A person I work with — or “worked” with, more accurately, as of a few days from now — told me the story of how he met Prince. It was his third try and on the last one he ended up meeting the eyes of the Purple One and spending more than two hours engaged in deep (one could assume, or not) conversation. It was an example, from my friend, of how things happen when they are meant to — and how you can’t force something that isn’t meant to be, not at a particular time.
I’m thinking about Prince because I was never into Prince and I don’t know why. The elements were there. The time was right. I just now was downloading Sign ‘O The Times and was struck by the date — 1987. I could have sworn it was later, much later, mid- late-90s, maybe, just from my mental state and what I connect the music too. So, why, despite the floods of Purple Rain, Little Red Corvette, listening to Darling Nikki when I was, what — 10? 12? — did I become a Bowie fan instead.
In many ways, we don’t plan these things. It’s like choosing a lover or the one who becomes the one you love — it just happens, infatuation, one that lasts. I remember, as I’ve said before, for me the first Bowie hook was not the music, but that Rolling Stone cover. And the interview inside. But lots of rock stars give interesting interviews. Lots make great music. Lots are, let’s be honest “weird,” or at least have weird phases — Prince was no schlock in that department, still isn’t.
I remember watching Live Aid in — was that 1987 too? — and this is an old memory, but it gets me where my thoughts need to go. Something happened during one of the last performances. I think it was Paul McCartney’s, the sound went out or something and a collection of rock stars — Bowie among them — came out to sing along the chorus of Hey Jude. Who was in that collection — Bob Geldof, I think, Mick Jagger, too. And I remember thinking at the time that Bowie didn’t fit. It was like they didn’t see him as being of their stature, although he clearly was. He had yet to be respected.
With Bowie, here’s the thing. It’s not gender or art or music or performance — it’s difference. It’s the outsider, in whatever manifestation you want to make it. Whatever Bowie’s own difference was — and as much as the costumes changed, the music shifted, the accent went away, there was a constant, unchanging sense that he had one singular difference, of being an alien who simply didn’t fit — he didn’t try to cover it. It is the one, central, authentic, glaring, obvious element. He can lie with words, hide in costumes but the truth is that there was always difference at the root of it; not because of it.
If you felt different too, you’d latch on pretty quickly, and never let go.