I liked him because he was so odd and unique. In high school, and much to my delight, everyone thought I was a little weird because I liked him. And today, everyone is calling him a genius. Sure! Where were you guys all those years ago when I was trying to tell you exactly that.
I had the privilege of seeing him live many times. My favorite memory is from 1997 during "I'm Afraid of Americans" phase. I saw him at the Metropolis in Montreal. That's a "small club" for a rock star of his stature (irony intended). I was standing front and center just a few fans-depth away. That was cool. He sang Jacques Brel's, My Death. It was mesmerizing and heart-wrenching. I recorded it to voice mail with my flip phone and listened to it over and over again in the weeks following. Cell phone cams were not so ubiquitous at the time. That recording is gone now. But the timbre and volume of his voice, the sounds and images of the night are all neatly etched in my memory banks.
I never met him but always thought I might somehow, someday bump into him (in a grocery store? in a bank line-up?) I even had the crazy notion that we might convince him to do a college radio interview on CHUO's Hop The Fence! Ha! But now those wistful little fantasies are no longer plausible. Death sucks.
One thing I admired was Bowie's curiosity and willingness to learn and absorb different styles. He took genuine interest in what others were doing and collaborated with unknown as well as elite artists like Brian Eno, John Lennon, Trent Reznor, Arcade Fire, Iggy Pop, Nile Rogers, to name a few. He used the same strategy on his final progeny, Blackstar where he invited NYC-based jazz artists to contribute to the album's sonic direction. Heck, album credits even include Prague Philharmonic conductor, Paul Bateman! This is a lesson we can all benefit from. By surrounding himself with other talented artists with an open mind, he leveraged their strengths, resulting ultimately, in numerous masterpieces.
I have a ridiculous collection of vinyl, rare singles, CD's and posters (and Ziggy's phone booth!). Here's the weird thing, my record collection has been in storage for about 6 years until just last week. There I was going through all my Bowie albums on Sunday night at the very time that he was on his death bed. Timing is weird. He was a groundbreaking, game changing artist right up to the end. He certainly went out in style in one final flash of brilliance!
As the needle lifts one last time, the sound of his absence from earth is somehow deafening. The man who once fell to earth is no more. Ashes to ashes; funk to funky.
Host/Producer, Hop The Fence
Fridays @ 5
CHUO 89.1 Ottawa
Edited January 18
The show is available at CHUO.FM. Here's the track list:
Soul Love (Ziggy Stardust, 1972)
Hang On To Yourself (Arnold Corns version 1971)
Memory Of A Free Festival (1970)
Black Country Rock (The Man Who Sold the World, 1970)
Andy Warhol (Hunky Dory, 1971)
This Is Not America (Soundtrack for The Falcon and the Snowman - This version recorded live at BBC Radio Theatre, London, 27 June 2000, and it was released on the bonus disc accompanying the first release of Bowie at the Beeb.)
Look Back In Anger (Lodger, 1979)
Up The Hill Backwards (Scary Monsters and Super Creeps, 1980)
Space Oddity audition from 1969