Like just about everyone on the planet, I was devastated by the news that David Bowie had passed away yesterday, just days after the release of his (now final) album Blackstar, and his 69th birthday. Three days ago, I had saved Blackstar in my Spotify app to review. While there were key Bowie songs I knew and loved, I had never heard an album in full, and I wanted to experience that magic that I knew touched everyone who listened to his music.
The first time I heard of David Bowie (that I can remember), I was a kid watching Rage with my Dad, back when he was newly divorced from my mum and lived in a bachelor pad. We shared his double bed in the corner of the lounge room and watched cartoons on Saturday mornings before he made cheese soldiers and switched to Rage to watch music videos. One day, in this one video, a weird guy with shaggy mullet hair was jumping and dancing about like a loon, and I loved the trumpets that opened the song. Though I can’t remember it specifically, I would bet a trillion dollars that Dad and I got up and danced around like Mick Jagger, because we still do shit like that 25 years later.
Then another guy joined him onscreen. He wore a trenchcoat over a patterned jumpsuit – which I probably thought was just pyjamas at the time – and when he and Mick Jagger sang together, my veins set themselves on fire. Back then – and still now – dancing made me feel good and feel happy, and for these two funny, weird guys to be moving and jumping and singing about dancing in the streets? I was in love. The bum shake at the end got a few laughs out of me and my Dad too, as it would still do today.
It wasn’t until a long time later that I discovered it was a cover, and while I love the many versions of this song (because it’s a fucking cracker), Bowie high-kicking through a doorway in front of Jagger’s swagger will always be my favourite Dancing in the Street memory, and the best way I can think of to have been introduced to such a magic human.
Of course, being so little, I forgot promptly about David Bowie’s pyjama jumpsuit and went back to my cheese soldiers, only to be re-introduced to him many years later as Jareth, the Goblin King, in Jim Henson’s Labyrinth. He terrified me with his stringy hair and incredible costumes, but of course I just adored Magic Dance, and the scene in the ballroom (omg Jennifer Connolly’s dress tho). He made another reappearance in my life during my Flight of the Conchord obsession, when I heard their aptly titled Bowie sung to the vague tune of Space Oddity, and again in my bookshop days when Let’s Dance and of course Dancing in the Street were staples in the store’s CD player.
In more recent years, his influence on Cherie Currie and Joan Jett was made known to me through the adaptation of Currie’s memoir Neon Angel, for the movie The Runaways. Just think, what if those young girls never heard of Bowie, never decided to audition for Kim Fowley, never became The Runaways? Would one of my absolute heroes (Joany) even be one of my heroes? The intangible and far-reaching influence Bowie has had on the world absolutely astounds me.
So, in honour of the man who gave us decades of life-soundtrack worthy tunes with which I am mostly unfamiliar, I’m going to go back to the beginning – to an era before I was born – to study the greatness and finally hear what I’ve been missing out on for so long. With 28 studio-released albums to discover, I’d say this one will (deservedly) take me some time, and quite a few posts, so make sure you check the Bowie tag to keep up-to-date.
For now, #itsonlyforever.