tonight I wonder if Pat still has that 45 somewhere, a plain white envelope but a gold RCA label. The album proved to be a brittle, chilly masterpiece; there would be more to come.

Sure enough we were soon up all night preparing and planning ticket strategy for Bowie’s Station to Station Montreal Forum show. We were successful at a Ticketron outlet in Place Ville Marie that not many people seemed to know about. That 1976 concert was going to be the biggest night of my life since my Nana took me to see my first Montreal Canadiens game in 1968, and it was and I just about died when the coke-addled stick man with the slicked back orange hair segued ‘Diamond Dogs’ into the Stones’ ‘It’s Only Rock n’ Roll.’

The shock of this morning’s news was its suddenness. Bowie seemed to be in a late career, almost Dylanesque resurgence into relevance with 2013’s The Next Day and last Friday’s release of Blackstar and its two videos and a co-authored off-Broadway play based on ‘The Man Who Fell to Earth’ starring Michael C. Hall. I’d pretty much given up on him by 1987’s Never Let Me Down – sorry, I did. However it was a treat to see Bowie live for a fourth time after very many years on his Reality tour which was truncated by his suffering a heart attack. But that was almost 13 years ago!

I’ve never stopped listening to Bowie’s good old stuff, records with bizarre cover art that Pat introduced me to even if I could never quite make sense of the lyrics. Bowie was always about sound and vision, mixed media, affectations and performance, some semblance of some form of new and used art. I cannot grieve a shaman and a showman (Watch that man!) whom I never met but I can mourn the fantastic voyage of my teenage years and the fun I had aspiring to be a card-carrying member of the National People’s Gang. And, oh boy, isn’t it just like Bowie to make an exit as disconcertingly dramatic as his guest appearance on Bing Crosby’s 1977 ‘TVC15’ Christmas special.

I’m playing ‘Fascination’ from Young Americans now. Pat and Sue are still married.

1 comment:

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.