How many times can you be ahead of the times? Learning about David Bowie all at once is certainly different to what it must have been like growing up with him. A 70s child had the thrill of wondering what shape his next incarnation might take. I haven’t had that experience. Yet even without the shock of that ‘ta-da’ unveiling, the completeness of Bowie‘s metamorphoses is still incredible and inspiring.
David Bowie was authentic in his artifice. He constructed his characters and carved our worlds for them to live in. His costume changes weren’t the result of some record company brainstorm or shitfaced agent hungry for a headline. They were gateways for his expression. Maybe it was because of this changeability, but I didn’t realise to what extent he’d got under my skin until Monday. Like many, I mourned for the man who carved the masks he wore and I’m sorry that he’s gone. With Blackstar, I got my ‘ta-da.’
My first contact with David Bowie‘s work was through comedy. Bowie was the comedian’s musician. His zaniness and eclectic career inspired the likes of Ricky Gervais, Adam and Joe and Flight of the Conchords. And he was in on the joke, playing along and approving from afar. But for these comedians he wasn’t just material, he paved the way for their alternative creativity. David Bowie made it okay for you to get your weirds out. To just slop your weirds out on the table and say “Look at me, I’m weird and I like it!” His music often plays just like a great joke does: you expect it to go one way and then it goes another way you never saw coming.
He also wrote one of the greatest “wish I was still with you, please come back to me” ballads ever in Letter to Hermione.Adele could do a whole album bemoaning the fact that no one’s ever going to write her a rueful tune as good as that. Now there’s a source of regret she can plunder till the release of 67. At which point people might ask her to go back to the “wish I was still with you, please come back to me” thing. And then they’ll remember Letter to Hermione and they’ll think, “Actually, you know what, don’t bother. Please stop it.”