A wave of devastation has encompassed everyone this morning at the news that David Bowie has died. I have to agree with Lauren Laverne on BBC6 radio who stated that “for those who feel they shouldn’t be feeling so personally full of grief, actually, it’s OK for us to feel this way.” Bowie is part of us, for so many of us he was a formative part of our youth and shaped our way of seeing the world, his creativity has influenced our lives. And his work has influenced the course of modern music and enriched the world.
I saw Bowie twice. The first time was in Hanley, Staffordshire in the early 70s. I remember the venue was full but not crowded, and it didn’t take my friend Jax and I long to maneouvre our way to the front. That was a benefit of being only 5ft tall (although it’s had its downsides too, there are gigs when I’ve spent two hours staring at someone’s back and hardly seen the band). Once we’d established ourselves on the coveted front row, we had a uninterrupted view of Ziggy, and at one point he even looked down and smiled at us.
The second time I saw Bowie was during the 90s. A friend phoned me in a state of delirious excitement one afternoon; a friend of hers played in the house band for The Jack Docherty Show a (talk show which ran for a while with the standard format of two or three guests on the sofa) and he’d just revealed to her that David Bowie was set to be one of the guests that evening. He could get two of us in for the show. My friend and I jumped into her car and raced at ridiculous speed into central London. We couldn’t find parking and ended up abandoning the car down an alleyway and ran to the studio where we were part of a small audience. Bowie was Docherty’s final guest and he was amazingly funny, upbeat and charismatic. No airs and graces, just down to earth and charming. After chatting to Jack Docherty, he performed Dead Man Walking, and I recall he stopped the song and started again as it wasn’t quite right. He carried on playing after the cameras stopped rolling. What a wonderful and intimate performance we were privileged to be a part of.
Blackstar was released on Bowie’s birthday on Friday, and I like to think that he died knowing his album was already getting a very positive reception, even if the full meaning of the lyrics evaded and mystified us till the news this morning.
RIP David Bowie