For about a month now, I’ve been spending a lot of time listening to, and thinking about, David Bowie. I do have a life. Thankfully this blog has an end date — or I might be forever lost in the Bowieverse and never re-emerge.
As I’ve said previously, Ziggy is one of my all-time favourite Bowie albums. But it’s only now, listening to it again, that I see it as a glam record — which may sound amazing to the outside observer, but I have never really had it in my head that Bowie was a glam rocker. Sure, the outfits are classic — but the sound of glam was never one I directly connected to David Bowie. Maybe it’s the process of now, listening back to the entirety of Ziggy, and not just the songs in isolation, that’s led me to this realization.
If I were to hear Lady Stardust today, for example, and didn’t know it was Bowie, I’d think it was Elton John. That’s how un-Bowie-like it sounds to me. As I write that, I have a gut feeling those are fighting words — and a gut feeling I’m showing my total ignorance when it comes to this era of music. Marc Bolan I don’t know; T. Rex I do. Maybe the sound, not just the lyrics of the song, are meant as a tribute to him.
(The name Marc Bolan is familiar. When I consumed every unauthorized biography of David Bowie when I was a teenager, his name must have come up).
My “glam naivete” could be simply attributed to generational differences. By the time I was born, David Bowie was already The Thin White Duke. Ziggy Stardust had already committed suicide onstage and become a museum piece, a signature historical artifact of an era.
I have probably said it before, but I’ll say it again — it floors me how one person can make so many records, and have each one sound so distinct from the last. Even if he took “hints” from other artists, The Guardian put it best, a mere 10 years ago: whatever he borrowed, he transcended. Bowie was never an imitator.
This performance of Five Years with Arcade Fire from 2006 is one of the last public Bowie performances. It’s hard to look at this performance and not be a little worried about Bowie’s health, at least at this point — but that was seven years ago. Maybe he was sick. Or maybe he’d just finally quit smoking, and was spending a lot of time reaching for the Milk Duds.