dinsdag 12 januari 2016

David Bowie (1947-2016) IM

Friday 8 January I bought 'Blackstar' on an impulse. You can find my review the day before this one. I put the album on, again and again. I was so impressed, estranged, pulled closer, pushed away, intrigued, but above all totally captured (and surprised). I started writing a review for this blog, which I finished on Saturday 9. On Monday morning 11 I opened this blog to do a final tuning of the post. That was the reason the radio was still playing. I was fairly annoyed with the music 3FM was playing. Too many rappers and numbing lightness. Then the singer of Triggerfinger was interviewed and while talking of a collaboration by Triggerfinger with some rapper, DJ Giel Beelen fell sort of silent, stammering a little. He had received a message that he needed to check before sharing it. I had even heard the beep of the message when it came in. Within seconds he went into overdrive as well, changing his program on the spot, in the meantime leaving Mario Goossens behind for a while.

It was true. David Bowie had passed away. "Surprised one last time" as my newspaper NRC Handelsblad heads on the evening of writing with a full front page on Bowie, who after all is one of the most important artists in rock of the past 45 years.

Where to begin this personal memory of a person I have never met, but who shares my life none the same for the past 47 years? In Rotterdam 1969 with that single that was released and made the charts, that was mindboggling to my 9 year old ears. 'Space Oddity' is that fantastic single of the kind that they only made in the second half of the 1960s and the first two of the 70s. That few years in pop and rock in which anything was possible. After that single, my story around it can be found in a post on 'David Bowie/Space Oddity' of last year, it took me years to catch on to Bowie again, not being able to buy albums, nor truly understand the concept of albums at the time either. Nor were his songs on the radio. No hits, no exposure. I remember buying 'John, I'm Only Dancing' discounted in 1972 or 1973. Because it was Bowie.

It was through the same cousin that got me onto The Beatles and The Kinks in the 1960s, sometimes WoNo Magazine contributor Tineke, who kept the Bowie flame going. She was a fan. 'Station To Station' and 'Bowie Live' were my first albums in 1976 and as things go the former is still my favourite Bowie album. There simply is no better. It holds it all.

Bowie surprised me many a time. Not always for the positive. The horrid Berlin instrumental experiments and most things after 1983. Some albums had their moments but nothing really made it compared to 'Hunky Dory', 'Ziggy Stardust', 'Young Americans' or even 'Scary Monsters'. Until 8 January 2016 that is.

Groningen Museum
I had the pleasure of seeing Bowie live in 1976, 1978, 1983, 1990 and 2003. My very first big show in Ahoy, made such an impression. That weird movie up front, 'Un Chien Andalou'. Although I didn't know most songs he played, being there was magical. The neon stage of 1978 with a fantastic version of 'Station To Station' with Adrian Belew on guitar? I think so. The stadium concert in Rotterdam with UB40 and Icehouse on the Serious Moonlight tour, the Sound and Vision tour back in Ahoy with finally 'Space Oddity played live. Finally the A Reality tour, with too many songs that I did not really like. So I skipped his last show in the ArenA. I had seen enough through the years. Little did I know that it would be one of his last shows ever. There's no regrets there though.

From the 90s onwards David Bowie slowly became a musician of the past to me. More a thought to cherish. A sense that could make me feel good instantly, without putting his albums on often anymore. A feeling that is triggered by accidental encounters with his music in public spaces or on the radio. Instant pleasure while living my life, discovering new music.

And then came 'Blackstar'. The real impact of the album still has to prove itself. It's only five days old at this point in time. The first encounters were phenomenal though. It was all and more than I ever expected. The whole world already discussed all the signs that no one heard before the news came in on Monday morning -"How could we have been so deaf"- so I'll refrain from that here. What I did comment on was that Bowie's voice on 'Blackstar' is weak here and there. For reasons of decency and above all respect I did not write feeble. Sometimes it actually is. It takes nothing away of the grandness of the album. Bowie made a final bid for the one who always surprises and succeeded. In a grand style at that. I said to my friends on Saturday: "I don't think he will ever perform again. He wouldn't be able to do the up-tempo songs with this voice". Too prophetic. Little was I to know that he was in his final hours, self-chosen or not.

With Bowie a great performer has passed away. An artist who was able to show the world how to renew genres and blend musical genres into something new. Who led as a style icon, in outrageous outfits, opening whole worlds for others to step into. Something that he could not keep up for ever, until that final album. He certainly succeeds again there in blending unblendable styles. Free jazz, dance, 40s crooning and pop. It's all in there in ways that are very far out there. And I'm not even starting on the final videos that have an 80s grandeur.

One of my teenage heroes has passed away, as things go in life. His music lives on (within me) until that final day. And who knows, perhaps even beyond. There's a black star who knows.....


You can listen here to my favourite Bowie track, 'Word On A Wing' here:


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