A year ago today, David Bowie shocked the world yet again, this time by dying. Then, over the course of 12 months, so did everyone else. Too many literally, and many, many more figuratively. Bowie seemed to fuck up 2016 for all of us.
"Ziggy Stardust" was one of the first records I latched onto that was outside of my little pop circle of The Beatles, Beach Boys and AM radio. This led me to "Mott" by Mott The Hoople, "The Slider" by T.Rex and then, well it all exploded. I went as far ahead as I could, until I had no choice but to go back and discover what I had missed. But it was Bowie, and that opening drum beat of "Five Years" that rattled me in the best possible ways.
I recall a day at my shop, around the time of Bowie's 1997 release "Earthling." My friend had come in before I officially opened the doors. We started listening to "Earthling," he as he shopped, and me as I priced CDs. As each song finished, he would look my way from the floor of the store, and we'd both just shrug our shoulders. By the 4th or 5th song, he finally asked, "What do you think?" I said, "I don't know yet." 20 years later, with a fairly recent release of "Earthling" on vinyl, I paid it a new visit after not hearing it for years. I still don't know yet. I've lived with his final recording "Blackstar" for an entire year. I've played it dozens of times and I still don't know yet what I think.
This is not a bad thing. I do know I enjoy just about every note I hear on all of his records, even if I don't know yet how much.
I've been complaining for years how new music from new artists simply doesn't move me in the ways it used to. When I hear something, when someone says, "You should listen to the new record by....," I know, right away, it ain't happening. I know. I have no desire, there is nothing moving me to go back.
Bowie's music, from the earliest, Anthony Newley pop of his 60's, to the classic recordings of his 70's to the most commercial and biggest seller, "Let's Dance," and even the weakest music he made in the late 80's and early 90's, still wants me to come back to it and I have no problem doing so. David Bowie's records, all of them, including the ill-fated Tin Machine records, and especially the records of the new millennium, which contain some of the man's best work, have something to offer. Bowie's music begs you to pay attention, even if you hate the man. "Earthling" may have tapped into the electronica and jungle beats that had already been popular in the clubs, but Bowie somehow managed to make "Earthling" sound original. That's the key. He made music you can recognize, yet kept it just far enough outside so that you needed to work as hard as he did in order to get inside.
At least that's how I feel about David Bowie's music.