Monday, January 11, 2016
My plan for today was to write a follow-up on "Blackstar," not to wake up and find out that one of my musical heroes was no longer with us. I am shocked and saddened. And I really don't know where to begin.
David Bowie was the first.
After growing up with The Beatles and my grandfather's Elvis 45s and my uncle's Sinatra LPs, David Bowie's "Ziggy Stardust" was the first record from the outside that I bought on my own. It felt illegal, as if everyone I knew up to that point, which was mostly family and 10 year olds, looked at me as if there was something wrong with me.
I continued to hang onto Bowie's every word and melody. I hopped off a NYC bus miles before my stop as we passed Record Connection on 6th Avenue and 8th Street, when I spotted "David Live" hanging in the window. I bolted out of Sunday mass where I was expected to bring home palm for my grandmother when I noticed an ad in the Arts & Leisure section of the New York Times (yes I was reading in church) for Bowie at MSG. Cabbed it right up to Madison Square Garden and bought a pair. (It was that easy in 1978.) I watched a VHS tape of the "Serious Moonlight" tour until the video cassette finally snapped. I sat bewildered and heartbroken as I listened to "Tonight" and the offense that was his cover of "God Only Knows." I sent two of my co-workers home early, "sick," but really, to go and wait online at the shithole known as The World on East 2nd Street in Alphabet City, because Tin Machine was playing their first concert later that evening. (I arrived, after covering their absence with my boss, two hours later.) I saw four of his five NYC Marathon shows in October of 2002. (I passed on the Staten Island show. Not even The Dame could get me to Staten Island.) I played "The Next Day" twice a day for an entire year. I secretly hoped and wished that there would be one more performance, not just a finale.
The love affair, and that feeling of wonder and excitement and danger and confusion, continued right up until last week's release of "Blackstar."
I spent a lot of time listening to David Bowie's new record this weekend and with each pass I discovered something new to love and a few things to hate. My entire career as a Bowie fan was a lot like Bowie's career. It has never been boring. It has been occasionally disappointing. But it has always been worth every minute.
While discussing "Blackstar" with my friend Alan this weekend, he offered this:
"It's Bowie. It's really good in that he's not coasting and still reaching for the (black) stars. It's a record you can only enjoy on its terms. Gotta roll up the sleeves and do some heavy lifting."
That nails the record, and might nail David Bowie's career.
This is a huge loss for me personally, for many of us.