Bowie Remembers War. Or Does He?

Bowie was born in 1947, and as the V&A image-makers would have it, he and Elton John were two of the thousands of grains of rice that were part of the drooling faces of the British baby boom. Bowie, like others, born after wartime, but maybe not a generation too far removed for it to have had an impact.

Until seeing this video, I always envisioned modern wars when I listened to the lyrics of I’d Rather Be High. A lot of the details went right over my head, of course, like the German place names of Where Are We Now?. Maybe because the deliberate double meaning (or obvious meaning) in the song title never fit with the image of generations past, and what they may or may not have done to escape awful reality.

I’m fascinated by generations coming of age, more so of late as I’m surrounded by hordes of people in their 20s and I’m staring down the pike at 40, and I’m at ease with myself. Bowie turned 40 in 1987. I was 12, turning 13, afraid of AIDS, afraid of nuclear war, depressed, upset, angry. If I was 12 turning 13 now I don’t know where I would be, but I’ll bet I would maintain a very public, very revealing blog. I would scream to be noticed on a Facebook page.

The images in this video are of wartime, World War II I would guess, although my historical accuracy is always in doubt (I skipped history, or took it and was bored enough to forget it). Bowie did not come of age in this war. It would not sit in his memory. It would in his parents’. But like to us, this, for him, is history.

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