In the week of David Bowie’s death there has been much outpouring of grief. Someone said to me on Tuesday, “ever since Diana the British seem to have taken to weeping and mass emotion after the death of someone / anyone famous”. A trifle cynical perhaps Mr B, but I don’t disagree.
Here is the most even-handed obituary that I have read, it’s by Richard Williams and those with a very long memory will remember him as the very first host of the Old Grey Whistle Test even before whispering Bob. Showing my age, I enjoyed Williams’ writing in the Melody Maker in the 70s and he still helps to shape my musical tastes.
I particularly like this piece and that he admits to not liking some of Bowie’s music particularly the Ziggy Stardust period.
For many years I dismissed David Bowie as a shallow opportunist. What was he doing that Andy Warhol and Lou Reed, conceptually and musically, hadn’t done with more wit and originality? I saw him at the Greyhound in Croydon in the summer of 1972, supported by Roxy Music in a pub room that can’t have held more than 200 people. He did the Ziggy Stardust thing, he and the band in full costume, and I didn’t care for it much.
Those particular songs still don’t do anything for me, but time sometimes dissolves prejudices and now I can see that what I took to be shallowness and opportunism were aspects of what we call the pop process: the way things evolve through mimesis and metamorphosis, adapting to their time. And the response to the sudden news of his death leaves no doubt of the profound impact he had on people whose lives were then in the process of being formed.
It continues here.
For me, I loved Ziggy Stardust & subsequent albums, wandered away during the Berlin trilogy due to a busy life but thought Let’s Dance etc was wonderful. A true artist who wasn’t afraid to try different things, to accept that sometimes they didn’t work, to learn from that and then move on.
My favourite lyric come from the song Bewlay Brothers on the album Hunky Dory. I have no idea what it means but I just love the words.
And my brother lays upon the rocks
He could be dead, he could be not, he could be you
He’s chameleon, comedian, Corinthian and caricature
Shooting up pie in the sky
RIP Mr Jones and thanks for all the times I helped the people dance with you.