The Man Who Owned The World (in memory of David Bowie)

So, the truth finally comes out, and you know, somehow it’s both shocking and not entirely unexpected. I’m not talking about his most recent videos. I”m not talking about the fact that his final album is, like his classic oeuvre, limited to about 40 minutes. I’m not even talking about the plain fact that, for the first time in his career, Bowie was starting to look really old. Like ‘I’m running out of time’ old. And it scared me. And now I know why.

Bowie wasn’t my dad. Wasn’t my father figure or anything like that, although let’s also be clear that he was and is still a huge influence on my music, my art and my life. So maybe like my weird uncle or something. I’m not sure how to quantify just how much. I remember coming back to pop music in the early to mid eighties for a number of reasons, but one of the first things I did after I reconverted to the church of rock and roll was to drink in as much of David Bowie’s career as I had an opportunity to. I saw his performance in Goodbye, Mr. Christian and quite reasonably thought he was some kind of superhero. Watched the Glass Spider Tour concert several times. The Serious Moonlight Tour, you betcha. Followed him back to Ziggy Stardust on the very first cassette I ever owned, a badly truncated copy of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars. Tried to absorb as much of his aesthetic choices in musical style as I could handle. I wasn’t always up to the challenge. Tin Machine was even more aggressive than Time Will Crawl and especially Day In Day Out, and I found myself losing the plot for a moment, only to come back to it with Tin Machine’s second album about half of which had a serious impact on the way I write and record music to this day, with the many layers and levels of grit in-between.

These days, I’m proud to say, I get it all. Even The Laughing Gnome amuses me, though I don’t spend much time over it the way I do his music once he found his identity and his footing in pop music.

I never met David Bowie. I never even got to see him live, although I’ve watched pretty near every piece of live footage the man deigned to release. I don’t actually own every piece of his music on vinyl or even on CD, although I have his entire discography on my computer, and play it with irritating regularity.

David Bowie knew he was going to die. He apparently knew for something like eighteen months. So he crammed in two of his best studio albums, a career-spanning retrospective that touched on almost every single part of his career (minus Tin machine or the Laughing Gnome, of course), and two albums worth of the starkest, most brilliant videos of his career. He never did and never will return to the narrative of Outside (hands down my favourite album, as much for how it challenged me as for how much it inspired me to let go of aural perfection and embrace discord), now. But that’s okay. I suppose once is enough, even if we never will learn what really became of detective Nathan Adler and that lot. I can only hope to do it the way he did, ending my career so perfectly.

And in the end, what you get is an artist who didn’t tell his story, but told the stories of so many people he portrayed throughout his career that, in effect, he recorded his life in music. It’s kind of fantastic, really. He went out on an extremely high note, critically, and even succeeded in capping his career with one more glittering, bristling pop song, the final track on his latest album, released just a few days ago. So here’s something to remember him by. Good night, Sweet Prince. We love you.


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