Like many, I was not open to David Bowie when he appeared in my circle in 1974 or thereabouts.
In fairness to Bowie, when I first saw a picture of the Stones, I remember at the age of 12 thinking the band was going just a little too far with the hair and clothing, and later, when I first heard of Johnny and the Sex Pistols, again, I thought it was a joke. Needless to say, both bands became all time favorites.
But, going into my senior year at college I had the lucky fortune to live in a house with three women (sigh, those were the days), one of whom, Evie Gandleman (at the time, not sure if she got married and changed her name), and her boyfriend, Rebel (see why it was hard to take seriously?) were nutso for Bowie, calling him the “man of the future.”
It was embarrassing to see them go into the chant of the ever circling skeletal family, seeming more like Moonies than rockers.
However, the album they chanted–Diamond Dogs— contained the fantastic song Rebel Rebel, a tune I could not deny then, and still dig, and eventually Bowie won me over (if Evie and Rebel are still together, are they now One Direction fans?).
As a result, I saw Bowie twice, once in the late 70’s on the Low tour, and again 20 years later when Bowie toured with Trent Reznor and his band Nine Inch Nails.
The Low show was great, it being my favorite period of Bowie’s, and the NIN one so interesting as there was no formal set change. NIN started the show, and seven or eight songs in, one-by-one, a member of Reznor’s band would leave the stage and a member of Bowie’s replaced him.
This went on till Reznor was the only member of his band, at which point Bowie came on and they did a song together.
I saw that NIN/Bowie show with my late pal, Cathy, whom I had been dating for about three months and I will never forget Reznor kicking into the song Closer, snaking my fingers through Cathy’s, and saying, “This is our song” (I got a squeeze back). So, well, I have to drop that video in just because (if you don’t know the song, listen to the words and think that Cathy was, in some ways, a very shy and modest woman).
Back to Bowie, aside from a long and interesting and influential career of great songs, it is because of Bowie that I got to know Mick Ronson who is one of my three all time favorite guitar players (Bill Frisell and Richard Thompson being the others).
Like many other great artists, part of what made Bowie great was his desire to change paths along with his art and try to go somewhere new. And, being more of a rocker than anything, it is why Ziggy Stardust and Tin Machine are among my favorite albums by the artist (with Low and Diamond Dogs) while his more dance-based projects (Dancin’ In the Streets, Young Americans) ranked lower on my love list.
I think the real power of Bowie, though, is in that word, his name. For, he is iconic enough to be regarded by just one, like Dylan and Cher (sorry, but she is huge). Which is kind of a big deal.
I had planned on finding some choice Bowie tune to drop here, but there have been plenty in the previous posts. Plus, while looking for a song, I stumbled onto this fabulous interview with Mick Ronson, who explains (sort of) his band’s guitar sound, and then demonstrates. It’s awesome, and for sure you get both late great artists, Bowie and Ronson.
Earth misses both of you!