I woke up yesterday to the sound of my phone ringing just after 6 a.m. My alarm had not gone off yet and I was startled by the call. It was my friend Sarah. She didn’t want me to find out on the news. She was calling to tell me that David Bowie had died. She knew, because one of the cornerstones of our friendship was our mutual love for Bowie, that I was going to take this hard. She and I had just been sharing our love for the new album on Facebook two days ago. So thank you, Sarah, for telling me the worst news possible in the nicest way possible. I’ll never forget that.
Just last week I saw Holy Holy in Portland. That’s the super group put together by Woody Woodmansey, Bowie’s drummer back in the early 70s. Tony Visconti is also part of it. Visconti has produced a bunch of Bowie’s records including the brand now one.
I even got the chance to interview Visconti a week before the show.
The group performed Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold the World” in its entirety along with a slew of other Bowie songs. Visconti played bass (as he did on the original record). It was incredible. So incredible that I’m seeing the show again in Boston next week with three of my dearest friends from high school, all of us Bowie fanatics.
One of those friends is Matt. He and I went to Chicago in 2014 to see the incredible “David Bowie Is” exhibit. We walked around the Museum of Contemporary Art in a daze because around every corner was another costume Bowie wore, another instrument he played and another piece of his life. It was total Bowie immersion, complete with hi-tech headphones that provided music and narration that corresponded to where you were standing in the massive exhibit.
The other two friends are Sue and Becky. I’m still mad at them for seeing Bowie in ’83 on the Serious Moonlight tour. They got tickets while I was away at summer camp. The nerve of them! I recall being at Sue’s house on summer afternoons listening to the “Ziggy Stardust” album on Sue’s bedroom stereo. “Five Years” was one we were particularly fond of. They MAY have walked in on me doing a rather dramatic interpretive dance move to the refrain.
By the time I got to high school I was in it for life and started obsessively collecting Bowie records. Then there was the day I got a package in the mail from my Uncle Tom who lives in New York City. It was a long cardboard tube full of about eight Bowie posters and at least 20 buttons. I still have the buttons and wish the posters had survived all the tack holes and gazing of my youth. Tom was one of the first people to email me on Monday morning after the news broke.
I don’t collect as seriously as I used to but still pick up Bowie treasures here and there including the “Five Years” box set that Rhino/Parlophone released in September.
At the Portland Holy Holy show Woodmansey and Visconti were kind enough to sign my copy of “The Man Who Sold the World” record which I’ll be framing.
Last Friday, on Bowie’s 69th birthday, his album “Blackstar” dropped. I bought it at lunchtime on CD and vinyl and listened to it three times in a row on Saturday at my house. It’s stunning and impossible to categorize. Guitars, sax, spectacular vocals and the lyrical intrigue that Bowie’s known for. The album’s third song is called “Lazarus.” The first line of it is “Look up here, I’m in heaven.” We now know that Bowie hid his illness from everyone except his inner circle. Many have speculated that this album was a farewell gift to his fans. Knowing that this is the last music he’ll ever make is a dagger to my heart. But the album is also a masterpiece. Damn him.
Here’s “Lazarus” Take a deep breath before you watch and listen to it
I’ve been all about David Bowie since 1983. That was my year of discovery. It started with the “Let’s Dance” album then I worked my way back through his catalog. More of his genius was revealed with each album I heard.
For me, there is no musician more innovative, creative, inspiring and downright magnificent than Bowie.
I’m thanking the universe that I had the chance to see Bowie perform three times during my lifetime.
Yes, life will go on. Yes, I’ll be able to listen to David Bowie again. It just might take a little while to get there. David Bowie is the greatest musician that ever lived as far as I’m concerned and he’s the number one reason that music is the thing in my life that I’m most passionate about.
On Monday afternoon after work I was in my car and without thinking turned the radio on. “Heroes” was being played and I burst into tears. For real. Later that night I listened some more to a station that was taking requests. But I did so with a level of detachment. I couldn’t sing along. Eventually I had to switch it off.
I’ve been checking in constantly with my Massachusetts Bowie friends and my ones here in Maine and we’re all still train wrecks. Mostly there’s a sense of “I don’t know what to do with myself.” One of my friends used the term “Bowie fog” and they’re right.
I know that David Bowie would want us to laugh, dance, sing and celebrate. And we will. I will.
I’ll end with this line from one of my favorite Bowie songs called “Quicksand” because it seems fitting.
“I’m not a prophet or a stone aged man, just a mortal with potential of a superman. I’m living on.”
Yes, David, you’re living on. Always.